Hello, everyone!  Today has been a really good day.  For starters, the sun is out and it has warmed up a little bit again.  We had a great visit with the kids.  Everyone was in a good mood today, talkative and playful.  Daniel fell asleep at the end but Maya just wanted to play!  There were two little girls staying in the ward next door who kept peering in through the window.  Daniel and Maya were intrigued by them!  We took their picture and showed it to them on the camera and they dissolved into giggles.  We don't know why they are in the hospital but they don't look very sick to us!

After our visit we had a tour of the maternity hospital, where Daniel and Maya were born, from Dr. Natalia.  Actually, we only got a tour of her area, which is where the babies are cared for who will be adopted.  I was hoping for a tour of the whole thing but I have a feeling she can't really do that.  Besides, John was nearly dead from hunger by the time I finished asking my fifty thousand questions about the hospital, the Kazakh medical system, the C-section rate, what types of birth control are used, how many women choose to adopt their babies, the system of medical education and residency... well, you get the picture!  It was very interesting to me.  We all had to put on white coats for the tour, as you see in the photo below.  Apparently this area of the hospital is quite a bit nicer than the other areas because of the donations of American couples who come to adopt, to the consternation of the doctors who work in other parts of the hospital.  In Kazakhstan, medical care is free but there is never enough money and the system is overburdened.  Hmmm... sounds suspiciously like another beloved medical system back at home!  We saw the area where Daniel and Maya spent their first three months of life before they were transferred to the children's hospital.  We also met the doctor and one of the nurses who took care of them-- they are both in photos below as well.

After our hospital tour and long discussion, we finally got poor John some food.  We had lunch at the Rainbow, along with a popular drink here, cognac mixed with cherry juice.  We definitely are going to do that one back in the States!  Oh yeah, we also discovered two other great Kazakh delicacies:  the honey (this is the best time of the year for it - fkoosna (delicious)!  and chocolate butter.  That's right-- real butter mixed with chocolate that you spread on bread.  God bless the soul that came up with that creation!  We asked for a small amount yesterday at the Green Market and they gave us probably half a pound of it!

We finished lunch and then went on the official "city tour" given by Oleg and Inna.  We got to see some of the sights that are not within walking distance.  The tour started with the statue of the "horny husbands."  This is a statue of two elk or deer or something that is a traditional place to take wedding pictures.  The story behind it has to do with husbands who grow horns because they become very jealous of their wives.  Apparently Inna found out not too long ago that "horny" in English doesn't really translate to "jealous!"  Anyway, you can see my own dear horny husband here in the photo.  We went on after that to see the "Valley of the Poor" which is where all of the beautiful houses are for the rich Kazakh government officials.  We saw one of the mosques and the Catholic church.  As a leftover from Soviet days, people here are not very religious.  Most of the ethnic Kazakhs are Muslim and most of the ethnic Russians are Russian Orthodox, with a smattering of Roman Catholic Germans.  However, most people are not practicing.  For Kokshetau, a city of 130,000 , there are only three mosques, one Catholic church and one Orthodox church.  We ended our tour on top of a tall hill which overlooks the city.  The view was quite beautiful.  From that vantage point Kokshetau almost looked like a beachside resort town.  The street level reality is a bit different... but it is beautiful in its own way!


As Anne said, everyone was happy today! How lucky for me! Daniel was kind enough to let me change him, and I got him into a long sleeved onesy! Okay, that's the last I'll mention of this; I know it's silly, but it was a big deal to me!

To answer the many who are asking, no I haven't eaten horse yet. I think up north here, it's not very common to find it in a restaurant. It is very much a native Kazakh thing, and not necessarily wide spread thing since there are more Russians mixed in up here in Kokshetau. Although, I have to mention that in the Green Market yesterday, we saw a little shop that had a can with a picture of a duck, and a can with a picture of a horse. Make your own conclusions. I didn't buy it; I don't want to try it for the sake of trying it, and it wouldn't be a fair assessment to grab some old can with a picture of a horse on it. Before everyone cringes with disgust and thoughts of barbarism, I should add that the Kazakh people have a long and respectful relationship with the horse. The books we read before we came here talk about what great horse riders the Kazakhs have always been, and they are the only culture ever known to have used eagles to hunt small game while riding their horses. With long and patient training, they would train eagles, as some have trained hawks, to stand on their arms while they rode their horses looking for food. When they saw a rabbit or something similar, they would unleash their eagles, who would swoop down and return with the kill.

Stop messing around-- give me the bottle!

Playtime on the Rug

Old McDonald - one of our favorites!

Friends at the Hospital

Nurse Caring for Infants at the Children's Hospital

Drs. Anne, Natalia, Raisa and John

Lunch at the Rainbow

John and a Wedding Party at the Monument to the "Horny Husbands"

Overlooking Kokshetau

Kokshetau from above