Monday, November 02, 2009

The Irony is . . .

After such a long, unblogger like silence the next time I post is to say, “previet” or “hello” because as I presently tap this keyboard (on my new laptop!) I am settled back into the country of Kazakhstan. The very one I saluted a farewell in my last post over 5months ago.

Oh, the funny timeline of blogging.

But we’ll get to that later. What I’d like to document first is the SUMMER OF MY DREAMS! 3months of peoplepeoplepeople. It was bounteous. I saw nearly everyone I wanted to see and spent a lot of time with my family – for good or bad as I was still reeling and recovering from the social isolation of the previous year and a half. It made me a little awkward, a little self-absorbed – perhaps even a little hard to be around.


Of course, there are picturespicturespictures and since my titanic expectations of a HIGH SPEED INTERNET CONNECTION have been realized (!!) I hope my blog will sparkle with more images. Well, that is, images from my cell phone. We’re a little camera challenged.

It feels good to be blogging again and I hope it will seem less like a tragic Charles Dickens or Thomas Hardy tale, as my sister-in-law put it after reading our last KZ coverage. She wept and couldn’t see for scrolling.


Lets get started . . .

When we landed the beginning of June, my sister Heidi drove us straight to her lovely place in Connecticut.

She made this her very own self. With love, lots of love!!


My wonderful babes had their first bath in the USA!


Just before my first shower, my sister Heidi and I posed for a pic. She literarly provided all needful things for us -- hot&cold running water, comfortable beds, gorgeous food (i couldn't stop staring at the contents of her fridge), a bag full of clothes for the babes (!), more food, shopping excursions, and a trip to the SPA for me. {All women should be able to spend a day at a SPA at least once in their lifetime. I mean it -- and I'm not the pampered type. ohmeohmy!} THANKS SISTER!


Our first meal was BBQ salmon -- I dreamed about it for months!


We took a daytrip to NYC to see friends and our old neighborhood.



Zoe hooked up with her old friend Emelia Fugal. It was sweet.


Des and Porter Brien couldn’t believe they were together again. It was bliss.


After a week in CT we hurried to meet our anxious family in UT!!


DSC02199 DSC02202 DSC02206DSC02209

Once we settled ourselves in Cedar City we enjoyed all the normal things kids do . . .



Bikeriding!! ohmyheart!!


Swimming lessons – it’s summertime!!IMG_1885 IMG_1886

Cooking in mymothers kitchen TOGETHER.IMG_1916

Campfires -- SuperAunties making a SuperMarshmallow stick!


All my sisters, thesuperaunties, were together for a few days . . .

This is Hailey


This is Holly


This is Heidi


and this is Heather (me)


{I mixed up the birth order, just for fun.}

Lots of garden time – we loved the garden!IMG_2044

Went to see (Great) Grandma Grace in SLC -- She'll be 101 years old this month.


Oh, and I turned 37 on July 4th.



and that was just June!

I plan on fully indulging with more pics.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Dos Vadanya

Woke at 5am this morning – FRIDAY! I can’t believe the day has come. I looked out toward the steppe last night, and the land and I spoke. We came to an understanding. How could one not when the evening was so warm and breezy and scented with lilac? The sun was setting and the cows had just come home and the children were in and out of their gates and my neighbor down the street was at the well filling her buckets and my family had just eaten and we were rosy and happy after a full spring day outside. Our last full day.

I smiled.

Goodbye good place. My 16months are up. I did it.

Goodbye lace curtain that hangs in our doorway. The flies usually found their way in anyway, but I loved feeling that the great outdoors was a cool, smooth walk through you.

Goodbye old sink with the prodigious drip. I am being generous. I really thought it was mean of you to grudge us free flowing water.

Goodbye Sultanat. Thank you for being our friend. Go forth with that flour tortilla recipe and the Indigo Girls strumming in your head.

Goodbye butter made-fresh from hardworking hands.

Goodbye big open sky – you thrilled mydaughter with your alternating populations of clouds, moon, sunsets and those big black&white birds. She couldn’t take her eyes from you.

Goodbye fizzy water. Will icecubes sufficiently satisfy us with your flat counterpart?

Goodbye market merchants. Thanks for those occasional smiles and for eventually understanding my Russian. I only speak the language of commerce.

Goodbye general rubbish – my son couldn’t get enough. He has combed the land and brought back enough odds&ends from several households. He loves your old teapots and chipped dinnerware, cigarette boxes and tall green glass bottles. And anything metal.

Goodbye Catholic Church friends. You must have reserved the entire village supply of smiles. Thank you for overlooking my children’s rudeness. Thank you for always showing us such kindness. We will never forget you.

Goodbye afternoon naps. I was the only one in the house who took them regularly. Worked like a charm – time passed and I am going home.

