Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Dylan

Dylan celebrated his first birthday today. Bill and I are so ecstatic to be celebrating his big day with him as a family.

However, I can't help but feel a nagging ache in my heart for his birthmother. Was she thinking about him? Was she sad she couldn't hold him and celebrate with him? I don't think she knows where he ended up so she probably doesn't have a clue where this wonderful boy is now and how big he has gotten. She doesn't know how smart he is and that his first sign language is to show you where his tummy is. She doesn't know that he eats like a champ and that he is almost standing, and how he just delights everyone he meets, and how he loves the water. I just wish I could let her know somehow that he is with us and he is happy and growing well and most importantly, he is loved by so many, most of all by his new mommy and daddy.

As for celebrating, we are having a real party for him this Saturday. Since today is the actual day, we had to have a private celebration as well. We thought we would give him cake first, just a little bit, and then feed him dinner. 10 minutes later, I am mesmerized by Dylan devouring the cake that I can't put my camera down to actually take the cake away.

When we finally cut him off the sugar binge, he proceeded to eat his regular dinner of sweet potatoes, green beans and meatballs. After all, it probably tasted so good with all the frosting on them.


This is how it happened. We think he had a blast. What do you think?

















We thought we were going to be screwed for sure. He will never go to sleep, but it turned out that isn't the case. We had to try a couple of times because he got startled by a fire engine siren the first time (oh the joys of living across the street from the fire department), but he went to sleep without any issues. I just can't help but feel so fortunate that Dylan seems very well adjusted, bonded and happy. Tonight, I sat on our rocker with the lights turned down and he laid in my arms, sucked his thumb and held my hand in his other one while he rubbed it lightly over his cheek and looked up at my face. It was so precious, filled with so much understanding (much as can be expected from a one year old anyway) that he is where he belongs, and that this, we, are his home. I thought my heart was going to explode with joy.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Bad Cold, Double Ear Infection, Rashes, and 2 New Teeth



In the last 3 weeks, Dylan has suffered a long resilient cold, a double ear infection, rashes on his palms and knees, and 2 new upper teeth. And he managed to learn to crawl on hands and knees overnight.

We drove to L.A. for my sister's bridal shower last week and got in at 1 am on Friday. We hoped Dylan would stay asleep in the car for the entire ride but we had no such luck. Instead he woke up 2 hours before we got there. As soon as we got to my parents' house, he decided he was ready to actually crawl instead of slither. All this at 1 am. Wide awake and crawling and happy as a clam (how happy are clams and why?) Who would have thought?


video

Well, the cold that he has had for a couple of weeks turned into a double ear infection, much to our dismay. He tried so hard to be his happy self but with the fever and the earache, he was a little cranky on Saturday and extremely cranky on Sunday. He also developed a rash on his knees and palms. We think he may be allergic to the Persian rugs at my parents' house, but who knows?? The advise nurse says that if he was allergic we would know because he would itch. There were no signs of any itching. She also said some viruses that cause ear infections also produce rashes. I suppose we'll find out next time he crawls on those rugs.

Don't get me wrong, Dylan managed to have himself a wonderful time. He got to go swimming in an 85 degree pool, got a bunch of attention, new toys, new clothes and got fed incessantly. The Motrins and Tylenols didn't hurt either.




The good news is that all is better now that the meds have kicked in, just in time for his birthday tomorrow. I can't believe he is going to be one. I sort of want to suspend time right here. Since that is crazy talk, I'll just take loads of photos so I can remember these days.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Catch Up Post - Week 4 - June 14 to June 21

Saturday June 14th - 6 sleeps and a plane ride

Dylan doesn’t seem to be better. He also now doesn’t want his bottle. I came back from shopping with Kat and Jia, and Bill hadn’t been able to get Dylan to drink his fluids. I may be overreacting but the doctor with whom we spoke specifically said to feed him 6 to 8 full 8-oz. bottles of formula plus electrolytes in between. It seems like a lot and Ted thinks the doctor is being very extreme. Maybe so but what other info do I have to go by? Dylan just doesn’t hold on to his fluids. He poops liquid while he eats. It’s not even disgusting anymore. It doesn’t even smell like poop. It’s like his body doesn’t process it correctly so it just comes right out. His bootie is very raw and sore. We have been using the Boudreaux’s Butt Paste and Desitin but from the amount of times it gets wiped and soaked, it’s just not keeping up very well. I am only assuming he has lost some weight. He seems to also want to sleep more. Not good…. But we keep pushing him to take a few ounces here and there and he somehow gets a good amount into him.

