Monday, June 30, 2008

Catch Up Post - Week 2 - May 31 to June 6

Aside from our regular twice a day visits, this week was all about waiting for June 5,which is Gotcha Day. Kat and her daughter Jia started counting them by the number of "sleeps" for each night that we would have to spend before the date we bust the little munchkins out. We originally thought that we were going to be able to take them out of the orphanage on June 2, but as the date drew near, Saule told us that the Tatiana wasn't comfortable letting them go before the official 30 days of the wait period. Saule said something about Tatiana being afraid to be responsible to the government of Kyrgyzstan if something happened on those days that we would have had the kids off the record. We were disappointed but then again, as I have written before, when in Kyrgyzstan, one has to learn to be flexible with expectations. I guess the good part about this is that Bill will be there for Gotcha Day. I know he was a bummed when we thought he was going to miss it because his flight didn't get it until the 4th.

Oh yeah, the 30 days... Let's just talk about that for a minute. That 30 days was happening unbeknownst to us. We were holding our breath for May 28, which was the date we were last told everything would be final. We thought court was happening on that date and that the judge has waived the 30 days that is customarily imposed. When we called Saule on May 28, Karen and I were met with a surprised response as to why we were calling about court. Saule acted as if May 28 was something we dreamt up. She says there is no court on May 28. Court was done as of May 6. How on earth could we have missed that?? Oh yeah, could it be that this information was never mentioned to us beforehand?

That afternoon Karen and I sat around the apartment during our break between the morning and afternoon visits and suddenly, she perked up her head from our laptop and said, "you know what this means right? They are ours." We both realized the implication of that conversation with Saule and after the irritated and stunned reaction on our parts about information that never jives, we realized the positive implication. Yes, we both kind of started to tear up at that point and wished we could have called Kat who was in transit at the time to let her know what we just found out. Other than the anticipation this huge event of a day, we managed to have some fun as well. We were allowed to visit the kids during the weekend so we were indeed happy about that.

On Saturday, May 31, Kat and Jia arrived and that brought a lot of excitement to the apartment as we now had a 3 year old in our midst. I took a chance and brought some bread for my toothless munchkin and he seemed to really enjoy himself gnawing on it. I was just afraid he was going to choke on it as the piece got smaller. This afternoon was also a first. Dylan sat up and balanced on his own hands without toppling forward or sideways. His back isn't quite upright yet and he seemed to have never sat up on his own before. As far as I am concerned this was progress.

We had lunch at the only restaurant in Tokmok where we actually can manage to order. Thanks to John, we had a translated menu. I tried Manty which are steamed large dumplings filled with ground meat and onions. I asked Vlady to surprise me and order me whatever he is eating. He ordered Manty for me but I think he may have ordered french fries for himself. Too bad we didn't bring our Heinz 57 ketchup with us.

About the Tokmok caregivers:

There is a caregiver named Rayhan who seem to make Dylan giggle instantaneiously. I can tell that he gets positive attention from her and that he really likes her. I can also tell that she is kind to him. Whenever she sees us during the visit, she stops and makes a face at Dylan and he just beams at her.

There is another caregiver there whose job it is to massage the babies. His name is Ulan and he asked Tatiana, the director if I would permit him to get a photograph of Dylan. He was the one who gave Dylan a massage last week. He seems to really like Dylan too. Basically just miming and pointing to words in my Russian phrase book, I gathered that he thought Dylan was doing well. I would later find out that he is going to be learning English in September so he was very eager to try and communicate with me. At the end of the week, we gave him a Russian-English dictionary to help him along. I also gave him the CD that contains the photo of Dylan and him that he requested. At first I was suspicious as to why hewould want a photo of Dylan. Julie suggested that he may have gotten attached to our little guy. He asked for the disc a few days ago but with all things that do not jive over here, I am suspicious of everything. What did I really think was going to happen anyway? I guess I am a bit paranoid. Anyway, Julie suggested that maybe it would make me feel better to give him the photo on the last day. I thought that was a great idea and did just that.

