As you may know, I teach an online photography class about travel photography BetterPhoto.com aptly named Travel and Landscape Photography: Getting Better Photos of Places. It has been a delightful experience and I end up meeting the most interesting people from all over the world.
Recently I had a student, Evan, who lives on the East Coast, originally hails from Ireland, and owns a travel agency. Evan asked me to do a phone interview with him for his blog… and thanks to his great interviewing skills, it was a lot of fun! Thanks Evan!
Photography Interview Part 1
Photography Interview Part 2
For the next post, I’ll get back to sharing a few more experiences about the orphanages I visited in Russia while adopting our kids.
Denise with Baby Alina
Alina, Julian, and Alex today, with puppy Arlo.
This time of year I find myself looking through photos of past journeys and amazing travel destinations I’ve been fortunate to have visited. But unlike the vacation travel to Europe, the UK, and interesting places in the US, the photos I came across this time took me back 5 years and half way across the world to Russia.
Jim and Denise in Moscow
And now I find myself sharing a true story that I almost never share. I’d like to tell you of my travels to a special orphanage in the remote area of Primorsky Krai, near Vladivostok in far East Russia.
I generally do not share this story for several reasons… first, I am a fairly private person, and while I like to share my favorite memories of fun travel, I don’t usually talk about very personal details. Second, I find it hard to talk about why I adopted three children from Russia, because usually I get asked why I don’t have “children of my own”. This, I’m sorry to say, is still too hard for me to talk about. The easy answer is that I can not have children of my own. Let’s leave it at that, and save the tears for another day.
Julian at 15 months in Russia
So, back to the Russian orphanage. My husband and I have had the good fortune to be able to adopt beautiful, darling, smart children who needed a home on three occasions. Julian, adopted at age 15 months is now 10, Alina adopted at 20 months is now 6, and Alex, adopted at 21 months is now also 6 (“actually, six and three-quarters” is what he would say).
Meeting Alex for the first time.
Meeting Alina at 18 months.
Driving to Alex's Orphanage
Of all the places we saw in Russia, it’s Alex’s orphanage that has an extra special place in my heart. Located far away from any large city, his “Baby Home”, as they like to call orphanages there, was unique compared to the others we saw.
Although it was the most remote, and therefore had less easily accessed resources, it had a character and care that the others did not.
The director of the orphanage had put care and love into the building that I did not notice at the others. She prepared the main room that the children spent most of their time to be as much like an actual living room as possible.
There were little tables and chairs for the toddlers, and although few, there were toys for them to play with, and curtains on the windows. It was warm and clean. There was love there.
All of these things most of us take for granted. But they were very noticeable to me, after being absent in the other orphanages I had been to and spent time in.
What I came to understand was that this was because of the influence of the director of the Baby Home.
With the help of our interpreter, I came to realize how much the director really cared about the kids in her care. And I’m not saying that the other directors of other orphanages didn’t… it’s just that there was something extra here. To the point where several years earlier, she had even adopted one of the children from the orphanage herself.
Our first meetings with Alex. He was so quiet. So serious. And understandably scared. He wasn’t a very happy kid, but then again, he didn’t have a whole lot to be happy about.
Alex - not so sure...
We took him outside to have a little time alone to get to know him.
Alex and I, getting to know each other.
Taking a walk outside the orphanage.
He enjoyed the opportunity to be outside. He liked walking around the van. There was no playground or anything to play on, so we just walked around the orphanage and played with a few toys we had brought with us.
Taking a walk outside the orphanage.
After a short while, Alex began to warm up, and actually started to enjoy our visits.
Alex is now nearly 7 years old. He is smart and thoughtful, is great at math and lego construction, and cares very much about others. I’m so grateful that he is my son!
Next post… we had entirely different first time meetings with Alina and Julian!