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.