Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Tristan Watching the Tube


Behold the Electronic Babysitter.

We Have Tristan!!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

We have Tristan!

We left New Orleans on Sunday at about 5 pm. Our trip over was very uneventful which was great. It did take forever though – about 24 hours. Plus, we were very anxious to see the baby. Actually, after a month separation, anxious doesn’t even describe it!

We arrived at about 2 in the morning on Tuesday and met Lola our coordinator. She took us to our hotel, the Kazzhol (pronounced Ka-jool) which is where we stayed the last time we were here in Almaty. Laura (who we traveled with last time) had gotten in the day before with her friend Liz. Laura’s husband couldn’t make the trip because of work and this is not one you want to make alone!
Lola told us our babies would arrive by train the next morning at 9 and she would pick them up. We would meet her in the lobby to receive them and do the necessary paperwork.

We got up at about 8 (still exhausted) and went to breakfast to try to get some fuel in us. At about 9 we heard the train whistle in the distance. We went upstairs to wait by the phone and at 9:15 she called. We grabbed the video camera and went down. Laura was already there holding Boeden and in tears. I looked around and saw the cutest baby, sitting in a woman’s lap. Was that big child Tristan? It was! I immediately started welling up and went over and picked him up. What an amazing feeling to finally have him in my arms again. I passed him to Din and then went over to Laura for a hug and some more tears. She and I had been talking a lot over the past month about how hard it was to be separated from them. Now here we were, all together again. Just wonderful.

I’m not really sure if Tristan recognized us but he was very happy being held. They told us he had slept the whole train ride so he was a bit groggy. (It’s wild to think that these kids have never been out of the Orphanage and now they are experiencing new things literally every minute.) We finished our paperwork and had to rush to give him something to eat before our 11 o’clock appointment with the doctor. Thank god Laura had done some shopping the day before so we had some supplies. You had to see the 4 of us trying to figure out how much water, etc to add to the formula. Remember, all the directions are in Russian! We managed to get it all together, give Tristan a car wash and clean clothes and get back downstairs in time to go. He was amazingly good being washed, jammed into his clothes and whisked out the door. It’s almost like he knows we don’t know what we’re doing and is just playing along.

We discovered that he has progressed quite a bit developmentally since we saw him last. He’s now holding things, staring at his hands, can get things into his mouth and is able to scoot on the floor to reach what he wants. He’s also found his voice, which is highly entertaining. Oh – and the TV is fascinating! Good stuff.

The SOS clinic is where the kids see a Western doctor to go over their medical records with us and give him an exam to make sure he’s ok to travel. We met with a doctor from South Africa who told us that basically all the “problems” Tristan had listed on his reports were fabricated. Kazakhstan does this because they feel that if a child is considered perfect, they should be adopted by a family from Kaz. Since there are so few natives that actually do this, in order not to have children piling up in orphanages, they come up with problems to put in their medical records. Therefore, they are eligible for adoption out of country. We had heard this before but it was good to have the doctor confirm it. So after a check up, we were told the following… He is in the 50th percentile (is that how it’s phrased?) for his height. He is 27 ½ inches long. His weight is 15 lbs. which is small. He’s in the 3rd percentile. The doctor felt that after a month or so with us he would catch up completely. Other than that, no evident problems! He’s good to go.

Back to the hotel for a nap – Mama and Papa were tired too!

Dinner in the hotel that night (not so great) another feeding and off to bed. We had a crib brought up so we thought we were set. Wrong. About 10 o’clock, after 2 hours sleep, Tristan woke up absolutely shrieking. Scared the life out of both of us. Hungry? Needs a change? Neither. We finally settled him down and decided to keep him in bed with us since we weren’t sure if he was scared or in pain or what. He was incredibly restless and rolled all over the place – very uneasy sleep. We thought about it and decided it might have been too dark and quiet, so we turned on a light and the tv and he completely settled down. I guess after sleeping with 12 other crying children a silent hotel room was just too scary. Just a theory – we’ll find out for sure tonight.

This morning we went for a long walk to stock up on provisions and he was amazing. No muss, no fuss, just happy to be rolling along in the stroller. Boeden too. It was quite a nice surprise.

This afternoon we head off to the American Embassy to get their passports and visas. Should be pretty simple but in Kazakhstan you never know.

Oh – met another new mother in the lobby the other day from Lafayette, LA. Small world – lots of babies!

