Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Electric slide....

The electric comes from Kyrgyzstan, a country south of Kazakhstan. So apparently, every day for about 2-3 hours they have planned blackouts. In the middle of the afternoon, the electric goes out. If you happen to wander into the heat, today was 122, you'll find that it's the norm here. Nobody is acting like it's a big deal at all. The grocery store that is on the first floor of our apartment building, simply writes down each and every purchase and uses a calculator. There are a few stores who have decided to beat the system and have bought or rented generators for these two-three hours per day. So, did I mention that the temperature was 122 yesterday?? Yeah. No air conditioning, no TV... good times, good times.
Now maybe I don't know how this stuff works back in the US, but it's never occurred to me that someone would "import" electricity. The real kicker is it seems that this is not only expected, but it's anticipated by the locals that it will get much more frequent and longer as the summer continues. Nice.

Speaking of electric, I must tell you about our utilities situation in our apartment. First of all, you know the guys that drive around in the nice trucks to come check your water meter or electric meter? At home in KY, because we have such a huge dog, the electric guys don't even have to get out of their truck. They have a remote control reader!!! Anyhow, no such device here (there's a big surprise). The other night, an elderly lady came knocking at our door. It was Sunday night at 9:30. She was the "meter maid" and read our water and electric! LOL The hot water is random in this apartment. When we got showers here, it would be scalding hot and with less than a second's notice, it would turn ice cold!!! It was enough to make a nun cuss!!! LOL Anyhow, Winston figured out how to make it a bit more consistent while in the shower. First you go to the kitchen, where the electric hot water heater is located. Then you turn on the kitchen sink water, pray it gets warm. When it doesn't get warm, you turn it off, and wait a few seconds. Turn the faucet back on to the assumed "hot" position, and wait. Repeat about 9 times. Eventually, the hot water will become hot enough to take a shower. But you MUST leave the kitchen sink running the entire time. By the way, when you get out of the shower, you will then notice a considerable amount of water that has accumulated on the floor. That's because it leaks. Nice, I know. You wish you were here.

The hot water heater shares a plug with the microwave, which sits on a small wooden 'bench'. The bench is too small and will topple over if not careful, or if you have a 2 year old in the house. Wait a minute, we have a 2 year old in the house! That's how I know it will topple over!!!! And therefore, any food you might have had parked in the middle of the microwave has now dispersed to various corners of the microwave. There is a microwave, but not one microwavable dish! Not one. The plates have metal on them, and there are no plastic or glass dishes, plates, etc... And the hot water heater must be unplugged in order to make room for the microwave to be plugged in. Please see attached picture. :-)

I will need to take a photo of the pipes that are dangling above on every street. I will post it hopefully tomorrow.

Peculiar place....

To say that this is a peculiar place is an understatement. I think I've talked about the corruption that seeps out of the pores of this country. I have talked about the bread being sold from the trunk of a car (no wrappers on it), the way I've seen a sheep in the back of a car in the middle of town, the way you can get a pack of gum as change, or buy three diapers at a time.
I haven't talked about a few other things that are "strange", but maybe it's just strange to us, as Americans; so, here are a few observations. There are traditional, older Kazakh women who are randomly scattered on the streets, parking lots, etc... and they sell various things to eat or drink. You get a bowl of some sort of traditional concoction dipped out of a bucket. The bowls are regular bowls like would be in our kitchens. After the customer eats the food, it gets rinsed out in another bucket (along with all the other bowls of the day) and placed back out as "clean" for the next customer. This is sort of like fast food here in Kazakhstan. In this photo, a man who took some time for lunch during a work day stopped to get some food from this lady, including courld which is like a salted curd ball (like cheese I think) and mare's milk. yes, Mare's milk. (I shutter to think of drinking it) Many of you know that I was a vegetarian for most of my life, and then once we began farming, started eating meat again. At this point, I would be SO happy to see a McDonalds!!! LOL By the way, I asked for their permission to take their photo. They were happy to oblige.

Some of them make a drink from various fruits, vegetables, and grains. There are some people, mostly women, who have an ordinary bathroom scale, usually decorated with various stickers, and they charge you to use it. I think bathroom scales are a luxury here, so you might as well just pay from time to time. Keep in mind, this is just on random street corners, parks, etc... None of these "enterprises" are regulated by health/safety/food quality kind of people like would be at home. If you get the notion to set up a stand somewhere, more power to you.
There is very little rain here, but the mountains provide water for a long hot summer. There are concrete ditches that have valves in them, and we've seen people go and open up the valves to fill their water bottles. The other day, while we were waiting to cross the street, a man was filling a water bottle. The water was spraying Jasmine and Winston; I saw the sunlight catching the millions of droplets as they shot over the man and onto my husband and child. I have to say, it was pretty amusing, but definitely peculiar.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Three Diapers at a time... and Let's Go for a Ride!!!!!

Things are strange here, no doubt about that! There are times you go to a restaurant or grocery store, and they will give you back your change in money (tenge) but sometimes if they're a little short, they'll give you gum, matches, or the best one to date: Winston got 3 calcium pills as change at the pharmacy today!!!! How funny is that???

