Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The LORD will watch over your coming and going...

"The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore." ~Psalm 121:8

This Monday we had seven babies, but only for a few hours.

Big Guy went to his forever family! They are just wild about him.

He left with some crocheted love from Auntie Abbie! Gotta love our little dinosaur.

One leaves, another one quickly comes to fill our hearts and hands! Meet tiny "Lullaby." 

She is almost 2 months old, and 2.4 kg. 

Cute baby yawn!

To end on a very happy note, there's a plane that left tonight, and I'm not on it. =) Yes, today was my scheduled departure date! I'm so happy I'm still here. I can't even fathom leaving in November - it's going to be so hard. For now, I'm so beyond thankful for the time I have...

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hi world! =)

Hi, I've been tracking blog stats and I've noticed I've had readers from lots of different countries - even some random ones like Nigeria and Lithuania (plus lots more). I don't actually know people in *too* many different countries, so I'm curious who you all are! If you're not someone I know in real life (or even if you are, and I haven't kept up with you in a long time), I'd love to have you comment and say who you are or how you ended up here!

You are wanted, wee one

Last Thursday we got a call about a baby who needed placed immediately. We already had a preemie scheduled to arrive on Friday, which would make the 6th baby and fill our last spot.

This baby needed a home right away. No one even knew his name or birthday. We'd have 7 babies for a little while (I have exciting news coming soon for one of our little ones!) He had a very sad start to his life and needed some loving care.

We think he is about three weeks old. His blog nickname will be "Roo," (like from Winnie the Pooh). It's a play off of the name we gave him, and it fits in well with "Small" and "Owlie" (both also reminiscent of Pooh). =)

It is such a privilege to hold him and whisper truth to him.

"You are loved."

"We want you."

"God sent you here."

"You are not abandoned."

"You are precious."

"You are not neglected, forgotten, or an accident."

"You are treasured."

Here is Roo with his new "mama" Patricia. She loves her babies so much. Her room is toasty warm in the winter. She stays in there a lot with the preemies, but she is always holding one or arranging toys in their cot or putting one down for tummy time. =) She is also a "mama" to Cupcake and Small, so she will be busy!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

One bird - three stones

So you know the saying "kill two birds with one stone," that is, get two things done at one time? I've been informed by the missionaries here that in Africa you need three stones in order to kill one bird. That's about the scope of it!

So I've explained in a previous post that I'm renewing my visa, and that it's long and complicated. The process has gone something like this...

Heather explains the papers she *thinks* I need to renew my visa. I have a panic attack, sort of, when after a frantic search I never actually made copies of my medical, radiological, and police clearances. (I found out at a later date that they would have expired by this time, so it didn't matter.)

Donovan takes me to the Clarks' house. The Clarks need to get their fingerprints done, and supposedly they know a police station where they have American fingerprint cards. The station is closed due to a "function." The police officer tries to convince us that bribing him (for another day, not today) would get us through the line quicker... I go back to the Clarks' and spend the rest of the afternoon playing piano and Uno (and watching Elijah play Uno against himself).

Heather takes me to Home Affairs in an effort to find out exactly how little paperwork I can get away with doing. Ehhh....I need to redo everything I don't have, so no luck there.

We go to the doctor's and get my medical and radiological clearances filled out. The medical exam is even shorter than in the States. She checks my blood pressure, sugar, asks me if I'm on any meds, and THAT IS IT. The x-rays (to prove I don't have tuberculosis) are a little more of a hassle and they have to redo them four or five times.

Fingerprints. Those still need done. (This is where it gets more complicated.) One of the Clarks prints me off a fingerprint card. I'm convinced I need two, even though they only needed one - turns out it's because I'm going through what's known as an FBI channeler (or in other words, someone who will take less than the FBI's 16-18 weeks). I don't have any cardstock. We go to Post Net (a very small copy store) and ask them to copy it on cardstock. "We don't have that kind of paper." Ok, head to the stationary store across the road. Buy one sheet of cardstock. Take it back to Post Net and have them copy it.