Goodbye Rosa – Can you know how your constant concern for us made us feel? Your regular phone calls from Pavlodar? We hope all your dreams come true – excellent people like you should have no other fate.

Goodbye $70/mo rent for this 5-room house. We paid off one credit card. 16months of not worrying about money has changed us. We like it. A LOT.

Goodbye lovely vegetable gardens – you’ve caused me to dream new dreams. I can’t get enough of your order, you’re perfectly raised dirt morsels. Rich dark-brown mingled with vibrant green are the fecund colors of the universe!! It makes me drool.

Goodbye Evelyn. You represented what I wanted to be and feel here – positive, happy, alive. Thanks for your freshness, for your thoughtfulness, for coming to see us and bringing SUCH LIGHT!

Goodbye 28.8 dial-up speed. You belong in the 1990s. Go back and take that monstrous virus with you.

Goodbye banya – Saturdays will not be the same without you. I will reallyreallyreally miss your hot vapors and that bundle of birch branches slapping my skin.

Goodbye LeRoy and Anne Welling – You gathered us to you and made us feel like we were home. It brings me to tears!! You approach life with such love and generosity – we have been taking notes. we want to
BE LIKE YOU!! Thank you!

Goodbye . . .

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Remember these faces?

Coming soon to a city near you . . .

Desmond P. Jones
{Two front teeth missing!}


Zoe D.K. Jones
{Wait till you hear her little voice!}

Put away your breakables and open up your arms! These babes are ready for some LOVING!

Desi Candor

Zoe: I’m going to put on my ballerina dress now!

Des: I’m going to put on my handsome dress!

“I’m happy it’s a long time away.” After talking about growing up and leaving mommy

“Remind me cause I’ll forget – my mind is just a little mind after all.”

After Des finished telling me a really long story he asked me, “What was your favorite part? Was it when I stopped crying?” I asked him why he was crying in his story (the details were fuzzy) He answered, “Because I coughed and my back stung me in pain!”

Des marched happily into the kitchen and asked, “Can I have 7 gulps of water please?”

“I don’t know which girls I will marry. When I walk around the village I’ll look.” After thinking for a bit he then asked, “When Zoe grows up will she get married?”

“Shall we celebrate the day the Piepers came?” He proposed this idea the day after they left us – we were all so rejuvenated by their visit!! And he loved playing with baby Sophie a lot!

On our way back from the market a large hay truck rambled past us and as they did so a man leaned out the window and shouted something in our direction. I turned to Des, which I do more often now, and asked him what the man said to us. Des said, “I don’t know – he spoke a Russian I didn’t understand.”

We picked up a surprise treat/toy box at the market. There was a small piece of wrapped gum included with the picture of a woman’s face on it. Des mumbled as we walked home, “I don’t like women gum but I’m grateful for what I have as the old saying is . . . “

On a particularly droll day that found me on my bed for most of it, Des and Zoe talked me into getting down the bag of summer clothes. After they’d tried everything on, they joined me on the bed for a tickle session and Desi in high-hyper-happiness exclaimed, “Ahhh. . . this is so much fun! This is such a FUN day! This is my FAVORITE day ever!” I’m so glad they have different ways of evaluating a day.

“Won’t it be great to have a mom cat someday and then we can get lots of CAT KIDS!”

We usually spend a lot of time in my bed in the mornings – cuddling and talking about their dreams, about the day, about what we’ll do when in nyc/ut . . . One morning Desi began to tell me about a dream where he was drinking really yummy milk. Then he summed up his feelings, “I loved that milk dream. It was the best dream! I’m so glad I had a dream about MILK!”

While eating bread and butter: “I’m gonna marry this piece of bread!" Then he added seriously, "Do you want to write that down? I’ll get you a pen.”

“I’m not awesome, I’m crazy!”

To Zoe: “You’re stinking in pink!” Too much pink.

Whenever thebabes do something nice to each other, I usually turn to the one who received the good deed and say, “Who’s the greatest brother/sister in the world?!?” When I recently repeated this cheer because Zoe had done something generous, Desi added, “. . . and Zoe’s the greatest girl in the world!”

After some very bold demonstrations fo Hulk-like anger, DPJ paused sweetly, “I have something interesting to say: the Hulk is green like the Grinch.”

After being told we were having borst for dinner, Des said in a hushed, slow voice, “ohhh nooo . . . that’s bad . . . “

One after noon we were listening to a satellite radio station on the television when Desmond protested, “I want to watch regular TV, all these adult songs are obnoxious! So Zoe&I turned it off and gave each other a high-five”

While Des&Zoe were cuddling on the bed when D suddenly pulled back and said, Zoe’s elbow smells like throw-up.”

This gum tastes like old cheese.

I’m gonna rip your laugh off to a sad grin.

