January 9 2004

Welcome to Almaty! 

Where to start?  First, my proofreader, picture loader is way sick.  If you remember, yesterday I said Bill wasn't feeling well. He made it through yesterday and most of today.  He felt bad the whole time and looked miserable this morning. He finally ate something this afternoon and although he felt better for a while, he actually lost his lunch and is not yet on the road to recovery. I doubt I'll be able to load the pictures from today and please forgive the extra errors.

We got picked up a little after 6pm.  Everyone was anxious to get going.  Katherine may not know what was going on, but she was dressed and waiting at the door.  It was a taxi that picked us up, with Olga.  Natasha stopped by during the pick up to leave instructions?  Anthony cried almost as soon as we were under way. I popped a bottle in his mouth and he was happy.  Taxi cabs are not conducive to good burping, so we did get a little spit up later on, but it was worth the peace.

We found out at the airport that Svetlana's husband (this is Vadeem's father and Natasha's father in law) had died the night before.  Obviously neither Svetlana or Vadeem were there. I felt bad that Natasha had to show up.  They are a great family and our condolences go out to them. It was hard to say good-bye to Olga and Natasha.  As much as we were ready to get out of Karaganda, they were special and were really our lifeline.  They could have made our trip unpleasant, but they really took care of us and were friendly and nice.

After they open up the door so you can go through security, you have to wait in another section. There are very few lights on and THANK GOD! There is no heat on.  It was refreshingly cool. I had been holding Anthony forever and Katherine was starting to get a little antsy, (OK, she started running around wildly). I handed off Anthony to Bill and got Katherine, sat her down and we started singing Old McDonald Had A Farm.  She really likes that one.  By the time they were ready to load the plane, all of us were quacking and barking and meowing.  We were the last ones on the plane. Or close to the last ones. Here's a tip for anyone traveling between Almaty and another region, don't wait to be last to get on.  Particularly after you've adopted. Bill and I absolutely could not get a seat next to each other. Katherine and I had to sit in two isle seats just to be next to each other.  The other tip, and maybe this is not always true, but I would not recommend sitting in the bulkhead, it's way too hot!  I was one isle behind Bill. Bill was in the bulkhead, holding Anthony.  When you first get on the plane, there is no heat at all. This is OK and I remembered it from the Almaty to Karaganda flight. As the flight gets underway, up in the air, the heat comes on and never stops and I think it emanates from the bulkhead.   After we'd been going a while, I went up to help Bill get Anthony's snowsuit off. When I walked up to his seat, it must have been an easy 10 degrees hotter.  Both Bill and Anthony were soaked. Anthony slept the entire flight.  This is both good and bad.  Obviously, he was an angel on the flight. However, he couldn't get to sleep until about 12:30 last night.  Everyone was tired today.  They served sandwiches on the flight.  They did not give one to Katherine, but I took one. They also gave out juice boxes of Tomato juice. Yuck!!   I dissected my sandwich and found that it was the same damn salami we've been eating for four weeks.  It was a salami and ketchup sandwich.  I gave Katherine the top half of roll and wrapped the rest up for garbage. Katherine was good on the flight.  Everyone that sees her just thinks she's adorable. There was a middle aged man sitting next to her. She was slouching and slipping in her seat. Her boot kept touching his leg.  It was making me nuts.  He kept telling me not to worry about it and I know I shouldn't have worried about it since he did not offer to let me sit next to my daughter.  He was very nice though and helped with her seat belt and talked to her. He even showed us a picture of his wife and daughter that he had on his cell phone. Katherine thought it was cool when the engines started up.  No fear there.  The few times she got a little nervous, she just held my hand across the isle. On the plane, we met another couple that adopted from a different region.  They also used a different agency. Again, there were some horror stories for them to tell. Once again, glad to have WPA as our agency.  Bill's seat mates up i the bulk head were all off duty pilots.  At least we hope they were off duty. They shared a bottle of cognac up there in the bulkhead.  Plastic cups and cheers all round!

We landed safely in Almaty.  Waiting for us was Dilnoza.  She was our interpreter the last pass through we made in Almaty. No sign saying 'Delmedico's' She recoginzed us and we her.  Our driver's name is Sasha and coincidentally the Feret's driver is also named Sasha.  They couldn't look any different.  Our Sasha is a family man with a six year old daughter. Their Sasha looks like a younger, thinner Stephen Segal.  Long black pony tail coming out the back of a leather Harley Davidson cap. Jim Feret was like can you beleive this?  He's wearing a Harley hat and I'm wearing this Russian hat.  It was evident already that Almaty was very different than Karaganda. Our Sasha has a conversion van.  I think that's what you call it.  It's one of those van's with a table in the back and bucket seats.  Very comfy ride.  While the men were loading luggage, I figured I'd load me and the kids in the van. I took Katherine's hand and walked up to the sliding back door.  She took one look inside and shook her head a definite NO.  'Not getting in there Mom!'.  We waited for Daddy.  When it was time, she was just fine getting in.