Not sure if we can post again tomorrow. We’re flying out Friday at the crack of dawn (read 3 am) but are trying to reschedule it for tomorrow. If that works, no post. If not, you’ll probably have another one before we’re home.

Life is great!

Paka-
Carolyn

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

more photos


Olga and Tristan

4 very happy parents

after court

after court2

photos


russian orthodox church

at the lake

muslim cemetery

caregiver party

last post from first trip

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Talk about being delinquent blogging! I’m going to have to refer to the journal I kept to get this up to date. Brace yourself – this will be a long one.

In our days of souvenir shopping Olga, our Translator, brought us to a craft store. Very interesting things and very good prices. We’ve discovered that the typical US type souvenirs, t-shirts, postcards, etc…, don’t exist here. We finally did find some nice Kazakhstan t-shirts in a bizarre type place (bizarre meaning shops not strange or odd) behind the Tsum mall – sort of near the skating rink for those coming after us. It was a warren of very small booths of merchandise, which seemed to have reasonable prices – more interesting than the mall in my opinion. We found the t-shirt and Din found some cool CCCP shirts with the hammer and sickle on them. We also had to purchase some more gifts for the people here who have been involved in our adoption. This is an interesting tradition they have here but I must say it’s incredibly stressful for us! What on earth do you buy for people you don’t know at all!? Our gifts have to be not too expensive for the Caregivers (we think they should get the most expensive but it’s not up to us) then increase in cost for those “above” them in the process. We had to buy 8 for the Caregivers (all similar), one for Tristan’s doctor at the orphanage, one for the Director of the orphanage, one for the Lawyer who was with us in court, one for the Social Worker who spoke on our behalf (the one from the Ministry who was in on our questioning there) and then for our Facilitator and our Translator. Our Facilitator Larissa had come to our apartment to review what we planned to give and let us know if it was ok. Luckily we only had to add some chocolates to what we had and buy gift bags. Whew. Incidentally, cash is not an approved of option. They feel it rewards the workers who get to work with the kids who are adoptable. The workers who work with special needs children or who do the laundry or other behind the scenes work would never get cash like this so they believe it’s not fair. We could see their point. For ROTIA families, I’m putting together a list of suggestions and more details on this.

Our final court date was Monday the 12th. We found out from Larissa that we had to bring photos of us with Tristan to the judge. Yet another surprise in this process! Luckily, the mall had a one-hour photo processing place. Should be easy right? Well let’s just say that the language barrier was a bit of a problem here and that sure enough, Din wound up behind the counter hitting buttons on their machines! Somehow, this was not a surprise.

Sunday was a busy day. Olga and our driver Vladimir took us on a tour to see the Maternity hospital, the coal mines (just a stop on top of a hill and pointing to smokestacks in the distance), a huge Mosque, a huge Russian Orthodox Church, which was really beautiful, and a very interesting Muslim cemetery. We also saw a bit of the countryside where there were – what they call - summer cottages. Everyone has a garden in these places and they are very neat and orderly. Near these cottages was a large lake that was originally an area where they mined coal. All the locals were in swimming and having a good time. It was a really hot day so we were jealous but we had a party to go to!

Back to the O where we had our little party with the Caregivers. This is a wonderful tradition. Olga went out and shopped for the food and drinks, and we all sat around together (the 8 CG’s, Olga, Geoff and Laura and us) and tried to chat. There were interesting meats and cheese (all really tasty) and 2 anchovy-like dishes in oil, good bread and a bottle of vodka and one of wine. Geoff was asked to pour (these ladies drink their vodka straight) and then make a toast. I think this was one of the most emotional moments of my life. Geoff spoke for all of us (through Olga) and said how we couldn’t even begin to thank them all enough for the care and love they’ve given our children and that words could never express our appreciation. I immediately started crying, as did Laura. (big surprise) Then several of the women spoke up and said that they believed we were kind people who would give these children wonderful homes and lots of love. I cried harder. Then one said that they had been especially worried about Nickolasha (Tristan), because he was so tiny when he came to them, but they feel that he’s in good and loving hands. Now I was sobbing. I threw back my vodka, went to blow my nose, grabbed my baby and thought, “Wow. What could be better than this?” After cake and tea we took photos and there were lots of hugs all around. It was very anticlimactic to go home to pack.

