Adoption Adventures in Kazakhstan

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Coffee, Plane Tickets and Boy Clothes! June 25, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — kozastan @ 1:41 pm

25 June 2007 Coffee, Plane Tickets and Boy Clothes!


img_2512.jpg Sasha Time

We had another beautiful day here—the heat has blown away and the air is perfect for being outside. Today our novel items included a juice box and nine goldfish crackers. The juice box was particularly entertaining because we think that Sash doesn’t actually suck the juice up the straw. He squishes the box to get some of the juice in his mouth, and the rest on his hands and shirt. This method could use some improvement, but we can’t explain how to make it easier for him, so he will just have to figure it out.

img_2513.jpg Sasha and the Juice Box

The goldfish crackers were also a hit. We tried to make him say “Goldfish” before eating each one, but if the goldfish was already in his hand, he would not waste mouth motion on saying the word . . . the fish went straight in. Eventually I wouldn’t give him the fish until he said it, and then, like anytime he speaks in English, he becomes ten times cuter.



Sasha’s Family Returning from a Walk

His family came out to play while we were on the playground. We are getting to know his group, and they are getting to know us, so we play with them when we are all together. Sometimes this is a good thing, and sometimes Sasha gets very possessive of us. This is completely understandable, and we back off engaging with the others when he asserts his ownership of us. But those kids benefit from extra hands to push on the swing or catch at the end of the slide.



Toddlers in Baskets

There are interesting play apparati on the playground, including what looks like wire waste baskets on poles. We assumed they were for playing a basketball like game, so I was delighted to look up from playing with Sash to see a caregiver putting toddlers in the baskets. It is the perfect way to keep track of them. Some eventually discover they can escape by bending down and crawling out. Others are perfectly content to just hang there, and some, like Sasha are a bit too big to bend down to escape, so they, like Sasha, just cry. We have a lot to learn about child care from the Kazakhs . . .


img_2543.jpg The “Fam”

I wanted to get a photo of Sasha’s family for him and us to remember, but also to print and give to his caregivers as a thank you gift, so today was a great day for that. We (meaning Masha) asked one of the caregivers to gather the kids in a group so I could take a photo. To accomplish this she employed the use of another interesting play apparatus: little table/stand things. Of course getting nine two year olds to stand still is nearly impossible, but one of the care givers started putting them on these little table/stand things, and for risk of falling off they stayed pretty well.



Girlfriends Getting Ready to Slide

These kids are so great—I had to take a photo of two little girls getting ready to go slide. I covet their headscarves and need to look for them in the bazaar. They need the scarves to cover their extra large bows, lest the bows be harmed in any way. It is possible they are also to protect the little ones from the sun . . . but I am sure protection of the bows is involved as well.



Watering the Weeds . . . preparation for future gardening

We also introduced the watering can today . . . and that was a big hit, except when we used all the water from the water bottle. Sasha’s caregivers always tell us what a helpful little guy he is, and when one saw him dutifully watering all the weeds on the playground she came to tell us again how even though he was the youngest in his former group he was a huge help to them. We hope this enthusiastic helping will continue at home . . .

It was a good day, and we have now completed our required 14 days of bonding. The Baby House director did her paperwork today saying that the BH supports our adoption of Sasha, so one more piece has fallen into place. Tomorrow we take him to get his passport photo—another exciting milestone!


The Other 22 Hours


img_2499.jpg img_2498.jpg

Espresso and Cappuccino

When we last left you we were headed out to get real coffee. We went to the only coffee joint in town . . . and were not disappointed. Steve got an espresso he loved and I got a cappuccino that was not bad, but I don’t think there was enough actual coffee in it. Weak or not it was better than the chemical horror show I had thought about drinking.


After bonding today Masha took us to buy our tickets from here to Almaty. This errand was moderately straight forward—buying plane tickets—but there were still those weird Kazakh aspects that colored the experience. First thing, on the way here two weeks ago we flew up on a non-stop flight that was just about four hours and we wanted a non-stop on the way back. But, they don’t take reservations for the non-stop, only for the planes that have a lay over somewhere. When questioned about this, Masha told us that the non-stop is always full (with people who apparently don’t have to plan ahead) so they don’t need to take reservations . . . we are not sure of the logic, but we have acquired an ability to suspend logic just for the sake of surviving the oddities with a minimum of emotional trauma.

