Thursday, December 30, 2004

Zhas Dauren

Today was another big day. In between our visits to the baby house we went to the older children's orphanage called Zhas Dauren. This is a facility that houses around 400 children ranging from ages 7 to 18. Some of them have parents (who cannot take care of them) but many do not. Our adoption agency, WPA, has a sponsorship program for these children. The commitment is that you send $25 a month (which covers their medical and dental care as well as a monthly deposit into a personal savings account they can use at age 18 - after they leave the orphanage) and a letter. We were there to deliver the monthly letters from all the US sponsor families. Talk about feeling like a rock star for a day! They kids were following our cars as we arrived and they came to the main building in droves. WPA sent the box of letters over with Keely/Jason and we brought the money (which we had given to Olga earlier in the week).

Keely and Carla pulled the letters out and Masha did the "mail call." As the time progressed, the group got bigger and bigger and we got pushed more and more up against the wall. It's so hard to explain the excitement they showed just to get a letter. The sad thing is that out of all those children, only about 150 of them are sponsored... So many go without a letter or package - it breaks your heart.

After we passed out all the letters, it was time for the candy. We brought 4 big bags of candy and Jason, Keely, Carla and Jim each took one... AND THE MOB STARTED (just as Masha said it would). You saw hands everywhere - little hands coming from down low, and big hand reaching over the top. Keely had to pick up one little girl who was getting squashed in the front - it was like being near the stage of a general admission rock concert. They were having a blast!

By the way, the entire time this was going on, Les was getting mobbed with everyone wanting their picture taken. They all wanted pictures of themselves, a picture with their friends, a picture with their girlfriend, a pictures with us, etc. They knew some English words - most knew to say "Hello" and "Bye." Jim had one little boy come to him and kept saying "Chow" and wanting to shake his hand over and over. Keely had another boy come to her and say "How you are?" It was so cute. Les and Jason took about 130 pictures each. Jim and Les are in many of them. Les taught them all to say "Cheese." While the photo shoot was going on, Carla was taken on a tour upstairs by Sholpan, an 18 year old girl (turned 18 on Christmas day) that is sponsored by the Tagliaferros (WPA family) in New Jersey. She had a big U.S. map on the wall and wanted to know where we were from. She showed Carla a big birthday sign on her wall and all the letters and pictures that the Tagliaferros have sent her. It was obvious that she was very grateful of the long-distance relationship she has with them.

Sholpan's friends came in and gave Carla a hug and tried to practice their English. The caregiver also hung around and wanted to ask a bunch of questions that Sholpan would not translate (everyone was laughing). The lady seemed nice, but Carla just shrugged her shoulders because she didn't know what everyone was saying. Later, on the walk back down the staircase, Sholpan said the caregiver wanted to know if Carla had any biological children and why she couldn't have any biological children. We wouldn't have been offended to answer any of the questions - although these questions would be perceived as somewhat rude in the states, she was very pleasant and didn't mean any harm. After Sholpan translated, the lady was still hanging over the railing asking questions. Carla said "Nyet" (meaning "no") and pointing to her stomach - the women nodded her head.

Masha cleared the way to leave - it was hard to get away from everyone. It was such a wonderful experience. We've read on other family sites about their visits but words and pictures don't do it justice. They are wonderful children and we now understand how something as small as a letter can make the world of difference to so many.

Back to the babies

We always get Kai first since our visitation room is next to his playroom. He was in the infamous pink walker today and saw us from across the room. You've never seen someone scoot so fast. Before we knew it, he was over at the door. Carla went to pick him up. Jim went down to get Sierra. We usually have to wait a minute for her caregivers to dress her. Our visits overlap a little with her feeding and changing schedule.

While Jim was downstairs getting Sierra, Les and Carla gave Kai his first Cheerio. He was unsure at first - it stuck to his lip. After swishing it around in his mouth and gumming it, he finally swallowed it and had another. Once Jim brought Sierra up, we gave her one as well. With all her teeth she was able to down it pretty quickly - but you should have seen the faces. The little Cheerio is a far cry from that Sugar cookie she's fed every day.

