November 1, 2008
Bonding Day 12
I awoke this morning feeling a bit tired and not very hungry, but there was a good reason. Last night Aliya, my adoption friends (the W’s from Canada and Katie), and I went to a special Lebanese feast whipped up by our chef at the Pushkin. Chef Hassan is originally from Lebanon, and he prepared a stunning buffet of delicacies from his homeland. In a nod to the North Americans, he carved out three pumpkins in celebration of Halloween. We all greatly appreciated seeing Jack-O-Lanterns – even if they were whitish green and not orange!
Chef proudly explained each of his dishes, as we stood with our plates in hand. There is no way that I can remember the names of all these dishes, but they were incredibly delicious. One of the first things I dug into was Chef’s hummus. He mentioned that he brought in all the ingredients from Lebanon. It was the best hummus I’ve ever tasted, and the warm bread was yummy, too. I also had an assortment of dumplings filled with meat and spinach, a dark meatball with pignoli nuts at its center, a variety of salads, duck and lamb. Henry generously ordered a bottle of wine for the table, and this added to the festivities.
Chef also prepared three desserts, but I immediately honed in on one. He said it was made of dough of a thousand layers (phyllo, perhaps?), and it included cream and raisins. I felt I had died and gone to heaven. Of course, I had more than one helping. You must show the chef your appreciation for his extraordinary culinary efforts!
Throughout the evening we listened to traditional Lebanese music, which added so much to the festive mood. Then, much to our surprise, a lovely belly dancer came out to perform for us. I have seen professional belly dancing before – I’ve even taken a few classes – but this woman was far superior to anyone I’ve ever seen. Her shimmy was electric, and I still seriously ponder whether or not she had batteries in her skirts! She performed three separate dances in three different costumes, and each time the crowd was wowed by her masterful dancing. After she finished, the music played on, and Henry and Cecile braved the dance floor. Moments later, Chef Hassan, Jasmine and I joined them, while Katie took pictures (unfortunately, Aliya had already departed). Everyone applauded, as we attempted our own version of belly dancing.
It was truly a delightful evening and another memory I will tuck away in my lifetime scrapbook.
Although Shonara usually accompanies me to the baby house on the weekends, today Aliya joined me instead. As I’ve mentioned previously, I spend two hours with Emilia in the morning on weekends. After feeding her, we got permission from the director to go out for a walk. I finally had the chance to put Emilia in her new pink snow suit, a lovely gift from my neighbors, Elli and Janice, and the pink hat I bought at the bazaar. She didn’t quite fill out the suit, as it’s sized for a twelve-month old, but she didn’t mind at all. Em looked absolutely precious in her new winter suit with its fir-trimmed hood.
Since we couldn’t stay out too long – I didn’t want those big cheeks to get too cold – we went inside to play for the remainder of our time together.
On the way home Aliya and I went to the photo store. I need to get photographs of Emilia and me together, as well as her passport ready for pre-court. Even though I have dozens of pictures of the baby, it was hard to pick just one. She’s often looking away or making a funny face, and the passport photo must look official. I believe in the end we got the right shot.
As Aliya and I were walking by the Russian Orthodox Church, she mentioned that she had heard that a church we could see in the distance with a cross on top was a Catholic church. Of course, I wanted to go check it out. The only problem was that it looked close, but there was no direct way to get there. We kept going down alleyways only to find that our way was blocked. This happened about seven times and became quite laughable. Finally, we made a big loop to almost the place where we had started and found out that the church wasn’t Catholic at all. It was another Russian Orthodox Church! All that walking and searching for nothing! Well, at least I burned off some calories from the Lebanese dinner.
We came upon an outdoor vegetable and fruit market, so we took advantage of the moment and bought ourselves some tangerines. Then we moved on to the Historical Museum of Uralsk, which was quite lovely inside. Although I couldn’t read any of the signage, Aliya translated some of the information, and I was able to look at all the exhibits. Aliya had never been to the museum before – isn’t it funny how you sometimes don’t see the very things that are in your own backyard? – and she took more pictures than I did! (Note: I will have to post many of my photos over a few days. I have several, too!)
By this point, we were famished, so we headed to McJohn’s and split a pizza and had shakes. Neither the pizza nor the shake tasted anything like what I’m used to eating in America.
Tonight I had dinner with Katie and our new friend, Kaushik, who is from India but lives in Almaty. He often comes to Uralsk for business, and he’s great fun. The three of us had a wonderful time talking and laughing about everything from Kaz cab drivers to hair salons.
There is talk of going to an amusement park tomorrow, so I’m going to try to go to bed early. I need to keep up my energy!