Friday morning I face the metro on my own. Faith plans to meet me outside a McDonald’s across town and worries I’ll get lost, but I’m better with directions than she thinks, and I arrive first. We’re investigating a new hotel for our program. The proprietor shares a numeric code for the front door and a deceptively jaunty “Come on in!” in his correspondence with me. Faith and I find the door easily, but it doesn’t budge as we repeatedly enter “005” as instructed. Via intercom, Faith cajoles a man at another business to let us in, but he adamantly refuses. Seeking pity, I beg in broken Russian, but he disdains even to acknowledge my plea. We are contemplating leaving when someone exits the building, allowing our admittance. The hotel rooms are cramped, malodorous, and reverberating with street noise; the website promises a kitchen, but delivers a sinkless, closet-like space seating four who don’t mind getting cozy. The outfit is wholly inappropriate; touring it, I realize for all the shortcomings of our current digs, how fortuitous our accommodations are.
Walking back, Faith confesses she’s purchased circus tickets, even though I’ve vowed not to attend again. She pacifies me, having asked the ticket vendor if the show “has nakedness”. The puzzled vendor assured her, “No nakedness, just animals.” When Faith complained the competing circus was a “strip show”, and explained we had the morals of orphans to consider, the seller nodded, agreeing solemnly. Feeling mildly dubious, I agree to give the new circus a chance.
Back at the hotel, I pace the hall, awaiting entrance of my host families from the airport. I am giddy to make acquaintance with all who share my mission, and hours on the phone and e-mail later, attaching faces to voices and names is great joy. Our band includes an extremely well-travelled couple from Washington, a single man from Colorado planning a domestic foster care adoption, Iowans called by God to add an older child to their family, a single lady and her mom from New York seeking a little boy, a couple from Florida hosting the boy who is my favorite Lighthouse child ever, and a single Michiganian home in October with a girl she’d hosted on one of my past trips.
Next morning we rise early to meet the kids. In Moscow after a twelve-hour overnight train ride, they rode in a car with about fifty bunks for sleeping. Dima drops them off earlier than expected, and a few families aren’t ready. We’re preparing breakfast and offer it to the kids, all of whom decline. As the hosts congregate in one corner of the dimly-lit room and the kids mass shyly in another, we’re two teams loathe to mingle. Though I’ve warned the families that the meeting is typically awkward, as our groups stare each other down wordlessly, I hope they’re not lamenting they’ve travelled halfway around the world for this. I know we only need add Faith to the mix and all will be well, but for now, she’s not here. When she comes and flips on the lights with a chipper “Zdrahstveetsa!”, kids who refused nourishment before suddenly become hungry, and much-needed levity is injected into the proceedings.
On the streets, unseasonable warmth is melting snow. Inside our hotel, the morning’s icy meeting is a distant memory. The kids have settled in, thrilled to be here. Youthful charges in bed, hosts mingle in the common room. I delight in the dynamic between families considering adoption, the family finishing adoption, and the mom so happy with her new daughter that she’s hosting on six days’ notice to see about adopting again.
I love this trip.