written while in Russia finalizing the adoption of our son.
Today we walked to the beach behind the hotel. We had to walk up the hotel drive and then down the street, past beautiful large homes that seem to not fit with everything else we have seen here. We cross a parking lot and then two sets of tracks; one for the local transit and one for actual trains. Even though before and after this walk to the beach we could hear the near constant sound of passing trains we see not a single train the entire time we are there.
As we cross the tracks we can see the water. Between us and this water is sand, some grass, and a playground, all surrounded by a very tall, very old chain link fence. We walk beside the fence for a while, trying to find a way in- we can see people walking through the park like setting, but we cannot figure out how they got in there. I use the term park like rather loosely. yes, there is grass and benches and a small playground. But there is also a small brick building with gaping holes where the windows used to be, covered in graffiti. There are old tires and steel barrels littering the fence line and up against the building. It looks as though this beach was attacked at some point during a war and then never returned to it's former glory.
We walk a little further and soon we hear music. It is tinny, like from a transistor radio and it sounds as though it is being piped out through a very old sound system. We see no one around now, but we do come up on an opening in the fence. The building that houses the music is also covered in graffiti and looks as though it might just fall down from exhaustion at any moment. There is a pacifier tied to a dirty string hanging from a nail in the wooden board that has replaced the chain link fence. As my husband ducks into the opening I think to myself that this looks an awful lot like the opening scene from an 80's horror film. Like the scene where you just know the idiots walking into the deserted beach where the mysterious tinny music is playing are going to get axed. And you don't even feel bad for them. After all, how stupid were they? Just walking in there...
I follow my husband onto the beach. There are a few people around; it is a very warm day, sandwiched in between very cold and rainy days. There are older overweight men with their shirts off sitting on a bench to the side and a few younger women in bikinis. There is a young boy of at least 10 years old running around completely naked. Naked. There are more old tires and barrels and an old rowboat with peeling blue paint hanging off to the side.
I cannot imagine thinking that this beach is a relaxing get away. But to those who have nothing better of course it is. Everything is relative. I feel as though the people of this country, of this town at least, are working hard to find the beauty in what truly feels like the fallout from a major war. Buildings are old and half torn down, yet they house the offices of college educated professionals. And I remember how I felt when I went I went from an office to a cubicle. At least my cubicle was housed in a building that didn't look as though it should have been condemned years ago.
As I quickly walked away from that beach, anxious to get away, I felt bad. I spend a lot of time telling my husband that "different is good". And I mean it. I believe that this world needs diversity to run smoothly. But today, at that beach, I didn't want diversity. It made me sad, and anxious, and uncomfortable. And it made me think about what I will tell my children when they are older, about the countries and towns of their birth. I will be honest and tell them the good and the uncomfortable. But in the meantime, before those hard questions come up, I will take them to an American beach and I will be comfortable as I watch them safely build sand castles and play in the water. And I will feel like a hypocrite and be thankful, all at the same time. Which is a feeling not unfamiliar to those who have trans cultural families. I welcome my children from different countries, but yet I want the comfort of my country. I welcome the traditions and history of my sons' birth countries, yet I am thankful I do not live in these countries today. Just one more reason adoptive parents often feel guilty, I suppose.
By the way, I walked down to that beach again this past weekend. The weather was now very warm and the rain had cleared, for a few hours anyway. As I carefully crossed the railroad tracks with Alex happily hanging out in his baby carrier, I could not believe what I was seeing. Hundreds of people were on that beach! There had to have been at least 200 people over there, playing on the playground, laying on blankets in the sand; a few brave souls were even swimming in what must still have been very chilly water. It was surreal. All of these people, just living their lives, having a day at the beach, surrounded by the ugliness of old worn out buildings covered in graffiti on a beach littered with trash, old tires, and broken chairs. I turned around and crossed the tracks again, heading back up the road to the hotel. I know it seemed as though others were having fun down there, but it just wasn't a place I wanted to be. As Alex and I walked slowly back to our room I silently counted the days until we got home.