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.


Suzanne said...

Wow! What a great story and great pictures! I'm very envious of the window into Kyrgyz life that you were able to look through, indeed, climb through. I'm going to have to count on you to share all that you learned with Matilda as she and her soul brother, Dylan, grow up.

I can't wait to come by and see the Familee. I'll give you a call this week to see which night works best for you.


Matt and Pam Bean said...

What a wonderful experience and thanks for sharing with us. You definitely have some great stories to share with Dylan about his country and I am so happy for you all.

April + Eric said...

really nice to have that share with baby D. We hope you are settling in and he is doing well in his transition.