I was able to travel to meet Ava the end of April. I traveled by myself as I did on the first trip when I met Lance and Elliott. This was a bit of a different experience for me. I had a different translator and since I am with a different in country agency things just are run differently. I was on my own more so than I had been previously and the atmosphere was...different. First impression of Ava's city...it is a beautiful sea side city that is a bit touristy, the hotel is right around the corner from Ava's orphanage so we walked to and from her orphanage twice a day.
What did I think of the orphanage?
It is actually a really nice place. It looks like it has recently been renovated and has many modern conveniences (including a high tech surveillance system) Ava is in a group "apartment" which is basically two bedrooms separated by a large living/dining space. There is a couch, coffee table, tv, a small ball pit, and a dining table. This orphanage is a different environment than either Lance or Elliott's in that I was able to visit with her in her group, surrounded by the nannies and some of the other children.
What kind of care do the children receive?
Some of the children spend all day in the main room and have lots of attention and interaction with the staff. Others, spent the days either in high chairs or cribs depending on their abilities. Ava is fed with a bottle and while initially she seemed to drink pretty well, I quickly realized that she just can't keep up with the foods and textures to be able to safely take in the calories she needs. At almost 8 years old her teeth are completely rotted out and the little bits that are left are black.
What about Ava?!
Aside from the feeding/teeth issues, she is absolutely tiny...breakable. She is much longer than I had guessed, but she only weighs about 17 pounds which makes her just skin and bones. I suspect she is blind as her eyes are generally glossy and she doesn't seem to look or focus on anything. She is quiet...almost silent actually. She doesn't really respond to any kind of stimulation other than occasionally a sound. She didn't appear to be in pain or care if I moved or adjusted her to break up the pattern caused by her cerebral palsy. The only time I got a response from her was when I went to lay her down after a few days of holding her and giving her attention, she cried out briefly which gave me hope that she cares what happens to her and she was obviously enjoying being loved on. At the end of the day I'm just not sure what her personality will show once she starts getting proper nutrition and care.
What does our timeline look like from here?
WELL....that's where this story gets a little interesting. Remember how I mentioned that I was able to see the other kids in her group? There was one little boy who spent most of his time in his crib in his bedroom, however I saw him every day when they brought him in to feed him. From the first moment I saw him, he had my heart. I recognized him right away as one of the little boys I've seen listed before and I couldn't help but watch him. While he has cerebral palsy like Lance and Ava, his is a low tone form. He is 3 years old and is able to eat well from a spoon, and sits up with some support. He is absolutely precious and smiled back at me when I smiled at him. On the final day of my visit I asked if I could hold him and he curled into my arms and laid his head on my shoulder. I was absolutely IN LOVE. I called my husband as soon as I got back to my hotel and asked him if there was a possibility to add him if we could adopt him. <3 Which...leads me to our timeline question. We ARE adding "Nigel" (that's not his real name so don't start calling him that ;) ) to our adoption which has added a few more months to our process and a few thousand dollars as well. We already have the verbal referral for him and are waiting on the official written referral. Basically the "powers that be" are going to require me to go back to officially visit him before we can move on to the next stage of the process. At this point it's looking like the kiddos won't be home until the end of the year :(
OK! So, there's a lot going on in our family right now, but that's the most exciting stuff for now. I'll work on posting the rest in the next few weeks, but to tide ya over here's a few pics of my first trip to meet Ava (Unfortunately I'm not allowed to actually share pictures of her until she's officially ours.)
|Changing of the Guard|
|The Bird lady|
|Fish Spa? (Yes, there are little tiny fish that "eat" your feet :O )|
|Ava's little 8 year old fingers.|
|The Black Sea|
|The Orthodox cathedral "Alexander Nevski"|