Zoe en Voice

While looking at a freckle on her arm she said, I have polka-dots!

Is he a superhero? She was pointing to the picture of Joseph Smith on the Teachings of the President’s of the Church Manual.

Zoe will point at the two of us and say, “We are GIRLS! and Desi and dad are boys.” She loves to make this happy little point regularly.

While playing with Desi, I overheard her say, “Thank you Batman! You’re a genius!”

Zoe walks up to Desi and I holding a sock, “This is a wet sock. It’s actually wet&wet&wet.” Des and I laugh and Desi says, “How did you learn how to say ‘actually?

“I think it’s so interesting to sleep.”

After drinking a cup of milk and immediately coughing, she explained when she could talk again, “That milk just snuck up my nose!”

“Thank you for this lovely breakfast!”

After scratching her elbow, Zoe said, “I wish bugs not eat my elbow!”

Des and Zoe were having a little mock battle – Des was saying, "You’ll never defeat me!and Zoe retorted, Darth Vador – You’re a bad guy! You ever not feet me!”

I asked Zoe what her full name was: “Kathleen Zoe Dinana Jones!”

Zoe looked at Oleg the cat and asked, “Can I call him Rum Punch?”

Zoe looked out the window one evening and shouted with happiness, “The sunset is here!! Should we go outside?!”

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

All I do is stare at the calendar

PakahPakah-KZ-countdown is:

- 2 more mondays

- 2 hot&steamy banya sessions

- 2 in-home sacrament meetings

- 2 more hand-wringing laundry sessions (!)

- 1 more borst night (I’m the only fan)

- 1 more trip to the catholicchurch for a roll on the lawn and tearful goodbyes

- several more evenings watching the cows come home

- 4-5 more excursions to the steppe to watch mybabes chase the sunset!

Also, it looks like we’ll return to NYC and I’m stunned . . . can it be? I’ve wanted it so much! Nathan received a writing fellowship and though he’s a little torn about returning to a life of DEBT he emailed his acceptance. Honestly he would love to stay – he’s applied for a few jobs/fellowships here in KZ and Kyrgyzstan. Before I can even entertain such notions I must get HOME first.


Funny story: the Department of Education here in the Pavlodar oblast (i.e. state) called to speak with Nathan about working for them. They asked some questions about the different classes he’s taken and taught over the years. He explained his research and his anticipated anthropology degree. They asked about my work as well. Then the woman said she’d call back – and just a couple of hours later she called to announce, “The Department of Education would like to offer you a job teaching biology next term.” Nathan had to stifle a laugh and explain that he absolutely could NOT teach biology. The woman countered that surely he’d taken biology classes (yeah, undergrad, over a decade ago!) when Nathan convinced her that he couldn’t teach she then asked, “Well, can your wife teach biology then?” Oh boy.

Moving on.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Can I get a witness?


And she’s a better blogger!

Evelyn Pieper, who lives in Almaty with her husband and adorable 10month old daughter, packed up her little family and took the 2-day trip north to our village and stayed with us for three days!! We have become great friends over the year that we’ve all been in Kazakhstan. There have been only four American (Mormon) women I’ve come to know in this country – Sister Anne Welling, Robin Wikle, Sister Pat Vincent and Evelyn Pieper – I want to remember these women FOREVER!!

There has been a picture draught on this blog (as well as prose) but if I still have any readership left you will be rewarded by clicking over to Evelyn’s blog for tons-o-details and images from their visit with us – she’s posting up a STORM (even photos of our bathroom!)

The Pieper Family
Couldn’t Ask for More
{scroll down}

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Something happy is in the air

With no pictures to upload due to the incapabilities of dial-up speed -- and just today DesmondPJones broke my camera -- I suppose I’ve been operating under the impression that one simply cannot blog.

Am I wrong?

Oh, and I NO LONGER have a laptop computer of my own. That would be ZoeDKJones, the ninja-sommersaulter. She splits screens from keyboards with a single tumble.

Happily, other diversions are emerging. The world was puddle-wonderful for about a week. Huge, massive puddles that made me think of Russia. We arrived at the dawn of spring this time last year and it’s quite strange to think that we’re still here going through another spring season. Stange and, yes, kind of exciting. I’m feeling the spring excitement. I walked up my street, toward the sunset, for the first time in 5months and it was exhilarating! I love smelling the earth, esp. the soil of village life: the small fires burning leftover leaves and debris, the animals thawing in their small little winter spaces. I LOVE these smells.

The world seems friendly again.

Des&Zoe are responding enthusiastically and have showed increased interest in going outside again. We bought some rope and put the swing back up on the big tree near the front gate. They’ve already dug a huge hole in the ground about the size of Zoe and gathered up a sizeable portion of the rubbish around the property and created a little ‘home’ for themselves. They have spent hours out there and it feels so good! One blissful evening I brought out a bowl of potatoes and a paring knife (just like my great-grandma!) and peeled potatoes and watched thebabes play around with the neighbors, Sasha and Tanya. It had been over 5months since they’d last played with other children their age in this way.

