Sunday, April 27, 2008

Feasts and Beasts

The past few days have been a whirlwind of activity, alternating between preparations for court and our increasingly busy social schedule.  Above is a picture of our night out with the Dickey's (sounds like a Disney film, eh?) Thursday, at the Uzbekistani restaurant that Amy mentioned in the prior post.  For us, this restaurant probably has the best ambiance we have experienced in Shymkent, and the food is very good as well.  Oh, and we fed 10 people for around $75 US.  Great deal!  You can't tell from this picture, but we are sitting in an upstairs 'loft', overlooking an outdoor courtyard.  We have several other pictures in the slideshow that provide a better perspective and also has the name of the restaurant for those that will be heading to Shymkent (it's in Kazakh).

On Friday we had a very good visit with Griffin.  His head is healing nicely, and he continues to show us his determination and spirit.  He’s now excited to show us how he can walk across the room with mommy holding one hand, and daddy the other.  He’s also started to display his soccer (or football skills over here…), by ‘kicking’ at one of the bouncy balls in the toy room.  While he still has a long way to go to catch up, it is very encouraging to see how much his confidence and endurance has improved over such a short time.  I can’t wait to get him home and see what he can do with the full support of his new family and friends!

Speaking of new friends, we had a special evening Friday night with our new Shymkent friends Jon-Paul and Yuliya, and their two lovely youngsters Brianna and Ryan.  We were treated to a traditional Kazakh feast at a local restaurant, with seating much like the Uzbek restaurant from the prior evening (comfy seating on pillows around the low table in a private room).  During the meal, we were able to sample a few Kazakh dishes new to us, both a gift of the horse (fermented mare’s milk) and, well… the horse itself!  Surprisingly, the horse meat was fairly tasty.  Had we not known it, we probably would have mistaken it found a good piece of beef, perhaps a bit saltier, but tender and good flavor.  I just hope that I didn’t just lose my rights to travel back into Kentucky… 

Regarding Kymys, the mare’s milk, however… Yuliya dear, since I know that you’ll likely read this, let’s start by saying that we loved your enthusiasm and we really wanted to like your favorite drink.  But I must admit I was a bit skeptical when you described the fermentation process as ‘you kinda start with letting the milk set out for a few weeks, then skim off the top…’.  Yea, ok.  Think happy thoughts.  It’s only a drink, and plenty of people survive and actually like this.  Yuliya doesn’t seem to suffer any permanent twitches or other obvious effects, so let’s have it.

The drink looks like milk, only watered down.  It has a slight alcohol odor (there is some alcohol that is a result of the fermentation process).  Amy and I try a sip, and realizing that our hosts are watching, and that we do not have a chaser of any sort to be found, we do our best not to completely give away the fact that this is not a fluid that should be consumed by humans.  Ever.  Under any circumstances.  Yuliya politely notices that we are not gulping down our toxic mixture (again, love you dear!), and mentions that it’s an acquired taste.  I’m thinking that it’s probably acquired over several generations.

Amy Here:

I’m sorry to interrupt but I have to add a few comments. Jesse is correct – the horse meat wasn’t that bad. In case you’re wondering, they boil the meat and serve it cold. It had a casing around the outside that Jon-Paul said to take off.  I refuse to believe it was horse intestines so I’ll ignore how or why the casing was there.  The meat was sliced thin and attached to congealed fat. Sort of yin-yang looking, they said it was ok if we didn’t want to eat the fat (nice of them).  It reminded me of a salty beef jerky. 

As for the mare’s milk… I wish I could explain the taste. It was terrible! It was so soar, so bitter, so bad.  I honestly can’t believe it’s not dangerous to your body.

The rest of the dinner is absolutely delicious, and we ended the night with coffee and great conversation at Jon-Paul and Yuliya’s house.  While the bureaucratic processes in this country can be difficult to navigate and are often dictated by payoffs and corruption, Amy and I have been constantly amazed by the hospitality of the individual folks in Kazakhstan.  Certainly Jon-Paul and Yuliya are in a league of their own in this regard, and have made our stay much more rewarding due to their generosity and friendship.  Thanks guys, it’s nice to know that we’ll always have friends in Shymkent!         

 We continued our adventures on Saturday by traveling to Turkistan (not to confuse with the country Turkmenistan), to visit a mausoleum dating to the late 14th century.  The mausoleum (see slide show) was named for the first great Turkic Muslim holy man, Kozha Akhmed Yasaui.  Turkistan is a region of Kazakhstan, so we didn’t actually leave the country, but it was a 2-2 ½ hour jostling ride by car through the countryside and several small villages.  It’s about 90 miles from Shymkent.

The trip provided us an excellent opportunity to witness how people live in Kazakhstan outside the ‘big city’.   The first thing that hits you is the physical beauty of Kazakhstan’s rolling hills and steppes.  And since much of the land is not well developed outside the city, it’s obvious that the basic landscape has not changed much in the past several thousand years.  In many places farmers still herd sheep, cattle, and goats while riding donkeys.  However, in other areas, we noticed some technology (circa 1960-70’s) in the form of tractors, old trucks, and basic farm equipment.  Life is certainly much different in the villages than in the city, and a world away from what is typical in the States.

One of the highlights of our trip was during a stop to a camel farm.  Our driver, Kostria, felt the camel and I had the same teeth, and that his picture below was proof.   I believe my childhood orthodontist may take offense, but I do see his point.

For those that haven’t had the joy of spending quality time with these creatures, they are intimidating.  They’re bigger than you think, they smell very bad, and they have an attitude.  Our friend here was particularly cantankerous, and started our visit with an immediate ‘Urrggnnnhhhh’.  Can’t do it justice in written format, so you’ll just have to ask Amy and she’ll recreate the sound for you.  Let me just tell you, it wasn’t ‘Hello’, and it wasn’t welcoming.

Amy wanted nothing to do with this creature, which you will notice by the one picture (in the slideshow) with her stiff-arming the thing from as far away as possible.  By the end of our brief visit, Mrs. Camel was tired of the picture-happy Americans, and started to become more aggressive.  The farmer motioned that we would be fine, but I’ll bet that he was secretly hoping that I’d get a chunk of my hide removed by the inch long teeth housed in mouth of my surly new friend.  The last picture taken shows the camel’s head as it was swinging toward me.  Fortunately, you can’t see the panicked look on my face as I realized there was nowhere to hide from the freakishly flexible neck on this beast.  If it wanted to extract a pound of my flesh, it could have without a problem.  I escaped unharmed, and without being spat upon.     

Amy here again:

Excuse the interruption again… look in the dictionary next to the words “Good Sport” and you better see a picture of my smiling face. Remember the night before I ate horse meat and drank poison, got little sleep and had to be up early for the drive to Turkistan. 2 ½ hours one way, Jesse said it is a jostling ride… jostling my butt.  My neck is still sore from the ride there and back: think bobble head doll.  It was 90 degrees that day and in the mausoleum, an official asked me to cover my head and provided me with a large napkin thing. I refuse to call it a scarf. God (or should I say Allah) knows how many other woman had worn it before me.  Interesting place.

I’m happy to be back on the road to the hotel, but the boys want to stop at the camel farm.  Can you imagine pulling up to a house/hut in the middle of nowhere asking if the silly Americans can see your camels?  The old farmer must think we’re nuts!  I, being the good sport, get out of the car and start towards the camel. As I’m walking toward them I see the farmer has just loosely tied the front legs of the camel.  (Made me think of walking up to a dog as someone is putting a mussel on it.)  I’m surprised at its size, as it’s much bigger than I imagined. The creature is making this really loud  ‘Urrggnnnhhhh’ sound.  All signs are blinking “stay away”.  I give into peer pressure and get close enough to touch the camel. Clouds of dirt come off as I touch her and she really stinks. I’m done… get the picture as proof and I’ll meet you in the car. Call me a city girl; actually just call me a girl from Ohio where we have dogs, not camels.

Then Kostria encourages Jesse to give the camel a big hug.  I stop my retreat to the car and turn to witness this trick. As Jesse reaches up to hug it, the camel starts moaning and coughing and then turns his head and neck toward him.  I think it was preparing to spit on him. Ahhh, the look on Jesse’s face was truly priceless. It scared him to death – he couldn’t get away fast enough. The four of us (Zhenia, Kostria, old farmer and I) are cracking up laughing. Made the whole trip worth it!

On an educational note: what do they do with camels?  They drink the milk, sheer them for warm wool, use them for transportation, and eventually eat them. (Jesse here – I would have paid to participate in the eating part… particularly with this angry beast.)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Court Date

Our court date has been set!

