Up at 8:30 and ready to meet Andre @ 9:45. Church is very crowded as we arrive during the final minutes of exposition. A few folks leave, others shuffle around, and we find seats in the second row from the front: Catholics, it seems, are the same the world over, filling the back rows first....
Not sure of the occasion, but mass is concelebrated by the two priests we've seen thus far, and they are attended by four altar boys and an older but still young man who, we guess, could be a seminarian...?
Following mass, Fr. Stanislav, the priest with whom we spoke two weeks ago and with whom we had hoped to speak with the assistance of our translator last week, comes down the aisle for a quick hello. We greet him in Russian ("Zdrastvuytse") and he smiles then laughingly asks if we have learned to speak Russian so quickly. I hold my index finger and my thumb a fraction of an inch apart and he alughs again. Several people are waiting to see him at the rear of the church so we say our good-byes .
Mass runs longer than usual: It's past 11:30 when we return to the hotel, just time for me to change and both of us to grab breakfast before Bob & Beth knock at 12:15. I get Molly: She's fed and dressed very nattily today: an orange top with a seagull/sailboat print, white and pink check pants with a blue teddy bear print and pink & red striped socks. Perhaps it was dress yourself day? (We got the outfit on video, but even video hardly does it justice!) She's sitting in a walking chair - JUST sitting, thank you - and teething on a rattle. I think she's glad to see me, though she's a little miffed when I insist we leave the rattle in the playroom.
Downstairs, Bob & Beth take Nicholas outside in the new snuggli they bought here in Kostanai, and we have the marble room to ourselves. I encourage Aidan to explore the wonders of the radiator! I stand him up so he can hold on, feel the steel and press his head against it - he likes to explore things head first. He inspects it closely, but it apparently fails to live up to the hype: He's through with it in less than a minute and never tries to go back. We get great video of the kids "playing" together: At one point, Aidan scores a takedown before Molly comes back with a reversal. They share toys (i.e. Molly takes whatever Aidan is playing with at the time, so long as it is within reach, and Aidan plays with something else). At one point, Molly is playing with a pig squeeze toy and cracks herself and her brother up with the noise.
After Beth & Bob return, we take our kids out for a walk. Each talks a little and Molly flaps her arms and kicks her legs a lot. Each makes ample use of the nuks attached to their Snugglis. Once again, they are very content being outdoors and walking around. They enjoy the breeze and don't fuss in the sun. We hope to take every opportunity to get them outside.
Alli takes Molly back to her crib. Molly goes down but pops right up, then sits and watches as Alli leaves. Aidan goes down in his crib, fussing just a bit until I get his sleeping nuk, then he too pops up to a sitting position. Alli and I remarked yesterday how cooperatively both kids go down, and even when they aren't tired enough to fall asleep, they seem content to lie still or entertain themselves. Let's hope this trend continues!
After walking back to the hotel, we're off to the Internet Cafe to Blog (July 6, 7 & 8) and check/ answer e-mail. We return to the hotel @ 6:30, call Cate ( we saw her at the IC and she said she'd join us for drinks even though she and Zhanat had already had dinner), and the five of us head for the Russian Pub shortly before 7. Olesya, her boyfriend (whom we have not met) and another couple are unexpectedly there when we arrive. We are determined to order for our- selves, though I can see Olesya watching our every move out of the corner of my eye. The Russian Pub has an English menu, and we are making headway finding our food in English, then finding it again in the Russian menu when the waitress arrives. I have no idea how to ask for a few more minutes: Olesya to the rescue! She sits on the arm of my chair and giggles as we flip from page to page then, with a combination of pointing and Russian numbers (adin, dva, tri), we place our order. (Later, we learn the waitress was one of Olesya's students and speaks English!)With that done, Olesya takes her leave and we enjoy yet another terrific meal. Bob and Alli have the stuffed cabbage, I have Slovenian chicken and Beth has deep fried pork. Everyone has salad and sides and Beth has ice cream. Alli, Cate and I drink beer, Beth& Bob split a litre of Coke, and the bill comes to 2500 TT (not even $20).
We wander home slowly, enjoying a mild evening in the park. Bob & Beth and Cate stop at the Gros, Alli and I head for the hotel. Alli reads before falling asleep and I journal while watching parts of a French Premier League match, an Italian Premier League match and a Champions League match. I wake Alli up for bed at 11:45. Gym @ 8 tomorrow....
I want to leave you with the following vignette from our stay in Kostanai:
Nearly every day on our walk to the baby home, we see an elderly woman in her babushka and apron sitting on a small bench outside her gate enjoying the shade on warm days or the sun on cooler days and eating seeds (a favorite snack among the locals). For several days, I would wave and she would nod and that would be that. Recently, I would wave and greet her in Russian - either hello or good afternoon - and again she would nod in return. She is the very image of old Soviet Russia, and I mentioned to Bob on a couple of occasions that I'd like to take her picture.
Beginning last Thursday, my usual wave and verbal greeting began to elicit a spirited verbal response, though I had no idea what she might have been saying. We didn't see her Friday due to our different schedule, but yesterday her response was even more animated. Finally today, she was gabbing at me before I had a chance to say anything on our walk to the baby home. Bob and I were joking about what she might have been saying - "Stop talking to me crazy man in short pants and funny hat!" - but I truly believed she was trying to ask what just about every- one we meet wants to know: who we are and what we are doing here. The girls wanted to know what I had said to infuriate the poor old woman, but I laughed and told Bob we'd ask her if we could take her photo if we saw her on the way home.
Sure enough, she's out on the walkway supervising some painting being done on her home, and she sees us coming. She starts in on me, but I smile and greet her in Russian, then again in Russian say, "Photo please?" Before she can think about it, I ask Bob to grab his camera, and when she sees it, this woman, who must be 75 if she's a day and looks like she's worked very hard for 70 of those years, actually blushes, reaches up to fix her babushka and looks at Bob as if to ask whether she looks OK for the photo. She calls her husband over and Bob takes a picture of me with the two of them! We try our best to thank them and wish them well while helping them understand we are American and don't speak Russian. A gentleman who stopped to watch the picture-taking now speaks with us. We tell him we don't speak Russian, and I think he tells us the older couple don't speak Russian either! He corrects our Russian good-bye with its Kazakh equivalent. We do our best with this new information and take our leave. The old man shakes hands with Bob and me and kisses each of us on the cheek. It is a wonderful moment....