04 September 2015

The journey to the first day of school

31 August:  I leave at 10 AM to go pick up Tomas by 12 noon.  We need to go early - check in at the dorm is not until tomorrow - and try to get several things taken care of first.  Try. 
Tomas and his dad
As it so happens, Tomas never had received his official ID.  Two years after this should have been taken care of, we ran from town to town picking up the needed documentation for him to get this done.  Without this ID, he would not be allowed to attend school.

Two hours after we started, his ID card has been ordered.  The only problem . . . they do not provide these while you wait.  Two business days is the soonest he can pick up his ID.  Tomorrow, 1 September, is a holiday.  Thursday, 3 September, after 10 AM, he can retrieve his ID.  So we head south on the hour and a half trip to school.
Nicholas - Surprisingly quiet
Nicholas and Matthew are tagging along with us.  Their mother has moved and grandmother asked if I could drive them to her.  We stop at McDonald's for a quick lunch.  Their first time to have a cheeseburger.  We sit outside.  It would be more comfortable for everyone.   
Matthew - Always thinking about what to say

Nicholas and Matthew delivered to their mom, Tomas and I went to the mall.  Shopping went slowly.  Shoes and clothes are needed.  But the choices are overwhelming.  Tomas is concerned about cost.  I am concerned about fit and durability.  "Will these work?" I ask.  Tomas responds with his standard response, "I guess."  I have seen this behavior before.
"Stand still, I want to take a quick picture"
There are no options when you are poor.  You take what is offered or available.  The empty stare and slow response when asked "What would you like?" is a foreign concept to those who never have been asked.  Waitresses get impatient.  Office workers grow callous to delayed answers.  Salesclerks just avoid you.  From the store to the restaurant, options can be overwhelming and for someone who did not grow up with the privilege of choice, the options are paralyzing.  Hence Tomas' "I guess."  

It took us an hour before he agreed to the first purchase.  A pair of socks . . . because he had none and we needed to try on shoes.  The ice was broken.   Tomas smiled when I told him that I always shop the sales racks first.  He picked out a pair of sweatpants, a t-shirt, and then another shirt. Then we returned to try to find shoes.  The ones we looked at, Tomas decided, were too expensive.  We needed to find something else, something cheaper.  So we kept looking.  It was a long, long day.  

We had dinner and checked into the hotel.  I noticed the hand-written notice about needing documentation of health status for guests that had been quickly written and placed on the check-in desk.  I have stayed here many times before.  Never saw such a notice before.

1 September: It is Constitution Day in Slovakia.  The mall is open, so we continued our shopping that morning.  I had to measure him for pants.  We can buy his size in the children's department.  We get a couple of pairs of pants.

Tomas can check into the dorm after 13:00.  During the wait, we met with a local couple I know.  They are believers, active in ministry with Roma.  I hoped that having someone he knew in town would help him feel more comfortable and provide him with relational resources . . . just in case.  After our coffee and conversation, we part.  Tomas says, "I would like to have her contact number, that believer.  You could see it on her (that she is a Christian)."  Later he says he may try to visit the church where this couple goes, "I would like that."  I make sure to take him by the building so he knows where it is.

About 13:30, we arrive at the dormitory.  Turns out that though they knew Tomas was coming - they had received his payment for meals - but he was not fully registered.  Lucia was kind enough to walk me through everything necessary to complete the process.  She made sure that Tomas had everything he needed: underwear, indoor shoes, outdoor shoes, soap, locks to keep his personal things safe.  "Where is his official ID?" she asks.  This woman does not play around.  "He cannot get it until Thursday."  She looks stern.  I shake her hand and thank her for her assistance.  She lets me know that Tomas does not have any meal for today.  He and I go to get dinner in town. Afterwards, I take him back to the dorm with leftover pizza.  I find out later that he shared it until it was all eaten.

Tomas calls me at 22:00.  "I am bored," he says.  We talk for a bit.  He does not have a roommate yet.  We agree that I will come to meet him after lunch tomorrow.  He can tell me about his first day of school.  

2 September:  I go by the train station in the morning to confirm what is needed for Tomas to receive a pass to ride to and from home.  He will need his ID card.  The temporary paper he has will not do.  I called Dianne.  "What do I do?  He has no way of getting back to Liptovsky Mikulas to get his ID.  I also have a child's car seat I must return to Vazec."  Di suggests I deliver the car seat and stay over in Banska Bystrica another day.

I wait until after 13;00 before I arrive at the dormitory.  Lucia agrees that Tomas can accompany me to town to get his final photos taken.  We get a late lunch.  He did not much enjoy what they served at the cafeteria.  I get an update on his new roommate and the first day of class.  The roommate will work out fine.  The classroom teacher is a little strict, but nice.  We get photos made for the train and bus passes he will need.  I tell him that I will come to school tomorrow morning to see if he can go pick up his ID.    I make it back to the hotel.  Thankfully they have a room available.  The hygiene note was gone.

Tomas called again about 21:00.  "I am bored," he says.  "You should have let me buy you a book earlier today so you would have something to read," I contend.  He doesn't believe me. 
Such a good sport!
3 September:  I arrive at school and Tomas is allowed to leave with me to go pick up his ID.  "Are you really going to get his ID?" one of the secretaries asks me.  "Of course!" I answer, and we are off.  A quick 90 minute drive north.  15 minutes of waiting outside a government office who only assists those who have paid for express processing today.  They are skeptical until Tomas proves that he ordered express processing.  ID in hand, we head back south.

We arrived back right at 12 noon.  The line for a bus pass has 30 people in it.  The office at the train station is closed until 13:00.  We go get lunch instead.  We also pick up a back pack Tomas was told he would need to haul around his work uniform.  Then we go stand in line.  90 minutes at the train station.  Five minutes after arriving at the window, he has his train pass.  30 minutes in line at the offices for the bus.  Now he has his bus pass as well.  It has been seven hours since I picked Tomas up from school when I return him to the dorm.  The other students are having orientation.  I interrupt Lucia's presentation to thank her again and let her know Tomas has returned.

"Now study!" I tell him with a pat on the back as I turn to leave.

"I guess," he smiles.

About four hours later, I am back home.