Sunday, July 31, 2005

July 31st

While we were at dinner last night, Olesya called Dana to say Andre, our regular driver, would not be available to drive us to church this morning and to ask Dana to meet us and the replacement driver at our hotel on her way to the Mosque. At 9:45, Dana and her brother are approaching the hotel when, to everyone's surprise, Andre pulls up! We are glad to meet Dana's brother and happy that Dana was not too put out by the apparent miscommunication.

There is a baptism at church today. It takes place just after the homily. The little girl appears to be about 2, her parents in their mid-twenties. We watch and daydream about our kids' christenings: Bob and Beth are hoping to have Nicholas's very soon after they arrive home and before the priest they hope will perform the service leaves for his new assignment in Chicago. Alli and I are planning to have Molly and Aidan baptized on the last Sunday in September.

After church, we eat the usual quick Sunday morning breakfast, change, pack and head out for the baby home. Aidan is still in the infirmary. The nurse indicates he must be dressed and fed. After she dresses him, she brings him and his bottle out to the tiny lobby area where we are waiting. Alli takes Aidan and the bottle while the nurse goes off and returns with a stroller in the fully reclined position (?). Alli begins to feed Aidan while I go for Molly. She's in the playpen, dressed and ready to go. She wriggles excitedly when she sees me, but still doesn't get the whole "Help Papa lift you" idea and stays as she lays until I reach over and hoist her up. We return to the lobby to find Mommy and Aidan: He finished 1/2 of his bottle then refused to open his mouth. We decide we'll try again later...

In the marble room, Aidan refuses any more bottle from either of us. Molly sees his bottle and wonders aloud when hers will arrive! (We did not bring one today and, though we haven't told her yet, don't intend to bring one everyday.) Aidan is generally out of sorts today, not very active and more clingy than usual. Molly's OK to start, but the heat and the absent bottle take a toll. She and I go for a walk around 1:50. Less than one time around the building and she's out cold. We go back to the marble room and she naps soundly until 2:20. When she wakes, I give her to Bob so I can clean up the toys, cameras, etc. She sits on Bob's lap with a look on her face like "Who are you and what are you talking about?" All of you back home, get ready: It's her best look and you will see it....

Alli takes Aidan back to the infirmary. I take Molly back to her room just in time for her afternoon snack: a cookie soaked in "soured" milk. After bussing home, Alli and I go to the Internet Cafe to post Blog entries for Thursday and Friday, July 28 and 29. We meet Bob & Beth at the hotel at 5 and walk to The Dom for dinner prior to Dana's arrival for the soccer match. We order without a hitch and enjoy a light meal of salads and sides (called garnishes here).

On our walk to the stadium, the skies darken and the wind picks up, dropping the temperatures measurably and swirling dust and dirt. It doesn't appear the impending rain can miss us, and once again we are thankful our seats are under cover (same section as the first two matches and one row higher). We arrive at 6:30 for a 7 PM kick-off and the winds persist throughout warmups. We see lightning in the distance as game time nears.

Three things of note in the first half: (1)It never rains, but the cloud cover and breeze remain to keep things cool, making Alli thankful I suggested she bring along her light-weight sweat top. (2) Tobol does not score. You might recall the first two matches we saw were 3-0 and 5-0 respectively at the half, but tonight's opponent, Taraz, is playing a defensive style with a single striker and five midfielders. Tobol has a handful of chances but can't finish. (3) Tobol's sweeper leaves the game with an injury at about the 30 minute mark. He and his central defense mate are very good and anchor a back line we've yet to see concede a goal. In a tight match, it will be interesting to see if his loss is pivotal.

After the intermission, Tobol is attacking at the end in front of our seats (as they had been in the previous matches). Unlike our earlier experience, when we did not see much attacking passion due to the size of the half-time advantages, we expect to see all-out attacking soccer tonight, as a tie will do Tobol no good in their effort to overtake the top team. It's all Tobol as we had hoped with plenty of action in the attacking third and a number of scoring chances. Despite the pressure, and with the help of some questionable passing & indecisive playmaking by Tobol, it appears Taraz will take a point on the road and send us home disappointed for the first time in three matches. However, at the 85 minute mark, Taraz's keeper can't control a hard shot/cross from just outside the area to his left, instead parrying it into the path of Tobol's #11 crashing the net from the weak side. Quick as you please, the ball's in the back of the net, it's 1-0 for the home side & bedlam erupts around the stadium, particularly in section 2. Tobol rides out the remaining few minutes of regulation time and two minutes of added time to send the faithful home with another win. "Ole, ole, ole, ole,
Tobol, Champions!"

We walk back to the hotel - potty breaks for everyone - then walk with Dana. Just before our normal turnaround point, a black cat crosses in front of us. Kazakh people are very superstitious, and Dana is no exception. She stops us in our tracks, directs us to turn back from that point and crosses the street before continuing on her way.

Back at the hotel, Dana calls to make sure we got home OK and to report Olesya went into the hospital today (a day earlier than scheduled). Alli & I have pudding while reading, watching soccer and dozing. I wake her at midnight to get ready for bed: Lights out at 12:15.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

July 30th

Today starts with a knock on the door at 8 AM: It's room cleaning day. The day also begins with an emotional hangover from yesterday's news and the hours of speculation that followed. We can only hope the next news is better, and that we get it sooner than later.

Alli and I write in our journals while the room is being cleaned. (If I haven't mentioned it previously, we must stay in the room while they clean, and it's awkward at times....) Anyway, I'm finished sooner than Alli, so while she finishes up, I go for a walk in the city center and park areas enjoying the relatively cool early-morning temperatures and the warm but not yet scorching sunshine. I return to the hotel after about an hour. We have breakfast, get cleaned up and the pack the back-pack for today's visit.

It's still cool enough for a walk today, and along the way I stop to exchange currency at one of the three exchanges within a block of the hotel. One place is offering exchange at 133.5 Tenghe to the dollar, the other two are advertising 136. I choose the one offering 136 on the side of the street on which we walk. While I'm in the booth, the gentleman goes outside - with Alli, Beth and Bob watching - and changes the rate to 133.4! The net difference is around 600 Tenghe (a little more than $5), but I'm more annoyed at what appears to be little more than bait & switch. Between the language barrier and the aforementioned hangover, I don't think quickly enough to return the Tenghe, retrieve my US dollars and take my business elsewhere (assuming the woman on the other side of the bulletproof glass would have agreed with me).

The kids are inside today: It's warm & we've concluded they are usually inside on the weekends, whether because of staffing or other reasons. Alli and I knock at the infirmary for Aidan: The nurse indicates he has not yet had his medicine or bottle. We go to get Molly and find her in the walking chair. Alli picks her up and gets a ripe whiff, so they go off to the changing table for a clean diaper and onesie. We're getting ready to leave Molly's room when Bob walks in with Aidan: The nurse from the infirmary brought Aidan up to the boys' room looking for us and left Aidan with Bob & Beth. Aidan is wearing a onesie in the same shade of blue as Molly's and a bad hat: in shape, a cross between a planter and a stove-pipe hat, made of paper and secured under his chin with an elastic band. Poor kid: It's not bad enough he hasn't been feeling well, but he looks silly too. He endures his shame in silence long enough for Mom and Dad to videotape his humiliation....

Aidan has another good day, not quite as active as yesterday but still busy. He's happy to crawl around and play with the toys, spends some time under the coffee table and, of course, climbs on Mom and Dad for a little up close and personal time with Alli's necklace and my glasses.
Molly is happy to get a juice bottle again. I tell her about my mis- fortune at the money exchange: She's more interested in the juice. She continues her trend toward increased mobility and spends some time under the coffee table, too. She enjoys a game with Alli: Alli sits Molly in her lap facing her, then rolls Molly backward with Molly's head between Alli's knees so Molly does a flip. The look on Molly's face is open-mouthed surprise with a little bit of a toothy grin and enough of a gleam in her eye that we can almost almost hear, "Again!"

After the visit, Alli and I go to the Internet Cafe to check mail, then Alli, Beth and Dana go shopping at "The Small Mall." Everybody recon- venes at the hotel at 5:30, and we go to the Russian Pub for dinner, mostlly because they have air conditioning (assuming they have power). After walking Dana 1/2-way home, we go to the Gros for beer and snacks before "The Mummy Returns" in Bob & Beth's room (longer than the first, more elaborate special effects and not as funny - I fall asleep).After the movie, Alli and I return to our room and read for awhile before going to bed around midnight.

Friday, July 29, 2005

July 29th

Up @ 7:30 for the gym. Alli's not feeling well enough to walk with Beth today so I head next door to break the news. Beth says she'll check on Alli around 10 to see if she wants to go for pastries or if she just wants Beth to pick them up for her. Alli's asleep as I leave @ 8.

Another good, tiring and quiet workout. I have never liked the idea of morning workouts - I am much more of a late night person than a morning person - but the 8 AM time frame has been good for both Bob and me, as it gives us something to look forward to three mornings each week, does not interfere with our baby home schedule and allows us to keep up with e-mail and the Blog in the afternoons.

The great ping-pong comeback is momentarily derailed as Bob wins the day 8-5 and extends his series lead to 103-95.

Back in the room, Alli reports she slept until 10, which is good because she had trouble falling asleep last night. She did not go with Beth, but good to her word, Beth brought pastries back for us! Alli and I have breakfast and do a little reading. I check next door on walking or taking the bus: Beth will join Alli and me on the bus, but Bob prefers to walk. The bussers meet at 12:30 and we're off....

We arrive @ 12:55 to find Bob waiting. Alli and I go to the infirmary, while Bob & Beth head to the boys' outside room. At the infirmary, Alli pokes her head in and asks for Aidan: He's on the changing table just inside the door, and the nurse asks us to wait in the hall until he's ready. After four or five minutes, the door opens and the nurse carries him out. Alli takes him and hugs him: She feels much better and he seems glad to see us. His color is good, he's alert and active. It's good to see him!

I go outside for Molly. She's in a walking chair in the shade just outside the outdoor room. Bob & Beth are keeping her company. Apparently, she'd been crying, but she seems happy to see her Daddy. Mama Bibigoul and I discuss Molly's wardrobe again - she's wearing striped bloomers over her diaper and a floppy beach hat with the strings looped under her chin (and tied atop her head because the strings are so long) - and agree we'd like to put a top on her today (it's not as warm as it has been, and the rug in the Marble Room gets a lot of traffic for her to be crawling around on it half naked for too many days). There are no adequate shirts outside, so we go to the inside room for a shirt before joining the others.

