Before I go any further, you don't need to worry about having been left out of my personal life. I did not have an exciting date for Valentine's Day. Instead, I got to go roller skating with some of our graduated orphans. Gulnar works with them on a weekly basis. For the last month she has been trying to encourage them to have better manners and be more polite, especially with their caregivers. The reward for those who did the best job during the last month was to go to the new roller rink that has opened in Taraz. I drive a car with plenty of room for passengers, so I got to go along.
Many of them had never roller skated before, including Gulnar. It was fun to help them learn. We also played tag and had races, for those who were a little more comfortable on skates. My skating lessons at the local rink in elementary school came back to me. I was very thankful for this as the floor was cement instead of wood. It was so much fun to catch up with some of the kids I had spent a lot of time with when they were younger. The girls are primarily studying sewing, while the boys are studying to be auto mechanics. However, very few of them actually enjoy what they are studying. They don't get to chose what they study in the technical school. Several will be graduating this year and want to go to college next year. In order to do this, they need to do well on exams after graduation. Hopefully, they will be able to realize their dreams.
While we were out, they were really polite. At no time were we embarrassed by their actions. Gulnar is hoping that positive habits were formed as a result of practicing good manners for a month. The coming weeks will tell whether their behavior has formed habits or was just temporary.
One of the hard parts of the day for me was seeing many of the boys who used to be in our orphanages, making very poor decisions. These were the ones hanging out behind the school smoking instead of coming with us. Many of them have started drinking considerably. They don't take their studies seriously and hang around with others who are making unwise decisions. It is especially hard to see this in some of the boys who were extremely responsible while living at the orphanages. We are trying to figure out ways to better encourage them before they leave the orphanages. However, it is so hard to prepare them for the reality of the pressures they will face. Gulnar does a great job talking with them and encouraging them to make better choices, but sometimes it feels like everything is stacked against them.