Hi, everyone!  Well, today was a much more interesting day than usual here in Kokshetau.  Yes, that's right, today was the big presidential visit!  I think we know now why our court date was bumped-- everyone was in the streets to see the prez!  It started in the morning with a Kokshetau traffic jam-- it probably took us ten minutes instead of the usual five to get to the hospital!  Actually, the traffic did get much worse later as many of the streets were blocked off.  Sadly, when we arrived at the hospital we discovered that they are done with their renovations, so we are back to our visits in our little room.  The kids were extra smiley today and then crashed for a good long time in our arms.  Maya has developed this look with Daniel that really seems to say, "Is this really going to be my pesky brother???"  Daniel, of course, is oblivious and just goes on babbling and trying to eat Maya's foot or whatever.

So, on to the Presidential activities!  We had a quick lunch at the Rainbow after our visit.  This is also the place with the to-die-for shish kebabs with the secret marinade-- we had a great dinner there last night for Dana and Arsim's last night in Kokshetau (sad! We will miss them)!  After lunch we saw the presidential motorcade race through and so we cruised down the street to where he was opening a new museum.  The story behind this museum is pretty interesting.  Apparently a museum already existed in a historic log house that used to be the home of a rich merchant.  The city of Kokshetau wanted to renovate it but didn't have much money to do so.  They decided to only replace the roof, but when they removed the old roof they found a bag of gold hidden in the corner of the attic!  So they had plenty of money to renovate the whole thing-- this is now the building that President Nazarbaev dedicated today.

Next we walked over to the stadium where they were going to put on the big show for the president.  This is the show for which John and I have been watching practices for weeks.  Of course you needed a special pass to get in, so we just stood with the throng of people on the outside trying to catch glimpses.  For me it was just a great opportunity for people watching!  I got some great pictures, but somehow managed to delete some of the best ones!  Don't ask me how-- it's the downside of digital cameras.  The ones that got deleted would have gone in my collection of what John calls "Peasant Women from Around the World."  Well, I can't help it-- they have the most interesting faces!  Some of the older people were in their traditional clothing today-- it was such a great contrast between the old (women in veils and velvet vests, men in little velvet hats) and the young (guys in oversized  T-shirts, girls in low riding jeans and crop tops).  Anyway, we still have some good shots.  After a while they moved us all back from the gate and security was stepped up.  Long story short, we finally got a blurry shot of the president after waiting two hours in the sun like groupies to see a glimpse of a central Asian "democratically elected official!"  Still, it's the most exciting thing that has happened in the three weeks we've been here! 


I just want to add that before you laugh at our blurry president photo, (actually, go ahead and laugh- we did!) we waited for forever at the entryway for the prez to come to the stadium and/or leave, and when he finally did, security pushed us all back, a hundred people came running out to create a wall of clapping people to surround him, so that the only thing we got was a 1 second glimpse of him as he walked between his wall of people to another throng of admirers then to his car. The shots you don't see here are: 3 of the wall of people around him, and the curb in front of him as I climbed the fence and held the camera up over my head and blindly pointed down hoping to get above the wall of people. I have a new found respect for the talent (if not the attitude) of paparazzi and other action photographers!

Random thought for the day: the ketchup here is wonderful! It is much more flavorful and rich, and comes in many varieties. You can get spicy, moderate, mild, garlic, mixed vegetables, thick like salsa ... What you cannot do is go to the counter and say, 'I would like some ketchup;' they would need much more information than that!


Waiting for the President

Waving the Flag

On the Streets of Kokshetau

Kazakh Woman and Newly Dedicated Museum

Young Kazakh Woman Being Inspected By Police Before Entering the Stadium

(she giggled when her underwire bra set off the metal detector!)

Presidential Photo

(What?  You don't see him?  See the blurry guy with his arm outstretched?  Well, so much for our career in political photography!)

Shish Kebab Guy at the Rainbow Restaurant

(Maybe we can figure out the secret marinade recipe from the photo!)

Anne and Maya

John Reads to Maya

John and Daniel

Ready to Go Outside!