Friday morning we were up with the chickens (theoretically only, because I don't believe there are any chickens in TaldyKorgan. Everytime we tried to order chicken for dinner, we were told "no chicken, lamb") The alarm did its thing at 6:30, and I was up and dressed before Melanie woke up. I was even able to tweak my speech a little before I hear her announcing that she was awake. David dressed and we ate hardly any breakfast (which we would regret later). Inna came to babysit for Melanie, and Aida arrived to pick us up. We went straight to the courthouse, where there was a bit of waiting around in the hallways before we finally went downstairs to the courtroom. It was tiny; only big enough for the judge on her bench, the prosecutor on one side, and a small table on the other side for the Director of the Baby House and the lady from the Ministry of Education. Then we were wedged into the rear of the room with Aida. On our right was a small cage with two benches in it; no doubt for the criminal cases heard there.
The judge strode into the room, resplendent in her purple velvet robe with gold trimming. She looked like a 19 year old college coed! But she was very serious, and we were underway. She read a considerable amount of stuff about the court docket number and the law of this, and according to that. Then she asked if we had anything to say. David stood first to make his speech, and I think he did a tremendous job. The prosecutor had some questions for David about our medical insurance covering Melanie's surgery, and whether or not the government paid us "by the child" -- a not so subtle question about why we wanted such a large family. David answered each question without missing a beat; that we had always wanted a large family since we were married, and that we loved children; that we were unable to have any more biologically, etc. Then it was my turn. I think I did okay ... I did throw in the fact that my poor mother-in-law was taking care of our children AND her sick husband, and the prosecutor spoke in favor of immediate execution. He said, "The grandmother is burning two fires". Well said! The Director of the Baby House spoke, then the lady from the Ministry of Education. The end ... the judge walked out and everyone left. We sat and waited in the courtroom ... until two women and a men walked in. The man immediately walked into the cage and locked the door behind him. The ladies sat on the benches. Must have been a criminal case coming up right behind us. David muttered something to me about how that reminded him of how Otis Campbell, on the Andy Griffith Show, would get drunk, walk into the jail and lock the door behind him, hanging the keys on the nail in the wall. (Can you tell that there's an Andy Griffith theme going on here??) We skedaddled from the courtroom and retired upstairs to the judge's office. There was momentary panic when the computer wouldn't print the judge's decision, and we ended up sitting on a bench in the hall for about 2 hours. We felt like we were at a tennis match, watching Aida and Gulnara scurrying from one end of the hall to the other, looking for who know what? A stamp here ... a signature there. We also did a lot of people watching ... there was some mention of the "witches'" shoes that the women (and sometimes men) in Kazakhstan like to wear. The points do curl up and look like jesters' shoes. Back and forth they would walk, "clop clop clop" down the concrete hall slash echo chamber. And boy do they like to wear their jeans tight here! A girl could sit on a dime and be able to tell if it was heads or tails! (or so David says...)
David has lost about 40 pounds since June, and neglected to check to see if his suit still fit. It was literally hanging off him! We snickered all morning about how his jacket, once pretty snug, could now be re-tailored to be double vested. He looked like a little kid in his dad's clothes! Too funny.
Finally everything was printed; we signed some documents, (David's name in Russian is "Debug" he he). We were escorted into the judge's office, where she read the entire decision -- all 5 pages, single spaced -- aloud. By this time, it's way past lunch time, and we're both feeling a little punchy. We thought about making a break for the shishkebab lady, but thought they might frown on that. We shake hands with the judge, and we're off! To the apartment? To lunch? NOOOO!! To the State Office . At least there they had a couch, and we both sat there with our heads back, eyes closed. Every time someone would walk by we'd sit up, looking alert, until they passed. Then, we would put our heads back again. Then, blessedly, Aida and Gulnara appeared, saying, "We're finished!!" At the apartment, Inna had made some yummy borscht and noodle wraps. We put them away pretty quick.
Emil showed up around three to drive us back to Almaty. We packed up the car and after a quick good-bye to Aida (we'll see her on Sunday in Almaty) we were off. Melanie didn't sleep at all on the three-hour drive, but she puttered around the back seat of the car, pulled on my nose, and jumped on my stomach. Then we did some "let's hit mom in the chest with my head" exercises. I was black & blue when we got there. Five minutes away from the apartment, she fell asleep. Naturally.
Our new apartment is huge ... 3 bedrooms, a nice crib, spacious kitchen. WITH A MICROWAVE! AND A SHOWER! It's amazing how many things we take for granted in our cushy lives, and how we never realize how little we really need to survive. People live in TaldyKorgan in 100 sq. ft. apartments and never know how good we Americans have it. I will never take anything for granted again. We are so fortunate.
Mom arrived around midnight, and David and Emil collected her from the airport. She had a smooth trip ... she wore a Kerry button the whole time, and got nothing but enthusiastic "Thumbs Up!" comments from all the Europeans she met. Even a few Americans. Bush is certainly persona-non-grata in this part of the world.
We're having a lazy day today ... David went and got all the plane tickets taken care of, and an I-Card for the internet, and pictures taken of Melanie for the Embassy. Mom is recuperating from her trip, and I have been doing laundry!! Bliss. Never thought I'd be excited about a washing machine. Sure beats washing out clothes in a bath tub.
This is way long ... will check back tomorrow!! Liz