Kazakh Journey

29 May 2005

Emerging Mikayla

We just thought we had adopted a docile, snuggly little girl! The real Mikayla loves to squirm, crawl, sprint, wrestle, and has no fear, even of loud vacuum cleaners or the sight of Uncle Chuck cleaning!

Miss Mikayla is also quite stubborn and determined. She loves to try to reach live electrical cords, and so we have been in a constant battle to keep her away from them. Her expression was priceless when she realized Cathy had moved the TV stand to block access to one of her favorite targets.

Mikayla is not easily intimidated, either. We were told by the baby house staff that Mikayla does not like loud noises, but neither the vacuum nor her brother’s screaming has made her flinch. It seems as though she has figured out Alex thinks she has cooties, because she delights in touching him and listening to him squeal. Here, Mikayla has caught Alex in a moment of regression and tries to reclaim her walker from him.

As for Alex, he has been dealing with the recent invader pretty well. Occasionally, he forgets about her cooties and will play with her, and when she is napping, he often asks where she has gone. He certainly likes it when she laughs at his clowning around.

Alex seems to be taking the trip like an old pro. Like last time, he loves to eat the vegetables here; we may have to import some!

Mikayla is pretty fond of breadsticks:

Yesterday, we went up into one of the foothills south of Almaty. There is a cable car that goes to the top, where there is a small observation area. We were not brave enough to take the cable car, but instead our driver took us up most of the way. We had to walk the rest of way, but we were rewarded with cool breezes, incredible vistas, and even a cow’s eye view of the city:

Thank you to all who have been posting comments. It is great to know that so many of our family and friends are thinking of us and enjoying the site. We miss you all and are looking forward to everyone being able to see Mikayla and Alex in person!

26 May 2005

Life Outside the Baby House

Mikayla has begun her indoctrination into life with the Meyer family. What better way to start than to go out to eat! All of us went to Govinda’s, an Indian restaurant we’ve mentioned here before, and had lunch with our driver from last time, Sasha, and the adoptive couple he is driving around the city. Mikayla and Alex were marvelous. Here’s daddy at work:

After lunch, we went for a long walk and Mikayla loved it– she even fell asleep while we walked through a park and stopped at an outdoor café to enjoy some snacks and a cold beer. But, we have also seen a feisty side to the new Miss Meyer. If she really wants something, usually a toy Alex is playing with, she will not be deterred. It looks like she’s going to be able to hold her own with her brother. She has even given it back to him by rolling around on him. Here is the princess on a mission for her brother’s red balloon:

She also is bound and determined to feed herself. Cathy says this is a good thing, but the end result is pretty icky, if you ask me.

Mikayla does clean up nicely though. Here she is with her Uncle Chuck:

Of course, with two kids and one Uncle Chuck in the house, there is lots of grocery shopping to be done. Here we are returning from our almost daily pilgrimage to the nearest supermarket, for some reason called the Ramstor:

Almaty is a very cosmopolitan city, with virtually all the modern conveniences. But, then again, it is also a former Soviet Republic located in the heart of Central Asia. Here is a shot of the main road near our apartment:

The picture below really shows the contrast – a shabby apartment building in the foreground and a gleaming new office building in the background. Likewise, virtually every apartment building in the city is run-down on the outside, but from our experience, the inside of each of our apartment units has been very nice and clean.

Finally, lest you think everything is modern and clean, here is a gruesome picture from the meat section of the Green Market. Photographs are not permitted – with good reason – but we managed to get a few shots of what is for sale. I have no idea if you can buy the heads, however. The hanging white stuff is not a bunch of washcloths like I first thought. (Warning – if you’re a vegetarian or are eating right now, do not view this picture):

24 May 2005

Mikayla's Journey Home Begins

Wonderful news! We finally have Mikayla as our very own! After a touching farewell at the babyhouse, Cathy and I brought Mikayla back to our apartment for good. We are so happy to have finally made it to this stage, even though there is much we still must do before we can bring her home.

Here are some of Mikayla's caregivers wishing us the best:

We arrived back in Kazakhstan this past Friday night, May 20, after having to spend an interminable two weeks at home. For this second trip, Alex’s grandmother, Nina, stayed home, and instead, Cathy’s brother, Chuck, came along to help. Too bad Nina couldn’t make it back, as this time we have a properly stocked kitchen in our apartment:

Alex returned with us and hasn’t missed a beat. One afternoon, we took him to his favorite playground, and he promptly amassed a crowd of adoring young ladies:

We were able to visit Mikayla for the first time on Saturday morning, and she seemed very happy to see us, especially Alex, who she already adores. She warmed up to Uncle Chuck pretty quickly, too:

The following is from today, after we returned to the apartment, when Mikalya and Alex were playing together. As you can see, she thinks her brother is a hoot:

Alex has not exactly been shy with his sister, either:

Mikayla likes her mommy and daddy, too:

The babyhouse director gave Alex a parting gift, a miniature dombra, which he has figured out how to play, even though it’s not more than a few inches long:

So, we are hoping to take in a few more sights over the next week while we complete the adoption process. We’ll update here as quickly and as frequently as we can. In the meantime, love to all of our friends and family from the newly expanded Meyer clan!