Fashion Alert: Aidan has a white onesie and a knit cap. He also has little girls' flowered under- pants with no diaper - curious given his present condition - and frilly white "Mary Jane" socks. Apparently, wardrobe selections are more limited in the infirmary than in the regular rooms. Molly is a vision in the aforementioned striped bloomers and a pair of striped socks - they don't match, of course - and the top selected looks like a button-up cabana shirt with a multi-hued print against a solid blue background. The floppy hat completes the look, and we snap a quick photo of our little sea cruiser. Alli wisely puts a diaper on Aidan - I'll spare the details, but suffice to say it came in handy later - and Molly loses the shirt and hat for play time.

Molly gets her juice bottle from Daddy today while Mommy administers liberal doses of TLC to her little boy. He seems to be himself, crawling around with the other kids, investigating and exploring, and Molly is quite content with her cool drink and the return of a pleasant breeze.

Olesya arrives and the air goes out of the room when she delivers two pieces of news. First, her doctor has ordered her to hospital on Monday: The doctor is not satisfied with the results from the battery of tests Olesya had earlier today. Olesya is not certain whether she will be admitted for more testing or for the duration of her pregnancy.

The next news is worse: The president of Kazakhstan is scheduled to visit Kostanai next week (Wed. through Fri.), and there is a chance his visit could prevent the "Visa Man" - apparently a high-ranking government/police official with obligations related to the visit - from signing the childrens' visas on Thursday as scheduled. If he cannot sign the papers as scheduled, we might have to wait another week for his signature, pushing our homecoming date to 8/19. Olesya is clearly upset - by her news and ours - and the four of us are dumbstruck. On the one hand, this poor woman looks like she could explode at any minute and, despite her pleasant personality and stoic Russian persona, she is undoubtedly more uncomfortable every day. At the same time, she is the lynchpin to all the tasks standing between us and our return home, and none of us is happy with the prospect of staying another week.

Bob and I asks several carefully-worded questions in an effort to get additional information/ more fully understand the situation (specifically the correlation between a state visit and the inability to sign four documents) and possibly divine some conceivable workaround(s), and Olesya assures us she will do everything she can to stay on schedule and prevent the delay. We are fearful, however, that in a country where the system is paramount (and, apparently in most cases, incontrovertible), and people like Olesya might push for an exception or deviation every now and then (but not often and not too hard), we don't know that she'll be inclined or able to do enough - or anything at all - from a hospital bed. We are not hopeful - but neither are we hopeless....

I find it difficult to adequately describe the feelings in the room as the news sinks in and the visit with the kids continues. Five adults who have come to know and like and care for one another must maintain some precarious balance between focusing on our own concerns and remaining compassionate regarding the needs and wishes of others. Olesya has a child to bring into the world and every effort must be made, every precaution taken to assure healthy delivery for mother and son. She is the consumate professional and has continued to work diligently on our behalf despite her condition and increasing discomfort over the past few weeks. For our part, we have children to bring back to and new lives to begin in our worlds, the culmination of a process years in the planning and trying and hoping long before the decision to adopt and the past sixteen months of paperwork, travel and everything we've experienced here. How disappointed can we be, how pushy in our questioning, how insistent that we remain on schedule - as if our mere insistence would be sufficient - before we appear so selfish as to be without compassion? Yet, why submit meekly to capriciousness when everything in our varied experiences - the adoption process notwithstanding - suggests there must be something that can be done? And all the while, the children are crawling among us, oblivious to our adult concerns and more in need of a song or a toy or a clean diaper or a wiped nose. We will put our faith in Olesya and know something more definite by the middle of next week....

Dana arrives @ 5:30 with soccer tickets for Sunday - we gave her the money last night and she stopped by the stadium on her way to work this morning - and we go to The Dom for dinner. After walking Dana 1/2-way home, we hit the Gros for snacks and beer and go to Bob & Beth's for movie night: We watch "The Mummy" on the portable DVD player's 4" x 6" screen. Back in our room, I fall asleep watching soccer and Alli does the same while reading. I wake and read a bit - John Irving's "A Widow for a Year" - before waking Alli to get ready for bed. We turn the lights out at 12:30 and it takes us both a little longer than usual to fall asleep. It's been a long, tough couple of days....

Thursday, July 28, 2005

July 28th

We set the alarm for 8:30am. Pat gets up to do some laundry and I write in my journal. We go to the Internet cafe at 10:00am and both post an entry to the Blog. On the way back to the hotel we discuss the heat and me not feeling well. Pat suggests we take the bus to the baby home and I agree. Pat consults with Bob and Beth when we get back and they also vote for taking the bus. Pat returns from their room with an electric tea pot and makes me a cup of tea. We're out of milk so he runs to the Gros for more. He stops at the hotel floor desk and gets a few cubes of sugar. Do I have a great husband or what? We shower and get ready to go to the baby home.

We arrive at the baby home and Pat goes for Molly. Bob, Beth and I go for the boys. It's very hot out and the children are inside. Nicholas is being fed. I look around and see no sign of Aidan. The caregiver indicates that he is not in the room. We will go to find him when she is finished feeding Nicholas. She hands Nicholas to Bob when she's done and motions for me to follow. We end up in the area of the infirmary. The caregiver gets the head nurse and they have a conversation. I hear Olesya's name. The caregiver leaves to find Olesya. She does not return after several minutes. I start to worry and go to the marble room to find Pat. I explain what's going on. My heart is pounding and my mind is racing. This is a situation where the language barrier is more than an inconvenience. I go back to the infirmary. Olesya has been found. She tells me that Aidan and three other boys from his room have diarrhea and are in the infirmary to receive treatment. This includes medication and fluids. We will not see him today. I am relieved by the diagnosis but disappointed that we won't be able to see him. He is in capable hands. I make my way back to the marble room and share the news with Pat, Bob and Beth. Everyone is relieved. Molly, on the other hand, is ecstatic. She will be playing the part of an only child today. Molly is dressed in yellow terry cloth shorts and socks and that's it. She is going topless. This is apparently the uniform of the day as all of the other children in her room were dressed similarly. Her eyes look much better today. Molly is in good spirits. She creeps around when the mood strikes her and plays happily with her toys. We brought a bottle with watered down apple juice for her. I give her the bottle and she is happy until the juice is gone. She wails when I take the bottle away. Olesya joins us. She has requested a change in Aidan's treatment schedule so we will be able to see him tomorrow. We will pick him up from the infirmary for our visit. I fly molly around the room and everyone tickles her belly. Her laughter fills the room. We pack up at 2:30pm and take the kids back to their rooms. Mama Bibigoul has us put Molly in the group playpen. It is snack time for the children - sour milk and a cookie. Molly begins to cry and Mama Bibigoul immediately scoops her up. The princess is happy again. Now everyone, please remember that Molly was spoiled BEFORE we even came on the scene. Therefore, we cannot be held fully accountable. We meet the others out front. Andre is waiting to drive Olesya home. We take the bus back to the hotel. Pat and I go to the Internet cafe for the second time. We read and reply to email.

Dana arrives at 5:30pm. We head to the mall to find a new cable for Bob's DVD player. Bob finds what he needs and the price is right to boot. After the mall, we walk to the pancake place for dinner. We're giving it another go. The first time we were there it was very good. The second time it was lousy. Well, it's 3 strikes and you're out. The food is OK but the service is bad. Another restaruant off the list- this makes the third one. Luckily there are so many good ones to choose from. We walk Dana 3/4 of the way home. My stomach is not feeling that great again.

We get back to the hotel and try to watch a movie. No go. The cable fits but something is still wrong. Pat and I go back to our room and read. We turn in at 12:30pm.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

July 27th

At 8 AM, Bob and I leave the rooms for the gym. At the front door, the overnight security guard (usually one of three boys, all in their twenties) is asleep on the small couch just inside the locked door. We found him in the same condition on Monday morning. Then as now, the phone is ringing away unheeded. On Monday, I woke him to answer the phone. While doing so, he had me toss him his keys, and he indicated which one I needed to unlock the door. Today, we just help ourselves to the keys and leave him - and the phone - to his internal alarm clock.

At the gym, it's a very quiet morning. Bob and I are among perhaps eight guys working out, and it's nice to be able to go about our routines without interruption or delay because someone else is using a particular piece of equipment. We go at the weights and exercises for about an hour and get to the ping-pong around 9:05. We split the first ten games, and at 5-5 Bob suggests we play first one to seven. I take the next two games and the day 7-5. The summer series now stands at 95-90 in Bob's favor.

It's already very warm when we leave the gym at 10:30. Back in the room, Alli is waiting with apple pastries. She and Beth took a new route today past landmarks with which they were familiar (the Russian Orthodox Church we visited last Tuesday) and had not yet seen (the candy factory). Alli had moments of doubt as to whether they would find their way back to the hotel and if not whether we would have a clue where to look for them. But it's all good and there's pastry, too! I make a quick trip to the Gros for diapers - Aidan's size 3's - then return for breakfast. We eat and get ready for our visit.

The walk today is HOT! I know you folks back home have been enduring a heat wave pretty much since we left, but this is new for us. We've had lots of sunshine but there is almost always a breeze of some kind to mitigate the heat. In all, we've had only one or two uncomfortably hot days, and today, with no breeze, is shaping up to be the worst. On the way to the baby home, we are giving consideration to taking the bus home whether Olesya is with us or not.

The kids are inside where, if it's cooler than their outside rooms, it's only marginally so. Aidan's in the playpen dressed in a onesie and socks and ready to go. Molly's in the walking chair in long pants and no top. Alli checks her diaper - clean and dry - and changes her into a onesie. There are no socks inside, so she and Molly stop in the outside room on their way to meet the rest of us.

In the marble room, the kids are game but slowly wilt in the heat. With the room's one window and door open, we usually get enough cross ventilation to keep the room relatively cool, but there is no air moving today. We bring a bottle of ice water (a one litre bottle frozen the night before) with us everyday for our walk back and forth. Today, we use some of it to try to cool the kids by pouring some over their heads and giving them capfuls to drink. Aidan lets most of it dribble down his chin; Molly's a little more adept, but we're hesitant to give her too much. The looks on both their faces suggest they aren't familiar with anything that cold, and we have not been told it's OK to give them anything (you might recall we were expressly told not to supplement their baby home diet in any way when our visits began).

Aidan gets grumpy first. He's content only if Alli carries him around the room or allows him to climb on her and play with her necklace. When these activities tire her, I take him for a walk around the halls, where the dark corridors and the draft provided by several open doors provide some relief for both Aidan and me. When we get back to the marble room, I hand the boy over to his Mommy and take Molly for a short walk before it's time to return both of them to their inside rooms.

Medical update: Olesya has been told Molly's "black eye/red welt" is conjunctivitis. She is being treated with an ointment. Interestingly, I have noticed several children in her room with their hands covered in mitten-like coverings secured by elsatic. Don't know whether there is anything to make of the two other than coincidence....

We bus back with Olesya. Bob, Beth and I go to the Internet cafe, while Alli stays in the room to nap. I check and answer e-mail, then return to the hotel. Alli's awake and not feeling well. She is achy and, despite the warm temperatures - we have the air conditioner off and the windows open - she's chilly. She decides not to join us for dinner.