But one of the earliest and funniest things I noticed in Kaz is the thing I like to call "Three diapers at a time" situation. Oh, let's take anything you would buy in America in bulk for example. A PACK of cigarettes (I don't recommend these, but they are popular). Well, here you can buy ONE cigarette at a time! Okay, let's take Tide. I seriously think I buy a 64 load bottle or box of Tide at home. The good news is, they DO have Tide here. The bad news is, you must buy a teeny tiny box of it. It does three loads of laundry. Then down to the store you go again to buy more. Diapers. Here, nearly everyone refers to them as Pampers. Doesn't matter the brand, it's always Pampers. So why on earth would one buy a box at a time? I think I've bought as many as 104 at a time (the newborn size). Here, it's very very common to buy one or two diapers at a time. When you buy them, you ask for the size, say Pampers and tell them how many you want. In our case, we went crazy! We didn't just get one or two, but THREE diapers at a time!!! Woah! We're rebels!

And finally, I must share a few photos with you all. Our friends, Brad and Steph, and Jenn and all of us went to the zoo today. Any one of you who knows our daughter Jasmine knows that she is crazy about the zoo. I took her and Martina the week before we left for Kaz and she has told nearly everyone she's met in Shymkent about all the animals she saw there. Not just about one or two, but all of them! lol So anyhow, we're heading out to the zoo with our driver/translator/coordinator and she is NOT a good driver. That is important to note not so much for this story but in the general sense that if we make it back in one piece, it's nothing less than a miracle. And so the story goes... We had 9 people, including the driver/translator/coordinator girl, and three kids ages 3 and under. (By the way no car seats are used here! Grrrr) The car is nice, but not huge by any means. SO, Brad volunteered to ride in the back all the way from our apartment to the zoo!!! I laughed so hard. So here are a few pictures to let you in on the fun. Please note the photo of the caged bear.... note any similarities?? I'm just sayin'. ;-)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A lesson in the Russian language

Okay, if you didn't read the previous post about the rainstorm, please go down and read it first.

No, seriously. If you didn't you should read it first and then come back up here.

Okay, I'm trusting that you've read it....

last chance................

So, without getting graphic here, I am going to tell a funny story on my daughter Sophie. She'll shoot me for this one day, but it's soooo cute! So Winston and I are sitting on our bed in the mid morning hours talking. Sophie was in there running amuck carrying blocks around or something that a two year old would do. She stopped dead in her tracks and held on tight to the footboard. Uhoh, I thought. I think she's gonna have a bowel movement!!! They've been really nasty, so as she stood there bracing herself, I figuratively was bracing myself for what I would have to endure only moments later. Sure enough, we heard those unforgettable noises... the kind you hear when your kids blow on each other's tummies and giggle for five minutes. But there was no giggling piercing the air. Not yet. The only thing piercing the air at this point was a retched smell!!! I looked and her and told her it was okay (I think they maybe got punished at the orphanage if they went in their pants). She did have a diaper on afterall. I'm no dummy! This isn't the first baby I've raised. :-)
So anyhow, I quietly and sweetly said "Uhoh! Did you poopy?" and she looked at me with those gorgeous brown eyes, with her eyebrows raised and simply said "Kaka" which is Russian for "poop"!
Oh, my gosh I thought I would die laughing inside. I may have giggled a bit but I was dying inside! The other funny part of this is, they told us at the orphanage that she couldn't speak and that she would be 3 before she would say anything. She will be 2 tomorrow. And I will have to tell her that the first real word we heard her say was "kaka".

Now, back to that story I posted yesterday. I supposed the answer is "oh, kaka! where are my wipers????"

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Oh, Shymkent! It's Raining!!!

So Jenn, Brad and Stephanie and our family all got together yesterday evening for some pizza... NOT like home, but for here, it's good food. Anyhow, Jenn was leaving our apartment and came back about 20 seconds later. It was raining outside!!!! Now, you must understand what an event this is. We've been here since June 11th and it's sprinkled 3 times for about 1-2 minutes each. That's it. So rain is crazy here! Jenn told us to go to the window and look at it... it was driving rain and even some lightening! Wow!! It was kind of exciting. So Stephanie and I were looking out the window to the street below at all the cars and I thought of something funny. It rains here like 6 times a year, Jenn said. So I told Steph "I'll bet they're all like, 'crap! where's my wipers switch???' " And then I said "I wonder how you say "crap" in Kazakh?" Then Winston said he thinks it's "Shymkent" and we all chuckled. So as far as we know, they say "Oh, Shymkent! It's raining! Where are my wipers???"

