“Yak tebe zvati?” I said, asking her name.
The strawberry-blond baby didn’t say a word. She obviously didn’t remember me from our visit last month and had finally released me from her death stare. By now she was comfortable enough to gather chestnuts - the prized toy of all the children here - and store her collection on the small stone wall next to me.
She wandered off to find more treasures, like a squirrel gathering acorns for winter. Returning with her hands full, I raised my camera and snapped a few shots. She set the chestnuts next to me and I held the camera in front of her - her picture displayed on the screen.
Her eyes lit up and she gasped delightfully, touching the image in front of her. “Ola,” she said, pointing to the image of herself.
I smiled back, “Tak, tak!” I enthusiastically replied, so happy she recognized herself and equally enthusiastic that I had a real conversation with this precious little one.
When we first met Ola, just a month earlier, we concluded she was new at the orphanage. Clinton White said he hadn’t seen her before during their usual weekly visits.
While the rest of the toddlers came running out with arms upheld, begging to be lifted or chased around, Ola had sat silent, suspiciously eyeing the crazy crowd.
But I accepted the challenge her solemn stare provoked and motivated the smile we witnessed a few times before saying goodbye.
Ola is just one of the dozens of children that cover the orphanage grounds that Clinton White and team visit weekly.