Our friends the Piepers from Almaty, the other Fulbright Mormon family here in KZ (!), have decided to pay us a visit with their little babeSophie. ohmyheart! I can’t express how excited I am to have people visit us!! Evelyn said she had to see all this for herself – she may be in for a shock, starting with the little box we keep beside the toilet for used tolietpaper (to burn later). We are going to get a lamb, fatten it up, and while they’re here feast on plov, shashlik, bishbarmak – all things juicy and lamb-y!

Today we went to the Catholic Church to see how green the grass is getting. Can’t wait to lounge on the lawn again. I went back this evening for the Easter services. A nice solo night out. I cried through the whole thing. It was very touching -- I LOVE spiritual spaces and the people that worship in them. Father Bonaventura at one point in his service (which was spinkled with English -- he's from Colorado) knelt down and washed the feet of his alter boys and two of his workers. I cried some more.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Desi Candor

While reading the Children’s Friend one Sunday afternoon with Sister Welling (during a visit to Astana) she pointed to a picture of the prophet and asked Desi who it was, “Thomas Baracka?” He replied.

What will you do with those nursing things when you don’t have a baby anymore?

“I’ll give you 3 birthday hugs Zoe! “ After Nathan gave her 3 birthday body slams and I gave her 3 birthday spankings.

“Mom! Blow on my tongue!” After eating spicy noodles.

When we visit Almaty we get to go to church in a branch with a primary. I was prepping Des for the eventuality of separating for our classes and he sighed, “I wish Ayden and Porter got out of your belly too like me and Zoe.” He wished he had his primary friends with him!

“My eyes are making me close my eyes.” He was getting sleepy on the bus in Almaty.

After watching the “Little Mermaid” with Des&Zoe (thanksmom!) I jokingly turned to Des and asked him if he was going to have a happy ending. He replied confidently, “I’m not going to have an ending to my dreams!”

Zoe and I made a deal – we’re brothers now.

Mom, I’m warm everywhere except my freckles. [I thought of you AuntieHolly when he said this!]

I want to go back to Alien World where there’s no mothers.

During a Family Home Evening Q&A session, Des raised his hand enthusiastically and shouted, “I know, I know! Zoe doesn’t know anything, she’ll just talk about ballerina stuff.” [I can’t tell you how many parts of me bristled when he said this!]

Des put his arm over Zoe’s shoulder, “We’re buddies.” He thought they both looked alike after gooping their hair with gel and brushing it off to the side.

While watching the trailers leading up to a movie, Desi laughed and said, “That is funny-delicious, I wish i could eat that movie!”

The best present I love is kisses.

When Des is overflowing with littleboyengery he usually chants, “I like to move it, move it Africaanski!”

“Karate chop action!” Then he usually kicks a door open or something.

Out of the bedroom I hear Desi shout happily to Zoe, “Thanks for saving me you darling girl!”

I had a dream and mom gave me a lollipop and I was licking it all pretend-y and then I woke up licking my hand.

Zoe en Voice

I want ponytails – I gonna be so dressy!

After brushing her teeth she inhaled and exhaled happily and said, “My breath feels clean and nice”.

“I want hairback.” She has a hairy back and she loves to have Nathan, who started it as a joke, tug on her little hairs. It calms her.

I love you Desi so much!

I asked Zoe what her nickname was and after thinking for a minute she replied, “It’s in my mouth and it’s soso big!”

I had a good dream about ponies.

In a voice of protest: “Desi sing happy birthday to me – i don’t want him talk to me!”

“My nose snuffy!” Then after a bitty puff into a tissue she sniffed and said, “ahhhhh . . . . yummy!”

After getting a little wound on her finger she told me, “I saw my blood and it was scaaaaary!”

That is a yummy kiss!

Mommy, put pink clothes on me please!!

During playtime with Desi, Zoe did something to upset him and she followed him around for 2minutes asking him in a cheery voice, “Desi do you like me? Desi do you like me? Desi are you liking me?” Des told her he needed a little rest and then maybe he would (after that he asked her to fetch him a beverage.)

Jesus can turn me into a baby with his magic wand.

“I love to eat my cry. I love it!” Salty tears are tasty.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The world is my oyster . . . that is unless I don’t speak the language

A long year has just passed.

We uprooted ourselves with great difficulty from New York. It’s hard to leave the place and people you love for the unknown, those friendless places. The four of us gathered close to each other, fenced in by our 17 parcels of possessions, and have tried to accustom ourselves with this part of the earth.