Overall, I want to write this so I can remember how kind the caregivers are in Dylan's group. I can't say that the caregivers from the other groups are also as kind. I have heard differently, so I feel very very fortunate to see that those who I did meet are wonderful. Of course, each one has a different personality, and handle my presence differently but when you looked at each one of them individually, there is nothing for me to complain about. One woman was out walking one of the infants around and saw me sitting on the wood benches along the inside wall of the play area. She offered me a pillow to sit on. Another time, there was a caregiver who sat and tried to talk with me a while while she was also out walking an infant around. I had my Russian book that was geared towards adoptive families and she and I went through a few pages of it with her reading the Russian words to me and teaching me how to pronounce things and then she would read the English and I would help her with it. We had a pretty good time. Yes, once in a while, they would come over to bust my chops about putting Dylan on the "cold" floor and taking sweaters, hats and socks off him, but they meant well. They believed that the wind caused the babies to get sick so even when it is 95 degrees out, Dylan would be dressed in 2 or 3 layers and when I got him to myself, I would peel of the layers and be on the lookout for the fashion police. At the end of the visits, I am constantly handing them random pieces of clothing that I had not managed to put back on him as our time together drew to a close. I am sure they think I am nuts but being that they asked me when I would be leaving with him, they probably let me be knowing that in a few days, I will be taking him out of there. But in all seriousness, he is so fortunate to have such loving caregivers. On Sunday, June 1, I got to feed Dylan some ice cream. While we were sitting around, someone came by with a huge bag full of individually wrapped ice cream and handed each one of us one for each of the babies. Dylan ate a little bit and then lost interest. It is vanilla with swirls of fruit flavoring. I ate the rest. It wasn't terrible but not great either. Today, he also learned the concept of holding his bottle also and he is starting to do assisted situps to get himself up. I got concerned when I noticed that he had marks on his skin that look like little boils. I think it may be scabies but I am not sure. I am paranoid after all that I have heard from other families. hope they are just insect bites or a rash.

Monday, June 2, was a really full day. The swing was a hit. One of Dylan's caregivers handed us a swing to attach to the door posts to the play area. Dylan was sleeping so Charlie took a turn on it first and loved it. When it was Dylan's turn. I didn't know how he would do since he can't sit up on his own very well. Apparently, even when he is leaned to one side, he can have a really good time anyway.

The afternoon was a bit more challenging. It seemed Dylan was not feeling well and kept fussing. He wouldn't really eat much of what I brought him. His nose was runny and he coughed some more. He also felt a bit hot to the touch. It was extremely frustrating to see this and not know how to hold him better. I sang to him and still he would not go to sleep nor stop being cranky. I just didn't really know what to do. It hurt me deeply to stand there holding him and not knowing how to make it better. I brought him back at 6 and he smiled at the caregiver. That stung in a big way and sent me over the edge crying. I feel like I have no business being Dylan's mother. I'm in over my head. I know this isn't true but it seems Dylan may be getting better care from the orphanage workers than me. This is just so out of my league. Kat, Karen and Ted were all very kind and tried to reassure me that I did great with Dylan. I just can't get over the fact that I can't help my little guy.

Kat and I made a salad and pasta dinner at the apartment and had Karen and gang over. It was great to have a real salad for a meal. Did I mention that we got a great big bag of fresh lettuce from John who also got it from someone else who had grown them from seeds? Once you go to Kyrgyzstan, you may understand my excitement over seeing this amount of fresh lettuce. We were eating the leaves like a snack.

I left the gang at around 7:30 to head over to John's for girl's night. I am supposed to teach and help these girls make some jewelry. It seems that the universe had plans for me when I decided to bring my old wire wrap and pearl jewelry with me to Kyrgyzstan for no other reason than perhaps I can use them there. What??? I haven't touched this stuff in at least 5 years and then I got a bug up my butt during packing and slipped them into one of the pockets of my suitcase. Julie thinks Jesus may have had something to do with it. I'm not the religious type but whatever it is, it was bizarre in a great way.

