Monday, January 13, 2014

A glimpse into her world

Warning -- this is going to be a long post!  I want to record as much about our days at Kavya's orphanage as I can, so she has a record of what her home for 2+ years was like.

We left Bangalore on Thursday morning, stopping to visit the ISKCON Temple which was on our way out of town.  It was by far the largest and most elaborate temple we've seen, with gold and jewel-encrusted statues.  The temple sponsors a feeding program for impoverished children, and part of their tour included is asking for sponsorships to feed children for a year.  Fazal, our driver that day, was excellent -- he knew a lot about the city, and we had some great conversations with him.  As a life-long resident of Bangalore, he had a lot of pride in his city, and knew a lot of history.

We arrived at the Society of Sisters of Charity at about 1:00 p.m.  We put our luggage in the room they had prepared for us.  A homemade, family-style meal awaited us -- and we shared it with a family from Munich.  The mother, Celestine, and 20-year-old brother Mark were visiting to bring 11-year-old sister Maya back to see the orphanage.  Maya was cared for there until age 1, when her family met her and brought her home.  They were great conversationalists, and it was fun to tell them about Anya's visit to ISRC just days earlier.  They said that everything at the orphanage was exactly as they remembered it from 10 years earlier.

After lunch, they brought Kavya to us.  She was a little reticent again, but warmed up before too long.  We took her back to our room, and Kavya explored the room while we unpacked a few things.  A pack of Crayola Twistable colored pencils was a huge hit for her -- she didn't color with them, but took great delight in dumping them out and putting them back in the container again.  She would laugh and laugh -- that took up a lot of time.  Anya was endlessly thrilled with everything Kavya did, and kept exclaiming about her tiny hands or how cute she was.

The sisters had said she needed to nap yet that day, so I picked her up and sat on the bed with her.  She was looking a little spacey, so I rocked and sang to her, then laid down with her on top of me.  She melted into sleep quickly.  We were all quiet and rested along with her.  Tears of joy were running down the sides of my face as I lay on my back -- I couldn't believe I was finally doing 'mom' things with her.  Anya looked at me and asked, "What is that liquid on your head?"  It cracked me up -- she knows the expression "happy tears," so I whispered that and she nodded.

We didn't know the schedule for the rest of the day, except that the sisters would be taking care of all our meals.  We were also told to go to the same "parlour" where we had our meals and met Kavya for teatime.  We did, and afterward walked outside.  A child care worker saw us and asked if we would like to see the "creche" -- their term for the building where the children eat, sleep and play.  We went into a large playroom, and Kavya began playing with the 25 or so other children.  We took that opportunity to take pictures of a little boy who is matched with another family.  We also took photos of the caregivers who have played such an important role in Kavya's life.

One of the caregivers was especially attached to Kavya.  Her name was Sumi, and she held Kavya and asked us what we were going to call her.  She seemed happy that we are keeping her given name.  She tried to put Kavya down, but Kavya was having none of that.  She kept pleading with Sumi to pick her up -- I think she thought our visit was over, just like the day before.  Kavya kept slamming into Sumi's legs, while Sumi's eyes filled with tears.  It was heartwrenching to watch, and showed us that the workers there really care about the children.  Kavya was crying in the most pitiful way -- her cry isn't piercing, but soft and husky, with the saddest imaginable expression.  We peeled her off of Sumi's legs and beat a hasty retreat to our room.

On the way, Sister Lucy saw us and brought out a sucker to try and soothe Kavya.  She wouldn't have it, though -- it was pink, and Sister Lucy said she only likes chocolate.  She stepped back into an office and returned with some chocolate, and spoke to Kavya in Kannada.  Our sweet girl finally calmed down, and we went back into our room.  Sister Lucy said, "Tomorrow, you stay in room only."

We had dinner at about 7:30, and then went back to our room.  I wondered how bedtime would go.  She was hyper-energetic, and then suddenly had a glazed-over look.  I picked her up and sat on the bed, and once again she dropped off to sleep as I sang to her and laid down.  She slept all the night through.