I can’t say I’ve done well or that I know what this lingering year has meant to me and my family relationships. Have I grown the way I should? How do I compute the self-discovery regularly accompanied by self-loathing? The dreamy and provincial alongside subtexts of the lonely and nightmarish; the simplicity that has absorbed our lives and bloated it with hollowness and boredom? I look at all this and wonder if I am to understand that this reduced place – without imagination, without ambition – is what happens when I do not have people around me in abundance. People that I can exchange life and air and words with.

But still, all this time we’ve spent here and I have not settled in on what to think about it, what the ruling will be. I can’t completely evaluate it, I suppose, while still in the middle and muddle of it. I do hope, really hope, that the soft tongue of memory and distance will in the end produce a pearl, which will be luminous and valuable to me.

Monday, February 23, 2009

You still there?

I am not the blogger I once was.

What is it?

The SEEDY VIRUS that has taken over my modem and boots me off after 1minute?

or is it . . .


Whatever it is things are a little too silent over here in my corner. I need to thaw out these fingers.


I suppose it is well to say that we are drifting along – nothing exciting. We hardly step out of doors. It’s so cold.

I mean it is
Our nostrils freeze within seconds of stepping outdoors. Have you ever had that happen? Nose hairs stiffen? It’s uncomfortable.

Des refuses to go out in weather like this. He’s been keeping busy with his scissors. He has a lot of spiderman comic books and he loves cutting them up. Sometimes he’ll cut off heads and switch them with other guys – also hair, hands, legs, accessories. He goes through a lot of glue. We are constantly picking up little bits of paper. He loves it and I keep quiet until clean-up time. He also still loves to dress up and jump around like a crazy man. I wish i could post his recent costume' (wretched virus!) which included blue tights, a red cape and a plastic sack between the legs. He looked awesome.

Zoe does a lot of quietly looking at books and playing with her ‘princesses’ and horses. She also puts on her dress-up clothes and asks me to put on music and dance with her. I do almost anything she asks me to do – she’s bewitching.

Nathan is scheming for our future. Applying all over the globe. I dream of working at Columbia University in NYC and visiting with family&friends when we get back.

The countdown is . . .

3 months!!

Thanks for all your LOVE and see you over on Facebook – er, I mean, later right here on my blog.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The moment has passed . . .

I’m learning something about myself – if I don’t write things down, I forget them. Grocery lists and to-do lists aside (of which I am an avid keeper), it’s the things my children say, the learning moments and even the hard things, the ones that nearly break me. . .

Just a few days ago I was really struggling with all this housing arrangement business but the emotional heaviness of the moment is starting to dim. I’m forgetting.

Only because I’m happy, quite happy with the mid-week reversal.

So there we were at Valya’s – all tense, all silent (except for my high-spirited children)and it was suffocating. I didn’t know where we would live and from what I’d seen (one house) I was ready to go home to mymother. This was the first time I’d felt this way. I told Nathan how I felt and he was crushed but I felt better after saying it (sorry honey!) This was on Wednesday and later that afternoon we left thebabes with Sveta (Valya’s wife) while we went to the house to pack our things up. After an hour, Valya joined us with his son Pavel (who incidentally is a suspect in the break in) and his fiancĂ©e Galina. They began rolling up carpets and removing them from the walls.

When the carpet from the wall dividing our room from thebabes room was removed, Pavel noted the auxiliary stove – the first woodburning stove in the dom before the one in the kitchen was built – it probably hadn’t been used in 30years. But he asked the question, one neither Nathan nor I nor Valya thought to ask, what about this stove? Why couldn’t it heat the house sufficiently? Valya gave him the go ahead to try it out and we all stopped packing. The rest of the day was spent monitoring the stove and adding fuel every few hours or so.

It was working.

The next morning Nathan and I happily departed for the dom. It was decided among all of us that this would work. IT WOULD WORK!!! So we left thebabes again with Sveta and we spent the entire day cleaning the dom, unpacking and getting ready for normalcy again. Oh!! The excitement!! Around 7pm it was blissfully warm inside (while a blizzard was raging outside), relatively clean, and quite cozy. We picked up ourbabes and the rest of our stuff and


How grateful I am that we have been able to stay in this house – after seeing the alternative – it is the best for us.

Oh, and it’s warmer.

The stove, remember, is in the wall between our room and thebabes. Before we were the furthest room from the stove in the kitchen and the water pipes didn’t get as hot as everywhere else.

We are SO TOASTY!!!

There will be a lot more work to do. For one thing Nathan is now cleaning TWO stoves as well as fueling them TWICE a day. And the coal dust will now be t h i c k EVERYWHERE.


But I’m energized and it was actually helpful to spend a little time with Sveta in her dom. She was quite fastidious in her domestic duties and I’ve been newly inspired. We don’t have much, it’s true, but I appreciated an opportunity to see how she used her resources and I feel I can apply her approach.

