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.