That Tower Of Babel Thing…

When you don’t have shared language, you find things to do that don’t require verbal communication.

Like UNO.

And puzzles.

And more puzzles…

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The Wii.

Movies.

And music.

***

Sweet Tea spoke only one word of English in our home the entire month she stayed with us: Milk. We drink water at meals so it didn’t enter my mind to offer anything else. A week or so into hosting, some of the host families told us that their host kids love milk. So when we set the table for the next meal, I translated on the phone “Water or milk?” and Sweet Tea nodded. So I translated, “Which one?” She cleared her throat and said, “Milk.” She must have been really tired of water all the time!

During her visit we communicated almost exclusively via the translators on our phones which was certainly better than nothing but also frustrating for all of us. I learned to type in short, succinct sentences. “You hungry?” “You tired?” “I go bed. You go bed?” The funny thing is that I started speaking like that too! And not just to Sweet Tea. I caught myself having short, choppy conversations with friends as well.

Sweet Tea had no problem reading what we translated to her but had a very rough time translating back to us. Probably a lot of reasons including combining languages (she speaks/reads/writes two languages which she intermixes), slang, grammar and uncertainty/guardedness around us.

Sweet Tea did communicate with us in many ways that didn’t involve language.

More on that to come…

P.S. I understand that God needed to do that whole Tower of Babel language mix-up thing but, really, it would be much easier if we all just spoke one language!!!

By |February 27th, 2016|Lana's Journal|0 Comments

A Request

After a few days of sleeping and tip-toeing around, Sweet Tea called her chaperone to check in. Thankfully her chaperone spoke both Sweet Tea’s language and ours. I talked to the chaperone first and told her that we felt like everything was going well but that we had no idea how Sweet Tea felt. None at all. And that we would really, really like to know.

They talked for a few minutes and we loved hearing Sweet Tea’s laugh and her pleasant voice, even if we could not understand a word. She handed the phone back to us.

“She wants to cook. She doesn’t get a chance to cook much in the orphanage and would like to cook while she is in America.”

I translated, “Will you help me cook dinner?” and Sweet Tea jumped right out of bed.

That night we had a delicious meal of noodles, ground beef and cucumber/tomato salad.

Cucumber/tomato salad is extremely popular in Sweet Tea’s country and very, very good. We liked it so much (even my picky particular girls) that Sweet Tea and I made this salad many more times during her stay with us.

Cucumber and Tomato Salad

One English cucumber, sliced

Couple of tomatoes, chopped into large chunks

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

Olive Oil and Vinegar, a drizzle of both

Salt and Pepper to taste

For an extra delicious European flavor, add Vegeta seasoning to taste. Amazon sells Vegeta seasoning, non-MSG.

Mix and eat!

***

It’s a safe bet that Sweet Tea’s love language is serving.

By |February 15th, 2016|Lana's Journal|0 Comments

The First Few Days

Sweet Tea slept and slept and slept. When she came out of her room, she tip toed to the bathroom, quiet as a mouse, and then right back to bed. I kept sticking food in her room in case she got hungry: nuts, granola bars, cheese sticks, apples, bananas and oranges.

We finally caught her awake. Are you hungry? No. Do you want pizza? No. I had a sneaking suspicion that she had to be hungry so I went to the kitchen and fixed a plate of pizza and apples and took it back to her. She smiled and proceeded to eat every bite. From then on I asked “Do you like?” instead of “Do you want?”. It is so much easier to say no and not be a bother than to risk saying yes and be disappointed…

We were told that the kids often arrive with nothing, just the clothes on their backs. Sweet Tea brought a suitcase with clothes, toiletries, a towel, etc. I knew I needed to wash all of her clothes. Several of the kids she traveled with on the plane had lice so I needed to make sure. But here I was, a stranger, taking all of her clothes away. I promised to bring them all back, washed and folded. She nodded so I rushed to get those clothes washed, dried, neatly folded and back to her as fast as possible. It was close to midnight when I finished but so worth it to build trust. When I say I will bring back your clothes, I really will.

The morning of day three we told Sweet Tea that we would take her shopping. That got her out of bed! Previous host families recommended that we take Sweet Tea to a store or two but not a huge mall or store after store because these kids are easily overwhelmed and aren’t used to so many choices. So, we thought that a trip to H&M would be a good start, as it’s European and easy to navigate.

