Host dad Simon is very hip with his hair spiked; Igor is smitten with the look. Walking up to him, Igor utters an inflected “Um,” points to Simon’s head, and runs his fingers through his own hair. Simon helps Igor and two other boys coif their hair like his. Igor, especially, is proud, and I don’t see him again without spikes. At the end of the week, he asks Simon to give him the gel.
Several of the kids are in foster care, just for the summer, to give them an experience with a family. I wonder, but don’t ask, why these families don’t care the rest of the year. All the kids have farm jobs with the families, which none appear to object. Igor smiles, noting that when he finishes helping with the hay, there’s always cake on the table awaiting him. Ekaterina and Zulya dream of going to America. Asked what he wants to be in the future, Igor deadpans, “A star.” With his personality, it’s hardly far-fetched.
After more than an hour of questions, the kids get their gifts. Much energy is spent sorting through their bags, comparing contents, and displaying the loot. We derive as much pleasure watching their joy as they get in receiving. One Virginia family I’ve spoken with for over two years sends a wrapped gift for each unhosted child, along with a card. The kids know they should open the card before the accompanying gift. Each asks Irina to read theirs to them, and they listen with rapt attention.
I hope he is repaid a thousand-fold.