Girl's night at John and Julie's was a blast. Emma and Becka massaged the girl's feet and painted their nails. When I got there, Christina gave me a massage on my hands and back. It was very nice to have a little treat after a really tough day with Dylan. Jewelry making with the girls was a blast. Julie bought all these colored stone beads and we broke them apart and made earings and necklaces with them. John went to the bazaar earlier in the day to buy more needle nose pliers for the girls to use. Luba, one of the girls from the Orlofka Orphanage and Christina, one of the translators, also liked the eyeglass chains. I had to shorten one of them for Luba but I am glad I was able to do that because I know she is having a love/hate relationship with the idea of wearing glasses that she really needs. John made some fried calzones using the dough that they make the round nan bread out of around the corner. Then, he followed up with ice cream with custard and pound cake. He truly loves doing things for these children. Next, the girls got ready for bed, which in this case, is on the living room floor of John and Julie's place. A movie with the Rock was put on, dubbed in Russian. All the voices were dubbed by one guy and the delivery was monotonous. Bekah really didn't like it at all. I think it is just hilarious.

Jewelry Making 101 with the Orlofka Girls. We were all having a great time.

Tuesday, June 3, this morning Dylan wasn't in much better mood than yesterday afternoon. It seems he is still coughing and having a hard time in general. I am really worried. We were all playing on the floor on top of our blanket when Guljan asked Maria (Ellie's mommy )'s translator to tell me that he has a cough (no duh) and that he is on antibiotics and so I should not put him on the floor because he will get cold. It is 90 degress outside. Whatever. I said OK and picked him up. Only, that my back is hurting now and I realy needed a break. Plus, he didn't seem to want to be held much. So I laid him down on the changing table that had an activity center on top of it. He seemed ok for a little while and then started to fuss again and reached up to be held. I wish he would let me hold him lying down but he does not seem to like that at all. I also gave him a bottle of water and he seems to like it but doesn't know quite how to use it too well. I got his shirt wet. I put him in the swing and he calmed down a bit and fell asleep. I pulled him out and held him while he slept. When I dropped him off and laid him down on his crib, he started crying. I picked him up for a few seconds and he seemed to chlll out. I knew I had to go so I laid him down gently. He opened his eyes, saw me, smiled and reached out his arms. It just broke my heart that I couldn't pick him up. I started to walk away with tears streaming down my face and it seemed the poor guy is used to people walking away that he just sucked his thumb and tried to suckle himself to sleep. I never want to do that again. Soon, I won't have to.

This afternoon, I found Dylan asleep and in the same clothes from the morning. Same diapers too! I motioned to the caregiver that I wanted to change his diaper and she didn't seem to mind at all. So I used their changing table and changed the little booger. I am glad they have gotten so used to seeing me and have learned to just leave me be with the baby. As for Dylan himself, he seemed to be much worse. He is coughing more, listless, nose running and overall just not doing very well. His eyes were puffy and I was told later on that he cried and cried and cried after I left this morning and that is why his eyes are very puffy. This is so hard to know that he is sick and I am not sure what kind of medical care he is really getting.

At dinner, we again went to Megapolis (again) and tried a couple of new things. Pilmini which is like a tortellini stuffed with meat and swimming in what looks like butter. Also lamb and onions which was ok. The lamb is cooked with all the fat attached to it. While at dinner, I asked Tatyana, Vladi's wife who is a doctor, if she could take a look at Dylan on Thursday and she said she definitely would. I am so glad. I can get here to see him and then perhaps then call Dr. Bledsoe to see what she suggests.

Bill is getting in at 5:15 tomorrow. I can hardly wait. He will be so excited to see Dylan. I just wished the baby wasn't so ill right now. It will be very hard for Bill.

June 4, Wednesday was the day Bill finally got to see his little boy again. When we got to the orphanage, I went to see if either Tatiana or Guljan were around so I can let them know that Papa is finally here. I also needed to let them know that he will be visiting on his own this afternoon. I am going to Bishkek with the gang. We planned on going shopping and meet up with Saule to go over paperwork.

It was very cool to see dad with Dylan. Bill looked overwhelmed (probably more from jetlag as well) but very happy to hold our little guy in his arms. Dylan still looks small when Bill holds him.

This afternoon, we rented a bus to take us to Bishkek. Acel also came along to translate for us and thank goodness for her kindness. If I hadn't mentioned it before, she is one of my favorite people in Kyrgyzstan. There is a photo of 2 girls from my "continued" catch up post from the previous week. Acel is the mother to those 2 girls. Vlady was originally going to come with us to Bishkek and I was going to make Bill take a cab to the orphanage that afternoon. John called Acel the night before to see if she can come with us to Bishkek so that Vlady can stay in Tokmok to drive Bill to the orphanage and the bazaar if he wished. I was so happy when she agreed.

