January 10 2004

I would like to start off by saying, I still feel under the weather. It will not stop me. We ventured out this afternoon after all of us had a nice nap. I could not keep my eyes open, my stomach is still cramping and I am still afraid of the food. I guess I am not as adventurous as some others. I have not died from eating but am certainly cautious of what I eat. I am this way at home in the states also. Ann would say I am a picky eater, I am, and I have managed to maintain the ability to stand upright, most of the time, while here in Kazakhstan.

The adventures of the day included a trip outside for a couple hours for the 4 of us and our fine dining experience at Mc Burger!

The morning, was me laying around contemplating the cancerous growth in my stomach hoping it would not be too late for treatment when we get back to the states. I am an extremist, as most of you know. Of course I know this is not the case, it is just some type of deadly bacteria I acquired from the cheese and will probably be to far gone for help by the time I get home. The other thought I had was of a Kazak bug crawling in my mouth while I was sleeping. Bringing with it all the germs and laying eggs in my stomach.

So, it was probably just a bad piece of cheese from Karaganda. It was the last piece that Ann had purchased. I had eaten some of it the night before we departed, Ann did not eat any of it. I am not lactose intolerant, just get a little stomach ache sometimes from too much dairy. I have certainly eaten my fair share of dairy while we have been here. The other thought is "entirely too much stress", I do believe I have met my stress limit. In a foreign country, no home cooked meals, no car, no high speed internet, attempting to parent 2 orphans, attempting to be supportive of Ann, attempting to restrain myself from falling off the edge. I think that is the limit of what I can handle in any given month. I know that many of you have gone through this or will be going through it. The only advice I would offer is "Take it easy on yourself". I certainly got to a point of questioning my abilities as a human. It is definitely better since arriving in Almaty. I am not sure if it is the change of scenery or that we are just a couple days from home. I do know that I am mentally better. We have been freely walking around and there are menus in English. I think that not being able to communicate with the local people in Karaganda was about the toughest thing for me. I would HIGHLY recommend learning as much Russian as you can prior to coming. For me, I would have felt a little better being able to communicate without Olga. Olga did an outstanding job!!! It is just nice to be able to speak for yourself sometimes.

Katherine and Anthony seem to be much happier here. Ann says it is she and I that have changed since leaving Karaganda. At any rate, we are getting along quite well at the business of family. With the exception of the first night here, late arrival, we have gotten back into the groove of eating, sleeping, bathing and just plain old having some fun.

This morning was a blur for me, Ann will update you on that.

This afternoon, we decided to get out and about like the little Kazak family we are! We started with the usual bundling up of Anthony, poor kid. Ann made the command decision that if he had to wear the snow suit, he was not wearing any pants underneath. So, off with the pants. He had a one piece and a diaper on under his snow suit. Katherine, of course, was running around like a mad woman telling the 3 of us that she was going outside. Although she does not mouth those words, you really can understand what she is telling you. She will go up Ann and point at herself and pretty much yell something, with a big grin on her face and then point at everybody. This is to let Ann know that all of us are going. She will then come up to me and do the same thing. We tell her over and over "Yes, Katherine, Mommy and Daddy and Anthony and Katherine are going outside".

Bill quit.  This is Ann.

First I have to go back to this morning. It was pretty normal.  Kids eat breakfast, we hang out, blah, blah, blah....  There are no bugs in the kitchen, so breakfast was a dream.  I bought some grapes at the market yesterday and wouldn't you know they have seeds.  I was giving them to Katherine, so I sliced each grape in half and deseeded them. At least I had enough sense to let her try one of the first before I cut them all so I would know she liked them. She did.  They were a fine compliment to her oatmeal.  We are down to one package of oatmeal by the way.  If I never eat oatmeal again, it will be OK with me.  4000 Calorie Corn Muffin Here I Come!!!!! 

Our mornings are pretty short.  We have lunch and then the kids go down for a nap. After the kids went to nap today, I was feeling kind of tired.  I got a good night sleep last night, went to bed early, got up at a reasonable time.  But, the only thing I would have done had I stayed up was update the website or write emails.  I kept looking at my husband who was just a mess.  He was in pain and groggy.  He actually drank peach nectar this morning in hopes of getting something moving one way or the other. I knew he would not nap unless I did and he argued with me anyway.  I said, I think I'm going to nap.  Why don't you too?  No!  I won't sleep all night.  I said, You don't sleep anyway.  I finally left him in the living room and I went to nap in the bedroom with the kids.  When I finally did get up, Bill was still snoozing.  I think it helped. Katherine joined me in bed half way through nap time.  She's been sleeping on a playpen mattress on the floor.  That's all there is for her.  Sleeping on the bed must be a real treat.  When I woke up from my nap, Anthony was also just waking up. He'd lift his head and look at me and I'd lift my head and look at him. He didn't make a sound.  But his eyes were wide open and glued to me and Katherine.  When I swung my legs out of bed he gave a yell as if to say, You ain't walkin' out of this room without me.  So, nap over.  We all got up, had a snack and debated whether or not Daddy felt good enough to go out. We don't have any food here for dinner, so we had to go to a market to at least get something to eat. Instead of a food market, we wound up at the Tsum.  The Tsum is the indoor flea market/shopping mall.  Only here in Almaty it is a bit more swank than the one in Karaganda. There is an old building and a new building. The new building has an escalator.  We rode that to every floor.  A first for Katherine.

As Bill mentioned, Anthony did not have any pants on under his snow suit.  We hate that snow suit. It's way warmer here in Almaty than it was in Karaganda and he was sweating puddles in the snowsuit back there. So, I decided no pants.  Anthony also did not have any shoes.  When we purchased clothes for the kids in Karaganda, Anthony was not walking. Now, he's cruising around pretty good.  While we were walking, fairly awe struck by the awesomeness of the Tsum, I suggested that we buy Anthony a pair of shoes so he could walk around while we were out. We had to ask for directions to the baby shoe place. The two people we asked were very helpful.  I always wonder what we sound like when we ask for things in English.  With all the hand gestures and sign language I feel pretty silly sometimes. Anyway, we located the shoe lady and she also had jackets and pants.  I actually saw a little jean jacket with a 'The Children's Place' tag on it. We bought Anthony a pair of jeans, a jacket and some shoes. The shoes are a bit too feminine for my taste.  I wouldn't usually buy a one year old boy white lace up shoes.  They were the only ones that fit even close. As we were waiting for our change, Bill took the wig off a mannequin an plopped it on his head.  I wish I had a picture of that.  The shoe lady just bust up laughing.  I hope I never see my husband in a toupee. I had my first peek and it was scary. We took the snow suit off and stuffed it in a bag. Good riddance to bad rubbish.  We slapped on the jeans and were toddling around the Tsum.

On the top floor of the new building there are a lot of souvenir shops.  We passed on buying any more for us, but Katherine eyed up a handmade Kazak doll and she is a new addition to the Delmedico clan. There are pictures of the new addition tonight.

I wanted to buy the kids a toy phone.  When a phone rings, Anthony says, 'Hello'.  Katherine too.  I thought they'd get a kick out of a toy phone of their own.  We had passed one shop that had a Chico toy phone.  I should have gotten it when I spotted it. But I knew there were toy shops and I figured I could get one there.  No dice.  The one shop had a toy phone that was so loud it would break the sound barrier.  No Way! No How!  Thank you very much.  The other shop had a toy phone too, but in my head I kept comparing it to the Chico phone and I couldn't bring myself to buy it.  I am sure, now that I've written this, my mother will have run out to Kmart and purchased several assorted toy phones. I was thinking the cell phone variety Mom.  Thanks! Love You!

It was about 5:00 when we finished pursuing the toy store. Katherine ran her fingers over every toy going.  She saw one of those battery powered jeeps that kids can ride in.  I think she really wanted that.  Mom?  (just kidding - don't you dare)

