Wednesday, December 29, 2004

We had a busy day today. Masha and Igor took us on our city tour between visits and the babies got their passport photos taken today - lots of action.

Our morning visit was good. We saw ourselves into the building - everyone is getting used to seeing us around there. We even get smiles and waves from people as we pass. Les stayed outside to take some pictures of the snowman that someone had built and some additional photos of the perimeter of the baby house. Jim and Carla got settled in our little room. Carla got Kai and Jim went to get Sierra. When Jim picked Sierra up from the caregiver's arms, he told her ("Ya tee voy papa"- Russian for "I'm your dad") - the caregiver seemed impressed.

We had a good visit with them. Sierra doesn't seem to have as much of a cold (or teething symptoms) as she has in prior days, but her poor nose is raw. We lathered it up with neosporin several times - so hopefully it will help. We are working on strengthening her legs. When we first got here, she couldn't stand up for more than a few seconds (standing = supporting her under the arms while she locks her legs and holds herself up), but now she'll hold it for around 30 seconds. She can also get up on all 4s but doesn't move around much yet. She's making great progress.

Kai is now scooting around the floor and maneuvering himself to get something he wants (toy in a distance). He still loves to either be standing or held. We think they're so used to being on their stomach or back in a crib all day that they're craving attention... but they were both ready for a nap by the time we gave them back to their caregivers.

We created a list of questions for the caregivers and provided that to Masha today. She's suppose to translate them tonight so the caregivers have several days to fill them out. She is also going to find out which maternity hospital(s) Kai and Sierra were born in (there are 3 in town), so we can go by and get pictures of them. Our appointment with their doctors should be after the New Year (everyone is busy getting ready for the celebrations around here).

In between visits, Masha and Igor took us on a city tour. This entailed Igor doing "drive bys" of various buildings in town while Les tried his best to take a moving picture and Carla frantically jotted down notes on a yellow pad. We saw the old railway station, various governmental buildings, some statues, the Gold church (which we still haven't been into), the Old Cathedral and the WWII Memorial. After all this, Masha stated "that is all there is to see in Urlask." We said "OK" and asked them to drop us at the bakery for lunch. The bakery was awesome. We managed to order in 1/2 Russian, 1/2 English and got 5 meat pastries for about $2.50. We brought them back to the apartment and had lunch. Jim didn't eat much because they were all loaded with onions but Les and Carla really enjoyed them. We'll definitely go back there.

Igor picked us up at 2:15 for our afternoon visit. We got to play in the sports room again - yeah! (so much cooler in there). Around 3:00pm, the photographer showed up to get the passport photos. It was very cute. Sierra was the only one to smile (a little). All of them looked more like a mug shot (but isn't that the case with most of us)?

Jude was sick during the morning visit so Jason and Keely only had 30 minutes with him, but this afternoon he was better (supposedly). After about 20 minutes in the afternoon visit, he got sick all over himself and Keely. Both of them had to change. He seemed to feel fine after that and quickly feel asleep as Jason held him.

The kids were all really tired. Kai fell asleep on Carla again and Sierra was in between laughing fits and fussing with Jim. She was so tired but fighting going to sleep (it didn't help that Jim kept blowing raspberries on her stomach to make her laugh).

After we finished up, we ran by the bakery again to get some desserts for dinner (for Les and Carla) and settled in for the evening. We go to Zhas Daren (the older children's orphanage) tomorrow to take the letters from their sponsor families in the US. We also bought some candy to take and pass out. Masha warned us that they will mob us when we tell them we have candy, but we didn't care. It should be fun.

Below are the pictures from today. We had our Uralsk city tour with Igor and Masha so we've included pictures from that as well as our visits:


Les read in the apartment journal that Igor likes Snickers and Pepsi. So every morning he brings him one - Igor seems to like it.


This is for Nancy, Robin, and Les! Notice the "I love grandma and grandpa" socks.


Sierra giving Kai some love.



Grandpa and Kai in his silly looking Giraffe hat

The Old Cathedral (400 year-old Russian Orthodox church). It is still used for services but people stand up - there are no pews.



Ceiling in the Old Cathedral - original hand painting

Inside the Old Cathedral



Paintings inside the old cathedral (although Masha and Igor said it was fine, this is one of the last pictures Les took before a little elderly lady came and told us not to take pictures inside the church)


The World Ward II Memorial - there is a eternal flame burning here for all those lost in the war. The war wasn't actually fought in this region, but many of their soldiers (as part of the Russian army) were lost as they battled the Germans.



Jim and Carla in front of the eternal flame


West Kazakhstan State University (where Masha went to school)



The Capital building.

The outside of the baby house



Apartments in Kazakhstan (behind the baby house). The majority of the population here lives in apartments (versus houses). The outside of most of the buildings look very run down, but we're assuming that many are nice inside.


"I'm still happy even though I have a scabby nose"



"Check out all my toys"

Kai's passport photo


Sierra's passport photo


Jude's passport photo



Anna's passport photo. Looks like a Baby Gap photo shoot, doesn't it?


"Who needs a teething ring, when I have Mama's entire finger"



Assia and Masha lounging during our afternoon visit. For us, the visits are the highlight of our day. For them, it's just another day at the office!


One of the many dogs that run around the streets of Uralsk. This one was outside the baby house. The dogs seem very nice and don't mess with you at all. They appear to have some Corgy in them - very short legs.


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  A Jim & Carla Creation - 2004