Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Visiting Gigi, Paul and Donna in Winter Park

Robbie, Michele, and Morgan visited Paul, Donna, and Gigi in Orlando, September 3, 2007. Here are some pictures:

https://www.flickr.com/gp/rga/4A387a

Fwd: 1 of 9

Thursday, August 30, 2007

New video from March 2007 in Kostanai

Compilation from Robertson Adams on Vimeo.
New video from March 2007 in Kostanai (9 min. 30 sec.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Morgan's foot has a pink cast with a black sock on it

Morgan's foot has a pink cast with a black sock on it

Originally uploaded by Robertson Adams

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Minus One!

We had a little surgery today at Miami Children's Hospital to remove an extra toe that Morgan was born with. She's at the hospital tonight for observation (with Dad & Mom too) and will go home in the morning with a bright pink fiberglass cast on her foot that goes from just below her knee to her (now 5) toes on the left foot. Her doctor says she'll be able to tap dance and kick box again in a few days. Until then, it's Codeine.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

One!

Morgan was happy to have a birthday party with Nana, Lee, Bob, Phyllis, plus Bill W. and Katie and Nikki also dropping by for good wishes. Michele made a yummy cake (white cake with red and blue gumdrops in it) on Sunday morning and it went well with burgers and hot dogs.

She got a new handmade outfit and a baby doll with a crib, from Nana; a monkey backpack with a safety cord plus an activity center for the car from Grandpa Bob ; a Snoopy puppy on wheels and a hip pink outfit from Phyllis; and a set of roll-around cars and a mini lawn chair from Mom and Dad. Benjamin and Jacob sent some scrumptious personalized towels that she can use for bath time.

After that, she went to have a birthday visit with Dr. Trujillo, her pediatrician. His nurse took blood, and gave her 3 vaccine shots, so Morgan had a rough day and came home sore and tired. Ouch! She did, however, earn the coveted blue and gold vaccine forms which allows her to continue at day care for another year. After August 20, she'll graduate from the infants section at Riviera Child Care Center up to the Toddlers group. We're proud of her!

The doctor also said she's growing fast. On May 31 she was 29 inches long, and now on Aug. 7 she's already 31 inches (and 24 lbs. at both visits). That puts her in the 95th percentile for her age among girls. Almost time for those 18-24m size jeans!

Morgan's saying a lot of "da-da-da-da" lately, but her most common phrase is when something falls or is dropped - she says "uh-oh." She also points at several things and calls them "bah," including flowers, books, the paddle fan and the piano.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Happy Birthday Morgan!

Mom & Dad lean to the left sometimesOriginally uploaded by Robertson Adams

Monday, July 30, 2007

0.980821918 years and counting

Morgan's got one week to go until she turns one so it's probably a good time for a blog update. She's growing rapidly and her personality has new sparkle to it every day.

She's just gotten over a flu and gone back to school this week; she had suffered a fever, cough and other annoyances and was sent home on Wednesday. She stayed home with Michele on Thursday and Friday with me, and today she was SO happy to be back in class with her friends Eric and Caitlin. She has been spending one day a week in the toddlers class so she acclimates to the increased activity, and next week or perhaps shortly after, she will graduate up to that group.

Around the house she's learned to crawl so fast that she can get around as fast as Michele or I can walk. So we've had to block the stairs and the kitchen entrances, and we're toddler-proofing the house. Michele had an inspired idea to convert the area under the stairs to a play room, and the results are great. She goes and plays in her area without prompting since her doggie ("doh doh") lives there now.

We took her to a pool party at Sage and Jae's house last weekend, and she loved playing in the water with Mommy and Daddy. She clearly likes the other girls and was watching them as if all the action centered around herself. She splashed around in an inflated chair as if she were in the bathtub, and almost, almost propelled herself around the shallow end. She crawled around the pool deck recklessly near the water and will definitely need swim lessons sooner rather than later.

We took Morgan on her first road trip. She didn't appreciate being in the car seat for the 2-hours each way to Naples, but she loved playing with Grandma and Grandpa, and going on a little cruise for Grandpa's birthday. We had a great time dining at a dockside restaurant for lunch - Morgan got lots of attention and fried snacks.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Kostanai by ne_marks - June 2007


kostanay
Originally uploaded by ne_markes
We miss beautiful, friendly Kostanai, and Morgan's caregivers at Delphin and especially auntie Zhanat in Kostanai.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Happy First Father's Day

Originally uploaded by Robertson Adams

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Torso-locomotion

This week, Morgan breezed through her first taste of the International Baccalaureate track (just kidding) at Riviera Child Care Center. Each day opened with emotional drama -- but by Friday, she had adjusted. Caregiver Millie reported that Morgan clapped her hands, smiled during a piano number, ate all her fish sticks and played with both Eric and Caitlin.

Morgan hadn't been crawling a lot, but after her first day at school she came home and was slithering all around our tiled living room. We think she's learning from her classmates. So, Saturday Mom took her up to the mall at Sawgrass and got her some long-pants outfits so she'd be better prepared for torso-locomotion.

Today (Sunday) we went to Sage and Jae's house for a pool party and BBQ, which was incredible fun for Morgan. She had a blast in the pool and loved watching the other children play with brightly colored float toys. In the pool, we also played with Jordan and Angelina and Liam and Kai. By the way Cris and Claire make great burgers and their South Miami house is awesome. Stay tuned, there may be some great photos to come from this party when pro photographer Sarah Preston e-mails them to me.

It was also incredible fun for daddy, who remembered playing in various pools with his own father by using posh hotels, the Granada Country Club, and the Venetian Pool as if they were our backyard (until we got a cool pool of our own.)

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Pre Pre Pre School

Tomorrow Morgan will start daycare at Riviera Child Care Center, and we've heard nothing but praise for infant caregiver May and her profesional team of baby ticklers.

Morgan clocked in at the doctor's at 21 pounds -- for the third month in a row. She has tried and failed three times to get a urinalysis going because the sticky plastic thingy just won't work on her, but the three stool samples Daddy had to collect left his head spinning. Still need an MRI, X-rays, blood tests, and more bologna than you could find in an elementary school lunch room.

Morgan sometimes won't open her mouth when we try to feed her now - she is asserting her detachment according to the books. She won't sleep on command either, which led to kvetching in the household until a book recommended by Uncle Doug helped Mommy win, and Daddy now lets Morgan scream and turn purple before he picks her up.

There are so many kids under five in the Riviera Church youth group - Dillan, Dustin, Kai, Liam, John, James, Aidan, Jae and Jakk (plus Morgan) - that Daddy is pretty sure he's going to need a larger vehicle to help get them all camping in 10 years.

And here's a BIG shout out to Nicholas Wolfe, who turned 1 yesterday. He's the brainy hunk with whom Morgan spent the first 8 months of her life sharing a crib, and smart money says they won't make it difficult to reunite frequently. Welcome to Boston, dude, be sure you try the microbrew beer someday, even if it really was better back in Kostanai. (Hi to Flo for helping sobbing Nan on the plane!)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Morgan gets dunked

Morgan was baptized Sunday by Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus with help from Leah, who represented the congregation in the ceremony.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Hi to my friends in Kostanai

IMG_0145
Hi I just wanted to say "privet" to my friends in Kostanai at the Delphin. Mom and Dad just took me to the beach today and I had fun (that is, after I saw other kids having fun and figured out this complex concept). I've been very busy learning to crawl and learning to eat new foods. This week I also visited the Riviera Child Care Center where I'll be learning lots more with new friends starting June 3rd. -- Morgan Adams

Saturday, May 19, 2007

First week at home

Morgan has been feeling fine. Last night she slept from 8:30 pm all the way until 7 am without even asking for her pacifier once! She was out like a light. Morgan and I took Michele out to pizza at "Blu Pizzeria" in South Miami, where Morgan had pasta and sauce (a stage 3 jar) and some fruit mush.

Today (Saturday) we took her to Target and bought a new car seat because the one we had before is for children age 3 and up; it didn't fit her well at all. Now Michele has taken her to Homestead to Peggy's house, for a "ladies tea" lunch. I'm using the time to work on Knight work that has fallen behind this week. There's an important web deadline coming up and I have to finish by Monday.

Tomorrow, we'll be taking her to church with us for the first time. She'll meet some other children for the first time, who might grow up to be friends.

And Tuesday we'll be taking her back to Dr. Hector Trujillo (3rd visit), whom we like a lot so far. If her breathing has less crud in it, then he can finally make a proper physical exam of her. With that in mind, we're using the nebulizer regularly now to treat whatever virus is hiding in there.

