It's early morning here in Kazakhstan and I've been awake for several hours already...my body is convinced it's mid-afternoon here just like it is in Massachusetts and my brain is steadfastly refusing to stop whirring away a million miles an hour. Must be time to write a blog post and share with you, my faithful band of readers, some of the random thoughts that are keeping me company in these pre-dawn hours.
Caution: Be warned that these mental meanderings will not necessarily tie together at all or make sense to anyone but me. The point is just to preserve the moments, to get it all down so that one day, if I'm very lucky, Aniyar and Madiyar will read these words and get a sense of what we experienced here, complete with the sights, sounds and feelings, and what was in their Mom's mind as she waited anxiously to adopt them. This is for you, boys...but that's what this process has been all about, isn't it?
I've been pretty product-driven lately (focused on getting the dossier updated, getting us back to KZ, getting everything ready for our kids at home to be cared for during our absence) that I haven't taken much time to truly enjoy the holiday season. Oh, yes, we've done most of the same things we always do...but it's been more like a “To Do” list this year than the fun it usually is....tree trimmed, check; house decorated, check; presents wrapped and under the tree, check. I've been so well organized this year that all my holiday preparations were completed by December 15, a full 10 days in advance of Christmas. (So what the heck, as long as we're not doing anything, why not leave our kids, get on a plane, fly half way around the world to Kazakhstan? There aren't many things in the world that could make me miss seeing Tanya and Max singing in the holiday concert at their school...or the chance to bake cookies to give to the kids' teachers...or to visit our friends at the holidays. In fact, there are only two reasons I'd leave home at the holidays...and their names are Aniyar and Madiyar.) Now that we're on our journey, I'm forced to stop doing and start living once again; here's some of what I've seen.
Wow, the holiday decorations in Frankfurt Airport were really pretty! There were white lights everywhere...angels and snowflakes hanging from the ceiling, Christmas trees and wreaths festooned in ribbons and silvery balls, giving everything a winter wonderland feel to it. I admired the sights as we sipped our very large lattes at the McCafe...and I can testify that at least in Europe, Ronald McDonald makes darn good espresso drinks...Starbucks, be very afraid.
I finally fell asleep on our flight from Frankfurt to Almaty and dozed for a couple of hours. At one point, I woke up with a start and didn't know where I was, then the thrum of the engines reminded me. Sitting there in semi-darkness with flight attendants passing silently through the cabin like wraiths, offering water or juice, I was struck by the surreal quality of it all. I felt like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. For us, the adventure begins again in Kazakhstan...who will play the part of the Cheshire cat? Who will be the queen? What will be our fate? We'll just have to wait and see.
What fun to experience Kazakhstan in December! To my delight, we found Almaty decked out in holiday decorations. I was expecting to see preparations for the traditional New Year celebration but the huge decorative displays everywhere took me by surprise. As we drove to our hotel, thousands of white lights illuminated the roadways and images of Father Frost and his granddaughter, the Snow Princess, were everywhere, also Santas and reindeer. When we arrived in Ust, we saw more holiday lights and decorations. There is even an ice town being constructed in preparation for the New Year celebration, a whole village of ice sculptures and small ice slides for the children to play on...our friend Yulia pointed it out to us as we drove by last night...I hope we get to see more of it before we leave here; I'd love to get pictures. It's clear that this season is much loved here even though the date of celebration isn't December 25.
More holiday thoughts and late breaking news: We went shopping tonight and saw more evidence of the holiday traditions in KZ. There were lots of artificial trees for sale in all sizes (Even a purple one, Kate!) but no real trees, my friends...Yulia says if anyone is caught with a live cut fir tree, there is a huge fine and the sale of them is forbidden. There were also all kinds of gift items and fancy paper bags and cardboard boxes filled with candy. Yulia tells us that as a girl, she and other children used to make the fancy gift bags with paper and scissors...but kids rarely do that any more.
Kate, Tanya and Max...guess what Yulia and Jenya just bought? They now have a Honda van, it's very nice; we rode in great comfort from the apartment to Arzan last night. We're so happy for our friends because they waited a long time for a car they ordered from the US which never came...now they have just what they need!
It's really funny how comfortable we are here. It flies in the face of common sense for many, I'm sure...we are after all on the opposite side of the planet from our home...but for us, coming to Ust is very much like coming home. We arrived at the apartment, unpacked a few things and then walked to Yulia's apartment where we visited with Yulia and played with Vlad who now has spent enough time with us that he calls us by name. Yulia fed us soup and bread and homemade fudge, then we walked through the snow back to our apartment. We set up the computer, answered some emails, made a store list, and watched a little CNN on TV. Around 8pm, we went to Arzan, the Costco type store here in Ust where many of the locals shop. Yulia and Jenya were going shopping and invited us to go with them last night; we were happy to have the chance to stock up on a few essentials like fruit juice and tissues to help Craig's cold. When we returned to the apartment, we snacked on cheese, kielbasa, fruit, yogurt, and a glass of wine, did some reading, surfed the internet, then went to bed...when I couldn't sleep, I made myself a cup of tea and started writing. I'm sitting in the kitchen listening to the now familiar sounds of the apartment building waking up; our neighbors are running their shower, someone just took out their trash, and I can hear the heavy metal entrance door clang from time to time as people leave for work. The sky is beginning to brighten; the air is cold and crisp, and the snow and ice on the trees is beginning to sparkle in the growing light. Soon I'll make us a breakfast of eggs, yogurt, bread and cheese, and tea. Later this morning, we'll walk into downtown. We'll stop to exchange money (dollars for tenge) so we can buy coffee at Pizza Blues and a new internet card from the Rating store; the one we're using now is left over from our trip last month and should run out of time soon so we'll pick up another 10 hour card to keep us going. Yep, that's life here in Ust-K...it's like we never left and that's oddly comforting. We feel safe and calm, surrounded by the support of our friends and family on both sides of the earth. Time to finish what we started here even though we know it won't be easy.
Are we nervous about court? Oh, you bet...we wonder what the judge will be like; we wonder what the prosecutor will be like; we wonder how the boys are feeling and if anyone has told them what's happening. I wrote and faxed them a letter about our court date which I hope the director gave to them but I don't know for sure if they got it...and Alma tells us that Madiyar is still upset about all the delays and he thinks we've all lied to them because we haven't been to court yet. After all, his friend Borya is being adopted and he went to court already (in Ust where adoptions are quite a bit easier but try telling that to a 13 year old ). Borya and his sister will be going to the US soon and Aniyar and Madiyar are still waiting...sigh...it's hard to argue with Madiyar's disappointment and frustration. Serenity prayer time...back to my Lamaze breathing; as my darling Kate would say, I must align my chakras and not allow all this negative energy to continue harshing my mellow.
Stay tuned for more adventures from Wonderland---we are T-minus 27 hours and counting to our assigned court hearing time in Ridder.