Sunday, July 31, 2005

No Internet

Still no notes from the guys.  I did speak to David this evening; I interruped a banquet of sorts ... the entire team, with the local folks, an intimate group of 25 or so, were at a restaurant having a feast of bisparmak.  Quentin said the horse tasted like a cross between pot roast and roast beef.  (Okay...)  David did say that he had a letter all typed up to send, with pictures, but no internet to send it on.  I waggled my finger (through the phone) at Aida and told her to get on the stick and get David to an internet cafe.  So perhaps tomorrow.  He did say that they dug holes and were hoping to pour concrete tomorrow.  Quentin said he didn't do much.  The holes are 3 feet deep, and he's only 5 feet tall, so, well ... you do the math!

In the meantime, I have been dusting bookshelves and scrubbing grout in our bathroom.  (Isn't that exciting??!!)  Our grout never looked so gleaming white.  Whoever buys this house will be sold on the grout alone, I'm sure.  Yesterday we emptied out the garage and it never looked better.  I am now sore in places that I never knew could be sore.

The three older kids (Lisa, Christian and Colin) are flying to Mississippi (very early) tomorrow morning to visit their grandparents.  We haven't really seen them since Christmas, so I know they will be glad to see the kids.  Melanie and I will keep the home fires burning. 

Ahhh .. I love the smell of Clorox in the morning ...

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Dateline Taldy-Korgan

The team arrived in Taldy-Korgan this morning.  Unfortunately the internet connections there are a tad more primitive than Almaty, so David wasn't able to forward me a note.  Their hotel is across the street from an internet cafe, though, and he is hoping to send pictures from there.  Their hotel is more spartan ... no air conditioning and no hot water, but hey!  It's shelter and a bed.

As of a few minutes ago, they had already unloaded the truck and put together the playset.  They were calling from the courtyard of the Baby House.  I could hear the sounds of happy children playing in the background ... Tomorrow they are going to do some hole-drilling and concrete setting.  Sorry I'm not sure of any more details than that.

When my phone rang this morning, I heard "Hello Liz this is Aida calling!"  Aida was our interpreter in Taldy Korgan last fall, and she became a dear friend, which has also happened to many of the families who adopt from T-K.   (Guess when you spend every day with someone for a month that happens!)  Aida speaks fluent English, and even grasps the nuances of English humor and idioms, no easy task!  She is ebullient and funny, and we love her to death.  She used to call me her big sister, and I called her "sistronka" (little sister).  However, she referred to David as her "second husband".... hmmm, something isn't right with that!  Ha ha.  I was so choked up talking to her again, and so sad that I wasn't there with them.

Quentin says he likes T-K even better than Almaty .. he is really getting an insiders' view of Kazakhstan.  What a lucky duck.  He is determined to try the Kazakh delicacy, "bisparmak" which is horse meat.  I tried it last fall, and it tastes a lot like a cross of roast beef and lamb.  Quite good!  (Sorry for you PETA people ... you know that really stands for People Eating Tasty Animals).  Quentin just wants to hear the squeals of his friends at school, especially the girls who are really into horseback riding.

I will post more from the boys when I can!  Liz

Friday, July 29, 2005

Dateline Almaty: One Down, One to Go

Well, we finished the playground at Almaty BH #2 today.  Emil showed up with the part from Taldy, and it was the one we needed.  While some of us finished the Kid Play set, others mixed the concrete for the animals and the benches.  We were all finished by mid-afternoon, and after lunch, we came back and spent some time (unofficially, of course) breaking in the new equipment with the kids.   The smiles and laughter was just priceless to hear!  We are supposed to have the "official" dedication when we get back to Almaty from Taldy, but we could'nt wait to play with the kids (and I don't think they could wait either!).  Tomorrow (Saturday) we will be leaving Almaty and driving to Taldy.  We hope to arrive sometime mid-afternoon so that we can meet the truck and unload all of the equipment at the BH.  We will probably start building on Sunday morning, and hope to complete in 2 days....(unless, of course, we have left a part we need in Almaty....)   Hope you enjoy some of the pictures, which, of course, speak louder than words anyway....   Love to all....David & Quentin    

Quentin says:  I have decided to write down any "Engrish" that I find. I haven't found much but It's there. I'm not looking forward to Taldy Korgan. (No Air conditioning? AUGH!) I'm glad we got the playground done today. Right now I'm so tired I'm about to fall on my face, so I'm done.  

