John:

Anne just told me it's one more week in Kokshetau, then back to Almaty for a few days of stuff, then the long trek home! I can hardly believe it! After reading my post yesterday, Anne said she thought I was doing pretty darn well! Thinking back, I do remember now that before we met the babies I was freaked out to even pick up a baby, feed one or change a diaper! I guess it is pretty amazing that in two short weeks, doing things like that are so easy that they're an afterthought. Maybe there will come a day when the screaming and crying are less horrid! But I think I will never approach the master! There are only so many Jason Kidds in this world!

We've gotten into a pretty nice routine of feeding, playing, and then napping. It seems like the kids are less frantic about everything. Even Daniel doesn't go into total freak out mode in between every spoonful of cereal, probably because he's figured out that the food is coming whether he freaks out or not. I started shoving food in there as quickly as possible when he opened his mouth to cry. He never had time to actually cry, and after a few more feedings, he seemed to decide it wasn't worth all the effort. Just today, he seems to be a lot less floppy and is starting to hold himself up better. It's so nice to see progress for all your efforts. And it's pretty cool to see little bits of improvement every single day! I've taught Maya to turn the pages for me when I'm reading a book to her.  Their babbling is more focused and they make real sounds now instead of random noises. I'm pretty sure that when Maya says 'babababa', she is saying 'papa, papa'!

It's also a pretty funny contrast that before baby bedtime, we play morbidly schmaltzy music like, err, do I dare say this in public? Ok, Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, The Carpenters, Air Supply, Barbara Streisand, and sing them to sleep in our best Karen Carpenter voices. It's pretty great that you can sing off tune and totally make up lyrics, and they just don't seem to care! Then after we put them to bed, we break out the Sex and the City DVDs and veg out! 

Also I need to say that my eyeglasses are never clean anymore. They are constantly smudged, even right after I've cleaned them, one of those two will smudge me!

As the countdown begins for our last week in Kokshetau, here's my Top Ten for today:

Top Ten Things I Miss About Being Home (and won’t take for granted any more!)

10. Dish Rack (Easily taken for granted; it’s not even a second thought to you! Although I will say there is no more ‘let the dishes drip-dry on the rack and never actually put the dishes away!’)
9. Broadband Internet connection. (I’ve forgotten how frustrating it is to have an inconsistent, slow connection that drops you regularly!)
8. Washer (Again, not even a second thought for you! When hand washing, you cannot do anything else like surf the internet, watch sports, talk on the phone, while saying you are ‘doing the wash’)
7. Dryer (Yes, this deserves a separate listing. It is fairly common here to have a washer, but very uncommon to have a dryer. People hang their clothes, and this can take a few days to dry!)
6. Grabbing a burger, fries and a beer at our local pub, The Ale House. (It is well documented how much I have enjoyed the food here. BUT there is NO other type of cuisine here! If you feel like ‘sushi night’, or maybe ‘meeting for some tapas’, well, sorry, you’re just out of luck! Heck, there’s not even a Chinese place, and we’ve ALWAYS found Chinese joints anywhere in the world we’ve traveled! We took a picture of me in front of a Chinese restaurant in every city we visited in Spain and France, and we drove right past one in Zimbabwe!)
5. Being able to walk into any store and say, ‘Yo! How much fer dat der pack a gum?’
5a. Not hearing ‘zjeowfo spajsko, asjioia asodowi kson dnow asnko?’ and panicking when a small child or a really good looking woman walks up to you and says, ‘Excuse me, what time is it?’ (I’ve started to remove my wristwatch when I go out in public! No one seems to wear watches around here and people always wonder time it is!)
5b. Not hearing ‘jviownvdk lsjjf owikf sjon?’ when the phone rings, or you answer the door.
4. Hot water heater big enough to take a whole shower. (Turn off shower while soaping, shampooing, etc … or face a very cold final rinse cycle and the wrath of your spouse!)
3. Feeling safe to drink water out of any tap or rinse edibles in them. (Actually, the water here is considered reasonably safe. But having each had the pleasure of Montezuma’s Revenge in the past, we’re not taking the risk!)
2. Screens (as in those things on the windows and doors that keep mosquitoes out of the d**n house!)
1. Being able to call or visit family and friends whenever we want, or drive ourselves wherever we want to go, whenever we want to go there! (Even if it’s just around the corner to Walgreen’s to get dat der pack a gum!)

Anne:

Facing another cold, cloudy day indoors I thought I would post some fun facts and quotes from our Lonely Planet Central Asia guide about Kazakhstan and the surrounding region:

*  "Kazakhstan has interesting and quirky sites separated by vast amounts of nothing."  (We experienced this firsthand driving 4 hours from Astana to Kokshetau).

*  "Kazakhstan's Kashagan oil field holds probably the world's second-largest concentration of oil, some 30 million barrels."

*  "Legend has it that the biblical prophet Daniel (of the Lion's Den fame) was buried in Samarkland (Uzbekistan) where he is known as Daniyar."

*  "Recent excavations of burial mounds on the Kazakh border with Russia are unearthing...skeletons of women, bow-legged from a life in the saddle, buried with swords, daggers and bronze-tipped arrows, indicating warrior status.  Others appear to be priestesses, buried with cultic implements, bronze mirrors and elaborate headdresses.  The finds indicate that women of these early steppe civilizations were trained to be warriors, fighting alongside men, perhaps even forming an elite social group."

*  "The Kazakhs were nomadic horseback pastoralists until the 1920's; indeed the name Kazakh is said to mean 'free warrior' or 'steppe roamer'.  Kazakhs trace their roots to the 15th century, when rebellious kinsmen of a Uzbek khan broke away ad settled in present-day Kazakhstan."

*  "If the Soviets took a branding iron to their many conquests across Russia and Asia, the mark left in Kazakhstan might be burned more deeply than anywhere else.  The legacy they left- of smokestack cities, nuclear testing grounds, rocket launch pads and disappearing seas- has left an imprint as well known as the Kazakh prowess for horsemanship and its centuries-old nomadic culture.  You'll find less and less of both."

*  "Around 47% of Kazakhs call themselves Muslim although less than 3% actually practice the faith.  Around 36% of people claim to be Russian Orthodox, again, the practicing number is in the single digits."

*  "Covering 2.7 million sq km, Kazakhstan is also the ninth biggest country in the world, about the size of western Europe."

* We read also that the economic losses in the post Soviet era was 3 times worse than the Great Depression of the 1930's in the USA.

Buddha Baby!

Our Favorite Book

Dressing Daniel...

...we did it!

Sometimes we like playing together!

Ticklish Maya!!!

 

Click here to see Daniel almost say 'Da-da' (1.4MB Quicktime)

 

Click here to see Maya CRACKING UP! (1.0MB Quicktime)