Week 3 after court

We have a new Coordinator!  We were unhappy with our old co-ordinator who turned up for the first few days then disappeared leaving our poor translator to shrug a lot saying “I don’t know”.  The advantage to using an established agency is that you have someone to complain to back home when things are not going well.  Yesterday a very nice Kazakh man called Baurzhan has been parachuted in and so far we are all very happy with him and I hope that the remaining appeal period and subsequent application for passports will be much smoother.  Alfiya is noticeably happier as she is not having to deal with our demanding questions.

Fiona – we only have National Geographic channel here and I think of you every night as in between the polar bear repeats and the sex life of a dragon fly the Mastercard advert repeats incesssantly…..priceless, for everything else there’s Mastercard (in an Australian accent).  Could you please use your influence to get them to replace it with something else… anything!

The temperature has plummeted like a stone and more snow fell last night.  Interesting driving in these conditions in a pre-war van…

A Lonely Birthday

There is a new little boy in the sick bay this week, who is probably the most beautiful child I’ve ever seen.  He has a head of little blond curls and the kind a face that advertisers use to sell baby food.  It was his first birthday yesterday the carer told me and so we sang happy birthday to him in Russian, very softly just the two of us, her and I. No cake, no candles, no presents, no other people.  It was a real tug at the heartstrings and you must all promise to go home tonight and give your children an extra hug and kiss before bed.

I have no idea whether he is not available for adoption (many of the children aren’t) or if his adoptive parents have gone home to wait out the post court period.  The carer said to him today “where is your mama?” as if she is expecting one to return but sadly my Russian wasn’t up to asking the background.  He is obviously a sensitive child and opens like a flower if you give him any affection, but I fear that he has none of the suspicion of strangers you would normally expect in a child of that age and I think he is already developing the classic indiscriminate affection associated with attachment problems.

Sadly my Russian also struggled when explaining to the carers today that my mother was arriving on Monday.  When asked how old she was, I said 608 and it wasn’t until they laughed that I realised what I said and corrected myself.  Ah well, they’ll think she looks bloody marvellous for her age.

Various Musings

Daniel isn’t a hugely popular name in Kazakstan though it does exist and so I have tried to convince our translator that I have named him after her husband but she doesn’t seem convinced. Better than thinking I named him after the big supermarket in town which is also called Daniel! In fact my grandfather’s father was Daniel Jones and it seemed to bring the various parts of his past and future life together whilst going well with his given name Damir. Of course I had any number of names in mind (as you do) but when I met him complete panic took over when I realised that he didn’t look like any of them (I never understood what people meant when they said that before!). I was so delighted when I discovered that Daniel was an acceptable Kazakh name – another of those omens which I don’t believe in. Spending day and night with four Irish Catholics is having a seriously detrimental effect on my prosaic British no-nonsense’ness (and a similar effect on my spelling/grammar).  Finding a name that worked in Kazakh, Russian and English was no mean feat.

The Collerans left early this morning to go home and spend a couple of weeks with their two girls Darrelle (11) and Elena (4) (sorry Adrienne, if names/ages are slightly out). I’m sure that they find the balancing of the needs of all three of their children incredibly hard, though frankly I think they should have taken my needs into account too. Adrienne buys most of the vodka and I have none in my room now, only orange juice which is bugger all good on its own. (Yes I know I don’t drink much but living with the Irish has driven me to it).  Added to which I miss having them across the hall as I have no-one to borrow milk from (the Hendersons are on a different floor) and they’ve only been gone about 8 hours.

I’m told by Alfiya that the snow is here to stay – it is now too cold to clear and there will be snow on the ground now until Spring. It is so cold that the hairs of your nose freeze if you’re out too long at night. Our driver Alexei keeps chortling at us saying how cold it is – “nyet, nyet” he says. I gather it gets MUCH colder in January/February [Editors note: as I was to find out].

Poor little Daniel has a bad cold and a cough so our two visits today both consisted of 20 minutes grizzle, 20 minutes eat, 10 minutes grizzle, 30 minutes sleep in my arms (not that I want him to be sick but that was quite nice – how heartless am I!) I haven’t been well myself for a day or so and ended up dosing myself with a third of a bottle of Medised! I have no idea if it was the right dose for an adult but it seemed to do the trick. It’s so horrible being ill away from home, but thankfully I have been pretty much back to normal today.

Marion – say hello to the Russian class for me – they would be horrified with my Russian, my grammar has all but disappeared but I seem to be getting by and even managed to argue about a restaurant bill a few nights ago when they’d double charged us for an item!

Saturday night in my hotel room

Saturday night is really like any other night for us here, only Sunday varies as we only visit the children once in the morning.  The days all blend into each and its quite hard to keep track of time.  The big excitement for this weekend is that my mum should be arriving in Almaty on Sunday then travels on to Ust on Monday.  She is more than a little terrified of navigating across Almaty to the hotel and back to the airport and getting herself on a plane to Ust without the benefit of a word of Russian and I suspect I will owe her many favours for a number of years to come… I am so looking forward to having her here.

At the moment we are down to Joanie and her mom from Texas, her husbands and kids went home earlier this week, Aine and Alex from Ireland and me.  We feel like such a small band after having 15 in total (including 3 children and one mother) last week.  Joanie and her mum spent the evening in my room ostensibly swapping DVD’s but in reality swapping stories.  They gave me Pride and Prejudice which I think I will have finished in its entirety today.

