Today started out with the pleasant sight of snow coming down outside the hotel. It’s been cold while we’re been here but this is the first time it’s snowed. Veliko Tarnovo is a beautiful town which is rich in Bulgarian history and the sight of the town covered in snow is beautiful. Maren and I rolled out of bed and got ready for the day, packing up a few things to take with us to the orphanage.
We finished off a quick breakfast and waited until it was time to make the 15-minute drive to Debelets, the small village where the orphanage is located. The drive only takes 15 minutes but Debelets is nothing like Veliko Tarnovo – it has the feel of a small agricultural town far away from the big city. The orphanage is soviet-style and is old, dark and depressingly confining.
Each morning we arrive, ring a doorbell and wait to be let in. From there we place blue wrappers on our feet to keep the floors clean and then we are escorted up the three flights of stairs to the area where Niko is generally waiting for us. If he’s not there we just wait – I’m not allowed to go look for him and I’m not allowed to wander at all – the only time I tried I received a snappy pull back into the meeting room. The morning visit went really well – when I arrived he was already in the room, laying on the mat waiting for me and dressed in a new outfit. Once I spent a few minutes “playing” with him – which pretty much means stroking his back or face and tickling him some, I decided he might be comfortable with me changing him into some clothes that Valerie had sent so we could determine his size.
Changing him actually went better than expected – he was a willing participant and I was able to get him into a new onsie which fit perfectly (it’s a 6-12 month), a sleeper which fit well but a bit big (24 months) and a pant/shirt combo (24 months) that was WAY too big for him. At least now we know he’s somewhere in the 12-18 month size range – sad.
After the changing we hung out for a while and we found that he loves to play with my fitbit and my cell phone. I put some lighter trans-Siberian orchestra music on the cell phone and he played with it and seemed to enjoy it and it relaxed him.
After we played, then we tried to do some feeding which went pretty well – he likes tomatoes, bread, oranges and other simple foods – he appears to chew well and although needs them cut or fed in bites he can eat normal food. He is not capable of feeding himself but will take food from my hand as well as from a spoon.
Following the meal, it was time for passport photos and we waited in another room (confined) while a photographer came to the orphanage and took the pictures in the other room. I saw the photo and it’s pretty funny – they put him in a white dress shirt with vest and bow tie for the photo. Following the photos we said goodbye and went to lunch.
After lunch I had just enough downtime to send Valerie photos, chat with her on facebook and take care of some work before it was time to go back for the afternoon session, which ended up being very short. He had only taken a 10 minute nap according to his caregivers and was obviously overtired. They tried several times to take him to his room and calm him only to bring him back 5 minutes later and hope he would be OK, which he was not. After three cycles of that I said “no more” for his benefit and we left for the day.