Our Adoption Journey to Kazakhstan

Our adventurous journey to complete our family by traveling half way around the world...literally!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Day 20, 21 & 22 - More fun in Kostanai

Day 20 (Thursday, February 22nd)

Today our coordinator will travel the approximate two hours to the town where Polly was born. Before a child can officially be adopted from the baby home, an attempt to locate the biological mother and bring before a Kostanai judge is required. We’ll be on pins and needles all day.

It’s hard to believe we’ve been here almost three weeks already…my, my, how time flies! As time passes, we are finding it more difficult to find ways to pass our time. We still enjoy a daily walk even if it only takes us to the grocery store. A couple of days ago we actually took a new route and found the train station. We talked about how fun it might be just to hop a train one afternoon to see outside downtown Kostanai. We fear, though, we would not understand how to get on the train, let alone get off. We may still do this if we can get some translation done first.

Some of the other things we are doing to pass the time include:
Brett: puzzles, reading, knapping, push ups, Discovery Channel series on World War 2 and email.
Laura: beading, shopping, journaling, exercising the 3 flights of back stairs in the hotel and email.

What would we do without our email?!

We’re both trying to get a bit of exercise daily so in addition to our daily walks and personal exercise routines we have created “home made” weights out of 5 liter water jugs we each get a little time with.

Day 21 (Friday, February 23rd)

While visiting Polly today, our coordinator stopped in with the news of her travels from yesterday. She will meet with the judge herself later today to give her report. We may now proceed to our pre-court which has been scheduled for Monday the 26th of February.

Even though it was very windy and cold outside, Laura ventured out for more shopping at the outdoor market while Brett stayed in and read. These outdoor markets are a never ending fun fest for anyone who enjoys flea markets and garage sales (although everything is new).

For dinner, with our coordinator and the two American families we befriended at the hotel, we piled into three taxies and traveled into a neighboring town to experience “444” which is also referred to as “the shish kabob place”. It is a favorite of everyone who has told us of this place. We ate shish kabobs, drank beer, and danced, danced, danced. When we weren’t dancing we were being entertained by dancers. Once again, a wonderful time had by all.

At the end of the evening, we all piled back into our designated taxies for the ride back into Kostanai. Those with children (all but us) went back to the hotel. Our coordinator thought it might be fun for the three of us to stop at a dance club on the way home. We did. This was a whole new experience. In this place we chose to sit and people watch rather than dance. The hired entertainment and the club’s customers were equally entertaining. We people watched, until 2am.

Day 22 (Saturday, February 24th)

Still very tired from being out late last night, we managed to get up for our routine visit with Polly. She brought the life back into us.

Following our visit we grabbed a quick bite to eat and napped the rest of the afternoon. A luxury we don’t generally take advantage of at home. We napped for over three hours.

After our nap, we took a long walk then strolled across the street to the pastry shop. For 1081 tenge ($8.65 US), we purchased two small pizza’s, two beers, a whole cake wrapped in peanuts (hummm) and two apples. We spent a relaxing evening watching a DVD we brought from home and dined in.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Day 17, 18, 19 - Change in plans

Day 17 (Monday, February 19th)

It is another FREEZING day outside! Probably minus 25F!! After our visit with Polly and lunch out, Laura and the wife of the new American couple decided to battle the cold and wander over to one of the outdoor markets. They were back within a short period of time as Laura was sure her legs were in the beginning stages of frost bite (they are fine). Tomorrow is supposed to be upwards of about +20F…a warm day compared to the last few and if appropriately dressed, a fine day for the outdoor market.

Tonight, however, the temperature seemed to be fine to walk to Laura’s favorite Italian restaurant “Dolce’ Vita” with our friends from Tennessee. Mmmmm Goood!

Day 18 (Tuesday, February 20th)

Today was a special day for the three year old group (Polly’s group). In honor of children in that group who had a birthday in either January or February, the children performed a special show. In the audience were various adults staffed at the baby home, adopting parents who were present in the home during this particular time frame (us included) and the children in the two year old group. Our Polly and her peers were all dressed up in lacy dresses and mini suits. They danced, sang and participated in a skit put on by a couple of their caretakers. It was a great treat. Our regular visit with Polly began after the show was over.

