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.


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:

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. (

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


First feeding

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

Originally uploaded by Robertson Adams.



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 :)


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 -

- Robertson

Friday, March 9, 2007

My best friend

Morgan likes her Gund doggie from Kristie and Blair
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 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.


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.


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--

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.

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 ( 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.