Sunday, July 27, 2008

Zoe en Voice

Me grow up big kid too!

A cough in my mouth – I found it.

While Desi was sleeping one morning, she walked over to the side of the bed and gently said, "Hello little guy!"

"I want an armbar." Nathan has included her in the little wrestling matches he and Des have regularly – though she said this to me, out of the blue.

Zoe: Me thinkin' . . .Oh yeah?
Me: What are you thinkin' about?
Zoe: Uhhhhh . . . . pizza!

I'm an animal!

There was a big fly buzzing over our heads. Zoe makes the little Spiderman hand action and says, "Me spins web that bug."

After watching me receive a big hug and kiss from Desi, she noted with alarm that he was turning to do the same to her and she shouted fiercely, " No! Not me!" and pushed him away.

Me grow up, drive car and see Africa – how about that?

I'm a big little girl.

I want gum to chew outside, my dear.

"I'm boom-bing." She was making "boomboomboom" sounds.

After putting a cap on her head she says, "Go back to New York, show Neibaur my cute hat – Neibaur hat."

While Zoe and I were happily intertwined on the bed she sighs, "This mommy, this baby cuddle."

"Me swimming with the grown-ups." She was on the bed pretending.

Please, pretty please, pretty please with please on top!

Zoe took my chin softly one morning and said with a little twinkle in her eye, "Little chicken."

Me go outside – I meet my grammy, grammy's house.

Zoe was helping me make my bed one morning and observed, "Me nice guy"

"I have bubblebeard on." She and Desi have been doing a lot of bubble blowing with straws and soapy water in cups.

I want to eat food.

We happy guys?

"I kissed Desmond because I wuv him." She's recently started saying "Desmond," and seems to prefer it over "Des" or "Desi". His name sounds so cute in her little voice.

Desi Candor

I wanna see Zoe's cute face.

In a whinny voice Des asks, "Mom when can we go back to New York? I want some strawberries." There have been several other berries (raspberries, gooseberries, johannesberries, etc.) that we've been feasting on, for less than a dollar a pound (!) But, the spoiled little boy, really only wanted some strawberries. Point NY. Later that night a new friend paid us a visit and brought some melt-in-your-mouth strawberries from her grandmothers garden! They were most delicious! Point KZ!

"Look what I have in my hand!" He had gone to find Zoe, who had strayed out of site at the playground, and was returning holding her hand.

Dad? Can you give me the telephone? I need to call Heidi.

As Desi wrapped his arms around my neck, he grabbed a handful of my hair and said, "Your hair is solid!"

Des is always talking about when he turns five and the things he's confident he will be able to do. Most of all he's obsessed with the prospect of somehow having the means and capacity to go shopping and buy everything he wants for himself and others. He's constantly negotiating with Zoe on the basis of buying her whatever she wants, "Zoe, wait! Wait! Do you want a toy? I'll buy you a toy when I'm five!" And sometimes he'll throw in, "And I'll get you your own room!" He makes these promises regularly and she's usually consoled by them. The other day was the best when he confidently, earnestly told her, "When I turn 5, i'm going to buy you a pink stroller with butterflies, ballerinas and hopping frogs on it!"

"Heidi is the bestest, bestest toy!" As mentioned above, he obsesses about toys and this is perhaps the highest complement on his love index – being equated with a toy.

Mom, when it's my birthday at Russia, I'd really like to go back to New York.

Do you want to be a glove?

I'm doing work so no one frustrate me!

Look! I drew a map of the whole wide world of Africa!

I wanna figure out stuff with birds – see the birds, I wanna be a bird! I'm gonna climb the roof – would that be bad? Why?

Desi woke one morning after a troubling dream. He told me a bit about it and after listening I began to question him. He was quickly losing the memory of his dream and couldn't answer my questions, so finally, a little annoyed, he replied, "It's just a dream for heaven sakes!"

"Oh! My kisses that Heidi gave me are still in my pocket!" At the airport in NYC, when we were saying goodbye almost 5months ago, Auntie Heidi tucked into his pockets several special kisses to keep so he could have them in Russia/KZ when he missed her.

While playing with the phone, Desi says, "I called for a McDonalds meal Zoe, for when we go back to New York!"

I'm messy – I'm a messy human.

You're my friend Zoe.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Life’s a weed, lately.

Noxious, unwanted episodes have been sprouting up all week! DPJ has made a new friend next door, finally, and in his attempt to entertain and show his friend a good time he's become more daring in his exploration about the property. Monday night while Nathan was outside making preparations for banya, our neighbor Sasha and his little sister Tanya were also outside playing with D&Z. I was indoors preparing dinner and taking it easy (it's become a tradition of sorts that the babes don't come back inside until they are clean, it takes about 2hours to get the banya ready and hot.) So, Nathan comes in at one point and leans against a wall and buries his head in his arm. He was awfully silent for about a minute. Then he tells me that Desi has broken the pump to the well. He and Sasha were throwing stuff down into it -- heavy stuff like metal and wood, as well as random dirty things like homemade whiskbrooms, etc. I was so afraid that one of the babes might have been injured (a well! think of it!) that our thirst and necessity for water didn't quite take root. It's taken root now, day 4, and we're completely dependant on buckets.

Then Nathan gets an email with the 'final' verdict on our attempts to renew both our Russian and Kazakh visas were, "No" with caveats. We cannot get a 1-year Kazakh visa but perhaps a 3-month, though the law stipulates that foreigners can only get Kazakh visas once a year. What?! Which is it? And no, we cannot get another 3-month Russian visa but there's a chance the agency can arrange for one month. Meanwhile, our Kazakh visas expire the end of August and the Fulbright folks expect us to be in KZ on 15Sept per grant stipulations. Too much density, we need to prune back.

And while Jones is stricken with all this grave, complex information, Des enters the room with an open paint can and proceeds to drip/spill/unload a modest amount all over the carpet. He found the paint in the bathroom, tucked away in a far corner, and before bringing it along to show Nate had dribbled/leaked/oozed a generous amount all over the bathroom floor. I was out at the time sitting in a flower garden, near the fountain, reading Dostoevsky and dabbling in poetry. It was lovely and then I returned home. Alas!

Speaking of weeds, Des brings me one of these this week, a conciliatory gesture, as there have also been several small upsets lead and instigated by him that have multiplied our nightmare.

Upon close inspection of the weed . . . could it be? Could it be marijuana? Nathan confirms. Our neighbors, the Saltzburg brothers, pointed it out to him when they were over to give a hand with the well and pump.

Laughter. Contemplation. On such a week, the weed emerges. I took a walk with thebabes this morning and there are patches of it growing wild everywhere. No one seems to mind it.

It's just a weed.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Housekeeping in Sharbakti, KZ

Considering the sort of company I keep and the schedule I maintain, I’m finding it hard to believe that I’ve missed a whole month of current updating, only managing to catch up a bit with some Pod pictorials. I say this because my social circle has shrunk to 3 people (all related) on a day-to-day basis and together we really have not much to do except get on each others nerves. Well, not all the time but at least 4-6 times a day Zoe will let up a shout or Des will wail his new wail and I will . . . well, you get the happy family picture.

Anyway, a month has already passed since leaving Russia for Kazakhstan. We were lucky to pull right up to a rather large home upon our arrival in Sharbakti and have been living here, all by ourselves, ever since. New Yorkers, hold on to your chins: we're renting the house for about $60/7000T a month! (We were paying $200/5000RU in Russia for the shared house) We hoped to find another family to live with but this house was available and too good to pass up (it’s actually up for sale and may be purchased before we return – some folks from Tashkent, UZ walked through last week. The KZ government is inviting all the diaspora to return and, to sweeten the deal, is offering subsidies to purchase homes.)

As we prepare to leave for Russia in the next week or two (hopehopehope – we don’t have our visas yet), I’m feeling a wee bit sad to lose all this autonomy and legroom (and satellite television!) This is certainly the largest place the babes have ever lived in. Nate found out that only 5% of the population here in Sharbakti have indoor plumbing. Because this house has been carefully renovated and is on the market to sell, we’ve scored indoor ‘plumbing’ – meaning there is a toilet and sink, which are connected to a large elevated tank that has to be filled up every couple of days or so from the well in the middle of the yard (but there is an electric pump and hose.) We still need to bring in auxiliary buckets of water for washing dishes and cooking – keeping up the pretensions of hardship.

The best news, of course, is that there is a banya!!! There is a separate little house on the property, the summer kitchen, and the banya is located at the back behind a tightly sealed door. Since it is detached from the house, I’ve had these extraordinary moments of stepping outside, wet and in my towel, to walk stealthily back inside the main house. It’s typically late in the evening and I’m always so alert and invigorated and happy after banya, so to be able to step outside, fresh from that experience, and look up into the sky and contemplate and breathe and listen is a precious combination. Thebabes enjoy banya as well, especially as it’s become tradition for them to play in a way they normally aren’t allowed to – they get SO DIRTY!!! Fun times for all on banya night (which is about every other day).

The property we’re situated on charmingly resembles a junkyard. Yes, a junkyard. We’ve been slowly transforming little sections since we arrived but it is what it is. D&Z of course love it and have created several interesting things with all the clutter – museums with robots and statues; a multi-level house for the cat; slides and store fronts to ‘sell’ the junk they collected. We’ve tried several times to start a bug collection but it’s not taking off. This boy doesn’t seem very interested in bugs. We made a swing from a large overhanging tree limb and they’ve found several ladders, which they move around to different places to climb and play on. A junkyard isn’t complete without an old car and we have a perfectly old, rusty ,turquoise-blue, vintage Lada. Thebabes climb in there and drive to Africa frequently.