We needed to eat dinner.  Sasha had mentioned there was a Mexican restaurant down the street from us.  It should have been closer than the Chinese restaurant. I did not see it on my walk last night.  We discussed maybe Mexican, and although Bill looked better, the idea of a Kazak Mexican taco turned him green.  Right next to the Tsum is a fast food restaurant call McBurger. Bill already mentioned this is where we had our fine dining experience this evening. They had the 'Hamburger Menu', 'Chicken Burger Menu' and 'Cheeseburger Menu'.  These are Combo Meals. It's a burger, fries and coke meal.  They call it menu.  It took me about 15 minutes to figure that out. There were two cash registers and a girl at each register.  The set up is this: You order your food, get your ticket and go sit down and wait until it's cooked.  Then one of the two girls yells (no loud speakers here) what you ordered and you go up and get it.  There are no 'Order Here', 'Pick Up' here signs.  But after standing and waiting for about an eternity it seemed like the register I picked was not taking orders.  It seemed like she was only handing out the food.  OK.  I move. People seem to be cutting in front of me.  I'm ready to have a rude Kazak on a silver platter if I can't order my little girl the Kazak version of a Happy Meal.  We gave up about three times.  I was frustrated, Bill was fading. Finally the line seemed to clear up a bit and I stood so close to the guy in front of me he probably thought I was trying to steal his wallet. I ordered Katherine Cheeseburger meal, 2 orders of French Fries and a Vegetarian Pizza for Bill and I to share. Of course I've got to make the hand gesture to indicate I want the Big pizza.  Again, feeling a little silly.  Katherine's food and the fries came out first. She was very excited to see me carry the food to the table. Yet one more new experience.  She started right in on those french fries. She had no idea what to do with the burger.  It sat there untouched.  I finally took it to break a piece off.  I don't know what's up with the burgers here, but they don't stay shaped like a burger.  It's kind of like gooey ground meat on a bun. I think the cheese was holding some of the pieces together.  And, this was not kid size.  Either they don't have a child version concept (but the sign said they did) or they gave me the grown up meal. It had a huge pickle on it. Not so bad, but I pulled it off and it had what looked to be Russian dressing on the burger.  I scraped off as much as possible and Katherine seemed to enjoy her burger immensely. I haven't seen her eat that good in a while. Anthony munched on french fries.  He kept stuffing them down. Of course he drops a bunch too and that makes Katherine nuts.  She wants to pick up the food that falls on the floor. We keep telling her No.  But she's obsessed. She held off until the end of the meal, but when we were ready to leave, she picked up the lost fry. We were waiting for our pizza and I would occasionally go check to see if it was done.  Eventually, when Katherine heard the girl at the register yell something, she tried to send me up the stairs to see if it was our food. Even after our pizza came, she still wanted me to go up to the counter. Very cute.  Among other assorted vegetable, our vegetarian pizza had corn and peas on it.  That was a first for us. The dough was good.  Anthony munched a bunch of crusts.  At a table next to us there were four girls that looked maybe sixteen years old.  One of them was drinking a mug of beer with a straw.  How's that for a cultural difference?

As we walked home from shopping and dinner, our beautiful daughter Katherine started skipping. Does a heart good to see such a happy girl.  Any child that skips, can't be missing where she came from.  She was saying Hello and Priviet and Bye Bye to just about everyone on the street. And she already caught on that when you cross the street, you walk a little faster.  She sure is a cutie.

Back at the ranch, Katherine had another successful trip to the bathroom. It was about bath time, so we did not put her diaper back on.  We just left her half dressed until we got her in the tub.  Anthony started crying, real tears, while Katherine and I were splashing around.  So, Daddy brought Anthony in and we had a little party in the bathtub.  A fine time was had by all.

After the bath, I had two children that needed to be dressed. I had two fresh diapers in my hand. I was dressing Anthony and Daddy was dressing Katherine.  I suggested that perhaps we let her have her panties back. She hasn't really complained about the diapers.  She puts them on without giving us a hassle.  Sometimes when she goes to take one off she'll kind of rub where the tape is.  Diapers are not as soft as underwear. Daddy went and got a pair of her undies and asked her if she wanted them.  There wasn't a moments hesitation.  She was all about those panties. She pointed back at the diaper and said 'Babies'.  She pointed at the diaper and then pointed at Anthony.  She shook her head No No No at the diaper.  'Babies, Babies'.  I guess she understood the deal a lot more than we had given her credit for. I'm still a little nervous, but we'll see what happens tomorrow.

That's the show for today.

I did forget to mention that here in Almaty, they have sliced bread. It ain't Wonder Bread.  It's still local fresh baked, but it's sliced. I thought that was pretty funny.

Tomorrow morning we're leaving at 9am to head for the foothills.  Sasha says since we're not nature freaks it should be about a 45 minute tour.  That sounds good to me.  It's supposed to be very beautiful and I hope we get some awesome pictures.  Sasha also is going to give us the hook up on the dream quilts.  I promised my mother one and I'm happy we'll be able to get them. Sasha has a website from which he sells a variety of Kazak items. Dream Quilts is one.  I think I've seen the site before, but did not know it belonged to Sasha.  Anyway, I am happy to be picking mine out in person.  If you're interested, his website is: www.silkroadpainting.com

Good Night - God Bless! 

© Bill Delmedico 2013