Catrin, no doubt I will make it down at some point probably when the weather warms up a little in the spring.  Most of the babies take a while to settle down when they get home obviously its such a huge change for them so big outings and being passed aroung lots of people are out for about a month or two (depending how he is).  He doesn’t like being passed around strange people so the rule when I get home will be play with him but not hold him until he is comfortable with everyone.  And of course more importantly, at the moment I am just one of many carers that he has so he will not start to learn that I am his only mummy until I take him out of the baby-house and then he will need a little time to learn it.  I know it will be hard on everyone to not be able to carry him around at first, but in a few months time when he is settled properly, you can carry him all you like!

Vicky – nice to see the Llanelli Massive online and in touch with the modern world!  I hope Grandma gets to see the photos – I will post her some bigger photos when I get home.

Liz – I too never thought I would see the day that I resorted to vodka but the first night I had some I felt the best the following day that I had for a while.  Have restricted myself to a glass every other night or so, so am not exactly becoming a lush (though you may be right – perhaps thats why I’ve been feeling ill, no vodka for a few days).

Our post court appeal period ends on 5th December (fingers crossed) and hopefully I will have some idea by then of how long the passports will take after that.  I’m hoping to come home on 16th December at the moment, but if the passports and British immigration isn’t sorted by then I have a big problem – a) Public Holiday here 18th & 19th so British Embassy shut and; b) my mums visa runs out then so she goes home come what may.  Any delay would mean I won’t get home until 23rd December which would be a nightmare in so many ways – a small baby in a hotel for an extra week on my own!

[Editors note: ha ha hah ah ahahahahahahahahah!!!!]

Sunday – Mum arrives tomorrow. Yay!

Interesting day today. The snow is beginning to pile up and we only have one visit (being a Sunday). I took in a couple of small boxes of fruit juice and a large bar of the locally made chocolate to give to the two carers on duty, as has become my habit. The fridge in my hotel room is stocked with various things every day and apparently is included in the price of the room and I use very little of it so I have taken to giving it away to people randomly – a bit like Mother Christmas. Our driver Alexei gets beer, but only at the end of the day as he drops us off (just in case).

Anyway, one of my favorite carers Luda was on today, she generally leaves Daniel and I in peace to spend time alone, but today they decided that the bonding room was too cold and drafty and set me up a little bench in the corner of the main sickbay to play with him. There are only three children in at the moment – Daniel, the little boy who was one last week and an older boy (about three or four I would think) who I suspect is already institutionalised or perhaps has some degree of special needs as he does not speak at all and vocalises very little either. It was quite calm because of the small group so the carers put the two little ones in walkers out on the floor and Daniel has just found that he can push himself backwards in the walker (I hate them but I have to say he loves it so much that I haven’t the heart not to give him a quick go in one). I was rewarded for my forbearance by him learning to push himself forwards today and the carers all duly admired his new found ability to sit up properly at last which we showed off. “you must have some lunch” OH NO! Please, no more bacon fat, and I always liked her so much…

His carers and I managed a rudimentary conversation in Russian (must bring dictionary in tomorrow) and I was even prevailed upon to translate dosage instructions from English into Russian on a medicine bottle (that should give my Russian class a HUGE laugh the thought of me becoming a translator) then nice carer said (in Russian obviously):

“You must have some lunch”


Please, no more bacon fat, and I always liked her so much…
“I must go soon” I explained to her,
“Not until noon though” she said.
Damn she was right, it was only quarter to twelve. So I manfully sat down on a baby chair again with a sense of horrific sense of deja vu to be presented with a plate of sliced meats and sausage, a piece of bread and a cup of something clear. And a much larger portion than the bacon fat – a huge plateful.

And d’you know – it was absolutely delicious. So sorry to spoil your fun Sarah.

The bread was fresh, the sliced meat was a whole boned chicken wrapped tight then sliced (so a mixture of white and dark meat) and the sausage had a mildly smoky garlicky flavour and the consistency of a frankfurter. I was told it was chicken which surprised me as it really tasted much meatier than that, but then chickens do seem to here. The clear juice is what they called compote and I discovered is roughly chopped cooking apples simmered in water then cooled to room temperature with a ton of sugar thrown in.  The liquid is like a very tasty, watery, more natural-tasting apple juice, then you eat the apple which is like a firmer stewed apple. So no cheap laughs for you lot and a pleasant if early lunch for me.

Yum. I hope they don’t think they have to feed me everyday in exchange for the chocolate because sooner or later I will meet bacon fat woman again. Perhaps I will take to giving it as I leave for the day.

The most surreal part of the day came as I saw amongst the meat she had on the table, a bulb of garlic and I asked what it was in Russian (ches-nok) –
“I love garlic” I said in my best Russian “Ya lu-blyoo ches-nok”
So I’m now the proud owner of a whole bulb of kazakh garlic.

Do you think it will keep until I get home in a few weeks?

And apologies to Joannie, contrary to my earlier paragraph, she does only have the one husband rather than “husbands”.

Mum arrives tomorrow. Keep you fingers crossed – she gets lost driving around Kew, what hope for finding Ust-Kamenogorsk?

daniel feeding

D’you think you could aim for my mouth this time?


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