Court was scheduled for 9 the next morning. We were all dressed up and ready to go early - we were anxious to get this over with. Vladimir took us to the court building where we met Larissa outside and she introduced us to George our lawyer. The judge was late so we wound up waiting around a while. The Doctor and Social Worker showed up as did the other American families that had court that day. It surprised me that most of the other families were rather casually dressed. Aside from the fact that our agency coached us on wearing the appropriate thing, it was important in our minds to put our absolute best face forward as representatives of the US. Especially in a country which seems to be more and more dubious about American adoptions.

We were finally ushered into the Judge’s office. We sat against the wall with Larissa, George, the Social Worker and the Doctor. Opposite us were the Judge, the Prosecutor and someone who took notes. Larissa poked Din, told him to stand and address the court. He introduced us, said where we worked, our salaries, how long we’ve been married and why we were here. He was standing in my line of vision to the judge so I had to lean forward the whole time and sort of peer around him to see and appear engaged. I was afraid I’d fall off my chair but we were told eye contact was important. The judge asked if Din was a citizen of the US and what age was he when his family came over. The judge said to Larissa that Tristan would be about the same age his father was when he immigrated. I thought that was neat. A few more questions, then statements from the Social Worker and Doctor and Prosecutor and we were ushered back out. A few minutes later, we were brought back in, with Geoff and Laura, and were all told that we were approved by the State of Kazakhstan to adopt our children. With that and a few spaciba’s (thank you) from us, we were out. We said hey to the other Americans who were still waiting, accepted their congratulations, took a few photos and then handed out gifts to the lawyer. Crazy.

Off to the Orphanage for our party with the doctors and good bye to the babies.

Our party with the doctors was a much different affair from the one the day before. This was very formal. We sat around a small table and had a quiet lunch of meats, cheese and wine. Din and Geoff were daring and tried the smoked horsemeat. They said it was quite good.

A word about horsemeat for future traveling families. We were told that it is very desirable but rather pricey and hard to find. Very lean but needs to be cooked for a very long time. You probably would not find in the meat pies that you buy on the street or in the grocery store. It’s too expensive.

This party usually includes the Orphanage Director but she was away on business. Our doctor should have been there too but she was still in court so it was: a small group of 3 doctors whom we had never met, the four of us and Larissa to translate. Din gave the toast this time and reiterated what Geoff had said the day before. Even though we didn’t know these women, I think our words were appreciated. We also mentioned how impressed we were with the O and they thanked us especially for that.

It was time to leave and so we had to go say good-bye to the babies. You can imagine how hard this was. I’m tearing up now just writing about it.

We had to rush back to the apartment, finish packing and then head off for a 3-hour drive to Astana where we would catch a plane to Almaty. The luggage in one car (remember, Geoff and Laura do not travel light) and we 4 were in another car with Vladimir. We traveled through the Steppe. Interesting flat green landscape with the occasional cow in a field.

We got to Astana and were amazed at the building that is going on there. There is a crane on every corner and the buildings all look incredibly modern and sleek. VERY different from the other cities we had seen. They are moving the capital here from Almaty so this is all done with a view to the future. Quite something.

Plane rides home were thankfully uneventful. It was another emotional moment in the Almaty airport saying good-bye to Geoff and Laura. We’d become quite a team in this whole crazy process. We will be eternally grateful to them for the help, support, fun (and photos) they gave us on this trip. We think we’ll be friends for a very long time.

Now we wait.

Hopefully we head back around July 10 but that’s a guess. I’ll start writing this again when we know we’re heading back. Until then – paka!

CS

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Thursday, June 8, 2006

I know we’ve been delinquent in our blogging but life has been a bit crazy lately!

Actually, we’ve been going out in the evenings with another couple from the O (Scott and Christina from Lake Charles, LA). They knew some restaurants and other couples that we didn’t, so we’ve been out and about meeting and eating. It’s been fun and a bit of a relief not to be sick and just enjoying our time here in Karaganda. This city really is interesting if you’re willing to let yourself go and not be worried about looking stupid or unable to read a menu. I can’t tell you how many times one of us has done a “bawk, bawk” with our arms flapping to indicate chicken. We’ve also done, “moo” and “baah”. Easy! The wait staff is always amused! We’ve learned that hamburger is - believe it or not - “ gamburger” and fries are “frittes” or at least that’s what we think they are. We’ve been successful ordering so far so it’s great.
For ROTIA families, we’re making a list of places to go and some helpful hints. We’ll post it to their site when we’re home.