We find the police station. The police department is known as "South African Police Service," or SAPS. There is a sign that says "SAPS only." We had a good laugh over that one, especially when we walked around the wrong side of the building (we must have been distracted over our conversation - *someone* tried to tell me there were polar bears in the US, and I was defending my position of "NO...") and some guy was smiling, then telling us we were going the wrong way. Apparently, we decided, we didn't look like SAPS.

We enter the police station. I try to explain to the police officer at the counter what I needed. "America? Where are you from? Ohio? Is that close to Los Angeles?" I point to Alyssa, "No, that's her, she's from LA." *beaming smile* "OHHHH...I will come visit you!!" Someone takes me in the back, where I explain to two more people, in succession, what kind of fingerprints I need done. A nice lady takes me into her office and fills out the wrong form. I show her my forms, explain that I actually need to use THIS form, and yes, I need two copies of the same thing. She starts filling out the information that I actually need to fill out myself, and puts the date in the wrong place. She tries to fix it and ends up writing the date European style - 12/5/14. I explain that although I'm so sorry, the US is weird and is probably the only country in the world that writes their dates backward, and they're going to think I tried to pre-date it for December 12th. I ask her to make another copy for me, which she does, although she doesn't have cardstock either.

She sends me down to another office to pay. After I pay the lady in the second office, they send me back to the front again to LA guy. The countertop seems to have been recently put in, a nice shiny marble top, but underneath, there is a swinging wooden door about three feet tall, either built for midgets or a remnant of an old, wooden counter. LA guy motions for me to come through the door. I try to figure out if he's joking (who would ask you to crawl under a counter?) and attempt to stare him down before he offers to let me come around the other way. (He was joking. I still didn't crawl under the counter, though.)

LA guy leads me behind lots of iron bars and starts prepping the fingerprinting supplies. "No, no, you must loosen your hands!" I have never, ever, had fingerprints taken that were this horrible. He starts by folding my fingerprint card in three or four different places - apparently standard practice here, but not acceptable for the FBI. I don't say anything. Then he starts taking my fingerprints, leaving huge smears across the paper, double impressions, just printing the pads instead of the entire finger...and on...and on...he pulls out the second card, which is the cardstock..."Oh, I don't know if I can do this one, it can't bend!" but he decides to try. Second card is even worse than the first.

I look at both cards with great chagrin, trying to mentally convince myself that these cards aren't too bad, and I'm not going to have to pay lots of money to ship a second set of prints back to the US. I wash my hands, using about half a gallon of soap, and after explaining to LA guy, who has to sign my form, that no, the date is not wrong and the US writes dates backwards,  we leave. I show them to my friends and they confirm what I was afraid of...no way these prints are going to fly! I'm kind of hoping we can go back to a different police station, as I'm a little embarrassed to show my face in the same station again.

I talk to Heather, and she advises me to just go back - I've already paid (a little less than $6) and at any rate, a second station might do just as bad a job. I go to the stationary store again and make more copies of the fingerprint card.

I walk back into the station, hoping against hope that LA guy will be on lunch break. No such luck - he's the first guy at the counter. I try to explain as graciously as I can that my fingerprints really actually need to be perfect, the US is so picky, I'm so sorry. LA guy is nice enough, but blames it on me - my hands weren't lose enough, or something. Apparently he's a little tired of dealing with me, so he passes me off to someone who looks like the manager, a young Afrikaans guy in a suit and tie. This man seems to have a little better idea what I want, although he messes up one or two cards before I have the idea to show him the paper from the FBI channeler that shows exactly what kind of fingerprints they are looking for. I ask him to make copies of the fingerprint cards so we can try again. Still no cardstock. I really hope they accept plain paper, because he came back with probably four copies of the fingerprint cards, determined to get this thing right or die trying.

