Friday, June 30, 2006

Pictures, Part II

More pics from the trip. 

Just Pictures for Now

I'm just back from AmbienLand, and only have the energy to load pictures.  We leave for the beach tomorrow, so I'll try to add text down there.  I only saw an internet cafe twice, sorry!  It was all work and no play, indeed!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Straight from the horses's mouth...

Well....Liz finally found her way into an internet cafe and was able to send this update...enjoy -- (the editor):

Well howdy folks from the other side of the globe!  Debi and I have been in Kazakhstan since late Saturday night.  After two days in Amsterdam (a whole 'nother email!) we flew to Frankfurt, and then to Almaty.  We arrived after midnight, and our trusty driver Emil was there to meet us; I have met him several times on past trips and just love him.  He's wonderful.  Our hotel is very nice and European.  Sunday Emil drove us to Taldy Korgan, which is where Melanie is from.  It was almost a 4 hour drive, and the roads are not exactly smooth.  I have a few loose teeth.  We also peed in a most interesting roadside toilet ... er ... no, there was no toilet, only a hole in the ground.  What I would have given for an Exxon station at that point.  We met our former translator, Aida, at her mom's apartment.  Her mom had a huge spread laid out for us, with soup, vegetables, fruit, COGNAC ... and many speeches were made about old friends, etc., which then required toasting.  It was the same apartment we stayed in while we were there, but she had done some remodeling.  I think my sister is having serious culture shock, but in a good way.

We went back to the baby house where Melanie is from, and visited with the director.  I gave her some money to help buy a lawnmower ... they are so simple; you ask them what they need, and they only need little things like a lawnmower.  She told me she was just praying the other day for a new lawnmower, and that I was an answer to her prayer.  Gosh.
We got home about midnight, crashed, then met the rest of the team at breakfast.  Off to Esik!  About an hour from Almaty, and in the foothills of the Tien Shan mountains.  Breathtakingly beautiful, but devastatingly poor.  I felt like I was in Switzerland.  We divided up the playground pieces (one is going by truck to Petroavlovsk in the north) and started putting stuff together.  Swingset, "tot tree", wooden benches ... The place where the playground will go was not ready .. they were still doing some excavating and so ... we just put the set together, but didn't cement it into the ground.  We were done by Wednesday.  Wednesday the director of the Baby House put on a huge picnic for us .. more toasting and speeches, and COGNAC and VODKA (ugh!!)  We got to tour the baby house: we had to wear doctor's coats and surgical masks to prevent germ spreading.  The infants were sooo tiny; almost surely premature.  All wrapped up and with little babushka scarves on their heads.  It was very quiet; they were all sleeping.  Gosh, I could write a book about the baby house and how clean it was, and orderly.  We got to see the older childrens' room, but they were sleeping.
We have such a fun group ... a dad from California, his 16 year old son, Micah, and his business partner.  Also with them is a Kazakh girl who lives in CA, and works for the dad.  A dad from PA with his 2 young sons, and their 7 year old brother who was adopted from Kaz.  Another dad and his son from Kaz.  Jim, the director of World Partners Adoption, and us.  We're very much in the minority!
When the playground was done, they brought out an older group.  They cried when we put them on the stroller (a bye-bye buggy that holds 6 kids at a time) and some cried when we put them on the swing.  I'm sure they thought we were from Mars or something.  One of the little girls did not like Barry taking her picture.  Oh well.  They were so solemn ... but a few of the boys laughed when we swung them.  (Swang?)
Last night we went up into the mountains, where they have the famous 1000 steps up to the top.  One of the teenaged boys with us SPRINTED up the steps; I wanted to slap him!  Debi and I made it 1/2 way up and called it a day.  We had dinner at a yurt restaurant (yurt being the nomadic round tents that the original Kazakhs lived in).  Very good food ... no cognac, thank goodness! 
Today the rest of the guys went to a lake to swim, and Debi and I slept in and went shopping and ate lunch at the Ramstore ... (western, Wal-Mart like store).  I'm so sorry I'm not techie enough to post pictures, but you'll have fun looking at them when we get home.  Micah (the teenaged sprinter) has been downloading all my pictures on his laptop, and will burn a big CD when we come home.  Sorry to keep you waiting!!
Tonight we eat at a Uzbek restaurant with the staff of the office who facilitates the adoptions in Kazakhstan.  Tomorrow we fly to Petropavlovsk (far north near Russia if you're checking the map).  Tune in later!!

Monday, June 19, 2006

It's Great to be Back.....

Here is a quick report from David (Liz' husband who is currently playing "Mr. Mom").