Additionally, Bill and I have been sleep deprived from having to feed him and change him. So I am probably emotionally worn out and blowing this out of proportion. I am also concerned that he isn’t peeing and the doctor said that this was critical that we find out. It is super hard to tell when it is with all the other stuff in his diaper. She told me to attach a plastic bag to his boy parts so I can see how much he pees. We tried different methods but none of it was very successful. We tried putting him in the inflatable baby bath without any diapers so we can see it when he pees or poos. Poor guy was just too uncomfortable after the novelty of an inflatable barca lounger wore off. We tried cutting a small piece of plastic and attaching it by tying a little knot. That didn’t work either. Plus Bill was really concerned that it will cut off circulation to his boy parts. Actually, he was a bit more than just “concerned”. At 4 or 5 in the morning, we were totally exhausted and lightheaded and Dylan wasn’t liking it much. If I was woken up several times throughout the night to change diapers and rig my privates with with all sorts of crazy things, I’d be just as cranky.. I just wish he was more stable before we take him on another hard travel to Almaty.

So today, we started getting our stuff packed. We have until tomorrow night to finish packing. I can’t believe how much stuff we have accumulated in the apartment in a month. It will be quite a challenge to leave this place the way we found it.

Saule was supposed to come either yesterday or today with the driver so that she can introduce him to us and figure out where our apartment is. She isn’t going to be with him when he picks us up. However, as of tonight, there was no sign of her. She hasn’t tried to contact us letting us know when she is coming. I doubt she’ll actually be able to pull this off. She is very busy. However, I wonder how the driver will know where we are.

Tonight, everyone went to Mega-polis but Dylan and me. We had a really great time together. He was a happy boy tonight. I think giving him more food and electrolytes could finally be working. He and I just hung out on the floor or played upside down games and tossing him in the air. We even watched some of Seas of Life on the computer. He also pooped some and pee'd which made me extremely happy. It feels like Dylan is starting to get well again. I hope so. He's been through a lot already.


Sunday June 15th – Happy First Father’s Day to Bill - 5 sleeps and a plane ride

Today is my Bill’s first Father's Day. Cool. I was going to make him breakfast but the stomach bug has been going around in our apartment and the only things he has been consuming are electrolytes, bananas and bread. I am the only one who has not been touched by it. Therefore, no breakfast celebration, just greetings. It was nice nevertheless. I was only a little bit envious that we weren’t in this situation on Mother’s Day.

Dylan saved his blowout until this morning- I was checking all night. Bill was scratching mosquito bites. It is funny that our existence is centered around this little guy's bowel movements. As Bill says, his life was full of shit before he got sober, now it's full of shit again but it's cute little baby shit. Well, maybe not cute. The baby is cute, the shit is like some kind of nuclear waste, almost odorless but nasty nevertheless.

We are packing to go to Almaty. It is incredible how many diapers we are planning to bring. It just doesn’t seem real. For a 2 day trip, we are planning at least 40 diapers, and we’ll probably need more. I’ve gone out and hunted down “pampers” at every drug store on the main drag. I am paranoid that we don't have enough diapers for his blowouts. I went to several drug stores today and found one where there was still a whole package instead of just a part of one (people here buy them several pieces at a time because they are expensive in Kyrgyz standards). The whole package cost 1200 som and since we have been trying to get rid of our soms before we head home, I didn't have enough to buy the entire bag. I managed to tell the lady to pull out a few because I was short a few soms. Diapers - $1200 soms, useless Russian phrasebook - $7, communicating via calculator and paper and saying things louder to each other in languages neither party understands – PRICELESS. Diapers that ended up being too big for Dylan, …I am speechless at my blunder.

Saule called this afternoon to ask us for our address so that the driver can find us in a few hours when he comes. I have no idea what the actual address is. I could have probably given her directions from the big Tokmok roundabout but with Saule’s comprehension of English and my lack of any other way to tell her, it would have been impossible. She suggested I call Vlady and give him her number and that is what I did. I hope they got a hold of each other.

Dylan is still coughing and has a rattle in his chest. He sounds like a pug. It is quite funny, not funny that he has a cough but that he sounds like a pug. Thank goodness his eyes don't bug out and that he actually has a chin. We can endearingly call him our little “puglet”.

It seems a little sad to be preparing to pack up and go for good, but I am ready. I am grateful for the company I have had this past month. I feel like we are forever indebted to the Wrights for their support, kindness and everything in between. I have never met people as nice as this family. I am also grateful that the Danners and Kat and company are all here. It makes things easier and feels a bit more like home to have familiar people. It is weird that we have never met yet it has been comfortable living with these folks. This journey has been full of lessons, about people, about Kyrgyzstan, and mostly about love.

OK – I just had to include this paragraph. Bill actually wrote this one. It’s kind of like the Saturday Night Live skit a few years ago called “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy”.

“I used 5oz of formula to mix a big bowl of rice cereal and Dylan ate most of it. I hoping that helps alleviate his butt-squirts. I am wondering how much of his mix is baby-butt-paste and pee which makes it less pasty”.

Today we also had a funny but kind of scary thing happen. A constable showed up at the door wanting to see everyone's passports. We had no idea what for and there was no way in hell I was going to give this man my passport. He spoke no English either so it was hard to tell what he actually wanted. So what do we do? We call John Wright who came over right away and called someone named Olga who talked to the constable. We found out later that Olga is John's ace in the hole – she's the president’s secretary. So the constable left assured that we are just fine and not to bother us. Apparently we needed to register with the local police department because we are on an extended stay, and we did not do that. Hmm, I thought that is what our visas were for.
The bus is supposed to pick us up at 2am to travel to the border, drop us off at the border for all of us to walk through – then pick us up on the other side. Then, on to Almaty and straight to the clinic. Saule is going to the embassy for us on the first day. The second day we go to the embassy and straight to the medical checkout office then to the swearing thing and done. We plan on having a good-bye dinner with the Danners on Tuesday night – stay one more night in Almaty then back to Tokmok. We’ll have Wednesday night and Thursday to pack. Then Friday at 2am we get on a bus too the airport to go home. Why are we always traveling like a pack of thieves?

On a fun note, Dylan was particularly happy today. There was very little fussing and crying and he seemed to discover that sticking his tongue out is a lot of fun. He laughed a lot with us and by himself. It seems little bubber is feeling a lot better. I am hoping this is the real Dylan. He was so much fun to hang out with today.

I am wondering how I can get Dylan to have some kind of Kyrgyz language immersion. When I was visiting John today, or more like asking for another favor yet again, we joked around having Acel tutor Dylan over the phone. In actuality, I think this isn't a half bad idea. Maybe once a week over Skype for an hour of Auntie Acel talking to Dylan in Kyrgyz. We will pay Acel a fee of course. I hope this idea turns into something. It would be awesome to have Dylan speaking in Kyrgyz.

I was motivated to try and remember some interesting things about Kyrgyzstan so here they are. I am sure there are more but if they were that interesting, maybe I will remember them again one day:
  • No ziploc baggies can be found anywhere (what do potheads do?)
  • Most people still use outhouses, even if there is running water inside the house.
  • Charo (pronounced sha-ro) tastes like salty spit.
  • Shashleek is grilled meat skewered with oil dip sticks and sold on the side of the road, sometimes in yurts
  • There is Kyrgyz time and then there is German time. Kyrgyz time is whenever and German time is right on the dot (Vlady observes German time, we in the apartment are on Kyrgyz time)
  • There are many different nationalities here: Kyrgyz, Russians, Uzbeks, Dugans Turks, Tatars to name a few. As a result, there are also lots of different looks.
  • During harsh winters, people are so poor, they have to let their dogs loose so that they have one less mouth to feed.
  • Kazakhs cross the border to shop in the Tokmok bazaar because it is cheaper to do so. Double edged sword for the Kyrgyz people. On one hand, there is more sales to be made but on the other hand, it seems like this is a form of rape on Kyrgyzstan.
  • Lots and lots of stuff here are made in China and are VERY poor quality.
  • Marijuana grows wild so you see it everywhere.
  • During the Soviet era, there was a major airbase in Tokmok. Therefore, foreigners were not allowed into Kyrgyzstan for military reasons.
  • The orphanage workers believe that wind is bad for the children. This is likely why the babies are bundled in winter clothes even in the midst of summer.
  • Most cabs do not have handles on the rear windows of their cars. They take them off and put them in the glove box on purpose. They do not think they need to roll these windows down. Remember, wind is bad.
  • Most cars here are imported from Japan or Germany.
  • The Kyrgyz government sold their gold mining rights to Canada for virtually no money. They have lots of gold but cannot make a living off them.
  • Most of the people we have encountered in Tokmok are nice. They have good spirits and you don't blatantly feel like you are getting ripped off.

Monday June 16th - 4 sleeps and a plane ride

The bus picked us up at 1:30 am instead of 2 as was planned. That actually annoyed me because I wasn’t completely ready to go. When I got downstairs with Dylan in my arms in our pitch black stairwell, I saw that Vlady was also outside waiting for us. I was perplexed for a second but realized that he got up to meet our driver to ensure that the driver didn’t get lost trying to find our apartment. Did I mention in previous posts what an awesome man Vlady is? I just had to hug him once again.

We rode on the bumpy Kyrgyz roads for about 45 minutes, and the driver pulls over across the street from a dance club that reminded me of those in Tijuana. We thought he was just out for a smoke break but he told Ted somehow that we would be there for at least 15 minutes. Apparently, this is where he meets and picks up Saule (about 4 km from the border) on these trips to Almaty. After Saule arrived, we continued on our journey. This whole time, I had to go to the bathroom really really bad, but unless I was willing to go to the dance club (and I wasn’t), I was going to have to squat on the side of the road and I wasn’t willing to do that there either as there are headlights coming on a regular basis. At home, I would have found my spot but not here. So I just had to suffer a bit more. Saule assured me there are bathrooms at the border.

When we got to the border, the first order of business was my bathroom break. The bathroom was closed. Instead Bill and I opted for the bushes, or more like behind some concrete barriers. So there, now I can say I peed on the side of the road at the Kyrgyz-Kazakh border.

Dylan and Bill sleeping in the back row of the bus.


Next, we all had to get out of the bus and go through the passport control. While we were waiting in line for the officer to look at our passports and issue the official stamps (yes they are all about these official stamps), our bus went through the vehicle inspection line. I think Bill saw dogs sniffing around. He was sure they would find our stash of Peet's coffee. It is funny that were concerned about that at 3 am at the Kazakh border but at the rate the guy in the booth was moving, you would think he was doing a thorough evaluation of someone's entire life. We had nothing but time. The kids seemed to all be dazed and half asleep, or in Dylan's case, out like a lightbulb inside the Ergo carrier that is strapped to me.

On the other side of the border, the road immediately got much better. The potholes were replaced with very nicely maintained highway. We drove as the sun was coming up and got to see the immediate disparity between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. There were nice modern structures and yurts like none I’ve seen in Bishkek and Tokmok. You can immediately tell that Kazakhstan has much more resources than Kyrgyzstan. It’s a much wealthier country. No wonder we are told how expensive things are in Almaty.

Here are a few photos from inside our bus. You may notice that there are a lot of new construction going on and the buildings and yurts are more updated and are bigger and nicer quality construction overall (at least from afar).




From the border onward, Dylan started having blow-outs. We went through 7 diapers in less than 20 minutes – he just kept pooping and the diapers kept leaking. It still is not settled – as we feed' he poops it out. I spent all day with him shoving fluids down his throat, cleaning his booty and changing diapers. We are all really exhausted because we got very little sleep and just haven't gotten the chance to get a little caught up. Poor Dylan is physically responding to having his world turned upside-down and the travel and turmoil wont stop for another week. I am afraid the poor boy will have poop issues until we can get home and settle his life so he can settle his stomach.

We got to Almaty about 9am. and went straight to the SOS International Clinic to get a checkup for the kids. Saule’s nephew Talhat met us there as well. I previously met when we went to Bishkek to fill out paperwork with Saule. The plan was that while we were getting the kiddos checked, Saule was to go to the U.S. Embassy with our passports. What none of the families realized was that the bus was going to leave with Saule without warning. We left most of the snacks and drinks for the kids there. I happened to bring a couple of small bags down with me because I was quite hungry at the moment we got there but other essentials were left there too.

At the clinic, they weighed and measured Dylan. The nurses took his temperature and pulse. Then the doctor (Irina Bol-- something--- eva), looked in his ears and his tongue and asked questions. I was afraid to tell her the truth about the diarrhea so I kind of played it lightly. I just didn't want them to keep him here longer or not release a clean bill of health for the embassy. Waiting aside, it literally took the clinic 10 minutes to check out this little guy and say he is healthy. What an expensive joke - $114 USD. Oh, and the “international” clinic only takes credit cards and Kazakh currency. Ha, this is definitely a lesson in how not to cater to an international clientèle.

We spent more time in the waiting room than actually getting examined. Dylan was having fun with the toys.
The doctor checking Dylan out and giving him a clean bill of health.


Mommy is happy this went smoothly and without any hassle.


The appointments for all 3 families were completed by 10:30 and we had a bunch of waiting to do out in front of the clinic. The day was turning out to be a scorcher and we tried to make the best of it by keeping each other company. We had no idea when Saule was coming back from the embassy but we hoped it would be very soon. It was about this time that Jia decided she was done and had her breakdown. Poor thing has been ripped out of the bed at 1:30 am, only to be put on a bumpy bus, and then out of the bus at the border, and then back on the strange bus, then woken up when we got to the clinic and expected to behave while her little brother gets checked out by the doctors. All this while her tummy wasn’t doing so well to begin with and her security a bit challenged by having a brand new baby brother. She is only 3 years old. I am 35 and I am about to have a tantrum myself. Yes, little girl – I want to go home too.

Waiting for Saule... the girls at least found something to entertain themselves with.



Waiting around for Saule and our ride. Did I mention that we have gotten very little sleep and have had no food?



Saule showed back at the clinic at 11:15, which felt like an eternity and everyone was tired, sleep deprived and getting crankier by the minute. We piled back into the bus, and headed to the Hotel Kazakhstan where they said they had no air-conditioning in the rooms. We decided that was a deal-breaker so we went to the Grand Eurasia where they said they had air in the rooms – they lied, sort of. It took a room change (the first room had no electricity whatsoever) and a few hours before we got the damned unit really kicking in so that we were comfortable.

Getting comfy at The Grand Eurasia.





Bill thought we should have stayed at the Hotel Kazakhstan – nicer hotel and nicer neighborhood. There is an Nhtephet Kaфe across the street and more restaurant choices nearby. The only real saving grace for the Grand Eurasia was the Pamctop (Ramstor) mall nearby. An indoor mall with a small food court and a big grocery store. Bill picked up some much needed diapers. Bill also picked up a couple gyros sandwiches for dinner and brought it back to the hotel room for me. Dylan fell asleep so hopefully tonight is our golden night to get caught up on some sleep. Hopefully Bill and I can get some much needed sleep.
Saule wants us to go back to Tokmok tomorrow after dinner in the cool of the evening. This sounds so hard on everyone but the upside of that is that we can get back to the comfort of our apartment in Tokmok with 2 days to spare. I can’t believe I just said our apartment was comfortable. This is true testament that it can always get worse. When we were scorching in Tokmok, we said, at least it can’t get any worse. That is obviously not true. We are hoping Dylan's tummy troubles will settle a bit before we take the long 24 hour trip home.