Tonight we dined in our room for a change and watched a movie. Our dinner included fresh bread, cheese, summer style sausage, pickles, olives, grapes and marinated cherry tomatoes. Our plates resembled something we’d put together for a sunset picnic at the beach…cold bottles of our favorite brew included.

Day 19 (Wednesday, February 21st)

Not sure if it was the marinated cherry tomatoes or something else, but Brett did not get much sleep last night…he’s got a bit of a belly ache. So Laura set off to visit Polly alone while Brett rested.

Polly continues to show more of who she is with every passing day. She’s got quite a few facial expressions and mannerisms that are loaded with character! We are looking so very forward to when we all actually understand each other verbally! However, when it came time to go outside today, Little Miss Polly put up a bit of a fight. After battling to get her coat on, we finally ventured outside to what I’d hoped would be a fun “Mom and daughter” play date. I thought wrong. Today was the first day that Polly insisted I pick her up the ENTIRE time we were outside. If I even hinted to put her down she’d yell “Nyet! Nyet!” (which means no! no!) and threaten tears. With only 2 hours of bonding time a day, we want to avoid tears if at all possible. This was unfortunate because this was the first day that a caretaker approached me and encouraged me to take Polly off on my own, away from the other children, and play…Polly just wasn’t interested in anything other than being held off the ground.
Once I returned to the hotel, Brett was still not feeling quite up to par and I, like any other day, had no interest in hanging around the hotel room. So what did I do you ask?! I rounded up our coordinator and the American mom from up the hall and the three of us wandered over to the out door market to shop, what else! Three women with money burning holes in their pockets…needless to say, we had a good time.

By dinner time, Brett was feeling better so we walked to “the Russian pub” for a bite to eat and came home to watch another movie.

After careful consideration, Brett and I decided today that I would return home with him following our final court date (which we hope is no later than the end of next week). The original plan was for me to stay and continue the bonding process until it was time to bring Polly home to the US. This was when we’d thought I’d be alone in Kazakhstan no more than one month. Together we agreed that anything longer than that would be too difficult for me, Luke and Polly, really, because my sanity would be in jeopardy any longer than that. So, the new plan is to go home and return to Kostanai Kazakhstan once Polly’s new birth certificate is issued and her passport and visa are ready to be processed. When I return, I will likely spend a full week here before taking her out of the baby home to re-establish our bond and her trust in me before taking her away forever. Polly’s 3rd birthday is March 26th so my hope is to be able to return to celebrate her 3rd birthday with her and her group peers before she says goodbye.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Day 13, 14, 15 & 16 - We're joined by more families

Day 13 (Thursday, February 15th)

Our day began by observing a speech therapy session that included Polly and two other children from her group (her group, by the way, consists of 14 children that are already or near 3 years of age). The session was held in her group room and the rest of the children from her group were off in a play room near by. In attendance were a number of the baby home caretakers from other age groups, the director of the orphanage, the head doctor and the head caretaker (who is also referred to as the head social worker). The speech therapist demonstrated a number of exercises with the three children testing their speech as well as their motor skills. After the session, the three children were escorted out of the room to join the rest of their group mates and then a question/answer session began. Oleysa sat between Brett and I translating most of what was being spoken during the lesson with the children as well as during the question/answer session between the remaining adults. This truly is an amazing operation and the care of the children is obviously THE top priority of everyone at this baby home.

Today with Polina was a 100% turnaround from yesterday. She was obviously pleased by our presence at her speech therapy lesson and we scored points after when we sat to observe her playing in the gym room with her peers rather than immediately taking her away. She also played nicely for quite a while with Brett today so we knew we were back in her good graces. Polly and I did exchange “tests” today which was an interesting experience. She tested me on my boundaries and I tested her back with some “tough love”. In the end, we both won the game and I believe we bonded closer as a result.