We met a couple from California who is adopting a 6 year old. They met him in a program where the older Kaz kids come to the US for the summer so potential parents can meet them, host them for the few months they are here, and then hopefully adopt them. From what we’ve heard it is very successful. We also met a Baptist missionary who works in Mexico with his wife, and has 6 kids already but wanted to adopt another. It’s a wide variety of people here! Very interesting.

We went to the Ministry of Education a few days ago for our first official interview. It was a bit intimidating. We were ushered into a very small room with our Interpreter, Olga and sat at a table facing 3 very stern looking officials. They asked us several questions like how much is your salary, why did you choose Kazakhstan, how did your choose your child, will you love this child as your own and more. I think it all went well. It was over in less than ten minutes and we are happy to have it behind us. One of the three who interviewed us will appear in court – on our behalf – and testify about our qualifications. Hard to imagine.

We can’t believe this is our last week here. We’ve been scrambling to get things done. Din and I had in mind that we would like to buy several items for Tristan that we can give to him over the years as he grows up. So that means shopping. We, along with Laura and Geoff, have been hitting the shops for the past two days with Olga, loading up on everything we had our eye on. It’s much easier to shop with an interpreter. Yesterday, we had to buy all the clothes, bibs, bottles, etc… that Tristan will need for his trip from Karaganda to Almaty to meet us in a month or so. We got a bit mixed up on some of the sizes as you can tell from one of the photos here. Oh well – we’re new to this. It’s amazing though. We measured him so we would know what size to get him, and he’s grown 2 inches in the 2 ½ weeks we’ve known him. Amazing. Newborn stuff is too short now – he’s got very long legs and huge feet! I’m afraid to imagine what he’s going to be like after a month of separation. If he has hair, I don’t know what we’ll do!

Sunday, Olga and our driver, Vladimir, are going to take us on a tour of the city before our first Orphanage party. She says we will see a huge mosque, the maternity hospital, where the babies were born, and several other notable landmarks. Should be interesting and we’re looking forward to it.

We’ll try and keep posting more regularly but we have a lot to do before we go. It’s unbelievable that we’re in the home stretch already. We felt like we had days upon days to spend here in Karaganda but the time has flown. I guess that means we’re having fun!

Paka-
CS

I am growing…



I can stick out my tongue on cue.



Tristan loves bling. Seriously, loves the bling.



What is she crazy!?! We match - but…



Din, try and keep up!



The only English thing on the menu. Did we try it. No. Would you?



This is not a parking lot. No zoom. These cars are coming at us.



On the way to the O



Local commerce.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Only one visit at the O this morning since it’s Sunday. Din is rid of his fever (sheer will I believe) and was well enough to come along. Yesterday I taught Tristan how to stick his tongue out when I do. He thinks this is very funny - I think he’s the smartest kid on earth. It’s amazing the small triumphs that really matter in this developmental progression thing.

As you can see from the photos, poor kid had a run in with mosquitoes last night. We walked in this morning and all of the children were just covered in bites. It doesn’t seem to bother them but totally freaks out all the parents (except us of course – we New Orleanians are used to such things!).

So I wanted to mention the paraffin and massage treatments he gets. This seems to be standard for all the really small ones. To “strengthen his legs”, they wrap them in gauze that is coated in warm paraffin and then swaddle him tight until it cools. They acknowledged that this is not done in the US but say that it is good for him. No argument here – he seems to love it. The massage on the other hand is a different story. They do it 10 days on and then 10 days off. We came in on Monday and I guess it was the first day on again. We had to videotape this process it was so unbelievable. First they start with what you’d think. Massaging of the arms, legs, etc… then they get into bending and rotating. That’s when the screaming starts. Our interpreter was there and said – loudly over the crying – “This is the part they all hate. But it’s very important!” Ok. Who are we to question? (I did check later with Christina who is a physical therapist and she confirmed that it is good for them. Wow.) I think it’s also good for them to cry like that. Good for their lungs – seriously. It’s a fairly quiet environment in the baby rooms. Not tons of crying. Although the caregivers are extremely attentive, these children know that their every squeak will not be answered. It’s very interesting. The last part of the massage is the karate chopping and slapping of the back and butt. I swear! Pretty crazy stuff – and we have it all on tape.