The trip to Bishkek was good. We were a little pressed for time because we needed to have lunch and then meet Saule at her office to go over paperwork. So after a hurried lunch at Fat Boys, we headed over to meet with Saule. She had us come to a building where there was space for her to use to conduct meetings. I guess she used to work for the people who still lets her use the space whenever she needs. Relationships go a long way in this country.

As soon as we parked and opened the door of the bus, a pregnant lady approached trying to sell some beaded jewelry. Mostly, she was begging for money. She was very insistent and you can tell that she is very poor. She would not take no for an answer. Acel kept telling her "Nyet" and something else and we also kept saying no. I am glad for that because I was tempted just to give her some soms but later found out that this is an organized thing. These ladies work for a pimp who controls all who beg within a certain area. Whatever they get, these pimps end up with most of the money.

We spent some time at the bazaar trying to get some stuff for the munchkins. Acel translated and bargained for us so it was quite a productive time. We didn't get a chance to spend a lot of time at the Tsum but we managed to get a couple of things before the 3 year olds could no longer handle the stimulation and we decided to call it a day, though not before we got 4 kilos of candy and 3 cakes to bring for Gotcha Day tomorrow. We got home so late that I thought Bill would be upset at me for coming back so late, especially because we hadn't seen each other in 2 weeks. But when I got to the apartment, he was fast asleep. And speaking of sleep, one more "sleep" and we get our babies.

Thursday, June 5, GOTCHA DAY! Today is one off the happiest days in our married life as it is the day that has been eluding us for the past severla months. It is finally Gotcha Day. We got to the orphanage today and Guljan brought out the log to sign Dylan out of the orphanage, both Bill and I teared up as we signed the log for Dylan. Saule was running late so in the meantime Guljan talked a bit about his bronchitis and his eating schedule before she had to kick us out so she cold have a meeting with her staff.

Vlady and his wife Tatyana were there with us so we understood most of what was said. It was kind of Tatyana to show up to look at Dylan because I had mentioned to her that he needed some medical care for his coughing. When Vlady showed up to pick us up and she was there with him, I realized that she has taken time out of her day to go with us to the orphanage so that she can take a look at him and then ask them questions if need be. When we got there, she saw Guljan and they started talking. They were friends from the old days. I think she said from medical school. How cool is that?

We went in to where Dylan was and Bill grabbed Dylan as I peeled his name tags from his towel cubby and his crib. We had to hang out and wait for Saule to finish talking to staff about other kids. Finally, we took pictures with Guljan and Saule and crossed the gates of the Tokmok Baby House to the outside world carrying our kids. It was surreal but a moment I had envisioned for the past 2 weeks. It finally happened! We hopped into Vlady's car and I wondered how he would react being in the car. He was looking around with his big brown eyes and never cried once. What an amazing little creature.

This is me walking out the orphanage gate with Dylan in my arms. Yeah!!

Our gang plus Guljan, the assistant director.

We then went to where Ted and Karen were staying so Saule could talk to us about the next steps which is the trip to Kazakhstan to go the the U.S. Embassy. Bill took Dylan upstairs away from all the noise because he was getting tired by now. This was his first nap away from the orphanage. Bill said that when he woke up he was uncertain about here he was for a second, then he turned around and saw Dad laying next to him. Bill smiled and said,”hi”, and he beamed a big smile. This, we will find is a typical Dylan wake up, he wakes up in a good mood.

Bill and I fed him rice cereal with bananas s soon as we got back to the apartment and let him have water because it's so hot here. Then a few hours later he drank 8 oz of formula. A few hours after that we gave him 4 more oz of formula. We took him to visit the Wright family and while we were there he had major blowouts. No matter what anyone tells you, projectile poop isn't very much fun at all. It is downright nasty. Bonus points if it lands on mommy. We took him back to the apartment instead of going out to dinner with everyone else. We took the opportunity to test out the SnuggleTub. Dylan seems to like baths. He was amazed at first and not certain of what was going on. But as with everything else he was very cool with it and seemed to enjoy it as well. I think he just likes the attention.

We had celebratory cake after everyone came back from dinner. The Wrights came over and celebrated with us. It was cool to feel like you are among family even so far away from home.