We go to court on Monday at noon. (7 days exactly from our last bonding day). I think Nurshia had to pull a few strings to get us to court so quickly. She ask for copies of our plane tickets to show the courts.

We'll go to court Monday, then flight from Shymkent to Almaty on Tuesday, then fly home on Wednesday. We leave Wednesday morning here, travel for 23 hours, but still get home Wednesday night there. I'm sure our heads will be spinning for a few days.

English Class

It’s Thursday night here in Shymkent and we’ve had a long but fulfilling day. We started the day with a visit to the baby house. Griffin’s new health issue is being addressed and seems to be getting better. The Baby House doctor requested we go buy him medicine and bring it to them. We set our driver right away to purchase an antibiotic and cream. We also practiced walking today. With Jesse holding one hand and me the other he walked the length of the room and back. It’s a huge improvement from day one when he couldn’t / wouldn’t take a step. The cute thing is how he gets excited about his accomplishment. His smile is infectious.

After the baby house visit we had to grab a quick lunch. We go to the mall and walk up to the “pizza” place. The girl that works there starts entering our order without us saying anything. We’ve only eaten there three times and she knows exactly what we like. Doesn’t she know we like struggling through the ordering process?  Don’t take away our fun!

Later in the afternoon we were invited to The English Center to work with students learning to speak English. The students sign up for the free class to help them learn to speak 'conversational' English. It’s not often they get to practice speaking English with people other than their teacher, Frances, who is from Texas, so they were eager to talk. The class was divided into 4 groups and we Americans rotated through the groups. (Michael and Graham Dickey were with us. They’ve been there before).

It was a great experience. The language barrier has really hampered our ability to learn about the true Kazakhstan culture. So far our only source of knowledge has been from a select few, which are primarily Zhenia, Ulia, and John Paul.  Remember, we can’t read the papers or understand the local news stations on TV. Today we had the ability to ask questions to about 20 students who were willing and able to communicate with us. They in turn asked us questions about our lives or American culture.

I was asked very basic questions like… “Do you like your husband?” I had to answer yes since Jesse was sitting at the next table. “Are you a tourist in our city?” I didn’t realize Shymkent was a hot spot for tourism. “Do you like our food?” Let me set the record straight, in America we do not eat horses.

Q&A from me to them.
Q: Age to get married? A: 18 – 24. Usually the bride goes to live with his parents, which they help to support.  Don't get any ideas Maw-Maw and Papa...

Q: Places you’d like to see in America? A: Florida, California, and New York.

Q: Do you watch American movies? A: Yes, they watch all American movies, translated into Russian.

Q: Do you like American music? A: Yes. (By the way, they play American music everywhere and a lot of “raw” rap music. Obviously they don’t understand the words).  Beyonce was a favorite among one of the 'guy' tables.

When finished the evening by going to dinner with the Dickey's, their translator Erera and our shared driver Kostra. Kostra is a blast to be around. He speaks Russian but talks to us directly like we understand him. Erera spends a lot of time translating and is usually laughing as she does so. It's really amusing. We went to an Uzbek restaurant where we sat on pillows around a ground level table. We ordered a bunch of food and shared it. An evening that will surely be one of our best in Kazakhstan.  We'll soon have pictures posted to view.

Quick story about our old driver. We had scheduled for him to pick us up at 6:00 in the evening to take us to a Chinese restaurant on Wednesday. We usually walk everywhere, so it was a special request. He did not show up to get us. The next day Nurshai (our coordinator) apologized to us. She said, "we had an agreement, he broke the agreement, you have a new driver". Alrightly then... nothing more to be said.

Jesse here -- one quick addition.  After Nurshai has made her impassioned apology and is satisfied that she has adequately dealt with the problem, she proudly asks that we follow her to our new car and driver to head off to our daily baby house visit. As we get to the corner of the road where we typically meet the car, she slowly starts to look around, then stops. A grin emerges on her face. Then she busts out laughing. Our new driver is nowhere to be found! Her moment of redemption appears to be slipping by, but fortunately Kostra arrives a minute later, all smiles and personality (unlike our prior driver). At least everyone has been able to keep their sense of humor throughout this ordeal!   

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bonding Day 14... yippee!

It’s a rainy Tuesday evening here and Jesse and I stayed in tonight, meaning we ate at the hotel restaurant for dinner. Dinner in the hotel is ok, but it’s very expensive. The cost here is $50.00 dollars and the cost at our favorite restaurants (Istanbul and Address) are $10.00 for both of us.

The rain brings a mood of discontent. We’re getting antsy to come hope yet nervous about leaving Griffin for a month. Yesterday (Monday- Bonding Day 14) he came in for our visit with a big lump and bruise on his head. He must have taken a fall sometime over the weekend. I’m not sure why but I felt angry when I saw the bruise on his head, the anger turned to sadness just knowing one of us wasn’t there to help when it happened. He’s starting to show signs of attachment. Today was the first day he cried and we actually saw tears. And the reason for the tears… I sat him down to play before he was ready. We usually start each visit with some hugs and kisses and today I guess he needed more “hug time” and less play time. It was so sweet! I hope he knows how much that means to us.

The desire to get him home is over-whelming at times. We are finished with the official 14 day bonding period and our adoption application has been submitted to the courts. At this point we’re waiting to find out the actual court date. We’ll leave to come home after court and pray for a speedy return. We asked Nurshia if there is any chance of the Judge waiving the 15 day appeal period that starts after court, and she said it doesn’t happen here in Shymkent.

As we get closer to departure we’ve been doing a little souvenir shopping. What you can accomplish without speaking a common language continues to amaze me. We’re now fearless; we go into any shop and just figure out a way to get what we want. There are usually a lot of hand gestures and laughs but who cares, it is fun now. For example, we had to get pictures printed from our digital camera. We take a flash drive into the camera store and somehow placed an order for 1 hour prints. You should have seen us trying to explain that we needed 2 copies of all the photos, size 4x6. Got them printed, piece of cake. We’ve been in clothing stores and got the kids a few things, all by pointing and showing sizes of kids with our hands.

Our biggest accomplishment yet… we ordered a custom made traditional Kazakh outfit from a dress shop. We had to pick the style, the colors and the size. Did we want a hat, shirt and boots to go with the outfit? Did we have a cell phone number so she could call us when it’s ready (that was a tough one)? Keep in mind there are no order forms and absolutely NOTHING is in English. I don’t know who had more fun with the almost non-verbal exchange, the lady working there or us. I should be videotaping these outings; it would provide serious comic relief.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Happy Birthday to my twin brother

I was hoping to get this posted so it would show up on your 20th morning but I missed, being 10 hours ahead throws me off. Happy Birthday to Todd!

I also need to send a birthday wish to Katelyn and Jaret, both from the Churchill gang!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

As I’m sleeping in on my birthday there is a knock at the hotel door. Jesse jumps up to get it, and much to both our surprise it’s Nurshia (coordinator) and Zhenia (translator). They never come up to the room; we always meet them in the lobby. Today they came upstairs to surprise me for my birthday with flowers and a gift. The gift is a silver and gold bracelet.  Jesse did not tell them it’s my birthday; they have our life history as a part of the dossier.  So I’m standing there in my pj’s feeling a little embarrassed, yet so completely touched by their thoughtfulness. It really almost made me cry… wow such a kind gesture.

Then I read my birthday note from Jesse and I’m crying again. Needless to say I’m having a great birthday, despite not being with Connor and Lana or the boy. The weather turned warm again today and I’m feeling excited about the week ahead, hopefully our last full week in Shymkent.

We are eager to show you pictures and tell you more about our son, but nothing is official in regards to the adoption yet so we don’t want to jeopardize the process. However, as a birthday present to me we’re going to announce our son’s new first name today. His middle name is his birth name -- so we’ll tell you that later. 

Without further adieu...  the name of our newest family member is Griffin!

Happy Birthday to My Lovely Wife

I know that today may be difficult; as I’m certain the only thing you really want is to have the entire family together to celebrate your birthday.  Know that the kids miss you too – and by kids I mean all three little ones.  Connor and Lana are surely aching for some much needed mommy time, and our new little guy is certainly all smiles and giggles every time you walk into the room.  As usual, daddy will be playing second fiddle.    