We got to our apartment sometime after 11pm. We are on the third floor.  The guys lugged the three suitcases up the stairs.  I toted the children.  When I walked into the apartment I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  The apartment is BEAUTIFUL!   I am so happy.  I still just want to lay down on the shiny hard wood floors and roll around.  Everything is so clean and new. We found out today that the apartment was remodeled six months ago.  It has an all in one washer/dryer. It's not a washer on the bottom, dryer on the top. It's has one place to put the clothes and right after it washes them, it goes into dry mode.  The latest in apartment living here in Almaty!!!  There is a ventilation system with remote controls. The windows have mini-blinds!!!!!!!   The kitchen is a dream and the bathrooms and great.  The water does not smell bad. It could actually be possible to forget that you're not supposed to drink the water.  When I finally laid my head down last night it was with a lot of gratitude.  Speaking of feelings, I can also say that I felt a little weird for Katherine when we were leaving Karaganda.  That's the only home she ever knew and although she's got a great and huge new life in front of her, she could not possibly grasp the finality of getting on the plane and leaving.  Anthony is different.  He's just OK about everything.  Not that Katherine isn't OK.  I think just because she's older, I look at it different for her.  Believe me when I say, I'm already over those sentimental feelings about leaving Karaganda.  Katherine loved the new apartment as much as I did, or maybe because I did.  She just oohed and ahhed over everything.  It was very cute. No chamber pot here and I'm not buying one.  She hasn't pooped her diaper yet.  And she has successfully gone once here in Almaty. The diaper is still on.  I think it's a little uncomfortable for her and that's OK too. It will make her appreciate her panties when she gets them back.  (Has that for rambling down a path?)

Anthony was up at 7am this morning. Too Early for a boy that had gone to bed at 12:30.  No going back to sleep though.  I think his belly was a little gassy and if he's preparing a load, he won't go back to sleep. Right after he got up, Bill got up.  Bill told me to go back to bed.  Before I could, Katherine was up. I took Katherine and we girls went and laid back down.  She got up again before I did. Maybe around 8am.  I was more like 9am.  Anthony had a bath this morning. By the time Bill went to give Katherine a bath, there was no hot water.  It came back on a little while later, but the water was rusty.  I took a picture of the rusty waster just for kicks. Neither Katherine or I were clean today.  Yuck!  (Is that too much information?).

By the time I got up this morning Bill was feeling Really Bad.  He said it felt like someone had taken a knife and stuck it in his stomach and left it there.  He didn't eat all day yesterday. He had oatmeal this morning and I think it turned to rock in his stomach.  We had to be at the lawyers office at 11:00 this morning.  Anthony took a nap from about 10:00 to 10:45.  It was a short nap, but we needed him to sleep a little.

We got to the lawyers without incident. The Ferets were already there. Filled out papers for the children's visas and immigration stuff.  I thought Bill was going to keel over right there in the office.  He looked like death warmed over. We had some heated money related discussions.  I think the stress and tiredness has really gotten to all of us. 

Lawyer work done, we decide to head over to Mad Murphy's Irish Pub. For some 'American' food. It's the closet to American food we'll find in Central Asia.  At least that's what I've heard and we had the cheeseburger on our last trip to Almaty and were ready for another.  We ordered Katherine chicken fingers.  They were a little overcooked and she's been eating nothing but chicken lately.  She didn't like them very much. She did eat some french fries, which she didn't like before. She also tried ketchup and found it quite tasty.  Bill also had chicken fingers.  His were cooked a little better than hers.  Neither Suzanne or I liked our burgers.  They were very greasy and had some gristle in them. It was a bit of a let down, but the fries were good.  Katherine had to go to the bathroom and I was very scared.  I was preparing myself for more nightmare conditions.  Here we come cinderblocks!  I was much relieved to see a very clean very modern like bathroom.  Another successful potty trip. 

I needed to go to the market.  We needed bread and milk and juice and water.  Just a few staples. I was overwhelmed.  The store was HUGE!  There was nothing like this in Karaganda. The store had bakers walking around with trays of goodies and there were just isles and isles to walk through.  I hardly bought anything.  There was just too much to choose from.  I got what I absolutely needed and got out of there. 

There were a few times today I have felt like crying. Leaving the store was one of them. I thought I was getting emotional about something, but not quite sure what.  No such luck.  By the time I got back from the grocery store, I had a little fever.  (Whenever I get a low grade fever I get weepy, I'm such a wimp!) It's been on and off ever since.  My cough still lingers, my throat has been hurting for days.  I am very tired, and now the fever.  I've been trying to write quickly so I can get to bed early. There was just so much that happened, I wanted to be sure to get it up. 

Sasha pointed out some stores and restaurants we could walk to.  I mentioned a Chinese restaurant the Ball's hand mentioned where the menu is in English.  He told me where is was and it was in walking distance of the apartment.  There's also a Mexican restaurant in walking distance.

When I got home from shopping, Bill and Sasha left to get the plane tickets for the children. Anthony's ticket home, without a seat, cost about $100.  Katherine's with a seat cost $600. This is a steal compared to what you'd pay in the U.S.  I am glad we have the tickets.  One less thing to worry about.

