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September 16, 2006

Just kicking back in Kokshetau

Thank goodness my first guess was right about the caregivers.  They had gone through the photo album with Maggie-Vera last night, and they said she wouldn’t let anybody else touch the book unless she’s with them.  She’s very proud of it.  They said she’s shown the pictures of me to all of the friends in her class and brags about her Mama.  Go figure!  She greeted me with another big hug today.  I think I could get used to this. 

Maggie-Vera still wants to look at the photo album by herself mostly, but Ryn-Alina was finally ready to look at it with me today.  She sat beside me and as long as I would let her turn the pages herself she was enthralled with the pictures.  I got a big lump in my throat when we were looking at the pictures of Babooshka Mimi.  I’ve only heard her say Mama once or twice, but after just a few minutes she started picking Mimi out of every picture.  I can’t wait for Mom to get to hear her say Mimi.  It’s so sweet!  She also said Toppy once, but somehow it turned into Top Top before it was done.  I think the Tyatya Toppy (which actually sounds more like Tuata Toppy) just got too confusing, and Top Top was easier.  Of course, Dae Dae keeps telling them her name is Katherina because he thinks that’s a name that would be more familiar to them.  There’s no telling what these kids are going to end up calling Cathy!!

After we left the baby house today we decided we deserved a day on the big town of Kokshetau.  Azel came and spent the day with us and we had a blast!  There’s a restaurant in Kokshetau called the Classic Café, and lots of folks have told us that American families really enjoy it.  We wouldn’t know.  We’ve tried to go two or three times, and every time we go they’ve got some huge party in there and they’re closed to the public.  We ended up instead going to this neat little outdoor café across the street, just in front of the internet café.  They don’t serve a whole lot of different foods, but it didn’t matter.  They have great shish kabobs!  We ate until we thought we were going to be sick, and then sat around for another hour or so just talking.  At one point an elderly gentleman came up and just started talking to Dave.  For those of you who know Dave you know this isn’t terribly unusual.  He’s just that kind of guy.  Unfortunately, he didn’t have a clue what the guy was saying, and he couldn’t get him to understand that.  Azel and I had gone to the restroom, so Dave was on his own to fake it or flop.  He flopped.  When we got back Azel finally translated for him and explained that the guy had been a soldier for the Soviet Union when they originally invaded Afghanistan.  He was trying to tell Dave how much he respected the United States and that he was a former soldier.  Dave tried to buy him a drink after that, but somehow that didn’t translate so well.  He shook Dave’s hand about six times and went on to the next table full of people.  I’m not sure why, but that was one of the highlights of the day for me.  He was a pretty cool old guy.

After we left the café we made our way to the Tsum store.  I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned the Tsum store before, but it’s – for lack of a better word to describe it – the local mall.  Lots and lots and lots of little stores, and you can get pretty much anything you’d ever need or most anything you’d ever want in there.  Our first (and possibly best) purchase from there was a frying pan.  There’s a limit to how well you can make grilled cheese sandwiches with nothing more than a saucepan.  Anyway – today we were looking for electric heaters for the baby house.  Once we found those we just spent the next couple of hours exploring.  Dave kept saying he was convinced that this was hell.  He couldn’t understand how we could walk around for hours and not buy a thing.  He obviously doesn’t understand the concept of “shopping”.  He saw a coat he liked and he bought it.  That, he says, is what you’re supposed to do at a mall.  Get what you need and get out.  Nope – he really just doesn’t get it…

After the mall we went to the amusement park.  We’d planned on riding this huge merry-go-round that gives you a view of the whole city, but it was down today.  Hopefully we’ll make it back before we leave.  Azel said it’s a great way to see some of the prettiest points of Kokshetau.  That didn’t stop us from having a good time though.  We played some air hockey (and talked about Luke), Dave shot some hoops (and we made fun of how many he missed), and Dave and Azel rode some scary-looking spinning ride.  Considering how much I ate at lunch, there was no way I was taking my chances on that thing!

I think that’s enough for today.  I just wanted to close with my favorite picture from today.  Poor little Ryn looks like she can’t believe this huge bird just landed on her head.  Still, she looked so cute I had to get the picture.  Enjoy!