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.