When I was at the market, I bought Katherine a brush and comb of her very own.  She loved them. She loves all things that are hers. She brushed my hair for hours this afternoon. She'd brush once with the comb (sometimes we'd have to untangle it) then once with the brush.  Anthony got his hair brushed too. And when Daddy came home you know his was also brushed. 

I didn't buy anything for dinner at the market.  We had to do something.  I really didn't think Bill would eat and I would have figured out something for the kids, but Bill was up for dinner, so we decided I'd take a walk to that Chinese restaurant and get take out.  How's that?  Chinese Take Out in Kazakhstan. Aren't you scared already?  As soon as I slipped my coat on, Katherine started crying.  Mommy!!! Mommy!!! After I got out the door apparently Anthony started crying too.  There was my poor sick husband with two crying, tired kids, waiting for Chinese Take Out Kazak style and you know it was all too much.  He had to make a running trip to the bathroom and that's when he lost his lunch.  Well, that's a funny saying isn't it?  He knows exactly where his lunch went, so it's not really lost.  But you know what I mean.

Me, I'm walking like what seems like forever to the Chinese Restaurant. Sasha said it was about a block. It was one hell of a block. I had almost given up when I saw the unmistakable outside facade of a Chinese restaurant.  Deep breath in, get your courage and pull open the door.  I asked the woman that greeted me if she understood English.  No dice. But, they have an English menu and I use the Russian word for home and she gets that I want take out.  I figure we're golden, then I opened the menu.  I was scared.  The Ball's had already warned us not to get the fried chicken because it was literally a chicken cut in half and deep fried.  I saw it on the menu and passed it by. I also passed by the pork intestines prepared at least a dozen different ways. I passed by the plethora of frog dishes they offered. Frog? I passed up the few snake dishes too.  Not feeling that daring.  Does anyone know what pig trotters are?  I'm guessing feet.  Bill guessed something a lot more intimate.  They had the pig trotters about 6 different ways. Spicy, Hong Ding, whatever!!! Ugh!! Did I say Ugh!!! Ugh!!  When was the last time you saw Frog at your local Chinese take out place?  They don't have egg rolls. I know American Chinese is different than real Chinese.  I was hoping. Probably better off anyway.  You know you never can tell what's inside an egg roll and my luck they'd probably use the same grease for the egg roll and the pig trotter.  I wound up with Hot and Sour Soup. Fried Rice. The zeppole like fried dough things.  On the menu they were called 'flower puffs'.  I see now they meant 'Flour puffs'. Some chicken pineapple dish for Katherine, some snow peas in garlic and a desert of fried fruit covered in caramel. 

When I triumphantly got back to the apartment, Bill was feeding Anthony.  I said 'How you doin'?"  He says 'Not Good'.  That's when I found out about the lost lunch.  Bill went to bed and I was suddenly very afraid of my food. I don't want what he has and the Mad Murphy's burger already seems like a mistake. My food paranoia continues to grow.  I've only just realized that poor Katherine also has to go through a whole food transition.  What she was getting before may not have been fabulous, but it's what she was accustomed to.   Anyway, the snow peas did not get eaten, I thought they tasted fishy. After looking at the soup, I couldn't bring myself to try it. I ate some rice and a flour puff.  The dessert was really good too.

Bill had gone to bed while I was eating with Katherine. We finished up eating and headed for the bathtub.  I gave the two kids a bath together. Not tons of fun.  Just wanted everyone clean.  Anthony was really tired by the time we got out of the bath, got dressed and brushed teeth.  I had to make some formula and he was sitting on the kitchen floor crying. Katherine came up behind him and gently started shushing him and rubbing his head.  It was really sweet and he actually stopped crying.  Well, he stopped until she rubbed too hard and he fell backwards and hit his head on the kitchen floor.  No harm, no foul.  It certainly wasn't intentional.  She was very cute.  So I said to her, "Anthony is tired and we're going to put him to sleep".  She's shaking her head NO and waving her little hand.  She thought I was sending her to bed. I told her it was just Anthony, but we had to be very quiet.  We sat on the couch.  I held Anthony and gave him a bottle and she fell asleep sitting next to me.  Too funny!  When I got up to burp Anthony, she finally fell over and woke herself up.  I assured her I was only going to put Anthony in his crib and I'd be right back.  By the time I came back she was out again. (Laying down this time).  It was maybe 7:30,  Very tired family. 

That's when I started typing here.  Bill has since woken up, so I guess we're getting pictures tonight!! Hooray!  He was telling me that about our driver, Sasha.  He said, 'You know what else Sasha does besides this?"  What?  'He's a sharp shooter', says Bill.  'He goes all over Europe.'  I say "Who does he shoot?"  My husband is laughing at me.  Too many spy novels, he says.  'Sasha is not an assassin, he shoots competitively'.   You can't say I'm not willing to laugh at myself. 

I hope I didn't leave out too much. If I did, you can be sure I'll add it to tomorrows post.

Take Care. 

© Bill Delmedico 2013