Finally, FINALLY I end up with decent, un-bent, un-blurry fingerprints. Manager guy looks me in the eyes, and pleasantly, but firmly, says, "This is the best we can do." Yes, yes, I know, code for, "Please don't come back again. Please." Hopefully the channeler doesn't have an issue with my fingerprints, or you can be sure I am finding a DIFFERENT police station next time!

Next step is to send my fingerprints back to the States with a member of the missions team next Tuesday. I'd love to do it sooner, but unless I want to pay $70 for DHL or send it off to its doom in the South African postal system (yes, it's that bad) I'd better wait. My visa expires the 25th of July, so I have a *little* wiggle room, but not enough to feel comfortable. Now I need to change my plane ticket to November, and wait for my police clearance. After that we will approach Home Affairs again in hopes of getting an "application accepted" receipt that is not a visa, but will allow me to stay in the country.

Aaaargh, paperwork! And who decided a stone was a good method to kill a bird, at any rate?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Interview with the roomies

I conducted an interview* with my roommates, asking them questions about various subjects ranging from practical matters to world dilemmas. I've recorded their answers in order to educate the world about these important topics.

"What's for dinner?"

Megan: Vegetarian chicken nuggets.
Alyssa: Tortillas for the seventh night in a row. I'm so happy I know how to cook now!
Abbie: Why, are you hungry? Here, have a muffin.

"I'm sick - what should I do?"

Megan: Can I make you some tea? Can I poison you with Marmite?
Alyssa (with Empathetic Face): I'm sorry!
Abbie: Take this nasty medicine. Yes, drink it all. Here, have a muffin to wash the taste out of your mouth. See, you feel better already.

"There's an intruder in the house! What should I do?"

Megan: WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!!!!!!!
Alyssa: Get the taser. How would I escape this building? Let's think through the logistics of this.
Abbie: Do you think he wants a muffin? Maybe we could use them as missiles.

"What's the key to world peace?"

Megan: Stop shooting people.
Alyssa: I'm a Libertarian. World peace? Does it happen outside of my home state? Do we really have to get involved?
Abbie: More muffins.

"What's the best way to get a baby to sleep?"

Megan: If it's my darling daughter, she doesn't have to sleep if she doesn't want to sleep.
Abbie: Strap them in the carrier and walk around all night while eating muffins to keep your spirits up.

"How often should you clean your room?"

Alyssa: Once a year if you feel like it.
Megan: Once every few months but only when Alyssa doesn't want to.
Abbie: Anytime you're not busy making muffins.

"What should I do to survive an EMP?"

Megan: Find some way to get internet.
Alyssa: Bury an infinite supply of water bottles in your backyard and buy Coke in bulk. Google how to use crayons as candles. Watch Youtube videos on suture skills.
Abbie: Stock up on muffin making supplies.

"What should I do when I feel emotional?"

Megan: Walk around moaning loudly about how you have "the feels" until someone forces you to take iron pills and you realize you're just mineral deficient. Repeat.
Alyssa: Huh?
Abbie: Here, have a muffin.

*this interview is entirely fake and I made it all up. Any resemblance to any persons living or dead is completely intentional.

Love you girls!

Catching up a bit

Life at the baby home has been, well, continuing here. It's been ages since I've written a detailed post. Again, I'm sorry! There are a few particularly newsworthy items that should probably be mentioned...

Our darling Squishy went home. We miss him SO much. Please pray for this sweet-natured little guy as he grows up, that he will be strong and healthy and come to know Jesus. It's pretty quiet at the baby home now...(Unless you come at (un)Happy Hour, aka "The Witching Hour." Also known as 5 p.m.)

Megan left. She deserted us. (Her internship was up at the end of April.) Alyssa and I sit around moaning about how much we miss her, at LEAST once a day.

