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Thursday, 29 October 2009

Sketches Of A Big City

Sketch 1:

There are cows and bulls on the streets of Colombo. They lie contentedly at the sides of the frighteningly busy roads. They graze at the side of the river that runs through the city. (They probably chew their cud as well but I don’t really like to look so closely.) Why I find this interesting, I don’t know but my eyes widened in fascinated surprise when we were told that in this bustling city of around 2 million people, some people own cows, milk them in the morning and then let them out to wander the noisy streets until the cows see fit to return to them in the evening.

Today I saw a feisty wee street dog and a plump, pampered-looking black cow engaging in furious verbal combat. The dog was howling its heart out and the cow flung its head in the air and bellowed loudly, their enraged sounds mingling with the honking of horns and screeching of tires all around us. Since we were driving by, I didn’t have a chance to see who won this particular turf war, but my bets are placed on the mangy dog...I wouldn’t have messed with him at least.;)

Sketch 2:

Sri Lanka is largely a Buddhist nation. All over the city are shrines and temples. Seeing Buddhist monks walking the streets in their orange robes is as common as seeing nuns and priests in Rome. Yet there are also elaborately decorated Hindu temples shooting up to the sky and Catholic convents dotting the city. One street will have a shrine to Buddha with a statue of the Hindu god Vishnu close by and on the next street is a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. Religion is everywhere and religion is practiced and religion is respected.

Sketch 3:

Now I know that I am not the tiniest thing around, but buying clothing here has been a lesson in humility. Let’s just say I haven’t bought very much because well...I just can’t bring myself to go to the counter with a dress or top or underwear in, Heaven help us all, triple extra large.:)

Sketch 4:

Last Saturday, October 24th, was my 29th birthday.  We celebrated it, with Mohan and his beautiful, gracious family. It was such a genuine pleasure to meet them and their hospitality was amazing! It was certainly one of the most special birthdays I’ve had in a long time.

Though there is not very much that is serious in this entry, it occurred to me then how very much this past year has held. How very different a place we are in now than we were last year at this time. Right about this time last year we were approved to adopt and we chose this beautiful country to adopt from. We assumed that it would be still another year from now until we would be called with the joyful news that a perfect baby had been chosen for us. I was kind of down. I didn’t feel there was much to celebrate at all. What a difference a year can make.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

What I Like...



(Outside the Dambulla Cave Temples in Sri Lanka)

As a child I had a taste for the exotic. I had a pretty sizable doll collection including costumed dolls from almost all corners of the world and the vibrancy of their clothing filled my bedroom. I remember once my dad found me a brightly colored orange and yellow decoration that hung from the ceiling with small bits of mirror adorning several marching elephants on it. And when all the girls in my class bought black glossy purses, mine was made of some ragged velvety material with yet again, a huge bejeweled elephant on it made up of thousands of glittery bits of material and sequins. I think I kind of had a thing for bejeweled elephants... I also liked gypsy earrings that dangled to my shoulders and swishing skirts. Incense and candles and burning sweet grass.

Over time, I slowly gave my doll collection away because I developed a loathing for collecting anything at all as I grew. I still don’t like purses in the traditional sense and only use one when I can’t find a huge bright bag to sling over my shoulders instead. I like big earrings and wild bracelets and I most certainly still like bejeweled elephants and love with unreasonable passion, terracotta plant holders but that has little to do with anything I’m afraid! ;)

These days I like Sri lanka. I like the warmth that seems to ease and relax the general pace of life that we are accustomed to in the western world. I like the color of the saris I see on the streets. I like the heaviness of the flower scented air at the convent when we walk around the gardens with William. I like the coconuts in the palm tress and the stray dogs that sleep at the sides of the busy city streets and the spicy food and fresh fruit. I like a lot of things. I’m kind of charmed you see...by the graciousness of the people we are meeting here and their beautiful, frequent smiles.

It’s been a busy week...we’ve been at the orphanage every morning and it’s an hour there and an hour back to the hotel through the bustling Colombo traffic that consists of everything from expensive cars to three wheel type tuk tuks to mopeds and bikes that weave in and out between the larger methods of transport. The occasional cow rests at the side of the road and people are everywhere, crossing large motorways at random. The drive alone is fascinating! On Tuesday we had a short meeting with the probation officer handling our case but as we have seen is usual here, it was short, sweet and felt more like a social call than business. We were supposed to meet William’s mother on Wednesday but so far we haven’t had the pleasure of doing so for whatever reason. Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, we went and explored the busy, busy shops...at Per’s insistence of course. ;) While we found tons of amazing bargains at both the House of Fashion and Odel’s Department Store, sadly I found nothing decorated with bejeweled elephants. Ah well, there’s time yet...