As an aside, Oleg Petrovich, the cat that came with the house, is now back to looking like his Russified namesake, Oliver Twist. He’s quite scrawny again and gets a little too overexcited whenever we approach his food bowl. Des has begun to confidently take him by the scruff of the neck and oust him when I’ve had enough of him under-my-feet. I HATE stepping on cats.

Oh, and really the cherry-on-top of this nightmare reversal is receiving the package mymom sent stuffed with videos. Since returning to our dom, when thebabes have gone to bed, Nathan and I cuddle up in our warm bedroom and watch “Pride and Prejudice.”

It’s quite perfect.


Friday, February 06, 2009

So one day I thought . . . why not?

The Apron Stage

So I’ve put myself out there . . . as in I’ve taken a little skip-hop over to another blog – one filled with literary folks opining about life in writerly fashion – and I made a contribution.

They say they’re still in ‘beta’, I say the same about myself.

Just for fun.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A little bitter with the sweet

We were away from our little village for over three weeks. THREE WEEKS of daily hot showers, laundry machines, electric insta-heat, food varieties, English speaking friends, a branch to attend church, high speed internet, museums and restaurants . . .


We were on a mission to get new Kazakh visas – our local immigration folks had a problem with us living in the village. So our Fulbright contact at the U.S. Embassy decided to sponsor us with a diplomatic note, which they say will put us above the whimsy of the law.

We hope so.
(diplomatic note!)

We had to leave the country to get new KZ visas. We went to KYRGYZSTAN!!! It surprised me, it pleased me – in a word, I liked it there. We met together on Sunday for church with a young couple from BYU, the Barnes, who are here on an internship for three months (AWESOME PEOPLE!) and Jildez and her daughter. Jildez shared her testimony, we all did, and it was POWERFUL!! The Barnes came over the following night for family home evening – they introduced the game charades to thebabes. (Watch out family, they love it!!)

We are now back in our village but are currently without a home. Our dom was broken into a week ago and they didn’t bother to shut the doors on their way out. All the pipes froze. All the radiators cracked. The heating system is ruined. So far the only thing we’ve determined the thieves took were Valya’s satellite player/receiver and our collection of Russian pirated videos. They messed things up but there was no money to find. All this is going to cost Valya hundreds of dollars (thousands of tenge) to repair.

We are staying at his house but will soon be on our way out. We are looking at new homes to rent – the top of the list is a small dom: 4 rooms total, sparsely furnished, outhouse facilities only and a water pump down the street. I’ve been crying for mymother for two days.

BUT . . .

(some advice from my supporters -- thanks!)

We are playing a lot of card games (thanks mom) as we wait and try to be quiet here in this house. Nathan will soon earn his badge for the Master of Consecutive Problem Solving.

That Ph.D. might mean something too in the future.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Birthday girl Zoe

We took an overnight train to modernity over three weeks ago – a few days in Astana and then another 20hour train to Almaty. When Zoe’s birthday rolled around on

JAN 17th
we were able to show her a really good time.



It was a full day out and about the city – we stopped at the toy store first and she picked out a CAMEL. With bells. She’s into it.

Then I found her a magic wand for about $2 and she was transported – she spent the rest of the day waving it around and mumbling to herself and asking me over and over again what it was called.

and then she’d repeat it over&over&over again until she forgot.

Have I mentioned how much I love little girls?


MyZoe is now three!


I love looking into her chocolate brown eyes. They are so bright, so warm, so clear and open. They are friendly. They are familiar – my mother and sisters all have brown eyes. It’s perfect.

I love listening to her talk. Her lips expand and retract, her dimples sink and rise, her eyes roll from side to side – I always lean in, nearly in her face. I want to absorb what she’s telling me. I want to breath it. I utter hushed exclamations to keep her going. I always want more.

I love embracing her. She is the perfect little form to curl up with, to snuggle and hide with. She has this happy little giggle when you take her into your arms. Ohhhh . . . she is delicious to me!

I’m such a big girl now I’ll share my magicwand with my brother!

A magicwand and a carousel – what a happy birthday combination!
I think she was hoping for a little Mary Poppins magic.

Strolling with Dad on the streets of Almaty.
Nathan is carrying all her birthday loot and the cake!!

Standing in front of the toystore where she scored BIG!
She doesn’t really expect a lot (yet).

The brown eyes I LOVE!

Taking a little birthday girl beauty snooze.
If you rest this way, all the special treatment won’t go to your head.

Pulling out the cake after a yummy dinner at the Vincent’s apartment. Des told her it was a Spiderman web cake – she thought that was cool.
(Actually, the cake wasn’t nearly as yummy as Sister Vincent’s apple crisp!)