I love these girls SO much. I laugh because I wouldn't have picked either one of them out as roommates (and they wouldn't have picked me either, I don't think...) but we were pretty inseparable...until Megan deserted us. *angry* What about the Megan corner? Alyssa's pretty funny, too, but Megan doesn't care WHAT I post about her... =D

Uhh....trying to think of any pressing news. Please pray that I don't have any issues changing my flight and extending my visa. Yes, unfortunately I have to do them in that order, as I was scheduled to leave in less than three weeks. I'm not sure what kind of crazy I was, thinking that five months here would be enough. I've had to do lots of paper chasing - medical and radiological appointments (no, I *still* don't have TB), Home Affairs, fingerprint place (which was closed due to a 'function...'), the police on Monday to have fingerprints done...then FedEx which is the most expensive way to have the fingerprint cards sent back to the States for my FBI clearance, and unfortunately the ONLY reliable way...then Home Affairs again when the Drews get back from a wedding....I won't even have the paperwork complete by the time I'd have to leave. I'm planning on changing my ticket to November 8th. (For those of you freaking out right now, my visa is good through July 25th.) Please pray everything works out fine. I'm a little worried about changing my ticket, but I kind of have to just go ahead and do it if I want to stay longer. I bought insurance, but I'm not sure it will cover the cost of changing it on just a whim.


The Megan Corner

(Although this corner will, in the future, be glaringly absent of any Megan, I've decided to keep the name anyway.)

Megan (sitting on the train near someone's screaming baby): Someone needs to put that child on vibrate.

Megan: You must only cook vegetarian free dishes with the chicken that you name after me.
Alyssa: I hope there are no vegetarians in your dishes...

The girls call me "Mom." When asked why, these are the answers they gave.

Alyssa: Yeah, because you make us clean EVERYTHING. (Not true. There are plenty of things left to clean.)
Megan: Because you're older. And you cook. And you do your laundry on your laundry day and buy your fruits and vegetables on sale and you CLIP COUPONS! (Which isn't true. I haven't found any coupons to clip. Yet.) Face it, Abbie, you are RESPONSIBLE!

- We also had an awesome conversation when we were on the train to the mall near Joburg. It involved sausages (Meg's a vegetarian and I love to tease her), glow in the dark yarn, which end of the train the engine/head was on, whether or not a sausage was driving the train, whether or not I would crochet her a sausage scarf, and some pretty accurate, though lower volume, imitations of the babies' cries here at the home. I can't replicate it in its entirety, but it was a pretty hysterical conversation. So much so (and carried on at such a high volume) that Alyssa tried to melt into the seat and pretend she didn't know us...

- Joy has informed me that in Zimbabwe (where she is from) they use American dollars as currency, but they call them "Obamas." I find this ironically appropriate. Our dollars - federal reserve notes - should be backed by gold, but aren't. So neither Obama nor the American dollar has any substance behind them...

What Joy Said: You should buy Owlie a ticket and send her to America. (She was screaming and wouldn't sleep.)
What I Heard: You should buy Owlie a chicken and send her to America. (This left me wondering if it was some wise African saying I just didn't understand.)

- One of the missionary kids (younger elementary school age) plays Uno - against himself. I was over at their house the other day, and caught him arguing with himself. "It's your turn!" "No it's not! Stop it!"

- I've been named Chief Snot-Sucker here at the Baby Home. Ok, Auntie Patricia calls me "Doctor Abbie" but we all know what she REALLY means - she's just too nice to say it. We have this nasty little thing called a Baby Vac that works wonders. It's a tube - you stick one end up the baby's nose and suck, and all the contents get caught in a little bubble at the end. It does NOT go in your mouth - stop gagging!

Patricia: Oh Abbie, you are so courageous! (Because I can do it without being totally grossed out? Not sure how that equals courage, but ok...)
Jeanne: All this technology! In the rural areas, people will just be sucking them out with their mouths!
Patricia: Oh, I just cannot stand the sound!
Jeanne: *makes loud slurping noises meant to imitate the Baby Vac*
Patricia: JEANNE, STOP IT!!!

