John:

We had a nice visit with the kids today. We had another chance to walk around outside, and it seems to be getting more and more comfortable, like they really recognize us. We're figuring out the little things they do to communicate, and the little things that make them giggle.

Last night we had a nice walk from the hotel away from the city down to some small villages and next to the lake. The villages are quite poor. They are very small shanty houses. We walked by many people pulling their water carriers to the public water pump to fill up for the day or for the next few hours since there is not plumbing to their houses.

We also moved out of the hotel today to an apartment around the corner. As Anne said in her diary, 'it's kind of quaint in a 1970's Soviet era kind of way.' It's clean, seems safe, if you don't get scared by the broken down looking entry way. It's just not luxurious the way we're used to in the U.S. It's a one bedroom apartment with running water, a kitchen and living room. Inna said it's just like the apartment she lives in with her family.
There have been couples in the past not comfortable living here, but we really think they had trouble getting used to less than U.S. standards. Anyway, Anne will add more; here are some more pics:

 

Anne:

Hello, all!  Well, we made the move today to our new digs.  Barring some huge problem, we should be here until we leave Kokshetau.  As John said, it's kind of an interesting place.  The decor is kind of 70's lounge meets retro Bolshevik.  We're happy to be here.  The hotel was nice, but expensive, and a little too formal for our tastes.  This is a place where we can really kick back, and will be more cozy when we finally have the kids with us.

The visits with the kids continue to be great.  It's always hard to leave them.  The nurses and caregivers at the hospital do a great job, but they are busy taking care of many children.  The kids used to be in other rooms together with the sick kids at the hospital.  Now they are in a separate room by themselves.  While I'm glad they are out of the sick rooms, I don't think they have too much personal attention except for feedings and diaper changes. It's amazing what happy little babies they are.  We love it when they smile and laugh and cuddle up close to us.  In just a little over a week, if all goes well, we will have them with us full time.

In the meantime, we are entertaining ourselves here in Kokshetau.  Our daily routine is that our visit at the hospital with the kids is from 10-12.  Then we usually have lunch with Inna and sometimes Oleg at one of the local restaurants.  We've had some interesting foods and have sampled some of the local piva (beer), vodka and cognac.  John is still waiting for his first taste of horse meat.  After lunch, we either pick up groceries or other supplies, or just rest.  Later in the afternoon or in the early evening we go for a walk.  Yesterday afternoon we went for a long walk around Kokshetau and by the lake.  Later on we visited with Dana who is here from Phoenix, and her adorable baby Gracie.  On the way over to Dana's apartment we walked through the main park in the downtown area.  There was a DJ playing Euro dance tunes, and several hundred young, stylish men and women dancing in the main square.  As John mentioned in the picture captions, the young people are extremely stylish here!  I always feel a little frumpy.  The women's outfits are often rather Britney Spears-esque.  The Lonely Planet guidebook says that Kazakhstan "loosely adheres to Islam."  I would have to agree that "loosely" is the key word!

All in all, Kazakhstan strikes me as a country of great contrasts.  In many ways it is very modern, in other ways it is clear that it was very recently a Soviet bloc country.  The people are physically very beautiful and always very well-dressed.  Yet those are the same folks that are hauling water to their homes twice a day because there is no indoor plumbing.  It's an interesting place and we are enjoying learning and observing more every day about our children's homeland.

 A typical Kazakh house

One of the village apartments we walked by next to the hotel

Cows grazing in the village as a few young women walk by. The young ladies, by the way, are ALWAYS fashionably dressed and very well made up.

Here I am in our new apartment.

Our new kitchen. Now we can cook the locally made dumplings!

A shot of the lake just around the bend from the above villages.

John reading Lucy the Lamb to Maya. She's enthralled!

 

Sorry, I gave up trying to upload today's video clip. It would have been Anne playing finger puppets with Daniel as he giggles and laughs. I'm getting an inconsistent connection at 19kb/s or less, and it says it will take about an hour, and every 30 minutes or so, I lose the connection and have to start over! Bummer! Maybe I'll try for a smaller clip tomorrow and have a better connection.