Sweet Tea and Lauren wandered around the store, looking and looking. No. No. No. No. She wasn’t being difficult; it was just so hard to decide. The one opportunity to buy whatever you would like. So much pressure. She finally found jeans and I prayed like crazy that they were the right size! Sure enough, they fit her perfectly. After the jeans success, she gained confidence and chose some t-shirts.

Next up, shoes.

After trying on many pairs of shoes at several stores, Sweet Tea found a pair that she liked.

We were all still tip-toeing around each other, unsure how to respond, to react. Except Hope. She grabbed Sweet Tea’s hand and didn’t let go.

By |February 10th, 2016|Lana's Journal|2 Comments

Welcome to America

So much for blogging the whole month of hosting Sweet Tea. We were a little busier than we anticipated. I got Sweet Tea’s permission to blog about her visit and post pictures so here goes…

I’ll start at the very beginning.

Mid-December Dave, Lauren and I drove to the airport at almost midnight to pick up Sweet Tea. She had been traveling for 30 hours (three flights plus layovers) so we knew she would be tired. Exhausted.

We waited at baggage claim with the other families from the San Diego area who were hosting kids from Sweet Tea’s country. We were all nervous. I mean what could possibly go wrong when hosting a teenager from Eastern Europe who lives in an orphanage and has for years? I kept reminding myself that I couldn’t possibly be as nervous as Sweet Tea. We know we are a decent family who would treat her well but how was she to know that? She could be walking into anything.

In a flurry the kids appeared and we all held up our signs, looking for a familiar face from the one photo we had received. A few of the kids ran to their host families, having been hosted before and anticipating an exciting reunion. A few new kids ran to their families too. We saw Sweet Tea standing there, not moving. We hurried up to her and held up our sign. We introduced ourselves and she said her name. Someone asked in her language if she was OK and she hesitantly nodded. The airport coordinator who was helping all of us said, “This one will come out of her shell.”

We took a quick picture together and then it was time to go.

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We pointed to the bathroom and she shook her head. As we walked to the car, I could feel the stress, the tension. She was shaking. I imagined she was thinking: Who are these people? What have I done? What have I agreed to?

We got in the car, I showed her how to use the seat belt and we were on our way. And then the tears started. Exhausted, emotional, scared sobs.

I translated on my phone, “It will be Ok. We are happy to have you here.” And “We live very close to the airport so you can go to sleep very soon.” She smiled.

Four weeks later I asked her if she slept on the plane and she translated back that, no, she did not sleep much. That planes are not good for sleeping.

By |February 8th, 2016|Lana's Journal|1 Comment

Sweet Tea in a Week!

The countdown is on! Thursday we are driving to the San Diego airport to pick up the teen girl from Eastern Europe who we are hosting for the holidays. What? How did this happen you ask? I am asking myself the same thing! 🙂

Long story short, a few months ago a friend of mine posted information on Facebook about hosting an orphan for Christmas through an international hosting program, New Horizons For Children. Jessica and her family previously hosted through the same program and she is now volunteering as our area coordinator. Our Christmas travel plans fell through so I messaged Jessica and said “Hey…about hosting a child at Christmas. Looks like we’ll be home for Christmas so….”

Dave agreed, the girls loved the idea, we looked through the photo listing and stories and chose “T”. We have to be very careful about putting personal information on the world wide web so online I’ll refer to “T” as “Sweet Tea”. I’m from the South and sweet tea is my very, very favorite drink.

We submitted all of our paperwork, attended an all-day host training seminar, asked our ever-patient coordinator a million questions and purchased the things we think Sweet Tea will need when she arrives. From what we have been told the kids arrive with just the clothing on their backs so we anticipate some shopping in our near future!

We’ve talked to many families who have hosted in the past–heard the good, the bad and the ugly–but every family and host child is different so we really don’t know what to expect. Exciting and a bit nerve-wracking at the same time! We would certainly appreciate all of your prayers this Christmas season. We are planning fun activities and hope all of us have a grand time but our biggest prayer is that we will be able to make a difference in Sweet Tea’s life. That’s the whole point of this program after all, to give these kids hope.

I’m going to do my best to blog through the month Sweet Tea is with us. We won’t be sharing personal details of Sweet Tea’s life but we can share photos and our experience during this holiday season.

The girls, working on a welcome poster for the airport for Sweet Tea.

By |December 11th, 2015|Lana's Journal|0 Comments