Since I’m talking about the kids in these rooms, it’s worth mentioning how well they entertain themselves. They sit in their walkers or lie in the cribs under mobiles and keep themselves busy. They interact with each other and are constantly rolling around exploring. It’s amazing. I can’t imagine it happening in the US. It’s an interesting thought – do we rear our kids to need constant attention? I know direct contact and love make all the difference in the world with development – Tristan is proof of that. But do we over stimulate them because of some weird need of our own? Do they really need the hundreds of plastic toys we think they do? Now I’m not saying I plan to drop this kid into a walker and just say hi as I pass by every hour but it seems to be worth considering. I know – all you parents out there are saying, “Ha! New mother. Wait til she gets this kid home and finds out how life really is.” Ok, ok – I’m just thinking out loud… I’ll let you know how I’m doing in 6 months. (I’ll probably be the one standing on a mountain of lego)

Trivia: did you know Parliament (the cigarette people) also make vodka? Same label! Fascinating huh?

“Tristan, honey, Mama will be on the back porch having a cigarette and a martini. If you need anything just roll your walker into the back door.”

Paka!
C

Yes, Tristan has met Louisiana's State Bird - The Mosquito


Yummy!


Look at what I can do!


Sleeping is very important.


Galina says "Tristan-grow up- be a tall businessman"


The Locals - Not the same as the Blacksmith Shop, now is it?


Who's got better eyebrows??

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Saturday, June 3, 2006

First things first – Suzie Malon send me your email address. We saw Hannah and she is fine! I took a couple of photos I’d like to send you.

Well the creeping cold finally made it’s way to Din. Except this time it came along with a fever. Luckily we brought antibiotics, Tylenol and the inhaler so hopefully he’ll recover quickly. He’s spending the day in bed so he’ll miss the visits with Tristan today which means more Mama time for me.

We heard yesterday that our court date is set for June 12. That is a relief since we fly out on the 13th. (I’ll email the appropriate people our travel details.) Court is when we present our case to the judge and they officially rule that Tristan is ours. As a tradition, families who have gone or are about to go to court, have a party at the Orphanage for all the doctors and care givers. We give them gifts and celebrate with sweets and champagne or vodka (this is what we hear – can’t confirm). Ours will be next Sunday the 11th.

When we leave Kazakhstan this trip, we go home for a 15 day waiting period – a legality in this country – and then hopefully it’s only another week or so before we are allowed to come back. (we’ve heard varying time frames from our agency and folks here in country so we’ll see how the timing actually works out.) We’ll meet Tristan in Almaty, spend a couple of days there doing some paperwork and then come home. No need to come all the way back here.

Not sure if I mentioned the air quality here. I’m sure there is no emissions testing. Buses spew tons of black smoke as do most of the cars. The city itself is very dusty so you feel as if you’ve smoked a thousand cigarettes every day. Also, the air here is FULL of white cottony things floating around. Din says they are cotton wood trees and wow, do they make you sneeze. The white stuff actually piles up on the sidewalks. We have seen some of the locals burning these piles – I think they’re a nuisance to everyone. I’m sure all of this has added to our sniffles!

On the flip side, the city streets are completely clean of trash. Not a cigarette butt in sight. We’ve noticed people sweeping the sidewalks every morning with very short brooms – almost home made looking. It’s very interesting and they do an impressive job. Also interesting is that it stays light here until almost 10 pm. Throws us off every day.

Din and I went out last night to our corner place with the couple from Lake Charles. Had hamburgers and fries and many draft beers – entire bill, about $22.00. It took about 45 minutes between getting our burgers and the fries but we’ve learned that things operate on their own schedule here. In fact, we had dinner at a fancy restaurant here that was just one big confusion because the dishes came so spaced out. Nothing seemed to be what we had ordered, there was no rhyme or reason to what came out and when, and when we tried – tried being the operative word – to ask if anything else was coming, we got blank stares. So we thought we were finished and asked for the check. We realized later that we left long before our entrees came. No wonder the waitress looked so puzzled. This has been a real learning experience. We intend to go back to this place again to do it right - maybe with our interpreter this time. It’s become a challenge!

It’s interesting to hear the stories from other families – how they got here and how their agency works compared to ours. Several of the families we’ve met are here on one extended trip. These people have actually been allowed to take their children home with them for the rest of their trip here. This was not an option for us. Not sure why – guess it’s just the relationships different agencies have here.

I found out what Tristan’s actual schedule is. I have to share:

6am Wake up have a bottle of yogurt or formula. Have a bath in a big metal bowl. Play for a bit then nap.