In Bills words again, “I feel like I was rode hard and put away wet. Tired and beat. I think tomorrow will start easy and end hard but we will wake up in Tokmok”.

Tuesday June 17: 4 sleeps and a plane ride

There has been no improvement in Dylan’s blowouts or chest congestion but at least we got to regroup somewhat by just chilling out inside our hotel room last night. I got to wash some soiled towels and sheets which we brought for protection in the vehicle. I also brought my hot water pot so we were able to sterilize bottles and make coffee. My priorities are still somewhat straight.
The Grand Eurasia Hotel has all looks of being great but everything is chintzy and breaks easily. Most everything here is made in China. Pieces of crap with crappy installation. Yesterday, the shower curtain rod came off when I tried to hang a towel. Today, the glass shelf that is already halfway hanging down from the brackets came off. The fridge doesn't work and smells like vinegar (more like fermented juice) and the hot/cold water dispenses only dispenses at room temperature. There is, however, a towel warmer that is on all the time. Go figure. Oh, and as I came down from the window sill where I sit typing this, drinking my coffee...
... my foot touched the radiator cover, and it came off the wall. What else will I break next? I am afraid to touch anything.

Watching the view from our window, it made me think that the next time the American laborers complain about long working hours, they should come to Almaty. Construction goes on here from dawn to past dusk, try 9 p.m. It is happening as part of this hotel's construction. One would think they would be mindful that guests need some quiet and rest. After all, it is a hotel.



I guess I shouldn't complain too hard. The air conditioning unit finally worked last night and at full blast, we were cold. That is a nice change. I felt bad for Kat and Karen who spent a considerable amount of time yesterday afternoon searching for another hotel with air conditioning. They came back here with no luck and rooms that are too warm for anyone's comfort, except the Central Asians, who for some reason don't believe in air conditioning or wind for that matter. They improvised by buying fans that will end up being donated to the orphanages afterwards. I am impressed how my new friends always seem to find a way to make lemonade when handed lemons.

We skipped the free breakfast for a chance to lounge around and sleep in. I heard it was terrible as the foods served were catered towards the Pakistani business travelers who were there for some kind of convention. Not to discount Pakistani food, but it's just not what our palettes would expect. We took our time getting our stuff ready and checking out. Our appointment at the embassy isn’t for another few hours, but by 11 am, Bill and I were restless and we decided to check out and do some exploring at the Ramstor.

We stopped by the Danner’s room and just caught up with them a bit on how their night went. They are moving to another room tonight. It was extremely stifling all night long and there was no way they could stay another night in such discomfort. We also caught up with Kat, Jia and Charlie and found out that they too stayed in a very hot room where nothing much worked and the kids had a very hard night. I am guessing so did their mommy but she is too much of a lady to discuss it in depth. I should take some notes.

It was raining on and off so we had to time our stroll. When we got to the Ramstor, it was already around 1 pm and it left us very little time to shop before our 2:30 appointment. We bought bunch of snacks and a couple of gyros again and after another messy diaper change, off we went.

At the embassy, we were supposed to go in with Saule but somewhere during the craziness of yesterday, she lost her passport. Hence she gave us a couple of pointers and instead of her, she sent Talhat in with us. I guess he is in training to help her with these adoptions. He seems like a nice kid and he is good with the families. He is like a younger Kuba. At almost 17 years old, he is getting to learn a trade that will be very helpful to families later on. I hope he keeps up the interest.

Inside the embassy, we paid the fee and were called to the window within a few minutes. The officer had our paperwork ready and seemed genuinely happy to give us the visa for Dylan, explaining how his IR3 visa works and what to expect when we get home. It went very smoothly. Considering everything else it was the smoothest day we had. The embassy literally took 30 minutes at most and we had ourselves the cutest bundle of a Kyrgyz American citizen. It was a teary moment that neither one of us expected to have.
Afterwards, we all went back to the hotel and hung out at the Danners' room, this time the new one that had air conditioning. Yay for them. It was fun just hanging out for a while, taking photos of our new citizens and their passports that had their IR3's on them. We just spent a little time visiting with Saule and enjoying the surreality of what just happened.




We also spent a little bit of time taking photos with each other.