We heard dogs barking in the night, strange (to us) bird songs, and the call to prayer at 5:45 a.m. for the mosque in Soluru, the nearby town.  There were noises from the Snehalaya hospital next door too -- it's part of the Society of Sisters of Charity's work, and where most of the children in the orphanage come from.  It was good for us to hear the sounds she's used to at night -- and very different from the honking horns and city traffic that Anya was used to.

* * * *

The next day, we literally only left our room for meals.  The sisters were very busy that day, since there was a state official visiting to evaluate the orphanage.  Sister Cynthia told us later that she was happy and impressed with the facility.  So were we -- it was apparent that the place is filled with love.  Every employee, from gardeners to nannies to kitchen help, all knew Kavya by name and talked to her anytime we left our room for meals; and several even stopped by and talked to her through our open windows throughout the day.  It was amazing, and made us even more grateful for the care she'd received.

Kavya was wonderful -- she is a resilient little girl, and so open to kindness and care.  She played and laughed with us, and was easy to keep busy all day.  We noticed that the children mostly played with each other indoors, and there were only a few toys -- perhaps that's why it was easy to keep her busy with the limited number of toys we brought out.  (We are trying to save some of them to be "new" to her during our week in Delhi, and for the flights home.)  Their outside play area had metal rocking seesaws and some wheeled toys, and the children play outside for 2 hours each morning and in late afternoon.  We could hear the kids playing, and Kavya noticed the sounds a few times too, but she didn't seem upset by it.

She picked up my phone and knew just what to do: she said "Hello?"
And she LOVES her toothbrush!
Sister Lucy had told us that they do a prayer service to commit the child to her new family, and officially say goodbye.  She came to get us at 5:30, inviting us to vespers and mass, which would precede the prayer service.  She walked us through the kitchen, then to the small chapel.  It was painted sky blue and yellow, and had open windows down both sides. At first, there were 12 sisters there, but the small chapel filled as the sisters sang and read vespers.  It was peaceful and beautiful to hear their voices filling the small space.  To our surprise, everything was sung and spoken in English, making it easy for us to participate.

Mass was also in English, and Sister Lucy prayed for Kavya and our family during the intentions.  Her words were simple, direct, and heartfelt, and spoke of a profound calling from God to raise children in the love of Christ and prepare them for a successful transition into a family.

The prayer service after Mass was short, but deeply moving.  Sister Lucy asked us to the front of the chapel and prayed for us as we commit to raising Kavya as our child.  The chapel was full, and she told us afterward that Kavya was well-loved, and this was the most sisters who had ever come to a service.  We feel so indebted to them -- one of the biggest reasons she is doing so well during these first days is because of how well they cared for her.  Peter and I cried, and were so aware of the huge changes ahead of Kavya -- and how grateful we are to God for bringing her into our lives.  We feel keenly the awesome responsibility of a child being entrusted to us for life, and it is our heartfelt desire to love her well.

Sister Lucy gave us tiny medals to commemorate the occasion -- they depict Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a child.  Peter's mom had given us a medal of Pope Francis to give to the sisters as well, and he gave it to Sister Lucy at the end of the service.  Many of the sisters stayed afterward to ask us questions about our families, and to say goodbye to Kavya.  Several asked for kisses on the cheek, which Kavya was happy to do.  They used English and Kannada words for "kiss" -- the Kannada word sounded like "kishoo", so she understands when we have asked for a kiss on the cheek too.

We headed back to our room to settle in for an early bedtime.  We had to wake up for a 2:30 a.m. drive to the airport, so we packed up quickly.

The stay at the orphanage was unexpected for us, but we are so grateful to have the chance to see how the nuns talked to Kavya, and see some of her daily routine, and what kinds of foods were served.  There was always a curry (vegetable, plantain, and chicken) and a cooked vegetable (which Kavya never ate!), along with chapati and rice.  That has helped us try different foods with her -- and we've seen how much she loves "biscuits," or shortbread-type cookies!  We also heard that the nuns used some English words with her, such as praising her by saying "good girl, Kavya!", and a few phrases such as "chocolate," "biscuits," and "kisses."

