Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Revisiting our first days with Anya Rashi

Today's plan of action was centered on Anya Rashi. Ever since we began Kavya's adoption process, we hoped to bring Anya along for the trip to India. We wondered if she might be too young to find the trip meaningful -- but then the adoption process helped us out by taking a really long time!  We decided to visit some of the same places we went when we first ventured out of our hotel room with her, St. Paul's Cathedral and the Victoria Memorial.

She's seen photos of our previous visit  in her scrapbook, but since she was only 1, she has no memories. It was fun to tell her about how we walked through crowded streets to the Cathedral and the Memorial with her in the baby carrier.  We spent lots of time walking in the beautiful gardens and grounds.

We were surprised and delighted to find that the same Nativity scene we saw 6 years ago was still on display at the Cathedral!  They'd moved it to a different location on the grounds, but it was so much fun to show Anya the life-size figures, all of whom had tan/brownish skin and black hair (except for one wise man, who was causasian), even baby Jesus.  The interior is beautiful, with breathtaking stained glass.  And one detail made it very Indian: dozens of ceiling fans to use during the 8 hot months of the year!

The Victoria Memorial includes some old-school displays of Indian history and Victorian-era art.  The exterior and the grounds and gardens were the main attraction for us this time.  It is a green, peaceful oasis in the midst of a city bustling, congested city of 18 million.

I don't know if I can adequately describe how busy Kolkata is.  During our last visit, our hotel was just a few blocks from these two places, so we decided to walk there with Anya strapped into the Baby Bjorn carrier.  Let me tell you, we suddenly realized we could literally die on the way there!  Between the traffic driving on the "wrong" side of the road, the six lanes of vehicles crammed into space for two, and sidewalks that are as busy as the road -- walking anywhere is an adventure!

After our tourist/memory lane stops, we relived the walking experience.  Our afternoon plan was to visit ISRC, the baby home that cared for Anya.  We wanted to bring a little something with us, so we asked our driver Pintu to bring us somewhere to buy children's medicine and candy.  We went to a place called New Market, where we found a pharmacy.  The customer service in Indian shops is unbelievable -- everything is behind glass, so you point out what you need, and a clerk gets it for you, and another clerk writes up a bill so you can pay.

Then, to find a candy shop, Pintu led us a few blocks away to the Old Market, which began in 1847.  It was a rabbit warren of open air and enclosed shops, selling food, clothing, home items, jewelry and more.  It was colorful, chaotic and energizing.  We stopped at a shop to buy some nuts for the staff, and Anya picked out a bag of lollipops for the children.  I don't know how many of them are the right ages/will be able to eat a lollipop, but in her mind suckers are the pinnacle of treats, so we went with it!

Then it was on to the two locations operated by ISRC.  The first place we went was the building where they care for children with more profound special needs.  The ladies do a great job caring for children, some of whom have been there for their entire lives.  With the help of Illuminate India (a non-profit started by several adoptive moms!), the children receive speech and occupational therapies and several of them are making great progress with the new therapies.  There were a few kids there who really captured our hearts -- gorgeous children, each created lovingly in the image of God.

When the ayahs first opened the door for us, we told them that "Rashi" (the name Anya was given when she arrived there) was visiting.  Three of the women worked there when Anya was a baby, and remembered her!  We remembered Durba and Gita too, and have photos of them from our 2007 visit.  They cried out "Rashi! Rashi!", and caressed her cheeks.  They asked how old she was now, and a few other questions (there was a little bit of a language barrier) -- and showed us around the place.  We remembered seeing Swarnadip and Prasun in those same rooms -- both of those boys are now home with their families, and thriving!

After our tour, we went to the baby home where Anya spent her first year.  Ms. Roy, the director (who gave Anya the name "Rashi") was there.  She had a terrible cold, and had missed a few days of work this week -- we suspect she came in just because we were there.  We talked for a while in her office about the new India adoption process, and about some other families who adopted children around the same time as Anya -- and I said hello on behalf of a recent mom (Maggie!).  She held Anya's face in her hands, and asked about her age and schooling.

Then we headed in to see the room where Anya spent most of her baby days.  It seemed smaller than we remembered, but it brought back vividly the emotions and experience of meeting our girl for the first time.  We showed Anya where her crib was, then took some pictures -- and then we oohed and aahed over some of the beautiful children being cared for.  Most were napping, so we tried to be quiet . . . but three little girls were awake, and it was so fun to see Anya smile and talk to them.

Since we're on the verge of doing the same thing all over again, it made me have butterflies in my stomach . . . I was newly impressed by how many lives are changed through an adoption.  The parents, of course, are blessed with a new child to love, and challenged to love selflessly, promising to provide whatever that child needs.  The child leaves one culture behind, and leaves the only home she has known -- what an enormous thing we ask of them when we ask them to trust us!  It breaks my heart to think how vulnerable and brave our children are, and how scary those first days must be for them.  And the people surrounding the adoptive family are changed too -- that's often how the idea of adoption spreads, and more children find a family.  Adoption can be such a glorious reflection of God's love for us, and how He invites each of us to be part of His family.  It is also a reminder of the value of every person -- every child deserves a family, and every child is worth the time and effort it takes to adopt.

It was such a blessing to have another chance to thank Ms. Roy for the care Anya received there.  She and her staff are dedicated, amazing people who truly want to help children who would otherwise be destined for life in an institution.  We headed for the car, hearts full.

We spent Wednesday morning at a scary children's museum that was frozen in about 1961 -- think creepy dolls and dioramas!! And then we had a great rest of the morning outside at a brand-new Eco Park.  There was a huge rose garden, a lake with boat rentals, broad walking paths (a rarity in Kolkata!), statues, Bonsai trees, and more.  It was lovely -- and a great way to get some fresh air outside the city, before we headed to the airport for our flight to Bangalore.

Tomorrow is the day we meet Kavya -- a day nearly five years in the making.  We are overwhelmed that it is finally time to meet our daughter in person, and so grateful to each person who has played a role in getting us here.  Our next post will be all about her!


Sarah said...

How wonderful for Anya to see all of these places!

Can't wait to for your next post and to hear the news that you have your precious new daughter!!!

mc said...

Loving following along! That photo of Anya with the director holding her face is incredibly precious!! Looking forward to hearing about your new daughter!!

Karen said...

Oh Nancy, I am just overcome as I read your post! How strange and wonderful it must be for Anya to re-appear at ISRC. I bet the ayahs really cherish moments like that…to see one of their little cuties so grown up! I am so glad you were able to make the trip to Kolkata.

It's almost 11pm here in RI, so in just a couple more hours you'll be meeting Kavya. I've got butterflies in my stomach for you! ;) Prayers for you tonight.


Heather said...

Wow--Anya really seems to be receiving the attention and experience so gracefully. It is so wonderful that she will be able to have these memories.

Looking forward to your next post!

Julie & Patrick said...

Okay, I have to admit, I am a bit teary eyed reading about Anya's reunion with the people and place where she waited for you to come for her. How wonderful that she was remembered, which only goes to prove how well our children were cared for. Seeing pictures of a place that is so emblazoned in my memory brings back such emotion. I paused several times last night to calculate the hours until you would be meeting Kavya. According to my calculations...that meeting is probably happening right now! I have a fluttery stomach thinking about it and praying that everything goes well. I am partially in disbelief that this meeting, after all this time, is finally happening and it makes me feel beyond elated for you!
Hugs, Julie