Alyssa, who is stalking me in the grocery store, grabs a spray bottle off the shelf and jumps dramatically into the center of the aisle.
Alyssa: Look, we need to buy this! You can spray it at me when I complain and I can spray it at you when you interrupt!
Me: Yeah, but then we'd both walk around soaking wet all the time!

- We have a bag full of orphan socks here at the baby home. Pretty ironic. I have found my favorite job - matching them. I feel like I'm reuniting long-lost families.

- Life at the baby home feels something like this:

- So I read an article about a couple that had a baby, and acquired a stainless steel diaper pail. They called it "Vladimir Poo-Tin."

I know there was more funny stuff. I keep hearing things and thinking, "I really need to blog that!" Maybe one time out of five I remember to write it down, but everything else is lost to the wayside. Now that I'm a little more caught up on blogging, maybe I'll be able to remember. Anyhow! I need to sleep - we've been SO busy lately with only two interns, and the extra help we keep thinking is going to come keeps falling through. I'd probably be perfectly fine if I could only acquire the helpful discipline of going to bed AT A DECENT HOUR. I haven't acquired said discipline, and I haven't been napping this week, so I am tired. Tomorrow is our day off and we are going to see the "Sound of Music" on stage! I'm so excited! Love you all and miss you!

He places the lonely in families... Part 3

Our trip to Buttons' city was delayed due to her having some medical procedures (she has cerebral palsy and was getting a cast removed). I think we got there Thursday night and were allowed a visit before she left to rest after her busy day.

She too is a heart-stealer!

They had told us that she loved pushing buttons (hence her blog nickname). Mama C had bought her a toy "iPad," but unfortunately the buttons were really hard to press and all she could do was turn it on and off and adjust the volume. She did really love doing that... ;)

She liked being bounced on Mama's lap.

The next day we showed up for a visit in the morning, and got to go out to lunch with the foster family! Mama C and I were in search of the perfect Bulgarian dessert. I think Buttons found it.

She was goofy and kept telling Mama "Bite me!"

After dessert, we had a happy surprise - they told us we could take Buttons to our hotel room and hang out for the afternoon!

Buddy liked his stuffed dog, but Buttons wasn't really into the toy animal thing.

She really preferred something with buttons she could press. Like my camera. Or laptop. Although it was a fun surprise, it would have been nice to know ahead of time, as we had approximately two toys to entertain the poor girl all afternoon...we kind of really had no idea what to do.

I had soooo much fun snuggling this squishy girl!!

So did her mama. =)

Selfies are always fun!

As are boots...on your hands? She also had an unhealthy preoccupation with washing her hands...I think she liked to play in the water.

She even got to Skype Daddy and her siblings back home! (That's her holding my camera. It's the only way we could keep her from attacking the laptop. She kept dismally wailing something about wanting the button..."MEMES UN BUTTONNNNNN!!!!" is what it sounded like!)

Towards the end of the visit, she conked out on the bed.

She and Mama got to have a sweet moment...

The next day was our final day with her. We went in for a visit at the social services center. That's her with someone's phone. We had eight or nine people in the room, all sitting and watching us and chatting in Bulgarian. Us monolingual people felt a little left out...I really need to learn a second language. Any language...

Buttons was wearing an eye patch to correct lazy eye, or something. I think it made her extra cute.

She's adorable! It's so hard saying goodbye, even though you know they are in good hands (both hers and Buddy's foster families were wonderful). Buttons didn't seem to quite understand, so it was easier than saying goodbye to Buddy. I am happy to say, however, that Gotcha Day for these two sweeties is THIS MONDAY!!! (May 12th!)