This week she went out to Target many many times for various things - lots of food, and cute clothes. We found footy pajamas at The Children's Place that fit perfectly; thanks to Nan and her sister Florence for suggesting to shop there for such a hard to find thing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

We're home at last

Since the last posting, we've flown from Almaty back through Frankfurt to New York, and Morgan has become a U.S. citizen. We spent Mother's Day weekend with Uncle Doug and Aunt Alexa in their apartment near Columbia University Teacher's College, and Uncle Jon and Aunt Karen at a brunch on upper Broadway at Le Monde cafe with cousins Benjamin and Jacob. Then, we flew home to Miami (exhausted and cranky!) to a reception hosted by Nana and Lee, with Grandpa Bob, Grandpa David, Grandma Carol and Aunt Phyllis. (The chocolate ice cream cake deserves recognition too, it was so yummy.)

Fortunately Morgan adjusted to her new surroundings almost immediately, and has been sleeping well and eating well, though she's not drinking as much formula as we'd hoped she would.

Parenting is going well. Morgan will not sleep when we want her to - so we have to use tricks like sugaring her up, taking her for a walk in the stroller, and letting her have a little sugar crash when we need her to be asleep. Hopefully this will eventually result in a sleep pattern we can live with. Last night she went down at 7:30 pm and woke up at 1 am; then had trouble sleeping until 4 am when I finally got her to sleep by letting her fall asleep on me. Michele rescued me at 6 for her breakfast and walk, so that I could finally sleep a little.

Developments we've noticed in just the last few days:
  • She's making choices, such as pointing at the bottle or the yogurt cup, while eating so we know what she wants more of.

  • She's picking up Cheerios with two fingers, but it's not a pincer grip - she licks her fingers and then adheres the cereal to her hand with spit to get it to her mouth.

  • She's much more verbal every day - saying ma ma and da da, but randomly.

  • More attached than ever to the two blue Gund 'Spunky' dogs that Cousin Kristie and Uncle Blair gave her.



Morgan will have a baptism soon. It's Sunday, May 27th and if you're reading this and wish to come, it's at Riviera Presbyterian Church during regular worship at 11 am. Refreshments to follow.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

First night in her new crib

Morgan slept soundly the first night in hew new crib. (It was the second night that she got up repeatedly and we discovered she had a high fever.)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Arrival at JFK


Greeted by Doug and Alexa at JFK on May 12, 2007 after connecting in Frankfurt.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Morgan's very first blog entry:

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All done and ready to return to the U.S.

It’s Friday afternoon and our hotel room is darkened as Michele is catching up on sleep. She got very ill last night after eating something funny in a Korean restaurant – though I had exactly the same order as she, and didn’t get sick at all. Hopefully (likely) she’ll be feeling well enough before we have to fly early Saturday AM out of the Almaty Airport - about eight hours from now.

Morgan is lively and giggling, blowing raspberries and entertaining herself with gurgles in her crib. We haven’t quite found the right balance of fruit juice and sugary yogurt vs. starchy rice cereal and mush, so she’s either high and bouncing off the walls, or grumpy and sleepy much of the time. Naps are very hard to schedule between the important trips about town.

Yesterday, we went to the SOS Services medical clinic and Morgan got a checkup and HIV test required by the U.S. Embassy. She’s healthy of course, but it turns out that every possible medical problem on her original medical records was either self-contradictory or just fabricated (the incentive to fabricate medical problems stems from the way that baby houses are funded and the arcane rules by which babies are eligible to be put up for international adoption).

We met a couple of interesting people at breakfast in the hotel. Austin is an adoptive father and lawyer from New Orleans and will be taking home baby Merina; Grove and Jennifer are from New Mexico and are taking home baby Pavel – and like me, they work for nonprofits; and JoAnne is returning Sunday to Buffalo with new son Nicholas. We also enjoyed meeting Chan Park, a professor from Ohio doing a 2-week educational exchange on the Korean diaspora that are in Kazakhstan – over 200,000 were relocated involuntarily from Russia in the 1950s to farm wheat.

Having accomplished the last major bit of business this afternoon – a trip to the heavily fortified and guarded U.S. Embassy to pick up Morgan’s Kazakh passport with U.S. visa stamps, medical records and an “instantly valid upon arrival” U.S. citizenship document – we are now about 12 hours from departure. We thought about registering her to vote liberal, too, but she’s too young – darn!

It’s a huge relief that there have been really no surprises on this trip, and we must again thank the fine work of Libby, Dina, and Zhanat of MAPS; Oleg in Almaty and Efrat at Lifelink in Miami.

Morgan can’t wait to come drool on her new family, and in about 36 hours from now we’ll get the first chance to do that!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

We're here. She's here too.

IMG_0011
IMG_0011
Originally uploaded by Robertson Adams.

Reunited

Just a note to say all has gone well, and we have Morgan sleeping in a crib in the hotel room now. Photos are on http://www.flickr.com/photos/rga.

We've arrived! Zzzzzz zzzz zzzz.


IMG_0001
Originally uploaded by Robertson Adams.
After arrival at 11:30 pm it took us until 1 am to get to our room and sleep finally.

We're back in Kazakhstan! ... and still waiting.

Good afternoon, it’s Wednesday here in Almaty and we’re waiting to meet the head nurse from the Delphin Baby House at the airport around 5:45. We expect to receive our beautiful new daughter and bring her back to the Kazzhol Hotel, where we’ll be changing our first diaper, preparing our first bottle of formula – lots of firsts tonight. (Hopefully first full night of sleep? Ha ha ha.)

The flight in was smooth – the Germans love their cigarettes too much so the Frankfurt Airport was a difficult place to find 4 hours of rest during a 6-hour layover. We eventually settled on some padded benches at a colossal McDonald’s food court in terminal 2. Highly recommended if you, too, wish to avoid the $240 day rate at the Sheraton.

Our flight from Frankfurt went by surprisingly quickly, and we got in at 11:30, were picked up by driver Nicholai and coordinator Oleg – and whisked to the Kazzhol Hotel (we expected to be in the Hotel Kazakhstan but this place is just fine, and cheaper). They’ve put a crib in our room and we went to a large supermarket that had everything we could possibly want – baby food and juice in all flavors and sizes.

It’s a national holiday – I think it’s Victory Day – so many people are wearing green military hats with red stars on them and there are many icons of national and civic pride around. In Almaty (Alma Ata) this includes apples, because it’s the home of the world’s first wild apples. (Benjamin and Jacob, that’s for show and tell on Monday

For the last 4 weeks in Miami, I have had to pinch myself to believe that we ever left town and spent more than a month in Kostanai, or that we spoke Russian, or saw tractors and belly dancers. But today it feels oddly natural to be speaking Russian again, and reading Kazakh signs. It means I wasn't hallucinating about the first trip, and it seems we're actually in a far-away land doing fun things like adopting a princess.

The city is beautiful with lots of trees and parks (as leafy as Gainesville, Fla. perhaps) – I would be eager to spend a month here. But compared with Kostanai, it’s very urban. Many more cars. More vendors on the street. Expensive prices for things. Fancy international designer perfume and clothing shops. And a few times people in the grocery store seemed to intentionally shove or at least bump me in a hurry to pass by (the aisle was plenty wide, but they needed my space). Our hotel TV gets both CNN Europe and BBC World channels and the buffet for breakfast had coffee, omelets and sausage included in the price of stay, so we’ll not lose weight as we did on the first trip May 3-April 8.

After walking around Almaty for just an hour this morning and getting some groceries, we’ve taken a long nap and are just in waiting mode now. Sleep was much needed but we have a new family member to go look after.

Back in Kazakhstan!

Good afternoon, it’s Wednesday here in Almaty and we’re waiting to meet the head nurse from the Delphin Baby House at the airport around 5:45. We expect to receive our beautiful new daughter and bring her back to the Kazzhol Hotel, where we’ll be changing our first diaper, preparing our first bottle of formula – lots of firsts tonight. (Hopefully first full night of sleep? Ha ha ha.)

The flight in was smooth – the Germans love their cigarettes too much so the Frankfurt Airport was a difficult place to find 4 hours of rest during a 6-hour layover. We eventually settled on some padded benches at a colossal McDonald’s food court in terminal 2. Highly recommended if you, too, wish to avoid the $240 day rate at the Sheraton.

Our flight from Frankfurt went by surprisingly quickly, and we got in at 11:30, were picked up by driver Nicholai and coordinator Oleg – and whisked to the Kazzhol Hotel (we expected to be in the Hotel Kazakhstan but this place is just fine, and cheaper). They’ve put a crib in our room and we went to a large supermarket that had everything we could possibly want – baby food and juice in all flavors and sizes.

It’s a national holiday – I think it’s Victory Day – so many people are wearing green military hats with red stars on them and there are many icons of national and civic pride around. In Almaty (Alma Ata) this includes apples, because it’s the home of the world’s first wild apples. (Benjamin and Jacob, that’s for show and tell on Monday

For the last 4 weeks in Miami, I have had to pinch myself to believe that we ever left town and spent more than a month in Kostanai, or that we spoke Russian, or saw tractors and belly dancers. But today it feels oddly natural to be speaking Russian again, and reading Kazakh signs. It means I wasn't hallucinating about the first trip, and it seems we're actually in a far-away land doing fun things like adopting a princess.

