Wednesday morning in Bulgaria began as the two previous days before it. Rob and I had settled into a pattern largely because of our schedule. We would wake up and get dressed in our hotel room and then go downstairs to the hotel restaurant to exchange our meal tickets for breakfast. While we thoroughly enjoyed the lunch that we had previously in the hotel restaurant, breakfast was another story.
Breakfast was served buffet style every morning, and every morning the same items were on the buffet. To drink, there was coffee, water and an orange drink that I can only compare to Tang but much sweeter (think a flat orange soda). To eat, were several cured meats that looked similar to salami, some limp, undercooked bacon, boiled eggs, feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives. You could also make yourself some toast, but there was only white bread for the toast. For those of you who know me well, you know that I only eat whole grain bread and have not touched a slice of white bread in years so toast was out. I also enjoy feta cheese and the assorted vegetables, just not for breakfast. I guess that I prefer much more traditional Western fare for breakfast.
Did I mention that Bulgarians also have a fascination for corn flakes? They use is as a breading on their chicken planks (tenders), and it was the only cereal served in the hotel at breakfast. The only problem was there was no milk. Rob, on that fateful morning, decided to try the cornflakes and poured a liquid over them from a carafe that was white in color and appeared to be milk. Alas, it was actually some type of yogurt drink and very sour, and it managed to sour Rob's appetite that morning.
After breakfast, Rob and I would then meet our driver and translator in the lobby of the hotel. Our translator Rosie would then go over our schedule for the day. On this particular day, we had a slight schedule change. Rob and I were to visit our little boy in the morning as usual, but later in the day, we were to take him to get his visa photo made in the marketplace across the street from the hotel. So, we drove the twenty minutes across town to our son's orphanage and went in for our daily morning visit. I brought the usual toys for our little boy to play with and a box of baby wipes. Because of his cleft palate issues, our little boy drools a lot so I wanted to be prepared.
For the first time all week, the orphanage doctor had removed the patch from our son's eye, which she was using to treat his strabismus, so we could finally see both of his beautiful brown eyes at the same time. I also think this helped him to see us better. Our little boy and Rob began playing with the balloons again, but he quickly wanted to move on to something else so we got out the Doodle-Pro. This lasted for a few minutes and then I gave him a box of crayons and a coloring book. Our little boy was really not sure what to do with these items, so I demonstrated how to use the crayons on the coloring book. He then took a crayon drew a few squiggly lines on the coloring book and put the crayon back in its box. After that, he began dumping the crayons, all twenty-four, out of the box and meticulously putting them back in the box. He did this at least fifteen or more times while I sat with him. This proved to me and Rob that his fine motor skills were much better than we had been told.
There were many repetitive things like this that our little boy did over the course of the week, like opening and closing the door to the social worker's office twenty or thirty times each visit. At first, these repetitive behaviors alarmed me and Rob because we had never seen a child do such things and it was difficult to get our little boy's attention at times when he was in the middle of performing these tasks. However, after being home and showing the videos that we made of him during our trip to several professionals, we now understand that this was probably our son's way of stimulating himself and his idea of play. No one has ever shown him how to color in a coloring book, no one has ever sat down and read a book with him on a day to day basis, and no one has ever shown him how to play with a toy fire engine or truck. No one has ever taught him how to play. The realization of what we knew to be a strong possibility regarding his development in this area and others was difficult to see and to hear, but we also understand now how these things can be mitigated and how great improvement can be achieved over time.
At a little before noon that day, our morning visit ended. It was lunch time for our little one so one of the orphanage staff came to take him away for his meal. Our driver had also arrived outside to take Rob and I back to the hotel where we met up with our new friends from Oregon for lunch. On this day, we decided to eat in a restaurant called Vanilla that was in a small mall right next to our hotel. After lunch, we went back to the hotel to take a short rest before meeting our driver, the social worker and our son in front of the hotel at 1:00 p.m.
hoodie and an oversized coat to keep him warm. Rob took his hand and began to lead him across the street to the marketplace where the photo shop was located. As we neared our driver's car, our son began to cry inconsolably, so Rob picked him up in his arms and carried him the rest of the way to the photo shop. This time, our little boy did not try and wriggle out of Rob's arms, but, instead, he seemed to be content taking in all of the new sights. This was the first time that our little boy had ever been outside of his orphanage. I can only imagine what he was thinking of all the new things he was seeing, the sounds that he was hearing, and all of the new smells that were permeating his nose.
We entered the photo shop with its bright lights and noise, and Rob put our little boy down so the social worker could lead him to the chair in which he had to sit in order for the visa photo to be taken. Our little boy was very cooperative for a child who had never been in a photo shop. After several takes, the perfect picture was acquired by the cameraman, and Rob and I held each of our little boy's hands as we led him back over to the other side of the street to get in the car.
Rob and I got in the back seat of the car with our son while the social worker sat in the front seat with our driver. As soon as the key was turned in the ignition and the engine started, our little boy began to scream and cry. He also began trying desperately to get out of the car. Did I mention that he had not been outside the orphanage before? This also means that he had also not been in a car before except for the trip to meet us at the hotel. I think this explains his crying episode when he saw the car as we were walking to the marketplace. He screamed and cried while Rob held him (there was no car seat in the car) all the way back to the orphanage, which was about a twenty minute drive. The only time that he stopped crying was when the car would stop at a stop light. I can only imagine that the drive itself and being in a car for the first time zipping through the city was a huge amount of sensory overload that terrified our little guy. I tried to distract him as Rob held him fast so he would not injure himself during the trip. When we finally arrived at the orphanage, the crying stopped as soon as the car did and then we went inside for our afternoon visit.
I really don't remember a lot of specifics about that visit except toward the end of the evening. After being with our son for about two hours at the orphanage, the social worker asked us through our translator if we would like to walk our son downstairs before we left. This was big since we had not been allowed all week to leave the small office area for any of our visits. Rob took one hand and I took the other as we led our little guy down the hall and then down the stairs. He has a lot of difficulty managing stairs, but Rob and I are hopeful that a little PT when we get him home will go a long way in that department. When we got to the bottom of the stairs, Rob bent down and hugged him goodbye and then I followed and did the same. Rob then turned to open the door for us to leave, and a strange but good thing happened. Our little boy started to cry. When we got outside with our translator, Rob asked me, "Did what I think just happened really happen?" I responded that if he meant our little boy was crying because we were leaving then the answer was "Yes." It was a little glimmer of hope that some attachment had formed and that we were making progress.
There is a long walkway that parallels the side of the orphanage that we would take as we would leave each evening. The orphanage wall that is next to the walkway is lined with rows of large windows, so we could see our little boy and the social worker as they walked down the hallway and toward the dining area. Rob ran down the walkway and to another flight of stairs at the opposite end of the building. He then ran up the stairs and tapped on the glass of the door as our little boy and the social worker walked near the door. Our little boy laughed to see his daddy being so silly. It was another touching moment in a very long day.
At dinner that evening, we had a lot to think about from all that had transpired that day. Our new friends from Oregon also shared the latest about their visits that day with their daughter. It had become our nightly ritual and how we all would wind down from the day.