Editor's note:  "Engrish" is funny translations of English by non-English speakers.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

We don't need a ladder, we have Quentin! appears that Emil had to go to Taldy today to pick up a family, so he came by and took some information regarding the missing playset piece we needed this morning and left.  Unfortunately, we won't get the piece until tomorrow, so all we had left to do today was complete the swings and finish the holes for the animals and caregiver benches.  Piece of cake - right? seems that we were especially lucky to decide to locate the animals and benches on top of a rock pile.  It took forever to dig the holes, as most had to be started by hand until we got through the "rock layer", and then the power auger would be effective.  But, everybody pitched in and took turns, and eventually all 24  holes (avg depth of 3 feet) were completed.  We were able to procure some cement today, but the sand will not be delivered until tomorrow, so we were not able to complete everything today.  But, we should complete everything tomorrow, including spreading all of the sand (I think Sasha ordered 4 dump truck loads to be delivered tomorow), which has to be hauled and spread by hand.    We ate lunch in a non-yurt type restaurant today, and I had lagman and Quentin had something that translated as "red chicken" and some small meat dumplings (like potstickers).  Tonight, we went to a chinese restaurant that is several blocks from our hotel, and it seems like we ate for 2 hours.   They would bring the orders out one at a time, so something kept showing up at the table every 10 minutes....we are full as ticks, and I don't know if I'm going to get Quentin to bed as he drank a whole litre of coke by himself....   Love to all....David  

Quentin says:  Didn't quite finish the playground yet, hopefully Emil will get the right part (He will be smacked if he doesn't...) And Hopefully we'll get it done by tomorrow. Apparently the food we have back home sucks noodles compared to the food here, because everything I've tried has been delicious. Most of what we eat here is cooked fresh and what we eat back home is all processed in a waste treatment plant. Oh yeah and the reason I'm not gonna sleep tonight is not because of the coke alone. It's how much I'll be going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  

From Mom:  Gee thanks for that glowing review of my cooking, Quentin!


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

What is a Yurt?

A Yurt is a traditional home of the nomads who live on the cold, barren steppes of Central Asia.

Yurt or yurta is a Turkish word for these portable traditionally felt dwelling places, borrowed as a loanword into many languages, including English. The Kazakhs who use them call them Kigizui and the Mongolians call them ger. However, yurt is the best known word.

Wooden poles connect the lattice-work on the bottom of the yurt to the shangrak (the hole in the middle of the tent for the smoke to escape). This wood frame (kerege) is then covered with felt and then usually with canvas.

The shangrak itself is emblematic in many Central Asian cultures. A stylized version of the shangrak forms the main image on the flag of Kyrgyzstan. In old Kazakh communities, the yurt itself would often be repaired and rebuilt, but the shangrak would remain intact, passed from father to son upon the father's death. A family's depth of heritage could be measured by the accumulation of stains on the shangrak from generations of smoke passing through it.

Mongolian Ger; 2003 picture by Robert Matthews EnlargeMongolian Ger; 2003 picture by Robert Matthews

Followers of the New Age religion have used the name "yurts" for some their huts as well. Although those structures may be copied to some extent from the originals found in Central Asia, they have been greatly changed and adapted and are in most cases very different.

In Europe, most yurt makers are making adaptations of Mongolian and Turkic style yurts from local hardwoods and canvas. Unlike many US manufacturers these yurts are very similar to those found in central Asia. In Holland one yurt maker makes exact replicas of Mongolian Gers.

In the United States and Canada, yurts are made using hi-tech materials. They are highly engineered and built for extreme weather conditions.

A diversity of groups and individuals use yurts for a range of reasons from full-time housing to school rooms. In some provincial parks in Ontario, yurts are available for camping.

From Wikipedia

The Branches in Kazakhstan: Part Trois!