All this said, it’s definitely lonelier without other people around us. Sometimes it feels like we’re on our own little isle because we’re not living with anyone and the neighborhoods here are designed in such a way that you really don’t see your neighbors. Everyone has high fences that can’t be seen over or through, and so when walking down the street, you see lots of colorful fences and rooftops but not a lot of people (or any of their gardens!) No one plays out in the street like they did in Pod. We’re all cut off from each other. We can’t even see any of our neighbors to the right or left of us from our back yard and it was only this week, after 4weeks of being here, when we finally hooked up with our neighbors right next door who, it turns out, have a son and a daughter exactly the same ages as Des&Zoe!

So that’s been a challenge some days but it’s allowed us to get used to each other more and while it’s been painful and exhausting it’s been good for us to grow like that.

The one immediate blessing about this village that I’ve identified (I’m sure there will be more – I’m openopenopen!) is the Catholic Church and their vast gorgeous, lawn-blanketed property and all the jollygood kids that populate it. I’m telling you, it feels like girls camp or a stake youth activity every time we go there except the leaders are nuns in creamy dresses and don’t look stressed out!! I think the kids, all ages, choose to spend most of their time there. The church feeds them three meals a day and they have a little house they can play in (more for the winter time I’m sure and they are nearly finished with a huge building just across the street, which the father told Nathan, is for the children). The order of the church is called, The Family of Mary. One of the marvelous nuns, Sister Florida is from Austria, remarked to me that, “so many of these children need a mother.” I believe she really loves them. The children have some loose, unstructured activities it seems, but mostly they relax on the lawn talking or playing ball or running around. There is a large garden too and last week when we were there they were thinning out the rows of carrots and brought a whole basket of little carrots for us all to munch on. All this pleases me immensely! The kids are really great to us and pamper thebabes. I get pampered too as most of the nuns and the father speak English. The father is about Nate’s age and is from Colorado (Laurel, did I mention? He totally reminds me of your husband, Phillip, in looks and in the gentleness he exudes – so I think of you both every time I see him. Nice.) One of the nuns, Sister Martina, is from Indiana. She is quite young and really nice. I love nice. There is Sister Florida, mentioned above, and two other nuns who I haven’t gotten to know yet one from Slovakia and the other from Germany, I think. Apparently the two brothers are American too but I haven’t met them yet. None of the kids speak English really – but luckily we’re finding out that playing and having fun doesn’t always need a mutual language.

Here are some snapshots – taken over the last month – some from our week in Pavlodar and the rest here in Sharbakti.


The American family we ran into took this pic of us on the mosque premises.
Update on them: They recently finished successfully all their court proceedings for adopting and now have their two daughters with them. One is 6 and the other is 2 (biological sisters). They will be taking them home to Louisianna next month!! Hooray for them!

This is how we spent a lot of our time out&about Pavlodar, Zoe on Nathan's shoulders and the rest of us on foot.

Playing in the 'Garden of Culture' here in Sharbakti

Des came down with what looked like the hives on our second or third night in Sharbakti. It had been over a year since his last breakout and I'd left the medicine in Pod. But he woke up the next morning all creamy skinned again with this cute little puffy face. No more hives since . . . Whew! :)

Me in the banya doing laundry.
I'm completely serious when I say: I enjoy doing the laundry. Yes, by hand. I don't know why -- it's just fun in a primitive sort of way. I appreciate experiencing something I wouldn't otherwise be able to.

Outside our dom in Sharbakti on our first week.
It took us a few days to process everything about our new home and it's accompanying excesses (of junk!) but then we kicked into gear and felt very grown-up, trying to take care of all these household matters!

Me&Zoe inside my first mosque in Central Asia!!
I had to don an abaya! So cool.

Frolicking on the lawn (a lawn!) at the Catholic Church with Sister Martina and a couple of the kids.

A rare glimpse at more than just rooftops -- the doors are usually at the side of the house or at the back -- ours is at the back.

Several of the gates separating the properties from view are bright and colorful like this one.

The dusty streets of Sharbakti.
It's hard keeping feet clean. 'Clean', by the way, has become a loose and slippery notion. Thebabes outwit me everytime . . . I've taken to painting my toenails brick-red to give the allusion of clean.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Some Things Stay the Same - Part III

Thoughts of the free market still plague me -- what toys can I buy with my beloved dollar?

Pavlodar, Kazakhstan

Friday, July 04, 2008


Thanks for being such a wonderful sister and such an amazing example in my life! I am so lucky to have you as a sister- to teach me love, patients, kindness, and strength. I miss having you so close and spending those hectic Saturdays together. I look forward to your return and being able to share more sisterly moments. I hope your birthday is special and although you are so far away, you are a daily part of my life and thoughts. Love and miss you!


Resizing image...

(When you get back we will work on getting better pictures taken together-- this is all I had) ha ha