Thursday, January 22, 2009


"Man is a mystery. It needs to be unravelled, and if you spend your whole life unravelling it, don't say that you've wasted time. I am studying that mystery because I want to be a human being."

A literary romantic like me lives for these moments.
Come along with me for a walk down
Dostoevsky Street in Semey, Kazakhstan.

Fyodor Dostoevsky was a young, vibrant writer living in St. Petersburg, Russia when he was sentenced to death with several others of the Petrashevsky Circle, a group of utopian socialist intelligentsia. Don’t they sound cool? While lined before the firing squad they were granted a last minute reprieve and were instead exiled to Siberia (I kinda know how that feels – Siberian exile). He spent 5 years in a convict prison in Omsk followed by 5 more years (1857-1859) of enforced military service in Semey, which is now in Kazakhstan.

It was in Semey, in this log house, where he began his most extraordinary novel
The Brothers Karamasov.
(which I am still comprehending – one page at a time. It’s glorious)

Let's go inside
:::my heart is speeding up:::



But isn't it a lovely era-relevant stand in?
Take a closer look -- there is PAPER on that desk.
:::breath in, breath out:::
These are actual, real life – I TOTALLY BELIEVE IT – manuscripts from F.D. himself!!

Such fervent, emotional renderings.
I love what paper and ink can conjure.
Suddenly the Russian script takes on a romantic, lovely form to me.

My children were along to IMBUE, INSTILL, INSPIRE.
Doesn't he look speechless; doesn't he look overwhelmed with awe?
Across the room we can take a figurative sit-down to gaze and reflect at the desk, at the writings, and the GENIUS that was DOSTOEVSKY!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Salvation Flour Tortillas

I miss familiar foods and even just the general abundance of foods. There are not many vegetables to be found in our village – except potatoes, carrots, onions and occasionally tomatoes, cucumbers and beets. When Nathan goes to Pavlodar, I have him bring home herbs and green/red peppers and zucchini, a pale green variety, if he can find it. I do still have a couple of large unknown summer squash that I put aside for the winter. Every time I look at them, it makes me so happy.

Also during the summer I stock piled a lot of beans. I LOVE beans!! This summer there was this little woman at our rynick selling her beans (the bean babushka!) from a large burlap bag and whenever I saw her I would always get 4 scoops. I was sure we’d enjoy eating a lot of beans this winter.

It took the discovery of a very tremendous flour tortilla recipe, and the inheritance of baking powder, to ensure that we would enjoy our beansbeansbeans!! I obviously can’t go to the store and buy flour tortillas – there are substitutes in the larger cities, one nice flat bread is called lavash. However, I found a flour tortilla recipe online and I wanted the real thing but it called for baking powder. This was tricky because neither I nor the other Americans that I’ve talked to have been able to find baking powder in this country. Baking soda – yes; baking powder – no. When the Wikle’s left their work at the US Embassy in Astana they sold the bulk of their western food treasure trove to the Wellings, who are the LDS Humanitarian missionary couple and also live in Astana. When we started visiting regularly and staying with them they opened up their food supply to us, which included baking powder – along with a lot of other things like dried black beans and lentils!! My mom then mailed me baking powder in a Ziploc baggie along with some taco seasoning.

Homey, nostalgic SALVATION!

Seriously, when I give one of my habitual sighs, and open my meager cupboards I am comforted by the thought, “Make flour tortillas and it will be alright.” Because the flavors of the beans and the sour cream and the fresh peppers and, on occasion, the taco seasoned meat, mingles so consolingly with those soft, chewy, flour-y warm tortillas. It tastes so good and familiar and all this helps me through the moment. Moment by moment right?

And in the morning, I fry an egg and warm the homemade refried beans and tortilla’s and we have huevo ranchero’s!!

So enjoy a flour tortilla with some fresh cooked beans and feel glad.

Texas Flour Tortillas
I usually double this recipe.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
3/4 cups of warm milk

Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and oil. Slowly add the warm milk. Stir until a loose, sticky ball is formed. Knead for two minutes on a floured surface. Dough should be firm and soft. Place dough in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap for 20 minutes.

After the dough has rested, break off eight sections, roll them into balls in your hands, place on a plate (make sure they aren’t touching) and then cover balls with damp cloth or plastic wrap for 10 minutes. (It’s very important to let the dough rest; otherwise it will be like elastic and won’t roll out to a proper thickness and shape.)

After dough has rested, one at a time place a dough ball on a floured surface, pat it out into a four-inch circle, and then roll with a rolling pin from the center until it’s thin and about eight inches in diameter. (If you roll out pie crusts you’ll have no problem with this.) Don’t over work the dough, or it’ll be stiff. Keep rolled-out tortillas covered until ready to cook.