Well, we have finished day 1 of playground building here in Almaty...and have already run into one snag.  Since both playgrounds were shipped in one container, we had to unload the Almaty equipment this morning so the truck could proceed on to Taldy to unload there.   Even though we triple checked, etc., it appears that one panel we need to attach a slide did not get unloaded, and is now in Taldy.  We are drawing straws to see who has to drive to Taldy tomorrow to chase that panel down and bring it back to Almaty (...a little more complicated than traveling from Uralsk BH#2 and Zhas Dauren, like my last trip).  But we did get alot accomplished, and should be able to finish most everything (if the missing panel is located) by tomorrow.    We worked all morning, and went to lunch around 3 pm, and found a restaurant around the corner with a yurt.  Well, we all looked at each other (given the temperature is around 85-90 degrees, and the hostess assured us that the yurt had air conditioning....well, it did, but it seemed to only cool one spot in the yurt where Joe was sitting, and the rest of us were roasting.  Anyway, the food was good, and Quentin wants to buy a yurt for our new backyard  (its only $20,000 US for a full size one).     I have also attached some you can see, Quentin is thrilled to have his picture taken by his father...but I promise that he did pose in each picture, and it is not just a digital enhancement pasted in to various backgrounds....   Tell everyone we said "Hey"....   Love,    David & Quentin  

PS:  Quentin Says: No need to worry about me starving to death. The food here is actually quite good, and the juice is delicious. I'm actually having a lot of fun (You'd be surprised how entertaining a fork and a toothpick are.) Also I may not look like the happiest guy in the world in those pictures but I was smiling if you look real close and squint...


Tuesday, July 26, 2005


My men made it safely to Almaty.  There was no driver to meet them, but always efficient David still had the cell phone number for Gulnara, our facilitator in October, in his address book.  A quick call to her (catching her on the way to Taldy Korgan for court) and our wonderful friend and driver, Emil, showed up to whisk them to their hotel.  The airport in Almaty has installed an automated pay parking system that apparently was on the fritz today, and it took them nearly an hour to get out of the &^*#% parking lot!!  As Emil said, it took longer to get out of there than it took to drive to the hotel!!  They are staying at the Hotel Almaty or Almaty Hotel (can't remember) and amazingly I was able to punch in a few numbers and have David on the phone .. with no delay or echo!  Quentin is doing great; he got lots of sleep on the flights; David can't sleep on planes.  They bought the British version of "Harry Potter" in London, but David is being cruel and making Quentin finish his summer reading book for school before he can have HP.  Tough love!  I think today was pretty much rest and recuperate day.  The rest of the team should arrive in Almaty late tonight.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I'm packing boxes ... packing ... and packing ... and sweltering.  It's supposed to be 101 tomorrow ...

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Boys are Off

David and Quentin leave tonight for Kazakhstan.  I think Quentin won't know what hit him.  He's in for some major culture shock.  Yesterday we argued about spending money on a new journal, when we already had a perfectly good one.  We compromised by agreeing to let him journal on the laptop.  I realized how his mindset is so "American" and materialistic; just spend some money and voila, there you go -- luxuries abound!  I really try not to pull the "starving children in China" card, but having seen the starving children myself makes it a little less abstract and more real.  I hope he comes away with more of an understanding of how fortunate and rich we are in this country.

Of course I'm a little concerned about the situation in London.  They are just passing through this time, but will be spending the night there coming home August 6.  Sometimes you just have to give up your worries ...

Another family who are going on the playground trip are writing articles for the newspaper where they live in Ohio ... the link is  for another perspective on the trip.  They are already there, visiting friends.  Pat is the one who spearheaded the funding for this trip.

In the meantime, I will be at home raking out closets and getting this house in shape.  I have finished the downstairs declutter mission, and have until August 1 to do the upstairs.  Actually it feels kind of good to be rid of a lot of the detritus that has accumulated here over the past 8 years.  And by the way, we have equalled our record of time lived in one place ... we were in Mississippi for 8 years.  It looks like we will be here far longer, I hope.  After last week in the pea soup humidity of Louisiana, I'm staying put in lovely North Carolina.  Previous to that, I had lived in so many different places I've lost count.  My peripatetic days are over, I hope!