Buttons' city is GORGEOUS, and unfortunately, besides walking up and down the main street once or twice, we didn't get to see ANYTHING. If I go back to Bulgaria again, I'd like to visit...it's on the border of Romania. Apparently you can look across the river and see it. Another adoptive family did just that...I wish we'd have had a stroller and would have been able to go walking. (She's super heavy and we couldn't carry her far...)
The main street

Accordion player out in the cold. I love street musicians.

Stray dogs are everywhere in Bulgaria. They seem to have a pretty efficient system. They catch them, do something (give them shots and fix them, maybe?) then let them go with a tag on their ear. Restaurants and other places put out food scraps. None of them seem to be starving, and they politely get out of your way when you walk by. Seems like a better system than leaving them to rot in shelters, then euthanizing them. Bulgarian dogs all seem quite happy. 

This guy, though was the exception to the rule, as he seemed to be longing for some companionship!


Can't we adopt a Bulgarian dog too? Such a sweet puppy.

Well, that about wraps up my account of my December trip! Sorry it took me so long to share it with you.

Here's some bonus shots of the Swiss Alps from the airplane window.

My heart is in little pieces all over the world. <3

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Favorite recipes

He places the lonely in famililes... Part 3 is still in the works. While pictures were loading, I took a little time out to write this post.

I've enjoyed learning to cook so much that I thought I'd post links to some of my favorite recipes that I've made since I've been in South Africa (and some that I've made back home, but haven't tried here yet). I'm not a very good blogger, or I'd have taken pictures of my own results instead of just posting links, but I thought you'd enjoy them anyway...

This is yummy! I just made it last night. It's even roomie-proof - I had Alyssa turn it off last night after I was spontaneously invited out to see a movie. (Side note - movies here cost the US equivalent of $2-3 - how awesome is that?!)

This is the one for which everyone wants the recipe. Personally, I'd like to find a way to make a little less puffy. I used half the yeast called for, and it was still very bread-like. It is good in its own way though, and its redeeming virtues are that it is cheap and you can freeze half the batch for next time. I stick the Ziploc in some hot water and it's thawed before you know it. I use part white and part wheat flour for this recipe.

Ok, I haven't made this one here yet, but I did it at home, and it's worth mentioning because homemade peppermint patties are DELICIOUS!

This is another recipe from home that I keep meaning to make. You will have to scroll down a bit to find it.

In case you need something yummy to spread on your scones, well, this is delicious.

So happy to finally find a recipe that works! The making of these cookies has been the downfall of my family for years...

I announced that I was going to make these, and Alyssa thought I said "squirrel."

A friend sent me this recipe. I'd increase the sugar...I like them a little sweeter. I think they'd be nice with cinnamon and raisins, too. They are kind of labor intensive but nice when you can't buy them.

This is really good. It would be nice with blueberries. Too bad they are so expensive here.

Don't leave it in longer than ten minutes, no matter how much you are tempted. It'll burn. Trust me, I know. It hardens up after it cools (thanks to Heather for that bit of advice...)

I'd been in search of a wonderful, gooey chocolate zucchini recipe. It's quite nice with white chocolate chips too! (Well, I had to use chocolate bark, due to the woeful lack of proper chocolate chips in this country, but it was still good.)

They probably have croutons here, but I always have just-about-to-go-bad bread, so it's simple and cheap to make my own.

This I haven't found here yet, except instant packets. It's very rich and fattening!

They don't have proper chocolate syrup here either - it tastes kind of like molasses. I'm glad to be able to have chocolate milk again! Yes, they sell chocolate milk here, but all the kinds I've tried so far taste fake.

These were delicious! I had to make a lot of substitutions (like bacon instead of salami, ham, etc.) but it's a pretty forgiving recipe. Also, it tells you how to do it without a panini press. Thankfully we have plenty of nice, heavy bricks under our bed!

This stuff is amazing! I can eat an entire head of broccoli in one sitting. I'm hungry for it now, actually, first thing in the morning...

