October 25, 2008
Bonding Day 5
Last night proved that I may not be 21 anymore, but I can still dance like I am!
At 8:30, Aliya picked me up in a taxi, and we headed to “Weekend,” one of the popular dance clubs in Uralsk. There we met her friend, Asel, who also speaks English. Asel means “sweet” in Kazakh, and she truly lives up to her name. She and Aliya were great hostesses for the evening.
Since it was early when we arrived, we sat at a table and hung out for awhile. People actually go to the club for dinner, so many were having meals. I had already had a light bite, so I just sat back and watched the scene. Instead of lounge chairs and couches, they had big wooden tables (kind of like fancy picnic tables), which people shared. When you ordered drinks, the waitress put out potato chips, peanuts, and some unidentifiable dried fish.
Ordering drinks in Kazakhstan is different from ordering them at home. You order drinks by the gram. I have no idea what a gram of alcohol equals. I just wanted a glass of Bailey’s on the rocks. I guess a full glass is 100 grams because that is what I got. The ice came in a bowl on the side, so I had to drop in the cubes. Since the glass and the Bailey’s were warm, the ice didn’t really help to make the drink cold.
People don’t usually order drinks by the glass. You order bottles. We met a group of girls, who had already ordered and consumed four bottles of vodka. I’m not sure how they were still standing, let alone dancing and having fun. I would have been sleeping under the table.
The music, which was selected by the DJ, was very contemporary and included many American tunes. I was amused that everyone knew the words to these songs in English, but I had never heard of them. Could it be the 20 year age difference? Nah! There was a big MTV-like screen, strobe lights and oversized speakers just like in the States. Many times women danced in groups, unless they were with their husbands or boyfriends. Aliya, Asel and I seemed linked up with this other group of women, and we danced up a storm. It was great fun, and I think I burned off all my calories from the whole day. Bonus!
One thing that I thought was extremely nice was that one of the girls dedicated a song to all the visitors to Kazakhstan. She wanted me to know that she was happy that I was visiting her country. How sweet!
Aliya’s boyfriend, Jozhelen, and his two friends, picked us up, and we said our farewell to Asel. The guys wanted to go to Pizza Hot (Kaz version of Pizza Hut), so we went for a short time. It was a fast food place that is open 24/7, and it was hopping. I guess everyone goes there after they’ve been out partying. They serve alcohol there, but I was content with a hot cup of tea.
Jozhelen and his friends found it quite interesting to be meeting a real American. This made me smile, as I’ve never been a novelty before. They had many questions for me, and poor Aliya, who was very tired, was pressed into service yet again. They wanted to know what NYC is like, what there is to see there, where I live, what I do, etc. It’s fun to see people’s reactions to my responses. They think I’m fascinating! I’m OK with that : )
I won’t tell you what time I got back to the hotel. Let’s just say that it was past my usual bedtime.
This morning, the waitress at breakfast asked me if I was at the dance club last night; she thought that she had seen me dancing. When I told her yes, she asked why I wasn’t still sleeping. Well, nothing could ever stop me from wanting to see my darling Emilia.
Today, since it’s the weekend, I was picked up by Vladimir at 9 a.m., and we went to meet another translator, Shonara. She speaks English fluently and helps out on the weekends and holidays. My schedule is different when I’m with Shonara. I only have the opportunity to see Emilia in the morning, but it’s supposed to be for two hours.
When we arrived at the baby house, it was very quiet. It seems most people are off for the long holiday weekend. Still, I could smell the foods coming from the kitchen – was it meat and potatoes? – so those who directly take care of the children and prepare food were still hard at work. I have to say how impressed I am with the care at the baby house. It is not a state-of-the-art facility, but it is spotless, and the care givers truly are dedicated to the children. The term “care giver” is apt because they handle these babies as if they were their own children. It’s wonderful to see such tenderness and love, and it comforts me to know that Emilia has been cared for so well during these first few months of her life. These women are truly to be honored and celebrated for the good that they do.
Emilia and I played for a bit, and then she had her meal. The nurses were giving her something new to try, and at first she ate it. Then she decided she didn’t like it at all. Fussy girl! She has started to grab the spoon when she is eating. This is cute – she wants to feed herself – but she manages to mash food onto her bib. Mommy will be scrubbing that out tonight.
We played some more after Emilia’s meal, but she quickly became tired and cranky. I could tell she needed to sleep, so, much to my disappointment, we had to end our session a half hour early. All of Emilia’s other baby buddies were already in their cribs, so I brought her in to join them. There were eight cribs in all, and some of the babies were wrapped up tight like monarchs in their cocoons. All you could see was their tiny faces. Emilia was crying when I left, which made me sad, but I believe she was going to fall asleep quickly. I think play time with Mommy sometimes tires her out.
Since I had the afternoon free, Aliya met me at 2 p.m., and we walked into town. I was hoping to see some of the festivities celebrating Republic Day, which is officially today, but it seems like everything had already finished. I only saw a few children walking with balloons.
I had heard about the local bazaar and asked Aliya to take me there. It is an open air market, and there are dozens of stalls with a variety of items ranging from winter boots and coats to pharmacy goods and various foods. I had a great time looking at all the local goodies (though I learned most are made in China) and bought myself a pair of nicely crocheted slippers, which will match my bathrobe back home. I also bought several other items, including a baby hat with a big, pink pom-pom, a traditional Kazakh doll in a lovely green dress (Sh!!! It will be a gift for Emilia’s one-year birthday in April) and a CD of native music.
After walking outside for a few hours, I suggested that we go for tea and get warm. The weather has shifted today, and it is noticeably colder. Everyone is wearing hats and scarves. We went to McJohn’s, a takeoff on McDonald’s, and had tea and cake. It was a relaxing, enjoyable conclusion to our shopping adventure.