Two new American families arrived today that are working with our same agency. One of the families is here for only three days. Their adoption was finalized about a month ago. They are back in Kazakhstan to pick up their newly adopted infant daughter, complete the final steps in this process at the American Embassy in the city of Almaty and return home to the US. The second family is just beginning the process so we will be approximately two weeks ahead of them in the process. They are here with their six year old son and seem like a fun family. It will be good to have another family here to spend time with for the duration of our trip.

Tomorrow night, Olesya is taking all three American families to The Knight’s Castle where she took Brett and me last Friday night. I anticipate another great time!

Day 14 (Friday, February 16th)

Today was the last day of our required “bonding period” with Polly. We can now be scheduled for pre-court which is the next stage in this process. We will not be able to take custody of Polly until we are ready to depart Kostanai but we will continue to visit her daily until it is time for us to leave the country.

Today was a bit adventurous for all three of us. Polly got to leave the baby home with us today in order to have her visa / passport photo taken. It was fun to get out and do something out of our general routine even though we didn’t do much but ride in a car. She’s definitely made great strides with Brett. She actually asked him to pick her up today in addition to volunteering a big hug before saying good-bye to us for the day. As a final note, here is a general tid bit for those of you looking for more than our daily updates:
Although many people smoke here, you seldom experience smoking in eating establishments. Since we’re dining out for almost every meal, this has been nice.

Day 15 and Day 16 (Saturday and Sunday February 17th & 18th)

Not much to report for the weekend. The weather has been bitter cold the last couple of days so we’ve actually been staying in and reading, beading and catching up on sleep this weekend (today it is about minus 20C which is +/- minus 4F).

Polly has been in really good spirits the last couple of days and is making great progress with Brett. It’s very heart warming watching her come out of her protective shell and show us more and more daily of whom she really is.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Day 10, 11 & 12 - First sight of tears

Day 10 (Monday, February 12th)

Following our visit with Polly and lunch with Olesya on Monday, we ventured off to the open market again. Laura was on a mission to find a warm cap while Brett was out “just to look”. While Laura was tied up at one booth looking at hats two women approached Brett and whisked him away. A few moments later he returned laughing saying he believed he was being solicited by these women. Once Brett and I were re-joined the two women followed us for awhile trying to make conversation. At one point, the older of the two women then whisked Laura away inside some small café. Although we were amused at the humor of what was occurring we were nervous as well. Brett has ALL our money on his body at all times and with the language barrier it was difficult to understand what the intentions of these two women really were. We were in the middle of a crowded public place so pick pocketing was our biggest worry. With great effort, we were finally able to step away with nothing lost and a few amusing moments with locals gained.

Day 11 (Tuesday, February 13th)

For the first time in 11 days Polly broke down and cried with us today. Because we’re not speaking much Russian and she not speaking any English we were feeling a bit helpless alone in a room with no idea as to what had upset her. One of her caretakers entered the room at one point, spoke to her in Russian and stopped her crying. That didn’t make us feel any better because we still felt in the dark. It was finally concluded that she likely got upset when she discovered accidentally that her group of peers had left the neighboring room. There is a closed door between rooms. Therefore, Polly can hear what is going on with her peers at all times even though she can not see them. Within a few moments of the caretaker speaking with her she was back to being happy and playful.

The day was very cold so our new coats were truly put to the test today. We were told the temperature had reached -16 C / -2 F. Surprisingly, it was more tolerable than we could have otherwise imagined. The air is very dry here in Kostanai, much like what Laura remembers of Colorado. Because the air has been dry the cold does not feel as cold as we would otherwise expect at these crazy temperatures. You also don’t see snowmen or snowballs being thrown. The snow falls through your fingers like sand.

After lunch we visited a local museum. The museum included artifacts of Kazakh as well as Russian history and culture. It was quite fascinating!

