Thursday, March 11, 2010

Some Things Stay the Same - Part IV

I will search and conquer (with humor!)

Almaty, Kazakhstan

. . .

The Yellow Brick Road

Let’s just jump right into it as if I’ve been a supreme blogger all the while. There was once this crazy family of four, who thought it would be interesting to live in Kazakhstan for another year.

That’s us. The Family Jones.

Forget village life however - that was only once in a lifetime. We set-up apartment keeping in Pavlodar, in northern Kazakhstan, about 2hours from the Russian/Siberian border. This apartment came with all the amenities we went without in the village – washing machine, insta-radiator heat, indoor plumbing, food varieties. We soon found it easier to make FRIENDS too! A small group of Peace Corp volunteers were about the city doing good works – I clicked instantly with Shannon Huett. Also, there were English teachers from the U.S. and lovely locals with hearty English skills. I even got a terrific job teaching English in 2 Kazakh schools. Thebabes went to a Russian speaking private school – it was tears and wailing in the beginning then sweet submission. Nathan took on a hefty teaching job 6 days a week and threw himself into it.

Nice life.

Then we were asked if we’d like to relocate, for a month, to another Kazakh city in the south. Taraz. Oooooh . . . milder winter weather, a southern city, a trip to Uzbekistan, a little adventure. Indeed it seemed interesting and we made preparations to move, in 1.5 days, on December 20th.

Our days became long and languid again. No school. We only had one friend. I tried to home school and then got bored. I went running regularly. Thebabes&I needed to renew our visas, they were set to expire on 21Jan. So after a month-ish, we applied for Uzbek visas and left for Uzbekistan (UZ)!

It was quite involved getting across the border – we drove in three different taxis, 3-4 hours each, through the countryside in search of the international border crossing. It took us all day. Zoe threw-up all over me.

We loved Tashkent instantly. It’s like the New York City of Central Asia, I said. The subway systems were strikingly beautiful. Yes, beautiful. The city felt like a city. More sedentary. The infrastructure was fantastic. We found fun restaurants but our hotel was a DIVE of the grayest, yuckiest kind for $20 a night. We submitted our passports quickly to the Kazakh Embassy and waited and bided our time in museums and long walks.

Something went wrong with the paperwork. There would be a delay while Nathan’s office in Pavlodar resubmitted it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We decided to hit the road and leave the dingy hotel for other cities!

We took a speedy train to Bukhara – an ancient silk road city that is remarkably preserved. People still live and work and create their art there. OH! What art! I was in my aesthetic paradise only with very little money. woewoewoe! We spent 4 days in Bukhara, feeling a little like locals, it’s so small and everyone came to recognize us and we them. Nice.

Samarkand is only a few hours from Bukhara via that fast train and we arrived in high anticipation. This city is legendarily beautiful! The TILES, the TILES which enamor all the ancient buildings . . . I couldn’t get enough! We walked around for 4days snapping photos with my camera phone. David of the Old Testament is entombed there. So on a lovely Sunday afternoon, in the light rain, we walked toward the rainbow in the sky and his tomb.

Things were not going well with the visa process though. We returned to Tashkent and waited for another two weeks. We found a better hotel at the train station for $25 a night and we were very comfortable but we felt increasingly anxious as we approached the expiry date of our UZ visas.

We waited right to the day before our UZ visas were to expire, but NO Kazakh visas were forthcoming. We had visas to no other country either. We were told that you could get one month visas on arrival at airports so we were left with flying out of UZ into Kyrgyzstan (KG). Getting Kyrgyz visas was seamless (and reasonably priced).

Nathan decided to take the KZ visa matter into his own hands and got in touch with good old Stan Tours in Almaty, KZ. Also, we were able to stay with Allen and Lori Palmer of Provo who were are in Bishkek for 9months on a Fulbright Teaching Scholarship at the University of Central Asia in Bishkek. They were terrific to us and after a week . . .

We had our one year KZ VISAS!

In total it took us over ONE MONTH to get these buggers.

*Lesson #1: Don’t go to UZ for anything that involves various government(s) cooperation. UZ is for shopping and bowing down before the architecture!

*Lesson #2:
KG = kindness & efficiency.

*Lesson #3:
Live in your own country.

So, we’re broke as can be but back in Pavlodar, KZ. It’s been a little over a week since our return. I really love Pavlodar.

I got the best greeting from my friend Victoria yesterday on the ploshid, out in front of the library. It was a greeting I’d dreamed of having in this country. One where someone calls out my name in happy recognition and moves toward me in eager embrace. Victoria clung to me and kissed my cheeks over and over again.

And it was bliss.

Next blog project: PHOTOS (courtesy of my camera phone)

#1 Marketplace in Samarkand

#2 I swoon Bukhara

#3 Uzbek Art

. . .

Desi Candor

While eating a tasty pasta dinner Des explained, “Sometimes the smell eats for me.”

“Mom, you know what? I love you so much and I don’t want you to DIE!”


“I’m gonna be a dad who takes care of my kids – and tackles and tickles and not be smiley in pictures and stay home with my kids and take them to school.”

Mom! I have a surprise for you, a ball made out of toilet paper and water!”

I was just trying to defend myself against Zoe. She was an ANIMAL, she was a dragon trying to blow fire at me!”

“My nose is full of snod”

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On his 3rd day of attending an all Russian school, DPJ asked, Dad? Why do I have to go to school if all I do is sit there and do NOTHING ALL DAY?”

“Aren’t we going to watch ‘Sounds Excusting’?' I had told him earlier that day that we would be watching ‘The Sound of Music” that evening.

“Zoe looks so cute in the morning – she looks like a rockstar!”