The city is beautiful with lots of trees and parks (as leafy as Gainesville, Fla. perhaps) – I would be eager to spend a month here. But compared with Kostanai, it’s very urban. Many more cars. More vendors on the street. Expensive prices for things. Fancy international designer perfume and clothing shops. And a few times people in the grocery store seemed to intentionally shove or at least bump me in a hurry to pass by (the aisle was plenty wide, but they needed my space). Our hotel TV gets both CNN Europe and BBC World channels and the buffet for breakfast had coffee, omelets and sausage included in the price of stay, so we’ll not lose weight as we did on the first trip May 3-April 8.

After walking around Almaty for just an hour this morning and getting some groceries, we’ve taken a long nap and are just in waiting mode now. Sleep was much needed but we have a new family member to go look after.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

It's official now

We got word from MAPS that the appeals period is now safely behind us, and our coordinator Zhanat (make that, "fabulous and charming coordinator") is in possession of Morgan's birth certificate, adoption certificate and the final, official court decree. Next on the adventure - she will apply for passport documents and travel stamps so that we can bring her (drum roll)... HOME!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Three weeks to Trip II and counting...

We've been back, amazingly, for one week already. We've had receptions with many friends and it's great to be back home in Miami, but we miss our daughter Morgan very much. We're counting down three weeks remaining until we can return to Kazakhstan and pick her up in Almaty.

I've also been fighting a sore throat for almost four weeks now and I plan to go treat it with some antibiotics finally.

Our trip to Kaz was fantastic in many ways and was much better than we had imagined it could be before departure. Of course we would prefer never again to see the shower we suffered with for five weeks. But the food was awesome, and I will seek out Karaganda beer wherever it might be found in the U.S. We miss our fantastic coordinator, Zhanat, who was 50% new family member and 50% lifeline for survival and adoption process.

We're happy for Nan and Jim, who successfully cleared court last week and for Kelly, who should by now have Sabina safely back in Manhattan or thereabouts. Here's a shout out to Ryan, Chris, and Jenn; and to Bruce and Marci - we hope we see you all at the Aul sometime.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wednesday Morgan Pic

Tuesday Morgan Pic
Wednesday Morgan Pics
Originally uploaded by Robertson Adams.
Thanks to Nan Wolfe for snapping this pic of Morgan today even though she and Jim were in court. Their blog describes a tough day in court today. We are hoping that all goes well for them and that they can clear up the bureaucratic glitch.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Back in Miami now

We made it back to Miami Monday afternoon following a pleasant but long Lufthansa flight via Frankfurt. We miss Morgan a LOT already (boo-hoo, boo-hoo) and thanks to Nan and Jim for taking a pic recently to show that she seems to have gotten (surprise) even bigger yet, already.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!
IMG_0012
Originally uploaded by Robertson Adams.
Morgan got just a bunny nibble of chocolate-chip banana bread when caregivers weren't lookin'.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Food, glorious food

We are within a couple days of returning home so I thought it would be nice to adore the food we've enjoyed for the last 5 weeks. It's amazing how little fast food a city needs. People here are slim, healthy and live to be old old old, even though they smoke and drink heavily.

Fahn Shan (the Chinese Place) - as close to downtown as you can get in Kostanai, the Chinese place has an English menu and the gent who served us on two occasions spoke basic English too. The best menu items are spicy pork and sweet-and-sour chicken. Atmosphere is authentic, and it's clearly popular with the locals.

Nautilus - Cool décor and good food, if you can figure out the menu. It's challenging to read because it's not just Cyrillic - it's italic, which makes it difficult. Myaso (grilled meat) is the word to know when ordering - it comes out as satay-style beef cubes on sticks, rather than shashlik, but it's tasty and fresh. Avoid the salads at all costs - we got food poisoning from one of those "prawns" or the soggy lettuce it came with.

Dolce Vita - The pizza cafe popular with kids of all ages seems to be managed by Miss Lena and her boyfriend Dennis. Their pizza is excellent and we've eaten Pizza Romana almost every other day while here - that's a LOT of pizza. Their tomato soup is hearty; ravioli stuffed with mushrooms was terrific; chicken with ham on rigatoni was salty and garlicky, which was good for us but might be strong for some. Location: 72 Al Farabi near the university.

Traktir (The Russian Pub) - is another hit with us. We love their chicken dishes and mashed potatoes. Service is attentive and the other customers make for interesting people-watching. Salads are safe to eat and worth trying, as long as you like mayonnaise.

"Assol" - The restaurant named for a character in a romantic children's fairy tale, has a handwritten menu and is open for lunch only. It's the cheapest, best food we had in Kostanai at 500 tenge for two. Goulash was tangy and hearty. Plov (pilaf) had plenty of lamb in it, and was hearty and filling. Be prepared to read handwritten Russian with no English spoken here. We think it's a company lunch room so the atmosphere is kind of institutional but clean.

Kostanai Tourist Hotel Restaurant - Has an English menu, good service and a decent selection of wines. Our food was excellent and we had a nice view of the park - not many other restaurants actually view the Central Park from a window. Inexpensive with very good service.

Bavarian Cafe - Is a little bit West on Al Farabi street, and has terrific interior design, very attentive service and great food, with an English menu. But prices are high enough that we've only been once, though we plan to go again tonight. Beef covered with ground nuts and spices was very good. Nice wine list.

Mango Cafe - At the West end of Al Farabi near the train station, Mango Cafe has good food and a nice cafe atmosphere. Excellent people watching, so don't be in a hurry. Our favorite dishes are the lamb again - "Kazbek" lamb is grilled with pomegranate seeds, and other dishes are similarly creative and filling. Not expensive.

The Korean Restaurant - Other than the condiments and the owner's family, there was not much authentically Korean about this restaurant, but our lamb and chicken dishes were good. Actually the grilled lamb was excellent. The pork chop was weirdly covered in cheese and mayonnaise, but underneath it was a good cut of meat. The decor is new and bright and clean, and service very attentive.

Goldfish Cafe - it's close to the Aidana Plaza Hotel, and has an English menu, but no staff understands English. Their plov (pilaf) is good, and their chicken was good too. They offer breakfast - with pancakes - but we didn't have a chance to try it.

Knights Castle - One of a handful of actual Restaurants we went to - with higher prices but there's a floor show (dancers). They have an English menu and many items were appealing, but they got our order wrong and the lamb dish was mostly fat, not lean. The decor inside is unbelievable, it feels like a Disney attraction. The dancers were interesting but not amazing.

Baron Munchausen - We expected a more Germanic cuisine, but it was generally Russian pub food at this interesting theme restaurant. The English menu is an interesting read - each menu item is named with a little lie or joke of some kind. Salads were tasty and creative. Our entrees were really delicious and attractively presented.

444 - In the remote countryside East of town, this ranchero had a live band and dance show. The shashlik (kebabs) were the main attraction, and were delicous. I would suggest ordering a few extra skewers because the portions weren't much. The salads were fresh and tasty and the service very attentive. The show was fun and well choreographed, considering where we were.

What there's not - No McDonald's or Burger King, or Wendy's or any Western franchises at all, for that matter. No Starbucks or 7-Eleven. And we haven't missed them at all.

Chunky Monkey

Today Morgan is eight months old. . . and she weighs in at an impressive 21 pounds! So, that's why nothing mom buys fits. She would be wearing size 18mos clothes in the US. It's difficult to buy clothes here, b/c sizes are listed in centimeters, and the labels are NEVER accurate.

Pictures of the little monkey are coming soon. We're off to eat lunch, maybe the Chinese place.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Go Dolphins


Go Dolphins
Originally uploaded by Robertson Adams.

Pascha Cakes


IMG_0030
Originally uploaded by Robertson Adams.

Pascha Cakes

Also called moon cakes, possibly. We'll have ours later today.

Pascha--Russian Orthodox Easter

One of the main dividing lines here in ethnically diverse Kostanai is religion. Most people aren't religious, but family celebrations often follow religious traditions, and that includes the Russian Orthodox Church.

Today we went into our favorite bakery to find huge trays of beautiful cakes. And wondered aloud what they were for, and the lady in line said "Paska", and I realized this was like Pascal lamb, which is close to the Russian word for Easter-- Pascha.

A little internet research:
Easter is a holiday that moves on the calendar, unlike Christmas, which is always January 7 in Russia (or December 25 in the West), and the exact day of Easter needs to be calculated in a special way. This year is the same as the Western date, April 8th.