30 April 2005

Big Brother

Alex has blossomed during his return to his birth city. His language and sensitivity have grown tremendously, and he continually delights us with newfound wit and charm. He has captivated the babyhouse staff, and it obvious that he is in their hearts as one of their favorites. He has embraced the babyhouse as his second home, and he struts through the hallways as if he belongs there. He has the same confidence on the babyhouse playground and has taken over the jungle gym built by WPA.

Mikayla's caregiver introduces her to Alex

Alex entertains the staff and Mikalya

Even though a bit disturbed by it at first, he has accepted that the babyhouse staff call him by his birth name, “Bekzat,” and back at the apartment, he likes to tell us that his name is Bekzat Meyer when he visits there. He has taken to heart the Director’s telling us that “Bekzat” is always welcome at Babyhouse #3. Somehow he senses she is in charge because he calls her “teacher” whenever he sees her.

Alex and "Teacher"

Alex has been soaking in the new sights and is comfortable at the Green Market. Of course, that couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that the Green Market is right next door to the chocolate factory, could it? He also has a keen eye for waterfalls and fountains, and traffic lights. He is still disturbed by the lack of left turn arrows in Almaty (and so are Nina and Cathy!).

Strike a pose

Even though still asking for Chic-Fil-A and French Fries, he continues to be adventuresome by trying new foods, and has devoured Kazak, Russian, Uzbek and Georgian cuisine.

Enjoying Uzbek delicacies

Alex is very loving toward Mikayla but yet is showing typical signs of not sharing – his new favorite word is, “Mine!”

"My guitar!"

Children’s play is universal. Nina said she read somewhere that young children speaking different languages have no problem communicating while playing together on the playground. Alex’s experience at the new playground at Panfilov Park certainly shows this to be true.

Take off!

Alex loves the girls!

Little Princess

Hard to believe it, but as of Friday, we’ve been here two weeks. Both Alex and Mikayla have grown tremendously since we’ve been here. While Alex’s “Russian” has dropped off, his English has improved remarkably. And, when we first saw her, Mikayla could not sit up on her own and did not crawl very well. Now, she sits up and plays, and is mobile enough to grab Alex’s toys when he’s not looking and can make a quick get-a-way:

It looks like we will be departing as scheduled this coming Friday morning at the dreadful hour of 3 am. So, we’re on our last week here, which is bittersweet as we all can’t wait to come home but we will have to leave our little princess behind. The process requires us to go to court next week and then wait as our agency completes a great deal of paperwork necessary for us to bring her home. The upshot is that we must leave and come back a second time before we’re through. Yuck!

In the meantime, here are some shots of Mikayla in her pretty dress:

Our future cheerleader practices her moves:

A nice shot of Cathy and the little one from earlier in the week. Nina says the hat coordinates with just about everything:

Rugrats in training:

28 April 2005

Driving Around Almaty

We have had wonderful visits with Mikayla the last two days. Everyone is doing well, and we have been enjoying the sights of Almaty during Spring. We thought we would present a collage of some of the buildings observed during our trips around the city:

The Abay State Theatre of Opera and Ballet, named after Abay Kunabaer (1845-1904), a famed Kazakh writer and poet.

Republican Palace of School Children, with a TV transmitter tower in the background. Despite its imposing appearance, we understand this to be an activity center for kids, with hands on exhibits and also classes and fun programs.

Ministry of Culture.

Can you say, "Real Estate Boom!"? There is construction going on all over the city. This is just one example of new buildings, both finished and in progress.

This is our driver’s favorite Indian restaurant. No meat to be found anywhere!

And, we end with a picture of the girls, some better behaved than others!

26 April 2005

Markets, Museums, and Mikayla

Today we ventured to Almaty’s “Green Market.” What an experience for the senses! Our favorite part was the food market, where we bought all kinds of fruits, nuts, and even a bouquet of beautiful flowers, all for around 2000 tenge ($15).

Cathy says this guy has the best nuts in the entire world -- and dried fruits, too.

From her expression, it seems like this lady needs some spice in her life!

Yesterday, we toured the Kazakhstan National History Museum. We learned from one of the Kazak docents, that “Bekzat,” our son’s birth name, and “Gaziza,” which is Mikayla’s birth name, both have roots in ancient Kazakh aristocracy. The museum had some great exhibits, including a spectacular collection of traditional Kazakh costumes and even a fully-furnished yurt. Unfortunately, no photographs allowed inside, but here are two from the exterior:

We thought it would be nice to let Alex give Mikayla’s caregivers the bouquet of flowers we bought at the Green Market. It was precious when Alex handed them over to one of the Kazakh caregivers saying, “We call these flowers.” Another poignant moment was when Alex’s former main caregiver saw him for the first time today. After giving him a bear hug, she took us back to Alex’s old room and showed Alex the crib where he used to sleep. There were several photographs of Alex and family we had sent to the babyhouse up on a bulletin board and in a photo album.

Speaking of flowers, it looks like we may have two future botanists on our hands:

Finally, we thought we would close with pictures of the view from our front widow and our view from the back: