Where I fit in the box of crayons....

Do you ever get that feeling like there's more out there? That's the feeling that brought me to beyond borders. The global community is growing, and I have not yet become a part of it. I want to be a contributing citizen to the global community through participation and action. Over the years, I have developed an appreciation for diversity and difference, and look for other ways that people are doing things. There’s a whole world out there beyond our North American perspective that has the potential to change the way I see things, and to change my life. Gahndi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." I think we should not only find the change within ourselves, but also take part in the change we want to see in the world. I hope that Beyond Borders will offer a medium in which I can be the change I want to see in the world, and also take part in that change.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

OMG Greece!

It took me nearly as long to get from Ternopil to Kiev as it took Felix to get from Toronto to Kiev!! The main thing is that Felix and I are together again. We are readjusting to being together again and maximizing our time in Greece.
We are currently in Athens. Today we took a side tour to explore the southern parts of the Grecian mainland. We saw the Corinth Canal, and then went to the Treasury of Atreus (originally believed to be the Tomb of Agamemnon) including the behive tombs and shaft graves, and then to the Palace and Acropolis at Mycenae, and then to Epidaurus the place of the museum of Asclepius – the original medical practitioner (his daughter is Hygea - meaning health - who gave her name to our english word Hygenic) and the ancient Asclepieion Amphitheatre. Busy day, but so amazing to get a chance to see so much.

Seeing that is it September and the main tourist season is over, the tour groups tend to be smaller, and the demographic tends to swing a little bit more in to the “zoomer” category. I love hanging out with older people! I love their life experience, and their knowledge, and really value the way they interpret the world after having lived on it far longer than I have. I always find the conversations are less chatty, less small talky and tend to deal with deeper richer subject matter. And another observation I have made while here (hahaha I talk as if it’s been ages…) : Let’s face it, it is NOT cheap to get to Greece (especially from North America) and so the people that we have met so far seem to have a certain level of affluence, coupled with a generally high(er) level of education than the average American. Today we/I made friends with a bunch of the couples in our tour group. (Are you surprised?)

I spent much of the day talking about what I have been doing at the orphanage and what life is like in Ukraine. I really value these opportunities to talk about the girls, and expose others to something they may not have been exposed to. I find that so few people have any idea about the conditions in Ukraine, let alone what a state run orphanage might be like. People are always interested in hearing about the beyond borders program, and how long I’ve been with the girls, how many there are, how old they are, and what I plan to do next. Every now and again I get to talk to someone that has a much deeper experience/knowledge/understanding of what I am doing in Ukraine and these are the GEM conversations.

On our day excursion to Argolis I had one of these conversations. We had lunch at a large table with 4 other couples all from the US. The couple from Rochester was talkative and helped to get the conversations started by asking questions and opening up space for discussion. Her and I had already talked while climbing up the Mycenae Acropolis (it was a steep hike, and she walked with a cane so I hung back with her to make sure she had a hand if she needed one). Her husband commented on what I have been doing in Ukraine and we launched into a discussion about that. The female in one of the couples was chatty, but the husband was more reserved… well until later when him and I were on the bus a bit early from one of the other stops and he began to tell me a bit about him. He is a child psychiatrist, and does special work with children that have been adopted by American families from developing countries (particularly Romania, Colombia and India). He asked about professionalism at the orphanage and what kind of help was available to the girls – AFTER I laughed we talked about the structure of the orphanage and the levels of challenges that I have faced as a North American working in a state run Ukrainian orphanage. We talked about working with children within a North American context. I asked if he saw patters of presenting problems and diagnosis, and if the main presenting issues varied depending on where the children had come from. We talked about Attachment theory and how he saw it as an important tool in helping the children adjust to not only being adopted, but also living in a new culture and country. I asked about whether he saw foreign adoption as a bonus or a challenge for both the children and the families. He told me about the chaos that these situations can create in otherwise generally stable family units. I talked about my girls and the lack of support they receive, especially on an emotional level. And I discussed identity development: what I think about identity development, and how I saw it as an important thing for my girls. He asked what I have done to promote identity development, and I described how I’ve been able to watch their identities emerge (if even only partially) as I’ve tried to massage them over the summer.

At the end of our conversation I thanked him for sharing his wisdom and experience with me. I realized how rich the conversation was, and how important it was for me because I able to talk about my girls on a professional level with a fellow professional who “got it”. I enjoyed the experience of being a “colleague” rather than some university kid. I thanked him for sharing ideas, and for helping to stimulate me to begin to see some of my experiences in Ukraine and at the orphanage through a more professional lens. He let me know that he was happy to hear about things that were being done to improve the quality of life for children in other parts of the world, and was also interested to take another look through his case notes and look for patterns that might be culturally related.

The sharing of ideas is such a wonderful experience – and how funny that it happened in Greece the birthplace of what we think of as education and philosophy and “modern” thought.

What a wonderful way to spend my first day in Greece!
More stories to come!


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