At 6, Bob & Beth, Dana and I go to the Russian Pub. We find they have no power when we arrive and we - like their other patrons - eat our dinners by candlelight. As usual, they don't have several items including stuffed cabbage (not unusual) and french fries (a first). Despite the power issue, the salads are cool and crisp, the meals are well cooked and the beer is cold. The girls even have ice cream!

After dinner, Bob & Beth and Dana go to the Gros and the mall while I go back to the hotel to check on the patient. Alli's awake and feeling better: She has yogurt and a banana for dinner and has a craving for potato chips. I settle down to journal for a while, and at 10 PM go the the Gros for Pringles, Coke, yogurt and ice cream bars (and tissues). We snack on Pringles while I finish my journal and then have ice cream bars. I wake Alli at midnight to get ready for bed, and it's lights out at 12:15. Nothing on the schedule for tomorrow morning, so we set the alarm for 8:30 and plan to sleep in....

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

July 26th

It's a lazy morning and we stay in bed until 9:15am. I write in my journal and Pat goes for a walk. He takes the camera with him. The plants in the park are in full bloom and we'd like to get a few pictures. Pat gets back to the room at 11:00am. We eat breakfast, shower and get ready to go.

Our 15 day waiting period is complete. The adoption is final and the children are legally ours! We will keep them in the baby home until we leave Kostanai on August 9th. As much as we want them with us we feel that this is in their best interest. They are familiar with their enviroment and are acustom to their routine. This is what they have know all their lives. The transition will be difficult for them. Everything will be new - what they see, the sounds they hear, what they wear, what they eat and the faces around them. It will be difficult for us to wait but we will have them full-time in two weeks.

It's another hot walk to the baby home. We see the little boy, Ibiek, along the way. He shakes hands with Pat and Bob. Three young girls (sisters?) come over to where we are standing. One is holding a baby of about 9 months (another sister?). We take a group photo. It is very good. We tell them we'll bring copies tomorrow. We continue on to the baby home. We're not sure if the kids are in or out so Beth and I check inside and the guys outside. They're outside. Bob has Nicholas in his arms when Beth and I arrive. Aidan is standing in the playpen and looking at me like "Where have you been?" He grins when I pick him up. Off to the marble room. Pat and Molly arrive a few minutes later. Pat has his hand over Molly's face. Don't look he says to me. He removes his hand. Our beautiful daughter has a shiner. From what Pat could gather from Mama Bibigoul there was some sort of tussle in the group playpen. I think to myself, I'd hate to see the othere guy. Molly can hold her own! It's not too bad and she's in fine spirits. It's another typical day. Molly gabs and plays with her toys. She creeps a bit and finds herself 1/2 way under the coffee table. Look out Aidan and Nicholas! This had been their secret hideout. Aidan buzzes around the room and climbs on us and the furniture. Nicholas is out of sorts today and is content to spend most of the visit on Bob's lap. We take Molly and Aidan for a walk in their Snuglis. Today we pass through the baby home gate and walk up and down the street. The kids are content and watch people and cars pass by. Both do a little chatting. It's very warm out and there is not much shade so we make our way back to the baby home. Despite being dressed in onsies both kids are drenched when we take them out of their Snuglis. We didn't know babies sweat so much. Cate and Daniel are in the marble room when we get back. Cate had her final court hearing this morning and it was very difficult. She had a different judge and procecutor. They asked a lot of questions and were dissatisfied with one document and the date on another. The judge did not make a decision and will not do so until tomorrow. Cate will not be staying in Kostanai during the waiting period. She has a three year old son at home and is self-employed and must get home to work. She will return to Almaty after the waiting period to pick up Daniel. He will fly to Almaty with the head nurse from the baby home. It's 2:30pm and time to take the kids back. The other children have been brought in so we bring the kids to their inside rooms. We meet out front and take a different route back to the hotel.

We drop our stuff off and as we get ready to go we hear a light knock on the door. It is Olesya. We fill out some additional information on the forms we will take to the US Embassy. The information is from the children's birth and adoption certificates. Olesya is only there a few minutes and heads home when we are done. She had a busy day and is tired. We go to the Internet cafe and each post an entry. We check email but it is so slow we run out of time.

We meet everyone back at the hotel. Cate is joining us for dinner. Our destination tonight is a restaurant called Bavaria. We were there once shortly after we arrived in Kostanai but have not been back since because Bob was sick the day after we went. He is up for trying Bavaria again. The food is excellent. Pat, Cate and I drink a microbrew that is made at the restaurant.

We walk Dana home and she takes us a new way. We pass by the train station and decide to go in and have a look around. We're bearly inside when a policeman approaches us. He asks Dana if we are foreigners and when she says yes he asks to see our passports. We all have them with us except Cate. She slips out the door and waits for us outside. The policeman chats pleasantly with Dana as he reviews our papers. He smiles as he does this. Our papers are in order. We look around the station briefly before going. After we leave we find out that the policeman asked Dana if she came there often. Looks like he used us as an excuse to flirt with our pretty translator! We have a good laugh.

Back at the hotel Pat watches soccer and I work on a crossword puzzle. We both eat an ice cream bar. Lights out at 12:30am.

Monday, July 25, 2005

July 25th

Groundhog Day! The alarm goes off at 7:30am. Pat and Bob head to the gym. Beth and I go for a walk. A young man approaches us as we near the university. "Do you speak English?" he asks. "Yes." we say. Soon we have a crowd around us of 15 or so students. They are interested in practicing their English. Some of them are studying to be translators. We find out that they are waiting for a bus to take them to the woods to work. They ask us where we are from, why are we here, do we like the beer here, what is our favorite american movie and the trickiest question of all...what do we think of George Bush Jr. We chat for about 20 minutes or so. One girl in particular speaks very well. She was an exchange student her senior year and attended school in St. Cloud Florida. The bus arrives and the students say goodbye. Beth and I walk to Victory Park, then to the river and finally to the pastry shop. This has become our standard route. Pat and Bob meet us on our way back from the pastry shop. Pat got the better of Bob today in ping-pong taking the day 9-4. This brings the tourny standings to 90-83 with Bob in the lead. We get back to the hotel, eat our pastries and get ready to go to the baby home.

It's partly cloudy with a cool breeze when we start out for the baby home. By the time we arrive the sun is out and it's a bit humid. We guess that the kids are inside but we find their rooms locked. They're outside. Molly has just finished eating. Mama Bibigoul hands her to me and I undress and diaper her. Pat and Aidan arrive to say hello. Mama Bibigoul finds a onsie for Molly - it has a picture of a little hippo on it and says 100% boy - and we're ready to go. Another great day with the kids. They are in good spirits. Both are chatty and pleasant. Aidan is all over the room. Molly does some creeping without any prompting from us. Pat sits with Aidan and Nicholas on his lap and reads to them. When they're done its Molly's turn. Aidan takes a tumble and whacks his head on the floor. I pick him up, comfort him and he's ready to go again. I have Molly try on her new pink and blue plaid baseball cap. Olesya wrinkles her nose and says "I don't like it. She looks like a boy." We think it's adorable. Aidan talks to Molly's socks while she whacks him on the head. He just chuckles. Those are some funny socks! Ah, 2:30pm already. The children are being transported to their inside rooms so we take the kids back inside too. We kiss them and say goodbye. We meet out front and take the bus back to the hotel. We make arrangements to meet Olesya in the hotel lobby at 4:45pm. She will take us to get the kid's new birth certificates and adoption certificates.

Pat and I head to the Internet cafe and have just enough time to post one entry each to the Blog before we have to meet Olesya back at the hotel. She takes us to the Office of Registry which is only a short walk from the hotel. We're done our business in less that a 1/2 hour. Olesya calls Andre for a ride home. She will go home and rest. Her back hurt and she is tired. We say a silent prayer that our luck will hold out and Olesya's baby stays in his happy home for a while longer.

We meet Dana at the pizza place at 6:00pm. Everyone gets their usual and dinner is good. Pat drinks Holsten and I opt for Derbes (a Kazakh brew). We walk Dana home and get back to the hotel around 8:00pm. We try to watch a movie but the cable to Bob's DVD player is on the fritz. Bob will see if he can replace it tomorrow. Pat writes in his journal and I read a magazine. Lights out at 12:30pm.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

July 24th

Up @ 8:30 to get ready for church. Andre arrives promptly @ 9:45, and once again we get to church just as exposition is ending. We have a full altar again - two priests, four altar servers and the young seminarian. I count pews today: seven on either side of the aisle (not counting the very front seats where the altar servers sit). Each pew appears to hold four or five adults, so I estimate seating capacity @ about 70. There are probably 45-50 people here today.

After church, back to the hotel to change (me, out of long pants and into shorts), eat breakfast and pack the backpack for the baby home. Our schedule today: walk to the baby home; visit with the kids; meet Dana at the open air market on the way back to the hotel and shop for a while; go to "The Rice Place" for plov; spend the evening in the park - it's the park's birthday today.

It's warm on our walk to the baby home, and we're hoping the kids are in good moods today, as it might be too warm to take them out in the Snugglis. I go for Molly: She's dressed and on the floor playing with Cate and Daniel. The care-giver tells her I'm coming before I enter the room, and when I turn the corner, she's on her belly in what we call the "Superman Pose" - on her belly with arms and legs in the air - and looking in the direction of the doorway. When she sees me, she starts flapping her arms, kicking her legs and banging her toy on the floor. A guy could get used to that greeting every day....

In the boys' room, Aidan and Nicholas are standing in the balls. Unlike the time I put Aidan in there by himself weeks ago, there's no unhappiness today, but Alli reports they're both just standing there unsure of what to do. Perhaps they know whatever arrangements are made between the time they finish lunch and we arrive are temporary prior to our arrival and their relocation to the marble room.

Today is one of our best visits in memory! Molly is in a wonderful mood: laughing, gabbing and saying "dada dada dada" after tickling or when she's particularly pleased with herself (as when she discovers she knows how to clap!). She continues to find creeping/crawling interesting and rewarding, and we're pleased to see more and more of it done on her own initiative. Aidan's hot streak of pleasant days continues. He plays and explores, stopping by to sit with me and watch video we've already shot or to watch me shoot video of Molly, or visiting with Alli to talk with her necklace or just rest his head on her chest. The two of them are just a joy to watch, and I'm sure Alli and I can be found with silly grins on our faces at just about any moment when we're with them.

Dana's waiting for us when we arrive at the open air market @ 3:10. Bob and I buy shirts: He gets a couple with CCCP on them (a red one with the hammer & sickle on the front & CCCP on the back and a blue one with large white CCCP on the front) while I get a navy blue Umbro and a deep blue/almost black adidas. The girls shop but don't buy.

