Hi, everyone.  Well, our trip to Lake Baraboy was postponed due to weather.  It's cloudy and only in the 50's today, so Oleg and Inna said it "wouldn't be very beautiful" today.  Maybe we'll go tomorrow or Monday.

Today we met with Dr. Natalia, who is the coordinator of the maternity hospital here where the kids were born.  We heard pretty similar information to what he heard before from Dr. Vittoria, but we were able to find out a little more about the birth mothers.  We saw a photo (copy of an ID card) of Daniel's birth mother.  He looks a lot like her.  Dr. Natalia said she will give us a copy as well.  She was living here in Kokshetau.  Maya's birth mother was living in one of the small villages in the region. 

Daniel continued to be pretty cranky today.  I think he is teething.  We're still working on switching John from psychiatrist thinking to Daddy thinking.  He gets rather upset when Daniel cries, thinking there is something very wrong with him.  As he says, when adults cry, there is usually a significant problem.  I suggested to him that Daniel looked tired and it was getting to be their nap time, and that maybe he could try rocking him.  He did, and Daniel was out in about three minutes.  John says he will have to put that information in his parenting algorithm.  I spared him the trauma of changing the kid's clothes today-- I think he was still a little upset from the long sleeved onesie episode from yesterday!  I must say, though, he looks pretty cute as a dad.  It's great to see one of the kids giggling with him or asleep on his chest. 

In other Kokshetau news, the city continues to get ready for the president's arrival a week from today.  We have noticed that there are many new billboards of him in various poses on every major street.  Yesterday afternoon we went out for a walk and there were police lining all the major streets.  Then they started doing a drill speeding up and down the streets, yelling at people with a megaphone, we assume to get off the street.  We were yelled at ourselves trying to cross the street-- one of the policemen yelled at us in Russian and pointed farther up the street.  We were told today that our court date might be moved up one day-- we're wondering if that is because he is arriving on that day.  Well, it would be great to have them with us one day sooner.

I hope all of you are well.  We really appreciate all of the great emails-- it keeps us connected to home and it is wonderful to hear from you!


As Anne mentioned, I learned today that babies commonly do this thing called 'crying'. They cry when they are hungry, they cry when they are tired, they cry when they are wet; sometimes they cry just for the heck of it. In my field of work, people cry a lot, but if someone cries, you feel really horrible for them and try to be empathic. I guess it's different for babies?! Anne says you can settle them down, but also just try to figure out what they're telling you. I'll need to get used to that, or I'm in for a long road!

Since we're settling into a bit of a routine, I thought it would be interesting to put in something of the conversations we've had with Oleg and Inna while riding in the the van and at lunch.

Oleg is 37 years old and married to a dentist. He has two daughters, one is 13 years old, the other is 3; we discuss them often. He appears quite serious and stern, but when we settle in for lunch, he will relax, tell such interesting stories, throw in a great sarcastic joke, and treat us to a wonderful hard earned smile. We think he has a t-shirt of every city in America. It is a custom for adopting parents to give gifts to their helpers at the end of the trip, usually something reflecting the city where you're from, so he gets a lot of t-shirts! He denies this, but anytime we mention any city in our country, he'll say 'Oh, yes, I have a shirt from there!'. When we heard today that he likes Miller Genuine Draft, we commented that by his looks, he could fit right into Wisconsin, all he'd need is a Green Bay Packers t-shirt. Of course, he already had one of those! We see him as a good hearted man who has probably seen some pretty tough times. He was in his early 20's when the USSR crumbled. He remembers the Soviet era as being filled with lots of lines and 'creative deficiencies.' Apparently basic supplies like milk, sugar, etc, were distributed to local merchants for distribution, but whose stock would mysteriously vanish, only to be sold under the table later at much higher prices. As all citizens were, he was required to serve in the Soviet Army, doing a tour of duty in Turkey; he was full of interesting stories. When Kazakhstan attained independence (and they were the last Soviet Republic to do this), rather than being happy, most people were quite scared. They saw the dissolution as inevitable, because it was clear living day to day that things were so bad that something just had to change; or if not, things would simply fall apart. But everyone recognized that their independence would mean a very difficult and chaotic transition, and they were right. There were a lot of bandits and little law enforcement at first. People who had saved their money for a lifetime essentially lost it all when inflation ran wild and money mysteriously vanished. Items that cost $15 one day cost more than $50 a few weeks later. Even now, many people do not trust banks because several years ago, one of the major banks closed and the owner vanished, taking all funds with him! The government now insures banks and requires them to be certified, but people are slow to forget. Most people feel the country is now heading in the right direction, albeit slowly.

Inna is too young to remember much of the Soviet era. She is 23 years old, and as a child she remembers her grandmother standing in lines for everything and her mom cooking a lot of borscht soup. She just hates soup!  She is a light hearted, fun young lady, also filled with great stories. Where Oleg treats us to the occasional wonderful smile, Inna constantly radiates with smiles. She could be any hip, fashionable young woman in the U.S. save for her accent and occasional search for the right words. She lives with her parents and 20 yr old sister, and at night goes out with her girlfriends to a nightclub or a movie. She grew up in Kokshetau, and has a college degree in English from Kokshetau University. Last fall, she spent 3 months in the U.S. in a work study program working as an administrative assistant. Of all places, where did she do this? A small town in Wisconsin! She briefly lived in a hostel, then lived with a local family. While there, she learned many traditional American customs, such as eating frozen custard, doing jello shots, and having a brandy old fashioned cocktail before dinner. Her time spent there was 'just the greatest thing, ever!'

She and Oleg have worked together as interpreter and driver for 3 years. They get along well, but had some initial adjusting to each other's profound differences in personality. She thinks they each made adjustments, especially after she left for 3 months for the U.S. and came back a slightly different person from her experiences. We think they provide a nicely balanced contrast of personalities and life experience, and together have done a great job for us so far!



Daniel Meets a Pug

Dr. Natalia and Maya (the red spots on her face are mosquito bites!)

Kokshetau Billboard (We don't know what this is for but we're thinking we could use some for our stomachs!)

Fountain in Kokshetau Park

"John Lenin"