I looked around hopefully for the hidden air conditioner in our new hotel. It was hidden too well … I never found it. Ha ha. I did shell out a few tenge at a street market for a fan. First night, when I put it together, there was a broken piece. Second night: I left it at the Baby House after taking it to the market for a replacement part. Third night: Finally used the fan. Fourth night: we left. Sure got a lot of use out of that fan! Actually sleeping with the windows open was okay, except for the kamikaze mosquitos that divebombed our ears all night. How do they know where our ears are??
We had our work cut out for us at the Petro Baby House. We weeded the entire play area and spread sand over the whole thing (twice! The first sand wasn’t the right kind), and dug 36” holes for the swing set. We had a power auger, which was fine and dandy for the first 6 inches. Then we ran into sheets of rock and shale. (I say ‘we’ collectively … meaning the men who actually operated the power auger). Debi and I did tackle one hole with a long “breaker bar” which was a piece of rebar that weighed about 20 pounds, but when hoisted up and down helped break up the layers of rock. Try doing this repeatedly for 4 hours straight (stopping from time to time to remove the bits of small rock from the hole) and see how YOUR arms feel afterwards! No one could say we didn’t at least attempt to pull ourown weight! And did I say that it rained off an on the whole time? At least it wasn’t blazing hot; look at the bright side, I always say.
For three days in a row for lunch we hit the same shashlik guy (shashlik being Kazakh shishkebabs) I do like shahslik, but after three days I had quite had my fill.
By the time Debi’s suitcase was supposed to have appeared, no one seemed too disturbed by her wearing the same clothes three days in a row. However SHE was a little perturbed and generally pissed off that no one seemed to care. I took the bull by the horns and said very loudly that we NEEDED TO SEE ABOUT THE SUITCASE. Kate rode with us out to the airport at the time the flight from Kokshetau was supposed to arrive, but we were about an hour early. She need to get back to the baby house, so she left us sitting in the dingy gray concrete Soviet airport alone. She did, however, arrange with a nice lady behind a counter to help us get a taxi back to the baby house. When the plane landed we were praying every type of prayer we knew, from every religion known to man. And it worked. We whooped and hollered as the familiar black case with the lime green tags appeared in the doorway. A quick change into fresh clothes for Debi, and we were back at the Baby House performing our duties.
One night after dinner we went strolling around Petro. At one point we ended up in a park, supposedly to take a short cut back to our hotel. We followed Jay like a bunch of obedient scouts, until we ended up ankle deep in mud. When my shoes came off every time I took a step, I lost it, laughing my head off. I had to go find a quiet bush (ahem) with Debi standing guard. When we emerged from the undergrowth, all the men were nowhere to be found. It was getting dark, and strange Kazakh men were following us. We had a few choice words to say about the fact that not only was chivalry dead, it was rotten and decomposing in its grave. After finding our way back to the main drag, we ran into Jay, the ONLY man who came back to see what had happened to us. He earned great big brownie points because of his rescue mission.
The opening day of the playground was quite an event. The news media was there, with TV cameras and interviewing reporters. Jay became a minor celebrity in the town, with people coming up to speak to him after they saw him on TV that night. The children came out dressed in new clothes and played happily on the playground as we all watched. All the hard work had been worth it … a thousand times over. The BH director had a little “tea” for us … although I saw less tea and more vodka and champagne. There were cakes and cookies and chocolates … and a lot of good will wafting around the room (though very little cool air). We felt very loved and very satisfied at what we had accomplished.
We celebrated our last night in Petro at an authentic Russian restaurant. There was a large party of about 20 folks at the other table. They kept sending us bottles of vodka, and we would reciprocate. Oh, and here's a bottle of cognac ... we sent them a bottle of pepper vodka. And on and on it went. We toasted them, they toasted us. We danced ... the director of the orphanage where Serik had lived after the Baby House, Yuri, joined us for dinner. He was a stereotypical Russian man, with heavy mustache and a twinkle in his eye. I asked him to find my sister a nice Kazakh husband. He replied, (all through Kate, of course) "I regret that I myself am already married; and unfortunately I was the last worthy man left in Kazakhstan!" Yuri danced with Debi and me, and kissed our hands at the end like a perfect gentleman. Debi stood up and told everyone what a magical, wonderful trip this had been. I think I saw a little tear in her eye!