In a dry skillet, cook the tortillas about thirty seconds on each side. It should start to puff a bit when it’s done. Keep cooked tortillas covered wrapped in a napkin until ready to eat. Can be reheated in a dry skillet, over your gas-burner flame or in the oven wrapped in foil.
While you probably won’t have any leftovers, you can store in the fridge tightly wrapped in a paper towel then plastic for a day or so.

Yield 8 tortillas.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A little wordy … grab a beverage.

It’s been a nice holiday season for us here in KZ. We’ve had lots of together time re-establishing our traditions. Zoe will likely have more memories of Christmas for next year to build up the anticipation; Des too. They both slept-in and were eventually roused up by their over-excited daddy who couldn’t wait another minute to begin the morning.

We started things in the kitchen with a blindfolded Des, who was guided to sit down on our kitchen stoop, then Nathan placed a big bucket of coal in front of him and said “Merry Christmas!” He opened his eyes and laughed along with us – he had to be coaxed into a pout for this picture.

Zoe is always mindful of the things we get for her – for instance, while putting on clothes she’ll say, “Mommy, you got me this flower shirt?” And I’ll say something like, “Yes” and then she’ll sum it up with an, “Oh.” She does this over many of her things – taking note, tracing origins. Christmas morning she was just as audible about all her treasures, “This is mine?” or “You got this for me?” Sweet gratitude.

A few days after Christmas we hosted a little party at our dom, it was DPJ’s idea and I jumped on it (shock!) We painted little Christmas tree and manger invitations and then went to the Catholic Church to hand them out. We were so excited!! We baked and we cleaned and we recruited our little tween-ager girl following to help us (a group of 3 girls who come over regularly to just hang out with us.) So the day came and our little tween-ager friends were helping us set up, we laid out several liters of juice, platters of cookies and cinnamon rolls, bowls full of oranges and grapes . . . one of the girls, Sasha, indicated to me that I had set out too many cups and I said no because Father Bonaventura was coming along with Sister Martina and Sister Florida and Brother Gary and on&on listing many of the other kids . . . their eyes grew wide and they shrieked and chattered in Russian like out of breath sprinters and then THEY FLED! I have no idea what was going on and why they didn’t understand about the party when everyone else did – Sasha even wrote out all the invitations per Nathan’s directions!! Anyway, many people came and it was SO FUN! Lots of English and German and Russian was spoken and we all got along famously. I love it when Des gets a great idea.

On New Years Eve, Vayla came by around 10pm and took us to the centre marketplace in his car. There were lights everywhere and a stage with people singing, a huge icy slide that kids were sledding down, a few ice sculptures and fireworks! It was FUN and FREEZING – I’m beginning to wonder if the purpose of going outside is just to confirm that it is better to be inside; to STAY inside. Des and Zoe certainly feel this way.

We recently purchased our tickets home for JUNE – that is thebabes&I. Nathan hopes to eek out one more month of research in Russia, lovely Podsosnovo, before returning home. We’ll linger for a week in NYC with auntie Heidi and friends and then it’s FAMILY TIME in UTAH!! Can I even express to you how much I’m looking forward to this? I bring it up daily. My mom found a bike for Zoe at the local thrift store for $2 and she’s setting them up for a week of swimming lessons (!!) I’m going to take a little escape to SLC for some solo time with friends and then they will all join me for more FAMILY TIME. Then a little more time in blessed Cedar City and then babes&I will retire to St. George to the Jones Oasis for more swimming and shopping and eating and hiking and laughing and loving to our hearts content. I LOVE MY PEOPLE!


Continuing on with pictures, pictures, pictures . . . must keep up on the decluttering of my digital camera -- esp. since Des has managed to get a hold of it more often -- too many crazy angles and superhero close-ups.

We were invited the New Years party at the library.
It was great -- Father Frost is a Kazakh buddy of Nathans -- and since it was a dress up party Des was a Power Ranger and Zoe was Dr. Iboli (a Russian cartoon character).

Zoe Dancing with Sister Florida at our Christmas party.

A little sliegh ride on Christmas day.
Nathan got frost bite on his ears -- they turned bright red and burned for a couple of days and then began to peel!

A Christmas bucket of coal for Desmond P. Jones.

Opening Christmas presents.

Gift from Nathan -- earrings and a wall hanging of the oldest Mosque in Turkistan, KZ.

Under the tree Christmas morning.

The looks on their faces as they first caught sight of the tree Christmas morning.

Christmas Eve at the Catholic Church -- after the 3hour service we were all given a candle and went outside to the lifesize stable with manger.
We sang songs and took turns kissing the baby Jesus. Someone is kissing him in this pic so he can't be seen.

Our Christmas tree in homemade ornament glory and a few Christmas cards from the States.

This is the hardworking Nathan P. Jones.
Who even on Christmas morning had to rise before sunrise, clean out ash from the oven and build a fire to get our home warmwarmwarm.