Tonight, I sat down and read Little Prince through a google translator. It was the strangest story she had ever heard, I’m sure. She sat at the table, and opened all my bills that had been avoiding in a large pile, and emptied Jake’s Batman piggy bank and refilled it over and over. She had never seen money just lying about. We talked about currency, and exchange rates, and how different countries have different coins, and those coins don’t work in the wrong country.
Her world just exploded.
This girl is packing in as much life as she can in 11 weeks. She’s learning us, and we’re learning her. I don’t speak her language, and she doesn’t speak mine, but I can tell by her face when she’s mad, or bored, or overwhelmed, or hungry. I can especially tell when she’s thankful.
I had been wondering for days why she won’t shower willingly, even though I provided her with all the things she would need for it. Tonight, I realized I gave her all the pieces to the puzzle, and I didn’t give her the instruction manual. Standing in the bathroom with a 14-year-old girl who has never met me before, she was not willing to hear my personal hygiene speech through terrible translation. “Ok, Ok!” she pushes me out of the bathroom. This was bad enough, she’d already traveled across the entire world to meet this crazy American family, surely this nutty mother wasn’t about to do some weird charades to explain a shower to her. She’d figure it out, she always does.
I try so hard to answer the questions she isn’t asking, to show her I care. Tonight, I sent her “how to” videos on youtube. How to wash your hair, how to brush your teeth, how to put on a maxi pad. These things she has no mother to teach her, and now some strange American woman is going to try? This is far too embarrassing. Through a video link, alone in her room where she can study this new instruction, she feels thankful and relieved. Now the instruction isn’t linked to an embarrassing memory you wished you never had. No pressure, more information is always better than less.
I sent the videos and she immediately replied “Спасибо!”. The most genuine thank you I’ll probably ever have. She then confirmed my suspicions that she was thankful, but coming downstairs and trying to force me to eat the apple that has been on her desk for four days. This is a behavior I’ve noticed with her, putting food in your mouth, begging you to share her candy. “Sorry, I’m Paleo” doesn’t quite compute. Seemingly they don’t teach orphans ‘it’s the thought that counts’.
She sat, and she talked. She told me about meeting Ted’s friend tonight who was from Ukraine and eventually moved to America. She was excited the friend’s grandfather still had a summer house in her village! How could this possibly be that we know someone that has a family home in the same small village Alina is from. How is it also possible that our piano teacher is also from her region, and eventually moved to our town, where she sees my children weekly. How many calculations must there be to show this is nearly impossible lottery. A girl we picked off a list blindly has been the most perfect fit for us we could ever imagine.
I am not one for signs from the heavens, but the Red String is proving its hypothesis. This girl, the most literal thinker I’ve known, comes from a small village in Ukraine, never been hosted, never seen beyond it, and ended up in my home for 11 weeks this summer. This girl who has this amazingly gifted insight into the world, but never offered an opportunity to use it, brought home books from her meeting with our Russian speaking friend: Maine guide to driving laws, The little Prince, Winnie The Pooh, Origami, and one illustrated Russian classic. She hugged the books, she showed us how excited she was.
This girl came home to take on the world. If she is given the information and afforded an opportunity to apply herself, from the new knowledge will be born a girl whose world changed and so in thanks giving she then changed the world.
Alina is going places, she just needs an opportunity to grow. I’m so thankful to be cultivating the blossoming knowledge for the next 10 weeks. I hope our futures are as connected as our recent past has been.