We head for "The Rice Place" just before 5. On the way, our little buddy from next door to Mama and Papa runs up from behind, tugs on my shorts and says hello. With Dana's help, we find out his name is Ibiek and he's anxious to see the photo we took of him with Bob and me. He is so cute! Dana estimates he's no more than 5 or 6, yet he's out running around the market with his wee friends.

Our plov is just as good the second time around. This time, instead of ordering dumplings, we get two orders of bread and a dipping sauce. The bread is very similar to what we get at the shishkabob place and the sauce turns out to be mayonnaise-based and nicely spicey. We all walk back to the hotel after the meal, and while Alli and Dana hang out with Bob & Beth, I crash hard for fifteen minutes. We head over to the park around 7 and find it crowded but not unusually so for a Sunday night. Moreover, we don't hear any music other than the usual accompaniment to the amusement rides and the competing karaoke machines. Olesya had told us to expect a "discotheque" - for old people or young people or perhaps both - so we walk to the city center mall area in search of music and dancing. The stage is empty and there's no music playing anywhere, so we return to the park.

Bob and Dana ride a spinning, tilting ride while Beth, Alli and I watch. When the ride is over, we hear music coming from the band shell just beyond the amusement park. We follow the sound to find what appears to be the same band Alli and I saw at the political rally we happened upon several weeks ago. Dancing to the band are the old people Olesya mentioned: With a very few exceptions, everyone is in their 60's or 70's. We watch for 15-20 minutes and the dancers are having a ball!

Time for a cold drink and a seat in the shade. Dana patiently endures another in the ongoing series of attempts to help us make heads or tails of Russian. I like to tease her about things that make no sense - e.g. the word for hair is not in the word for haircut - and she laughs and tries to explain until she realizes I'm pulling her leg.

After we walk Dana 1/2-way home, we return to the park and find the band has been replaced by a DJ pumping rave music for a crowd 25 to 30 years younger than us on average! With no music for 40-somethings, we head for the hotel. I fall asleep watching soccer, Alli dozes over a magazine. Tomorrow starts at 8 AM with the gym for the boys and walking for the girls. We're off to bed at 12:30....

Saturday, July 23, 2005

July 23rd

The alarm goes off at 7:30 and the young lady arrives to clean our room and change the linens just before 8. She is interrupted once to serve breakfast for other guests but completes her tasks just after 9. Alli and I decide to take a walk to the river. It's a beautiful morning: not a cloud to mar a brilliant blue sky, warm sunshine and a cool, gentle breeze. At the river, we walk to the "resort area" on the other side of the water: It appears to have lodging, a restaurant and a private beach. We also see a number of folks fishing, including two in a small paddled craft: maybe a raft or a dingy. In addition, we see sheep grazing near the water and cattle nearby. Finally, we see a woman Alli & Beth had seen on Friday: The woman has a mature goat and two babies, all pure white, and she "walks" them along the river, not with a leash or any other apparent restraint but, apparently, just by talking to them - and they follow!

On the way back to the hotel, we decide to swing by the pastry shop. Along the way we run into Bob & Beth doing some videotaping in the park. From a distance, it appears he's doing a documentary on pretty women in short skirts - no shortage of either here, by the way -but he assures me he's interested in capturing native flora and fauna. Like I said, pretty women in short skirts.... We leave them to their "work" and find some nice apple cake to take back to the room. We return to the hotel @ 11, have breakfast, shower and dress and pack our backpack for the walk to the baby home.

It's much warmer on the walk, too warm for the kids to be outside. I find Aidan standing in the playpen; Alli
finds Molly finished eating but in need of changing. We convene in the marble room and everybody's in good moods today. Cate & Daniel join us briefly. Molly's pretty much back to herself, playing and gabbing, and she does a little more crawling, some prompted by us, some at her own direction. Aidan is active and playful and visits at different times with Bob, Nicholas, Beth, Daniel and Molly as well as us. We enjoy when both kids play without our involvement, whether that means by themselves, with others or with each other. The kids have learned to entertain themselves here and to play with or, at the very least, in the presence of other kids. We want to encourage the latter & believe it will be important for Molly and Aidan to bond with one another in the same way it has been important for them to bond with us.

We take a different route for our walk home: We leave the baby home entrance and turn right, going a "back way," if you will and winding up near the "Spinach Tea Place." (Along the way, Alli and Beth show us a short-cut Dana had shown them on their walk home last night: It cuts the corner from The Navigator to the Kazakh- French Cultural Center and saves about five minutes each way when walking Dana home from the area of our hotel!) When we reach the park, Alli goes back to the hotel for a nap and I continue to the Internet Cafe to read and respond to e-mail. Alli's sound asleep when I get back to the room. After she wakes, we have a few minutes to relax before Dana arrives for dinner.

We return to the Art Cafe and sit outside. It's warm, but we find some shade and enjoy what breeze there is. They offer a beer on tap of which we've never heard and a variety of bottled beers we've tried and like. I ask several times if the bottled beer is cold and am assured each time it is. It isn't: The beer is warm but it's served with a frosted mug. We go for - and enjoy - the draft selection for round two. It's cold AND served in a frosted mug! Otherwise, we enjoy a nice meal & some pretty good dance music while eating. In addition, there is a Kazakh wedding reception inside, and when our music is between songs, we can hear snippets of wedding songs and karaoke.

NOTE: Friday and Saturday are wedding days here. It is common to see several wedding parties in the park at the same time having pictures taken. Wedding parties are generally very small: the bride and groom and one attendant each. Today, we see a beautiful young bride on the arm of a man we assume must be her father. Dana corrects us and points out the older man is her new husband: We estimate he might be 20 or 25 years older than she, but Dana says such arrangements are common.

After walking Dana home, we stop in the Gros for a few bathroom supplies (soap and TP) and a bag of cookies for movie night. Tonight's feature: "Face Off" with John Travolta and Nicholas Cage. The movie ends after 11:30 and we hit the sack without further delay.

Friday, July 22, 2005

July 22nd

The alarm sounds at 7:30am. It's a gym day for Pat and Bob. Beth and I also head out at 8:00am to go for a walk. The sun is shining and the weather is already warm (but not beastly hot like we hear it is at home). We're both wearing shorts. Victory Park is our destination. We run into Dana along the way. She is going to work. We stop and chat for a minute and then continue our walk. We do several laps around the park before heading back into town. When we get back to town we decide to keep on walking and go to the river. Our last stop is the pastry shop before going back to the hotel. We walked for 2 hours and 20 minutes. I rinse and wring a pair of pants I have soaking in the sink and write in my journal. I have one more day to do and then I'll be caught up. WHEW! Pat returns from the gym just of few minutes after me. His workout was good. Ping pong was fun but he ended up one down for the day at 7-6. The summer series now stands at 86-74 with Bob in the lead. I finish journaling, eat a bowl of cereal and shower. Pat gets our stuff together after his shower and we're ready to go. Bob and Beth knock at 12:15pm.

It's another warm walk to the baby home. Our friends are not in their usual spot today when we pass by. We get to the baby home and find the children outside. Molly is snoozing in her crib when I arrive. Mama Bibigoul wakes her. Molly is dressed in tiny underpants and a bonnet. Mama Bibigoul diapers her and hands her to me. Molly has not eaten and lunch has yet to arrive. I sing to her (Molly Had a Little Lamb) while we wait. She is not quite awake yet and looks at me like I have 3 heads. Lunch is served and I feed Molly. Today's menu includes applesauce, ground meat and carrots served with a shot of pear juice. Molly cleans her plate - no surprise there. I wash her face, dress her in a pink onsie, find a pair of sock and babushka and we're ready to go. Everyone is in the marble room including Cate and Daniel. Daniel is making great strides and is now comfortable joining the kids in play on the floor. Molly is out of sorts again today. She shows little interest in her toys at first. We take turns sitting her on our laps and she seems content to do this. I bounce her on my knee and get a little smile. Olesya arrives after her massage and we have Molly creep for her. Everyone claps. Aidan is equally disinterested in toys. He prefers to try and crawl into the hallway and is quite persistent with his attempts. Pat and Beth each foil his plans several times. He is then content to stand at the sofa and play with the ziplock bag filled with nuks and nipples. He then visits with my necklace for a few minutes. We rub foreheads and he head butts me to both of our sursprise. He rests his head on my chest. I look away for a minute and then look back to find his eyes closed. I hand Aidan to Pat and he puts him on his shoulder. A few minutes later I notice Pat's eyes beginning to close. He stretches out on the couch and falls asleep with Aidan on his chest. They both sleep peacefully for about 20 minutes. Aidan doesn't wake up until Pat puts him in his crib. I put Molly in her crib. She puts her head down while I rub her back. Her head pops up when I stop to leave. We meet out front and take the bus back to the hotel.

Pat and I stop at the Gros for Pringles and Coke on our way to the Internet Cafe. We need to get the Blog up to date and will post two entries each. Our progress is slow as connectivity is less than speedy. We get our entries posted and have time to quickly check email. Not a lot of time to respond. We head back to the hotel after 3 hours at the Internet Cafe.

We run into Dana in front of the hotel on the way back. We drop off our stuff while she knocks for Bob and Beth. We decide on dinner at the Dom. We find a table outside in the shade and enjoy another good meal. We pay the bill and go back to the hotel. Pat and Bob are going to watch Braveheart while the girls play cards. Dana teaches us a Russian card game called Fool. It is fun but somewhat complicated and it takes Beth and I several practice rounds to get the hang of it. The game is called Fool because if you loose you get a letter and when one player spells F-O-O-L the game is over. Despite feeling like I was doing well I end up being the Fool. I console myself with an ice cream bar. At 10:00pm we knock on Bob's door to let the guys know we will be walking Dana home. We arrive back at the hotel at 10:45pm. Pat watches soccer and I read. Lights out at 12:30pm.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

July 21st

Our beautiful daughter Molly is 9 months old today. Up at 9:00am to do some much needed laundry. We are each down to our last pair of underwear. We're done at 10:30am and decide to reward ourselves with pastries. We head to the pastry place and find that it is already very warm out. The sun is shining and there is not a cloud in the sky. We eat our pastries and get ready to go to the baby home.

