26 September, 2013

I'm still here


I’ve been out of touch…I have not blogged in a very long time.  This is not due to things being stagnant or boring, but more a lack of motivation on my part and I apologize…

I have had such a wonderful outpouring of donations big and small lately that I am humbled by the genorisity of my family and friends as well as those who may only know me by name.  To hear that someone donated for the continuation of my ability to live here just because they knew my dad warms my heart and brings tears to my eyes.  Those who give because they know my family, but not me, personally are a sheer testament to the beauty of the people who I am honored to love.

Mushyness aside, a little information on what’s been going on is in order.  In a nutshell, I have been overcoming the childhood illness, Fifth Disease.  It’s been almost 3 months now and I’m still not back to normal.  This illness moves in and out of a child within a few days, but like chicken pox, it affects adults with vengeance.   There was a point when I could not get out of bed, because my feet and hands swelled  to the point that I could not walk and something as simple as taking off my glasses was horribly painful. It was humbling to say the least when I couldn’t even change Sokah’s diaper without wincing in pain.

I kind of pulled into myself and went about the daily grind a bit emotionless.  Of course it’s hard not to smile when surrounded by the children’s love and happiness, but many evenings, once Sokah was safely asleep, I broke down with frustration.  It’s just something that time heals, and as of now, I can move about pretty much normally; although my joints still ache when I sit for more than 10 minutes in one position.

Now that that’s said and done, Wat Opot has been ever changing.  We just received 5 new kids, three siblings roughly aged, 12, 14 and 16 and 2 little brothers around 4 and 6 years.  As always, new kids bring about adjustment, not only to their lives but to ours as well.  Adding one male and one female highschool aged teens to our family created new dynamics which we are keeping our eyes on.

Sokah still tends to be an ever-present figure in my day.  He still sleeps in my room and I struggle with the knowledge that he will be returned to his parents once his father gets out of prison.  As a nanny, it was easy to keep my emotions intact.  I loved all the children in my care, but did not become emotionally attached.  I knew those children will grow up in safe happy homes once it was time for me to move on.

Contrary to the anti-orphanage movement such as “No child should be in an orphanage” or “Every child is better off with their biological relatives” there is not one ounce of my being that believes that many of our children should have stayed in their unhealthy, unsafe environment.  Fostering 3 little boys makes my heart swells, nothing nor no one could ever ever make me think differently.  I may nap with a child and awaken with them looking into my eyes – patiently waiting for them to open, or poking me awake with sheepish grins on their faces. I may shower with little ones squealing outside the bathroom door watching the water splash underneath as I set new records for getting clean. 

I planned to come to the city today to accomplish 2 things.  One – to buy enough school supplies and uniforms for our 55 children and Two – to introduce one of our university students to a potential money making art project.  As things happen, number Two turned into number Three as no sooner did I set up one appointment another art opportunity emerged causing me to extend my time here for one more day. 

While walking to my usual $6 a night guest house, I passed by a shop and I wandered inside.  As I glanced around the shop, I was drawn to these wallets made from recycled tires.  I thought about my very worn out one that I bought in Nepal years ago and decided it was time for a change  and laid down the $10 for a more eco-friendly model. 

I looked up and saw that the organization who support the shop trains vulnerable youth in beauty treatments and thought; well what the hell, I’m going to get a manicure.  Now if you saw my hands and ragged bitten nails, you may think the last thing I would want to do is show them to anyone, but since it has been about 10 years since my nails have seen any form of pampering, I decided to go for it!  One time my mom treated me to a pedicure and the woman looked up at me and asked where in the world had I been! 

Well, I was feeling pretty good knowing I had put down money well spent on the wallet, as I sat down to await my manicure.  A man approached me with a young woman and said, she cannot hear, but she will do my nails.  I glanced up at her big smile and watched as she proceeded to get my hands ready.  As she did the best she could with my practically non-existent nails, I motioned with fingers to my teeth that I bite my nails.  She smiled as she tried in vain to find anything to clip!  During this time I saw the other 2 young women who were giving pedicures ‘talk’ to her in sign language.  I thought, WOW, not only did they give this young woman the training to be self-sufficient, they required their staff to learn how to speak to her. After the manicure one of the girls came over to look at my nails and smiled and said “you eat your nails”; I smiled and nodded, then thought “hey, those girls were silently talking about me!”

As I left the nail place, I headed to ‘my’ hotel and then stopped.  I thought “I’m only here for one night, maybe I can stay at a place closer to where I was since the next day I had another meeting around the corner.”  I let my feet wander and stumbled upon a small but beautiful guest-house.  The cheapest room was $25 so I turned to leave, then had another ‘what the hell’ thought and turned back around.  As I walked past their outdoor garden with a fountain and tables, then up an old winding staircase that opened up to another beautiful lounge area, I realized I had made the right decision.  

When I opened the door to my room not only did I notice the great looking bed, I saw the bathtub in the adjoining bathroom and cried out loud “I can have a bath!”  After unconsciously clapping my hand over my mouth, I looked behind me at the open door and saw that no one had heard me.  Probably not ironic that just the other day I had jokingly told someone that it had been over a year and a half since I had a bath. (showers and bucket baths, yes, bathtub baths, no).

I rested a bit, went downstairs and had some Greek food and then back upstairs to enjoy that bath!  Busy day tomorrow, but assumingly I’ll be well rested and ready to take on the day and then head back to love on my children that did not come out of my body.  

I can't guarantee that my posts will be more frequent, but I will certainly try!  At least you know I am still alive and kickin’.
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2 comments:

Bonnie G. said...

Melinda, this is very ironic, moments ago I thought of you and wondered if you had written a recent post..only to discover that you just wrote on your blog today!! I am so sorry that you have been ill for such a long time. Are there any medicines from the states which would help you heal those incredibly sore joints? We could help you with that, if needed, please let me know.
I too know that Sokah, Udom and Adham are far better off being parented by you and Wayne. I know there is always the looming fear that their mother will return AGAIN, so the key is to try and stay in the present, and enjoy each precious day with them..oh how I miss those 2 little ones, even after only being with them for a week!!

Your love for the WO children IS equivalent to the love of a birth mother..I saw this first hand when we visited in February.

I'm now on the Board of IWA, and leading the team to find our next medical mission. It is my hope that we can find a medical mission again in Cambodia, but the right fit has not yet surfaced. Should that occur, I also hope I can bring another small group back to WO, I would give anything in the world to see and work with those children again. Metta, Bonnie

Melinda said...

Thanks for your comments Bonnie, our kids often ask us why many visitors to Wat Opot cry when they leave. It's hard for them to understand the effect they have on people; those who see the happiness and well-being of children who have been through more in their life than most of us could even imagine.

One of the best news for the brothers is that their mother allowed the transfer of medical records to Takeo from Phnom Penh for the brother who is HIV+. That means she has no intention of taking them back in the near future. Now that said, I do not know if she is a good mother and I am sure her love for them rivals mine. I just would like them to have a healthy, educational, & safe life with her if they are returned.

There is no medicine for the illness, I took ibuprofen for the pain at first, and Benedryl for the rash, but now it's not so bad.

We will send meditation thoughts that you all find a medical mission in Cambodia! The kids still remember you all and remember which one of you bought their jewelry, ha ha.

xxx

Melinda