As a side note, we’ve got to talk about dogs…they’re everywhere…and they’re wild. Passing a group of dogs on the street here is like passing a park with feeding pigeons. There isn’t a second thought. At first sight it is very sad. Strange thing though is few look sad. They all look remarkably healthy and casually share the sidewalks with people. You see dogs walking alone and in packs but we haven’t seen a dog fight yet. We don’t dare approach them as we know they do not belong to anyone but they seem friendly. It’s so strange. You just wouldn’t see this in the US.

Day 12 (Wednesday, February 14th)

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY! Half way around the world and Laura still got flowers for Valentines Day…Polly sure is getting a very special dad J
Polly, on the other hand, was not feeling the love today. All started out well. Today was pool day for her group. The baby home has an indoor swimming pool and once a week the children get into ankle deep water and play. We were invited to observe and Polly seemed thrilled to have us there. Once we returned to our visiting room, however, she was less pleased. We experienced another crying spell today. This time her peers were in the next room so we know an empty room next door could not be the reason. When Laura approached to offer comfort Polly hustled away. This was a first as she has offered only open arms to Laura thus far.

Although being rejected by Polly today was upsetting, it was to be expected at some point. It would be unrealistic for any adopting parent to think a child could instantly welcome them as their new parents and easily walk away from their caregivers and peers forever. We are here disrupting the only environment of security and love these children have likely ever known. There are resources out there to prepare adopting parents for this adjustment time. Being somewhat prepared was the only reason we were able to handle these tears and not take them too personally.

On a lighter note, we celebrated Valentines Day in the hotel restaurant with our American friends from Tennessee. There was a show with dancers, a flautist, a female singer and a Russian female MC who was equally entertaining.

Tomorrow we observe Polly with the baby home speak therapist. We hope she will be as happy to see us as we will be to see her.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Day 8 and 9 - Dial up internet is tough

Turns out our “dial up” internet access is adding up quicker than we planned. Therefore, we have decided it wise to post updates only once every two or three days. The internet rate for prime time (daytime) is only 10 tenge (8 US cents) per minute but when it takes almost 2 minutes to upload one photo to the internet your minutes add up fast. We calculated that in the 10 days we’ve been here we’ve used around 30 hours of internet time between the two of us. Too much too soon. So, we’ll do our best to keep good notes since we’re not writing daily and please give us a day or two if you send an email you’d like a reply to.

We were on our own for most of the weekend. All the American families we met this past week have left for Almaty (where the American Embassy is located) in Southern Kazakhstan to complete the processes required for their adoptions and bring their children to their homes in the US. Two families working with our adoption agency arrive on Wednesday the 14th so I am sure we will be introduced to them immediately.

Over the weekend we ventured out on our own with trusty translator in hand and shopped the outdoor market, dined out and explored. Our big Saturday night out included walking to find something to eat, found a small pizza / pastry shop, had two meat pastries heated and continued our walk. There were lots of young people out, dressed up and all looking as though they had a fun evening planned ahead of them. Although the streets were busy with cars the sidewalks were still busy with people…just as they always are. We had a good time just walking around and checking out the Saturday scene. Last night (Sunday night) we ate a quick Italian dinner out and returned to our hotel room to watch a movie. Likely what we would have done had we been home.

Every day with Polly proves more rewarding. She has warmed up to Laura quite a bit but is still a bit cautious with Brett. Laura is feeling great with all the unsolicited hugs and smiles she gets but feels slightly guilty that Brett is not getting the same. Brett is a wonderful dad so we’re confident that once he gets her home she’ll see how much fun he is with Luke and want to be a part of it.

The first many days we didn’t get any verbal communication from her outside of a few whispers in Russian. The last three days or so we’ve not only got her speaking more loudly (in Russian) but she has spoken English words when asked (Polly, necklace, Mommy, Daddy…). She is also using more body language to communicate with us, like pointing her finger at what she wants or what she wants us to do. Now that she is displaying more of who she really is we can see that she has quite the charming little personality. She is in good spirits throughout our daily visits and has Mommy and Daddy giggling a lot at her facial expressions and mannerisms. Every day we are more convinced at how well she and her big brother Luke will likely get along.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Day 6 and Day 7, This is a vacation!