It's is even warmer on our walk to the baby home. We stop on the way to "chat" with our friends. Mama is there along with a few other women. Papa is not around. He is not feeling well we're "told". We say our goodbyes and continue our walk. We see the little boy we know running towards us. He shakes hands with Pat and Bob. I take a picture of the three "boys". We arrive at the baby home to find the kid inside. Bob, Beth and I go for the boys. Aidan is standing in the small playpen. He grins when I say hello and tickle him under his chin. He's wearing a cute teddy bear print onsie and socks. Asiem gets hats for the boys and we're off to the marble room. Pat and Molly arrive a few minutes later. She is wearing her sleeveless velvet tunic and white cotton biker-style shorts. Quite the look. Molly was on her back in the group playpen when Pat arrived in her room. Cate was there with Daniel and said that Molly had been laying there for a while yelling at everyone. The poor girl is teething and out of sorts. Aidan on the other hand is in a great mood - laughing, smiling and very active. Molly continues to "yell" in the marble room. She's not interested in playing with toys. I pick her up and hold her on my lap. This works for a while. Aidan wisely steers clear of his sister. When Molly begins to fuss again we load the kids in their Snuglis and go for a walk. Both Molly and Aidan are content to be outside. We do several laps around the baby home and stop to watch cars. We head back inside and it's time to pack up. Bob, Beth and I take the boys back to their room. Olesya accompanies us. We'd like to take pictures of the boys with Asiem and Mama Gelena. They are happy to have their picture take with the boys and we snap a few good ones. When we're done with the photo session we put Aidan and Nicholas in their cribs and meet Pat out front. We take the bus back to the hotel.

Dana arrives at 3:30pm. We're trying the Museum again today. Good news. We find the museum open when we get there. Tickets cost 50TT each. The museum is small but interesting. There are only two floors and the displays range from ancient Kazakh artifacts to WWII memorabilia. Also on display is the inside of a typical Kazakh yurt - the portable lodging of the nomadic Kazakh family. The yurt is similar to the Native American tee-pee. When we finish the tour we see a man sitting in the yurt display playing a traditional Kazakh stringed instrument. We listen for a while. He is being filmed. It's 5:00pm and the museum is closing. We discuss options for dinner and settle on the Gold Cafe. Bob was ill the last time we went and did not go with us.

Dinner is a bit of a disappointment. The food is good but the service is lousy!! The waitress is rude to Dana when she orders. We're told it will take 45 minutes to be served even thought we're the only ones in the restaurant. We suggest leaving but Dana does not want to go. Maybe this is not done here? Our meals arrive about and hour later and the waitress does not have anything for Dana. She argues with Dana saying that she never ordered a meal. That was that. No apology and she wasn't going to bring anything else. Beth shares her meal with Dana after much protesting. Pat suggest that we short-pay the bill - a 10% service charge is automatically included - but Dana say no we cannot do that. We leave and agree not to return. We walk Dana 1/2 way home and are back at the hotel by 8:30pm.

Pat and I write in our journal as we are both many days behind. We've been so busy. We find it difficult to remember the exact details of even a few days ago. We decide not to get that far behind again. Lights out at 12:30am.

July 20th

Bob and I start the day @ the gym and the girls - Alli, Beth and Cate -go for a walk with plans to meet up with Dana and see her school (she returned to work on Monday and goes in for three hours each morning). We work out a little longer than usual as the ping-pong tables are uncommonly popular this morning. When we get on a table, we play 11 games and I take the day 6-5. It's nice to win a day, but I'll never catch Bob at this rate....

The girls stopped for pastries again: pineapple pastries and raspberry cake. Mmmmmmm..... After breakfast, we shower and dress for the walk to the baby home.

The kids are in great spirits today! The highlight of the day is Molly crawling (OK, creeping)for the first time. As you know, we have been encouraging her to crawl for the past several days. Today, we turned her over to Sgt. Bob's Bootcamp for intensive, won't-take-no-for-an-answer, gung-ho Marine inspiration and training. At one point, she moves several inches, and Gunny Bob ups the stakes, moving the toy du jour about two feet from her. As we all cheer her on, Bob has to ward off Nicholas's interests while Molly considers her options in the starting block. Finally, she makes her move, and we capture her triumph on videotape amid much rejoicing. She seems quite pleased with herself and celebrates by beating her brothers head like a bongo when he stops by to talk to her socks. Being the responsible parents-in-training we are, Alli and I laugh out loud, which makes Molly laugh and the beating continue. Aidan doesn't appear to notice or mind: We think the socks told him it was OK....

After walking home, Alli and I hit the internet cafe. Cate and Zhanat are there when we arrive and tell us it's painfully slow today. We find they are not exaggerating shortly before Cate gives up and goes home. We persevere, but we are there for nearly 2 1\2 hours just reading and responding to e-mail! It's so slow we play games of Free Cell while waiting for e-mails to open or reply screens to come up...

It's nearly 6 PM when we leave. We're meeting Olesya @ 8 to go to the "Shishkabob PLace" where the four of us, Cate and Olesya will join Dana in celebrating Dana's upcoming birthday (which is not until August 4, but the "Shiskabob Place" is her favorite, and with Olesya's condition, we don't know whether we will have another chance to go before we go home and/or with Olesya as part of the group). Alli and I shake off the slow internet blues over a couple of cold beers at an outdoor cafe across from the hotel and begin to discuss/formulate plans for the first several days following our return home. Bob and Beth stop by to say hello on their way home from the Gros. After they head back to the hotel, we wrap up around 7:30 and pay the tab: 320 Tenghe (about $2.50) for four draft pints!

Olesya and the cars are waiting when the four of us go downstairs at 8:00, and we're off for the evening. As has been the case on our previous visits, the food is excellent, the entertainment enjoyable and the dance floor fun! We take some great shots of our group (and sneak in a few of the belly dancers!). At somewhere around 37 weeks pregnant, Olesya still manages to join us for several dances (though she's mortified when Bob and I pretend to make ourselves ready to catch the iminent delivery) and enjoys a couple of cold beers. One can only imagine hanging out with this girl when she's not ready to drop!

The night ends too soon at 11:30. The cars drop us at the hotel and continue on to take Olesya and Dana home. It was a great ending to a great day and we're exhausted. We're in bed by midnight....

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

July 19th

Nothing on the agenda this morning. We stay in bed until 9:30am. I shower and we go to the Internet cafe. We did not go yesterday and won't have time to go after the baby home again today. Pat posts an entry to the Blog and I check email. I also copy the latest pictures we'd like to make prints of to disk. Pat runs into a glitch saving his Blog entry and loses 1/2 of the entry. He has to re-type what was lost. Bob and Beth arrive to check email. We're running behind and ask them to take the disk to the photocopy center which they gladly do. We get back to the room with just enough time for Pat to shower and for me to wolf down a bowl of cereal. It's 12:15pm and time to go. Pat takes his yogurt on the road.

We see Mama and Papa on the way to the baby home. We say hello, kiss and shake hands. We do not see the young girls and give Mama their pictures.

The kids are inside. Molly for me and Aidan for Pat. I find Molly sitting in the group playpen giving instructions to the children around her. She see me and leans towards me. I pick her up, change and dress her and we go. We stop to get the weeble doll on the way. The kids are good today. Bob, Beth and Nicholas go for a walk and we stay in the marble room and play. It's a typical day. Molly plays with toys and chatters. Aidan explores and climbs. Bob, Beth and Nicholas return from their walk. Molly begins to fuss so we load the kids in their Snuglis. We get 1/2 way around the baby home when I notice that Molly's head is on her chest. She is fast asleep. This looks uncomfortable to us so we take her out of the Snugli and change her position from outward to inward facing. Molly continues to sleep peacefully. We do a few more laps and go back inside. I stop at the mirrow in the hallway like I usually do. Today is the first time that Aidan sees and recognizes his own reflection. He smiles at the handsome boy looking at him. Molly wakes up when Pat takes her out of the Snugli. He hands her to Bob and she is content to sit in his lap while Pat packs up our gear. Bob is equally content to have her on his lap. We take the kids back to their rooms and double-time it back to the hotel. We're meeting Olesly at 3:15pm to go to the Russian Orthodox church.

We arrive back at the hotel at 3:10pm to find Olesya waiting in the lobby. We take our stuff to our rooms and we're ready to go. We take the bus to the church. We immediately see the church's distinctive gold onion shaped domes when we get off the bus. It is a new church built within the last year or so. The original church which is made of wood and much smaller remains standing next to the new one. We enter the church and there is a small table to the left of the doorway with scarves and aprons on it. Olesya, Beth and I must cover our heads and wear an apron. The church is ornate and we spend about 45 minutes looking around. We are permitted to take pictures and we do. When we are done we take the bus back into town and go to the mall. We need a blank video tape and Olesya needs a few things. When we're done shopping we find a table at an outdoor cafe and have a drink. We say goodbye to Olesya and head back to the hotel to meet Dana.

Dana arrives at 5:30pm as does Cate. Tonight we're getting take out from the pizza place and going to Cate's appartment to play poker. Dana phones in the order from our room. It will be ready in 30 minutes she's told. We hang out and chat for a while and then walk to the pizza place. Dana and Bob go in to pick up the order and come right back. Dana is told it will be ready in 30 minutes. So much for calling ahead. Take out is a relatively foreign concept here. We go into a few shops to kill time and our order is ready when we get back. Pizza and poker at Cate's is a big success. We all enjoy ourselves although Dana is not sure she likes poker. We wrap up at 10:00pm. Pat, Bob, Beth and I walk Dana 3/4 of the way home tonight. Taking the bus is not an option for her since bus service stops at 10:00pm. We walk through the park on the way back and it is still crowded.

We get back to the hotel shortly before 11:00pm. I attempt a crossword puzzle and Pat watches TV. To bed at midnight.

Monday, July 18, 2005

July 18th

Bob and I head to the gym at 8: We're the first ones there and few others join us in the first hour. It's very quiet and purposeful: The only sounds are the clanging of free weights, the clicking of the universal-type weight machines, the skipping of the jump rope and the occasional grunt of exertion. We're playing ping-pong by 9:10 and we have some extra time today, as the girls are walking to Victory Park and back and plan to return to the hotel @ 10:30. We play 13 games and Bob takes the day 8-5, widening his series lead to 75-63. I'm playing better, but he continues to play patiently and very well, and making up ground will be difficult.

Alli & Beth make a detour to the pastry shop, and there's fresh cherry pastry when we get back! Olesya is coming @ noon - she and the girls are going to buy flowers for Dr. Irina, who celebrated her 55th birthday over the weekned. Bob and I walk to the baby home and visit with our friends along the way. We give them a new photo - just Mama and Papa - and show Mama the photo of the little boy with his dog. She gets very animated, points next door as if to say she will go see if he is home and - as best she can at 75 - runs over to knock at the gate. Two young girls answer the knock: Apparently he is not home yet again. I give them the photo and Bob asks to have his picture taken with them. Another girl walks over, and when they see the first photo, they ask if we'll take a picture of the three girls. No sooner is that done than grandmother emerges from the gate and we take a photo of the three girls and grandmother. It's a simple thing to do and has given so many people so much joy....