CALCULATING THE ORTHODOX PASCHA

The Church has developed a whole system of methods to find out the exact Sunday when they should celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These dates are calculated years in advance and they depend on the phases of the Moon, and since we (both Russia and the West) are not living according to the Lunar calendar, the consequence is that Easter is celebrated on a different day each year.

ORIGINS OF PASCHA

Of course Easter/Pascha is celebrated at roughly the same time as Passover. The word "pasqua" is actually of Jewish origin, meaning passing with Christ to the other life, or deliverance from death. (Whether this was a spiritual rebirth or physical rebirth is for another time.) Five thousand years ago, Judaic tribes celebrated this spring day as a feast of calving of cattle. Later, Easter was connected with the beginning of the harvest, and later still, with the Jews’ exodus from Egypt. Christians have given a different significance to this day, celebrating it in connection with the resurrection of Christ.

Of course Lent is 40 days.(Which is just enough time to read this blog entry.) Orthodox services consecrate willow branches. The willow branches represent the palm branches with which the way of Christ was covered on the way to the capital of Judea. Everyone tries to get some willow branches to put them by icons until the next "Willow Sunday." We saw many people walking around Kostanai with Willows, but thought is was just related to spring, not to Palm Sunday.

The Russian Easter church service starts the night before. Directly after this ceremony and for several days thereafter, a ritual takes place, usually between friends (though complete strangers may also participate). One person goes to another and says "Khristos voskres!" (Christ is risen!) The other must answer, "Voistinu voskres!" (He is risen indeed!) and then they kiss three times and give Easter eggs to each other. Directly after church that night, the Lenten fast is broken. Now meals with eggs, butter, and meat are allowed by the Church.

RUSSIAN EASTER EGGS

There are two types of Russian Easter eggs: krashenki, dyed red by boiling eggs with onion skins, and pysanky, the famous Faberge style enamel eggs. The bejeweled and bedazzling enameled eggs created by court jeweler and artist Karl Faberge were first commissioned in 1884 by Czar Alexander III as a special Easter present for his wife.

Usually the Easter eggs in Russia are red. Red is the colour of blood on the cross that Christ shed for the atonement of the sins of the world. In Russian, "Krasniya" is Red and also means beautiful. "Red Square" is more correctly translated "Beautiful Square".

The choice of this colour for Easter eggs is very old. Legend has it that when Mary Magdalene came to the emperor, Tiberius, she brought him as a gift a red egg with the salutation "Christ has arisen!" To dye eggs red, it is possible to use fuchsine, onion peels, and bright scraps of silk. In different regions, Paskha eggs have their own distinct decorations.

EGG DECORATING TECHNIQUES--

If you aren't a Martha Stewart fan, move on. For colouring eggs, it is best to use onion peels, which are gathered in advance. Depending on the colour of the peels, the colour of the eggs can vary from bright red to dark brown. To make the colour more saturated, more peels are used and the eggs are boiled for about 30 minutes. To protect the eggs from cracking during boiling, salt is added to the water. Cold eggs (from a refrigerator) must be allowed to warm at room temperature for half an hour before being placed into the boiling water.

Speckled eggs can be created by first wetting the eggs and placing them in dry rice. The eggs are then wrapped in gauze and fastened closed by a thread to allow the rice to stick. Finally, the eggs are boiled in a dying solution in the usual manner. Painted eggs can be made shiny by first being wiped dry and then greased with sunflower oil.

EGG GAMES

Popular even with non-religious Russians, most Russians enjoy a family ritual that includes an Egg Tournament. The family sits at the table and everyone chooses an egg, then one of the family members (for example, a child) holds his egg firmly in his hands and lets another family member (for example, the mother) hit the egg in his hands with her egg. One of the eggs breaks, and the one with the unbroken egg wins and has the opportunity to hit the eggs of other family members. Eventually, one egg will remain unbroken and it may be saved for other tournaments since it is now Easter time and one may eat as much as he wants. The last person to win can eat an egg, can choose another egg and repeat the tournament with somebody, or somebody may lend him his egg if he does not want it. It is especially popular in families with young children.

- Konstantin Vassiliev, Svetlana Rodinskaia, and Alexander Iona of the Saint Petersburg Student Community for Sustainable Development

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Outside the courthouse this AM


We went to court this morning at 10:30 and things went very smoothly, thanks to the professionalism of our MAPS coordinator, Zhanat and the support of both Ministry of Education and Delphin House. We were asked a few questions, and by 11 am we were smiling on the courthouse steps.

After that, we went to Delphin House to tell the good news to Morgan, who giggled approval, and then did some paperwork related to power-of-attorney and visa documents at a notary office. Tonight we're planning to go to Mango Cafe with Nan and Jim to celebrate the great news.

What's next is a 15-day "appeal period" in which anybody can challenge the decision and so we're not officially the custodians of Morgan Adams until then. We fly home on Sunday April 8th (Easter) and expect to be back in Miami by Monday afternoon. Then, around May 8 or 15 we fly again to Almaty, and a week later we can bring our daughter home.

This is a big milestone and we want to thankd the whole MAPS team including Libby in Maine and Dina in Almaty, and again thanks to Zhanat for making so much of her personal time available to work on our case.

We're Dolphins Fans Now...

The Gators beat Ohio, so we're officially Miami Dolphins, Heat and Panthers fans now. (We don't need more plush dolls to show it.)

Where's Punxsutawney Pyotr

A groundhog could have told us that there were at least two more weeks of winter last week but somehow we were gullible and thought the weather forecast for 50 degrees would come true. Nyet, nyet nyet. This morning it was 25 as we dressed for court, and it warmed only to about 32 by lunch. So much for Hawaii Five-oh!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Say “Nimnoga Pajalsta”


IMG_0012
Originally uploaded by Robertson Adams.



Yesterday we got a great care package from Morgan's Nana Marlene in Miami. It included several packs of (delicious) coffee, plus some cool handmade gifts we can use. Thanks Mom! (Note to other adoptive families sending packages to Kaz, that the USPS parcel-post took about 20 days and was $29.)

Today we went to a local event, very much like a youth Cabaret with kids ranging from 4 years old or so up to high school age. People really love to sing "show tunes" and perform. It's all very different flavor, and yet oddly very familiar feeling. We took some great video, and hope to put some of it up on the website.

We've been apprehensive as our stash of DVD's (thanks Laurie!) dwindled and we worked through whole seasons of "Gray's Anatomy," "Monk," and "Six Feed Under." Today - 29 days after arrival - we finally figured out that the DVD's in the rental shops have English tracks and can be rented for 100 tenge (80 cents). Tonight we rented "North Country" which was excellent. The snowy mining and wheat country reminded me of Kostanai. Many first-run movies are available here. They accepted my Florida driver's license for collateral, so I will be returning them too.

We're preparing to go to court, and when we do we will describe it here. But until then we can't talk much about it.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Cue the music for Hawaii Five-Oh please


Twice or three times a day we check the weather at Weather Underground. In normal days we don't even notice if NBC6 forgets to include the temperature in the morning news, but here in the city of Constantine, we want to know how much we're suffering at any given minute.

Thus, we're happy to see Weather Underground predict a temperature for next Thursday's high of FIFTY degrees Fahrenheit. Count 'em FIFTY. We'll go outside in our shorts, I promise. That's actually a temp that we can recall experiencing in Miami within the last decade of winters.

How do the locals - and our esteemed Yankee readers - tolerate not only the cold, but our blather about how we shouldn't be subjected to it?

- Robertson

Cover girl


Cover girl
Originally uploaded by Robertson Adams.
Morgan had a ball today!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

30 days and counting

Ok, we have been gone from home for 30 days. Today we ran out of our coffee supply. I have two purse packs of tissues left. Are we there yet????

I am definitely ready to go, because I am looking forward to going back to work. While I've been keeping up, I can't wait to sit in my office and not worry what speed the dial up will be this time!

Robertson is gargling with Vodka, our mini washing machine is spinning with three pairs of socks. (After the gargle, he says the capacity is 10 liters). It is a constant humm in the background. I can't wait to use our machine at home. I believe it could hold every item that both of us packed. Ok, not the coats.

That's because the coats are big enough to require their own ticket on the plane which I hope to soon be on!

I think we will be here another 8 days, leaving on Sunday the 8th.
P.S. Welcoming SPW has hilarious post - read the comments.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Are you here?


Here's a diagram of the folks who have read our blog this week. There are 55-60 unique visitors per day. (via Google Analytics as of 03/28)

A Chocolate Morsel

For a lack of a better way to understand Kostanay, I have become interested in a big private employer, the Bayan Sulu Chocolate Factory (Google-translated link), which opened in 1974. I discovered this factoid on the Kostanay page of Twin Towns, which seems to be a first-hand report. Their products fill the stores here and include fruit and other confections. We'll see if they give tours of the factory. Good photos are on their website anyways; maybe that will be as close as I get. -- Robertson

'Golden Microphone' Contest, Kostanay (more)

Golden Microphone, Kostanay 2007 from Robertson Adams on Vimeo.