The second funny part was that after reserving a flight that takes five and a half hours and has a stop over in another city we tried to pay with Visa. The airline office is capable of using Visa (unlike 98.7% of other businesses) but today the phone line (curse those internet/phone connections!) was not working, so the cashier asked us to just go get cash out of the bank. Again, we were wondering if there were not another way, but alas, there was not.

So we went to the ATM and tried to withdraw 50,000 tenge to pay for the 55,000 tenge tickets. Steve went through the menu at the ATM, which warned him that he could withdraw no more than 30,000 tenge (about $250), and then went to the next screen where he saw a 50, 000 option, which he then tried to select. But NYET! If you say you want 50,000 tenge when your maximum is 30,000, you will get nothing—and the ATM spat his card back out. Needless to say, he did not make that mistake again, but instead settled for withdrawing 30,000 tenge and borrowing some cash from Masha, and we were able to buy our tickets.


img_25581.jpg Bags of BOY clothes!

Our other errand today was buying clothes for Sasha. As kids live in the BH they all share the available clothes, so we may see another kid in his family wearing clothes that Sasha had on the day before. Because he owns no clothes Masha and I went shopping for him today in the bazaar. It was fun—something I have been wanting to do for years—shop for a son. Steve wisely bailed on us so we were free to be inefficient and take time to match colors and ensembles. We will try them on tomorrow and hopefully they will fit. We will keep you posted ~ until then ~ cheers!


img_2560.jpg The Loot


June 24, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — kozastan @ 12:28 pm


24 June 2007 Music Room Antics

Sasha Time



Sash recording his deep thoughts (over my deep thoughts)

It rained a lot last night and has continued today (stopping inconveniently only when Steve asked if I wanted to go for a run) so for bonding time, we were inside with our friends and their two babies. One notable difference between two and half year olds and babies is the noise surrounding each. Sasha has a noise level about himself that far outpaces the noise any baby can make. Especially happy babies—these kids don’t cry for the whole two hours they are with their parents!



Small Child, BIG Curtains

The second order of business (after pillaging my tan bag) in the music room is to go behind the enormous curtains to find all the fun stuff. There are great big mats, a puppet theatre and the always popular machina. Our baby friends did not know about the goodies behind the curtain—they come prepared with blankets and yoga mats—so when we started dragging out all manner of items, they were suitably impressed.



Steve, Sasha and the Ladder to Nowhere

Another item behind the curtains is the ladder to nowhere. We believe it is for kids to practice climbing on . . . and it is only slightly dangerous for Sasha. He likes to climb but faces a number of challenges: first he likes to skip rungs. This is understandable. If you skip rungs you get to the top faster. But if your legs are 18 inches long, they often don’t reach all the way past the skipped rung, which leaves you, literally, hanging. This is where his second challenge arises: he seems to let go at particularly bad times. We have seen him essentially fling himself off the ladder and another climbing apparatus outside and, luckily each time, Steve has been there to catch him (Note to self: in addition to protective goggles, pick up small helmet for climbing).



Rolling on the “Matrushka” ball

Also behind the large curtains there are two huge mat-like balls. They are cool because they are like Matrushka (Russian nesting) dolls . . . you can remove the outer covering to reveal another color of fabric . . . which you can remove to reveal another color of fabric . . . which you can remove to reveal another color of fabric . . . which you can remove to reveal another color of fabric . . . can you see where this goes with Sasha? Today I tried to lay him down on the ball because he has an incredible ability to arch his back. It was easy for him to match the curve of the ball with the arch of his back (I am certain my back was never capable of doing this even when I was two), but even more fun, was rolling backwards until his head hit the ground.



Upside down boy

This is another thing Steve and I have noticed—when bailing out of something (the machina, our arms, a ball) or falling head first, he tends to lead with his head. Today we began to put his arms and hands over his head in an effort to show him that those things should hit first. This concept seems pretty simple, but one in which we will not allow the natural consequences theory to play out (Note to self: add neck brace to shopping list).



Sasha and Clay

We are running out of new and interesting toys for Sasha, and he has begun to plunder the bags of the baby parents, so we brought out the last new thing today—clay. He has worked with clay before, and it was fun for him today. The best part was when he took the small balls of clay, put them in an empty M&M bag and called them vitaminas. He proceeded to give me one at a time saying, “Vitamina” with each one. I pretended to eat them and he thought this was hilarious. After this, he, of course, also put one in his mouth and we all jumped to get it out—two year olds are so literal.