At the baby home, Bob and I go to Dr. Irina's new office - she is in the process of moving from a second floor location to one just inside the main entrance. She took us on a tour of the new office last week and mentioned the larger space will allow her to entertain guests more comfortably, while her window overlooking the front door will allow her to see everyone coming & going. The girls agreed the best feature is the private bath (with shower stall): Dr. Irina related how on those occasions when many are in line to use the facilities - remember the entire medical and care-giver staff is women - her rank as head doctor affords her no privilege. Now, she will stand in line no more!

Anyway, she's not in the new office so we go outside to get the boys. we arrive to find them both being fed. Nicholas is done first, then changed and handed to Bob. While Aidan is being dressed, Alli comes by to say Dr. Irina would like us to join her (in her old office - who knew?) for champagne. I give Aidan to Alli, she and Bob go ahead and I go for Molly. She, too, is being fed, so when she is diapered and dressed, we join the party. In addition to champagne (and bottled water for Dr. Irina - she's diabetic and doesn't drink - and Olesya - very pregnant and will not drink in front of the doctor) there are candies and cookies. There was singing before I arrived and several nice toasts after, including

Dr. Irina drinks to us and to our children and expresses her hope that we have had a good experience here and will go home and tell others the good things about adoptiong in Kostanai, as she is afraid too many people go home and have only bad things to say.
Dr. Irina drinks again to us and our children, wishing us the best of health, success and money and all the good things in life.
Olesya drinks to Dr. Irina. Clearly she admires the doctor, and they enjoy a special relationship involving mutual professional respect & real friendship.
Ever the charmer, I wish the doctor a happy 29th birthday!
Always a lady, Molly contributes a resounding belch!

The kids are pretty good througout: Aidan talks happily to the coat rack, Nicholas gums a cookie into submission and Molly takes a keen interest in my champagne.

We adjourn to the marble room for a great visit. Molly is becoming increasingly mobile: She goes from belly to sitting and back to belly, moving around the room unconventionally but effectively. I don't know that she has a route or specific itinerary, but she's no longer confined to a specific spot on the floor. Today she rolls herself into a corner where the sofa meets one of the chairs. She complains loudly - and comically - while Dad videotapes and Mom encourages her from off camera. Molly manages to reach a toy, then rolls onto her back and winds up between the sofa cushions and the floor. We get her unstuck and seated in the middle of the floor where she protests her ill treatment and, in mid-complaint, shoves a football in her mouth. The videotape is hilarious!

Aidan is VERY green today. Including the egg over his eye, he's bathed in the green medicine usually reserved for bug bites. He and Mom enjoy a spirited game of "stinky feet" - Alli rolls him on her back and puts his feet in his face, making him grin and laugh. He also crawls over to one of the chairs and, without prompting or assistance, pulls HIM- SELF into a standing position. He is more active and engaged every day and seems to laugh more, too, whether we're tickling or playing with him or he's exploring on his own and talking to whatever he happens to find. He's got a way to go before catching up to Molly in the feistiness & expressiveness departments, but he's making progress.

After our visit, we double-time it back to the hotel to meet Dana for a visit to the local museum. Unfortunately, the museum is closed when we walk over, so we decide to walk down to the river. Folks are swim- ming and fishing and a couple of boys are playing with a soccer ball on the footbridge. I join them for 10 minutes then head over to join Alli, Beth and Bob for a rock skipping contest.

After the river, we walk to the open air market: Bob needs to stock up on almonds and raisins. It's VERY hot in the late afternoon sun. Our discussion of dinner plans focuses on someplace cool, i.e. outdoors in the shade or indoors where there is air conditioning. We settle on the Russian Pub, and though we're too early for some of our first entree choices, we enjoy another nice meal. After walking Dana 1/2-way home, we have another movie night at Bob & Beth's: Tonight, "Helen of Troy." It's very long and, for my money, not as good as "Troy" with Brad Pitt.

After the movie, and in consideration of the nearly eight miles we walked today, it's straight to bed.

July 17th

The alarm goes off at 8:30, Beth calls at 8:40. Cate won't be joining us for mass, but she offers us the services of her driver (Zhanat's husband) in the event Andre does not come (we did not confirm his services with Olesya on Friday and were unable to reach her last night). Andre is not at the hotel by 9:40, so Beth calls Zhanat, who suggests it could take 5 to 10 minutes for her husband to arrive. It's 9:45 by the time they finish speaking, and none of us wants to walk into mass late, but we have little choice. Fortunately, our driver arrives at 9:50 and we are in our pews as the organist is finishing leading the congregation through the day's hymns.

We have Fr. not-Stanislav again today. Very serious last time, he is more animated today and his tone much lighter during his homily. We all remark we wish we could understand what he is saying. He is always very reverent, and at communion makes the sign of the cross with the host while administering the sacrament (there is no cup for the congregation). The congregation are also very reverent when receiving: All genuflect or bow deeply, those receiving do so on their tongues (no hands), and those not receiving - I assume they are not yet in full communion - receive a blessing on their foreheads. I am impressed by the piety and sincerity of these people.

After church, Alli and I return to the photo place. Again, they are quite busy: Two of the folks who take pictures for a living on the mall and in the park are ahead of us and working from cards and disks to select prints and sizes. We are on line behind them, but a third gentlemen walks ahead of us with a digital camera card and, undoubtedly, another large order. I'm not certain we are in the right line, but we're in a line, and I'm annoyed this guy queue barged on us. Frankly, though, orderly lines aren't among the things kazakhs do well, so I'm not sure I'd have much of a complaint even if I could give voice to it. We leave and plan to bring Dana back with us later.

Dana joins us for our walk to the baby home. We've asked her along to meet the kids and speak for us with our elderly friends. We meet the latter along the way and learn
1. they are husband and wife as we had guessed
2. he is Alexander, 78 and she is Magda (or something close to it), 75
3. they are Tatar, not Kazakh or Russian, and their language is a mix of the three
4. they have lived in the same home for 63 years - we ask Dana if it is likely they could have
married at 15 and 12 and she says it would not have been uncommon back then
5. they are proud to say they worked hard all their lives - he as a driver, she a factory worker -
and she has many medals for hard work
6. they have 3 children, 4 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren
7. they are both in good health - all her teeth are her own! - and she hopes to live to be 100

They tell us the little boy whose photo we took with his dog yesterday, and who lives next door, came by this morning dressed in his best clothes and asking when we might return to take his photo again. Mama Magda goes to knock for him but receives no answer at the gate.

They ask about our "business" in Kostanai - professing we are friends now and can confide in them - but Dana is evasive as we had agreed she would be. They ask again about having something to eat. Dana tells them our schedule keeps us verry bust and thanks them for their kindness. Finally, we promise to visit them each day we can, though we remind them we will not have Dana along most days. Mama wishes us long lives filled with good health & happiness and we're on our way, promising to stop by later to see if the little boy is home.

Alli goes with Bob & Beth for the boys, Dana and I go for Molly. Dana has seen pictures of the kids on several occasions and knows Molly is a big girl. Seeing in person, however, is believing! I let Dana hold her in the kids' room and carry her downstairs. Dana is 5'2" at most and might be 100 lbs. soaking wet: Molly's got her winded by the time we reach the marble room. Everyone else joins us shortly after we arrive. Aidan's got a good-sized egg over his right eye. Alli asked about it and one of the care-givers pointed to four of the boys and the playpen, then mimed a wrestling match. It appears our little guy got the worst of it.

He's in good spirits nevertheless, as are Molly and Nicholas, and the three of them surround Dana on the floor. She's great with them, reading, playing with toys and speaking with them in Russian and Kazakh. I get video of her with all the kids and still shots of her with Molly & Aidan. When Nicholas fusses a bit, Bob & Beth take him out for a walk. Not long after, Aidan crawls over to where I'm seated on the couch, pulls himself up to stand at lap level, looks up at me and raises his arms. I pick him up and put him on my shoulder, and he's out cold in under a minute. The girls continue to play with Molly, but it's not long before she's rubbing her eyes and pulling at her ears. I hand Aidan to Dana and get pictures of Alli and Dana holding sleeping babies.

We stop briefly to see Mama & Papa - the little boy is still not home - then it's off to lunch. A woman we met prior to our trip - Amy Rothman - had been here approximately a year ago and had recommended we try a restaurant she called "The Rice Place." It's near the open air market, just around the corner from Mama and Papa's, and we are soon enjoying a meal of plov (rice with carrots, scallions and beef) and "big dumplings" (think wontons filled with ground beef and onions). The food is as good as Amy said but a lot for mid-afternoon: We're all a little sleepy as we walk out into the still hot late afternoon sun.

We discuss plans for ice cream later and decide to invite Cate to join us. Alli, Dana and I head for the photo shop to order prints for later pick-up then hit the Internet cafe for e-mail. Cate's there and takes a pass on ice cream. We finish internetting, pick up the prints and return to the hotel by 6. We hang out in Bob & Beth's room until 7:15 then go for ice cream.

The ice cream place is as modern-looking an establishment as we've seen, a very hip-feeling coffee shop. A dozen or fifteen IKEA-style love seats and chairs dot the tiny room, each covered with colorful, braided floor/area rugs - looks cooler than it sounds - and served by one or two tiny tables. An in-wall TV plays MTV and an interactive music channel to which viewers may vote on the play list. The menu features coffees, espresso and capucino, a variety of teas, desserts and an assortment of interesting cocktails. Bob & Dana order vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and almonds slices, Beth and I get vanilla ice cream with fresh fruit chunks and strawberry syrup, and Alli gets a tiramisu-type cake. She and Beth also get tea, and everything is VERY GOOD!

Afterward, we walk Dana 1/2-way home and return to the hotel at 9:30. Alli works a crossword puzzle while I watch Celtic top Juventus 4-3 in an old Champions' League match. Lights out at 12"30 - gym tomorrow at 8.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

July 16th

Nothing on the schedule this morning so we sleep in. We get out of bed at 9:30am, shower and head to the park to write in our journals. The weather has broken and it is beautifully sunny. We find a spot in the sun. There is a small crowd in front of the university. They are dressed in short and t-shirts and are wearing race numbers. We're only there for a few minutes when the race starts. Our bench in on the course and we have front row seats. We notice one man running in sandles. The racers pass us by three times (the winner laps the field) and the event is quickly over. We guess they ran 1 1/2 to 2 miles. We move to a bench in the shade. The sun is strong even at 10:30am. An older man in running shorts approaches us. He begins a conversation and I tell him that we don't speak Russian. This does not discourage him and he continues to chat with us for a few minutes. He seems to be curious about our journals. Are we writing about the race he wonders. We think he tells us he's going to see if he can find someone that speaks English and come back. He must not have had any luck because we don't see him again. Bob and Beth stroll by. Bob is feeling better and wanted to stretch his legs before our walk to the baby home. We go back to the hotel and have a quick breakfast before it's time to go.

