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!!

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