Still cloudy and cool after last night's rain - a good day to stay in bed a little longer. It's 9:30 before Alli and I get everything moving in the same direction and walk to the pasty shop, where we find cake made from baked cottage cheese & apricots as well as raisin muffins.
On our walk to the baby home, our little friend Ibiek sees us coming and begins walking toward us. He's wearing what appears to be a man's (or at least a much older boy's) polo shirt, and he's eating a bag of seeds. He comes up close to me, motions for me to bend down and says something I can't begin to understand but which must have been, "I'm not wearing any underwear!," because the next thing we know, he lifts his shirt and reveals the truth! Grandmother comes running over - not to scold her grandson but to pose for a photo - and it's picture time again. Ibiek asks if he can take another photo, so the four of us pose for him. Considering he's three-foot nothing and has to aim pretty high for a guy his size, he takes a pretty good picture!
At the baby home, Alli and I go to the infirmary and we're told Aidan is in his regular room! He seems like a totally different boy from yesterday and responds warmly to Alli's hug. The three of us go to get Molly and then head downstairs. We have juice for both kids today - we had decided even if Aidan were still in the infirmary we'd chance the juice - and once Aidan realizes it's not whatever it was he refused to drink on Sunday, he slugs it down heartily. With Molly, I try a little now (loud protest) and a little later (a look like "About time!") with moderate success. The trick is to hide the bottle both before - unless I'm ready to give it to her - and after - the disappearing bottle trick carries more weight than my explanation that the juice is all gone, however sincere and convincing I might be in delivery. It's too cloudy and cool to take the kids out, so we stay in the marble room and play until it's time to take them back to their individual rooms.
We bus back to the hotel and Alli & I head for the Internet Cafe. I post Blog entries for Saturday and Sunday, July 30-31, while Alli reads and answers e-mail. We're meeting Dana, Bob & Beth for dinner @ 6 - we wrap up at the I.C. at about 5:50.
We go to the pizza place (against Dana's better judgment) where we wait about 10 minutes for a table. While we're eating, a large group takes the table next to ours. We think we hear English! They think so, too, as we are helping Dana with new words she's learned while reading her current book. After too much whispering and nobody making a move to say hello, I blurt out, "Try the ham and pineapple pizza," and the ice is broken. In a quick conversation with them at their table while we wait for our bill, they tell me they are missionaries from Florida here to work in the villages surrounding Kostanai. We, of course, are here on "secret business."
We settle the bill and leave only to have one of the women come running after us: She claims our payment is 500 Tenghe short. As we always do, Alli and I count and contribute, Bob and beth do the same, and Dana counts a third time to make sure there are sufficient funds. we have never been mistaken before - and are not likely mistaken now - but we pay the additional sum and cross another establishment off our list.
After dinner, we walk Dana ALL THE WAY HOME. Last night, we had asked her where she might like us to go for her birthday (two days from now on August 4). She said she'd like to have us to her home and prepare a meal for us. Tonight, I thought we should figure out where she lives in the likley event we will walk there on Thursday. When I suggest she allow us to accompany her further tonight, we are all surprised when she asks if we'd like to see her home tonight.
We accept and are soon seated on the floor of their living room/dining room on handmade satin floor mats placed around a table cloth on which is spread a variety of dishes -"winter salad" (tomatoes, cucumbers and spices mixed to the consistency of marinara and served cold), sliced cucumbers, bread, crackers, apple butter, Kazakh "donuts," candy made here in Kostanai and hot tea - most of which are home made from ingredients grown on the family farm.
The apartment has the living/dining room (Kazakh people traditionally eat while seated on the floor, so there is no "dining room" furniture) with access to a small balcony, a galley kitchen, three bedrooms and a bathroom. The furnishings are simple, and a large shelving unit is the dominant piece in the living/dining room. A sheet covers a portion of the piece, and we are told it is out of respect for Dana's recently deceased father (you might remember he died several weeks ago).
Dana's mother and sister join us for the visit, and we pass a delight-ful evening of conversation and family photos. The only awkward moments involve those few instances when Dana is out of the room and unable to translate for us (no one else in her family speaks English). Other- wise, we talk, ask each other questions and discuss topics ranging from the very light-hearted (American movies) to the more substantial (our true business in Kazakhstan). Before we know it, it's after 11 AM and we are being told it's too dangerous to walk home. Dana calls a taxi for us and we get back to the hotel just after midnight following as rewarding an evening as we've had in Kostanai. We're all looking forward to Thursday and our return trip.