Being at the orphanage with our girls
Eating with the girls was a great experience. We learned A LOT about why they eat the way they do because of this experience. For starters, we were never given a knife and only once given a fork. Otherwise we used VERY large spoons.
The children sit four to a table which is a very good idea and something I think our public school cafeterias should consider. They had assigned seats so they were always responsible for their own tables (and adults could follow up as needed). The food was always beautifully pre-plated and waiting for the children. They children stand beside their chairs until they are led to thank the kitchen staff for the food.
Then they eat in like 3 minutes. I am not exaggerating. They shove the food in as fast as possible, clean up their spots, and the majority of them are gone within 5 minutes. Food is traded and shared. The kids know who likes what and pass it along to that person.
Our girls didn't know what to do with us because we sat there and ate! After they finished, they joined us at our table. For the remainder of our visit they had special permission to sit with us for meals.
For the most part the food was good. I personally do not like sweetened tea so honestly that would be my biggest complaint other than breakfast was a large bowl of milk (and milk and I do NOT get along). The food is all room temperature so nothing is hot and nothing is cold. Some of the spices and flavorings were new to us.
The staff worked hard in a very sparse kitchen. They obviously took pride in what they do and they watched us very carefully. At our first meal, I was determined to eat every bite of food but as you can see, they are very generous in the portions. And sometimes, I just didn't enjoy the food but I always ate a decent amount. (Smiling, showing my enjoyment of the food to the staff who was watching!)
The head cook is an older woman who is kind but stern. The children respect her but not because she is mean but because she obviously cares for them. It makes me happy just to type that. To know that there is someone who is meeting the needs of your children when you aren't able is very, very comforting!
|potatoes covered with a dill chicken gravy, cole slaw, and bread with jam served with sweetened hot tea|
|sweetened milk with noodles|
|Lard covered bread sprinkled with shredded egg|
|Picking mulberries. The kids ate so many berries that I started to tease N2 that she was going to be ill!|
|dyed hands from berry picking (I wish I could have shown you their faces and tongues!)|
|The best pickles I ever ate, more bread with lard, not sure how to describe the drink, corn porridge with some sort of beans and soup that had vegetables especially cabbage in a meat broth. The soup reminded me of Great Grandma's soup.|
|Dogs EVERYWHERE! They come in and out of buildings and follow you around including at meals. Obviously this did not thrill me. Our kids and the others around us noticed this and spent their time chasing the dogs away.|
|Best breakfast...possibly ever according to Michael. Toast covered in shredded salami and cheese. Breakfast was toast and it was still served with a basked of bread in the center of the table. EVERY meal we had the bread offered. (I loved this part!)|
|sweetened milk with a little rice and sweetened tea|
|more dogs begging|
Right before we left, we received special permission to walk with the girls into the village. There are a few small stores this is the largest store by far.
|This is the entire refrigerated section of the store. There were a few chest freezers.|
|This was all the bread. Notice much of it isn't even wrapped.|
|This is the scale and the cash register area...that is a box of dried uncovered fish just sitting there...staring at you (because yes, it has eyes).|
|This is how Michael feels when we accidentally get water with gas...he is being sarcastic but we were very thirsty because by this point, we had used up all of the water we had packed.|
It is strange to be told when to eat and not be given any choices. It was a reminder to me about how kids (not just kids in orphanages) must feel sometimes. It was weird being there and not choosing our own times to wake up, eat, or do things. It can feel like you are powerless and that can be overwhelming at moments. It is something to keep in mind as we parent all of our kids. (Not saying that I am going to allow my 4 year old to make all of her own choices but to keep in mind how having no choices feels. )