Wednesday, January 5, 2005

We woke up this morning to the smell of bacon. Les' cafe (as Jason Richardson calls it) was open early to prepare a breakfast for all of us. We got bacon and eggs at the store and the "cafe" opened at 8:00AM for morning breakfast. It was nice. Jason and Keely had to bring their own dishes, mugs, silverware and seats (since we don't have enough for everyone), but other than that, the service was good - ha, ha.

Les took some more pictures on the way to the babyhouse so everyone can see Uralsk in the winter time. It warmed up to the 20s today and snowed all day. At least the snow covered the ice a little, so we weren't sliding all over the place as bad.

We played with Kai and Sierra in the morning, then changed them before their naps. Kai is great to change - he even helps by putting his arms through the holes and he sits still. Sierra, on the other hand, squirms all over the place - she's a moving target. We learned from the caregivers that she "loves sweet things." We're thinking she may have a sugar rush every time we see her - hence the happy, wound up little girl.

After our morning visit, we asked to be taken to the hospitals where the children were born. There are 3 maternity hospitals in the Uralsk area (unlike the US where most hospitals serve many purposes - ER, OR, lab work, etc... these 3 hospitals are exclusively for maternity). Kai, Jude and Anna were all born in Maternity Hospital #2. Sierra was born in Maternity Hospital #3. We were able to get pictures of both hospitals so the children will have them later. You're not allowed to go inside, but you could look up and see several "girls" looking out the window. We're hoping these girls were family visitors because they looked awful young to be having babies themselves.

For lunch we went to the Dixie Pub again - a favorite for the guys. Jim tried the burrito which looked like a deep fried square (and it had eggs in it - odd). Les got the sausage kettle dish that Jason had yesterday. Keely got the ribs (which were surprisingly good) and Carla ordered a pizza. Carla forgot her Russian dictionary in Igor's car so we were trying to use "sign language" and drawings with the server (who spoke no English) to order. Carla tried to order the medium pizza with only mushrooms. The server even drew a picture of a mushroom on a piece of paper to confirm understanding - so we all thought we were on the same page. When the pizza arrived, it looked much larger than a medium and had all the toppings listed except mushrooms. That's what we get for leaving the dictionary. The pizza was good and there was plenty for everyone to eat.

Carla did get few strange looks carrying her big pizza box home (not something you see everyday here) - or maybe it was those big duck boots. Carla has gotten a few "looks" regarding her footwear. Most of the ladies here wear very fashionable (and often high heeled) boots/shoes - even in this ice and snow! The big duck boots with jeans don't blend very well, although warmth and good traction seem more practical this time of year. Lucky she's not getting a complex.

On the way home this afternoon, we stopped by the bank to exchange some more money. We actually stopped at 3 places. Igor drives around until he can get us the best exchange rate. Igor was able to get us a rate of 130 Tenge to $1 (this is good - most other places were down to 127 Tenge to $1). Les went in with Igor to exchange the money. Les gave the man the US bills and he gave him a stack of Tenge (didn't count it). Les was in a mild panic on the way home to make sure they hadn't short-changed us (we're so used to have money counted out to us at the bank - this doesn't happen here). Luckily, it came out perfect so we're all set to give Olga some money tomorrow for our flight back to Almaty.

Although the days are now routine, we're still having the time of our lives!

Here are some pics from the day:


Les' cafe opened for 8AM breakfast this morning. He served eggs, bacon, juice and coffee. Every one was happy to have a good old American breakfast.



Traffic on the way to the babyhouse. As you can see, there are no lanes, everyone drives where they want to. Igor is a good driver - it would be nerve-wracking if you didn't know what you were doing. By the way, pedestrians DON'T have the right of way and there don't seem to be a lot of PED crossings. You take your life into your own hands crossing the roads in KAZ.


A military building on the way to the baby house.



A Kazakh house. This was was very colorful but typical in size and construction of about 99% of the homes you see over here.


Carla trying to get Kai out of the Johnny jump seat (asking Les to put down the camera and help her).



The MEN of the Higgins house!


Kai got Daddy's glasses


"Mama's trying to change me - so I'm rolling around and squirming as much as I can"


We find ourselves wanting to play with the kids non-stop during our visits. But sometimes they help remind us that they've been waiting over 9 months for some simple TLC.


Next time Mama will stand behind the camera (instead of off to the side) so everyone's looking in the same direction.


Les got the passy out a little too early on this visit. As soon as Kai gets it, he wants to recline and suck his thumb.



Kai didn't want to be outdone by Sierra's mirror picture that was taken yesterday...


Igor checking his oil. He takes very good care of his car. NOTE TO FUTURE WPA FAMILIES... If you'd like to get your driver a gift while you're here, anything to help them clean or perform maintenance on their cars would make them very happy guys.



Maternity Hospital #2 - this is where Erkin (Kai) was born on 3/19/04.


Maternity Hospital #3 - this is where Svetlana (Sierra) was born on 4/20/04.



A group of people waiting on the bus - they dress in very dark clothes.


Here was Carla's personal sized pizza with mushrooms only... or so we thought!



Grandfather Frost (ded maros ) with a live chicken (2005 is the year of the chicken)

Never hurts to have a backup (even if it's your sisters)!



Mama and Kai playing a game of paddy with his feet - a big hit (he not only smiled but was cracking up laughing).

Dancing Sierra


We taught Kai to "give us 5" today. He liked this game

Here we are trying to arrange for family photo. Exit our orderly, organized life... Enter our new life of chaos!


Sierra "sliming" Kai - her attempt to kiss her brother on his head.





"Mom/Dad, what's wrong with this guy?"


Les and Carla counting Tenge for our return plane ticket (to Almaty)

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  A Jim & Carla Creation - 2004