We see our friends on the way to the baby home. We give Papa the picture of himself, Beth and me. He is quite pleased and after showing it to Mama and the others assembled there he whisks it away into the house. The conversation is lively dispite the difference in language. Bob and I each take a picture of Mama and Papa. We tell them we'll bring them the picture tomorrow. Mama extends what appears to be an invitation to come tomorrow for something to eat. We thought this might be a possibility (being invited to eat) and as much as we would like to take them up on their kind offer we cannot. We are concerned that they would offer us something we should not eat or drink and would not want to insult them by refusing. We do our best to change the subject and say our goodbyes. We decide that we will ask Dana to accompany us to the baby home and help us talk to our friends. A few houses down Pat snap a photo of a little boy we often see. The boy has his new puppy with him. Both are adorable. We'll bring you a picture tomorrow we tell him and get a big grin.

The kids are inside today. I find Molly on her belly in the group playpen. I enter the room and hers is one of the many little heads I see through the rails. We make eye contact and her face brightens. I pick her up and take her to the changing table. Mama Bibigoul consults me about Molly's outfit. Just socks with her onsie or the turquoise stretch pants? I point to the socks. I am surprised and pleased to have been asked. Mama Bibigoul picks a floral print bucket hat to complete the ensemble. Molly and I head out picking up the weeble doll along the way. We are the last to arrive in the marble room. Pat reports that he found Aidan in a walker when he arrived in the boys room. He was scooting around pretty well and followed Pat to the changing table when he dropped off the diapers. Bob and Beth take Nicholas outside for a walk. It's just the Donohoes in the marble room. The kids are in excellent spirits. Molly plays happily with her toys. We see her on her knees a few times. I waltz around the room with Aidan and brush the curtains across his face. This makes him laugh. We notice that now when he laughs he puts his hands behind his head. Bob and Beth get back with Nicholas and we take Molly and Aidan for a walk. As usual, the kids enjoy being outside. We see Cate and Daniel and stop to say hello. We walk a few feet outside of the gate to get closer to the road. We find a shady spot and hang out for a bit. We want the children to get used to sounds outside the baby home. They follow the cars and buses as they go by. We walk for about 20 minutes and head back inside. It's time to go. We kiss our babies and take them back to their rooms. We can hardly wait to see them again tomorrow. We walk back to the hotel.

To the Internet cafe. We each post an entry but that's it for today. Something has gone wrong with the connection to the Internet and we cannot access our email. We pack up and go back to the hotel.

Dana arrives at 5:30pm as does Cate. Bob is feeling much better so he will join us for dinner. We opt for an old standard - the Dom - and we're in luck tonight. They have shishkabobs. Cate, Beth and I order the pork. We drink Baltika tonight - 7 not 9! We take advantage of the pleasant evening and walk Dana 1/2 way home. We hug, say goodnight and are back at the hotel by 9:30pm. Pat watches TV and I read. We both nod off at some point. To bed at 11:30pm.

Friday, July 15, 2005

July 15th

The alarm goes off at 7:30am and we awaken to another crappy day. The weather is a carbon copy of the day before. Bob calls to say that he is not feeling great and is going to skip the gym. Pat thinks this is some kind of plan to squelch his recent momentum. He heads to the gym alone to workout. I attempt to fall back asleep without success and get up to write in my journal. Pat returns from the gym. He writes in his journal a bit and then we bundle up and go for pastries. We setttle on a large cherry/cheese one that we'll split and also by two pieces of what looks like raspberry coffee cake. "To go, please." we say in Russian. Another new phrase we've recently learned. I head directly to the hotel and Pat stops at the Gros for some much needed toilet paper and juice. I run into Beth back at the hotel. She is on her way to the Gros. Bob is feeling a little better and has requested some 7-up. We discuss taking the bus given the weather and Bob's condition. We'll meet at 12:40pm. Pat arrives back at the room. We eat our pastries, read a bit and get showered.

Bob and Beth knock on the door at the appointed time. "How are you?" we ask Bob. "Super." he replies. Clearly he is stretching the truth. We get outside to find that while it's still overcast the rain has stopped.

We get to the baby home, divy up the diapers and go for our assigned child. Molly for Pat and Aidan for me. We find Aidan and Nicholas standing in the small playpen. I say hello and he grins. The boys are ready to go. The music in their room is crankin'. I dance with Aidan in front of the group playpen. He smiles and the other children rock back and forth. After our dance we head to the marble room. Aidan and I play while we wait for Daddy and Molly. He is in very good spirits. I drive a truck on his belly while making truck sounds. He finds this entertaining. Pat and Molly arrive. She is wearing the torquoise stretch pants we love so much. We haven't seen these in a while. Pat had to wait for Molly to be fed. Mama Bibigoul had Pat put on Molly's t-shirt and tunic. She wiggled around but he got her buttoned up. Molly is also in good spirits. All of the children are active today. The boys crawl around exploring. They stop to play with a toy now and again. They both wind up under the coffee table and play with the blocks that are there. Molly gathers the toys around her and carefully monitors the inventory. One for me - none for Aidan - two for me - I'll take that Aidan - and so on. We experiment with a suggestion from our friend Susie - Pat holds Molly's belly up while she is on her hands and knees in a crawling position. She doesn't move but she doesn't fuss either. We'll keep at this and see what comes of it. Aidan spends time investigating Pat's face. One of his favorite activities. I waltz around the room with Molly and then it's time to go. We look over at Bob and see that he is turning green. There is a stong smell of roasting galic and chicken coming from the kitchen. He opts to wait outside while we take the kids back to their rooms. We leave both Molly and Aidan in their cribs wide awake. We bus back to the hotel. The sun is peeking through the clouds. A welcome sight.

To the Internet cafe. My shameless hints on the Blog have increased our email volume to a more satisfactory level. Dispite the the fact that we are still enjoying our time here immensely, pangs of homesickness find us now and again. We only check email today. We have a lot of company at the Internet cafe. First Beth arrives, then Cate and finally Dana. We invite Cate to dinner. She had a late lunch but will join us for dessert. We run back to the hotel for Beth while Dana finishes her email. Bob is not up to dinner.

We try a new restaurant that Olesya recommended to us this afternoon at the baby home. It is called Cafe Gold and is located across the street from the medical college. We know where this is.
The restaurant is on the second floor of the building and looks new. We select a booth. The seating is a cressent shaped blue velvet couch. Dinner is very good. Dana and Beth order the cutlett. Pat has a chicken dish with a funny sounding name and I have a dish referred to as "French meats". It is thin slices of pork covered with scalloped potato augratin. Tasty. Pat has two Baltika 9s with his meal. I have two Derbes' (another variety of beer from Kazakhstan). The girls get ice cream for dessert. The sun is out and it's a pleasant evening. We walk Dana 1/2 way home. Pat, Beth and I stop at the Gros on the way back to the hotel. We buy diapers (the next size up (4) for Molly), ice cream and chocolate bars. There is live entertainment on a stage in the square and we stop briefly to watch. We arrive back at the room at 10:00pm. Pat immediately falls asleep on the couch (that Baltika 9 has a kick he says later) and I finish my book. To bed at midnight.

July 14th

It's a lazy start today. The alarm goes off at 8:30, we get out of bed at 9:30 and head to the mall across the street at 10:30. It's the most miserable day we've seen weather-wise: cold and rainy and blow-your-umbrella-inside-out windy. We're in search of note paper & envelopes, and we find they sell note paper and note books and greeting cards - but none with envelopes. We buy Dana a notepad, as the one she had been using when we go out to dinner was full several days ago and she has not replaced it. After the mall, Alli opts not to go to the pastry shop and instead returns to the hotel. I brave the tempest for naught: The pickings are quite slim and I arrive home empty- handed.

We bus to the baby home. Even the short walk from the bus on in is unpleasant, and there is much consterna- tion among the care-givers when they see Alli in open-toed sandals and no socks! As previously discussed, these folks take their inclement weather wardrobe seriously....

I join Bob & Beth to get the boys: They are fed and dressed and standing in the playpen ready to go. Alli goes for Molly, who is finishing her lunch. She sees Alli and smiles and kicks her legs. The care-giver makes quick work of the after-lunch wash and delivers her to "Mama" to be diapered and dressed. A great deal of wiggling & squirming ensues and spare diapers go flying. Molly believes diapering and dressing are interactive, participatory activities planned as much for her amusement, apparently, as good hygiene.

Downstairs it's all hands on deck as Cate and Daniel join out merry band. Daniel is still a bit clingy & not too adventurous when playing in numbers. Molly & Aidan and Nicholas roll and crawl around and litter the floor with toys. Molly gets her hands on a toy bowling pin, and Nicholas narrowly escapes a beating about the head and neck. The squeaky toy pig is not so lucky: Unable to move out of her reach, the little porker is defenseless and our sweet darling beats the squeak out of him.

Aidan scurries here and there, stopping as he goes to examine whatever he finds. Both he and Nicholas enjoy crawling over outstretched adult legs, though they tend to get stuck if the legs are crossed. Molly and Aidan meet in the middle of the room where a toy drum has captured their mutual interest. Aidan is leaning with two hands on the drum, his feet under him, his butt in the air; Molly is leaning forward from a sitting position, her hands on the drum, her head resting against his. They appear to be supporting each other's precarious balance with their noggins! We videotape and wait anxiously for this house of cards to fall in upon itself, but they break apart without incident or injury.

Aidan starts to fuss a bit - time to walk the halls with Daddy for a few minutes. While we're gone, Alli gets GREAT video of Molly laughing as Olesya tickles her. When Aidan and I get back, the odor of a dirty diaper fills the room, and the winner is: Nicholas! First time we've seen the kid poop in more than a month of visits! Beth does the honors as Bob cowers in a chair across the room, sweating and mumbling something about gag reflex. So much for the hardened, trained-killer Marine.... Molly is put off by the whole shameful affair and demands a walk in the halls of her own. She and I return right at 2:30.

The weather is still miserable as we leave. Olesya joins us for the bus ride home: We get off a block from the hotel and she continues to her apartment. (When we arrived, she was living with her boyfriend's mother in the mother's apartment while Olesya's apt. was undergoing renovation for three months. She returned to her own apt. last weekend. We asked her once if living with her boyfriend's mother was OK and whether they got along. With her usual dead-pan, she replied, "Of course, yes." Then with a twinkle, she continued, "She loves me," and finally, with a devil- ish grin, she said, "I LIKE her" and giggled madly.)

Alli and I go to the Internet Cafe: Alli Blogs (7/13) while I read and reply to e-mail. Cate arrives and Alli shows her how to e-mail pictures home. We leave just before 5 so we can be back to the hotel before Dana arrives at 5:30. We're still determined to give Baron Munchausen's one more try, and we're pleased to find the tables are already set (you might remember our last attempt)and they are open. Dinner takes more than two hours and we are the only patrons. We enjoy salads: Alli, Bob and Dana get one with cheese, apples, almonds & cucumbers in yogurt; Beth has one w/chicken, carrots & garlic in olive oil; and I have chicken, ham, apples and oranges in mayonnaise served in hollowed-out orange rinds. Bob and Alli have soup - chicken noodle and German sausage - and the entrees include chicken and pork "on a stick." Bob and the girls top off the meal with very fancy ice cream desserts complete with "French syrup" for the girls and paper parasols for everyone. Munchausen was worth the wait and effort for the return trip!

