Archive for March, 2009


By the way, we’re in Karaganda.  We didn’t mean to keep it a secret past our arrival, but we started writing about G and never got around to where we are.

Karaganda is an industrial city of nearly half a million people.  The main industry is coal.  We took a walk in Central Park Sunday and saw at least three different monuments to miners.  Karaganda is surrounded by “a vast area of uninhabited” steppe.  Wikipedia tells us that Karaganda is what Russians use to mean “middle of nowhere”.




Lake in Central Park



Manly men lift coal.

The architecture is largely soviet era concrete.  But much of it is painted bright colors (at least the sides visible from the street).  Our apartment building is yellow and orange — in front.  The back is a hodge-podge of peeling gray and other colors.  The exterior walls are three feet thick.



Many apartments have balconies and nearly all the balconies have been boxed in with badly weathered wooden frames and windows that do not match (the building or each other).

Spring has sprung and it’s slush and mud season.  There’s still thick ice in places, so I expect the slush and mud to last a while.

The locals are still wearing winter coats, though.  For people who live in a cold place, they really like it warm.  The apartments, shops, restaurants and cars are all set to roast.  I said the baby house was 80° in an earlier post.  Make that 90°.  Actually, our apartment in Karaganda is not as bad as the one in Almaty in this regard.  We can stand to close the windows at night.

Today we only had a morning visit.  Something about an official inspection in the afternoon.  For lunch, our interpreter took us to a restaurant with wifi near our apartment.  We ate local cuisine again.  No English menu or food pictures though.  So going back without an interpreter would be hard, unless we order the same things.



Yes, I even did the diaper today (an easy one).

The internet situation has been really frustrating.  Yes, of course, dial up is slow.  But the admin pages used when posting to the blog are so bloated that it’s been excruciating.  We’ve literally spent 2.5 hours a night online posting the blog, after photo selection and scaling.  Nobody designs for slow, low bandwidth connections anymore.

So blogging and laundry have mostly filled our non-baby house hours.  With the afternoon off today, we got 2 loads of laundry washed and actually watched some video (that we brought with us) for the first time since we got here.

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The Rhythm of Kazakhstan

For those of you that have been wondering how we are filling our days …

We have now gotten into a daily routine here in Kazakhstan:

  1. Wake up, get out of bed, drag the comb across my head …
  2. Go to baby house.
  3. Get “G” out of her crib, feed her, play with her, put her back to bed.
  4. Go out to lunch.
    Our intent is to eat the local cuisine during the day as much as possible (even though pizza is amazingly  popular & readily available around town).
  5. Repeat step 3.
  6. Say goodbye for the day.
    She must realize that we won’t be back for the day because that is when she cries, which just tears our hearts out. But we can take comfort in knowing that she, and all of the children in the baby house, are well cared for.
  7. Go back to the apartment.
  8. Start a load of baby clothes with some adult stuff mixed in.
    We are grateful to have a (very small) washing machine in our apartment.
  9. Walk to the food store and/or Line Brew for a fine Belgium beer.
  10. Hang up wet clothes all around the apartment.

    We tried hanging it out on the porch, but it never dried.

  11. Eat dinner.
  12. Blog.
    This has been taking a lot longer than expected given slow/flaky internet service from the apartment.  (Remember the days when we used to think that 56k was FAST?)
  13. Sleep.
  14. Lather… rinse… repeat until we can take our little girl home with us for good 😉

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Sunday in Kaz…

OK.  Gertrude is not her name.  I (Troy) referred to her as Gertrude for most of the 18 months it took us to get here, mostly because Theresa didn’t like the name.  I had a whole list of names that annoyed Theresa.  It’s not appropriate to post her given name and it’s presumptuous to publicly label her with the name we hope to give her.  But it was annoying to write “She” and “Her” all the time.  So I thought I’d use a different name for each post.  But now we’re starting to get “Gertrude?!” mail from the family that does know our intended name, so…

Anyway, I’m dropping the different name for each post joke.  But I want to share the idea of “Calamity”.  Unlike the other names I teased Theresa with, I really think Calamity is a great name for a girl.  But Theresa wouldn’t have it.  Somebody use it!

Fine.  So Theresa can write the rest of this post (her first):


The Sunday schedule at the baby house is a bit different. Today we only got to visit our little one for the morning session.  

When we went into the crib room she seemed pretty happy to see us. Or maybe she was just ready to get our of the crib and would have smiled at anyone (we’d like to think that’s not the case) 

This morning feeding session went much better. We got her to eat the full bowl of porridge and a bottle of juice. No need to call in the reinforcements today!!  During the time it took us to feed our little one, the caretakers fed six others. I’d like to think that we’re teaching her how to savor the subtle nuances in the texture and flavor of the cereal 😉


We had most of the playroom to ourselves today.The caretakers felt that the room was too cold for the other babies to spend the day in it (from our point of view this was the first day that the room was actually comfortable).