In planning for this trip I (Laura) read many journals just like this. Time and time again I read “bring plenty of books to read, games to play, etc. to help pass the time”. We brought plenty to help pass the time sitting in the hotel room but have not had the time to do any of it (no complaining here, we like keeping busy). Every day begins at approximately 7am for coffee and showers followed by a hotel breakfast either in our room or in the dining room by 8am. At 8:45am we get picked up by Andre, our driver, who takes us to the baby home. Our visits with Polly occur every day from 9am to 11:30am. Andre’ is always outside, on time, to pick us up for our return trip to the hotel.

Once back at the hotel we rush quickly back to our room and make a plan for lunch. Yes, we’re eating three meals a day but since the food portions given are what we should be eating rather than what we’re used to getting in the US, we do not feel like we’re over doing it. We make excuses to have various errands every day so typically we do this following lunch. Because we do not have a car and Andre’ is only hired for our round trip to the baby home we get around on foot. I would guess that we are walking a minimum of 1 ½ miles daily. Most days are likely 2 ½ miles or more. Although the temperature has been very cold, the days are usually filled with sunny blue skies so walking is a pleasure and you warm up when you walk.

Our evenings have been filled as much as our days. As you’ve already read, we’ve been lucky to have met two other American families whose company we enjoy. We’ve dined out with both on a couple of occasions which makes for bonus evenings. While one of these families is leaving this afternoon for Almaty (where the American Embassy is located to return here Wednesday) and the other family tomorrow, we know of three other families who are working with our agency that are due to arrive within the next week or so. Having people to do things with (that speak your language) really helps. It’s only coincidental that we are here at the same time as other families. We have been blessed in so many ways preparing for this journey…having other American families here at the same time is just another one of those blessings.

We’ve had a couple of other extra special experiences as well. Thursday evening we attended the circus. No, it was not what you would expect with The Ringling Brothers Circus but a treat nonetheless. In an auditorium that probably doesn’t hold any more than 200 or 300 people (set up like a high school auditorium) we experienced this specially scheduled event. Our guess is that there were no more than 10 or so people in the circus rotating all of the acts. There were no elephants or tigers but very talented poodles, an emu, a snake and a pony who took their turns performing on the stage.

Last night (Friday night) our coordinator, Olesya, took us to a restaurant known as “The Castle” that was decorated with a Medieval flair. There was a dance floor in the center of all the dining booths where we enjoyed choreographed dancing performed by four beautiful women. In between their routines we listened to the MC sing while we, ourselves, boogied on the dance floor. Another wonderful evening!
Today at 4pm, we are scheduled for private massages in our hotel room (1:15 minutes each for a rate of 1900 tenge which equates to about $15). Yah, we bored (NOT!)

The icing on the cake is although very few people speak English, the music we hear in restaurants, at the grocery store and in retail establishments is all the popular music we listen to back home. Do you think I’m giving it away that I am an American if I’m singing along out load?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Day 5 - Puppets

Day 5 bonding with Polly and today smiles were in abundance. We began our visit by pulling two doll puppets out of the backpack we bring with us daily. Polly picked up on how to put the puppet on her hand and move the character immediately. Laura and Polly then spent quite a bit of time having the puppets exchange kisses and dance. A good time had by both. We also brought the notebook computer today pre-loaded with Raffi children's music. Polly danced with Momma and Pappa briefly but spent most of the time on Laura's lap simply listening to the music. After each song she'd ask Laura to play the music again (Olesya, our translator, hung out in the room with us for a while today translating Polly's words). In addition to more smiles, we also heard her talk a great deal today. Her little voice is so sweet. We look forward to hearing that little voice speak in English!

We lunched again today with our coordinator and who then joined us walking all over town doing errands (which included purchasing circus tickets for tomorrow evening). Brett knowingly ate a horse meat and noodle soup for lunch stating the meat tastes like beef. With horses in the family, Laura's not so sure she can be as daring...we'll see. The weather was a few degrees cooler today than it has been but the sky was blue and the sun was bright, so all bundled up we barely noticed the temperature drop.

It was wonderful having Olesya along with us this afternoon since she is fluent in both Russian and English. The errands were personal for us but she did all the talking. Tomorrow morning Polly will be going to see a doctor outside the orphanage for a "second opinion" checkup so our usual morning visit is postponed until late afternoon. Olesya offered to escort us through one of the local outdoor markets so now with an open morning she will meet us at 11am for an another adventure. We are very fortunate to have someone here who is not only coordinating our adoption every step of the way while we are in Kostanai, but is taking time out of her regular day to make our visit a bit more exciting.

Tonight, we joined the two American families we met a few days ago for dinner again. It's amazing how quickly our days seem to be moving. We brought movies, books, beading projects and games to help us pass the time and we've barely touched any of it (we're obviously not bored yet). The only English speaking channel on television is The Discovery Channel (on occasion) so we certainly haven't been resorting to TV to help pass the time.

We will end this evening by making a pre-scheduled phone call to our International Medical Specialist in Virginia Beach to review Polly's medical history file. She is considered to be in very good health by the doctor at the baby home and hope our doctor at home agrees.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Day 4 - Medical Review

We began our day reviewing LMS's medical history with the staff doctor at the baby house. Overall, she is in wonderful health and very much developing for a child typical of her age. We followed with our regular scheduled visit with LMS, who we shall now refer to as Polly. Polly was quiet again today. Since she has been more comfortable with Laura than Brett we decided to let Brett dominate time with her today in hopes of gaining more points. We think it worked. He started the visit by placing Polly on his lap and rubbing her back. He decided she could stay there as long as she pleased, which lasted for 30-45 minutes! The Pappa / Polly snuggle time ended when one of the caretakers entered the room to invite Polly and us to join the other kids in her group for play out in the snow. We all bundled up, went outside and laughed, played, threw snowballs with the other children and had a wonderful time. We hope to participate in more outdoor time as this was a great place for Polly to let loose and really be herself.
After our visit to the baby house we joined our coordinator for lunch again. As usual, the food was delicious. Each of us had different types of soup and salad. Water with "gas" is now usually our beverage of choice (unless it's dinner, then we splurge for a brew).

After lunch, we strolled downtown Kostanai just taking in the sights. We hope to make such walks on a daily basis. Our walk took us all the way to the river which is currently frozen solid! We saw a number of ice fishing taking place on the lake. Laura took time out to make a snow angel in the snow which she had promised Luke she would do. Sure wish he were here as well. We hope to bring both children back one day. Perhaps in the summer which we would imagine is beautiful.

As we completed our stroll we were fortunate to hear the call to prayer from the Mosque. The call is a man's voice singing a beautiful tune which can be heard for blocks.

The snow has been falling gently all day. This made our walk and our day extra special.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Day 3 - Tour of the Baby House

Today the director of the baby house gave us a full tour and history of the facility where our daughter currently resides. This particular baby house, The Delphi (The Dolphin), is considered one of the best in the country by Kazakhstan's First Lady (who has visited on more than one occasion). We witnessed first hand how well cared for and loved these children are by those responsible for them while they are there.

LMS was a little quiet today. She was very happy to see us (apparently bragged with excitement to her group when she saw us), just quiet. We spend most of our time looking at the abundance of family photos I brought and coloring in the coloring book. Tomorrow we get to take her outside and play...with snow thick on the ground, this should be a great time.

Following our visit at the baby house, we lunched with our coordinator and then went shopping at the mall. The mall...more like an over priced indoor flea market, was entertaining in itself. Each level by merchandise category. The first floor was lined with cell phones for sale (no shortage here. I've never seen so many cell phones on display). Up a couple of floors was fur coats and hats. EVERYONE where's fur here.

This evening, we shared a make shift happy hour with 2 other American families wrapping up their adoption process followed by a fun dinner out with one of the families. Each of us are adopting children from different facilities. The first family from another baby house in the near by town of Rudney and the second family (who we dined with) from the older children's facility here in Kostanai. All three families are working with different agencies, but when there are rumors of another American family near by, you tend to seek them out!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Day 2 The Adventure Continues

Today was our first complete visit (2 1/2 hours). The visit began with great enthusiasm from all 3 of us. Walking hand in hand with a caretaker down a hallway to greet us, LMS screamed out with excitement the moment she saw her visitors in the lobby. WOW, such enthusiasm from only a brief 20 minute or so introduction the day before!

Privately, in a room just off her group room, we entertained ourselves for the next couple of hours tossing a blowup ball around, coloring in a coloring book, making moving vehicles with legos, etc. She expresses great enthusiasm when she gets excited about things. Her eyes (incredibly beautiful I must add) lit up wide every time we brought out something new to do. The ball, though, was most certainly her favorite.

She seems to be speaking well but it is difficult to tell since she is speaking Russian and her words, at this point, are few. We brought our talking pocket translator to help us communicate during our visits but I'm not sure it's helping us. She looks at us funny whenever we try to mimick the voice on this device.

We wore her our physically with all the activity during our time together and ended our visit with LMS curled up on her new "Momma's" lap where she sat almost motionless for many mintues. We thought she was about to go to sleep but I now believe she was just enjoying being so close. A caretaker then took her to join her group for lunch. As Brett and Laura crossed through her group room to leave, she waived good bye from her lunch seat as did the rest of the group.

The balance of the day we spent just walking and familiarizing ourselves with this very charming town. It seems that people prefer to use their feet rather than motor to get around so we were not out alone. We were also the most casually dressed in town (even in the middle of the day). Women with perfectly groomed hair and makeup in fur and spiked healed boots were all around us. Everyone is trim, we assume from all the walking because the food is ridiculously inexpensive and delicious! We ate lunch at a small Russian pub which included large beers. We spent around 1100 tenge which computes to less than $9.00 US.

Still not fully rested from the many hours of traveling, we came home and crashed at around 4pm in the afternoon. I (Laura) am writing at 3am here since I've already received my full days rest....guess we've got a bit more adjusting to with this 11 hour time difference.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

We've Arrived!

Thursday, Feb 1. at approximately 1:00pm Brett and Laura began their 33 hour travel schedule to Kazakhstan.

Friday morning, we arrived in Frankfurt Germany with a 13 hour layover ahead of us, bags checked all the way to Kaz and nothing left to do but to explore the location we were in. We hopped on a city train and were off to explore downtown Frankfurt. We walked for many blocks, took touristy photos and ate a traditional lunch of schnitzel and German beer in a historic bar district. The temperature was chilly but tolerable.
We arrived in Kostanai Kazakhstan right on schedule this morning. After some minor dealings with Customs, we were met by our coordinator (who will be our "hand holder" for most of the time we are here). We originally did not expect to meet the special little person we traveled half way around the world to meet until Monday, but were pleasantly surprised to learn we were to meet her within one hour of arriving. We quickly went to our hotel to check in and change and were on our way.

Our first visit was good. Little Miss Sunshine (as she will be known in this blog) stepped into the room dressed for a party. She was cautious of the two adults she was being introduced to as her new mamma and pappa but was not afraid. We shared a bit of time warming up to each other until we had to say goodbye. We had given her a baby doll and were told that when she returned to the room where the rest of the children in her group were she showed it off as the gift given by her mamma and pappa. She seems to be a warm, smart, almost 3 year old. We look forward to the upcoming days of getting to know each other better.

After returning to the hotel we rested and then joined another American family working with our same agency for a wonderful dinner a short walk away from the hotel. The area of Kostanai near the hotel was busy with many people on foot. Some with destinations like ourselves and others seeming to just be out for a nice walk in the crisp winter air. The couple we were with pointed out where we'd likely do most of our shopping, where all the cool restaurants were (including those with English menus) and where to find entertainment. It was a beautiful night for a walk following dinner with fresh snow in the air and on the ground. The streets were lit with lights from the holidays (new year we were told). Tomorrow afternoon we'll get out on foot and explore some more.