This has been a big day for us – we are a bit overwhelmed but every minute we spend with our little guy makes us fall in love with him over and over again – all day.

Oh and today we found out just how much Dylan digs his own reflection in th mirror. He can be entertained for hours just watching his own reflection.

Friday, June 6 is our first day with Dylan after Gotcha Day. We are learning so much about him each minute. Last night we put Dylan on the floor on some mattresses and pillows so that he doesn't fall off the bed. This kid only woke up once during the night and we fed him 4 ounces of formula. He was asleep until 6 am. He was also happy all day until about 6 pm when we had our first serious meltdown. I think it is because we fed him too little food at 3 pm. We only gave him a small cup of rice cereal mixed in with some powdered formula and by 6:30, he was a different baby. He was screaming uncontrollably. Neither Billy or I could comfort him. Kat thought we could give him teething pills. That didn't help. We also gave him some Mylicon drops but I am uncertain if that helped at all. We were finally able to give him enough formula between screams to successfully fill his little tummy. Then in a few minutes, happy baby once more, as if absolutely nothing happened.

This morning, we also saw Dr. Tatyana, Vlady's wife. She checked out both Dylan and Charlie because both these boys were having blow outs and Dylan is still coughing. She prescribed some electrolytes, some other capsules that needed to be mixed in with formula and another type of powder that is supposed to help calm the diarrhea. The most interesting part of this is the salve that I am supposed to make using honey, alcohol, some other bottle of something, and lamb fat. I have tried all the others except the salve. I think Bill will have to go with Vlady to get this lamb fat tomorrow. Nevertheless, Dr. Tatiana gave us a bottle of Vlady's honey to use. I want to try and use it for cooking if nothing else as I have heard of nothing but good things about this honey. Also, Vlady seems to get stung by bees a lot when he goes to the mountains. I wouldn't think of wasting a drop. He says he sleeps really well when he gets stung. He reassured me that he was not allergic. OK.

Lastly, I had an opportunity to play dress up. Thanks to the Wrights for egging me on.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Catch-up Post - Week 1 - continued

I completely forgot to post about a couple of the memorable experiences from this week, along with some interesting photos.

On Tuesday evening, after the orphanage visit, we were invited to join the Wrights in their weekly routine of cooking for and spending time with the Tokmok orphanage children. This is the other Tokmok orphanage where the babies go after they turn 4. It is about a block from the baby house.

John made hamburgers and salad for the kids and brought them there already cooked. The orphanage has a kitchen but during this week (it would later change), electricity goes out at 11 am and comes back on at 3 pm at our apartment complex. Other areas may experience a different outage pattern. I am not sure how it works exactly, only that John said that when enough people don't pay their bills on time, the neighborhood or the complex that shares that same power grid gets shut off. Imagine that. Nevertheless, this is the reason John cooks everything at home in the afternoon and brings everything over to the orphanage ready to serve.

When Karen and I got there shortly after 6 pm, we were met at the gate by 2 lovely girls. One of them looks to be about 12 or so and the other one younger. I later found out the older girl is one of the 2 Nastia's who live in the orphanage. She was going to be adopted very soon and is going to the U.S. I can't recall the younger girl's name but they each said "hello" and each took our hands and led us to the room where everyone was starting to get seated at the long table in the room where dinner was to be served. They made some room for us and brought another couple of chairs and soon, we were just part of the gang of diners filling our hungry tummies with the yummy food John made.

Some of the kids had 2 or 3 hamburgers. They had such hearty appetites. While at first pass I couldn't imagine that their little tummies can hold that much food, I later realized that this treat doesn't come along all the time so they are definitely taking advantage of this when they can. I can't say I blame them. John seems to know this and has made more than enough food for everyone. They also enjoy the soda's quite a bit.

The one thing that I did take notice is that John is standing inside the kitchen serving the meals over the little window that resembles that of a drive-through fast food joint. He looks like he is working very hard. Along with the sweat on his forhead was the joy on his face. That was another priceless moment for me. At the table, Julie and the girls were having a great time interacting with the munchkins. We talked about what came after dinner, a fun game of baseball, ok, more like whiffle ball, but the kids don't know that.