Friday, July 22, 2005

La Vie En Rose

Don't know why I wrote that ... just like how it sounds and looks!  "Life through rose colored glasses", in a way.  Just brought the kids home from camp .. they all had a blast!  The were very chatty on the drive home, until they fell dead asleep!  They had eaten nothing but healthy, nourishing food all week, and had junk food cravings, so we ran through McDonald's. 

Had a nice visit to Louisiana ... helped to celebrate my parents' 54th anniversary.  We also went to visit Sage, our favorite photographer who got a few shots of Melanie, with Sage's dog Cody.  The trip home was uneventful until we got to Charlotte ... imagine a bus to the satellite lot packed like a can of sardines, 100 degrees outside, and add a screaming, exhausted baby.  You get the picture.

The big news is that we have bought a house!  It is in the same neighborhood that we are in now, just a different part, and it has room to swing a few cats and for five kids not to be living on top of each other.  Now we have to get this house in shape to sell, and poor David has been toiling like a madman, painting rooms and trim, removing 8 years worth of fingerprints and what-have-you from doors.  My job next week:  de-clutter.  I have visions of a U-Haul truck in my immediate future, and a bunch of junk in a storage shed.  Keeping the house in showing condition at all times will definitely be a challenge!

Kazakhstan in 48 hours!

Monday, July 18, 2005

More Beach Pictures

Oops ... just put my hands on the disk with the beach pictures on it.  Voila!! 

The older four kids are successfully and happily (I hope) at Camp Granada ... (hello muddah, hello fadduh ... here I am at ... Camp Granada)  No really, it's Camp Harrison, and it's simply beautiful.  Even the cabins are air conditioned.  Poor things, they're really roughing it.  Lisa was the only one a little teary when we left.  The others were great.  They will have a great time.  Check out the website ...

Melanie and I are off to Baton Rouge this afternoon.  David will be home painting ... as it looks like we may be moving to a bigger house in our neighborhood soon.  Hate to leave a cliff-hanger, but more information will be forthcoming as the situation develops.  Toodles!

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Day of Escapes and Paint

Melanie learned how to climb out of her crib today.  Or maybe she's known all along how to do it, and was secretly plotting all these months to show us when our guard was down.  A few days ago she mastered door knobs and dead bolt locks (was found in the front yard by a neighbor -- I won't say which parent was neglectful in not keeping an eye on her) so out the crib she goes, and then out the door.  Luckily we were around and noticed before any trouble was gotten into.

This afternoon she found a paint set of Lisa's (we won't go into the details of how Lisa got a paint set or the reasons it was left at Melanie-level) and decorated the study carpet, the desk, the filing cabinet and the big easy chair with a rainbow of colors.  The person who once again let Melanie fall off his or her radar shall remain nameless.  Suffice it to say that from this day on, Melanie has a pair of eyes on her at all times.

Lisa & Christian are enjoying Vacation Bible School at their friend Natalia's church this week.  As we have been anticipating for several months, they are all four off to camp this Sunday through Friday.  I don't know who is more excited ... them or me!  I fly out on Monday to Louisiana with Melanie, leaving David to "bach" it, and to be on standby for any camp emergencies.  Actually he has a gig playing the drums for a group one or two of the nights we are gone (at a church, don't get your dander up ... no sleazy bars for him!) so he shouldn't get too lonely.

Branch ... out!

Monday, July 4, 2005

Happy Fourth of July

Happy Birthday to my sister, Debi!  Born on the Fourth of July ... la la la.  My grandfather hung his flag with a pink bow on the top the day she was born; she was also the first grandchild. 

We are back home safe & sound ... I am procrastinating big time getting unpacked and clothes washed.  We had a wonderful time; relaxing mornings on the deck with coffee and a good book.  (I finished reading "Dove" -- written by a boy who sailed around the world alone, starting at age 16 ... makes me want to chuck everything and buy a boat and sail to the South Seas ..) and some "beach smut" by Jude Devereaux.  

David spent the kids' college funds on fireworks for tonight ... should be quite a show.

For now I'll share some pictures from the beach.