'Golden Microphone' contest in Kostanay, March 2007

Golden Microphone, Kostanay March 2007 from Robertson Adams on Vimeo.

Highbrow Exercise

Morgan and Dad


They're both soooo cute. This is her "track suit" for baby aerobics and pilates.

Morgan at Piano


and she's not that interested. Actually, she loves anything new. And like all the other kids in the room is immediately drawn to even the worst music. We know! We can't remember the words or music to almost everything we try to sing.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Pink Piggies in Purple Pajamas pick Pretty Petunias in the Pasture


This animal woodblock puzzle has become Morgan's favorite part of playtime. She also likes reading and bouncing on the knee, though not simultaneously.
More on Flickr.

Morgan's new malikis



These little yellow booties are called malikis-- they are hand knit.

Monday Update

It snowed 2 or 4 inches yesterday, and it continued most of the day and overnight. Weather should go up to 45 by next Saturday, and be clear. But rain 'til then.

We are still waiting to find out about court. We've been assigned to a judge, one with a good reputation, and now the next step is for our agency (MAPS) to follow through with hunting down Morgan's birth mom. The birth mom left sketchy and ambiguous information about how to contact her, so it's quite a task. In a day or two MAPS will be able to go back and say we've duly searched for her. Then, we can ask our judge for a date, which could be as early as this week but more likely will be next week.

Yesterday, Morgan and all the other kids had a low-grade cold, so there was a lot of crying in the nursery and only two kids were in the playpen (some are quarantined - Kelly C. note that S. is fine).

We had throat checks before we could go visit her for the last two days, but yesterday they swabbed our throats with two things, one was salty, and the other smelled like iodine. This is the first time Morgan has been sick with us. She has been tired and cranky.

I'm glad that we get to see this side of her, because we're told the plane ride back is horrible because she doesn't get to sleep for 36 hours or so.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Tea Party

Today we celebrated Nauryz with the caregivers at the Delphin house. We sat down to a lovely spread of tea and cakes (torts) on little tables and still littler chairs. We also took some video messages from the caregivers to Morgan. She seemed to love all of the attention.

She was more chatty than ever. She said "pa pa". This may or may not have been a result of our recitation of "pink pigs on pretty peg-board puzzle pieces", or "pink pigs in purple pajamas picking pretty petunias" or peter piper, . . . oh you get the idea.

Later, Robertson bought Pampers, pretty pricey! We just can't stop.

We have learned that we might be going to court soon, and we'll let people know when we learn the date. For now, we're enjoying the warming trend as more and more sidewalks are revealed. We have now found the huge open air markets-- the photos are posted on Flickr already.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Universitet with Yurt


Universitet with Yurt
Originally uploaded by Robertson Adams.
A row of about a dozen yurts were set up on the avenue in front of Kostanai State University for Nauryz.

Nauryz

Today is "Nauryz" — the Kazakh New Year, timed with the spring equinox. It is one of the most important national holidays for Kaz. It's origins are nomadic life. A time to celebrate spring — truly a significantly big deal here. The winters are so long and brutal. It is also a celebration of the local community, the Aul, the Kazakh word for nomadic village. The tradition dates back to Persian culture, so is not unique to Kaz, but pervades all of Eurasia.

With spring comes the birthing season, so it makes sense that the local Nauryz Celebration includes many huge "Shashlik" or shish kebab cook out tents. Since our apartment is on the Central Park, we have a fantastic vantage point to enjoy the festivities. It's a big street party/state fair, with lots of loud, live music and contests. Some of the best include pole climbing, kid (boy group!) singing contests, traditional vocal groups and dance, and amusement park rides. It looks like a lot of the local businesses set up YURTS, which are the traditional Nomad tent. Lots of costumes, and I think everyone in Kostanay is currently strolling in the park.

Historically, Nauryz was an Aul celebration because families could only survive the harsh winters within an Aul. The families worked towards the general good of the Aul, and the Aul helped them out during difficult winter months. Supposedly, Aul also was a kind of "time out" — when the worst of enemies sat down and ate and drank together. This particular aspect of the holiday is certainly being celebrated here in Kostanay.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

She hee hee'd

Michele got a healthy laugh out of Morgan today, and she is vocalizing now more than ever. At the Delphin they had New Year's entertainment for the kiddies and performers sang. We took a long walk down to the riverfront area and back because the weather was a balmy 35 degrees F.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Florida Nursery Rhymes

Last week when we wanted to sing to Morgan, we both scrambled for tunes that we knew. I remembered "The Orange Blossom Song" which used to be sung at football games by (the tragically bigoted hate-monger) Anita Bryant. I tried to sing all the lyrics but didn't remember them - so we went hunting today.

We found that an elementary school music teacher has brought the tune back into the limelight to replace the (also containing some nostalgic, racist imagery) Suwannee River.

The original lyrics for the Orange Blossom Song were written by Richard Whiting, Ray Egan, and Gus Kahn in 1917. They are short and sweet:
(http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=57589)


I want to wake up,
In the morning,
Where the orange blossoms grow.
Where the sun comes peek'n
Into where I'm sleep'n
And the songbirds sing, "Hello".

I love the fresh air,
And the sunshine.
They're so good for us you know.
'Cause I make my home in Florida,
Where the orange blossoms grow.


Now the St. Pete Times says this music teacher has rewritten the song and is pushing it in Tallahassee, adding his own credit and deleting the original credit. In his version he's added tarpon and alligators, which I'm pretty sure were never in the one I remember hearing as a kid. (http://www.tbo.com/news/metro/MGBIYU53CZE.html)

We'll sing just the original to Morgan.

I'm teething - can ya tell?

my bumble bee teether matches the bug theme on my new sleeper! Aren't I cute as a bug?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Video: Bellydancer at 444

Sunday in Kostanai

Today we went for what has become our routine visit with Morgan. Robertson fed Morgan a watery rice/broth mixture, and Morgan finished this off with her usual apple juice served in the traditional shot glass. That's her reward for being such a tidy eater (not!). Tomorrow, she'll probably go back to a more nourishing food combo which will include fresh fruit and chopped egg.

We played our regular line up of games with Morgan. We do the baby work-out routine, which is primarily focused on solo sitting; so far, she's more comfortable sitting with our assistance. She likes sitting in our laps, or bouncing on a knee. She is also able to support her weight standing for 30-40 seconds, and then bounces up and down. We end the "aerobic" part of the workout with some mat time, or tummy time as we call it. Then we play the farm animal game for some verbal/fine motor skill multi-tasking, and then it's pure cuddle/book reading time. Of course, each day Morgan gives us a puzzle: what will make me laugh today?

For lunch today, we enjoyed a meal at the Goldfish Cafe with Nan and Jim. I had a crab salad and meatballs with tomato sauce and mashed potatoes. After lunch, we walked around a bit, and shared our tip on where to get American style frozen, boneless/skinless chicken breasts. We couldn't tell the street names or the name of the shop, but could only walk them there!

Shout- out to Cristina -- the only TV we watch is Fashion TV which plays English language pop-- we leave it on all the time.

Tomorrow we learn who our Judge will be, which will directly impact the length of our stay. So that is the next piece of news we will have to report here.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Video: Shuffle the Deck



Playing animal games with Morgan...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Day 15 in Kostanai - We made it this far...

Today is our 15th day in Kostanai, and while for many travelers that might mean it's time to go back to work, we're amazed that this probably marks only the halfway point in our very enjoyable stay here. But more importantly this is the end of our required bonding and visitation period with Morgan, needed to apply for "pre-court." We might be able to apply later today, but more likely our capable coordinator and translator Zhanat will actually apply on Monday the 19th.

Morgan is learning more each day. We're teaching her how to sit up and we read 2-3 little card books to her each visit. We divide our 90-minute time with her into four periods - feeding time; physical skills (crawling or shimmying anyways) with nursery rhymes; naming animal shapes; book reading; and then we end at nap time. She most enjoys being "rocketed" up or being laid back to nearly hanging, upside-down. Before nap time we sing "Twinkle Twinkle" but it seems to have only the effect of waking her up. When she's really stoked she blows raspberries.

Last night we went out to "444" for kebabs (shashlik) and enjoyed a ride into the countryside. We took two cars and were joined by Nan and Jim Wolfe of Boston; we were all in a good mood and chatting about children and what to see in Kostanai. The restaurant is known for belly dancers, but there were several other kinds of dancing demonstrated - traditional Turkish dances, Russian and even a kind of campy American disco number. Their glittery costumes, coiffed hair and sparkly smiles could have only been improved upon with ice skates. The lamb kebab was delicious and the vodka plentiful and efficacious.

The weather here has been warming generally and yesterday it reached 28F. The hard-packed ice and snow on the sidewalks has been coming up slushy now, and is turning a mucky gray. But it's still generally a beautiful white landscape. Yesterday I saw the first buds on tree branches, so I would think that it's a week before it's hot here. After the weather climbs to 32 on Monday, it's expected to dip back down to the low 20s again by midweek. I won't plan to go to the beach!

We have been learning how to cook with mysterious ingredients. We have found a single source of boneless chicken breasts - our usual staple for meals in Miami. But Thursday I saw meat that looked like lamb and bought 500 g. of it, though during cooking it became obvious that it was not lamb. We feared we had bought horsemeat, even while we ate the tasty stuff in a stew with carrot, potato and mustard, but the next day we found out it was only beef.

Our apartment, which we thought we knew every inch of by now, produced a surprise on Thursday - we returned from lunch and the water running from the tap came out as mud, dark as coffee. After running for a minute, it cleared, but it must have been some kind of Spring pipe clearing exercise that we missed.

Working from here has been more of a challenge that I had hoped. The dialup connection just doesn't play nice with the internet service, so we get kicked offline regularly and lose work; we can't download files files that would normally be quick to send back home. Citrix, the software that is most vital to having a "home office" function normally, works at best an hour a day for Michele when the connection is strongest. Otherwise it generally cuts out. I hope that my mates back at KF are having an easy time of the web project, the annual report, board meeting, etc. - it makes me crazy that I can't be involved with such interesting challenges.

- Robertson

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Thursday hello

It's Thursday morning and we're getting ready to be picked up by Zhanat and Gennadi. The weather is supposed to be warming up to 30F this weekend, which may make the slush melt and refreeze, but we are going to take a wait and see attitude before we go out in shorts.

What's your opinion of Uzbekistan?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sunset with powerplant


Sunset with powerplant
Originally uploaded by Robertson Adams.
It's a chilly 13 below zero F, this morning and we're headed over to the Dolphin house in a minute. Last night we had dinner at the Nautilus, a submarine-themed restaurant with great shish kebab and beer, with trendy lounge music.

Morgan is revealing more of her personality to us every day. Yesterday she had a whole morning of medical exams from an independent doctor, so that the "prosecutor" can independently verify her health. She came through with flying colors, we believe.

We're teaching her to crawl and to sit up, and she likes being read to. We also give her lots of exercise time and pick up toys.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Morgan

First feeding

IMG_0023-17
IMG_0023-17
Originally uploaded by Robertson Adams.
Yesterday, the caregivers let "Michelenitz" feed Morgan, but she had to put on the caregiver scarf and apron. Morgan ate, but was not sure what was going on!

She's a charmer

IMG_0177-76
IMG_0177-76
Originally uploaded by Robertson Adams.

Impressions

Vodka

Before breakfast it was the same old routine: first get out the bottle of Kazakhstan vodka . . . I needed it to clean out the French Press to make the coffee. Then after breakfast, and it was the usual two shots of vodka . . . to clean the toothbrushes. Just before lunch, I needed another shot of vodka . . . to clean the kitchen knife.

And so it goes with our new routine in Kostenai . . . this is a vodka and beer town. The restaurants all have place settings with glassware for water, beer and vodka. They also make meals last a very long time, and several times during a meal you will see men get up,leave their plates half full and put on their coats and leave. It took us a while before we realized that they were going outside to have smoke before they continued drinking and eating.

Ode to Doug--

Ok, my sociological observations so far. The middle class people here have a achieved a very pleasant standard of living in the city. They are much closer to Russia than to China, and Russian culture and music are everywhere. It is fascinating to watch the tall thin men with asian features smoking cigarettes and drinking vodka and somewhat shocking to hear the gutteral sounds of the Russian language emerge from their lips. The Russian ethnics and Kazakh ethnics appear to co-exist very peacefully and harmoniously. In this University town, we often see “mixed” groups socializing and dating.

In every restaurant you go into and in our apartment, right beside the coat rack , a mirror is positioned right near the front door. People do not go outside until they have made sure that their hats are on correctly. Because being outside in this town is a social activity. People really enjoy being on display-- there are so many beautiful coats! They manage to be very shapely, and really know how to wear a flattering hat. The exotic blending of Russian, Ukranian, and Kazack displayed in the variety of facial features is fascinating.

The local State University has about 5000 students, so there is a young vibe to our neighborhood. They like Russian pop which is bizarre because it's mostly rap and disco. One of the most popular songs right now is a remix of Pink Floyd's The Wall. We watched a variety show with two Russian looking guys rapping, all costumed in stocking caps, tatoos and bling. Our interpreter's teen age daughter's favorite show is the Russian dubbed “Pimp my Ride”, coincidentally Robertson's favorite as well. Classic tv is classic tv.



The snow--

The Russian/Siberian wackier side of life here in Kostanai was shown to us yesterday by our co-ordinator Zhanat when she asked if we wanted to go to the “beach” along the Tobyl river which runs through the center of town. Ha! We said. We're from Miami, we would love to see your little river beach.

So, we drove down to the waterside where brand new $200,000 condos are being built (just like Miami), and past the new development through the oldest part of town where many people live in 100 year old wooden houses without indoor plumbing and have to walk to get their water. We then drove over the packed white snow (its been along time since I've heard the crunchy sound cars make on snow when its really cold out) through a little birch tree grove and past some guys with cross country skis on their shoulders. We pulled up to a parking area on the edge of the half mile wide river, where a small municipal building was the only building around. Oddly, there were a couple of pretty recent model cars parked. So, Zhanat asked us if we wanted to go take some pictures of the beach. We said sure and got out of the car into the cold, and because it was before noon it was still in the 'teens, we zipped up our North Face parkas and braced for the wind.

After gingerly navigating the icy steps, and thankful for a permanent metal handrail we made it down to the river's edge, the beach. Zhanat shouted to get our attention, “Look! They're going swimming!” And out of a side door came a steaming, bright red man with a tiny towel on . . . he scurried down the icy steps in his little rubber shoes and made a beeline for a small hole in the ice which I hadn't noticed before, and whipped off his little towel and jumped in the Tobyl river.

And he looked like he was having fun. It's different here, but Robertson could not resist putting his foot into the hole which had been carved out of two feet of ice. We have great video :)

Michele

Thanks Sharon & Eric

I think now that we've spent eight days in Kostanay, it's a good time to express some gratitude to Sharon and Eric, who adopted a girl in 2005. Sharon's (generally) positive experience traveling to Almaty gave us a lot of the confidence we needed to choose Kazakhstan. You can read a little of Eric's account in this Slate article - http://www.slate.com/id/2152789/?nav=ais.

- Robertson

Friday, March 9, 2007

My best friend

Morgan likes her Gund doggie from Kristie and Blair
IMG_0028-22
Originally uploaded by Robertson Adams.
Morgan really enjoyed playing with and eating this blue puppy that came from Robertson's counsin, Kristie. The dog makes a arrrff-arrff sound which is the same one dad makes when explaining the farm animals. Video link of same to follow.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Latest visits with Morgan

Morgan is a little bit hard to read-- she doesn't immediately show that she's happy, but you can tell she's happy child. She's getting to know us and yesterday she was very outgoing and playful. Today she was more reserved. She likes being read to, and she likes the picture books we brought.

She doesn't crawl yet, or make any attempt to truly stand, and she's not curious about her toes, be/c she's always in footy pajamas with socks over those. (Kaz baby houses are notorious for overdressing the kids.)

Also, the kids are all very healthy. We took a tour of the entire facility, and never saw a funny nose. They have a 20 foot indoor pool, and a sauna and salt (vapours?) room for the kids. The babies get massages, and the older kids have regular music classes and speech therapy.

So back to Morgan. We visit every day for 90 minutes at 9:30am. We go to a baby playroom on the second floor, which is for her group which is like 7-9 babies up to one year.

When we arrive, one of her care givers, often a young, tall and blond Russian woman named Nastia is feeding her. We've seen her being fed a baby cereal of some kind and juice, we really don't know what it is. But at nearly 17 pounds, she is a notorious eater.

We lay out the green picnic blanket that Lee gave us a few years ago, with our assorted toys and books. We try to divide the time into physical activity, reading and social skills. We also try to figure out what she's in the mood for. She seems get a workout.

Two days ago we went to a close by mini-mall which had a small toy counter. We bought a wooden puzzle which you will see in pictures tomorrow when we get a chance to upload them (which is a whole other story). So, this puzzle has nine different cut out farm animals with a small peg handle on each. (We're eager to develop that pincer grip, you know.)

To introduce this baby, whose never seen a dog, to the classic farm characters, Robertson did his best imitations: moooooo, meow, arrf arrf, whinny, oink oink . . . . but what sound does a bunny make? If you said it gives bunny kisses, your'e right.

So far, we've found that Morgan is pretty quiet. She's the youngest one in her group, and is very aware of all the older kids around her. One girl is being adopted by a New York woman through MAPS. Her mom left today, and will be back to pick her up soon. The mom left a fabulous talking picture frame-- with mom's picture in it. (We would love one of those! We will work on getting a post address.)

At the end of our time with her, she's ready for her nap, so we try to wind her down with reading, and we're grateful that we get to put her in her crib. So far we've found her to be very sweet natured, and tolerant of inexperienced parents to be.

Remember, we are a long from getting through the court dates.

Internet vs. Laptop

We're in Kostanay now, and I've been dealing with the photo and laptop
issue for 5 days now.

First let me say that Michele and I absolutely love Kostanai and think
it's a very livable city. Many restaurants do take Visa cards now - most
importantly the Gros grocery store, which has everything but oddly not
salt or matches.

First of all in Kostanai there seems to be no DSL available anywhere at
any price, even in hotels. It's all dialup. The speed you get is
frequently only 14.4k (remember 1989 era AOL) and the highest is 46.6
which I get by logging on at 6am before Michele gets up. To use my
laptop in the apartment, we buy a 3,000 or 5,000 Tenge card at the Kaz
Telecomm office across from Tsum on the mall downtown. From 6pm to 11pm
is 2.34t per minute. From 11pm to 8am is 0.74t per minute, and from 8am
to 6pm is 1.74t per minute. A 3,000t card may get you 20 hours and it
might get you much more depending on when you surf. In the room, the
connector is a standard "RJ11" phone connector which fits in your laptop
with no adaptor, but since it's possible you might not get a long enough
cord on your telephone, you might bring an RJ11 extension cord from
Radio Shack it's about $4.

Next, the internet cafe at the Kaz post office, next to the downtown
mall area, is 6t per minute from 9am to 1pm, and 12t per minute for 2pm
to 9pm. They have about 5-6 older Win XP pc's running Cyrillic operating
system, so it's very difficult if you're trying to burn a disc, import
from a flash card, or camera. I would ONLY use these terminals for web
surfing. ON the day I went, I got a virus from their system embedded not
only into my compact flash chip but also into my 2gb jump drive. Argh,
how stupid of me. If it's a bad enough virus it could have copied all my
sensitive adoption related documents and vital info from that Jump drive
which is my lifeline should the papers all get lost.

The best and greatest thing I found so far is to take a couple of days
of photos on compact flash chips, then take them to one of several Kodak
processing shops. There's a self-serve kiosk at which you can extract
all the pictures and save them to a CD-Rom for less than 500 tenge. It's
amazing peace of mind to have my pics on a disc.

This morning I'm using Flickr uploadr to put pics up at
http://www.flickr.com/photos/rga and it's very very slow. Plan to only
upload low res images of about 600 pixels across, or they simply will
not go up.

This information is all for Kostanai, and I would presume things might
be more sophisticated in Astana or Almaty.

Robertson

Tech advice for future PAPs

Since I know several American families are either in Kostanay now or
headed here shortly, I thought I'd post some notes and share the limited
knowledge we've got so far with the Kostanay Adoptive Families Yahoo group.

It's cold. We're from Miami and think everything north of Orlando is
cold so we might not share your perspective, but my toes and cheeks say
bring wool not cotton. It's March 8 and our fabulous translator and
region manager Zhanat from MAPS says the locals call this Spring, but we
could expect another 3 significant snowfalls before it's bikini season.
The sidewalks are well shoveled and safe even pretty far out into the
suburbs here, but ice forms when the sun shines and then freezes, and
I've heard it's just payback for growing up in a beachside tropical town.

They do take Visa and MC here but not Amex. Many restaurants, especially
ones you might like as a tourist, do take credit. But you can't count on
it always working. We dined in a nice looking place with two Visa and
one MC sticker in the door, but when it came time to pay the check, we
were hugely embarassed that four different cards between us didn't work
because they needed the kind with the embedded computer chip in them,
according to the wait staff. You might see if your bank card can upgrade
your card to this smart chip. Either way bring enough cash to pay for
any meal into the restaurant. We had to settle up with a $100 bill;
thank goodness we didn't have to wash dishes for the evening.

If you're a coffee fiend, bring your own. We heard this advice from
others on this list, but we're soooo happy to have got a little French
press from my brother before departure, and brought 4 lbs. of the Target
house blend, coarse ground, with us from Miami. Oh was that the right
thing to do!

There's nothing on TV in English. No movies at the theatre with English
or subtitles. Bring your entertainment. I filled my 30gb video iPod with
movies and brought a cable that connects it to our ancient TV set, and
so far it's great. You can buy entire seasons of Monk or Grey's Anatomy
on the iTunes music store for $15 or $20 and just one iPod could hold
enought TV entertainment to fill a 5- or 6-week fix of nightly TV shows.
We also brought piles of borrowed DVD movies, but watching them on the
laptop PC isn't easy when we're using it simultaneously for web surfing
(slow surfing!), and the audio quality isn't amazing. Suggest you might
bring some adapters to hook it up to a TV set. Remember the TV here is
in PAL format so you can't just bring a DVD player or video camera and
plug it in, unless it has a setting for that. The iPod DOES display in
the PAL mode, so I think it's the best solution available.

Skype is only working so-so for us so far. We got all excited at the
idea we'd be in constant contact with friends back home via this miracle
product, but since we're using dialup the connection is so poor on Skype
most of the time, that we're better off using regular email. If you are
thinking of using it a lot, bring a headset for your PC and don't count
on it for doing important business.

Some U.S. Cellphones can work here unmodified. I have a great T Mobile
plan and a Motorola V195 phone, and called before leaving to set up
international calling for Kaz. So, I get $2.99 per minute calls in or
out to my phone regardless of the hour, and 10-cents per SMS message. I
have not used up the 2 year contract with Tmobile so my phone is still
locked, which means I can not just come here and swap out the Simm chip
with a local one. If you do have an "unlocked" phone though, you can get
incredibly cheap local phone service, like 1,000 tenge ($8) for the chip
and it includes lots of minutes. Look for the "bee line" sign in the
window of convenience stores to buy this chip. When I first turned on my
TMobile phone here it found the KZ Telecom network and logged in
instantly. I dial as if I'm a local, so to get the US I must dial the
country code, area code, etc.

I hope these thoughts are useful for the group and for others that are
headed to Kaz or Kostanay.

Robertson

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Video: First meeting




Morgan & Robertson --eye to eye

Morgan and Robertson
a picture for you
Originally uploaded by Robertson Adams.
We love this photo!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

We're off to the baby house

Thanks for all your comments. A quick update, be/c our driver will come in about 15 minutes, and we're not ready yet.

Yesterday, we celebrated Robertson's birthday with a "Chinese" lunch and a very nice dinner at an elegant restaurant in a former museum. The food was delicious, they use a lot of nuts and pomegranate and other exotic spices. The city is laid out like a small European University town. It is much more charming than we had dared to hope. People promonade, arm in arm, along pedestrian walkways, with the snow shoveled in piles as high as their shoulders. The people watching is excellent-- fashionable furs, boots and hats are everywhere, on both the men and women.

We have had four excellent restaurant meals-- we are directed to places that have English menus (Mango Cafe, Dolce Vita pizza, Vkusnaya Djizn, and one with names to come). We are learning more and more Russian, but have a long way to go. Our co-ordinator and driver have been incredibly generous with their time.

The baby house is an amazing institution. Dr. Irena is a formidable administrator-- she oversees a staff 112 taking care of 92 kids!

That's all for now-- view pictures at Flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/rga/

Love,
M & R

It's a girl!

We're cautiously ready to give out some details about the adoption, but we are well aware that this is not finalized, and that will hopefully be near the end of March.

Her name is Morgan Anara Adams, and she's a healthy Kazakh girl born Aug. 6, 2006 and weighing 7.5 lbs. at birth. She's already grown to 7.5 kg, which is 16.9 lbs. That's a size 3 diaper going on 4 :-)

We met her on Saturday for the first time (March 3) and signed papers to proceed with the bonding process on Monday, March 5. Today, March 6, she turned 7 months old and we got full medical records on her, which appear to be excellent.

Each morning at 9:30 we go to the Delphin Baby House for 90 minutes of bonding time (yeah, that means play time) with Morgan, who is rapidly responding to our attempts at baby physical therapy.

We'll be posting some photos and maybe even a video later tonight if all goes well -- but the internet connections have been intermittent.

Four days down, and 11 to go before we can apply for a court date. Then we'll have a better idea of when we're coming home. It could be as early as April 1.