All of Us (wishing there were two beautiful girls in the photo with us)

Later we rolled the balls back and forth to each other, and each time I rolled I would say “Skazhjee [say] blue . . . yellow . . . etc.” He would repeat the colors and it was adorable! So far his English words include more, no more, please and he has repeated the color names. The English is not taking off like gangbusters, as we had hoped it would. We speak mostly English to him, sprinkled through out with our own version of Russian—which closely matches Sasha’s—Masha keeps correcting us because we imitate Sasha and apparently his speech, like that of many two year olds, is not quite textbook. No wonder the vendors in the market always smile at our Russian—we are probably saying, “Me please want this thank you five tomatoes hippo.” We will never know.



Reading (and educating Mama on what these things really are)

At any rate, he probably thinks our speech is not quite textbook, either, and that we tend to babble a lot. We know the language will come, but the in between time will be both hilarious and frustrating for all concerned. Today he drank an entire bottle of water so we had two occasions to ask about, then eventually go to the bathroom. He did say “da” to the “Koychish toaylet?” question a third time, but when he had me alone in the hall he dragged me to another “apartment” of another group of kids. The caregiver just smiled at us as we barged in and said “Ahh, Sasha”. He seems to be well known in these parts.



Writing with Papa (Masha is in the background)

We are heading out to try to find coffee—it has been two weeks since my last cup and while it has not been horrible to go without, it would be great to actually have some. I bought a packet of instant “cappuccino” and almost made it until I saw that the ingredients were in English. The list was: “sugar, glucose, hardened vegetable fat (can you ask for a shot of that at Caribou?), instant coffee and skimmed milk powder . . . and a bunch of chemicals I can neither recognize nor type. That is our adventure for today—I will write more tomorrow ~ cheers!



June 23, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — kozastan @ 12:17 pm

22 June 2007 КИСКА (Keeska—Kitten)
Sasha Time

img_2401.jpg Self Portrait—Sasha in Shadow
First, let me apologize . . . I forgot the camera yesterday, so there are no new Sasha photos from then, but there are new photos from today because we changed our visiting time to the morning! Yeah! This is something we have been wanting, but it didn’t work with all the visiting schedules (all the parents who are bonding with all the other kids) until now. Adding to the fun, we actually met other families at the party last night, and they were all there this morning. It was great to meet them, trade stories and see them again today . . . it is nice to know others are going through the same kinds of things that we are.

img_2420.jpg Our new found friends . . . who are all adopting babies

In addition to having way more people around for bonding, we had a little КИСКА, kitten, who did a very fine job impersonating Pepper (our cat at home) for us. We have seen this kitten with her mother, and today she was up for being chased around the playground, and that suited Sasha just fine. The kitten must be the same kind of cat as Pepper because it is just as social. It wanted to be with the people, even those who were attempting to carry it around by its neck. (Sasha, we believe, was imitating the mama cat. This is our hope anyway.)

img_2398.jpg КИСКА
As he worked with her it became clear that he has had almost no contact with living animals. He grabbed her with such force that I am surprised he didn’t break a rib. Thankfully she is young, and didn’t seem overly upset about the rough love. We spent the rest of the morning trying to teach him how to pet a cat, which is a bit more difficult than I would have guessed.

img_24031.jpg Gently, gently, GENTLY! Cat petting lessons

In our world there have always been pets, and the girls have always been around people who treat the animals kindly, so they do the same. Sasha will learn this too. Hopefully he will get a head start here on the tolerant cat; otherwise he will have more experiential learning and natural consequences with our fully clawed cat at home. (Note to self, stock up on Bacitracin and Band-aids. Buy protective goggles for Sasha.)


img_2418.jpg Gently, gently, GENTLY! More cat petting lessons

I know I have brought Steve over to the (messy, furry, chaotic) world of pet lovers because when I asked if we could take the Keeska home he said, “Yeah, I think she could go in a carry on.” We encouraged her to follow us home to the apartment, until we realized there would be adventures trying to find kitty litter and cat food . . . and there are so many places a conversation involving the word cat could go wrong in a country where the locals eat horse . . . best to leave her at the Baby House . . . for now.

img_24051.jpg Can we keep her?

We had a great day outside, and having more people and the cat made our time feel more like normal play time at a park. One family has their almost two year old son with them—his name is Daniel and he was adopted from here last year. It was good to see Sash interact with another little guy. Sasha is pretty sure he is in charge of most things and this belief transfers from his “family”, to anyone on the playground and, more recently, to us.

There has been a slight, yet perceptible shift in our interactions over the past three days. Sasha has begun to assert his will more, and we have begun to say no/nyet more. It is a dance we knew would come, but one that is a bit awkward . . . we step on each others’ oes, try to communicate, then move along with the music. We have before us a confluence of issues—language, child development, attachment, emotions involved in leaving the only home he has known—and it will be our job to sort out what is driving his actions at any point in time.

img_2413.jpg Sand, it’s not just for breakfast anymore!

We are trying to keep Masha in the loop with our reactions to his defiant behavior—he is such a little smarty—he hears nyet from us then goes to Masha to ask again. His new trick is not wanting to say pah zjhal sta (please) before asking/demanding something of us. There have been times when it is much more important to get a pillow, lay on his back and stare at the ceiling for five minutes rather than say please in order to get the water bottle. (I particularly admired the forethought involved in getting the pillow before laying and looking at the ceiling for five minutes.)

This is expected, and we will help him learn how things work in our family. I just fear that we will not have a clear understanding before we spend 24+ hours in transit (on planes—eek!) when we finally come home.

img_24271.jpg The three Kozaks out on a walk


Speaking of coming home, we finally have some firm dates about how our next two weeks will play out. Our official “Bonding Period” ends on Monday, so our court documents will all be delivered to the court on Tuesday. Unfortunately we can not see the judge until the following Tuesday, so we will just have to cool our heels here, and keep up the same visiting schedule we have established, until then. We go to court on Tuesday July 3 and have to do more paperwork on the 4th, so we will both fly out of Petropavlovsk to Almaty after that on Wednesday. We couldn’t get a plane out of Almaty until Friday July 6, so that is when we leave, and as if by a miracle we will arrive back home 24+ hours later also on Friday July 6!

The adoption process involves a 15 day “waiting period” after the court date, so no official things can happen until that is over. After the waiting period Masha will help get a new birth certificate and adoption decree. With those, she can get Sasha’s passport and exit visa (another 10 days). Since it was going to be at least 25 more days before Sasha could leave Petro, Steve and I decided I should come home rather than stay. Both of us are in serious need of seeing the girls, and while we love talking to them twice a day, actually being with them for 25 days before returning to Kaz will be like heaven. We miss them terribly.

Masha will escort Sasha to Almaty and I will return to Kaz alone to do the final embassy paperwork and eventually bring him home. That second trip is not yet planned, but will be in late July, with us coming home in early August. Sounds good to us. Cheers!


Baby House June 22, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — kozastan @ 9:43 am

Thursday June 21, 2007 Baby House


Sasha Time


It has become ridiculously hot here, and since we visit between 4:00 and 6:00 we can only stand being outside for about an hour . . . the three adults slowly melt and Sasha is free to move about without us tailing him and cramping his style. Yesterday he took this opportunity to eat a moderately large amount of sand. We would say, “Nyet!” and he would look up happily chomping on the tiny crunchers. He would wisely ask for “Vada” do an appropriate amount of swigging, backwashing, giggling, choking on vada, then return for more sand.


A week ago we would have made a more valiant effort to stop him from eating so much sand, but with the heat, and being rather old and tired, now we assume that at some point he will learn, like all people, that sand is not good to eat. Those natural consequences tend to stick better through experience . . . we can’t just tell him not to eat sand, he needs to eat it, eventually decide it is not good to eat, then refrain from eating it in the future. If he is still eating sand in Kindergarten we will change tactics.


There are nice gazebo-like shelters on the playground where we tend to set up camp and conduct less strenuous activities. Reading, drawing on paper and yourself, playing with machinas or throwing jacks on the floor are all activities that happen in these shady places. Steve and I have evolved into a tag team of sorts so that one of us can “guard” our stuff in the shade while the other plays with Boy Wonder. Yesterday we all found time to be in the shade more, and it looks like the heat will hold through early July . . . so we are in for a treat.



Once we moved inside I drove the machina, not as loudly or crazily as Papa, but well enough that when asked “Yee shoa?” (More?) he continued to reply, “Da”. We are now sharing the music room with another couple from Colorado. They are adopting a 7 month old baby, Sergei/Silas. They are sweet and don’t seem to mind the ruckus we tend to create . . . they even shared an Audubon stuffed bird that makes the bird’s call when squeezed. Sasha is fascinated by whistling—when I whistle he tries to grab the whistle as it comes out of my mouth. He pinches at the air, but hasn’t seemed to catch one yet. Needless to say, he loves this bird . . . and I can see a new era where we actually allow “Noise Toys” (previously under a pretty strict ban) into the house . . . oh how we slip in our older age.


As we headed out to play yesterday the caregiver asked if Sash could wear the shorts and tank top he had on. We said fine, and it was good because it was so hot outside, but the best part of this particular outfit was its propensity toward letting the tummy escape. The shirt is not quite big enough to keep that fuel tank covered, and we ended up with about ten different photos of its appearance. Here is the best of the bunch . . . I can see our grocery bill will be going up exponentially in the future.



The Other 22 Hours


After our shnuut triumph yesterday we had a bit of a set back on the internet access spectrum. Our connection did not actually get shoddier, but even worse, we learned that the couple from Colorado have and ETHERNET CONNECTION in their apartment. Ughh! And they aren’t even trying to work almost full time like Steve. I was surprised he did not ask if he could come over and “hang out” at their place from about 7:00 a.m. til 2:00 p.m. and then a little more after dinner. Actually he might yet ask that. He did inquire if their apartment was rented after they leave Petro, and it is, but we are going to a party there tonight, so we will see if there are any other options to be closer (Steve sitting in the hall outside the apartment hoping for WiFi?) to a legitimate internet source.

The title for the blog to day is Baby House because I wanted to show the photos of Sasha’s “Family Apartment”. There have been some mixed in, but I will give you the full tour today. His apartment has been renovated recently because a woman who adopted twin boys from this group about a year ago wanted to give a second “donation” to the Baby House for the living space of this group. The other “families” do not have radically different apartments, but this one has just gotten an infusion of new stuff.

There bedroom has both “toddler beds” and cribs. Sasha sleeps in a little bed, and apparently is happy to lead the group in songs or poems to help get them out of bed in the morning. This is not unlike the tactic I use to get Anni and Kats up—sing until they are out of bed. I only stop singing once they are up and moving, otherwise they have a tendency to fall over and accidentally sleep some more. You may notice the pink and rather frilly bedspreads. We have noticed that there is not a segregation of the color pink here in Kazakhstan. Every color is an option for every kid, and if you have 12 pink bedspreads, you will use them all. That color scheme will not continue in St. Paul.


Their playroom is big, light and has great stuff for little ones to do. Part of the recent donation made a little stage/slide/hide underneath kind of structure where Sash demonstrated his sliding ability. There are nice thick carpets on the floor and it really is a great place to play. We had heard/read about orphanage playrooms where all the toys are in a closet and the kids just don’t play with them regularly. Here it is much more like a U.S. daycare. It seems like there are free play times, quiet activity times and some TV time—which is a good mix for a bunch of two year olds. Again we are happy that the Baby House is not what we expected . . . it is much better.


Their eating room is the first room we go into, and where we usually meet Sasha. It too has high ceilings and great light. Everything is clean and well organized. As we had heard before we came here, all the kids in the family go to the bathroom at the same time, and all are potty trained—even the little ones! I can see the necessity of this, and we have heard about adoptive families that actually “regress” the kids they adopt to send them back to diapers. We will not be following that plan. We appreciate that Sasha seems to have this under control, so we will not mess with a good thing.


In all, this has been a great place for him to start his young life. As we have learned about so many issues in adoption, one we thought a lot about (knowing we would adopt an older child) was self-esteem, and how that is affected when one loses his original family. Self esteem is the value judgment on our self identity—how we feel about who we are as people, and there are certain things that aid in the development of positive self esteem in young children: a secure place, safe people and a feeling of belonging.

We know that Sasha has had these three things, and we have actually realized that he was probably better off to be in this Baby House from age four months because of the consistency of care he has always received. So, we are fans of his home and the people who have helped him become the Sasha he was probably meant to be. He is certainly not lacking in personality or confidence, and we are thankful for that. Until tomorrow! Cheers!


Internet Connections June 21, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — kozastan @ 2:50 pm

Thursday June 20, 2007 Internet Connections


Sasha Time June 19


As you know, yesterday was an emotional day for all of us, and in the confusion I forgot to write about our day Tuesday. The best part of Tuesday was playing outside with Sasha’s old “family”. Again we are struck by how much the caregivers love these kids and how happy they are to see them with their forever family.

We are sharing the photo album of Sasha and our family with his caregivers whenever we get the chance, and as we shared it with the woman in the photo she commented, “It is just like in the movies.” We aren’t sure if she was looking at a particularly handsome photo of Steve, or our house and pool, but either way it is just like in the movies.

The twin girls who are looking at the album kept seeing the photos of Katia and Annika and saying their own names . . . “Ileana e Anastasia”. Three year olds are awesome.


img_2171.jpg img_2174.jpg

Perennial Favorites . . . Crazy Train and Beegeemwot




Sasha’s Former Family



Ileana and Anastasia checking themselves out in our family album


As stated earlier, yesterday was a big day but there was also playing, and we can’t deprive anyone of seeing Sasha be adorable . . . so here were the best ones from yesterday~



Family Resemblance? We think so!



What could be better than Papa, a machina, new shades and a new cell phone?



Papa, a machina, new shades, new cell phone and Papa’s watch!



What every grown-up looks like when a two and a half year old has the camera



What Sash leaves in his wake



The Man



The Other 22 Hours


We have looked at our experience at the almost 10 day mark, and we are struck by both what is so different as well as so similar here. There will be more on that observation another day . . . but today we will focus on what is very different . . . internet access.

We came to Kazakhstan armed with two laptops and a Blackberry. These items were slogged across the world to help us keep up with our lives in the states. Steve actually needs to work while we are here and to be able to do that he needs internet access. And both of us need to talk to our girls each day—Skype was our plan, and for this, too, we need internet access. Before we came we asked about such things in Petropavlovsk and were assured that there was an “Internet Café” nearby.

When we arrived, we learned that this “Internet Café” was nearby, but was not an actual “Internet Café”. It does have internet access, but you are required to use the computers that belong to the “Café”. And there is no actual “Café”—no food allowed—so whenever we refer to this entity we use air quotes around “Café”. We would advise that you do the same whenever referring to “Internet Cafés” in Kazakhstan.

Steve can’t use his computer with fast internet connection . . . so he is stuck here with me and the dial-up connection in the apartment and while that connection is slow, I do think I smell better than some of the “Internet Café” patrons—so at least Steve has that going for him—which is nice. As this reality became clear he tried to find the best way to work with a dial up connection. I suggested tranquilizers and yoga but he insisted on scouring the apartment to try to find the phone cord that had the fewest hand made splices. There were two, each had at least three splices—which were “fixed” with scotch tape, but that didn’t seem to help much.


After our first conversations with home through Skype (which we truly do love) we decided that long delays between dialog and having the call dropped every two minutes was not acceptable. We asked Masha for another cord, which she delivered. This cord was better than the first two, but still was a little touchy. So touchy in fact that Steve actually pulled one of the jacks off yesterday. Steve, who is the most careful person in the world. Had I ever touched the cord both jacks would have been ripped off in a matter of minutes, but Steve carefully used them for almost eight days before it mysteriously fell apart in his hands.

So last night and this morning we had ridiculously bad calls with home and we decided to go find another cord this afternoon. Then Steve needed to work with a 2 mb document that was emailed to him. At home this would take all of 15 seconds to download. Here, it took about 20 minutes. With that show of sluggishness we moved the cord hunting errand up and went out to find some cord.


First we went to the electronics store which is named бEГЕМОТ (Do you recognize that word yet? It is Beegeemwot—our favorite! Hippo!) We head out on these errands forgetting that we don’t actually speak Russian—so we got to the store, found land line phones and were prepared to point at the cord coming out the back and say, “Ya hachoo eta.” “I would like that.” But none had the cord that connects to the wall coming out the back! Curses! We would have to communicate in a different way. Pantomime, the word for phone, pointing and picture drawing eventually won us the word “shnuut” (cord), which only came with the complete phone . . . so we were out of luck there, but at least we had the word.

Next we went to the bazaar, because it is like a giant open air Target, only with a lot more smells and jostling. We asked in two places and were considering throwing in the towel and calling Masha, when, like a small gift from God, we saw a “shnuut” stapled to a board with other electronic stuff.


We found the proprietor of the electronics hut (This is a country where the name hut or shack actually describes the store.), said “Pa zhal sta, shnuut?” (Please, cord?) He came out of the hut, went to the outside wall where the cardboard display was and pointed directly at the shnuut! We had communicated! DA! Then he asked how much shnuut we need and we ordered 10 meters. He pulled that much shnuut off a big spindle, attached two new jacks and asked us for 400 Tenge.



What a triumph! We had way more shnuut than we would ever need, but it was our shnuut, and we had gotten it all by ourselves. So we will send the blog today with more hope it will go through the first time, and hopefully will be able to hear Anni and Katia’s voices without losing them halfway into a conversation . . .


“Internet Café”? We don’t need no stinking Internet “Café”.


Valya (ВАЛЯ) June 20, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — kozastan @ 3:39 pm

Wednesday June 20, 2007 Valya (ВАЛЯ)


Instead of Sasha Time today, we need to tell you about Valya . . . Valentina . . . Sasha’s oldest sister. As we shared on our first Petropavlovsk blog entry, we met Sasha the first day and learned that he had five siblings. Since we knew we could not adopt all six and since the older kids had never really known Sasha, we asked if we could adopt Sasha alone. This is not something we planned on doing before we came. We actually had specifically said that we would not adopt a child away from his family . . . then we got here and heard the story.


Sasha’s parents were not able to care for their six children, so they had their parental rights terminated and the children went into orphanages about two and a half years ago. Eventually the father took two (Anya 16 and Misha 8 ) of the six and moved to Russia, leaving the three other girls and the baby, Sasha. As the story unfolded, we, the BH director and the caregivers realized that Sash had a much slighter chance of being adopted if all four kids were to be adopted together, and that it was worth finding out if he could be adopted alone.


Svetlana, our lawyer here, checked into all the children, found Valya, now seventeen, and talked to her about the situation. Valya is actually the blood relative who needs to give her permissions for Sasha to be adopted because she is the oldest family member whose rights have not been terminated. After hearing what we were like, and what Sasha’s life would be like in the US, she agreed to relinquish her rights and allow us to adopt Sasha.


We met Valya today, and she is a remarkable young woman. Imagine a beautiful seventeen year old, who can make this decision because she knows it will be best for her youngest brother even though it is not the decision she wants to make. She and the director of her orphanage/boarding school drove to Petro today. We had lunch, during which we talked a lot about her and Sasha’s family, as well as our family and life.


It was a bit surreal because we are so in love with Sasha, and we wanted to communicate this, but not go so far as to make her feel like this will be an even larger loss for her and her sisters (Lena, 13 and Natasha 12) who are still here. Throughout the lunch we talked, laughed and learned about each other, then at the end Valya hand wrote a letter stating that she cannot become the guardian of Sasha, so she released her parental rights and wrote that she wanted us to be his parents.


As I watched her write this letter I just cried. I cannot imagine what her life has been like and for her to give us and Sasha the gift of a new life together is most generous act I have witnessed. She feels this deeply, yet recognizes what is possible for Sasha, and that helped her to sign her name. We tried to communicate what this means to us, but the tears stopped the words and we sat there crying together. Her loss is our longed-for joy and I don’t know when we will each find peace in this trade, but we will eternally thank her for her generosity of heart and spirit.


After lunch we came back to our apartment so she could select pictures of Sasha, us and our world in St. Paul that we later printed for her and her sisters. After that we went to visit Sasha and it was almost too much for her, but through the new round of tears she shone with love for him. You could see her memories of their lives as a family going through her head as she took him in. Sasha was shy with her at first, then he circled in closer to her as he played and eventually ended up in her lap. Valya had been the mother figure in their family, and this was easy to see in her play with him.


We took so many photos and video that the camera battery eventually died, but we will always have this afternoon, the stories, the tears, the incredible acts of generosity, and the photos of Sasha and Valya together. We do hope and plan to stay in touch with her, but that future communication is hard to believe in, so if nothing else we have today and we will always be able to tell Sasha that it was a day that changed all of our lives.






Laundry and Interesting Walks June 19, 2007

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