The aforementioned community crib

The aforementioned community crib

This gave “G” an opportunity to roam around the whole room in a walker without having to deal with the typical baby bumper car races. She squealed with delight over the new teether that we brought with us today,  and she cruised all over the floor back and forth just to get it from whoever was holding it at the time. 


Right before bedtime she enjoyed a little reading.  As you can see, she clearly found pleasure in both the story line and taste of this one.  


I think that she is getting a bit tired of the paparazzi following her around all of the time.


Paka Paka (bye for now)

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First Day Out


OK.  We got some smiles today.  We also had four full hours together, two in the morning and two in the afternoon.  Gertrude’s still a little under the weather — we can hear and feel the congestion in her chest.  Apparently it makes her quiet and calm.  The caretakers assure us that she’s quite the babbler and very strong willed.

Interestingly, our translator told us the door code to the baby house yesterday.  Today our driver took us there, sans translator, and we let ourselves in and went to Gertrude’s room and started right in!


Her section has 14 cribs and 12 occupants.  I think it’s one of 9 sections in the baby house divided by age and development.  There’s a room for sleeping and a room for everything else.  We played on the floor with her while several other babies played “bumper baby” in walkers around us.  There’s also a raised community crib for play time that looks like a cage match.  Six babies enter, one baby leaves.  We played hop-on-pop and “mommy sit-ups”.  Also, she’s mastered rolling over multiple times.  We need a larger play blanket.


Both sessions included feeding and diaper changes by us.  (OK, Theresa’s handled the diapers so far.)  We take care of Gertrude and that’s one less baby for the two caretakers in the room.  She’s just starting on spoon feeding and we only got half a bowl in during the morning feeding.  Then one of the caretakers took over and showed us how it’s done.  In the afternoon the main course was porridge in a bottle.  That went down fast.


In the afternoon, the doctor suggested we take Gertrude outside for a walk as the air would do her good!  It was her first time outside since she came to the baby house shortly after birth.  Oh yeah, she’s 8 months old.  We tried the playground, but there was the very muddy section and the very slushy section.  So we ended up walking around the building a couple of times.


We took 200 pictures today!  Isn’t it good that cameras are digital now?  For anyone in our family who is considering printing something out, we will have hi-res photos online after we get home.  Late in the afternoon session, we got many consecutive drooling raspberries.




After we arrived a translator joined us, but not the translator we had yesterday.  This one’s a university student working on a translating degree.  Later we went shopping and she helped us pick out some beer — college student beer.  Someone overheard us talking and told her she should really suggest something better!  We ended up with some college student beer (which tasted like Bud), another beer which was much better (surprise) and fish jerky (yum).


The Good, The Ugly, & The Bad

The Good, The Ugly, & The Bad

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Meeting Our Munchkin

There were some paperwork delays today.  By the time we got to the baby house, we could only stay about 30 minutes.  And who did they introduce us to?  A beautiful baby girl!  Dibs!


A beautiful baby girl with big brown eyes, two bottom teeth and way too many clothes for the 80° room.  They really bundle them up in Kazakhstan.

She was extremely quiet.  We’re told that every baby in her room has a cold.  Also we arrived just before nap time.  She didn’t shy away, but we couldn’t raise a smile or giggle.  Oh well, it’ll come.  Maybe she’s just very polite.


My two girls.  They both like the camera, but only one demonstrated advanced skills in holding two toys at the same time and rolling over.  A gymnast in training!

I’m not much for gushing, but we’re pretty happy right now.


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We made it to Almaty.  The layover in Frankfurt was painful, but eventually we had enough naps to feel well adjusted to the time change today.

It’s Thursday afternoon here and we did some business, ate lunch and took a walk in a park.  Tonight we fly to our final destination and tomorrow afternoon we meet our child!

Soviet Era War Memorial - Note how the shape matches the USSR.

Soviet Era War Memorial - Note how the shape resembles a map of the USSR.

Ugh!  That full resolution photo took over 4 minutes to upload over dialup!  I think we’ll be down-rezing after this.

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Take off!

Packed and ready to go. Everything we need for two months in Kazakhstan, including many gifts.  Here is the traditional luggage picture:luggage

We wanted to do it with one less suitcase, but we couldn’t.

In roughly 24 hours we’ll be landing in Almaty.  It’ll be 1am Thursday morning and we’ll be taken to an apartment to get some sleep before adoption agency business.  Friday we’ll meet our child!

We’re not sure when we’ll be able post again, due to time constraints and internet access.  So don’t worry if it takes a while.

Off we go!    (Thanks to the Russell car service!)

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