Monday, July 18, 2005

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.


Susie said...

How exciting that you've had the chance to make such a connection with "the people" of the country. That is always one of the best parts of travelling to me - not the scenery! You'll treasure those photos (and so will they!) for years to come!!
Countdown is getting closer!
Love to all,

MOM said...


Uncle Ron & Aunt 'Leen said...

Wow, you had a very busy Sunday. I am so glad that you are able to participate in the Mass. I am sure this is a special part of the week for you.

Pat, I loved reading about Aidan coming over to you and reaching out to be picked up. He obviously knows he is loved and secure with you. The descriptions of your time with the children are so vivid as are the reports of your new friends, it really makes the distance seem smaller.

We are counting the days until your return and wishing you health and much joy as you grow closer to the children every day.

Eileen & Ron