September 29, 2006
National Teacher's Day
Today was National Teacher's Day in Kazakhstan, so they had a major celebration at the baby house for all the caregivers. Talk about a party! We were the first Americans ever invited to join them for this annual party, so we felt very honored to be there. These folks know how to put out a spread. The room was gorgeous, and there was food, vodka, food, wine, food, cognac, more food, and even more vodka -- everywhere! The true spirit of a Kazakh party is generosity and opulence. Fresh veggies, fish, fresh fruits, fresh bread, sandwiches, sausages, cheese trays, and incredible sweet pickles -- and that's just what was in front of me. I couldn't even tell you about the rest of the room. There were trays of food covering four very large tables. Dave and I thought it was beautiful, but like everybody else in the room we dug in. What we didn't know was that that was just the beginning course. We ate, toasted some of the teachers, ate some more, had more toasts to other teachers, ate some more, toasted the founder of the baby house (we were so honored to be invited to sit with her. What an amazing woman!), ate some more -- and then they brought out the main course. By that point Dave and I were both nearly sick, but like I said, these are some of the most generous people you'll ever experience. What do you do? You eat some more.
Then the teachers started doing some skits, playing some games and singing traditional songs. It was the first time I didn't even think about the language barrier. You didn't have the understand exactly what they were saying to understand the spirit of the activities. It was just plain fun! I didn't have a clue why, but I couldn't stop myself. I was laughing so hard.
Then came the dancing. Dave, being the only single man in the room, became very, very popular. He kept trying to tell them that he couldn't dance, but that really didn't translate -- or, if it did, they refused to care! He danced with every woman there (other than me of course -- what a waste of time and his particular charm that would've been.) They kept telling me that there were going to keep him, but I reminded them that they'd have to fight Maggie-Vera for him first.
That was about the time that the children woke up from their naps and were staring across the hall, trying to figure out what on earth was going on in that music room. First Maggie saw me and ran into the hall to hug me. That was sweet, but she dumped me in a heartbeat. As soon as she saw ZhaZha Dae Dae she ran as hard as she could straight into his arms. She'd missed him so much over the past few days, and she couldn't stop chattering at him. He didn't have a clue what she was saying, but he understood that tight hug and the kisses on his cheek perfectly well.
However, it was time for the kids' afternoon tea, so they went to their classrooms and we went back to the party for the next course. Again, forgive my spelling, but we had something they called a "monty" for the third course. It was a huge meat-filled dumpling. Oh yeah -- I've got to learn how to make those.
That course went by quickly though because it was too important to get back to the toasting and dancing stuff. So far I'd been able to sit things out. Understandably a single Mom is not nearly as in demand as a single Uncle Dae Dae. That was about to change though. Years ago I had promised Abbie that I'd never dance in public, but it turns out I was about to have to break that promise. (Sorry kiddo.) The primary doctor of the baby house drug me out on the floor and somehow led me through a traditional Kazakh dance. I have absolutely no idea what I was doing, but apparently I'm pretty darn good at this stuff. Imagine that! I've finally found a place where my jumping up and down, spastic feet, mosh-pit dancing style works.
The party went on like that for a few more hours -- more games, more dancing, more toasts, and then even more food. We had a blast, but I think the very best part was that we had an opportunity to get to know the caregivers a little better and got to experience a real Kazakh party. Like I said before, these are some of the most generous folks you'll ever meet. That's not just at the feast, but every day. They give so much to these children. It's apparent that they truly love them and work hard to help them grow. It was a great day to celebrate that, and we felt so privileged to have been part of the day.