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.