This is what I use to make mac 'n' cheese. Super easy and no weird ingredients.

Salted Caramel Pumpkin Muffins

I used butternut instead of pumpkin, because it's what I had on hand. Love this recipe...

Onion Rings

Despite the unassuming nature of this blog, this recipe is DELICIOUS and works. Well, as long as you don't try to substitute the buttermilk with milk...

Anyways, these are a few things I've discovered on the internet. =) My list of things I still want to make is much longer...

Saturday, May 3, 2014

He places the lonely in families... Part 2

Part 2 - Sightseeing in Buddy's city

While in the city, we had plenty of time to walk around and see the local sites. Unfortunately, even though it wasn't a small city, there wasn't really much to see in the way of tourist-y stuff. We did the best we could.

It was a snowy, gloomy week...

We spent a lot of time strolling around the business district.

The whole city was full of these gray, dreary concrete buildings. They, in combination with the gray sky and weather, gave the entire city a depressed air.

There were lots of people out selling things off of little tables on the streets. There was snow on the stuffed animals. I'm still wondering who they thought was going to come out in the snow to buy some of that stuff.

The sun did come out occasionally, as evidenced by this late-afternoon shot.

This was a pretty church. We were hoping to get to go inside, but it didn't seem to be open to the public.

See? There was a bit of color!

We saw Native Americans. So weird...still not sure what they were doing in Bulgaria. They actually looked like American Indians too.

They were selling music and stuff.

Local park - I remember visiting this one with Stephanie in June.

This was the only noteworthy looking thing within easy walking distance of our hotel (that we knew of) so we decided to investigate.

Pretty in the winter sunlight, huh?

Surrounded by lovely wrought iron gates.

It turned out to be a monument for war heroes.

Apparently people are still placing flowers there...

This says, "Alexander." And then, something else...

This paper, which they handed us at the gate, was our "tour guide." I made sure to snap a photo, since my memory of all things historical is ANYTHING but photographic. You can read most of it except that bit in the middle. If you so desire.

This was what it looked like inside. One room, small but quite grand, not much to look at except for the walls.

Those were some walls, at any rate.

And, some saints.

In search of more entertaining sights to see, we discovered the monument had a basement. That was a mausoleum. Who visits a mausoleum to sightsee??? I just realized how weird we are. Or me, anyways. I'm pretty sure Mama C would claim that it was my idea. It probably was.

It was, at any rate, appropriately creepy. There are bones in there, for your information. I don't remember whose they are. The whole thing was rather like a crypt out of National Treasure. Or, it would have been if those side rooms had turned out to be hallways. 

Look! It's me in a mausoleum! Not sure what prompted me to have Mama C take this picture...

Anyways. Moving on from the eerie catacombs. Our sightseeing didn't really get any more mainstream after that. Sure, we visited the mall, but we didn't find it terribly interesting. Buddy's town really isn't a sightseeing sort of town, at least not if one does not have regular access to a car.

I did, however, happen to look up the address of Sarah's orphanage that she had been taken out of just a few weeks prior. It was only a few kilometers away, definitely within walking distance.

Oh my word, my heart is SO tangled up in that place, even before I visited it in June, and I don't think I will ever be free of it, not so long as there is still ONE abandoned child within its walls. Even now I pray regularly, "God, you know my burden for this place. Please don't let me be done there." Regularly, as in several times a week, usually while I hold my sleeping babies here in the dark of night and think of all the love and care my sweet Sarah missed. Although I hope that things are changing for the better, I don't think I can rest content until EVERY child in that place is in a loving family, even the unadoptable ones, even the aged out ones. Because an institution is not a family and it can never be. I've been blessed to see, via the internet and sometimes in person, many children be adopted from there...a crazy amount. But I still think of the ones left behind. Can I do anything practically? Not much. But I can pray. God sees even the impossible cases, and moves mountains. And so I pray. Faithfully. And my heart aches with waiting. How long, O Lord?