I met the director of the orphanage, and her assistant. Through Natalia or Natasha (I still can't recall what she prefers to be called), Jayne's translator, I got to converse with her a little bit and tell her about our journey to Kyrgyzstan to bring home our little boy. I found out that her niece has been to the U.S. and said she liked it here a lot. I also got to learn a little bit about some of these children and what life is like for them. I saw where some of them slept and some of the art projects they get to do and display on the board. I also realize that many, if not most of them will live there until the system no longer allows them to do so. I believe that age is 16. I went home that night and couldn't quite wrap my head around the day's experience. I just had to let it be.

On Thursday, I got to tag along and go for an afternoon outing with the kids from the Orlofka orphanage. The Wrights were taking them to the Burana Tower and the mountains and Karen and I had the wonderful opportunity of joining them. We hopped on Izar's bus along with John, Julie, Sergei, Anya, David, Jayne, Natalia, Christina, Acel and her gorgeous daughters Melody and Davina.

Here are Melody and Davina, the 2 cutest girls in Kyrgyzstan. Did I mention that Melody translates Russian and Kyrgyz to English and vise versa? If you can speak 5 year old, she can translate.

At the Burana Tower, we met up with the Orlofka kids who arrived in their own bus accompanied by the Wright girls, Emma and Bekah. When their bus pulled up, one by one, a kid emerged from the door. The bus wasn't very big so when kid after kid filed out I wondered how many they can squeeze in there. After a short water break we all headed for the tower.

The Burana Tower is a very historic site. The tower itself is a lookout post. What you see now is not the complete tower. The top portion has been destroyed over time. Within the city walls used to coexist peoples of 4 different religions, fire worshippers, Christians, Moslem, and Buddhists. There were no signs that they had any kind of conflict. Their city was right on the Silk road. When Genghis Khan showed up to pillage, he encountered the walls around this city and chose not to go through. He went around and the citizens of Burana were never touched by the conquest.

Here is how you get to the top of the tower. The light on this photo came predominantly from the flash bulb on my camera. It was close to pitch dark for most of the climb. Once in a while you get to a spot where there is a lookout hole and a little bit of light is coming through. The steps are also not the average height you would expect. They are about knee height. The kids with their short legs were working very hard. So were the out-of-shape adults like me.

Here is a 360 degree view from the top of the Burana Tower:

The Burana Tower Museum

The Museum Store

A spectacular view of the tower and the surrounding mountains.

The gravestones at Burana

After this, we headed to the mountains, about 45 minutes away, had it not been that Ezar's bus broke down due to some kind of radiator leak. Half of the kids stayed and half the adults went on the first trip. Julie asked me to go with Sergei and some of the older kids so that we would have some supervision if some of them wanted to hike up to the top of the waterfall. So, I transferred over to the other bus and off we went.

Here are a some of the kids on the bus.

Not 20 minutes later, this bus also broke down. There is no cell phone service here and we were a bit too far away from the other bus to hoof it back. I wondered what would happen next. Fortunately, the driver said it was only a transmission problem. Only? What? Is he kidding? So then, he also said he can fix it, which to his credit, he actually did.

The way up to the falls is this beautiful drive along a small river. Cattle and horses can be seen along the road and coralled within some of the properties. The river was not quite big enough to raft on but it was just gorgeous white water and what seemed like layers of mountains. The mountains in front of you were lush and green, marijuana being one among other native foliage. At the farthest of the layers were tall snowcapped mountains. I recall it being this type of layered look no matter from where I saw them. It was breathtaking to say the least. It would have also made a great camping spot. All it needed were some trash bins. They were nowhere to be seen, but it was evidently needed judging from the garbage left behind by other visitors.

When we got there, Vlady and Tatyana, his wife were already there starting the coals for the shashleek. They also had their family samover already going. It was great to see him there, a familiar face. I was introduced to Tatyana and spent a few minutes speaking with her. At that moment, I did not know how much I would end up appreciating and liking this woman over the course of the month. I just knew that the conversation was pleasant and she is a very warm and gracious human being.

I went with Sergei and 3 other boys to the top of the waterfall. It wasn't that long a hike but it just went at a constant pitch up. After you crossed the stream (which is actually the top of the waterfall) it kept going up some more and the terrain becomes dirt instead of rocks. It only went up another few minutes and the trail ended at a small cave. Of course, the way down is much harder that the way up. I took my time because I didn't want to die on an outing on my son's pick up trip. I made it down ok and John and Julie got there soon after with the other van. The van seemed to have gotten fixed.