Tomorrow we will wake up early and go to the orphanage at 8 instead of 10 and then set out with Mohan and drive to Dambulla and onto Kandy stopping for an elephant ride and exploration of both spice and botanical gardens on the way, then we will explore Kandy and visit an elephant orphanage on the way home on Sunday. So you know what, forget all this “bejeweled” nonsense...I’ll settle instead for the real thing!!!:)

Have a wonderful weekend all!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Suspended Time

I will admit that I wondered at first. Long before we decided for certain to adopt. Long before you were even born...and an eternity before I met you. I wondered if I would love you. Wondered if I could. Maybe this seems a horrible thing to admit to. I don’t think so though because it wasn’t actually you or me or whether you were worthy of love or if I were capable of giving it that I was wondering about, but more about the nature of love itself. How does one love if not to simply decide to do so? I was preparing myself with these thoughts, arming myself with the knowledge that love is more than we assume it is. Thinking it through in order to be able to promise you that my love for you will not fluctuate daily as feelings, without fail, do, but that it will be a constant presence in your life. In order to be able to promise you that you will never need to wonder.

I also wondered what it would be like to visit you every day for two hours at the orphanage. I wondered what we would possibly do. It’s only been three days. We’ve only seen you for six hours in total. I needn’t have wondered. The time we have with you is too short already. It feels like suspended time...quiet, peaceful, full. I could never have known that for these two hours, everything else would become less important, that seeing you yawn would be something to exclaim excitedly over...and that like this morning, when we made you laugh for the first time, actually laugh, that it would be the most beautiful sound I could ever imagine.

I didn’t expect to already love you. I had told myself to be patient, that it would come in time. But here we are and here you are, with your huge, alert, glossy brown eyes and though you may not really know us yet or understand exactly who we will be to you, we understand very well after just six hours that you are the most precious gift God could ever have blessed us with. We are head over heels already.

Monday, 12 October 2009

If Anyone Should Ask, You Can Tell 'Em I Been Lickin' Coconut Skins...

(Mount Lavinia Hotel and the Indian Ocean.)


The waves on Mount Lavinia Beach are amazingly powerful.

So full of force in fact that I have decided with some help from the aforementioned waves that it is completely hopeless to try to appear graceful or appealing and that I should certainly abandon all hope of appearing even remotely sexy or goddess-like whilst standing on the picturesque golden sand with foaming white surf rushing around my feet while gazing into the horizon with a far-away look in my eyes.

Getting knocked onto your back while still only a few inches into the water is not terribly picturesque, nor is scrambling frantically on one’s hands and knees up out of the white foam while yet another traitorous waves decides to rush at you from the side and send you flying in the other direction and yet another tries to pull you out to sea so what was to be an impressive show of quiet grace and beauty ends up a manic struggle for survival, gulping down mouthfuls of salty water and clawing at the sand, white limbs flailing helplessly.

Actually, in spite of my presence, the beach is an incredibly tranquil place. The sound of the ocean is hypnotic and beautiful.

The first morning that we walked down the stone stairs to the beach, there was not a soul in sight, just sand and palm tress and fallen coconuts bobbing in the tide. The second day, after Per and I had both enjoyed the warm water for awhile, he came over to me, a contemplative look on his face and said seriously that he was glad the waves were so strong here, really glad, because it meant that they knocked me over and so in effect, he didn’t need to worry about having to dunk me in the water himself.

As any good wife would, I nodded sagely, glad that during this rather busy time in our lives, that one responsibility at least had so mercifully been lifted from his shoulders.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Butterflies And Wings And Other Perfect Things

It was with a wonderful feeling of accomplishment that we arrived in Sri Lanka early Friday morning. Perhaps it was having completed the long journey with relative ease...then again, perhaps it was the joy and plain old sheer fun of taking the bus between terminals 3 and 4 in Heathrow a few more times than was strictly necessary due to helpfully imparted yet faulty information...we’ll never know. ;)

Maybe it was simply stepping out into the luscious heat and warmth that made a very welcome change from the dark, drizzly fall morning we had left behind us at home. Whatever the reason, it felt good to have arrived. It felt good to begin...