I couldn't be in the same town as the place that grips my heart, and do absolutely nothing. There wasn't one chance in a million that I could visit (government stuff is tightly run, and no, I wouldn't expect any institution to let some random stranger off the street in, we sure don't here at the baby home!) but Mama C and I decided that we would at least walk there and pray. Plus, she wanted some pictures of where Buddy spent his first few years.

We got woefully lost on the way there. We spent a LOT of time wandering around the Bulgarian back streets. It made for some interesting sightseeing (rather off the beaten path, not what most people see) but it was quite frustrating. Just as we were about to give up, we found it!

This is the front, the place everyone sees in the photos.

This is the side - part of the side. The building is so huge it was hard to capture it in a single shot.

This is a slightly better view of the side, although there's a lot of vegetation in the way.

Coming around towards the back

This is the back. Isn't it massive?

At this point, we had to hurry because there was a creepy looking guy sitting in back of the building in his car.

Plus, there looked to be some sort of squatter's camp behind the orphanage. No, we didn't tell our social worker/translator/all around amazing person where we'd gone. She'd probably have been horrified - as you can see, it didn't look like the best part of "town." Thankfully, we stayed safe.

Mama C and I tried to pray as we walked around the building. There is so much for which to pray - the precious children, that the staff's hearts would be turned towards Jesus, that families would arrive so, so soon for these little ones. But somehow, the words got stuck in our throats, in our hearts. The words just wouldn't come. You know the verse in Romans? I think it's Romans 8. The one that says that even when our hearts don't know what to say, the Spirit prays for us. As my friends here in South Africa would say, "I struggle." I felt strange, emotionally distant, yet emotional deep within at the same time. (No, that doesn't seem to make sense, but it does...)

View overlooking the city as we walked back to our hotel

Mama C and I both struggled a lot those few days in Buddy's city. When I'd been here before, we'd stayed outside the city. Of course I found the orphanage difficult to visit, but I figured it was because I was visiting an orphanage. We were both quite depressed and lethargic. Everything felt cold and lonely. Our friends the Winslows were visiting their sweet, frail little girl Zoey (if you look at the other posts surrounding that one, you can see more about their time with this sweet angel). As we read their posts, our hearts grew heavier and heavier with the weight of these abandoned children. 

(I regret to say that sweet Zoey is now in heaven with Jesus. Some of you may remember that post from around the time I began my blog. She just couldn't hold on any longer, so the Lord took her home. Yes, my eyes are still tearing up when I write this, months later. Even though I never met her, she has my heart. I love, love, LOVE what I am doing here in South Africa. But my burden is SO strong for the sweet Zoeys and Sarahs of Eastern Europe....I want to go in, pull them out, love them. Please pray, friends. I don't know what my life will hold these next few years. Someone mentions something about a longer term commitment, and...yeah...I kind of freeze up in panic and say, "But I want to live in Ohio!" Other pieces of my heart though, are in so many different places that are NOT Ohio...so...pray. I don't know what my future holds.)

Back to our time in Buddy's city. As I was saying, we were really emotionally having a tough time. We felt so hopeless. I hated Bulgaria and never wanted to come back. It wasn't till we left and got to Buttons' city that we turned on Christian music and realized, as it washed our hearts and began to help us heal, that we'd been suffering under what seemed to amount to some serious spiritual oppression. I don't know what is in that place, folks, but I sure didn't like it. I know my Jesus is stronger than any demonic force out there, but we are at a serious disadvantage if we don't even realize we are in a battle. Some of you may think me crazy, or overly sensitive/emotional. But if I ever go back, I'm going to spend some serious time in prayer and play lots of uplifting music...and know that I may struggle.

Mid-week, we headed to Buttons' city! Stay tuned - I'll try to get part 3 up soon, then I can get back to blogging about life here at the baby home! I have lots of fun photos and anecdotes to share.