What a gift to be in her environment for a few days.  Another unexpected benefit was being completely out of our element all of a sudden -- we had to change our hotel plans, didn't know when meals were served, didn't know what kind of food would be served, didn't know much of anything . . . it helped create a lot of empathy for all of the new things that Kavya will be experiencing over the next weeks.  How much we ask of our kids when they first come home!  They are so brave, so trusting, so vulnerable -- and we pray that we will be sensitive to her fears and needs as she undergoes a complete change of environment in joining our family.


Julie & Patrick said...

Stalking? Absolutely! I couldn't wait for this post. Teary eyed, I hovered on your every word, feeling joy for your family that the transition into your care went so well. How wonderful to be able to stay where Kavya lived and experience a bit of her life in progress. I had to laugh at the in/out of the pencils in the box game...which is what the knocking over of the stacking cups game accomplished for us, bridging the gap of language for our girls. It is still hard to believe that this part of your story is unfolding! It brings back so many of our own memories of those first days. All the best as you continue on in Delhi! Hugs to all and many congrats!!

Kris Pease said...

I agree with Julie's post above...stalking is exactly what ive been doing as well.. Its hard to look like im not crying at very happy at the orphanage and how they have loved her. very touching.
Cant wait to see you guys. Missing you all.

SarahinOK said...

I've been stalking too!!! :) So pleased to read about how beautifully and lovingly she has been cared for! What a relief and joy! Will be praying for the days ahead as well. Thank you sooo much for posting!

jasonliberty said...

Stalker here too!!! What a precious gift to see how much she was loved and cared for. <3. I'm so very happy that you have her in your arms!

Sarah said...

This is so moving and wonderful! What a gift to see your precious daughter so loved and cared for.

Auburn said...

Thank you for this! I've been checking and rechecking for your next update :) ...and so curious about your stay in the orphanage. What a wonderful and precious gift for you. ...and nothin' beats those first snuggles! We are so happy for you!!!

Heather said...

What an unbelievable experience! What a beautiful ritual to transition Kavya to your family. And how amazing to be able to get such a glimpse into the day to day life at the orphanage. I am so happy that you had the opportunities to make such great memories.

Candice said...

Yeah! LOVE the pictures! So glad you have your little angel in your arms. What sweet memories you are documenting for her. Prayers for a safe trip home for your sweet, growing family!

Kim Hammen said...

What a great way to end my very long day, being able to read about your stay at the orphanage and your first few days with Kavya. What a beautiful memory to bring with you of the mass and prayer service - a true gift. Thank you for posting so we can "be" there too. It was not too long! :)

No Greater Love said...

Wow, such a beautiful post. What a treasure that you were able to stay at the orphanage. Can't wait for the next update. :)

Abbey Bridges said...

Great post! Blessing to you and your family! What a blessing it turned out to be to stay at the orphanage!

Kelsi VanAbel said...

Sending up prayers for God's continued provision, protection, and blessing over you all...I'm sharing in your joy today!

Lucy said...

This is just so wonderful what God is doing in your lives and Kavya's.

Çindy Oakley said...

So happy and excited for you and reading your posts. I especially like the LONG ones :)

The Fraley Family said...

What a beautiful experience to be invited to stay with the sisters and have that bond with Kavya's old life to be able to share with her. It is such a blessing to know that she was loved and cared for tenderly by these marvellous women. And the prayer service.... oh my goodness! What a gift! The perfect way to begin your lives together. I was a teary mess reading all of this. Congratulations!!!!

Miche said...

I'm been stalking to see an update-thanks so much for sharing!! What a special special thing to get to be in the orphanage and spend time like that before having to leave with Kevya! What a gift for her and you! I cried reading; this is just so wonderful! Congrats and prayers for your next step of travel and homecoming!!!