9:30 Breakfast. Porridge made from powdered formula, ½ a boiled egg, and bits of bread. A small bottle of tea (not strong) to wash it all down. Playtime.

11:00 Nap

12:30 Up from nap

1:00 Lunch. Bullion soup, mashed potatoes, and ground meat. Apple or Pinapple juice. Playtime.

3:00 Nap

4:30 Bottle of warm yogurt. Hang out / play.

8:00 Dinner. Porridge with curd. Tea or hot chocolate.

9:00 Bedtime

11:00 Bottle with formula

Is it me or is this tiny kid eating a lot!???? You’ve gotta see the size of these porridge bowls! I swear he’s doubled in size since we met him so I’m not complaining! Oh - I have to remember to talk about his Massage therapy. Also his paraffin treatment. Another day.

and since Din’s the only one who knows how to post photos and he’s asleep – no photos today.

Paka-

carolyn

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Thursday, June 1, 2006

First – Happy Birthday to my sister Susie from a million miles away!!! It’s a holiday here too. Kids Day! That means, ironically, we can only see Tristan once – this afternoon.

My cold has been worse as has Tristans so O visits have not been too eventful. He has learned to blow raspberries which pleases him and us. Very amusing. I’m including some O photos on this post so you can get a feel for it and the surrounding area.

Some more interesting stuff to mention. When the kids have a very – shall we say, “dirty” diaper, they do not get out the wipes. They put them into the sink, under the faucet, soap them up and voila! Good as new! Quite the system – we refer to it here as the “car wash”. Very efficient.

Laura and I have had to buy diaper bags to haul all the kids toys and blankets back and forth. If you leave something at the O, it immediately becomes community property. Personally, I am appalled that I have to carry this hideous thing around. It’s stereotypically bad! I wanted to buy a backpack but we had to get this thing because on our second trip to Kaz, we don’t come all the way back to Karaganda. We stop in Almaty where an escort will bring Tristan to meet us. We have to supply them with a diaper bag, clothes, diapers, formula and whatever else comes up that he’ll need. And we’ve been told that it may go missing so buy a cheap one. Thus – no nice understated black backpack for Carolyn – it must be the ugly turquoise diaper bag. Oh well – I sacrifice for the cause!

Shopping for the kids is also an interesting experience. There are a few clothing stores in the malls but everything looks alike. Tons of patterns of little rabbits, bears, frogs, etc.. patterns on shirts, patterns on pants, it’s impossible to get solids of anything. Where is Baby Gap!? They could make a fortune here! When you go into a store, everything is in a case in front of you. One of the sales clerks has to pull out whatever it is that you want to look at. There is one place on the main drag called Mickey House (no copywrite infringement here!) which has one English speaking clerk. Before you know what hit you, she’s got you over to her counter and has pulled out a million of whatever it is you mentioned you wanted. Boy? Girl? How big? Suddenly there is a mountain of merchandise in front of you that you really don’t like. But because of her effort you feel compelled to buy something! Quite the marketing effort.

On a non baby note, we went to the “opera” the other night. The opera house is only a few blocks away and it was Romeo and Juliet so we thought we’d try it. Well, it was interesting. A very large young crowd in all types of dress – blue jeans to fancy clothes (all with their bling shoes). No concession stand in the lobby, everyone brought in their refreshments. The theater was interesting. Evidently built by Chinese forced labor. The performance was not what we expected. Sort of a cross between West Side Story, and Cirque du Soleil - all done by community theater. The set was sparse and minimal, the costumes modern and the sound awful. They were all wearing mikes and some worked and some didn’t but they all had static. The music was interesting – very 80’s synth pop-ish (in fact all the music we hear seems to be of this type) but it would start and stop in the most jarring ways. The singing was quite good but rarely happened. Most was long dialogue which was obviously lost on us. Another interesting thing was that people were allowed to photograph the performance so there were constantly flashes going off. We left during intermission.

Last night we got daring and went to what we thought was the corner bar. Turns out it was a bar/café. We went in for a beer or two but Geoff decided he wanted a burger. Since the menu was only in Russian, it was a challenge. He managed to get them to understand by drawing little pictures of a burger and fries. It worked and we had quite a good time – the burger was great. This will definitely be on our list from now on.

