Friday, January 7, 2005

Today was a little trying for Jim and Carla. We had pre-court this morning at 10:00AM. Igor was there at 9:50AM to take them to the Ministry of Justice. Assia accompanied them. Jim wore a suit and Carla had on a long skirt and sweater, with regular hose and heels. The first thing Assia says to her is "Summer shoes?" (What is it with footwear here?). Oh well, we got to the room outside the judge's chambers and Carla suddenly realizes she forgot the album of pictures. We were told to bring our passports, the little album of family pictures, and the new pictures we've taken with the children since we've been in Uralsk.

Of course since Carla was already a nervous wreck.. then she started to panic and cry a little. Assia assured her that it was ok - we could bring them to final court. Luckily, everything went just fine - as best as we can tell, we "passed." They didn't have any unusual or hard questions for us. The judge just thumbed through our paperwork the entire time, occasionally asking some questions, and never making eye contact (Olga and Assia told us this would probably be the case). The entire thing lasted about 20 minutes and we were on our way back to the apartment. [NOTE: we did find out that our final court will be on 1/11/04 at 4:00pm - this will be a very big day for us - If all goes well, the judge will grant an immediate execution of the adoption and we will be the official parents of the kids that evening!]

Because pre-court was in the morning, we missed our morning visit with the children. After court we relaxed a bit at the apartment and then went with Keely and Jason to the Chagala for lunch (where we can watch CNN and catch up on the news). Our afternoon visit was not ideal either. Sierra was feeling a bit better today, but still had a low-grade fever. The doctor said it was ok for us to visit. Since Masha was late, we asked Assia (to ask the caregiver) if we could play with the children together - she said "sure". So we all settled down in our little room. Not 5 minutes later, the doctor was quickly up the stairs and asked for Masha (who was no where to be found) - the doctor doesn't speak too much English so we both need a translator. She was able to use sign language and some English to tell us we couldn't have the children together. Carla took a few toys and went to the sports room with Sierra while Jim stayed upstairs to play with Kai.

Kai was in good spirits so he and Jim had a good time together. So far, we've been lucky that he hasn't caught anything because there are many babies ill right now. Sierra clearly didn't feel good. She still managed a few weak laughs and smiles but she was warm and just wanted to be held. The doctor came back in the room and gave Carla a blanket to use under Sierra (our big blanket was upstairs in the room with Jim and Kai) and also brought her daughter, Zhenya, back and used her as a translator. She told me that Sierra still had a fever, and therefore, didn't want the children playing together and spreading germs. She left Zhenya behind to help with Sierra. She's a very nice girl and loves to practice her English. Carla mentioned that we had been trying to speak with her mother about the children for the last week, but she's been busy. Masha supposedly lined up the meeting with her today, but Masha never showed up and the doctor left about 330 to go home - so it didn't happen today.

Carla talked to Assia after the visit and asked her if she could arrange the meeting - Assia assures us that there is still plenty of time to have a conversation with the doctor and that they usually work on the weekend, so we'll see what the next few days bring. Is it time for a beer yet?

We will take it a day at a time with our visits. We don't know when we'll be able to play again as a family. Keely and Jason have been juggling babies for several days because one or the other has been ill, so we'll see. We've been fortunate up to this point.

You've probably noticed that Les is not mentioned in the summary above. The reason being, he had a job today. Terry, with the Peace Corp, called yesterday morning and asked if Les would have some time (and be interested) in helping with a program. There is a group (at the Academy of Labor) that awards scholarships allowing secondary education teachers go to the United States for 6 weeks. There were 32 applications and they needed two "foreigners" to help review them. Usually, they just get 2 Peace Corp volunteers, but all were in Almaty except Terry. Terry knew from our site that Les was here so he asked him to help. Les gladly accepted. We missed having him around today (the drivers and Assia both commented that they missed having him around) - not just for the companionship, but also because he's our resident photographer so we don't have baby or court pictures today (although we wouldn't have been able to take any in court). Terry met Les by the road at 9:45AM and they walked to their meeting which was at 10:00AM. Terry and Les were each paired up with a Kazakh representative and used a team approach to review the applications.

