Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Shock and other emotions

When you experience life in another country, you lose your innocence.

A lot of times people say to me, "I would like to visit America....just to see what it's like." A voice in my head screams silently "Don't do it!" as I try to change the subject.

I know, it sounds hypocritical since I go back and forth myself. But it's like a Pandora's Box. You can't go back after you've seen it; made the comparison. The emotions either prompt you to act, or ruin you for life, or maybe both. The contrasts in wealth and poverty; the different levels of caring and not caring; the different political systems; the ways people rejoice or despair in life. They use the word "shock" for a reason.

I met with one of my adult English students. She returned recently from her first trip to America; an orphanage counselor with a meager salary.


But there was something negative, too. She sniffed at my large (relatively) 2-rm (shared) apartment, noting that some repairs were in order. "The other place was better."

We spent two hours looking at the photos of fun host family outings, meals in restaurants, cute kids and pets, comfy private bedrooms, free swimming pools. There it was, America. And she wanted to go back.

"Do Americans love the kids they adopt, or do they just have a lot of money?" What does THAT mean? As if the first thing people do when they have money is go and get a couple of kids, although I can think of worse things to do.

I assured her that there were good intentions, but I also mentioned the community aspect of it: churches and friends getting together to raise the money, helping out. She didn't think that would ever happen in Russia, but I mentioned the newspaper spreads with the infants needing operations. People are pledging a lot of money to those causes. They aren't apathetic.

It's just that adoption, maybe, hasn't caught on yet. But it could...later?


  1. Elizabeth, I'm so glad to find your blog. I am seeking God's wisdom about the possibility of moving to Russia myself. I adopted my daughter from there 5 years ago, but her sister remains locked in a kind of limbo there, and I just cant bear for her to be alone anymore. And so, I pray and wait and pray some more. It has been helpful to find blogs like yours to read about others who have made the leap.


  2. Keri! I hope my blog helped make this introduction!

    I have to say I'm shocked, too - at your acquiantance's odd question about whether or not people love their adopted children. Is that some little residual of the Russian idea that such a thing isn't possible? Or, does she really think people in big houses aren't as loving?

    This would be such an interesting panel discussion. I've been communicating with our translator in Ivanovo. I speak longingly of Russia, while she finds nothing attractive. I'm sure she can't imagine why the charms of the US don't "work" on me....

    I guess what it boils down to is that we so soon fail to appreciate our blessings. Or that they are over-rated? I remember my Moscow friend seeing a photo of Sergei in our living room vacuuming - she actually gasped. Yet, cleaning that room is now Ilya's chore and he scoffs at the vacuum as useless nonsense, and sweeps the carpet with a broom.

    Just saw your note above; I'm not sure these comments are relevant. Maybe.

  3. This summer was my first trip back to the US in 4 1/2 years. And it was hard. I wept in every city we entered knowing that we'd soon be leaving. Yes, much of it was to do with people. But...my relationships are different in America, too. And coming back, having had that easiness surrounding me made it difficult to be back.

    My Russian friends who visited and/or have lived in the US long to go back--and stay.

  4. Keri, I suppose it would be better to act while the sister is still a minor and hasn't been transferred somewhere unknown. But, the Lord's timing is perfect.

    I definitely love my home country and I understand what makes it attractive, but... it's sad when you know one life and are happy with one thing, and then are tempted by another. And I hate that my culture and perhaps even my own lifestyle could be a stumbling block to someone else.

    With the relationships...well, when I'm in the U.S., I think wistfully that it would be nice to see these people more, in another life perhaps. Even if I lived there, I wouldn't be able to see them all on a regular basis. But I'm well taken care of in Russia, too. I guess we all wish for our favorite people to be together at the same time!


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