Oh – about those gypsies. They were a bit of a surprise to us. We had heard about them but hadn’t considered the threat I guess. Geoff (as I mentioned is a professional photographer) was out alone wandering one day and gave a gypsy mother a coin to take her photo with her two children. No problem. The next day, the four of us were walking past them and the two kids literally chased us down for money. Grabbed Laura’s coke and started tugging on it until she gave it up. Then followed us into the Mickey House and sort of circled us. There were only 2 of them so we were able to shake them but it’s worth considering that if there were 5 or more, we’d definitely be in a bit of trouble. They move fast!

Well that’s all for now.

Da svida n ya! (another way to say good-bye)

carolyn

More Photos.


I'm too little for this!



Ugh…



Tristan in the middle.



Playroom



Bedroom



Back yard of the "O"

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Some trivia, some facts, some other stuff…

Not exactly sure what to write about so I’ll just start.

Some trivia
The time difference between Karaganda and New Orleans is 11 hours. We’re a day ahead of you.

Potato chips come in many different flavors here. And not the flavors you would think. We have bought chicken chips, meat and mushroom chips and ham and cheese chips (which Din says taste like an Egg McMuffin).

The public buses all have curtains. Not sure why.

You have to pay to use public toilets. This buys you the privilege and some toilet paper.

All the women wear fancy high heels here. Lots of bling on the shoes.

No one wears shorts even though it’s quite warm.

No one but Americans wear sneakers.

What do we do all day everyday?
We’re sort of boring. We get up – head off to the Orphanage, spend time oohing and aahing over our children then head back out. Off to the mall or the grocery to get supplies, home for lunch, nap and then back to the Orphanage. Dinner may or may not happen – usually we nosh, do some reading and then off to bed. The big excitement here was we did some laundry! We have a tiny washing machine that literally holds about 2 pair of jeans. All the instructions are in Russian of course so it was a complete mystery. I finally drew out the whole front panel and took it to the “O” to have it translated. It was a happy day!

We met a couple here from Lake Charles, Louisiana. Scott and Christina. They’ve adopted a boy and named him Will. We’re totally jealous of them because somehow they got their hands on some Community Coffee! For those of you not in NOLA, this is the coffee of choice. And when you’re in a place where Nescafe instant is the only option, you can imagine why we’re envious! We met these guys because they are in our playroom.

I should explain how the O works (or at least what we can figure out). There are many rooms where the children sleep. They seem to be organized by age or possibly feeding needs. Tristan is in a room where all the kids get porridge in the mornings but bottles in the afternoon. (What else they eat will be a later post- you won’t believe it.) Each sleeping room has about 10 cribs – or beds – lined up side by side around the room. There is a room right outside this where they get fed and the ones who have not been chosen yet, spend their days. The ones who have been chosen get fed in here by their new mamas and papas and then we all move to the playroom. The playroom has lots of toys available and a big ball pit so the kids have fun. Every family brings a blanket which is spread out on the floor and the kids go down on them. Then each family does what ever type of “playing” they want. We’ve been working with Tristan on his muscle building. He’s started standing and sitting – with help – but is making tons of progress everyday. It’s really amazing the difference we’ve seen in a week. Even the doctor came by and commented on it (we think!). He does have a cold right now but all of the kids have some sort of sniffle or cough. I’ve also turned up with a sore throat (can’t imagine why) but I’m ignoring it.

Some times we get to go outside and wander around the building. Tristan hates the sun in his eyes. We’re sure it’s because he hasn’t spent much time out of doors so far in his life. We figure he has to get used to it so he can deal with New Orleans sunshine! When the children go out, they are all loaded up with clothes. Especially hats which have to be pulled down over their ears. The Care Givers are very strict about this.

More new families arrived on Monday. We feel like seasoned veterans now! It’s almost impossible to believe we’ve been here as long as we have. On the other hand, sometimes it feels like we arrived yesterday.

We’re still having fun although I started reading Andrei Codrescu’s, “New Orleans, Mon Amour” and I’m starting to miss home. We do have a sort of streetcar outside our window which does sound like the one at home so it’s nice. The wine situation on the other hand is not so nice. We’ve tried to buy what we think is Cabernet but it’s either really sweet (more like Madeira) or is like vinegar. No amount of “breathing” helps. On the other hand the local beer is great. Very tasty.

We’re hoping to get a group of Americans together Thursday night for drinks or dinner. Should be interesting. Everyone we’ve met so far has a similar story to ours. We’re all so happy to be here and finally meeting our children.

Next blog entry: gypsies and why you shouldn’t pay them for photographs…

Paka!
Carolyn

More Photos, of course.











Gangsta T.