Monday, March 31, 2008

Kok-Tobe or Blue Mountain

Today we took a real taxi to Kok-Tobe or Blue Mountain. What I mean by real taxi is that they have a sign on it that says it's a taxi service. Otherwise it is a private taxi where you stick out your hand, a car stops and they ask where you are going, if they agree to take you, a price is negotiated. Last time we took private taxi's and this trip we are taking taxi services. Of course you can guess which is the least expensive. We have a guide who is an international relations major and she is a very petite cute thing. Last summer she was an exchange student in North Carolina. She can speak many languages. It is amazing to us.
We had wanted to go to Medeu, where they have a speed skating rink(it is the size of 2 football fields) and where they someday hope to host the Olympics but there is an olympic torch parade on Wednesday and all the roads are closed. Bummer. They are painting everything to make it look nice. I saw them painting a light pole with a rag with paint and they wrap it around just like they are shimmying up a tree but they are in a truck lift. Quite ingenious actually. Messy for the painter I would think.
So we got a ride to halfway up Kok-Tobe and walked the rest up. I only made it halfway with Phoebe and had to hand her over to John. They had strollers you could rent for 2.50 an hour so we took one of those. There are a few animals up there, souvenir shops, and restaurants.
Roof of a yurt.
Phoebe was a wiggle worm so I took a picture of Julia instead.
The flushable turkish toilet.
We got to eat in one that looked like a yurt inside. It was quite fun. Thanks Rachel for telling us about it, our guide knew exactly what we wanted. We had quite the meal, their traditional bread here is fantastic, especially when it is hot, John ordered scones but they were not quite what he pictured and creme tea. Chip Reid had a noodle dish and it was quite tasty. I had some fried eggplant and it was delicious.
Blue Cable Car
An upscale Almaty neighborhood.
Chip on a razor!
The wishing well.
Proud peacock.
Look what we've been breathing...
View of the hill & dry luge, you can ride it for about 8 dollars
Here we go down the mountain!
Crossing Cars
We have 2 days lefts after this(like we're counting) and hopefully tomorrow we'll make it to a traditional bazaar. At least the weather is holding out.
Catch me if you can!
I'll play on the chair but won't sit on it!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

An Award and the Abundance of Blessings, plus some travel shopping tips

I finally had some time to catch up on other people's blogs and all that's been going on halfway across the world!! I was reading Andrea's blog and I found out she had given me an award. It is for helping to make the world a better place! Now that is a humbling thought as I feel like I've been not so positive lately, yet also an awesome responsibility. Thank you, Andrea, you have made our world a Better Place! My original intent was to write this blog to keep family and friends posted about our adoption adventures, yet I know it reaches many more people and can encourage them. Because of that the rule is to award 5 people this award after you receive it. So I am going nominate Jackie, Jamie, Rachel,Ivy, and Hilary. But I have to make an exception to add one more and that's Kami H. These are people that have inspired me and I know that they make the world a better place because of their adoptions but also as Mom's-domestic engineers, and working women.
We are feeling particularly blessed on this second trip. Although it has been hard and different from our first, we are sooo in love with our daughter!! She is simply amazing. We can't believe how fast she can flip around and roll over, crawl, smile, and talk. We are mentally preparing for 2 who are crawling. It should be quite interesting when we get home. How are we feeling blessed?
1. We have had a wonderful agency that really cares about us.
2. We have had short wait times and really no delays. Of course we knock on wood until we get our baby on US territory.
3. Both our children are really healthy, were very young when we got them, and are the biggest joys of our hearts.
4. We have enough resources to do 2 adoptions in less than a year.
5. We have a wonderful family who is loving our son & dogs(can you believe it?) while we away and also sends up photos and updates.
6. We are adventurous hearts blessed with adventurous travel.
7. We know a God who is in control of everything so we can have peace in calamity.
8. We feel comfortable enough in Almaty to walk around everywhere and do things for ourselves, plus perfect weather.
9. We have great travelling companions and it makes a ton of difference.
10. We have friends that really understand this adoption process.
I can go on and on and on but those are the biggest on my mind right now.
What's been different on trip 1 vs trip 2
1. We had a better translator in Kyrgyz than last time.
2. The border crossing:(
3. The length of time in each country 1 day longer in Kyrygz and 2 days longer in Kaz.
4. We had to change our plane tickets to a week later this time.
5. We got a girl instead of a boy. She is taller than Michael and weighed about the same.
6. We didnt' go through 112 diapers in 5 days.
7. It isn't 100 degrees outside but perfect weather at 65-70 degrees.
8. Different hotel in Kyrgyz.
9. The babies are from different orphanages.
10. The SOS Clinic experience.
Again, I can go on and on but again those seem to stick out in my mind.
The Golden Man-represents the Kazak people
Happy Family missing Michael!

So I thought I would post some helpful travel tips for those adoptive parents waiting to travel-
I was wrong about the diapers. They are the same price in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan after checking my receipts. Blame the mom brain:)
For a Huggies size 2 and 32 diapers in Kyrgyzstan they were 371 com which with the current conversion rate of 36 com to the dollar it makes them $10.31
For Huggies size 3 and 32 diapers in Kazakhstan they were 1235 Tenge which at the current converion rate of 120 tenge to 1 dollar they cost $10.29.
Huggies wipes cost 158 in Krygyz and 505 in Kaz which is 4.38 and 4.20 for 72 of the natural care. So slightly cheaper in Kaz.
Compared to the price in the US, the wipes are cheaper but the diapers about the same for a package with no coupon. They also have pampers but they are bit more expensive and we have been happy with the Huggies even though we brought some pampers. You can see what we bought below.

Then I had to share "some of what I purchased" in the Zum store. A beautiful silk scarf with wool felting on it, a Kyrgyz Matruska style family, a yurt with a family in it, a little doll that on one side has a smiley face and on the other has a frowny face, a nativity yurt, a purse, a boy and girl kyrgyz doll, and a pillow case, kyrgyz boots, a jewelry box. They are all pictured below. Can you not look and remember what you saw like in that shower game? I'll have to post the map of which stores I went to and found barters and good deals. If you can get to Osh Bazaar, you can buy these same goods but at about half or 3/4 the price at the Zum, depends on how you wheel and deal!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hanging Out

Don't like the computer
It is now Saturday night and one less day to stay here. We had a restful day. It has been really hard for all of the families to have to stay this long in Kazakhstan. We are thankful to do it in one trip but boy this time in Kaz drags on. So we got up late, ate a hearty breakfast, it's really neat to see a real honeycomb to get your honey, and laid around. John went to work out in the spa, and I did laundry. They even have a laundry line in the bathtub here! We are still trying to get our 3rd family here who were not able to get a reservation like we did and they are staying at the Hotel Kazzhol. They say that their room is nice, however, there are a lot of Brits there and they are loud at night, and the waft of smoke comes into their otherwise clean room. We are going to keep trying. They told us that they are full however, they offered to change our room for the broken shower line tonight, so is it really full?
We took a walk to Silk Way City to meet the Hallaways who are staying at the Kazzhol where there is a grocery store and a shopping mall, and it is halfway between the 2 hotels. We had some sampling of the Kaz version of the American "king burger" and Kami and her daughter said they would be safe and order a hot dog. You can see their reaction below. They made it into a hot dog whopper.
I dig my shades
King Burger
Delicious, not!!
Then we came home and we all took a nap. We ventured down to the spa and went swimming. Phoebe was not that thrilled. She did however enjoy modeling her new swimsuit. Then I gave her a bath and she screamed the whole time. She will not be a waterbug like her brother.
First Dip!
That's my Dad
I can almost sit up!!
We are still having problems with the crib. She moves around so much that she bangs her head on the rails and wakes up. Last night at 2 am she did this and I had to get up and rock her to sleep, we have definitely learned her pain cry.
Drat those rails!
She is beoming more fussy about things as we continue to learn about her. She decided that she only likes the Dr Brown bottle I brought, and she prefers her milk warm. Thanks to all the families that went ahead of us and finding out that their babies liked their milk warm prepared me to bring a little electric bottle warmer. It is the first years one and works like a charm. We are enjoying our little sweet pea. She has John wrapped around her finger!
Even though she's busy...
I think she's adorable!

Friday, March 28, 2008

SOS Clinic and Back at Home

SOS means help!
Julia and Phoebe, aren't they just beautiful?
Holding hands while waiting for their exam...

So today was just a gorgeous day!! Our first stop was at the fabulous breakfast buffet where we got our own handmade HOT omelets, french toast, waffles, fruit, they call it their Sunday Family Brunch. Some of the translations are funny, like "Health Breakfast." But it was a treat to get some hot, good food. John was so happy. I woke up tired but glad to be here. It is a bit of home in a foreign land. We(the Reids and us) walked to the SOS clinic as John and I remembered where it was from the last time we walked to the hotel from it and saved us about 10 dollars in taxi fees. We did have to ask someone just before we got there as we kind of forgot but we were really close and found it without difficulty.
We also had a different experience than last July. We saw a South African doctor back then who was pretty good in explaining our medicals to us, showing us where our son fell on the growth charts, and immunizations he had. This time we got a local doctor and John said she was not trained in pediatrics at all. He said she approached the exam all wrong and did the equivalent of what a 3rd year medical student coud do. He couldn't believe they could get 140 dollars for this type of exam. She didn't go over our paperwork, nor did she check for any hip dysplasias or other pediatric exams she should do. All she did was listen barely to her heart and lungs, look at her ears and throat. Even I have done that exam. All we could do was shake our head and follow directions. It was a bit frustrating. This time I sent John in to watch them draw blood, I just get annoyed and cry because I see them do it very differently than I do it, and it seems cruel to me. Phoebe cried but quickly got back to her bubbly self. With all of her clothes on she was 13 lbs which means she's probably about 12 1/2 lbs, 25 inches!!
Phoebe's learned to sign "I love you!"
The Reids and John walked back to the hotel and then the Hallaways, our coordinator, and I walked to the KLM office. We had to change our children's tickets as they had paper tickets and we were here a week later. It was perfect walking weather. We walked by the Hotel Kazakhstan, and through Paniflov Park. Saw 2 brides walking in the park and went into the Orthodox church. It took us an hour to get our tickets all straightened out and that was good. I then took a taxi back to the hotel for 10 dollars. I could have walked back in the time it took, at 2 points during the trip the driver turned his car off the traffic was so bad. At least he was friendly and played Celine Dion for me.
Here comes the bride...
A walk in the park...
I got back to the Intercontinental and was famished. So our little family and Dianne's Dad walked to the Ramstor which is not very far from us. They have an ice skating rink there, a grocery store, and a big mall. I had a hamburger and fries, and John had some couscous. It was good. I found out I should have bought more diapers down in Bishkek, they were 10 dollars for 32 vs 4 dollars in Bishkek. It was the same price in both places last time so I didn't bother, but no use crying over spilled milk.
We're going to take a down day and relax at the hotel tomorrow:)
On the home front our little family is doing well. Michael is starting to crawl fast and has learned to maneuver the walker. When we left he had just started crawling but now he can crawl on the wood floor. He could move the walker but would get it stuck but I guess he has learned how to do it!! It's hard to be away and missing all this but it means he is doing well where he is at and getting great care!! Our little pups look happy too and Sydney has found a new friend:) It makes our time here easier and we can't thank the Stahl's enough for caring for this most important part of our lives. God has been good so good to us this trip. But of course we are counting down the days!!
Walking makes me tired!
Our pampered puppies

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Road to Almaty

The Nelson family as we head out! They were visiting their son.

So the petitioners made their way to the embassy at 4 pm on Thursday to be handed a visa packet which they gave right to our coordinator. Now it makes you wonder why all the fuss & necessity, apparently it has to do with something like they need to see you are a real person. I could go on about how I really feel about it but it is late and I’m cranky after a very long uncomfortable ride. In reality, you have to do it and sweet pea is so worth it so why complain.
Portraits of Kyrgyzstan
The view on the road

It was a 5 hour trip start to finish with a long border crossing in Krygyzstan, a short wait at the Kaz border, and then our driver having to fill out paperwork in the car while Phoebe decided she would wail. She finally fell asleep but waitng for our taxi driver to get his act together with his paperwork made John really cranky. We left at around 5 pm from our hotel and this time we didn’t go through the main border crossing that is just north of Bishkek. We went on this circuitous route which because we were in this old Mercedes station wagon with no shocks, I hit my head on the roof a couple of times and I was almost afraid poor Phoebe would get shaken baby syndrome from the conditions of the road. No carseat, but thank God we could actually use our seatbelts and they worked. It was Phoebe we were worried about. I kept her in my baby sling just in case so she wouldn’t be launched like a missile should anything happen. I certainly wasn’t feeling too well until we got onto the smooth autobahn of Kazakhstan. John counted 14 near misses had God not had a hand in protecting us from different oncoming cars. I didn’t count as many but I was trying not to pay attention to the lights heading straight for us or the passes on curves or up hills. I think John and I have worked too long in the emergency room to know the realities of an mva, let alone in another country with different medical care. We had one potty stop at a place with Turkish toilets, which you must pay to use. As for our route the state department warns you to stay off this road at night as they say it is dangerous, but since when have John and I paid attention to those warnings. We usually don’t put up a fuss about foreign driving yet this time we just felt unsettled, mostly because we are tired from our other hotel stay and want to get home as this is not new to us. All said and done we were very glad and thankful to get to our hotel, close to midnight. Now I had put a request in for a nonsmoking, king bed, with a baby crib. We got 2 of the 3. John went to the front desk and asked for one, then they called back and said would we take an extra bed because they were fresh out of cribs. I said no, our baby would roll out of it and she would, she is such a squirmy worm. It amazes me that this 5 star hotel who had our reservations 3 weeks prior and another call the night before to reconfirm what we needed and that we would be arriving late could not get it straight. So they had to go to another hotel and finally brought us a crib, though it is a crib, it definitely wouldn’t pass safety standards!! At least it didn’t rock and toss Phoebe out when she rolled over like the one in the Silk Road. Then of course our darling baby now got the big D!!! She didn’t soil her clothes, but it did get all over the changing pad to John’s chagrin
Crib Rails
Doctored Crib!
Well, it’s off to bed for me. I’m looking forward to a nice hot breakfast tomorrow morning and it should put me in a better mood! I thought I’d share with you some of the mood swings you feel while on the journey…sorry to sound like complaining but once you have your child staying in country gets hard on you…

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Life is Full!

So here it is Wednesday, the 26th and only 48 hours ago we got our daughter. It's amazing how fast she is starting to bond with us. She looks for us, recognizes our voices, and just loves being held. John calls it free taxi service. We are having no diaper issues this time, we switched right away to the enfamil and so far she is regular with no tummy troubles. I think it's because she was getting the nutrition she needed, she has nice fat thighs, little doll hands, and doesn't scream like crazy for her milk. We are so glad! We just can't get over how mobile she is still! She sleeps like an angel and lets us sleep through the night!(an 8 hour night that is) She drinks room temperature milk and babbles to us. She is going to be a talker, I can tell. She is also a little social butterfly just like her brother was, we are so happy! Of course we can't wait to get home. Our little dog Taz had a muscle problem and had to go to the vet, and Michael has a cough...but we are so blesses with having such good care for them while we are gone. I can't thank Terry and her family enough for this ministry to us:)
Today we had our usual am breakfast with other adoptive folks down in the basement of the Silk Road. I can't say it's been my favorite, and I am not Picky!! I'd have to say I enjoyed my time at the Asia Mountains Guesthouse better...the location is great so if you want location, this is the better choice for you future travellers. We took a picture of Isabella(Aiken) with her new family and parents Kevin & Ashley. They left for Almaty today.
Aiken and her new family
I also had to post a pic of the skins room at the 12 Chimneys. This is a great little tourist area in the mountains that has log cabin and little chimneys so you can eat outside in. We chose the inside option as it was rather cool that day.
Then we had our social calendar and met with friends who now live here from Minnesota. It becomes a small world when you travel, Tim grew up where we used to live in Fairbanks, Alaska and Barbie is the sister of a dear friend and knows some really good friends of ours at our home church. It was such a blessing to have lunch with them:) Phoebe enjoyed them too! Later in the evening with met with another family who are friends of ours from church. They all got to meet our second child and are thinking of adopting a child from here also. Of course we highly recommended it.
12 Chimneys Animal Skin Room
Me & Mr Tim
Me & Mrs Barbie

Now of course I had to post some pics of Phoebe. She is modeling some of my stash from the ZUM shopping spree, and I am going back tomorrow, oh well!
We leave for Almaty tomorrow afternoon so I probably won't post again until we are settled in, we have to leave in the afternoon at 4 pm so won't be getting in until late, oh well...
I can roll my tongue!
I love my new hat!