We took the kids outside for the first time today!  We just went outside the children's hospital and walked around the grounds for about 15 minutes, but it was fun to show them sky, trees and sun for the first time!  They kept looking around at everything, especially when they heard new noises like cars going by or dogs barking.  Even though it was about 80 degrees we had to put on hats and bundle them in blankets.  It's a big thing here to keep kids warm enough!

We also got to feed them for the first time.  The bottles are glass with these huge rubber nipples.  They both sucked down about 8 ounces with incredible speed!  After that we had our usual play time.  They really seem to like music and looking at books that have different textures.  Maya has learned to do the raspberries-- I had an arm full of spit by the time she was done!  She is also babbling more now.  Daniel has always been a talker--now Maya is starting to vocalize more as well.  They can both roll over both ways.  Maya loves to stand and bounce.  She can sit up with a little help.  Daniel needs a little more work on his trunk control, but we've noticed him getting better just over the past few days.  Today was the first day we really felt like they recognized us when we walked in.  They are getting more cuddly and we always end our visit with them falling asleep in our arms.

After the visit we again had lunch with Oleg and Inna.  We sampled the local Kazakh vodka and also the beef tongue, which is a local favorite.  John really wants to try horse meat-- I think I will pass on that one.  We had a great conversation with Oleg and Inna about everything from politics to the economy to what happened when the Soviet Union collapsed and Kazakhstan became independent.  It's great to be able to have people who can sit with us and talk and answer all of our questions!

This afternoon, after a short rest, we plan to go out for a walk and scope out some more of the local scenery.  Hope all of you are well-- we miss you!



The kids are really starting to recognize us, which is great! As soon as Anne walked in, Maya saw her and gave a great big smile immediately! Daniel cried for the first time, but it lasted 2 seconds, and it was because I took the bottle away for 2 seconds while he was coughing from eating so fast! I can't believe today was the first time they have been outside in their lives! How sad! Aaah, there's so much to see and do!

Today is Sunday, and normally I call home to talk to my parents. So in honor of them, I will write about dining out. If a food reflects one's culture, then this is a fairly diverse culture of several influences. The food seems to reflect Asian, Middle Eastern, and European cuisines. Apparently there was a population of Koreans who lived in the area, but who have since left. The little shops and roadside diners have lots of sausages and meats, similar to what you see at the local deli, and closer to what you'd see in a European deli. Then they have the little salads usually made of various meats and vegetables, like julienne carrots, sliced beef, and fake meat from soy. They have salads made from Asian rice noodles, both the thin cellophane noodles, and the medium sized chow foon noodles. These are usually mixed with julienne vegetables and light vinegar sauces. I bought some, but haven't tasted it yet. The desert bakery is European, with lots of cookies, miniature cakes and such. But the food bakery has many Chinese and Philippino like items, like little triangles of baked pastry filled with different meats. Anne says there is a similar item she grew up with called pasties, which she thinks is Cornish. Of course there are all kinds of cooked meats - pan cooked, grilled, and roasted beef, chicken, and pork. In the freezer they have all kinds of dumplings. These seem to be European and Asian in that some are filled with ground, seasoned meats like Asian dumplings, others with sauerkraut! Our first morning while walking around in Almaty before we had an interpreter, and I was just starving, we walked past a little outdoor food shop along the side walk. We just pointed at stuff that looked good and smiled, and I ended up getting some of the best steamed dumplings I've had! It felt just like home!

When we eat out at a restaurant, we usually order drinks first- juice, beer, Vodka, or Vodka cocktails are the norm. Then we get a 'salad'. The salads are often cold meat and julienne vegetables mixed with mayonnaise, or sometimes oil. Usually they use beef, beef tongue, chicken, cheese, peas, beets, carrots, and cucumbers in different combinations. Then we are offered a 'first course' which seems to be soup; but since it's 80 degrees or so, we usually pass on the soup. I think a soup course is fairly common in parts of Eastern Europe. Then we order entrees, which usually involves the usual beef, pork, chicken or fish. But fish is not very popular since there isn't much water around. We were offered carp, but passed on that. Otherwise it's herring or some other unknown fish.  The meats are often made as a schnitzel, or grilled, or pan cooked with cheese or various seasonings. Horse meat is popular with the Kazakh people, but I haven't really seen it so available yet. There was only one item at each restaurant out of 50 that had horse meat, and these were sausages. I've been told only 2-3 U.S. visitors she's worked with have tried it, and usually unless you grow up with it, you don't like it. So of course, I'd like to try it, even just once! They also often have grilled shish kabobs with the usual chicken, beef, lamb (called mutton here), and they do this very well. Often there are specialty restaurants that do mostly shish kabob; we hope to try one called 'Rainbow' soon.  I've had some eggplant mixture dishes which have been very good. These remind me of dishes I've had at Middle Eastern places in the U.S. Finally, desert typically consists of ice cream. Today we had banana crepes with vanilla ice cream, and bits of pomegranate, very tasty!

Our First Walk Outside

John Feeding Daniel

Cheeky Girls!

Father and Son (the resemblance is eerie, isn't it?)

Maya Listens to Bach

Inna, Our Interpreter, and Oleg, Our Driver