We love your comments and we read them and re-read them. Thanks to all who are following along from back home.

love
R & M

Monday, March 5, 2007

Living room


Goodies purchased Sunday at "Gros". The grapefruit juice is great.

Our Apartment


Our apartment is a recently renovated one bedroom/one bath on the second floor. Our unit faces a courtyard with snow, trees, cars and clotheslines which are used to clean rugs. The building faces a pedestrian walkway which leads to a lovely "central park" area. The following pictures were all taken yesterday, a beautiful sunny day.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Good Morning, Kazkhstan!

We are now writing to you from glorious nation Kazakhstan. Happy to report our travels in Frankfort and all went well, but details will come later. This first posting, written on Monday morning, includes Saturday and Sunday activities.

We arrived in Kostanay Airport (KSN) at about 9:30 am on Saturday March 3rd, and encountered a couple of stoic security guards at Customs. Nobody among about 75 passengers is talking at all. Getting past Customs took about an hour, and we were assisted greatly by the Maps Representative, Zhanat.

Upon getting in the car, we got a surprise: Our first visit to the Delphin (Dolphin) Baby House would be today (Saturday) instead of Monday. Gennadiy was our driver, an outgoing guy who speaks no English but understands some of our grunts and gestures. He insisted on carrying everything.

Everything was covered in about 2 feet of powdery white fluff. It was extraordinarily cold - about 2 degrees F - but the sun shone brightly and abundant lush evergreens made for an entirely positive first impression of Kazakhstan.

We were taken to our apartment, in a downtown district that, um, didn't immediately reveal itself as charming. Got unpacked and changed instantly. Arrived at baby house before 1 pm.

We went to the director's office, and were greeted by Dr. Irina and a woman whose name might be Iana, from the Ministry of Education. They seemed to like us, and showed us the portfolios of four infants right away. We met two of them in the office right away. We were so apprehensive that it was really hard to focus on meeting kids.

We really can't describe the children in detail because we've agreed to confidentiality and it wouldn't be discreet since the next round of parents will be coming shortly and I might be describing the child that they find to be perfect.

Anyways we were truly amazed to have made it so far so quickly in this process, and we are delighted with our options at this point.

Saturday night Michele made some spaghetti with puttanesca sauce, and it was our first food since wieners in Frankfort. We slept like rocks and dreamed of new babies in our lives.

On Sunday, we returned to Delphin and played in the children's room, and took a long walk on the central park downtown. The weather warmed to about 22 degrees F, and it made for very pleasant strolling. We went to TSUM department store to get electronics and to Gros to get foodstuffs, and our apartment is now generously stocked with all kinds of stuff.

More to come soon!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Departure Day

We're both so happy to say that we've got our tickets, our visas, passports and ... well almost luggage ... in order for departure at 4pm today. Dad's driving us to the airport, but first we'll have a send-off from Mom, Lee, Carla, Larry as well as Laurie for especially good traveling mercies.

Weather in Kostanai is 2˚F now, and was at a high of 10˚F today. Sunday and Monday will be clear and it will warm up to about 20˚F we are told (www.wunderground.com then search for KSN). By the end of March it could be as warm as 45-50˚F and that would be balmy!

Libby Walch at MAPS in Portland, Maine, and Dina and Zhanat in Almaty and Kostanai, Kazakhstan have been terrific at making this adoption plan come together, and Countryside Travel got us an amazingly gentle itinerary direct from Miami to Frankfort and then Kostanai. Thank you all for your professionalism and support.

We're going off to have FUN now!

-- R & M.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Three NYT slideshows on Kazakhstan

Shaping Kazakhstan's Capital

The chief architect is really the president himself, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

October 12, 2006 - (NYT) - World - Slide Show



Slide Show: A New Look for Almaty

A new tower in Almaty, Kazakhstan, has become a symbol of the city's coal-hot potential, an iconic structure that reflects Almaty's potential economic might.

June 21, 2006 - (NYT) - World - Slide Show



Movie Minutes: 'Schizo'

A. O. Scott reviews "Schizo," a coming-of-age story from the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan.

March 18, 2005 - (NYT) - Movies - Video

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

VISA COMPLICATION

We have just learned that the US consulate has not been receiving from the MFA the necessary confirmation numbers needed to process visas for adoptive families. The consulate thinks the problem is with the MFA. We are told that a special faxed letter will be accepted, so that would mean that if he gets the letter from the MFA tomorrow he would be overnighting the visa (which means our passports), which we would receive Thursday, the morning we are to travel!!!

So, we may need to prepare and pack for a month long trip, and then not go, if our Visa/Passports don't arrive from Fed Ex.

Yikes . . . stay tuned.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Baby Photo Album

Posted by PicasaWe both love this book which I had originally found online, and saw at Target (Sassy makes it). We hope it will make US feel better when we have to leave little Morgan behind after the first trip.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Kazakhstan DVD from Kz Embassy DC

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyNBu_s1euY

"We still have a few copies available of Kazakhstan: Reaching for the Future, a 9-minute video documentary prepared by the Embassy of Kazakhstan to the United States. It tells the story of what Kazakhstan has become in the 15 years of its independence and of the importance of strategic partnership between Kazakhstan and the U.S. The video is available at Youtube here. Those in the United States and Canada who would like to receive a copy on DVD, please contact Roman Vassilenko at the Embassy."

Welcome to Kazakhstan video

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Run Sally Run!

So, thanks to SALLY CAMPBELL-EVANS, we were able to have our second set of documents apostilled in Tallyhassee with no delay. We overnighted them last night, and she was able to shimmy on into the Clifton State Building in downtown Tally, and turn around and overnight to Portland, Maine.

This enables us to be on schedule to depart Miami on MARCH 1, 2007.

Yeah!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Paperwork crunch and possible travel!

We just been given an enormous amount of additional paperwork to do. Some our co-ordinator, Libby, hasn't had to deal with before. It has to do with Florida not licensing social workers, and problems created by Kaz' normal requirement for documentation reflecting a current license for the social worker who prepares our home study, among six other documents that need to be updated/redone.

However, this is all by way of buildup to the news that we could travel the weekend of March 2 or March 9th! (That would be two weekends away!) We are not ready, but we're working on it! We'll keep everyone posted, but right now, we've got to get our . . . stuff together.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Photo Albums of Kostanai

КОСТАНАЙ On - Line - Фото дня
http://www.kostanai.kz/picofday.php

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Adoption News: It's Kostanai, Kazakhstan

Hi to family and friends... I wanted to share some news we got today about our adoption plans.

We're happy to hear a report that our "dossier" has been approved in all the federal-level government ministries in Kazakhstan, and that means we're now on a waiting list for a child at the local level. We'll be traveling to Kostanai, Kazakhstan, within two weeks after getting our invitation to travel.

Q. When will we get the invitation to travel?
A. We don't know. (Awwww!) But it's probably coming in March or as late as April.

Q. What's to know about Kostanai?
A. First, you can spell it about five different ways so it's tough to look up. It's cold, even in the middle of summer it's rarely over 95 degrees. It's dry - they get about 12 inches of rain in a whole year. Think of it as the Dakotas of the former Soviet Union - their main product is wheat and iron ore.

Q. Will you get a boy or a girl? What age?
A. We don't know yet, but we will find out after we get there. The odds are strong that it'll be a girl under 1 year old, and we don't know if is Asian, European or mixed ethnicity. We don't know anything until we arrive in Kostanai and are matched to a baby.

Q. How long will you be traveling?
A. If we could leave in mid-March (that's a big IF) we would travel from Miami to Germany, and change plans to fly to Almaty, which is in south Kazakhstan. Then we fly to Kostanai. We'd meet babies and pick one, then spend at least 15 days visiting it in the "baby house." Return to Miami -- without a baby -- in early to mid April. Then wait two to four weeks, and make a second trip to Kostanai, for a trip of about 1 week, to pick up the baby and bring him or her home to Miami. After that, we have some "family medical leave" to get used to parenthood, before returning to work possibly in mid-May.

Q. What will you do for fun in Kostanai?
A. There's a pizza restaurant and not much else. We'll spend a lot of time going back and forth to the baby house, which is 15 minutes outside of Kostanai (it's truly in the middle of nowhere!). We might help work on the orphanage to improve it for future families, or something like that. ( i.e., we're not going to seek work, teach or translate.)

Q. Do you have a gift registry started?
A. We do have registries for gifts started, at these shops. The baby's room is yellow and white with green, and has a bumble-bee theme to it (since we don't know if it's a boy or girl yet).
Q. What's the baby's name?
A. Wouldn't you like to know! (Wouldn't we like to just pick one already!). "Morgan" is the code name for now.

Q. That's just not enough info! I gotta have more!
A. Visit our new blog, to keep up on developments:
http://findingmorganadams.blogspot.com



Here are some other links for organizations and information that we refer to frequently: