Sunday, April 30, 2006

Shopping/Scavenger Hunt

With our court appearance just a couple of days away, the anxiety of the past year is gaining some serious steam.

Today, we woke, cleaned the apartment (not much space + not many things= not a lot of cleaning). At about 2, we were picked up by the translator and driver. We were in search of a stethoscope with a small clock for a gift for Wyatt’s doctor. We found the gift after driving around Astana for about an hour and visiting 4 different drugstores. At the checkout, we were offered Vitamins as part of our change (at restaurants, it's not uncommon to get gum as a portion of the change due you). We declined and the clerk went to another register to get us appropriate change.

After the drugstore scavenger hunt, we asked to be dropped off at the mall (the one with the Maximus fast food restaurant from a few weeks ago). We needed cash as the shops in this mall typically don’t accept credit cards. We drove to 3 different locations before finding a working ATM (not a typical problem here).

We shopped for about 40 minutes and then were dropped back at the house, dropped off our merchandise, and then went for dinner at Shymkent. We shared white rice, steak shish kabob (Shashlik in Russian), and a small pizza with tomatoes and steak. All of this was good and all of it came to less than 10 dollars.

We then walked to the Ramstore for a few essentials (including Jack Daniels Barbecue Sauce), and then back home.

Tomorrow (court day eve), is a holiday here in Kazakhstan. It’s officially called “May Day” but is a hold over from the Soviet holiday which was a 3-day celebration for Labor Day/Workers' Day. So no visit with Wyatt tomorrow, but hopefully there will be a time to visit him after Court Tuesday.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Paka Paka Jenn and Peter

Sorry no post yesterday. We had a great visit. Wyatt has discovered his tongue and Michelle and he spent some quality time sticking their tongues out at each other. One of his wonderful caregivers had a funny story for us. Wyatt apparently has learned to pull himself up to a standing position, as he did for the first time yesterday in his playing crib. The caregiver said he was standing up and realized he had no clue how to get down. So he just stood there and screamed until somebody helped him! She said it was so funny. It definitely had us cracking up. After the visit, we came home and got ready to go to dinner with Jenn and Peter. The court granted their adoption and they are now Jack’s official parents, so we went out to celebrate. We had an outstanding meal at Buhara. The meal started with bread and salads…Jason’s salad consisted of fried mushrooms, mayo, chicken and cucumbers and Michelle’s was carrots, kidney beans, apples and lemon. After that, came two huge dishes of lamb, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage and carrots. One dish was fried and one dish was baked. It was the best meal we’ve had here. Not to mention the Georgian wine. Yum. After that, we just came home and crashed. Thank you so much to Peter and Jenn for the wonderful meal and for the time we have shared the past 4 weeks. They are leaving tonight for home and we will definitely miss them. We wish them safe travels and hope to meet up again, as families of 3, in Almaty in a few short (fingers crossed) weeks.
Today, neither the playroom nor the music room were available, so we were in the conference room. Wyatt was a little on the cranky side today. Not bad, just tired.
So we played a little and then just held him and walked around. The yawning began early today so that explained it all. We will not see him again until Tuesday after court, as tomorrow is Sunday and Monday is a holiday. So, if all goes as planned, the next time we see him we will officially be his parents. We cannot wait.
After seeing Wyatt, we headed to the Eurasian Mall to pick up some gifts. We found what we needed and headed to a fast food café in the mall. Jason had a grilled chicken sandwhich (Very McDonalds like) and fries, Michelle had a different type of chicken sandwhich (more of a roll). It was okay, nothing fantastic, but hey, fast food is fast food, and we were in a hurry because our driver (actually Jenn and Peter’s, our coordinators are wouldn’t start this morning) needed to be back at the baby house to get Jenn and Peter.
We are now off to Astana Market to pick up some groceries and will call it a night. The weather is cold and rainy, so it makes for a perfect movie night in.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Road Rage

This morning we took our usual seats on the park bench on the Avenue of the Republic (Astana’s main street which backs up to our apartment building). Today, there were a lot fewer cars being pulled over. A few moments after we sat down, we heard police sirens (a rarity here) and right in front of us was the Presidential motorcade complete with the President’s Mercedes SUV with curtained windows.

We took Wyatt outside for the first ½ of today’s 2 hour visit. He was about 15 minutes for the visit today as he was eating. About 10 minutes into today’s visit, Michelle lifted Wyatt above her head (he LOVES this). From about 2 feet above her head, he presented her with his breakfast all over her face…then, he smiled at her.

After the baby house we headed to the Ramstore to purchase additional Nursat I-cards (the access cards for our dial-up internet connection). ½ a block from the Ramstore, we were stopped at a red light and heard a horn honking from behind us. Our driver looked in the mirror and thought nothing of it. Then, more honking. Our driver moved forward a bit and the car behind us that was honking pulled up beside us on Jason’s right side. Our driver rolled down the window of the Mercedes and the shouting began between the two drivers. At one point as we were a little ahead of the other car, our driver threw it in reverse to converse a little more. Our translator said that our driver called the man a “sheep” and that they told one another to “shut up”. I think that we lost something in the translation…the words seemed much more severe than those.

Jenn and Peter’s court date is tomorrow morning. We plan to join them for their celebratory dinner tomorrow evening at Buhara. Best wishes for a smooth court appearance for them tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Smiles and Tears

Today begin with a short walk. We stopped to sit on a bench and entertain ourselves by watching people get pulled over. Here, cops stand along side of the road and pull people over randomly. Hey, it beats America’s Funniest Home Videos!
We began the visit with taking Wyatt outside. We now have shed the sweatshirt layer. He is still loving the Snugli. After about 45 minutes we headed to the music room where we did the same stuff as usual…a little of the Leapfrog toy, a little of the books, a little of the keys, and of course the banging on anything we can find. We also played with a stuffed horse, which eventually went into the mouth. Our translator decided he is a true Kazakh man because of his taste in horse. Our coordinator came in late in the visit and it stressed Wyatt out! He is not used to men (only Jason). When our coordinator first came in, Wyatt just stared him down….couldn’t keep his eyes off of him. But once he got close and tried to tickle him, Wyatt wasn’t having it. Immediate tears. We had to include this picture! On a very positive note, as we were leaving the baby house, we saw a new mother walking out of the head doctor’s office. She had just found her baby. After looking at him briefly we realized this was the first child shown to us. We are so happy that he has found his family, as we would have wondered about him forever.
After the baby house we went to the Astana Market for lunch. We had a sampling of foods…burrito of random items, pilaf, chicken, salad, dumplings and topped it all off with some ice cream. The only downside of the whole experience was the absence of forks and napkins. From there we went on another walk (yes, our lives are sooooo exciting) and then back to the Mary Tyler Moore Show. We have now finished those DVD’s as well.
The night concluded with a trip to meet Jenn and Pete out for some cappuccino and then off to Shymkent for some beers. They are leaving Saturday night for home. We’ll be having our last hurrah at Buharah Friday night. We are so excited for them.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

One Week To Go

It is officially one week from our court date, May 2 at 10:00 am. It was the President’s decision that the May 1 holiday will only last one day. It could have been up to 3! We were obviously thrilled it is only one. Wyatt was full of smiles today…that seems to be the norm now. Wyatt has found that he can prop himself up on a bench bang his hand on it for fun. It’s the little things in life, huh. We played inside for the first hour and then headed outside. We tested out the Snugli and it seems to be a hit with all of us. I can already picture us walking though the farmers market on Saturday mornings. As far as Wyatt’s layers today and yesterday, he has been dressed a little on the heavy side, but not as bad as usually… not even enough to sweat. It was about 70 today and he had on a onesie pj outfit, pants, a sweatshirt, a jacket, boots and a light hat. We probably could have done without the sweatshirt, but hey, at least no scarf!!

After the baby house we came home for lunch, watched TV for a while and went for a long walk…from 1:30-5:00. We walked to the Tree of Life and by the President’s House. We sat on the benches in the park-like area in front of the President’s house for a while. It was beautiful outside and there was some music playing so we decided to just chill for a bit.

After our walk we came home, ate dinner and went to Astana Market to get some Pepsi Lite. Of course, we had to walk through the bakery. And if you walk through the bakery, you have to try something. So, we got a little individual sized pie filled with a type of frosting that was equivalent to an extremely large pixie stick. We are not sure what it was, but we do know that is has quite the reaction when mixed with Diet Coke.

Monday, April 24, 2006

70 and Sunny


Today at the baby house began with 1 hour of outdoor playtime. It was around 70 degrees and Wyatt was (believe it or not) appropriately dressed for the weather. Because of this, he enjoyed the day outside for the first time since we met. The remainder of our 2 hour visit was spent in the playroom. He enjoyed the time there (as did we) playing in the ‘jump-o-lene’ and with the balls. He also pulled himself up to the wooden bench so that he could slap it for about 10 minutes. He really enjoys making noises.

We went for a 3-hour walk with the translator this afternoon. We enjoyed walking through the amusement park and down the river to a very peaceful park where we sat and talked (and were eaten by Volkswagen-sized mosquitoes).

The rest of the evening will consist of scratching our new mosquito bites and watching DVDs.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Beware of the Gypsy Beggars!

Not the best weather today, chilly and spitting outside. However, that didn’t effect Wyatt’s day. He greeted us with smiles and played hard. We shared the playroom again with Isabelle and her mom and grandmother. Isabelle and Wyatt love this since they can play with each others’ toys. We don’t so much love it, since when they are playing with the toys, we are playing “how can we keep that out of your mouth?” We lose that game every time. At the end of the visit, Jenn and Peter came for their bonding time with their boy, Jack. That’s the 6 of us in the picture above.

After the baby house, we came home and read a little bit and walked to the Astana Market shops. We bought cakes that are traditional around the holidays. They look like giant cupcakes. Unfortunately, the frosting isn’t layered on like the good ole’ American cupcakes…can you figure out who is writing this, Jason or Michelle? This weekend is their Easter, so the cake came in a basket with eggs and a little pie-like dessert. The cake tasted similar to a breakfast pastry. The pie had a familiar taste, but we couldn’t put our finger on it…maybe citrus custard. Around 3, we met Jenn and Peter out for lunch. We originally planned to go to the Astana Market to introduce them to Jason’s best friend, Mr. Pilov, but due to the weather, we went to the old faithful, Shymkent. Well Michelle had beet salad, “nyet (no) mayonnaise” (which ended up being shredded beets) and noodle soup with meatballs. The use of mayo is impressive here…squirted over about any salad, served on the side for potatoes, rice, etc. And a visit to Shymkent isn’t complete without their bread…yum! After lunch we headed to Pucha and Astana Market shops. We didn’t buy anything this time, just window shopped.

Now, it’s about 7 pm and we’re hanging out watching Moonstruck. Tomorrow we’re heading over to Jenn and Peter’s apartment. They’re cooking us lunch and then we’re going to play some cards and the PS2 they brought. It has been a blessing having another couple that we really enjoy hanging out with here. Unfortunately, they will be leaving after their court date which may be at the end of next week.

Today’s Kazakhstan Cultural Lesson:
We told our coordinator and translator about our doorbell ringing and people knocking at our door yesterday. No biggie, they only rang it twice and knocked a few times. Nothing compared to the cops! Anyways, they told us, again, not to open the door to anyone. They said how there are lots of beggars that could be coming to the door asking for money (little do they know, we may be doing this by the end of May, ha ha). But these are not your average, run of the mill beggars. They were talking about gypsy beggars. Beggars that will hypnotize you and then make you give them all of your money. Due to your hypnotic state, you may not remember this occurring until days later. Interesting. Too bad for them that they can’t hypnotize you to open the door; it seems as if they may make a little more that way.

No baby house tomorrow since it’s Sunday. At home, we live for the weekends. Here, everyday is a weekend and we dread Sundays. Not for long!

Friday, April 21, 2006

It's a Date

Last night, we met Jenn and Peter at the Chelsea English Pub (just 2 blocks from our front (and only) door). The décor was very nice/authentic appearing. The prices were nice for the proprietor. A few beers and 2 sandwiches left us a tab of $40US. The food was good, but no better than meals we’ve had here for 75% less. The Chelsea does; however accept credit cards, has English menus and an English speaking staff. After dinner, we ventured across the main street (Avenue of the Republic) to the Arbat (also referred to by the locals as the “good hamburger place”) for dessert. Dessert was good and the environment was very casual.

Today’s visit with Wyatt was a good one. He was very playful and adorable. The caregivers brought him to us about 20 minutes late because he was actually eating today. Then, they picked him up from us about 15 minutes early. In just a few weeks, he’ll be all ours.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Humoring Ourselves

As I type, I realize we may have hit an all time low. We thought playing a full game of war was bad…we are now completing a full episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos. If that’s not bad enough…it’s in Russian. The worst of it all, is that we think it’s funny. Okay, that show is over and A-Team just came on. We are in for a fun afternoon!
We were in the playroom today which makes the 2 hours fly. We played with everything and Wyatt was full of smiles again. He has begun to make a new face, as you can see in the pictures. Our coordinator took our dossier to the court and we are currently waiting on our court date. We hopefully will find out later today or tomorrow.
After the baby house, we came home to finish the soup from yesterday. Tonight we are meeting Jenn and Peter out for some dinner. I think we may try the Chelsea English Pub. We’ll let you know how it is in tomorrow’s post.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

One Milestone Down

The official bonding time (14 days) is complete. We are now officially waiting for a court date. From there we will have a general idea about when to book flights home. Right now we’re thinking the end of May.
Wyatt was happy again today. We were in the music room was a little on the warm side (86.5 degrees to be exact). We learned that he LOVES soccer. We started rolling the ball first, with him sitting with Michelle and Jason rolling it to them. Michelle stood him up and swung him so he was kicking it. He was a trip. Cracking up every time! We had to take turns because our arms were getting tired from swinging him. He would get so excited, he’d bounce between kicks. That absolutely wore him out. After a diaper change…no tears, only a little whining today… he fell asleep in Michelle’s arms.
From the baby house we went to Buharah for lunch. Michelle had a salad with apples, peas, black olives, yellow peppers and a little olive oil. The salads here on not lettuce based. They are usually fruits, veggies, eggs, meat or potato (or a unique combo of any or all of those) with mayonnaise or salad/olive oil. Michelle also had Lagman, but prefers Shymkent’s. Jason had pilaf (still prefers Astata Market’s…by far) and a beef kabob. Of course, we had some of their awesome bread.
After lunch we came home for our usual TV/nap time. We have completed the Sex and the City series and are now on to the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Jenn and Peter have loaned a few seasons. Neither of us has watched it before and are really enjoying it. We’ve finished one of the disks already. After the nap, we headed to the Ramstore, where a young employee, Ardek and Jason are now on a first name basis.
Now, we’re ready to enjoy some chicken noodle soup and back to Mary Tyler Moore!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Happy Days Are Here Again

We had a much better day today. From the minute he was brought into the room, Wyatt was full of smiles. Was it because we saw him yesterday? Was it because his clothes matched? Was it because he wasn’t dressed like it was 20 below? Or was it because we were in the playroom with no indication that we would go outside? Whatever it was, we don’t care…our boy was back!
We played the entire two hours today...going from the ball pit to the blow up trampoline, to his toys on the floor, to the tambourine (Robers’ girls, that’s a tribute to you!!!); he was a mover and a shaker. He’s beginning to imitate us more and blowing raspberries is the new cool thing to do. There is one new behavior that has been consistent for the past 2 days…crying when we change his diaper. We’re not exactly sure why he does this all of a sudden, but we think it may be due to the fact that he doesn’t want to lie down and stay still for those few minutes. And, the new parents are exactly the speediest of all diaper changers.
After the baby house, we walked to Camobar (the Russian Café). Jason stuck with his old faithful goulash and chicken pancakes, while Michelle branched out and tried the chicken stewed with fresh veggies and rice. It was another tasty lunch, as it always is there. After lunch we headed to Astana Market to pick up some groceries, you know, the typical pop, oatmeal and milk that expires next year. We headed to the deli and were trilled to see that we could by the noodles that are in the Lagman soup that we love. We bought a package and will be experimenting with those tomorrow.
Tonight we’re lying low, watching some TV and cooking some spaghetti at the apartment. Looking forward to tomorrow…our last day of the official bonding period.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Some like it hot...Some don't!

The big man was not happy today. Let’s analyze why this could have been. After all, the high is 80 today and the sun is shining. Mom and Dad are happy as can be in tee shirts enjoying the great weather. Then there’s Wyatt…in one pair of pink pants, one pair of purple pants, one pair of plaid shoes, one white short sleeved onesie, one grey hooded sweatshirt, one blue light weight jacket (the one we bought him yesterday so he wouldn’t have to bundle up in a snowsuit) and to top it off, one red winter hat. Could it have been the clashing outfit? Could it have been because we didn’t visit him yesterday? Or the fact that he may have needed sunscreen…never mind, the sun couldn’t even touch his skin though all of is clothes! The poor guy was not enjoying life outdoors, so after a while we headed in. The playroom was locked, so we went into the music room. It was pretty warm in there, so we popped open a window and stripped Wyatt down to cool off. He played well for a while and then got a little tired and whiny. His nap is at 12, so this usually occurs around 11:30. Once we picked him up and held him, he was fine, so as usual we gave into this request. We’ll take a smile anyway we can get it.

After the baby house we went back to the Amstel tents that we ate at yesterday for lunch. Jason had the exact same thing as yesterday. Michelle branched out and tried something new…surprise, surprise (don’t worry, no tongue this time). It was huge piece of very thin flatbread with sliced chicken, pickles, carrots, a french fry or two, ketchup, and a mayo or sour cream sauce. There may have been some cabbage or something else in there as well. It was wrapped up like a burrito and heated in a panini-like grill. It tasted pretty good, however now after reading what all was in it; I can see that you may think it sounds a little on the weird side.

It’s now 3:30 and we are off to go for a run along the river walk. The weather is supposed to go back down to the 50’s tomorrow, so we are going to enjoy this weather while we can. Then tonight, we’re going to meet Jenn and Peter out for a drink at the North Wind English Pub (connected to the Ramstore/Astana Tower).