It was nice to talk with another family that is going through this adoption process. To top it off, they are from TN also so we got to say "ya'll" and such. It is refreshing to talk to people in our own tongue. The scary thing is that we haven't been gone that long - and already our ears miss the sound of conversation in "unaccented" (leastaways, to us) English. They gave us a few tips and pointers that will be useful in county.
Today was our SDA appointment. This puts us officially in the system for these children. There have been cases where a family travels all this way only to find out that someone else has adopted the child first. Until you are physically present here, that is a possibility.
Our driver today was Eugene. I would be very scared to drive in this city, so I am glad we have drivers who know the way around and also how to deal with the traffic. There are at least two or three different types of traffic lights. They drive on the same sides of the road as we do. There is but one hard rule: Thou shalt not strike pedestrians. Pedestrians have right-of-way in crosswalks, and pedestrians often walk out into traffic without the crosswalk. Aside of that - sometimes there are lanes. Sometimes opposing streams of traffic share a street without lanes. Sometimes you drive up on the sidewalk and steer around the pedestrians. Sometimes you drive up on the sidewalk to park. Sometimes you stop at red lights. Sometimes you give it a slight-tap-on-pedal. Sometimes you drive crazy fast a couple inches away from parked cars. Sometimes you park legally. Other times you bribe the police officer who is overseeing parking. However - the mix of cars and pedestrians flows very well and I have not seen many damaged cars.
The one rule about pedestrians - I have never felt endangered crossing the street in this city. I have been in New York City and even at home in Chattanooga - crossings are always done at one's own peril - there is no assumption that the cars will stop, even when crossing at a marked intersection and when I have the "walk" sign. Here it is different.
We met Serge at the SDA office. He is very charming. We were not at the SDA very long. Kelly was nervous, I was not. They got the folders for the children we were considering and asked us a little bit about ourselves and why we wanted to adopt. We were told about the children - both come from single mothers, both have no other siblings. We were told they have Down's Syndrome, which we already knew. Both may or may not need heart surgery. If things go smoothly we will travel to their region tomorrow evening and get there Friday.
Eugene gave us a tour of the old parts of the city. There is such a sense of history here - this is where history that we study about happened. This is where WWI and WWII happened. This is where riots and revolutions and massacres and genocides and other colorful history happened. It is so much more real and interesting to see it in person, to meet the people who live here, to have people who are related to people from the old stories. There are buildings here that are 1000 years old - compared to that sense of scale, America's two-hundred years as a nation or finding a building that predates the War between the States or even a settlement from the 1600s all pale in comparison.
We saw several old cathedrals. They were very beautiful. The cathedrals were awesome. We even went in one - I was amazed at the artistry and history of such buildings. I truly felt like a backwater hick next to the intricacy of it all. In our protestant tradition, there is no such focus on artwork. Here it part of the history. Eugene indicated two paintings. Those depicted thus were martyred a thousand years ago for their faith, when Christianity was first coming into this region. The painting served to give a name and a face to an historical trivia - it is not just a fact that these men were killed - but here is what they looked like. These are churches from the Byzantine era. There are people memorialized here who have direct connections to Constantine. And on and on and on - history not just cold facts and dates and names, but history I can touch and walk on and walk through. It is places and names and events made real.
History is taught with all the interesting bits filtered out. It is like learning music with balls of cotton stuffed into the ears, so as the student is not distracted by outside sounds. You can study the properties of sounds and frequencies and mathematical models of resonance. One can learn rhythm, meter, and timing. You can learn about the great composers and their life trivia. You can learn the notes on the scale. You can even read reviews of great music pieces. All of this without ever hearing the first note or knowing what music *is*. Music is never taught this way - you hear the music and then learn how to play.
After today, the cotton is out of my ears.