First things came first and serious sleep deprivation aside, we were taken directly to the Good Shepard Orphanage, and it is no exaggeration to say that entering the grounds were like entering a vast, quiet, peaceful oasis of calm right in the midst of the unfamiliar chaos of Colombo. After very little time and no fuss or questions, one of the sisters handed us William for the first time. Per held him first and I stood behind him and we both looked down in quiet contemplation and awe at this tiny boy who would be ours, whose picture I had found my eyes straying to every spare moment I had had.

There he was, in the flesh and as we gazed at him with a sort of beatific happiness, he clenched his tiny fists, opened his small mouth and began to wail. And cry. And scream. His small face screwed up with what appeared to be absolute indignation, and if he had been capable I’m positive he would have demanded to know exactly who we are and just how we dared handling him in such a familiar way?! We were left alone with him for the next couple of hours and after a while, he exhausted himself and fell asleep unceremoniously on Per’s lap. Upon waking, his character much improved by sleep and a bottle, he studied us intensely with dark brown eyes and finally deemed us worthy of receiving a few toothless smiles.

So this moment that we had waited for and imagined for months had arrived. When it all comes down to it, I suppose that there is no “proper” way to feel, no proper reactions or emotions. For example, as we drove from the airport to the orphanage, there was no nervousness or fear or wild excitement even. Though it was a joy to finally meet our baby, it was a calm, peaceful happiness, not a giddy hysterical one.

The entire morning had a feeling of unreality about it, almost like moving in a daze...experiencing it from a distance. But please, make no mistake, it was beautiful, memorable and precious, and apparently, on Friday morning at least, the pleasure was all ours. ;)

Saturday, 3 October 2009

It's Berge. Colleen Berge.

Sometimes I wonder if I was cut out for a fast paced life of international intrigue, you know, a sort of dead sophisticated female James Bond type character. Or if I could have made it big in elite criminal circles. The Sicilian Mafia for example. I think everyone wonders these things on occasion. I remain unsure of popular opinion on this matter though, as I dare not create a poll in case it turns out that the majority of people who know me think I am rather more likely cut out to be a raving lunatic of a cat lady, living in a huge rambling house with forty cats and piles of newspapers. Or even just a raving lunatic. No cats necissary. If this is the case, I'd rather be blissfully unaware and reassure myself that I would have excelled at criminal enterprises.

What. On Earth. Is She Talking About. (You may be wondering at this point. If you aren't wondering this, please, for your own sake, start.)

Paint fumes. It's just the paint fumes talking. That and once I get started on writing nonsense, I find it quite difficult to stop which is why in school I was quite brilliant at long, long essays. No matter that I never actually researched anything, it was just a matter of hours before I had spun out several pages of made up information on any given topic.

Now we shall commence with today's business:
It's been a week and one day since our lives were turned upsidedown and inside out with happiness. Nothing is the same. We are not the same. Everyday the thought of travelling to far away Sri Lanka, stepping out of the airport into the sultry tropical heat, being driven through the busy streets of Colombo to the Good Shepard Orphanage, walking through its doors feeling a mixture of elation and fear, meeting William...holding William...everyday, this becomes more real to me. We are the recipiants of so much joy. It has been amazing to see and experience the happiness that others are taking in this as well. That for me, has been the most humbling and wonderful experience. How good people are and I am so thankful to have a chance to witness this, to be reminded of this. Joy is meant to be shared.

The past week has been full of preperations, big and small. We shared our news, we booked our tickets, we dutifully explored Ikea and several other shops, painted the babys room (refer to aforementioned "paint fumes" and hold them responsible for all my nonsense please;), we recieved a lot of cute, tiny second hand baby clothes from generous people, we have laughed a lot and dreamed a lot about the future...

We celebrated our fifth anniversary yesterday and it occured to me how very far God has taken us in five years. I would never have guessed as we stood at the alter, all smiles and hope and innocence, where the next five years of life would lead us. I suppose that nobody ever does though and that is both the pleasure and the challenge of marriage. Highs and lows, easy times and hard...but that's not wisdom, that's simply common knowledge. But to reach five years and love each other even more deeply is a beautiful thing. And to reach five years and be able to rejoice with each other and family and friends because after so long our prayers have been answered is a precious thing indeed!