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Meet our Kazakh Beauty

I am going to post a couple of pictures here of our daughter. She's sweet and smart. She's a different child since she got out of the orphanage! She's doing great!!!! We got official custody of her on my birthday!!! (the 19th). What a praise and HUGE blessing for me! She has not had any issues whatsoever yet. Her only food issue is that she doesn't like a big variety of foods I've found yet. They told me she'd eat anything! Not at all true. She does give it a good effort though. :-) She sometimes backs away from a food and cries, but she stops as soon as I stop offering it to her. She likes the yogurt, bananas, juice, cookies, crackers. So far, that's about it.
I keep bracing for the worst and praying for the best. She's acted as if she doesn't even remember the orphanage!!! She has blossomed even more here at the apartment in these last 4 days even. It's been unbelievable. I am amazed at her skills she was holding back on us in the orphanage!! She does most things that are age appropriate, I can't think of anything off the top of my head that seems delayed at this point. It's mostly experiences she hasn't had. She had never held a crayon or anything like that. In the BH she would look at it and toss it. Now that she's been around them, she scribbles with it! Yay!
I will post more later about her, but wanted to get these pics up.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Playing Doctor with the Baker's Man

Now that I've got your attention by the title of my post, I'll explain. My asthma has been really bad here because of pollution, dry air, etc... I've had to get medicines here, after Skyping my doctor back home. They told me what to get but said they can't write a prescription. Not a problem!!! Here, you simply go into any pharmacy and tell them what you want. You pay for it and get on with your life. You don't even have to have it written down. you just tell them. The same goes for medical testing. You don't even make an appointment, you just go in and tell them you want an ultrasound, an x-ray, or an MRI, or whatever, and you're done. An x-ray is $5.00, an MRI is around $100. You get your results immediately too. No waiting around, you just get them handed to you right away. Now, having said all that, the healthcare system here is not even close to what we have in the states. You just hope and pray you don't have any major medical issues while in-country. If you do, you might be straight out of luck. It's interesting to say the least.
There are people who go to the back of apartment buildings and yell or speak over a megaphone about the fruits or vegetables they have for sale. One day a man with a horse pulling a cart of watermelons was behind ours. Another day, there were women with buckets of apricots.
I saw a guy with a sheep in the back of his car (a live sheep) in the middle of town. It was a pretty funny sight! Here's a picture.
Pat a cake, pat a cake baker's man. Bake me a cake as fast as you can. And don't put any sugar in it; make it as bland as possible. That's what the rest of the nursery rhyme would be here! ha ha! And also, some other interesting findings; they put out big cardboard boxes of cookies and you just reach in and get what you need. No gloves or tongs required. I was completely sold AGAINST the idea, when I saw women pick up cookies, and then toss them back into the box.
I see on a regular basis people pulling up to markets with loaves of bread they have brought in the back of their car. No Tupperware, no bags, just stacks of bread on the floor of their trunk. And another day I saw a store employee with a whole shopping cart full of loaves of bread. But they were not wrapped up; they were just in a cart all by their lonesome. And then she grabbed a loaf with her hand, again, no gloves. The cart was just one that was from the front of the store.
It's funny in comparison that our local Kroger store in Kentucky has antibacterial wipes beside the shopping carts so you can wipe them down before you begin pushing them.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A glimpse

Here's our daughter Sophie; it's just her ear, but it is all I can do for those of you who are so hungry for pictures! :-)
Once we get custody of her, about a week from now, if I have any time, I will be able to post a whole photo! :-)
Today when she came into the bonding room, she ran towards me!!!! The nurse said that this morning when she got her dressed, that she was all happy, as if she knew she would get to see us. Then they took her upstairs (not sure what is upstairs) before we got there and she started crying for her mama! :-) AWwwwwww..... how sweet is that???
We had a lot of fun with her today, but I think that the longer this goes, the harder it becomes. The thing is, she is ours. Technically, she was ours on the 4th of July! But we must wait until they get their "paperwork" done. I wonder about the legitimacy of this "paperwork" but they hold all the cards. We must wait.
And to be honest, I just want to get home in the worst way!!! I want to be in my own bed at night. I want to get Sophie to know her home and her family. I want to see all my kids; I want to get on with my life. I cannot wait to leave and begin the 'rest of the story'.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


We went to court yesterday to petition to ask to adopt our little girl. It was very interesting because first of all, it was all in Russian and Kazakh. We had a translator there who filled us in. The judge had a nice face and I thought he looked kind; I had it in my mind that he was a good man with a good heart. He asked us 4 questions. Here, the husband answers and the woman sits quietly! This was very difficult for me not to talk! lol If you know me, you're smiling and shaking your head "yes" right about now!
So, Winston answered the 4 questions short and sweet. There was a bit of a funny moment during our court procedure when he asked how many children we have. Winston said "we have three who live at home, three who are grown and out of the house." and then the judge looked up and said in Russian "And you want a SEVENTH???" I couldn't help myself and let out a giggle and a smile, and Winston said yes, as I shook my head in agreement! He had a look like "O-key dokey!" and sort of shrugged his shoulders! It was pretty funny in such a serious setting. Anyhow, within 5 minutes he said "congratulations on becoming parents---AGAIN". A huge relief and rush of joy come over me! Is that it?? Is that all??? We're done????? Holy smokes!!!! I have another daughter!! I have THREE beautiful daughters!!!! I'm her Mommy! It's official!
So for those of you who might not know the whole story, we have SEVEN children now, AND we have TWO daughters-in-law!!! AND we're expecting two grandbabies!!! One in November from Daniel and Kristin, and one in February from Josh and Jamie!!! We are SO blessed!