While this trip has presented plenty of challenges, it has also provided us a unique opportunity to spend some significant quality time together.  Be it surviving the heat-of-the-battle adoption proceedings or our coffee house chats, it’s a pleasure to get your perspective on life and a thrill to plan our future adventures together.  In addition, your perseverance during the hard times and willingness to expand outside your comfort zone are, as always, inspirational to me.  And perhaps most importantly, it’s your ability to live with my antics and even, dare I say, encourage my behavior, that only causes me to fall more in love with you.  And for that, I can’t thank you enough.   

So on your… 27th Birthday (yes, Connor, it seems that you are catching-up to mommy), while you may find yourself in a foreign location, I hope that you also find yourself in a comfortable and happy place in life.  One in which you are surrounded by kids that appreciate you, family and friends that love you, colleagues that respect you, and a husband that cherishes you.

Love always,


Belly-dancers and Kazakh Language Lessons

I’m feeling a little behind in my posting (journaling for the boy). I must back up a few days…

Thursday was our best day yet at the baby house. Our boy was very happy to see us and showed a lot of effort with his crawling and walking attempts.  He’s also figured out how to hold a sippy cup with just a few days of practice.  There are two other kids and parents in the room doing their bonding at the same time as us. None of the kids, all over one year old, can hold a bottle or cup. We parents believe the kids are not allowed to hold the cups. The care-givers might be trying to make the feeding process go faster and therefore not allow the kids to hold their drinks. We’re not permitted into any other rooms in the baby house so we can’t say for sure what goes on back there… just a guess.

Bonding on Friday (day 11) also went well. The little guy is showing more and more of his personality. He squeals like a cat when he wants something or when he doesn’t want something (like Jesse tickling him relentlessly).  We’re encouraged by his progress over the past 11 days and can’t wait to get him home so he can really focus on “catching up” and feeling loved.

Thursday evening we went to dinner at BBQ with one of the families mentioned above. Rob and Donalee are here from North Dakota and are adopting a little boy. Their son gives our son a run for his money in the cute department!  We really enjoyed the company and English conversation.

Friday evening we had dinner plans with Yuliya and Jon-Paul so we in turn invited along all our other American friends. I haven’t properly introduced the Dickey Family yet… allow me to do so before telling about our dining experience. 

The Dickey’s are from North Carolina and are truly a pleasure to be around.  Michael and Angie have given their children such an incredible experience… yes they brought the whole family along to be a part of their adoption journey. Three polite well-rounded teenagers, ages 17, 15, and 13 willingly packed up and moved to Kazakhstan for 2 months (they’re staying for the appeal period). The stories they tell are great! They have such an adventurous spirit and have really embraced living here.  Their new baby sister, Landen, is one lucky little girl!

So nine of us head to dinner Friday night, back to the Greek/Sushi place mentioned in a past post. This time we have the assistance of Yuliya and Jon-Paul, so ordering is easy. I order beef and rice (good) and Jesse orders salmon (good).  This evening isn’t about the food, it’s about the atmosphere.  There was a birthday party or some sort of celebration dinner going on in the main part of the restaurant. The speaker volume was so loud; every time someone gave a toast or they played music we couldn’t hear each other speak at our table (that’s an important fact).  

The restaurant’s entertainment for the evening was belly dancers. The first time they came out to dance they had on pink gowns and we enjoyed the show.  Then they came out again later with fewer clothes on and one of them came slinking up to me. ME, I’m at a table with 4 men and she’s doing her belly dancing/hip swishing thing right in front of me. I’m now way out of my comfort zone, as if living in Kazakhstan where I can’t speak, read or write the language isn’t enough. 

Later in the evening, Michael mentions there is common English sound/word that is a very bad word in the Kazakh language, but is often said during English public speaking. Yuliya says she knows the word he means. She says the word softly. After not being able to hear all night I repeat it kind of loudly….UMMM, with an M or UHHG?  The look of shock and horror on Yuliya's face is priceless. I think she wanted to quickly distance herself from the whole table.  Imagine, setting at a nice restaurant in the States and someone loudly says the “P word” for the female private area.   I’m feeling embarrassed at this point because I embarrassed Yuliya -- but I swear all I said was “UMMM”.

Michael’s daughter Chelsea ran into a similar experience this week, when she said 'Umm’ about 27 times when speaking to a class of Kazakh kids.  Nice of the Kazakh teacher to count, yet not tell her about the meaning of 'Umm' until after her presentation.  Lesson – be aware of subtle language differences when speaking to foreign audiences!

As we're walking home from dinner that night, we see fireworks directly above our heads.  Oh, it's not fireworks, it is the power lines.  The lines running over the sidewalk are swaying in the wind and touching -- thus shooting major sparks across the sidewalk and street.  Maybe the Kazakh God of Electricity was trying to punish me for saying that bad word.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Few Questions Answered

Written 4/17
Local time (Shymkent) -- 5:06 p.m. Cincinnati Time – 7:06 a.m.

As we have stated several times, the blog has served as a great way to stay connected to our family and friends while on this long-distance journey. One of the limitations of the blog is that we can’t directly address questions that are asked in the blog comments. So, Amy and I wanted to take a moment to try to address several of the questions that have been asked along the way, as well as reply to a few of the comments that were posted. So, in no particular order… (no, these are not the direct quotes… I’ve taken editorial liberty to either elaborate on a question for clarity, or altered it to generally embarrass or harass the original author… Jesse).

“Curious if the toilet training approach Amy described actually works?” [Refers to 4/16 post] – Grandma T.

  • Well, depends on your definition of ‘works’. It is very common, as we have confirmed from many sources, and the kids do seem to ask to go to the potty before they are 2 years old. The obvious problem is the fact that you have to be very dedicated to staying on schedule with putting them on the toilet, which knowing the group that is following this blog, I’m guessing letting your dogs out to go pee is a bit of a stretch some days. Actually, I think the bigger issue is that the kids will still have plenty of accidents, so the parents end up doing a lot of laundry. Doesn’t sound like a good option to me. I love the idea of saving a buck and getting through the diaper phase as much as the next guy, but extra dirty laundry… hmm, not a good tradeoff to me.
  • And since we’re on the diaper topic – no Allen, the picture in the slideshow is not an example of a Kazakhstan child’s dirty diaper. It’s a quite taste Turkish dish call Lamahcun (my spelling may be off). Kinda like pizza, but thinner crust. We’ll be sure to bring you back one, if I can ever get the diaper thought out of my mind. Thanks for ruining it for me… ;)

“How long do you guys get to spend with your little guy, and when is the adoption actually finalized?” – Lauryn and Jason

  • As with most everything else, schedules here tend to be very ‘flexible’. While we were provided our son’s schedule (naps, meals, etc.) after our initial meeting, it took a few meetings to really get a feel for his schedule. More to the point, the first few meetings were brief (about 30-45 minutes), as he was quickly tired and wanted to nap. Once we found a time of day that worked well for him (12:30 pm), our visits have extended to about 1-1 ½ hours a day.
  • As for the adoption being finalized --  In short, since we have a US consulate in Kazakhstan, we’ll be able to process all paperwork here before flying back to the US. So, he’ll be a US citizen once the plane touches down in the states (yippee!).

“I’m about to make a trip to Kazakhstan, and I would like a quick way to be able to pick out the prostitutes from the crowd. I hear that they are the ones wearing shorts, is this true?” – Grandma T [umm… I may have altered this question a little - Jesse ;) ]

  • First off, Ian, I suggest you get a hold of your wife and discuss the risks of this type of a lifestyle. Specifically in this part of the world. Or perhaps she was asking on your behalf? Either way, it appears you two lovebirds are out of luck, as the myth is just that. Shorts are not reserved for the ladies of the evening, particularly since summers are quite hot in Kazakhstan. However, I was warned that Americans with chicken legs should consider twice before attempting to wear shorts in public, as it’s likely to result in hysteria among the abundant population of cute Kazakhstan ladies that work and live in the city. Good thing we are on schedule to wrap up before things really heat up here…
  • And since this is a truly important topic, I felt that additional research was in order, so I also discovered that prostitution is actually somewhat legal in Kazakhstan. I say somewhat as it seems that the actual ladies are likely not to be the ones arrested, but the ‘managers’ of these enterprises will be targeted for prosecution. Not really consistent, but seems to have the overall effect of discouraging this type of activity. So, fellas, don’t go getting too excited…

“Has Amy tried any horse meat yet?” – Mama and Papa
  • Umm… I guess the honest answer is that we’re not sure. Not by a conscience decision, at least not yet. Of course, if she does, I’m afraid that our Kentucky friends may not allow us back in the state.
  • Before you ask, I haven’t tried yet either and I just made Amy the designated food taster. Sorry dear, looks like you gave me control of the wrong blog update!

"Xopowezo fpemehh" – Tim MacVeigh
  • Tim, since I need to actually translate this back into Cyrillic before then attempting to translate into English (since my Russian-English book is a bit limited), perhaps you could give me a hint? Pretty sad that you have a better handle on Russian (or is this Kazakh?) than me ;)
Again, please keep the comments coming.  It's great to stay connected to everyone while off in the wilds of Kazakhstan.  Which reminds me that Shymkent is often referred to as the 'Texas' of Kazakhstan.  This is due to the history of lawlessness and corruption in Shymkent, which seems to be somewhat improving over the past few years, but still well off from our standards.  Of course, not sure what is says about Texas, either... ;)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Bonding Day 8

So we’re on bonding day 8 of 14 and the baby is doing well. He wasn’t quite as playful and energetic today. We’re thinking his teeth may be bothering him. He was chewing on his fingers and his gums are inflamed. Honestly we didn’t mind because he very happy to be held and then rocked to sleep. Also today we got the results of the blood work we ordered and all the results are negative.

Here’s an interesting fact for all… the babies here don’t wear diapers. Not just the ones in the orphanage but most young children. The obvious first question is ‘what do they do when the baby goes potty?’ --- they just wash the clothes. (Perhaps this is why they put 4 layers on them). We’ve been told they start putting the children on the potty every 3 hours starting at 6 months old. At that age it’s all about timing, but the children are sometimes completely potty trained (asking to go) before they are 2. Diapers are expensive; a pack to 64 diapers is over $25, with the average income being approximately $400 per month. On our second visit the Baby House Director asked us to bring diapers, so now when they bring in our son he thankfully has on a diaper.

We haven’t experienced much “sticker shock”. The prices of most items we’re buying are reasonably priced. Our dinner tonight was $9.00 and it was great. A bottle of water is 50 cents, a .5 liter of beer is $1.00, and a pack of cigarettes is $1.00 (perhaps we should start the habit while we are here?). We did buy a baby toy at the Mall toy store and it was $30, which is outrageous. It’s a $10 toy at home. I did hear that pair of Levi’s Jeans are $125 dollars.

The hotel is the only place that accepts US dollars, therefore we must exchange for Tenge. There are currency exchange places on every street corner it seems. The dollar is weak; we’re getting 120 Tenge for 1 dollar. The hotel said they accept Visa but the machine was “broken” when we checked in. The visa machine was also “broken” at the only restaurant we ask to us it--- meaning don’t count on using your Visa card when coming to Shymkent.

Update on the laundry situation: The hotel service was fine, I don’t know the cost of it but our clothes are clean and wearable. They don’t use Downey that’s for sure! They picked up our clothes from our room and brought them back the next day. Good thing, I was thinking it’s going to be hard to wash jeans in the bathroom sink and use 'the pipes'. In the bathroom there are exposed hot water pipes to hang your clothes for drying. I brought a small bottle of laundry soap and I wash the smaller articles. It’s actually kind of convenient.

We’re off to breakfast. We haven’t talked much about Breakfast because there is nothing exciting to say about it. It's free with our room so we go every morning to eat the same thing. I usually eat oatmeal type food with raisens and Jesse eats eggs and the hotdog/sauage. Blah Blah Blah. Did I mention it's free?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Note from Daddy, to my Little Ones

This was posted earlier under another topic - just wanted to split it off so we could find it easier in the future.  There are two new posts below, but read Amy's first...

The blog has been a wonderful way for Amy and I to share our experiences over the past week, and based on some of the comments, it seems to be interesting to those that are following along as well. While typically we are writing to all of you, this one is focused on three little ones that mean the world to me. Of course, as always, all are welcomed to read and comment.

First off, to my oldest son Connor (this is the first time I’ve been able to say oldest son), I’m so proud of how well you are doing at home while we are away. It is exciting to hear that you scored a goal in your first soccer game of the spring season! It shows that you have been practicing hard, and you must be playing well with your new team. I just hope that you are having fun and always trying your best.

I must also admit that I can’t stop smiling when I think of how well you are doing in Karate. To hear that you just sparred Caleb (the toughest orange belt around) and scored a three point head kick is amazing! And knowing that you are also breaking boards, I better get exercising so that I don’t get completely whipped when we are able to spar again soon.
I miss our bi-weekly haircuts together, followed by our Starbucks ‘treats’. I doubt that I’ll be able to hold out until I return to get my noggin shaved, or I’ll look a bit like a hippy (ask Papa what that means), but I’ll sure look forward to heading straight for the nearest coffee shop when we return. It’s so comforting knowing that I have such a mature young man watching over Lana and Buckeye while we are traveling, so thanks (Spy-see-ba), and miss you. Love Dad.

To my rambunctious little daughter Lana, I hope that you can delay the back flips long enough to hear this note. I’m so encouraged by your genuine interest in the new baby that I’m often startled by your questions and awareness of the situation. I was hopeful that you both would be interested in the process, and certainly in the prospect of having a baby brother, but never would have imagined that you would have grasped the details as you have. So to your earlier questions, yes, he’s doing well. Yes, he has brown hair and brown eyes like you. He’s ticklish like Connor, but has ‘robust’ cheeks like you. And he has plenty of unique qualities that we’re still getting to know.

I was disappointed to hear that you caught a cold this week and that your soccer game was cancelled. Based on how your practices have gone so far, I know that you will do very well. Size isn’t a concern, as you tend to be twice as quick and nearly so in competitive spirit as the rest of the field. I also miss seeing you at gymnastics, but Grandma T assures me that you continue to “tear’em up”. It’s magical watching you play at a sport in which you truly excel. Your mother and I both hope that gymnastics can hold your attention, as this seems to be a venue you could go very far. Let me know if you get to the top of the rope again this week. Love you and miss you, and please continue to watch over the big fuzz-ball.

And to the newest member of the Moore household (name soon to be unveiled to the world), it’s been a wonderful pleasure getting to know you these past few days. Someday you will read about the challenges that your mommy and I had to overcome to find you. Just know that after meeting you, those issues seemed quite trivial, and if necessary, we would have made the trip a million times.

From our initial meeting, you have been bright eyed and inquisitive. Contrary to high stress environment that we have been thrust into, you always have a calm demeanor, as if you are the one evaluating us rather than the other way around. I certainly hope we meet your standards.
While I hoped that the ‘getting to know you’ stage would go relatively smoothly, I felt that there would be an awkwardness of having ‘bond’ with a stranger in a strange land, under a very controlled and regimented schedule. So ok, the regimented schedule and fact that we are contained to a single room is very confining, but you have been absolutely great. You seem to let your personality shine through quickly, and you have a very easy going style that is comforting (not to mention that you haven’t fussed once – or peed on me yet, thanks!). In fact, I’d say that you will feel right at home with your new family, and I can’t wait to introduce you to your brother and sister. They are certainly going to find you interesting! Just be aware that the creature called Buckeye may look like a Yeti, but is actually just a really, really large dog. Don’t worry, Lana controls him. Love you son, can’t wait to visit again tomorrow.

Miss you all, and can’t wait for the family to be together soon. Love, Daddy.

More Dinner Related Fun

Jesse here…

Just wanted to add a few comments regarding our restaurant experience last night (it’s now Tuesday morning for us -- read Amy's note below first). Amy and I have tried our best to integrate with the culture and fully experience life in Shymkent as much as possible during our short (ok, maybe not so short) stay here. This includes learning at least some of the basic Russian phrases to help us become self sufficient and somewhat independent when heading off to feed ourselves. Last evening I discovered we have been over-thinking our approach all along.

While at Address, the very nice waitress provided us menus that were, of course, completely in Russian. After noticing that we couldn’t read the menu, she helpfully ushered over another waitress, who immediately proceeded to rattle off the menu in what I presume was Kazakh. Not wanting to be rude, we waited for a pause in her presentation, and then politely mentioned that we hadn’t the slightest idea what she was saying, as we spoke Angleeski. Laughter abounded.
So, she then pointed to a dish on the menu, and said what sounded a bit like ‘chken’, and flapped her ‘wings’. Ahh… chicken.

I follow her lead. I point to the next picture, and say ‘Moo?’. She smiles, but shakes her head. Nyet.

‘Baah…’, I reply. She giggles, and gives us the thumbs up. Lamb it is.

She points to the last dish and repeats the ‘Moo’. Beef. Got, it.

See, ordering from a Turkish restaurant in a Russian speaking country isn’t so hard, is it? I just can’t wait to order pork!

Amy here: I’m ready to crawl under the table and hide my face while this game of “Old McDonald Charades” is going on.

Monday Night Update

Its Monday night here and Jesse and I met our match this evening… we went in search of a Greek restaurant Zhenia told us about. After walking around the place a few times trying to figure out where to go in, we see two young men standing outside and they motion us into a restaurant. There is nothing Greek about it, it looks like an upscale sushi restaurant. I have a very wimpy sushi palate, a fresh spring roll suits me fine and that’s about it. Jesse has now perfected the “do you have an Engliski menu?” question in Russian…NYET! No English and no pictures on the menu. Oh No. I start to panic a little… a sushi place is not where you want to take a wild guess at what to order. I start envisioning them bringing out something live with tentacles. I’d rather eat horse meat! We decide to leave and save that restaurant for another day (or another year as far as I’m concerned).

Instead we went to Address, a local Turkish restaurant. The food is great but later in the evening it turns into a scene from the Sopranos. Every man (and it’s only men) that walks in gives every other man in the place a pat on the shoulder and a handshake. They sit and smoke and drink tea together. I wish I could understand what they were saying … well maybe not, I wouldn’t want to know the name of the poor guy who’s going to get his legs broken.

So now we’re back at the room preparing for movie time. We brought about 30 DVD’s from home. At night we position the laptop and external speaker between us on the bed and enjoy our English entertainment. Coming from a home with two huge HD TV’s, I’m surprised at how happy we are to watch our movies on this tiny screen. Ahh Kazakhstan.

We do watch some local TV. They have Cartoon Network here and today Scooby Doo was on, in Russian. Oh and we saw Dora the Explorer on TV in Russian, but here she speaks Russian and teaches Spanish words instead of speaking English and teaching Spanish words. It cracks me up to watch it for a few minutes. We also like the Euro Sport channel. Today they had on a Karate tournament. We found ourselves torn between who to root for, the Russian guy or the Kazakhstan guy. Only a problem in the Moore family, good thing there wasn’t an American team as well.

And to save the best news for last we had a nice visit with “The BOY”. Today is the first day we got some recognition from him when they brought him into the room. I’m sure he’s thinking, “Oh, hey look that goofy American couple is here again today. “ We gave him a bit of a workout by forcing him to crawl or walk to his toys instead of handing him everything. It’s helping – he’s getting stronger and stronger each day.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Saturday and Sunday Morning

I just read Jesse’s post about our trip into Shymkent and the day that followed. I must add a few editorial comments…

As for the SARS family: oh my gosh, not only was it a complete invasion of my personal space but they all had on surgical masks. All I could think of as I’m standing there holding my breath is, where is that antibiotic I packed?

As for the translations story: Keep in mind that the topic at hand during that 4 way translation fiasco was the health of the child. The single most important conversation we’ll have the entire trip! And the reason she spoke in Kazakh was because she thought our translator should know Kazakh. She added a layer of unnecessary stress. The next day she came into the room speaking perfect Russian. I’m telling you… it’s impossible to make this stuff up!


The BH Director told us, actually told Zhenia, we could not come on Saturday to see the baby. Zhenia calls Nurshai and tells her what the Director said. A few minutes later Zhenia’s phone rings and he says, “We’ll pick you up at 8:30a.m.” It’s good to have connections. We spent about an hour with him and then he fell asleep in Jesse’s arms. His nap time is 10:00 a.m., so it was right on time.

We’re guarded with what we can say about him in this forum. We are doing our best to follow the rules and do everything possible to get our son home quickly. What I can tell you is he’s cute! He’s Kazakh, which is an Asian look; he has brown hair and brown eyes. His skin is light. He has two bottom teeth and a few coming in on the top. He has big cheeks. Our favorite feature so far… he’s really ticklish. It’s not hard to get a smile from him.

Note: we’re finding there are many ethnic groups living here. It appears the slight majority are Kazakh. There are also Russians (light skin and hair) and Uzbeks and Turks (darker skin and hair). When I proudly showed a picture of Lana and Connor to the government official, she was surprised that Lana was Russian. She said,” she’s so dark.” We always thought Lana looked a lot like our neighbor Jessica Camardo (Italian) – come to think of it, maybe Joe did take a little excursion to Russia in 2002?

The big treat today was our dinner plans with Yuliya and Jon-Paul. We thoroughly enjoyed the dinner and ENGLISH conversation. My food was great. A steak with sour cream, mushroom, onion sauce and mashed potatoes. Jesse ordered chicken which was good but had bones in it. We have not found a boneless skinless chicken dish yet. (Spoiled Americans).

We bombarded Yuliya and Jon-Paul with questions, not to be rude but we want to learn about the inner workings of the country. Right now it’s like trying to judge American life after spending a week in downtown Chicago, not a true picture. There were many topics discussed and I’ll tell you about them in parts.

Today I want to tell you about the medical practices/procedures. When a woman is pregnant and ready to deliver she goes to the maternity hospital. As soon as she is checked in she’s locked (yes locked) into a room for 10 days. There is a small window in the door for her husband or family to speak with her or to pass food. The husband is not allowed in the room, nor does he want to be in the room. I guess culturally the men don’t want anything to do with the birth of the baby. (After my labor experience Jesse doesn’t think that’s such a bad thing! Joking). When I ask why, Yuliya said they believe it keeps things sterile, yet the sheets are often stained. (Both of their children were born in US).

They described a time when their son was sick and had to go to hospital. Yuliya and their son were in hospital and unable to leave. Jon-Paul would have to come to lobby area of hospital and call up on the cell phone and wave to them three stories up.
They also said when you’re in the hospital and need medical supplies the family buys everything and brings it to the hospital. The doctor may tell you to buy bandages, needles, medication and you bring it to the hospital. Hopefully the family can afford the things you need.
Keep in mind this is the way of life here. I’m sure it’s frustrating and hard, but it’s just the way it is. Many don’t know other ways… good or bad.


Right now it’s Sunday afternoon and we don’t have plans. I think today we’ll figure out our laundry options. We’re told the hotel has a laundry service, but considering the towels they provide could be found at Home Depot right next to the sand paper I’m a little nervous about giving them our clothes.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bonding Days 3 and 4

There are two post today, one from Jesse and one from me.

Amy here:

Well I can’t believe we’ve been gone a week already. I must say the time has gone a little faster than I anticipated. Being able to speak to Connor and Lana daily gives me peace of mind so I’m not feeling completely home-sick yet. Jesse and I are trying to make the most of our time here. We want to learn and experience as much as we can so we can tell the baby about Kazakhstan as he gets older. This blog will help. We plan to print all the blog post (and comments) and use it as journal for him --an electronic scrapbook of sorts.

Side Note: keep the comments coming. It’s so fun to read them. I haven’t determined if it’s possible to reply to an individual comment yet, but please know we’re reading them daily.

Today we spent the longest amount of time so far with the baby, about 90 minutes. He came in different clothes today and looked so cute. He had on the same outfit Monday – Thursday… it was clean just the same. I think he only had on 3 shirts today instead of 4, one cultural difference I don’t understand but have come to accept. He was full of surprises today. He showed us he can roll over, belly crawl and sing! I was rocking him in my arms and he started signing / cooing to me. Jesse has decided that tickling the boy is the best way to bond. Baby giggles are the sweetest sounds. I can’t wait for you all to meet him.

We asked our adoption agency about what we could and could not post about him on the blog. We were asked not to post his name and pictures of him until after we take custody. We will have photos of him to show when we return. Remember we do not take custody of him until our second trip. We will come home in early May without him and hopefully return 4 weeks later to bring him home. I have no idea how we’ll make those 4 weeks between trips go fast.

We were not overly adventurous the last couple days. We went back to the mall for coffee at the café. It’s a great place to people watch (or to be watched ---we might as well be draped in an American flag). Our source of amusement today was watching the traffic---sounds boring uh? No kidding, it’s like watching a sport. For example, there was a long line of traffic waiting at a red light and twice we saw drivers/cars from the back on the line (twenty cars or so) pull into 3 lanes of oncoming traffic and race to the front of the line. Their goal is to time it so the light turns green just as the reach the front. Our second source of entertainment is watching a game we call “Frogger”. Walking across the street, even at cross walks, is a lot like the old video game Frogger. At any minute you could be smashed by a car, truck or bus coming from either side.

Our food ordering challenges continue. Yesterday a waitress helps Jesse pick something from the menu and it comes out wrapped in foil. I could not wait to see what was inside…I’m laughing my head off as he starts to peel back the foil. It reminded me of a jack-in-the-box, something was surely going to jump out of it. (See photo)

Tomorrow (Saturday) we’re excited about our lunch and dinner plans. Our social schedule is filling up… yeah right. Actually we are hoping to meet up with a couple from North Carolina for lunch. We passed them in the Baby House one day. We didn’t have a chance to talk at the Baby House, but our translator Zhenia saw them later and got their name and number for us.

We've been invited to dinner by Yuliya and her American husband Jon-Paul. (Note to Shane and Misty, we told her hello for you.) Yuliya speaks perfect English and appears to be the sweetest lady in Kazakhstan. Yuliya (like Julia without the J) and her husband own a children's photography shop in the hotel. It's sort of like a Picture People. They said it's a new concept here Shymkent, but are hopeful the idea will take off soon. She noticed us on our first day here and said, "hello, how are you?" Ahh English speaker, she's now our friend whether or not she wants to be. Yesterday, Jon-Paul helped us purchase a Kazakhstan sim card for our phone. I never thought I'd have a Kazakhstan phone number.

So I guess that’s it for now. If any of you are within arm’s reach of Connor and Lana please give them a hug for me!

The Bed Story

Jesse wrote:

We have referred to 'The Bed Story' a few times in prior posts, so I figured it was about time to share the goods.  This is a 'G' rated story (sorry Allen), so it is intended for all audiences...

You really must have a good context of the overall day in order for this story to make any sense.  So please oblige me and let me walk you through a few events that led up to the bed story.  It was Monday, April 7th -- one of the longest, stressful, yet eventually most rewarding day of our lives.  Of course, I'm writing about our first day in Shymkent, and the day we met with our son.

The day starts early for Amy and I, with us up at 4:00 am to shower, pack, and head to the airport to catch yet another flight (albeit a short one, less than 2 hrs to Shymkent).  Everything goes smoothly during the check-in process, but the fun starts when it was time to board the flight.  Like many US airports, we have a bit of a walk from the gate to the actual plane, so we employ our now commom 'lemming' method... we follow the pack.  The pack leads us to a bus, which is now about 90% full, so we scramble on with our carry on luggage in tow.  Then we wait.

And wait.

At this point, the bus isn't quite mosh-pit squished, but we continue to take on a trickle of passengers, and the engine has yet to start up.  And then we see the SARS family.  Yep, a family of three have just walked out of the main building with surgical masks on and are heading toward our bus.  Not just our bus, but right toward our position.  More precisely, Amy's position.

By this time, we've been hanging out on this bus (no seats, you stand holding onto a strap -- much like in the states) for 10-15 minutes, and have watched about 3 other perfectly functioning empty buses pass us by.  And now I have three people that might have some airborn disease dancing with my wife.  Not necessarily prom close, but this isn't a first date, either.  Great.

Eventually, the engine finally sputter to life, and we head off... a total of approximately 200 yards to the 747 sitting in front of us.  You gotta be kidding me?!  Absurd.  Fortunately, the flight was smooth, and we arrived on time.  Contrary to myth, there were no chicken coops on board the flight -- actually, the service was fine.  

After giggling about the need to obtain a vaccine for Monkey Pox due to our contact with the SARS family, we landed in Shymkent ready to roll.  As before, we employ our 'lemming' method, and followed the crowd, hoping to find the checked baggage carousel.  Only, there was no crowd to follow, as everyone headed in random directions after deplaning the 747!  Hmm... how's that possible, you say?  Well, you simply start to walk down the side of the tarmac, of course, silly.

After trying to enter the nearest building and being told 'Nyet' by the very nice security guard, followed with a few wild hand gesticulations, we figured the best course of action was to hang by the plane and keep watch over the luggage handlers directly.  Worse case, I could sacrifice myself and dive in front of the luggage tow truck, and Amy could hopefully grab one of our bags.  Fortunately, they ended up bringing the tow around the plane and dropped off the bags at the curb, much like a smaller commuter plane.  All turned out well, just a bit of mayhem with the number of people and lack of coordination (not to mention the fact that it was also raining).

Now that we are warmed up for the actual main event, we headed to the Regional Ministry of Education, then the Local Education Office (title is more official than what I can remember), then to the Baby House.  That's where the next step in our fun day picks up.

I'll skip some of the details that I know many of you will want regarding the challenges we faced this day, but just to give you a taste, I wanted to describe one scene.  We will fill you in on the rest of the details later.

While meeting with the Baby House Director, we had the opportunity to discuss the background of our son, including his medical information, etc.  To go through this information, the Director asked one of her doctors to present the baby's 'file' to us.  On our side of the table, we have the two of us, our translator Zhenia, and our coordinator Nurshai.  Of course, just to make things interesting, the doctor announces that the baby's file is in Kazakh, so she will speak in Kazakh.  Our translator only speaks Russian and English.  Our coordinator speaks Kazakh and Russian.  Hmmm... I'm sure you're getting the picture, but the discussion has to go something like this.

Doctor (in Kaz) -> Nurshai(translates to Russian) -> 
Zhenia (translates to English) --> Us

Pretty much like the game you used to play in school, where you would whisper the story into the ear of your friend, have them pass it to the next friend, and see what it turned into by the end.  So, the conversation went something like this...

Doctor -- 'The baby has a history of blahblahblah--ly'  (ly is a common Kazakh ending)

Nurshai -- 'Umm...  I think she really means yaddayaddayadda -- ivish' (Russian ending)

Zhenia -- After looking sheepishly at us, he would state, 'Perhaps he has a history of blahish yadayad ivish sorda-viski (russian, with some flare and creative interpretation)

Us -- Blank look

Now realize this is all happening real time and is a very important topic.  And, the doctor has chosen this as the day to show off her Kazakh speed reading skills, so she doesn't hestitate at all for any of this translation to occur or to really sink in.  The only experience I can compare this to is the Dolby Digital sound effects that occur at the beginning of a movie, which swirl around you and are somewhat disorienting, yet still impressive.  To add to the absurdity, we later find that the doctor could actually speak in Russian, she just felt that our translator should know Kazakh.  Not kidding.

By the end of the day, you can imagine that we are beyond tired.  We are completely spent.  Amy unpacks some of our stuff (realize that we have attempted to pack for a month).  I look longingly at the bed.  We've only been able to sleep in a bed once in the past 4 nights, so this should be a treat.

Upon a little closer inspection, the bed seems a little odd.  Not really concerning to me, since I believe my eyes are crossed by this point.

I take the Nestea plunge onto the bed... and find myself rolling into what feels like a canyon on the right side of the bed!  I bust into hysterics, as I realize that there is absolutely no support structure under the entire right side of the bed!  That's right, folks... I didn't break the bed, the supports were missing when we arrived.  Which meant that someone had either left it that way or had slept on it that way, or at a minimum a cleaning crew had changed the linens and nobody recognized the problem!  Net result was that half the bed was perfectly fine, the other half was about 1 foot off the ground.

We didn't want to deal with the language barrier issues that evening, so Amy was a champ and decided on the 'bottom bunk'.  We have a picture posted, but not sure that it does it justice. Everything was fixed the following day.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Day 2 of 14 day bonding period

Shymkent Time: 2 a.m. Cincinnati Time: 4 p.m.

Well once again I’m awake in the middle of the night, but I just took a little something to help me sleep. While I’m waiting for it to kick in I’ll tell you about our day.

This warm and sunny day started with a trip to the Baby House. We got there at 11:30 a.m. and spent about 45 minutes with the baby. He was in good spirits but seems to have a cold. He’s very interested in the toys we bring. Today his favorite thing was a Count to 10 Touch and Feel book. We’ve only spent a total of 3 supervised hours with him so we’re still working to figure out his physical abilities. He does not walk or crawl. His personality is starting to come through a little bit. He cried when I sat him down on the floor to play, he stopped the minute I picked him up and held him! When the caregiver came in to get him at end of visit he did not immediately go to her. Instead, he laid his head on Jesse’s chest as if to say, “I’m fine here, come back later”. Ahh… pulls at the heart strings already.

On a side note: We have not decided on his new name yet. Kazakh names don’t really translate well to English so we’re struggling with our decision.

After the visit we took his blood sample to a medical center for some additional testing we requested. They did not accept our insurance card (joke) so we paid cash/Tenge for the test. The results will be available next week.

We had the rest of the day to explore so we went to Istanbul Restaurant. This is a restaurant the Clarks told us about, we walked past it twice before I noticed the small free wireless sign in window. It’s very rare to find free wireless internet access. Anyway, the food is great. I ordered a gyro of sorts. I don’t know what the meat was, maybe it was horse and I just don’t know it. I’m kidding--I assume it was lamb. Jesse ordered the “pizza” and it was our favorite meal thus far. Restaurants are challenging because most do not have an English menu. We have no idea what the Russian menu says and therefore have no idea what we’re going to get. Today the menu had pictures – yippee. Jesse did learn to say “do you have an English menu?” in Russian which is very helpful. What would be more helpful is if they said DA (yes).

Another side note: The Russian alphabet is in Cyrillic letters. There are 33 letters in the alphabet, 5 of which look and sound like ours. A,K,M,O,T. There are 7 letters that look like English letters but have different sounds. For example, H sounds like N and C sounds like R. I’m not sure about the other 21 letters, thus the reason for my advanced state of cluelessness. (Oh did I mention some people speak Kazakh).

After sitting in Istanbul for almost 2 hours abusing the free internet access we went to find Madlen, a restaurant that has an outdoor coffee and pastry shop. They serve one tasty Latte! We wondered back to the hotel for Jesse’s late afternoon crash nap. Dinner tonight was again an adventure. We went to the grocery store located inside hotel mall area. We went to the deli counter and stared at a bunch of “meats”, none of which looked familiar. No turkey, ham or roast beef to be found. The lady behind the counter grabs a lunch meat and says one English word, 'GOOD'. (She lied !). We bought bread, cheese, tomato and mustard to go along with the mystery meat and made sandwiches in the room. We ended the day by watching a DVD movie on the laptop and waiting for the time to call Connor and Lana.

I could ramble on about more topics, but I should try to sleep. Maybe I’ll watch some TV, there are no English speaking channels other than BBC, I can’t think of anything more boring than watching M-TV in Russian.

Talk with you later… Amy

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Picture Slide Show

Hey Everyone,

We're working to get more pictures posted.

If you click on photos shown on right it will open a window where you can see the captions.

Jesse's Kazakhstan Observations

Wed, April 9thLocal Time: 8:50 am Cincinnati Time: 10:50 pm

Just when we thought we were getting over our jet lag, looks like Amy had a bit of a relapse. It was a long night for her of tossing and turning. So, after staying awake most of the night, she finally crashed early this morning, which gives me some time to summarize a few of our more lighthearted observations of Kazakhstan. Don’t worry ladies, we’ll post again later in the day with an update on the little one, as we’re off to visit him around lunchtime today (can’t wait to see him). Also, before I get going on my spinoff of the Saturday Night Live ‘Random Thoughts by Jack Handy’ moment, I wanted to encourage everyone to keep up the comments to the blog. (Remember Allen E, to keep it clean). It’s really been great to have everyone’s support during this life changing event.

A few observations of life in Kazakhstan:

· Driving is the national sport. Ok, so you don’t actually get points, but you should simply for surviving. Laws are more ‘suggestions’ than mandates. And lane markers are merely to add decorative color to the streets. They have developed a language using only the car/truck/other random motor vehicles’ horn as the means for communications. I suggest they drop the pretense of rules, slap some tires around the outside of all the vehicles, and call it what it is… a huge bumper car ride. By the way, most cars are imported used, as new vehicles are very expensive (since there are no auto factories nearby). I’m guessing this contributes to the general attitude toward driving – ‘It’s already dented, what the $%#!’. The good news is that Amy now regards my driving as excellent, or should for at least a few weeks after we return (until I get too close to the elder statesman in front of me).

· Unlike us Americans, the average Kazak seems to be thin and in decent shape. Since their food is very meat and potatoes (yummy), my theory is that it has more to do with exercise than diet. Most of the folks we’ve met walk a lot. Which I believe is related to their fear of driving. See bullet above.

· However, if you are going to get your exercise by walking in Kazakhstan, you better watch your step. There are potholes that could swallow a small child, and the sidewalks have somewhat random changes in elevation, which I would call a step, but placed in odd locations. It’s hard to describe, but easy to trip over. Trust me, I almost broke my neck last night. And that was before I had a peva (that’s beer, ya’ll).

· Much to my dismay, tea is the preferred drink over coffee. Not a packet of Sweet-n-Low or Splenda to be found. And to Connor – no son, I haven’t been able to find a Starbucks (or Starbuckinski’s). For Connor, this will be justification enough to pick up our new son immediately and bring him home to the States. Is it a problem if your 6 year old is addicted to Strawberries and Cream Fraps from Starbucks? (no caffeine, but plenty of sugar and calories). Thus the need for all the extracurricular activities. Miss our trips, son.

· The typical police officer is plain-clothed, except the traffic cops. Not sure the reason, other than the traffic cops definitely need to stand out. You will occasionally see military personnel on the streets with the cops. Not overly intrusive, but a presence nonetheless.

· While in general I love the diversity of looks in attire in Kaz, for the life of me I can’t understand the way the typical baby is dressed. For instance, the first time we met our little guy, he was wearing 4 shirts, 1 jacket, 2 pairs of pants, 3 pair of socks, and a hat. It was about 70 degrees F outside, and we were indoors! It was like the movie ‘A Christmas Story’, but instead of the first grader getting overly bundled up to head out to face the cold, there are hoards of babies sweating away in the spring heat. Tiny little arms stuck straight out, barely able to move. Kinda funny to see, but can’t be all that comfortable for the youngsters, though. Go figure.

· While traveling in Kazakhstan, we have noticed that the airports address baggage handling a bit differently than in the states. In Almaty, it was more similar to the Caribbean, where the baggage would randomly come out of one of the baggage carrousels, regardless of how they were labeled. They will then pile up because the baggage was too big for the carrousel, and folks would dive over one another in an attempt to find their stuff. Reminds me of single 30-something ladies jostling for the bouquet at a wedding.However, in Shyment, the luggage experience was very different. We flew on a fairly large plane (~747 size), so when we disembarked, we assumed we would head into the terminal to receive our very large checked baggage. Nope. We were shepherded into an area just outside next to the plane and told to wait, while our luggage was put onto a truck, then brought around the plane for us to pull off ourselves. We cut the middleman right out of the equation. I think you could have asked to dive right into the belly of the cargo hold yourself and they wouldn’t have minded – perhaps a ‘be aware of the jet turbine engine’ warning, but other than that, you would be good to go.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

It's a Boy!

Tuesday morning… local time 10:45 a.m. Cincinnati Time: 12:45 a.m
Yesterday was a very emotional day at the Baby House and we’ll tell you more about that process later. Frankly I just don’t feel like writing about it at the moment.

More importantly, as I write this morning I’m thinking about Connor and Lana, just typing their names makes me tear up. I miss them so much, but feel very comfortable with our decision to have them at home with the normalcy of their comfortable mid-western American lives.

Speaking of comfortable…I’ll tell you about the bed a little later or have Jesse tell you about it. He had a whole hearted laughing attack last night when he sat down on my side of the bed last night. Note I said “my” side of the bed.

It’s a sunny morning in Shymkent and we are both feeling hopeful about the day (and month) ahead. A full night of sleep can do wonders for the spirit or perhaps it’s the fact that today will be our first day in 4 days that we don’t have to get on a plane.

Or maybe it’s because we had a great conversation with Dr. Staat, our US doctor, last night. We’re thrilled to tell you we’re going to proceed with the adoption of a 15 month old Kazakh BOY! We can’t give a lot of details in this public forum until the adoption is final, but we can tell you he’s alert, playful, and ticklish. Makes me smile thinking about him!

I’m off to shower and prepare for our visit today at 2:00 and then another visit at the Ministry of Education local office.

Update – local time, 9:29 pm. Cincinnati Time: 11:29 am
So it’s probably against blogger etiquette to provide updates to a blog within a blog, but so goes it when you can only get access to the internet sporadically. This is Jesse, and I’m currently sitting in a café about ½ mile from our hotel (nearest one that has WiFi access). I’m here because we ran out of credits on our mobile phone last night while speaking with our doc in the states, and Amy was dying to speak to the kids at home, so I’m off to refill the card. What my baby wants, my baby gets…

Ok, so it’s not such a burden, as I’m drinking a cold one while doing my internet chores, and I’m also missing our little ones like crazy – so getting the phone up-and-running serves us both.To sum it up, today was a day to remember. We will certainly provide more details in the future regarding our soon-to-be newest addition – but know that he already seems enamored with Amy and tolerates me (good sign, all things considered). I’m running out of battery power, but will send more details tomorrow, as well as fill everyone in on a few funny stories, including the bed story.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Shymkent Day 1

Let me start by saying Jet Lag is a major drag! Jesse and I both are struggling to get through the days right now. I slept like a baby for 4 hours last night and then at 2:00a.m. I'm wide awake. Thank goodness for Ipod audio books, listening saved my sanity as I was trying to pass the time in a small room with no where to go and no TV to watch. The hotel had one English speaking channel, BBC.

This rainy morning we arrived in Shymkent, a two hour flight from Almaty. We were met by our driver, coordinator and translator. With not a minute to catch our breath it was Game On! Our coordinator arranged for us to see an apartment, but we were not interested in staying there. It was clean but not our "cup of tea". We ask to go to the Hotel instead. We decided to splurge and get the deluxe room for $100/night. A small two room unit versus a single room with just a bed. I figure the extra money might save our marriage, after all we'll be here a month.

Next we raced to the regional Ministry office. Our coordinator Nurshy is hard to keep up with, she's a lady on a mission! I think she pushed the elevator button 3000 times. We spent a total of 3 minutes in that office. The official apologized she was in a hurry and she left. We proceeded to the local Ministry office. We had a short conversation with an official there and then off to the Baby House.

The time at the baby house was extremely stressful but we've met a child we're hopeful will become our "one Moore."

More information to follow as soon as we can...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Almaty, Kazakhstan

We made it to Almaty without incident. Our flight arrived at 5:00a.m. local time and we made it through customs, retrieved luggage, exchanged money and checked into our hotel all by 6:00 a.m., that’s fast! We’re staying at Hotel Kazzhol. Our room is tiny but clean, and it’s hard to say what to compare it to in the States. We stayed awake long enough to have breakfast and then took a 4 hour nap. We forced ourselves to wake up and shower around one o’clock. We then headed out for a walk and to find the Kazakh restaurant the hotel receptionist recommended.

The city streets of Almaty were very quiet. Not many people out and about for such a warm and beautiful day. We had a traditional Kazakh meal – but I admit I can’t quite figure out what “Kazakh” food really entails. We both had a salad called “Kazakhstan Salad” (imagine that) which was delicious. I ordered a chicken dish that had an Asian flare to it and Jesse had “beef and potatoes”. He cleaned his plate! Maybe if I’m ever brave enough to order lamb (head included, so the menu said) or horse stew I’ll be better able to describe Kazakhstan food.

It’s amusing to me to watch the communications between two people who don’t speak the same language. Both parties get this little nervous laugh and shake their heads yes but have no idea what they’re laughing about or agreeing to. Jesse wanted a small Sprite at the restaurant, but we both ended up with 1 liter bottles---could have been worse. Most people we’ve encountered so far speak English, just not the restaurant staff.

Upon returning to the hotel we stopped in the lobby to talk with two other adoptive families. One family was returning home with their adorable son and the other just arrived today to start the process.

Tonight it’s off to bed early because we’re being picked up at 5:30 a.m. for our flight to Shymkent. Tomorrow should be a big day!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Amsterdam Airport

Local Time: 3:45 p.m. Cincinnati Time: 9:45 a.m.

Amy here...

Just sitting here at the airport waiting for our flight to Almaty. We had a nice flight over the pond -- it helps to be in first class! I was quite cozy with a blanket and pillow, lots of leg room and seats that recline into a sleeping position. We both slept for at least 4 hours, something I really needed. The last few nights at home were difficult for me.

Knowing we were leaving the next day, I was crying my eyes out at bedtime Thursday night. Lana said to me, “Are you trying to be brave, Mom?” Yes, dear I’m trying to be brave. I’m just not doing a good job right now. She says, “that’s ok” and runs off to get me a tissue. Friday morning, before sending Connor to the bus stop with Jesse, I break down again. Connor comes walking into the kitchen, and after seeing me crying he says “Oh no, not again!” He was willing to give me a big hug, but really wanted nothing to do with a cry baby Mommy. Thank goodness they are stronger than me.

And We’re Off…

Friday 4/4 – 6:18 pm from JFK

After more than a year and three months of planning, document preparations, background checks, homestudys, and general poking and prodding required by the adoption process, we are finally beginning the actual trip to meet our child! Everyone that knows us realizes that we have done our best to plan ahead for all contingencies for this most important event. Is our adoption agency’s in-country (Kazakhstan) staff prepared to meet us? Do we have enough cash? Do we have our international doctors lined up in the states to help with heath related questions? Check, check, and check.

So, you can imagine our surprise to realize that we have done all this planning only to find out that ‘Almaddy’ is actually a city located in Kansas. Well, at least that was the impression of the Delta ticketing agent when seeing KZ on our tickets. When we informed him that we were, in fact, flying to Almaty, Kazakhstan, he felt that made more sense, seeing that our connecting flight was through Amsterdam.

With our confidence renewed that our bags would meet us in Kazakhstan, we headed off to the gate to go to JFK.

Having no issues with our first leg of the flight, Amy and I our now hanging out at an international terminal in JFK awaiting our flight to Amsterdam. During our downtime, we have been reflecting on the fact that our amazing adventure would not be possible without the support of literally hundreds of people. We are so fortunate to have such wonderful, caring, and selfless family, friends, neighbors, work colleagues, adoption agency staff, and professional healthcare support staff that this will certainly be a community accomplishment. In fact, I would like to send thanks out to a few individuals that have gone way beyond what is reasonable:

• To my parents and ‘Grandma T’, for agreeing to take care of our most prized ‘possessions’ while we are on our travels. Please don’t let the little buggers take advantage of you too much…
• To Sandee, for your ongoing ‘legal’ support.
• To Misty and Shane, for being so generous with your time and explanations for how things are really going to work once we get to Shymkent. Can’t wait to try the Turkish restaurant.
• To my Fidelity colleagues, for covering for me during my extended absence. While I’m guessing that a few may actually be looking forward to me being out of their hair for some time, it’s a great comfort knowing that I have a such an understand team (ok, so you guys are gonna hold the work until I get back, then hand it back to me – got it ;) ).

The list goes on, and on, to our children’s teachers, coaches, sensei (karate is great until your 6 year old can whip you)… You get the picture. Regardless of the outcome, none of this would be possible without our family, friends, and community. We will forever be in your debt, and love you all! Thanks a million.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

What To Expect (We Hope)

There is not a “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book to read before going to Kazakhstan for an international adoption, but we had the next best thing… a conversation with our new friends Shane and Misty (thanks guys!).

Below are our basic expectations of the adoption process in Kazakhstan.

We leave Cincinnati on Friday and will arrive in Almaty, Kazakhstan on Sunday morning. We’ll stay one night in Almaty and then travel to the city of Shymkent on Monday morning. Once in Shymkent we have an interview with an official at the Ministry of Education. As the official searches through a book of children available for international adoption, we tell the nice lady that the perfect child for us is a healthy young boy with red hair. (That’s a joke… have you ever seen an Asian child with red hair?) Unimpressed with our attempts to charm her, we will be sent to the orphanage (called a Baby House) to meet our child.

Once at the Baby House, we will meet with the Director and she will introduce us to the youngster. During the ‘introductions’, she will explain the basic history of the child and any known medical conditions. Keep in mind that all conversations occur in Russian, so we’re completely reliant on our translator. (The only Russian Jesse remembers from our trip to Russia 5 years ago include “hello”, “beer” , and “thank you” ). During this initial stage, we’ll be able to spend time with the child and continue to gather information about the medical history. Back at the hotel we’ll send all the medical information to the director of the international adoption center (IAC) at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati. (Allow me to digress for a moment. Our daughter Lana is prominently shown on the IAC website --- Thanks to Kate). Based on this information, Dr.Staat will give us her professional opinion on the health of the child.

Assuming all is well health wise, we will begin the mandatory 14 day bonding period. This typically constitutes being able to visit the child daily for approximately 2 hours, although the Director has discretion on daily routines. Once the 14 day bonding period is over, we wait for a court date. The court date is usually 4-6 days later. At court we ask the judge to grant the adoption, thus making it all legal. Then we start the 15 day appeal period. Jesse and I will travel home without the child to wait out the appeal period and the time necessary to process the child’s passport and visa. The return trip to bring the child home should occur 4 – 6 weeks later. During that trip we pick up our new precious addition, have a final appointment at the US Embassy and come home, for a total of 5 -7 days.

Sounds simple, eh?