Hello, all-- Well, today was the long-awaited lunch and shopping outing!  We had a rather uneventful morning of the usual-- feeding, diapers, playing, naps.  Maria the babysitter arrived around 1pm and we went down to meet Oleg and Inna.  I think we may have mentioned the many potholes here.  Well, it rained again this morning and on the last step of our entrance I gracefully stepped in one of the aforementioned potholes which was filled with water and twisted my ankle.  Well, it was one of those things that kind of happens in slow motion-- the pain didn't come right away, but when it did I was not a happy camper.  On top of that I hadn't had much to eat or drink yet today, so you can probably imagine what came next!  That's right-- I passed out.  Luckily, Inna and John were already standing on either side of me and helped me down to the mud-covered ground.  I came to pretty quickly with the cool air and some water.  The two of them were freaked out-- I was just embarrassed!  They thought maybe I shouldn't go on the trip-- I said, no way!  I did need to change my mud-soaked pants, though, so they helped me hobble back up the stairs to change.  I'm amazed that this country doesn't have more people hobbling around that have stepped in potholes!  Anyway, long story short, we discovered that we were running out of ibuprofen so we thought we would try to buy some at the local pharmacy.  No go-- they brought me some Vitamin C!  I didn't think that would work very quickly to decrease the swelling in my connective tissue, so we settled for some aspirin and an ACE wrap.  It seems like a mild sprain-- I think my ego is bruised more than my ankle!

The rest of the outing was pretty uneventful (thankfully!)  We had lunch, then went to the green market and the bazaar to pick up baby and adult supplies.  We made two very interesting finds while out shopping.  One was at a vendor's stand where we had stopped to check and see if they had a CD of this Russian singer who I apparently look like, according to Oleg.  They didn't have the CD, but we noticed some old-looking coins on another shelf.  Well, they had all of these great old coins from different places, but mostly from Russia in the 1800s and the USSR from the 1920's.  It was pretty cool-- we bought three coins for a total of 1000 tenge (about $8).  It's always interesting to see what is inexpensive here and what is not.  For instance, a beautiful homemade loaf of bread is 25 tenge (less than a quarter), Kazakh vodka is around 250 tenge for a pint (less than $2), cotton crib sheets are about 200 tenge a piece, but diapers will set you back about $20 for a large pack!  Anyway, our other interesting find was a stand that actually sold diet Coke!  You may laugh at this, but it's sort of an event when you find it!  Regular Coke, Pepsi and all kinds of other sugary soft drinks are the norm, but you can't find the diet stuff, even though every store has a poster for it!  We rejoiced and bought a couple of bottles.

Maria was still in one piece when we returned, even though Daniel only napped for about 30 minutes.  By the way, he turns 8 months old today!  He has celebrated the day by being extra cranky.  Oh yeah, the kids also got some strained fruit for the first time-- a "Ton Ton" special, blueberry and apple combo.  They seemed to enjoy!

Hope all of you are well-- we miss you!


Poor Anne! Twisted her ankle pretty bad; she was hobbling all afternoon. And boy, did she give us a scare! When it happened, I went over to support her while she tested out her bad ankle. She was able to put some weight on it, but then I realized I was on her good side. I switched to her other side where the ankle was injured and felt her put more of her weight on me.  She seemed to realize how much it hurt; I saw her wince and felt her put more weight on me. Then more weight, and more weight. She was looking down, so I leaned over to ask how bad it was. She looked up and didn't say much and her eyes looked a little dazed. Then her eyes rolled back, she slumped over, and I realized she was out! Well, I eased her down to the ground and kneeled in the big mud puddle she was sitting in. I lifted her head, 'Anne?' No response! I slapped her cheeks a bit. (She later asked if I had enjoyed slapping her around. I said maybe I would have, but I was too worried at the time to really enjoy it!) Inna asked if she should call the ambulance and we'll carry Anne upstairs.  I said 'maybe, but let's let her sit for a bit' - in my head I'm thinking did I miss something besides the sprained ankle? Oh god, I don't want us to have to go to the hospital here! Where did I put that travel health insurance policy? She came around a little bit after smacking her around a bit and having sat for a few seconds; she was sluggish but coherent. She said 'I think I'm ok, I just didn't eat or drink for a while, then with the pain, I think it was just a vaso-vagal response.' (This is what George dubya had when he choked on a pretzel, then coughed hard, causing him to pass out.) I thought she was probably right.  Then I thought, she must be okay to give such a cogent response! I gave Inna a 200 tenge bill to get some water at the corner store, and after some water and more time, Anne was her old self again. Of course, being her old self, she stubbornly insisted on immediately standing right up and trying out her ankle. I told her to sit for a few seconds, you still look a little gray. She ignored me and stood right up while I waited to catch her again! Well, she didn't fall, and she was fine except for a sprained ankle and bruised ego! I asked Inna if the store sold ice, and she looked at me blankly as if she was wondering 'why would a store sell ice?' We went back up to the apartment to change Anne's muddy butt and I grabbed a bottle of Motrin and a bag of frozen Russian dumplings to ice her ankle. We then ate lunch and shopped while Anne hobbled around on her bad ankle.

My other catastrophe of the day is what I thought was my worst fears come true until my wife passed out cold and fell in the mud. Now it's my second worst fear come true - yes, the iPod is dead! It just finished playing some old Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and shut itself off. I went over to put something else on, and ... no response. I tried a reset several times, I tried plugging and unplugging, I even went to the iPod support web site to make sure I was using proper resetting procedure! Oh my god! No iPod! The only hope is that the web site said on very rare occasions, you might need to unplug it, let it drain with no power or activity for 24 hours then try resetting again. Why sitting there without activity would drain it, I don't know, but when you're desperate, you try anything!

I also recently received an email from our friend Bruce, telling me that the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, at least this CD he gave us for this trip, was clearly, absolutely, and in no uncertain terms,  a 'country' CD. I can only assume that the iPod went into shock and went belly up after playing its first true country music!

It's been amazing to see the changes in the kids! Maya sits up easily now, and can just barely pull herself around on all fours. The problem is if we step out for a minute, she can be on the opposite side of the room all of a sudden! She looks lovingly in our eyes and smiles all the time! Daniel is playing a bit of catch-up yet. He's more challenging to feed (although Anne seems to do better than I do!), and is still a bit floppy. But he's less floppy than when he first came, and can sit up for longer periods before falling over. He does smile at us every morning, and gives us periods of smiles and playing. He does respond well when we comfort him when he's cranky. He always seems famished, and sleeps A LOT! That's why we think he's still playing catch-up from being in the hospital. Anne is more surprised at how far along Maya was when we got her, and Daniel is about what she expected in terms of development for being in the hospital their whole lives.

Daniel likes his blueberries!

Maria and babies

Sometimes we manage to entertain each other!

Honey Lady at the green market

Knitting while selling lottery tickets

Selling herbs at the green market

Vodka? Wine? Cognac?