We had dinner at this restaurant that Saule took us to. I tried a cold horsemeat appetizer, some kind of cold cuts. Some cuts were very fatty and some cuts were leaner. It actually was not awful. It was an interesting meat to taste. It wasn't gamey, it was actually pretty mild but highly salted. I'm really glad I tried it. It was good on bread. Bill ordered at T-Bone steak and realized as he spoke to the waitress that no one knew what medium rare means. Everything seems to be prepared well done. It is such a shame that countries that have such an abundance of cattle do not seem to be able to prepare it well (I know this statement just made me seem to Eurocentric but that is my reality - at least regarding steaks) The best meat I have had here are the shashliks. Otherwise, everything is overly greasy and overcooked.

Almaty is a big city compared to Bishkek and Tokmok, especially Tokmok. It is quite metropolitan and very, very busy. Traffic rivals that of Los Angeles and the Bay Area. There is an underground metro as well. I can't imagine what it would be like if there wasn't and everyone travelled above ground. I would imagine it to be somewhat like Karachi, though I have never been there. There are loads of fancy cars, late model BMWs and Mercedes Benzes. There are designer shops all over the downtown area. You can certainly see the stark contrast against Kyrgyzstan. Money was poured in to develop this city, unlike Kyrgyzstan which after the breakdown of the USSR, got the opposite treatment. Instead of rebuilding, Kyrgyzstan lost the industry and the economy tanked. It still is unable to recover to this day. The Kazakhs, on the other hand, received major funding from the oil industry because of the abundance of oil fields in its territory. Ladies and men downtown are very fashionable. However, at the core of it, there are loads of things that do not work. Elevators are programmed weirdly so that you can't go to floor 4 from floor 1, etc etc. If you look closely, there are things that are again "Made in China" and are very flimsily constructed. Do I sound like I have a thing against cheaply made Chinese products, produced by abusing the human rights of its citizens? Well, I suppose I do.

The landscape seems a little flatter than that of Kyrgyzstan and you can see nice buildings on the side of the road. It seems to have a lot of Turkish infuence, even more so than what we have seen in KG. The city is bordered by beautifully tall snow-capped mountains but from I have read, there are some very flat landscape and is used for farming. In fact, I bought a book in Bishkek about a true story on human trafficking involving Kyrgyz people being trafficked to work in the farms in Kazakhstan.

The bus ride back to Tokmok was quite an adventure, to be kind about it. We traveled after dinner in order to avoid traffic at the border. The drivers here are crazy to begin with but our driver tends to go all the way up to the bumper of the vehicle in front and the swerve left to pass. At some point he got into some road rage with another vehicle. There was some brakes slammed and stuff from the seats went flying forward. I did all I could to keep Dylan from flying off my lap where he was sleeping contentedly. He was shaken awake and started crying. Then to make things worse, both our driver and the other one pulled over and got out of the vehicle. Somewhere along the way, our driver picked up a fellow driver who needed a ride, and thank goodness for that (an afterthough to this incident of course) because they both got out of the bus to confront the other guy who was a rather large man. Our driver was rather scrawny and smoked a lot. I thought he'd get his ass beat on his own for sure. After some angry words everyone gets back into the bus. The interesting part is that Saule wasn't even phased by it whatsoever, which I thought was crazy. I felt we were owed an apology for our driver's behavior.
The border crossing would have been less adventurous if not for the fact that it was around midnight and Dylan pooped and leaked out of his diaper while he was in the Ergo carrier, that was made even more interesting because it was attached to me. He was asleep but a little fussy. As we were standing in line to present our passports, I felt hot liquid on my belly and I knew instantly what the crap was about. It took another 15 to 20 minutes or so as it seems some of the officials at the border were having an attitude or a power trip. I could not tell which. Jia was melting down and Dylan just teetering on the verge. Finally we get back to the bus and we dig out a shirt for me in the dark so that I could change and get Dylan and me cleaned up. And the wheels on the bus go round and round...

Wednesday June 18th: 2 sleeps and a plane ride
Dylan will be an American citizen as soon as we cross border control in L.A. and they stamp his papers. I am so excited for his future – with and without diapers. Right now Dylan is an adorable little child who has temporary meltdowns. I am sure this will change in the future an we will need to break him of the habit of crying until he gets what he wants. Right now I will pick him up and rock him to sleep when he cries, but in the near future I have to stop that and get him to sleep on his own. Right now though, the poor guy has had some challenges that I think gives him license to make a few demands. Not just that he was in an orphanage, but that he was taken from his stable and regimented life style and changed his sleeping and eating schedule, made him travel from one place to another almost every other day. We have turned his world upsidedown. But we are hopeful that he will have many opportunities for a better future than if he was raised in an orphanage in Kyrgyzstan. To say the least, he still has to write his own cards, but he will be in a better position to decide his future, which is very important in ones life.
 
This morning it was so hard to get out of bed and get going. Dylan exploded last night around 4am, and then again at 6 and then at 8. Obviously, he is very regular. What I am happy about is that he took food this morning, both formula and electrolytes. He has been hungry all morning. After yesterday his being resistant to sustenance, it is nice to see him taking nourishment.
Yesterday Saule gave us Dylan's birth certificate and documentation from the birthing hospital. He was named with the male version of his mother's middle name. She was 21 years old and an unemployed student who was not using appropriate birth control and did not want a child. She was 5'4'' and the daddy was 5'7'' so Dylan doesn't have the tall gene. But he is real cute, so he has that going for him – for now.


