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Flying over the Cuckoo’s Nest
What could be more exciting than an upcoming trip on a sunny fall day surrounded by a green island covered in gold while riding on a boat? A trip like this could only be made possible with the help of the caretakers at the Vesyolovski and Preslavski Neuropsychiatric Boarding Home.
Now before we talk about the trip, we should clear up some terminology. What are the right words to describe the individuals on our trip? To call them “sick” would be inappropriate and incorrect. While some of them might be sick the majority are perfectly healthy and were simply born with special needs. The best way to describe them would be “special” or “unique” because each one of them is unlike any other person in the group.
If I were to say that I wasn’t nervous the night before the trip, I would be lying. What we feared the most was other people – we were worried that people on the street would be afraid of our group. Furthermore, we were afraid of so many uncontrollable variables – large groups of people, a boat and water. Thanks to the caretakers that were present, the trip went better than planned.
To describe everything we did and saw does not really make sense since the majority of Zaporozhe residents and visitors have been on a river voyage around Khortitsa Island. The weather was great – the sun was out, there was a light breeze and the banks of the Dnieper were golden-green.
For our special passengers this was a very important trip. Last year there was no trip due to the unfortunate weather and for the majority of the passengers this was their first time on a water excursion. For some, those ranging in age from 50 to 60 years old, this is probably their only and last opportunity to go on such an excursion. If we were to compare this experience we can only say that by looking in the eyes of our fellow passengers it was like a child’s first trip on a long-awaited vacation.
I asked the group if they were afraid of swimming and they all replied with a firm “no!” The interesting thing is that the majority of them have never swum before; none of them seemed to be afraid. But there was one woman who had a different response. It’s hard to tell exactly how old she was, but I’m guessing she’s at least 50 years old. She whispered with tears in her eyes, “Yes, I’ve been swimming before. My mom and I rode on a boat before!”
The “special” and ordinary people were very alert in the way they reacted to each other. But it was not the typical type of alertness. The “special” guests had almost a child-like fear of the new people mixed with a curiosity and desire to meet them. But unfortunately from the side of regular guests there was a feeling of wanting to get away, isolating themselves and even disgust.
While this did happen, not all passengers reacted in such a negative manner. One of our special passengers decided to sit down in a seat next to the window that wasn’t hers. When the young girl came back to her spot she said, “Stay seated, no worries.” That young lady was truly an angel.
There was a woman, Irina, travelling on the boat that draws body art for a small fee. Irina was kind enough to draw some body art on our passengers for free. They were so happy and excited to get such beautiful artwork. At the end we smiled, hugged and I invited her to come again with us on a trip. Irina also shared a little secret with me “I am also disabled. I have an animal shelter. I use the money from my body art business to take care of the animals.” Thank you again Irina!
The special passengers had a very relaxed and sincere manner about them. They weren’t like aggressively drunk tourists, but very calm and soaking in everything that was happening around them. During the entire trip, they moved their heads in amazement like kittens. We bought them some ice cream and we all enjoyed the sense of freedom on our trip.
And another important detail – when you meet our special passengers they immediately respond with a smile. They’re like a big group of excited Americans. But their smiles are totally sincere. And even if you don’t want to smile you will because their smiles are so contagious. The atmosphere is so warm and positive when everyone is smiling and happy!
With a big leap of faith and some bravery, our special passengers decided to venture out on the open stern. They enjoyed the scenery and got a big breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, the pollution from the boat forced us to go back inside. On the other hand, the beauty of the Dnieper and Khortitsa were unparalleled. For a moment our minds relaxed and we didn’t notice the noise or smell coming from the engine.
It was wonderful to see how this group cares about each other. It is understandable that when you spend your life with one big group of people you are going to be close. It was amazing for us to see how patient they are with each other. For example, someone would repeat the same thing 100 times. “Why are you slouching again? Your stomach is going to hurt if you sit like that! Sit up straight and hands on the rail! That’s better!” That wasn’t the first and probably not the last time those words would be repeated.
With the trip almost over we decided to sit down with our new friends. We started to explain to them what was swimming in the river and they were excited like little children once again. “Deer? And the wild boars? Oh and look over there – fishermen on their boats!” They listened to each word and admired the landscape around them.
When describing their trip they were a bit concise. “Yes, I really liked it. I want to go again! When is the next trip?” Remembering how the Cossacks fought, they said it was beautiful and the trip was memorable. Despite the few words they spoke one could tell from their expressions that they had a wonderful time.
What is the moral of the story? Nothing truly special – banal one could say. There isn’t enough love in the world especially towards those that are close to us. Humanity. Compassion. We should fight against hatred and aggression. Showing compassion, humanity and having a positive attitude towards others is often difficult. We usually act and then only apologize later. This isn’t good, but it isn’t bad. It’s a fact of life. To fight and defend oneself is important and healthy. But for what? After all, we protect in order to love. Don’t be afraid to love with an open heart as courageously as you would fight.
Last but not least, we ask for your help. If you would like to help organize these little trips, please made a donation to the Fund to Help Adults “HelpUs”. Each penny makes a huge difference. Thank you!