Just wanted to post that Liz and her sister, Debi, have arrived safely in Kazakhstan (after a two day detour through Amsterdam -- but as far as I am concerned, what happens in Amsterdam, stays in Amsterdam.....)  Since they arrived a day ahead of the rest of the playground group, on Sunday, they hooked up with Emil (one of our former drivers) and traveled to Taldy Korgan, since this was not on the official "tour" and Liz wanted to show Debi where Melanie was from.   According to certain sources, they had a great time (I think there was a certain amount of "toasting" involved). 

On Monday, the whole group arrived.  I just talked to Liz, and they spent the first day sorting through the equipment, leaving one playset at the Esik Babyhouse and putting everything else on the truck for transport to Petro. 

Overall, things are going well.   I don't know if Liz will be able to email me pictures, but I will try and add periodic updates as I get them from Liz. 

Faithfully reported....



Tuesday, June 13, 2006

We're Off to See the Wizard

They're moving the shuttle to the launching pad, and the voyagers are donning their space suits.  (Okay, their capri pants and flip flops, but you get the idea).  The bags are packed (sort of) and the healthy panic has started to set in.  It doesn't help much to see stories plastered all over the front page of the newspaper about how horrid the airports are this time of year, not to mention some damn tropical storm worming its way up the east coast just in time to interfere with our trip.  Larry Sprinkle, the weather man (yes that's his REAL name!) is just calling for showers tomorrow.  Guess that will be okay.  Hmmm...seems like there was a tropical something looming as we left for Taldy Korgan in 2004!   Are the weather gods trying to tell us something?  I did have my moment of "I don't really want to go" yesterday, but I overcame it pretty quickly. 

We have a driver lined up to take us to Taldy Korgan on Sunday after we arrive.  I am very excited about that.  We had a note from friends who are there now, and got the word that BUG SPRAY was an important thing to take. 

I am going to try and send dispatches from the edge (sorry Anderson Cooper! -- I do have your book loaded onto my iPod to listen to on the plane) to David to post here, but it may be just snippets of phone conversations that David gets from me.  I'm not sure of my technological capabilities.   In any event, farewell to you faithful blog readers of mine, and I'll see you in a couple of weeks!

Friday, June 9, 2006

Good Grief, Charlie Brown!

What a week ... we took Boudreaux back to the vet on Monday, to be seen by his regular doc.  She cleaned the wound again.  He seemed to have his "sparkle" back by Tuesday or so.  But today I took him back yet again to have it cleaned.  She wants him to stay on ABX another 10 days or so, but it's slowly healing, thank goodness.  It just looks awful in the meantime.

I'm starting to panic about the trip.  In the middle of packing and shopping for last minute necessities, I'm fielding calls from our kitchen remodeler, and the appliance supplier.  Not to mention several doctor/dentist/orthodontist appointments sprinkled here and there.  It's not the trip I'm worried about; it's getting ready in time!  Once I get on the plane I will breathe a huge sigh of relief.  Debi is over the moon about it ... she calls me once a day or so asking about what to bring, what to expect.  The weather in Petropavlovsk has been running 100 ... yikes!!  Need to wear my Foreign Legion hat and my iceberg underwear (now there's a visual!)

Took Melanie back to her surgeon today.  We hadn't seen him since October, at the team evaluation.  Before that I think it was April or May of last year.  He wants to do a nasal endoscopy (doesn't that sound like fun?) so they can judge where her palate is in relation to the back of her throat.  That way they can see if she needs further surgery or if she has just developed some bad speech habits than can be overcome with intensive therapy.  Today at speech she made the "tee" sound, which is quite a breakthrough!  Think about it ... make the "tee" sound while you're blowing air out of your nose.  That's what she usually does, but she cut off the air through her nose this time, and it was clear as a bell.  Small steps, I know, but they're big to me!


Sunday, June 4, 2006

Poor Puppy

Boudreaux fell victim to the Cujo-Jack Russell terrier who lives down the street.  Lisa was walking him on the leash, as David had put out fertilizer on the yard and didn't want B. to get it on his paws.  Apparently the C-JRT came bolting out of his front door and just pounced on B. growling and snapping.  The Mom of the C-JRT checked B to see if C-JRT had bitten him, but found nothing.  However, he DID bite him on the shoulder, and this morning said bite was infected, swollen and bleeding.  We went to the Emergency Vet. Hospital, where they gave him morphine and opened up the wound so it would drain.  He has been very loopy all day, just lying on his little lambskin pad and looking pitiful.  We've all been overdosing him with love and petting; I think he's enjoying that, at least. 

This is the first time B. has been hurt or sick, and it just breaks my heart.  He finally went outside to do his business this afternoon.  Now we have to fun job of reporting to C-JRT's family what happened.  Boy, are we making strides with all of our new neighbors!!!