During that time, we went to Galeta's new orphanage each day to play with him and the other children. What a treasure it was to have that focused time with our new son. During that time we kicked a soccer ball, blew bubbles, cuddled, tickled and just spent time together. We were so impressed by how quickly Galeta adjusted to his new surroundings. By day 2 he knew the names of most of the kids and had obviously started bonding with his new nannies.
Galeta really seemed to enjoy kicking the soccer ball and was quite good at it. At one point when the other kids were joining in, Galeta asked one of the nannies if she could keep the other kids engaged in their own game of kick so as to not interrupt the one he was having with his new parents. At least that is what we think he said in Oromifa as the nanny came over and hurried all the other children to the other side of the pavement.
Each day we gave Galeta a pen and paper. He wrote the ABCs. He wrote his name. And then he drew 6 stick figures. When he was done he pointed to each and named them, "Mommy, Daddy, Anna, David, Brooke, Jonathan." Our hearts sang. We told him to draw a 7th figure and told him that was Galeta. He was a Soutter. We were family.
Over the three days, Galeta and Rob drew several pictures and wrote words. All of them centered on our new family... pictures of us in a plane, pictures of us in a van, and lists of everyone's name. Galeta wanted to keep the pad of paper and pen we brought.
We were at the orphanage for about 3 hours each day and at times we would just sit on the porch and watch. Playing kick, playing jump, doing horsey rides, playing Ring Around the Rosies with 15 some children quickly tired us and sometimes we just needed to rest. We were quite pleased that Galeta did not cling to us, nor did he forget us. He would play with the other boys and girls for a while and then run over to show us something or sit in our laps for a few minutes. Then he would run back out and join the games. Sometimes while playing, he would look over his shoulder to confirm that we were there and watching.
One obstacle we faced was sharing our affection with Galeta as well as the other kids. As soon as one of us would give Galeta a horsey ride in our laps, all the other kids would want one as well. "Me, me!" they would call in their native tongue. Galeta was very sweet. He would take a turn and then get out of the way and motion for the next kid to have a turn. We loved on all the kids, but made sure that Galeta got an extra portion of our attention. Some times we would just tell all the kids, "No, we are playing with our son now." They didn't like it, but caught on and left us to be alone with our son.
Oh how these kids wanted attention and touch and love (even more than their wonderful nannies gave them). It was almost like seagulls. . you would give one a little attention and the next thing you knew, you had a dozen little ones wanting some love. Su would pray over each one that climbed in her lap or held her hand that a mom and dad would come forward for them. That their little hearts would be kept soft and filled with hope and that they would not have to wait long.
One day, several children had gathered around to play with Su's hair which was quite different from their own. Galeta came up, swung his arms and shouted, "Get off!" in English. We were shocked. I guess he has some instincts to protect his mother. We'll have to ask him about that when he gets home and learns some English.
Each day was a special time of connecting with our boy and learning who he is. We also used this time to try to reinforce that we were leaving, but would be coming back. Each time we found someone that knew both Oromifa and English, we would have them tell Galeta that we would be leaving in 1 day or tomorrow or whatever and that we would come back to take him to America. Repetition is the best teacher, eh?
Finally Thursday's visit came to an end and we had to tell Galeta good bye for the last time. We got an interpreter and explained the plan one last time. We promised to pray for him each day and reminded him that we loved him. We all embraced and Su and Rob cried. Again Galeta seemed very ok with what was happening.
Galeta's only question was, "Is Raji and Sena's mom and dad coming soon?" See, we had explained to him that his good friends Raji and Sena's mom and dad would be coming to get them and bring them back to America. And then after that we would come to get him and bring him back to America. And then once we were all in America, he would get to play with Raji and Sena. (Click here if you missed that story about Raji and Sena's mom and dad living here in Raleigh).
We shared mixed emotions as we drove away. It was hard to leave and yet we felt a great measure of peace. We knew that Galeta had a good understanding of what was happening. He seemed very ok with all that was going on. We knew that Galeta was in a good place and well cared for. And we knew that this was just another step in bringing our family together.
We would be going back soon to bring him home (10-12 weeks maybe?).
More to come.