Zoe: Desi? Can you be Boots and I’ll be Dora?

Desi: No.

Zoe: Mom? Can you be Boots and I’ll be Dora?

Desi: But mom’s too big. Maybe, though, she can be a huge GORILLA boots! {Des, of course, later agreed to be Swiper.}


After being tickled DPJ exclaimed, JOY!JOY!JOY! JOY knocked me OUT!”

While sitting at dinner Desi decides to turn a boring meal into an imaginary feast at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It was quickly established that he would be Harry and Zoe Hermione. They both look at me. “How about I be Nearly Headless Nick!” I say with a chortle. Des looks at me for a moment (not even smiling) and says solemnly, “No, Snape.” I choked on my white bread.

While practicing writing his English alphabet one night, DPJ happily observed, “I’m happy I'm not dead yet, it’s fun being on this world.”

“Her hands feel like smooth macaroni.” Des observed of Zoe during a morning cuddle.


Des seems to have a very high body temperature and usually runs around shirtless while indoors. Nathan grabbed him one afternoon and observed, “I bet you don’t wear a shirt so I can squeeze your belly.” Des countered, No, so the hotness can fly off my body.”

“Run for your lives and jump into the UNIVERSE!”

On a long train ride to southeast Kazakhstan we shared a train cabin with another American, A.C. from Atlanta, GA. He asked Desi at one point in their conversation, “Do you play sports?” Des responded enthusiastically, “Yeah! Basketball High School Musical!” For weeks he’d been replaying the first scene from High School Musical 3. We have an inflatable beach ball and he bounds around the living room singing and ‘playing basketball’.

Zoe: Can you stop kissing me please?

Des: But I can’t! You’re so cool!


“Dad, you’re a tremendous goofball.”

On trying to open the front door to our apartment in Taraz, Des capitulated, I can’t! It’s too hard for me – that’s because I never do Pilates workout.”

Zoe is usually the first to rise in the morning and begins to chatter with me very eagerly. Des mumbled over to us one early morning, How about you be sushed up.”

I love mysister Zoe more than pizza!” It was Zoe’s 4th birthday and we were on our way to a much anticipated pizza restaurant in Taraz, KZ.


Zoe? Why does you hair look like cabbage?” She had ponytail braids for a day and we had just taken them out.

On a sick day at home Desi sighed, “Ohhhh . . . I wish I could have some broccoli.”

Des regularly stumbles and bumbles when walking. On our first day out in Samarkand, UZ Des crashed pretty hard and observed, “I’m the tripper around here.”


Zoe en Voice

“ I want to take a bath, OK? That’s my point!”

“Hey! Yours bum! That is yours big giant BUM!” Then she slapped me on the behind.

“I think superhero’s mommy help them clean up – why not you don’t?”

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“My other girl will be named Ini and the other one is named Lunch. My boy is named Jackson and my other is Jeffy.”

The first thing Zoe said to me one morning was, Mommy, we’re bestfriends!” And we hugged and kissed tightly and then she pulled away and said, “That was tough love.”


I pinched mommy’s cheekmonk”

While remembering a memory back home in NYC she referred to it as, “The Happy Jones Place.”


Zoe has quite a vocabulary for calling names, mostly to DesmondJones. The majority are words she makes up when angry and it’s pretty clear they are intended as an insult. Her frequent one is Lizard. “You LIZARD!” There are also: Fuffer, Fuffet, Malpomb, Kaseba, Undol, Wizard, and Stish. {None of these are Russian words, btw}

“I ate it all gone to my throat!” She often announces this when she’s proud to have eaten her food.

Both mybabes are in school now. So 5days a week, we have those parting moments where I earnestly attempt to send them off with words of encouragement (wisdom!). It was somewhere in the third month of attending school (Dec) when Zoe asked me shortly, “Mom? Could you not say ‘rememberwhoyouare’ everyday?”


“1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 8 . . . 44 . . . OUT!” Z’s countdown before she pulls the plug out of the tub.

While opening a cupboard in the kitchen Zoe asks, “Can I have some I love you treats?”

“I’m growing up to be a grown up!”

Des and Zoe were mumbling the other day after Nate left the apartment before they were ready to leave (he went down early to dump the trash). Des grumbled while trailing down the stairs after N8, “Dads macaroni.” Zoe agreed, “Dad’s a bad guy.”


During a joint bath time, D&Z had taken to playing a game where one placed a hand over the others face and then pushed it under the water. I told them that the game was too dangerous and asked them to stop. I repeated myself a few times. Finally, Zoe had had enough of my parental supervision and spat at me, “If you say that again I’m going to hurt you!”

During our cuddle on the morning of her 4th birthday, Zoe happily declares to the universe, “I LOVE my mom and dad and Desi and Grandma and Grandpa and other Grandma and Grandpa!”

During dinner one night, Zoe tapped on DPJ’s shoulder and said, “You’re a genius!”

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“Mom! Snap out of sleeping and play with me! Snap out of it! Snap out of it!”

“I love you mom and I don’t want to kill you either.”

Early one morning after Zoe cuddled up with Nate, a little air escaped from her behind. Nathan asked her, “Did you come in here to fart?” Zoe reasoned, “Oh, I guess all bums do that sometimes.”

After telling Zoe about how as a girl I shared a bedroom with my sister Holly, she sighed and said, “You have a spell on you.” I was surprised and repeated her statement with a question. She covered her face and sadly explained, “You’re a grown up and I didn’t see you as little.”

After squeezing Zoe’s cheeks together and calling her a chipmunk, she said, “I’m not a chipmunk, I’m your sweetie!”