We walk Dana to the bus stop - still raining - then we head back to the hotel for movie night: "Groundhog Day" with Bill Murray & Andie McDowell. The premise of the movie: A weatherman is reliving Groundhog Day in Puxatawney, PA over and over. As we've reached a point in our process for which treading water could be an apt description, we can relate to his predica- ment. After the movie, I fall asleep to Manchester United v Liverpool while Alli reads in bed. Bob and I are heading to the gym at 8 AM, so it's lights out at 12:30.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

July 13th

The alarm goes off at 7:30am. It's a gym day for Pat and Bob. I get up and fold laundry. When I'm done I write in my journal. There is a knock on the door at 10:00am. We've arranged to have our room cleaned and the girl is here. The windows are open and a chilly breeze blows in. It starts to rain. Pat arrives home with pastries in hand. He gained a little ground in the ping-pong championships of Kostanai. Pat took the day 7-5. The summer series stands at 67-58. We eat our pastries and get showered. We consult with Bob and Beth. It's not raining any longer so we'll walk to the baby home.

It's a cool, blustery day and a jacket is required. We find Mama waiting for us in front of her house. There is a small crowd of new faces. Bob presents Mama with a copy of the picture of her, Pat and Bob. He had it made yesterday after our visit to the baby home. She is thrilled! "Thank you, thank you, thank you" she says in Russian. She says a few other things we do not understand. Finally she starts to flash her fingers and we think that she is trying to tell us her age. There were many fingers flashed. We shake everyone's hand and say goodbye.

The children are inside. Pat goes for Molly. He finds her in the group playpen wearing a t-shirt and diaper. He picks her up and says hello. Mama Bibigoul takes her, changes her diaper and dresses her. Still not a task for Papa. Bob, Beth and I go for the boys. Aidan and Nicholas are standing in the small playpen when we arrive. Both have eaten and are ready to go. We're first to arrive in the marble room. A few minutes later we hear bells. Pat, Molly and the webble doll are here. The kids are in good spirits again today. I check Molly's top gums and see two teeth just poking through. She gnaws on her toys more than ususal. She is not unpleasant but it not quite herself. Aidan is a busy boy today. He crawls, stands and explores. He stops to have an animated conversation with the weeble doll. They're good pals now dispite their rocky start. He stands on the couch. Bob is at the other end and tempts him with his camere (both Nicholas and Aidan LOVE cameras). Aidan cruises two feet or so. Bob rewards him with a touch of the camera. Molly gets a little cranky. I pick her up and we waltz around the room. This makes her smile. She then enjoys a game of peek-a-boo with Daddy. Pat checks his watch. It's 2:35! We scramble to pack up and take the kids back to their rooms. Both Molly and Aidan are wide awake when we leave them in their cribs. It's raining again so we bus back to the hotel.

We head to the Internet cafe as do Bob and Beth. We check email and have only a few (hint, hint). One of them is from our travel agent, Eldo. Based on a recent discussion of our timeline with Olesya, we requested a change in our return flight from August 2nd to August 12th. Eldo's email is a confirmation of the change. Our last day in Kostanai will be Tuesday August 8th. We'll leave that afternoon and fly to Almaty. We'll have the kid's medical exams on the 10th and our US Embassy interview on the 11th. We'll fly home from Almaty on Friday August 12th and are scheduled to arrive in Newark on Friday the 12th at 9:15pm dispite some 24 hours of travel time. The countdown begins. After reading our few emails (hint, hint) we copy pictures of Molly, Aidan and Papa, Beth and me to disks. We take these to the photo center down the street and have prints made. We'll take Papa his picture tomorrow. The pictures of the kids are for our room. We knock for Bob and Beth when we return to the hotel and go to dinner.

We go to the pizza place. We asked Olesya to write down what we'd like to order in Russian and we bring the paper with us. Salads, ham and pineapple pizza and pizza with peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms. The drink we handle ourselves. We get we want and everything is very good.

We get back to the hotel at 7:45 pm and decide to have a movie night. The feature is "Anger Management" starring Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson. After the movie we watch an episode of M*A*S*H. Bob and Beth have several seasons on DVD. We get back to our room at 10:30pm. We both write in our journals. Lights out at midnight.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

July 12th

Today starts with laundry @ 7:30 - actually, Alli gets up to do laundry and I lounge until about 8:15. I help wring out the last few things before Alli switches the tub over from washing machine to shower. She has agreed to help Cate with her PC this morning @ 10 and then has a manicure appointment @ 11 (following Beth's 10). If you're keeping score at home, that's two manicures, two pedicures and one full body massage in five weeks. So much for our tough living conditions.

I head for the park @ 10 to read and enjoy the brilliant sunshine on a crisp, clear morning. Bob stops by around 11: He's reading/studying a book on estate planning. He moves from bench to bench several times in an effort to stay awake....

After reading, I visit the pastry place we went to after court last Friday and get two cherry turnovers and two lemon & raisin pastries. The cherry are still warm! Next stop: fruit vendor for bananas. Almost all the vendors we've patronized do calculations on calculators and after telling us the price in Russian show us the calculator. My produce woman calculates the price and says it to me while bagging the bananas. She looks up to see me standing there with that
"I have no idea what you just said" look on my face and repeats the price. Using hand signals, I ask her to show me the calculator. She laughs and shows me the price, then laughs again when I accept my change and say thank you in Russian. I return to the hotel @ 11:45, enough time to shower and shave and eat my cherry turnover. Alli gets back at noon and has time for her turnover and a glass of juice before Bob & Beth knock at 12:15.

Our new friends are waiting for us on our way to the baby home. Papa is walking home from the store just ahead of us and Mama comes toward us to say hello. There are several new faces today, including three teenage boys. Bob shows everyone the photo from yesterday in his camera. They are very pleased to see themselves - Olesya told us they might never have seen digital camera technology before - but Mama makes it plain she'd like to have a copy to hold in her hand. One of the young boys speaks a few words of English: He asks where we are going. Still nervous about revealing the true nature of our visit to Kazakhstan, I tell him we have some business a few kilometers farther and that we walk back and forth every day. He nods and says, "I watch you every day." I ask if the woman is his grandmother: I'm not certain he understood the word, but he says no. We say our goodbyes and tell them we'll see them again later.

The kids are outside today. Alli goes for Molly, who is being fed when Alli arrives. Alli reports she sits opposite Molly while she is being fed, and Molly never takes her eyes off of Alli. Aidan has been fed and dressed and is waiting in his crib. He and I go next door to wait while Alli diapers and dresses Molly. We head for the marble room, and Aidan spits up down the front of my shirt and shorts as we walk through the door. Not ten minutes later, I'm not yet dry from round one when he lets me have it again. Other than that, both kids are pleasant and playful today. Molly continues her recent trend: Her favorite toy is whatever Aidan is playing with at the moment, so long as it is within reach. (Over the last two days, we've experimented with moving her toys out of arms reach in an attempt to encourage her to crawl. Yesterday, she seemed confused. Today, she gets pissed. There's much yelling and arm waving. We'll try again another day....). Aidan is happiest playing in Daddy's lap - he's on a quest to get a hold of my glasses, and he usually gets his little face THIS close to mine before making a stab for them, giving me sufficient time to ward off his advance - or with Mommy's necklace, which he's taken to teething on recently. When he tires of both activities, I pack him in the Snuggli and we take a walk outside.

Back in the marble room @ 2:30, Alli takes Aidan out of the Snuggli, and he's nearly asleep on her shoulder in the time it takes me to put the Snuggli away and finish packing the toys. He's sound asleep on my shoulder in the 60 seconds it takes to walk back to his inside room. He stirs slightly when I move him from shoulder to crib....

On the way home, we walk through an apartment building courtyard. Six young boys who just said hello to us on the way through earlier come running over for more English. One asks where we are from: He seems unfamiliar with Philadelphia but brightens when we tell him it's near New York. In Russian, Alli asks him his name ("Kak vas sa vut?"). He's surprised to hear one of us speak Russian. He says his name, then in Russian I say, "Minya sa vut Pat," and shake his hand. Bob introduces himself and shakes hands, too. One by one, the other boys line up to say their names and shake our hands. One of the boys asks Beth how old she is. She replies, "41," and then asks him the same question. It sounds as if he is parroting her, though closer to forty than forty-one. We ask again, and he makes 13 with his fingers. The other boys range in age from eleven to thirteen. One of them has a soccer ball. Bob and I ask who the best footballer is in the group. It appears they point to the boy with the ball: Either he is the best, or they thought we asked if they had a football. In any event, I motion for him to toss me the ball and dazzle them with a little juggling. We've made another group of new friends....

Later on the same walk home, the crowd at our friends' home has grown once again: Everybody is waiting to get a look at the Americans. The young boys from before have been joined by four older men. There are more photos: Mama with me and Bob, Papa with Alli and Beth. Neighbors drop by, a car pulls up, everybody's gabbing away in Russian and Kazakh and we're smiling a lot. We are now ambassadors of good will....

Back at the hotel @ 3:30, Alli and I head for the internet straight away. Beth and Cate join us there. We read and answer e-mail, and Alli helps Beth save a picture from her camera to a floppy disk so they can make a copy for Mama and Papa. We return to the hotel @ 5 and meet Olesya @ 5:30 for the walk to dinner.

After dinner last night, we took a walk and passed a restaurant with a nice courtyard outside. We noted that we had not been there and agreed it must not be any good if Olesya had not taken us there to date. Our restaurant tonight is the one we were discussing last night: It is good, but she had not thought to take us there prior to tonight (and, in fairness, we have been dining with Dana more often than Olesya, and Dana has not been everywhere Olesay has been). The restaurant is called the Art Cafe: The first floor is an art gallery/gift shop & the second floor is the restaurant, the walls of which are adorned with the painting/print efforts of local artists, some of which are for sale below. We enjoy a nice meal: Bob and I have chicken breast (his in a peach sauce, mine with pineapple and cheese) & the girls have pork (Alli's is a chop with mush-rooms, tomatoes, onions and cheese, Beth's a pork and vegetable shishkabob). Olesya has beef. It's a plce to which we will return.

After walking home, we're in the room at 8:20. Alli cuts my hair while I watch a Dutch Premier League match, then we both have an ice cream bar before settling in to read & journal. Gym in the morning @ 8, and we've arranged to have our rooms cleaned between 9 & 11. Lights out
@ midnight.