Anne:

Hi, everyone-- first of all, we wanted to let you know that we hopefully have fixed the technical problem which was sending some of you the some of the same photos over and over.  Seems that when we select the pictures each day we see the correct ones, but sometimes old ones showed up instead.  Let us know if it is working better!

Well, for all of the excitement of yesterday, today is pretty much the opposite!  Now it seems John is getting sick with some upper respiratory/GI thing, so he's crashed out on the couch.  Inna's getting sick, too, so she wasn't her usual perky self.  Plus it looks like it's going to rain.  So, unfortunately, you will now be subjected to my random musings and ramblings while I treat myself to an afternoon cup of Nescafe.

We had a nice visit with the kids this morning (we have a feeling they may be the beloved reservoir for all these Kazakh viruses for which we have no immunity)!  They looked pretty cute in their stripey outfits-- kind of like little jailbirds getting ready to bust out!  Two more days.  We found out our court time will be 3:00 in the afternoon on Monday.  Great, nothing like making us wait and get anxious all day!

After our visit we had to make a couple of quick stops for supplies - diapers (always), bottled water (always), some bananas (good for upset stomachs), and chicken (to make chicken soup)!  Since we got back to the apartment I've been doing the Kazakh housewife thing.  We asked today what the turnaround time is for having laundry done - supposedly there is a woman who will do it for a fee.  Since we would need to wait until the next day for it to be done from the time that we turn it in, and we only have one set of bed sheets (a random collection of twin-sized sheets for a double bed), I guess we'll be doing it by hand!  So...did 'em in the bathtub and hung them on the line to dry.  Hopefully they will be dry by the time we go to bed!  Now there is some homemade chicken soup going on the stove.

So one thing I've been thinking about is that doing things the hard way here is going to make it all seem so much easier when we go back home!  For instance, I will have all the modern gadgets-- like a washing machine and tap water that you can drink.  And I'm going to be pretty excited to drive my own car to a grocery store and pick out stuff myself!  I'm sure that these are all the same things that I will look back on with fondness when we get home, too.  Here's another quirky little thing-- you could be publicly chastised in this country for letting your baby catch a draft, but you can't find a car seat to save your life.  Funny cultural differences.

Finally, here are a few completely random anecdotes which made us laugh:

*  One of the first days we were here we went to a restaurant, and Inna asked us what kind of food we were interested in.  She said that our choices were beef, chicken, pork, lamb and fish.  She usually needs to translate the menu, since it is all in Russian.  John said that he was interested in fish and asked what kind they had.  Inna said, "Well, do you know this fish "carp"?  That's what it is."  Then she went on to say that yes, it was probably caught in the nearby lake (near which there are frightening looking, huge metal pipes), and that no, it's not very popular here!  We haven't requested fish since!

*  Usually if we go to lunch it is at the same three or four restaurants.  One day we asked if Inna and Oleg had any recommendations for places where we hadn't been.  Inna responded, "Well, we usually go to these places because we know that they are good.  We like to screen places before we take Americans there."  When we asked her what they had found in some of the "not recommended" places, she responded, "Well, sometimes the service is slow, or it is too smoky, or there are dubious characters."  We now ask if there are "dubious characters" when we go somewhere new!

*  We continue to try and learn new words and phrases in Russian regularly.  We asked Inna what some of the swear words were in Russian.  She said, "Well, there is this one word you can use for lots of things and it's not too bad - 'bleen.'  This comes from the word 'bliney.'"  Well, blineys are these delicious crepes you can eat for breakfast with jam.  So I guess the worst we are going to learn from Inna is to run around and say, "Crepes!"  Last week I had been perusing my Lonely Planet Russian phrasebook and come across a section with colorful expressions.  One of the more interesting ones, to say, "He's lazy," was "Khuem grushy okolachivaet," which literally translates to, "He shakes pears off the tree by hitting the tree with his d--."  We asked Oleg and Inna if people really say this and they denied it, saying, "Maybe in Russia, but not here!"  So... we're stuck with "Bleen!"

All right, that is enough random stuff for a rainy day.  Let me see if John feels up to posting something!  Hope you all are doing well--  miss you!

John:

All right, I slept for the last 3 1/2 hours, so I'm up to write just a few words. First off, thanks to my brother-in-law Steve for figuring out why some pictures weren't showing up right. Steve, have you considered a career in the computer field? ;-) The problem should be fixed; please let us know if anything else weird happens on the web site. We're usually not aware of problems until you tell us.

Also, feel free to send as many long emails as you want. We don't read them while online, we download them into our computer for later reading, and words do not take up much space. So it won't really 'use up online time' to read your emails, no matter how long. However, attachments like pictures can sometimes take a long time to download. Don't stop sending pictures, we love them, too! But make sure you downsize them to as small as possible, and recognize that each of these small files will take several minutes to download. Our best connection speed is maybe 24kb/s and when we download, it usually says we're actually downloading at about 1-5kbs/sec! That's about 1/6 or less the speed of your dial up connections there, and maybe 1/100 the speed of you lucky ones with dsl or cable internet!  Bleen! Please don't stop sending stuff, we really love hearing from and seeing everyone, just keep file size in mind with pictures or other file attachments. Thanks! 

We Love Our Stripes!

Look at me sitting!

Maya Chilling Out on the Blanket

I Never Chill Out on the Blanket!

Maya's New Look-- "Eighteen years with this guy??"