Tuesday, August 02, 2005

My Belarussian Odyssey Part VIII: Thursday July 14th

Today was kind of an odd day in that we didn’t have any planned activities. One of the things we did was put the bridle on the horse. We had brought over a tack and bridle system for the horse that carries the wagon around town. They use it for everything, from taxi to dump truck. Carolyn was a little disappointed that it was a little too large, and I understand that, especially in consideration of everything she and Tink put into getting it. That having been said, one thing I’ve noticed is the industriousness of the people here, and their knack for making things work. Further, once they get things working, they keep them working (which makes me hideously aware of the disposability of our own culture). I think he’ll not only have the bridle on the horse and fitting next year, he’ll be rocking with it!

It was hot today. Николай and Миша (Meesha, who has become my left hand man) taught me a new word today: жаркий...Hot! I was getting the idea across while we were putting the bridle on the horse. Николай grabbed my hand and led me across the field (always taking me to new places, new experiences…as well as being my right hand man, he is my Joe Rogan on this adventure). We hopped a fence and walked down a dusty road to a black pipe sticking out of the ground. Attached to this was a second pipe, which Nikolai pushed down as water poured out. He and Миша grabbed a quick drink and then I stuck my head under it to cool off. The boys thought about for a second, then they did the same thing, while I pumped the water. Julia asked me to stick my head under the water again so she could snap a pic---I suppose the water was coming up from the belly of the earth, because when I stuck it under the faucet again it was FREEZING—take-your-breath-away-and-shrivel-your-head-freezing!

Then we had a break for lunch and Tink had a funny thought. In беларусь, apparently, the easiest vegetables to grow are cucumbers and tomatoes and the easiest spice to grow is dill. They put dill on everything. If they don’t put it on something, they put it in it. So Tink began calling it, "Our Daily Dill…"

After lunch, it was still hot, and the kids wanted to go плава—swimming. I had heard it was a long walk, but who cares. Brad and I said "плава?" to a couple of kids and they ran through the place, telling their friends. We had about 20 kids and started walking toward the river. One of the things I love about Brad is I can say, "Let’s go swimming" and he doesn’t even think about. He just says, "Okay, let’s go" and off we go. So Brad and I are walking out with the kids and we are stopped by a teacher who starts pulling out kids, at random and telling them to get back to the orphanage. It seemed kind of random, so I asked what was up and the teacher said "не плава"...she was pulling out the kids who could not плава. Brad and I quickly agreed it would be a good idea if they did not go along on this particular outing.

On the way to the swimming hole, we passed a guy building his own house. He had built a form out of two to four inch wide boards and was pouring the cement into the form. Then, he was smoothing it with a trowel. We also came to the top of a huge hill. The kids apparently have a tradition of running down it as fast as they can. Some of them did it, then started shouting, "Rob! Rob!" which is the Belarussian equivalent of, "I triple dog dare you!" So I did it, and it was GREAT!

We walked across a huge open field and came to the riverbank. The kid got down to bathing suits, a couple to underwear, and started jumping in. I put on Jon’s swimming shoes he had loaned me and also jumped in. The water was cool, but not cold. When I put my foot on the bottom, stuff crunched a little—glad I had the shoes. Some of it felt organic, but I got the feeling some of it was not. Рослан (Rooslan, pictured here with Linda) dove to the bottom (the river was about 5 ½ feet at its deepest) and brought up some sizable river clams. We swam for some time, then Brad and I took turns throwing some of the kids into the river. The older boys were squatting down and getting on each other’s shoulders, then jumping up and launching them. It was the purest kid experience of my stay in Belarus: no pretension, no fear, no guardedness…they were just a bunch of kids, swimming in a river. It was absolutely beautiful in its simplicity, and it remains the favorite thing I did with the children on this trip. Walking back to the school, I said to Brad, "You know, swimming in that river probably knocked about a year off my life. But it was so worth it."

When we got back it was time for dinner, then the kids had their nightly meeting. The meeting consists of the kids getting together in groups of their peers, with their teachers. They stand in a three-sided square while Tatiana stands at the open end and recounts the day. The kids motioned for me to come over and I stood in with the older kids like I was one of them. Tatiana looked at me, smiled, then started the meeting. It lasted about 5 minutes or so. I noticed Elena (our translator) in the corner of the room and, after the meeting dismissed, and I had said goodnight to the kids, I asked her what had been said.

She explained it was a review of the day, and they go over what happened as well as which kids have behaved and which have not. Tatiana had also said that it had come to her attention that a bunch of kids had gone to the river to go swimming without the knowledge or permission of the teachers. She stated, "this is not allowed and will not be tolerated.......next time." Adding, in effect, "I hope you had fun" she sent everyone on their way with a wink, wink and a nod, and we were all off the hook.

Word has it the swingset will be released tomorrow. The government officially quarantined it because, when we provided a list of everything going over, we did not account for each and every nut and bolt that holds the swingset together…it is very complicated…. So we will have one day to put up the swingset and pray it all works out.

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