Thursday June 19th: 1 sleep and a plane ride

Yesterday was a throw-away day, didn't do anything except sleep and play with Dylan. What a treat. I guess playing with Dylan was the best part of the day but we just could not get motivated to do anything else. Bill slept most of the day.

Today I want to make sure we are packed correctly and we have to clean the place as well as get a few more diapers to make sure we have enough for the fight.

Right now Dylan is laid out on the living room floor waiting for someone to pick him up. He gets enthralled by Charlie when Charlie is banging around the room. There are some things I would want Dylan to pick up like Charlie's ability to figure things out. But not Charlie's habit of crying for everything until he gets it – not into the tantrum thing. It's probably inevitable though. We are already going to have to change a few habits Dylan has picked up. Such as sleeping in our bed. He has a crib at home and he will have to learn to use it.

I can't wait to get going tomorrow. Bill is worried that our seating was not done correctly and we may be s sitting a seat apart from each other. We do have a few hours tomorrow morning to work it out though.

I am hoping we see Vlady today, I want to say thank you again, he has done so much for us.

Friday June 20: The plane ride home

Dylan's last sleep on this Tokmok bed

Like thieves in the night, we again loaded up the bus and drove out of Tokmok at 2 a.m. This time, to go home to the U.S. with Dylan. On the way to Manas, Dylan had a blowout unparalleled thus far by any we have witnessed in the past. Bill thinks the bus rides trigger these. Poor little guy. Poor daddy and poor mommy. I am at my wits end. I am sleep deprived, worried sick, out of my element and altogether just need a damn break from Dylan's screaming and diaper blowouts that spew diarrhea like a faucet. Mommy has become a nervous wreck. Try poo flooding a few times at public places and in a moving van in near-complete darkness.

Dylan has spent the last day whining and crying. It is driving us insane. I know he doesn't know any better and we have really taken him out of his comfort zone but man, what the hell are we supposed to do here? Blowouts, crying fits, more blowouts, more crying fits!!! Did we make the right decision? Bill probably thinks so, but now I don't know if I myself did the right thing for us and this boy. I'll probably regret saying this later.
As soon as we opened the van at the Bishkek airport, we were immediately and aggressively approaced by a bunch of men offering to help us with luggage, for a few soms of course. We repeated told them we had no more soms and finally, one of them said something to the effect of, "that's ok, I'll help you anyway", which he did. He turned out to be really kind and helpful. We were very thankful because we really did have more than our hands full.

As we were checking in, we got separated from Kat and her kiddos. I was worried I wouldn't get to say goodbye.

Sitting in the waiting area, I also realized I never checked our boarding passes to make sure they had checked our luggage all the way through to Los Angeles. Bill took care of the luggage being wrapped (impressive job, all for $20) while I stood at the counter while the Aeroflot employee checked us in on his computer. Bill asked me to take care of the boarding passes, making sure it was done correctly. When he looked at the boarding passes, it only said to Moscow. Shit, it seems I fucked up. There was nothing we could do about it though because 1) we couldn't get out of the secure waiting area - didn't know how and didn't know how to ask, and 2) we didn't have all that much time before our flight was scheduled to take off. I guess we'll figure it out when we get to Moscow.

In the meantime, we decided to go to the other end of the waiting area to catch up with Kat and her kiddos. We were getting worried because we hadn't seen them come through and we knew their flight was scheduled to leave before ours. As we sat there looking at the clock and realized their flight was starting to board, we see that they are finally being allowed to go through the security gate. We had a few seconds to give each other hugs and off the went onto their big bird in the sky that is going to take them home. I sent them good thoughts as I knew it would not be easy for Kat having 2 kids in tow.

Bishkek to Moscow was the shorter leg of the total flight so with the help of a bottle for taking off and landing, Dylan didn't seem too bad. When we got to the Moscow airport, we found out that the reason we weren't checked in all the way through to L.A. was because at Bishkek, their computers simply did not allow for that. I stressed out and felt like a loser for nothing.




View of Moscow as we were getting ready to land.



We found the lines that we needed to wait in to get our boarding passes for the next leg. It was a very long wait. Fortunately, though we didn't think so at that time, we had many hours of layover between our flights. In true Russian / Central Asian fashion we have come to know, there seemed to be no order and the lines moved very slowly. There were pushing, and squeezing against each other involved and it seemed like we would be there a really long time. People were speaking Russian and we know nothing of what they were saying. After a few minutes, I noticed that there was a particular babushka actually talking to me, in Russian of course. I didn't know if she was making a comment about me having Dylan in the Ergo carrier in front of me who had just woken up and started fussing, or if she was saying something nice or rude. She didn't smile, just talked in a very animated fashion. Of course, the smile thing tells me nothing. I noticed that the Kyrgyz didn't necessarily smile much, even when they are having a nice conversation with you. It's just a difference in culture. After several repeated attempts to tell me something, someone finally stepped in and translated that she was telling me to get in front of the line because I had a baby. She kept telling me I need not wait in line. As soon as she realized I understood what she had been trying to tell me, via the nice woman who translated, she literally shoved me forward all the way to front, behind the person who was actually at the counter. I thought that was very kind, in a weird sort of way.