John set up a flushing porta pottie in a tent and that seemed to be a novelty with the kids. I helped fill a couple of jugs of water with a very cute boy name Akibek and brought it back to John to use as toilet flushing water. In my view of things, bushes would have worked great too, but I get it. If you have such a fancy porta pottie as such, why settle for bushes?

Vlady made his special tea using his family's samovar that is generations old. It is a brass pot that has an inner chamber where you lite some wood to keep the water hot. The water chamber actually wraps around the inner chamber. There is a spout at the bottom for dispensing the hot water. You mix that in with the tea that has been premade and is in concentrated form and you have a very wonderful tasting tea. I later also found out that the fragrance comes from some plants or herbs that Vlady gathers up from around the area when he gets there. I'm glad he knows what he is harvesting. I would have either poisoned myself and many others, or perhaps caused some interesting hallucinations, had this job been left to me.

The feast with shasleek then ensued. Shashleek is basically a Kyrgyz kabob, skewered with oil dip sticks. I believe we had beef shashleek, with a piece of fat on every stick. Yummmm... Yes indeed, these dip sticks work beautifully as skewers.

The mat was laid out, the bread broken up and spread around. There were onions, tomatoes and vinegar dressing, as well as a bunch of cookies in the shape of cell phones and fans that the kids enjoyed with pop and the adults with Vlady's tea.
The way I was told to eat shashleek was actually to tear the bread in the middle to make a like a pita pocket and then you stuff it with onions and tomatoes. Then you took the skewered meat and wrapped the bread around it. You grab on and slide the skewer out and voila, a sandwich. You then sprinkle some vinegar onto the meat and you have a beautiful shasleek sandwich to enjoy.

The way the kids devoured the food was fun to watch. It was more like a feeding frenzy. I love when people love food. It was great fun to watch.

The afternoon spent with John, Julie and the kids were nothing short of amazing. I missed Dylan tremendously but it was well worth the break. The Wright family is simply undescribable. I don't know anyone who has bigger hearts than this family and I feel so very very very fortunate to have met them and spend time with them.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Catch Up Post – Wk 1 – May 23 to May 30

I am finally home and have time and a consistent internet connection for some catch up posts.

I left for Bishkek on May 23 and after a small luggage fiasco that cost an extra $100 and a very uncomfortable stint at the Moscow Airport, I finally arrive in Bishkek. I was very very relieved that as soon as I came out of the baggage area, all bags with me, I saw smiling faces waiting for me. Karen who was to be my roomie for the next 2 weeks, and those of John and Julie Wright. I have never met these folks in person, but I immediately felt the warmth and familiarity. Because they were there, I also didn't have to deal with the pushy cab drivers.

We head out to Tokmok and find out that we are going to be living in what equates to a penthouse apartment in Beverly Hills in Kyrgyz standard. We are on the 4th floor and have a great view of the mountains from our bedrooms. We also have hot water, a flusing toilet, a laundry washer and a full kitchen. This is a nice home away from home.

After a gourmet hearty breakfast complements of John, we found out that the director at the baby house was not around since it was a Sunday. Because of that we couldn't see the babies. Instead John showed us some local sights and we head out to the bazaar for some shopping and local culture.

The bazaar was a blast, even to overwhelmed and tired travelers. The colors and the energy were spectacular. There were rows of spices, produce, candy, cookies, houseware, babyware, live plants, animals, bread, You name it, you will likely find it at the bazaar. There were also carts scattered around the bazaar that offered frying food, choro (the local drink). There were people on foot, on bikes on some motorized bikes that of some sort that pulled carts of stuff around and just an all over buzz of energy. All this was happening even around closing time at the Tokmok bazaar.

The following day was a BIG day for both Karen and me. John arranged to have Vlady, the husband of the local doctor, Tatyana to drive us around for the week. We are going to repeatedly be grateful for Vlady's help for the next few weeks. When we finally got to the baby house at 10, Saule our coordinator was there waiting for us and talking with the other Tatiana, the orphanage director. After what we have endearingly called “how's your mama”'s with Tatiana and Saule, we finally got to see our babies again for the first time in months. I had butterflies in my stomach but it was soon gone after they handed Dylan to me. Then I couldn't stop the tears from coming. He looked so much bigger than when we held him in December. He was still very cute and easy to smile. I fell in love all over again.

The Tokmok orphanage is a gated complex with several separate buildings one each side of the main path. Dylan's group was the first building on the right as you entered the property.

Dylan is just adorable. He is all smiles and giggles, a totally happy little guy, that is until he sees a camera. Then, he gets the stunned look on his face. He makes raspberry noises and bubbles with his mouth when he doesn't have his hand in it. He smiles back at you when you make funny noises to him and kiss his cheeks and tummy. He also likes to be held up in the air. It was unbelievable how totally all smiles this munchkin is. He only got fussy if you didn't move around with him after a few minutes.

The rest of the week was all about coming to visit twice a day. By Day 4 it just broke my heart to put him down on his crib before I left for the morning or for the evening. I just couldn't wait until we get to walk through the orphanage gate with him in our arms.

As for the visits themselves, I would get there around 10 am and he would either be getting disposable diapers put on him or he would already have one one because the caregivers were expecting me to show up. At 12 noon, I would have to bring him back for feeding time. They fed the babies some kind of rice porridge with bread broken up into the bowl and then some ground meat is also added to it. They are also given cups that had either water or black tea in them. They would sit Dylan on the chair with his arms also pinned to his side and then tilt his head back and shovel the food down his throat. I tried to do this for a couple of days as the caregivers thought I would like to do feed my child. I can tell he didn't like this at all. I could not stand the force feeding ritual and I would purposely leave before the food was ready. I simply refused to have Dylan associate me with this negative ritual. We were allowed to come back at 4 pm to 6 pm to visit again. At the end of this visit, they would also let me feed him a bottle. I liked that much better and would stay to enjoy this special time with him.

As for the Tokmok life, life is definitely interesting. At first, I was looking for what is different to life at home. After a short while, it became about what couple of things are similar because the truth is that most things are so different.

There are herds of cows crossing, or more like walking the roads. They do this 2x a day, once in the morning to pasture and then back home in the afternoon. There is a shepherd who takes everyone's milk cows for a fee. It's a lot like dog walkers an paper delivery combined. On the way back, the cows just drop off as they get to their houses and I suppose at the end of the route, the shepherd is left with no cows but his own (if he has one).

There are grocery stores and smaller neighborhood stores where one can pretty much get whatever they want. Nothing too unusual aside from the actual local foods we aren't used to seeing. The challenge is finding the items you need all in one store. It isn't unusual to go to 3 different stores on a small errand to find a couple of household items.

Toilet paper is an interesting commodity. The local toilet paper comes in quite interesting colors and has the texture of the crepe paper streamers we use to decorate our kids' birthday parties. I can't imagine wiping my delicate behind with it, so we usually opted for the more expensive kind in white that came in 4 and 8 ply. OK, we never bought the 8-ply. I just couldn't imagine needing 8-ply either.

Toilet paper is quite expensive, compared to how cheap everything else is. We got a package of a dozen small rolls for $7 while you can eat at the town's finest restaurant Megapolis for 120 soms including tip. That is $3.50. John described the place as M&M for Missionaries and Mafia as those are the only people who can afford to eat there.

The cars on the road actually aim for you as you walk around town. Yes, do not assume they will not hit you in order to avoid a pothole. if the sidewalk has smoother pavement, then they will get first dibs on it. If you see a car coming at you, go into the nearest pothole to avoid being the next road kill.

Manhole covers are practically non-existent as they are stolen and sold for the metal. This is same with swings at children's parks. The only one that still has swings on them are the ones where a security guard is paid to watch the place.

Outside our apartment complex is our dump. We don't have a view of it but when we visit with the Wrights, we get to witness the sad reality. There are people rummaging through the dump. They look for food to supplement their diet. Some of these people aren't homeless Rather, they do not make enough money to feed themselves. It is a reality check for spoiled Americans such as myself. I am definitely more thankful for my life the the things I take forgranted.

Overall this week was full of ... well, ... everything. It was just full and I am appreciative of the opportunity for this experience.