Greetings from Taldy-Korgan, Kazakhstan! We are still pinching ourselves to make sure we're not dreaming. Our flight from Charlotte to Frankfurt was uneventful. After a 5 hour layover (where we napped intermittently in the Lufthansa Business Lounge, thanks to David's gold preferred status on US Airways) we boarded a very nice Lufthansa flight to Almaty. 6 hours later, we were in Kazakhstan! And our luggage ALL made it intact! Amazing. We were met by our faciliator, Gulnara, and driver, Emil, and taken to the Beijing Hotel at around midnight.
We spent a short night there, ate breakfast, and were met by Emil for a meeting at the Sisters' Office. After some paper shuffling and discussions, we stopped by the Ramstore (translation: Super Wal-Mart) for some water and provisions for our 3 hour drive to Taldy-Korgan. For a minute I thought I had been transformed to West Texas, the landscape was so similar. Lots of craggy hills and rolling pastureland. Several times we had to go around a large herd of sheep or cattle, being herded by men on horses. Suddenly we heard a discouraging word from the right rear tire ... it was flatter than the proverbial pancake. Gulnara was astonished, "My first time this is happening!" but David is handy with a jack and had that sucker off and replaced in seconds flat (no pun intended). Off we went ... after running over a large rock that buckled the floor of the car!
So here we are in Taldy Korgan, how do you describe it? It is named for the large pointy trees that are everywhere -- David thinks they're birches (what, a Masters' degree in forestry and you can't identify some Kazakh trees??)
We met our Melanie Karina for a short 30 minutes. She was not happy to see us at all ... some tears ... but we expected that. She is beautiful and tiny, and has dark eyes that look into your soul. After a very brief visit we came back to the apartment, and went into a drug-induced coma for 12 hours. We feel refreshed and energetic, and had another visit with her this morning. She was more receptive to us this time, and took juice from us, wore her new slippers that we brough and sat contentedly on my lap. She is precious ... I was able to get a lot of kisses in that were long overdue.
Our cook just left and we are smelling a delicious lunch waiting for us in the other room, so I'll sign off for now ... thanks for everyone's prayers and thoughts for a safe journey. It couldn't have gone smoother. Boy, do we feel like we're a loooong way from home though!
P.S....David says Hey!