Once it was our turn, it took another hour of the lady at the counter trying to make it work so that we sat together. Bill and Dylan had tickets together but because I travelled to Kyrgzstan on my own and booked at a different time, my ticket was a little different than theirs. And of course, I didn't have a paper ticket because I made the changes with Federal Travel on the phone from Tokmok. At first, the lady kept telling me she didn't see my on the list. After much insistence, she finally found me and helped us get seats together. Pheeewww..... what a relief.

Now, we only had 2 or 3 hours more to wait until our next flight.
We found a cafe at the Moscow airport where we were able to get something to eat, feed Dylan, get free wifi (thanks to a fellow American who told us how to access it) and pay handsomely for some coffee and food. I think we may have, at different times, ordered a sandwich, a salad, 2 coffees, and 2 deserts and ended up paying $60 or more USD. We didn't care at that point. We were willing to do whatever it took to be able to stay there until our flight left. It wasn't the Ritz but it was a non-smoking, well-lit and clean restaurant, with cushy seats.


Finally, it was time to board our plane to L.A. What a moment of joy when that plane finally left the ground. The flight itself was hard. Both Bill and I were extremely sleep deprived. This photo of Bill really says it all for both of us.


Even with the double B strategy (bottles and Benadryl), Dylan fussed and screamed. He also continued to have massive blow-outs. The last 4 hours of fight were the hardest. At one point, Dylan wouldn't open his eyes no matter how much stimulation and I got really worried, even more worried than I already was, which I did not think at that point to be possible. I picked him up and then.... projectile vomit that landed on me on the floor and possibly splattered on other passengers. Oops. The good new is that after this, Dylan opened his eyes and smiled as if nothing happened. He was airsick!!



I went and asked the steward if we could get off early and just before landing he put us in the crew seats just behind 1st class so we could get out early. I told them I had a sick baby in my hands that needed medical attention ASAP. They understood.

We got off the plane and got in the citizens line because we thought Dylan is a US citizen as soon as he touches US soil – that is what we were told at US embassy in Kazakhstan. But we had to go to immigrants line and we waited there for a while. When they called us up they gave us back our passports along with Dylan's, which had the stamp, and told us that the green card would come in the mail. We asked about this green card thing because he shouldn't need a green card, but the customs guy didn't know anything about it and suggested we talk to CIS – which we will do next week. For now, we are home on U.S. soil and that was just fine with us.

We spent the next few days in L.A. with my family where Dylan first met everyone from my side of the family and where Dylan Mania started. Then, we left for home in the bay area where we started our life as a family of three.
This next section is all Bill's words. I decided just to leave that be because of the honesty and joy in it:

Grandpa Robert and Grandma Virginia picked us up in Roberts truck. Dylan was fairly stunned by everything he saw when we got out of security. There were more people at LAX last night then lived in the town we adopted him from. Large vehicles everywhere, big noises, and people everywhere. Driving out to the freeway he just looked around wide eyed.

We took him to an urgent care center right away and talked to a doctor who said Dylan was fine and need more fluids – which the formula was giving him – and that we should just keep up with the formula, not worry so much about electrolytes and do a few tests on his stool. We were relieved that nothing serious was going on and a western doctor was not concerned about Dylan's immediate health so we decided to wait until we could arrange a Kaiser doctor to take all of the tests.

When we got to the Uy's house aunt May and uncle Rick showed up to meet Dylan. Auntie Marie had already met Dylan as she took Ivy to the clinic since Ivy stopped to change out of the vomit clothes. He is meeting so many new people and is mostly enjoying the attention. When we get home he is going to be hit with the reality of new rules and habits. No one to pick him up whenever he wants. We will be there for him and hold him often, but the spoiled boy will not be spoiled much longer.

Dylan slept most of the night and woke up at 6am this morning. He was all big-eyed and happy. When I was talking to my sister this morning she was surprised I was awake so early in the day considering I have never in my life been a morning person. But since Dylan has been around waking up early had not been an issue. Of course I would enjoy sleeping in. But I also am happy to wake up to his smile.

In fact Auntie Marie was up at 7am this morning and she hates mornings as much as I do. But she wanted to spend time with her new nephew.

I can't believe how good the bagel was this morning. Just a store bought whole wheat bagel with cream cheese and strawberry jam. Dang.

I can't believe Dylan is finally home.








Taking turns playing with the baby


Uncle Hil falling in love with Dylan.


First bath on American soil, in Grandma's kitchen sink.


Auntie Marie, the newest victim of Dylan mania.



Dylan's new grandma




And finally, Dylan's flight home to San Leandro