Les' day of employment in Kazakhstan...

This is Les, and this is my first addition to Carla and Jim's daily journal. After first being asked by Terry to help local Kazakhstan government officials select secondary school teachers to visit the United States to enhance their english teaching abilities, I jumped at the chance. I considered it an honor to help out and was looking forward to the experience. Director of the program Natalia Urasheva and Saltanat, an assistant professor of english at the local university in Uralsk met Peace Corps volunteer Terry Young and I in front of the Kazakhstan's Academy of Labor. It was snowing and cold, but the walk from my apartment was refreshing, seeing all the "locals" catching buses and walking to work in the government buildings.

Terry and I were taken to a conference room where we also met Natalia's younger sister Mira, who is also teaches english. Terry was pared with Mira and I was pared with Saltanat. Each team was required to review 35 applications which were about 25 pages long. While all applications were in English, some were typed, but most were hand written (and that's where the challenge began). Terry and I spent the first 2 hours reviewing only 2 applications (by the way, the majority of them had atrocious English - couldn't write in a complete sentence but there a few than really "shined"), asking many questions about terminology, criteria, etc. After that, the pace picked up and each team member read applications independently (our mission was to "pass" 60% of the applications and "weed-out" 40%).

We took a break at lunch with Natalia treating us to a traditional Kazakh lunch at a local cafe. Les had MANH, which is steamed pasta stuffed with meat, covered with mayonnaise. The table also shared three side salads -- Korean spicy salad, cabbage and vinegar salad and Russian herring salad (smelled fishy, but good).

Once the team reconvened after lunch, I yawned while reviewing my next application and Natalia asked if I was alright or needed some hot tea. I think she thought I was falling asleep and she kept insisting that we all keep reading or she would keep us there until tomorrow. She was required to fax the application results to Almaty tonight. During the afternoon session, Natalia's sister Mira, started teasing Natalia to go out and buy beer for the team. Natalia said "not until you are all finished." Eventually, Natalia brought in a bottle of white wine and Mira insisted that we all toast our success (even though Saltanat and Les were still working). We finished about 6 pm and made a good selection from many applicants. Natalia then told Terry and Les to fill our our name, address, phone number and sign a form. Terry asked why and Natalia said so she could pay us. Neither Terry or I wanted to accept money for our task, but Natalia said it was part of the process and that she had to pay us.

My share covered dinner at the Pushkin for Carla, Jim and I. All in all, it was a great day, meeting many new friends, and I had a memorable experience. One side note - as I was leaving the room, Mira came up to me and asked "when you return of America, how do you think you can live without me? I was floored and just smiled saying that "I would try to get by without her." What a nut. Terry just smiled since he apparently knows Mira and her jokes.


Entrance to the Academy of Labor in Uralsk



Our Review Team: Mira, Saltanat, Terry and Les. Mira and Saltanat are native Kazakh's and Terry and Les were the required "foreigners."


Natalia M. Urasheva, Regional Representative and Education Advisor, American Councils for International Education



Lunch at the Zeloni Rai (Green Paradise) Kaz Restaurant (Natalia, Les, Terry and Mira). The table was in an alcove so Saltlanat had to sit at another table.

Les' entree -- MANH (stuffed steamed pasta with meat, with mayonnaise on top); really tasty.



Team of Saltant and Les. Saltant is an assistant college professor and also teaches english to oil industry executives.


Entrance to Pushkin Hotel where we ate dinner at an Italian restaurant.



Pretty blue building across from the Pushkin Hotel. Most buildings on the main street in Uralsk are lighted at night.


Here's the gang eating again; Italian restaurant at the Pushkin Hotel (Carla, Keely, Jason, Interpreter Assia, Jim and Les).


Kazakhstan's version of our famous "Moon Pie." It was a gift from Director Natalia to Les.

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