Thursday, January 6, 2005

Today we got to the baby house to find out that Sierra was ill. She supposedly had a fever and upset stomach so they wouldn't let us visit her at all today. She was a little cranky yesterday, so weren't surprised to find out she wasn't feeling well. The doctor was hopeful that we would be able to see her tomorrow (even though Anna's been sick, they let Jason and Keely visit with her briefly this afternoon. Jason was able to peek into the room and saw Sierra in her walker so hopefully that means she's feeling better). Masha said that if we get to visit with Sierra tomorrow, we'll have to visit her separate from Kai so they don't spread germs. Jim and Carla will have to split up (Jason and Keely have been doing this with Anna and Jude since they have both been a little under the weather).

Kai seemed to be happy to have our undivided attention today. He had more room to crawl in our little room and was passed back and forth between the three of us. We wore him out, so much so that he started fussing a little about 3:30 - 3:40 and the caregiver decided it was time for him to take a nap... she took him away from us a little early. She was nice about it - came in the room and put her hands to her head as if she was sleeping, so we knew what she meant (Masha wasn't around to translate for us). So we were not only one baby down today but got our visit cut short with Kai. Oh well - in 6 days they're all ours (if all goes well at court). Go with the flow.... <-- that's what we're telling ourselves

Dr. Alfira's (Kai and Sierra's doctor at the baby house) daughter (Zhenya) is on holiday from the university. She is studying Interior Design but has also studied English. Her English is very good, but her mother brought her up to our visitation room so she could practice. Her mother doesn't speak much English at all. Zhenya told us that she corrects her all the time. It's a great opportunity for Zhenya to practice with all the Americans that come here. She was a very sweet girl - Kai seemed to fancy her as well.

We went to the bookstore (where we could get English/Russian books) during lunch. They were packed (it's a tiny little building anyway with lots of people and books stacked everywhere). Apparently they have books that have Russian, Kazakh and English translations all in one book. The owner told Masha and Assia that they were doing inventory and for us to come back on Monday. As we left, the owner chased us out of the store and showed us a book on Uralsk and asked if we wanted it (it had all 3 translations). We bought a few of those and said we'd come back on Monday to look for children's books. What store have you been in where they send you away and tell you to come back on Monday if you'd like? It was pretty funny.

As we were writing this post, we got a call from Masha that pre-court would be tomorrow and that Assia and Olga would be stopping by to prep us. Apparently Olga took the papers to court today and they said they would see us tomorrow - so no advanced notice. Our appointment is at 10AM and Jason & Keely's is at 1030AM. The prep was pretty basic - a lot of the same information/questions that were presented at the Ministry of Education meeting. It is still a bit nerve wracking because this one "counts." The group tomorrow should be the Judge, Olga, Assia, the Baby House Director and the Minister of Education (it's the same cast of characters on the final court day with the addition of the prosecutor).

Because of the impromptu meeting, we were delayed in meeting Terry (with the Peace Corp) for dinner. We met him in front of the Gold Church. He brought a friend, Yuri, who is Kazakh and works with Terry at the IBC incubator for the peace corp. Yuri is the project manager for the orphanage project (they bus in the orphanage children - from Zhas Dauren - to take computer classes twice a week). We walked to a different part of town for dinner. It was nice to get out at night and see everything lit up, but also to go to a different restaurant (which we probably would have not found). They provided some good info about Kazakhstan:

  • The average income here is 300-400 US a month
  • The average apartment rent is 250 US/month (although most people don't rent, they buy apartments - which now are going for 70,000 US - this is a significant increase from about 5 years ago).
  • Although the apartments have running water and sewage, the little houses (Russian = dom) we see along the road do not. They have out houses and fill their water at nearby water wells/pumps.
  • When asked if there was any prejudice amongst Russians and Kazakhs. Apparently, there is not much on the surface level. However since the USSR broke up and Kazakhstan became it's own country, the Russians have been slightly discriminated against. The language spoke for years and years was Russian, however when the country became Kazakhstan, the official language was changed to Kazakh (which not many people know... and in practice, most people still speak Russian). You can't get a government job without speaking Kazakh well (which narrows the selection pool). Many skilled Russians left Kazakhstan and moved back to Russia because of this. Uralsk is unique because it's so close to the Russian border and many Russians live here. Terry said if you go closer to the southern portion of Kaz, you'll see more Kazakh speaking people. You see more "prejudice" based on socioeconomic levels (but that's true of almost anywhere you go - unfortunately).
  • When asking about the current holidays and religious beliefs, we were told that Kazakhs, in general , are not outwardly religious people. They don't generally speak of religion to each other and certainly don't talk about it in groups. However, there are many Muslim people here. Also, historical, organized religion was difficult here for 2 reasons: (1) In the USSR, it was not an option to have different organized religious groups (under the communist regime) and (2) Kazakhstan has been a traditionally nomadic culture which makes it very difficult since they don't stay in any one spot long enough.
  • The oil companies (e.g., British Petroleum and Exxon/Mobil) that have established operations in Kaz are now providing higher paying jobs for the people of Kaz. While most of the industry expertise is now supplied by outsiders, the goal of the country is to nationalize all the oil-related jobs after the local workforce have been trained by the Americans/British. This seems to be the real future for this county as they posess some of the world's largest untapped oil fields. The goal of the President is to have the country "re-energized" by 2030 (e.g., wealth, prosperity).

Our final note of the day is regarding the phone line. We have been using Jason and Keelys phone line to access the Internet. They came home after our visits today and tried to dial out. Unfortunately there is a message that the bill wasn't paid - so the phone has been turned off. Olga assured us that the bill was paid and she would call the landlord tomorrow. Until then, we have no Internet access. So by the time you get this post, it will be a day late (hopefully - we're assuming they fix the phone tomorrow).

Here are the pics from the day:


The Higgins' family minus Sierra - she had a fever today so we couldn't visit with her.



Beautiful brown eyes.

Taking Kai's temperature (under his arm). The caregiver came in and handed Carla a big thermometer and said to take his temperature (many babies are sick, and since Sierra is sick, they wanted to make sure Kai wasn't sick as well).



Zhenya came to visit us today. She is Dr. Alfira's (Kai and Sierra's doctor at the babyhouse) daughter who attends school at a local university in town. She is studying interior design but has also studied English and her mother wanted her to practice with some Americans. She was very good.


Zhenya (Dr. Alfira's daughter)



Little toddler playing in the snow outside of the babyhouse.

Les and Carla in front of the "Man on Horse" statue. I'm sure he has a name but we can't read what it is.


Inside the Golden Church (the church was busy today because tomorrow if the Russian Orthodox Christmas)

Inside the Golden Church


Inside the Golden Church (this is the last picture Les got before being told to put his camera away)


Keely and Carla in front of the Gold Church



A mosaic tile mural on the side of the Dept of Justice building (local Dept of Justice) not be confused with the Ministry of Justice (the regional dept of Justice)


Anyone want to join the Kazakh military?



You see people all over town toting their little toddlers in a sleigh (similar to the US with a wagon). The kids are so cute - they just sit there and hold on in their big snowsuits.


Grandpa Les holding Kai with Carla's hat on - our little "boy in the hood"



Kai playing with the new toy Grandpa Les bought him


Got Cheerio?



Happy boy!


Keely splicing wires in the apartment (the phone line is split in several spots - Apparently the land lady was supposed to have fixed it but hasn't yet).



Jason and Keely's latest selection of beer from the Atrium

The building in front of our apartment lit up at night.



The Beck restaurant at night (this is the Russian restaurant where we ate the other day - where no one spoke English and the menu was entirely in Russian).


The Golden Church at night


Jim, Carla, Jason, Keely, Yuri (friend of Terry's), Les, and Terry (from Peace Corp) at dinner tonight.

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  A Jim & Carla Creation - 2004