We were able to spend both our visits in the sports room today. It's so much better on our backs than sitting on the hard floor in the visitation room. We played a game with Kai using the balls from the ball pool. Jim would roll them across the floor and Kai would scoot (army crawl) to get them. Sierra isn't quite as mobile. She can roll over from side to side very good by herself, but gets very frustrated once up in the crawling position - she doesn't go anywhere, but it will come soon enough.

Sierra bit Jim's thumb today - didn't quite draw blood but left a huge indention (and a small bruise). This is a warning to anyone that holds her when we return - SHE BITES HARD - DON'T PUT YOUR FINGERS NEAR HER MOUTH!

Jason and Keely just had Anna today. Jude was sick and they wouldn't let them see him. They were hopeful that he would be better today. We missed having him - it's not the same without all 4 babies.

We had an interesting conversation with one of Sierra's caregivers today (Assia translated). When Les and Carla went to get her for the afternoon visit, the caregiver (with many gold teeth) said that a bunch of them were talking and wondering why Da Dushka (Grandpa) came with Mama and Papa to get babies. They figured it was to "pickup" a caregiver. They said we could leave him behind when we left. Of course Assia was cracking up and took a minute before she could translate to us. Watch our Robin - you have some competition!

We went by the Atrium on the way home - the stores were packed. New Years is the big annual holiday - Santas and trees everywhere (You see cars driving down the rode with little trees tied to the top - just like Christmas back home; The trees on the street are all decorated with garland and lights; There is a big Mr and Mrs. Santa in front of the government building; They hang tinsel on everything; They passed out boxes of chocolate to the caregivers today as a gift). We picked up a few things and then headed for home. We were supposed to go out to dinner with the peace corp people tonight but they had to cancel because a New Years social was scheduled. We'll meet with them next week some time.

Here are the pics from today:


The heating pipes you see throughout the city. They raise them up over the road and then they run all throughout the city about 5' from the ground.


Kai's first experience with Cheerios. He's unsure of it all. He'd wait for it to dissolve in his mouth and then gum it and swallow it.


Daddy with Kai in the swing (in the sports room)



Grandpa Les playing in the ball pen with the babies

Uralsk summer homes (people come here and stay on vacation - it's just outside of the city on the way to Zhas Dauren)



Passing out the sponsor letters at Zhas Dauren - we were mobbed. We took candy also and they were all over us - lots of fun.

The orphanage caregivers. They wanted their picture taken by themselves, but you can see one little boy squeezed in the background. They were actually quite nice, but I guess were going for a more "formal" look here.



Kids, Kids and more Kids (there are about 400 children here ranging from age 7 to 18. They attend school and live here. Their hospital is also onsite. Of the 400 children, only about 150 are sponsored. It was very sad that all the children that showed up didn't get letters).

Jim and a group of the children (they all wanted their picture taken - with us, with other kids, by themselves etc.). They liked to come around and look at the digital display to see what they looked like.



Les with another group of children.

Les with more children - you can see some of the same ones showing up in all the pictures - loved the camera.



Jim and Carla with more children. They tried to speak some English and wanted to know our names, shake our hands and give us hugs. Carla got to go up to Sholpan's room (sponsored by Donna and Dan T - a WPA family). She just turned 18 on Christmas Day so she shared her sign and cards that she got for her birthday (and told us happy belated Christmas).


The bakery with the great meat pastries and sweets. Cool hats, huh?



Keely, Jason and Anna - Jude was sick today (with a fever) so they weren't able to visit with him.


Mom - Daddy's spitting on me.



Amazing how Kai and Sierra always want the toy the other one is playing with.


Daddy's finger tastes good too.



Keely and Anna

Sierra licking Kai's hair



Sierra shoving her hand in Kai's mouth. I have a feeling he's going to have to put up with a lot of poking and prodding from her.


Grandpa makes me laugh


The Kazakhstan crew

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  A Jim & Carla Creation - 2004