We shopped and shopped and shopped...

So the next day was less emotional and more practical.  With a fist full of dollars we hit the shops with a whole posse - us, Dinara, Director, head carer, random woman, taxi driver, driver, old uncle Tom Cobley and all.

Do you know how many ride on cars you can get for $1000 (roughly)?  I could probably tell you but I glazed over after the first 6... then there was the tricycles and the gym equipment and the baby bottles and the baby swings and who knows what else.  I finally sat on a sofa and waved my hand like a Sheikh with his many wives saying "Yes dear whatever you fancy" and just unrolling wads of cash.  With 500 tenge to the pound (330 to the dollar) there's a LOT of tenge in $1000 and to be honest having carried it all the way from London via Astana, I was quite glad to be offloading it.

There was some money left after the second shop (yes we went through this process twice when the first shop ran out of ride on cars and tricycles) and LB wasn't the only one starting to wilt in the 28 degree heat.

"Can we use some of the money to buy more practical stuff for the kitchen but we will need to order it from our supplier"

If it means we can stop now I might just kiss you, Mrs Director.

As we were waiting for the shop assistant to ring up the bill I took a moment to show the current photos of some of the children who we kept in touch with in the UK with their original birth names and explained that we tried to meet about 3 times a year.  The head carer looked at one of the photos of one as a baby and said "That's my mother holding him" - she was as delighted to be able to tell her mother that we kept in touch and that he was doing well as I was to be able to email my friend with news of the connection.

Our children have scant connection with their early years and you can't imagine the thrill when you discover a connection to someone who remembers them.  It has, I think, been reassuring to LB seeing how much these women care for the children, know all their names, give them cuddles when they're hurt and worry when they're sick.  The Director told me that when the children have to move on to the bigger childrens home around 4 years old that it breaks their hearts and they try really hard to encourage local people to adopt them before moving.

The staff the child ratios have improved slightly since we were here last with 1 senior carer and 1 assistant to 10 children and with a reduced number of children they can spend a little more time on them but really not enough.  They work shifts, one morning shift, one afternoon shift then one night shift then 3 days off.  The Director said the night shift is when they notice most the lack of attention as you really can't give them all a cuddle and a story and some individual quiet time at bed time.  Individual time doesn't really exist in any sense until there is a problem - then they do get sessions with the psychologist who does group work with them but also individual work.

Our translator Dinara is about 7 months pregnant and has a nearly two year old and she looks at these needy children and really wishes more Kazakhs would adopt.  I asked her if Kazakhs disapproved of people like me taking their children away to other countries (Kazakhs are fiercely proud of their country and heritage).

"Yes" she said "many are"

"Well then they should have adopted him themselves" I said bluntly - I'm a hard cow I am,  "Every child should be the most important thing in the world to somebody, not a job"

I think she must be getting used to me...

"Exactly" she agreed.


We had Saturday off - we sent Dinara off home to spend the day with her family and struck out on our own like the intrepid explorers that we are.

"I feel Kazakh now" said LB, "I feel proud to be Kazakh.  I think I'll come and live here when I'm 16"

"That would be interesting, they still have national service here" I broke the bad news.

Cue shocked face and a rapid reassessment of his new life plans.

"Maybe if I could join the Navy?" he pondered somewhat optimistically as we sat in the worlds largest land-locked country.  They do actually have a small navy based in the Caspian sea but that's about 2,500 miles from here.  It really is a very big country!

A brief interlude for the Kazakh Adopters and probably of very little interest to anyone else

We got a cab over to Daniel "supermarket" which LB was frustrated to discover is really more like a market inside a building than what we would call a supermarket.  He still managed to find a techie stall to buy a new charging cable (which was apparently essential).

From there we walked over the bridge past the ice hockey stadium, waved at the Shiney River hotel on behalf of those who called it home.  We watched the trams and LB marvelled at the state of the buses which he decided came from the 1920's soviet era - and I'm not sure he's wrong.  He was particularly peturbed by the bus which came past with it's doors open.  I think a job in health and safety might await him.

We stopped for a photo opportunity outside Dyetsky Mir (Children's World) - do you remember it Adrienne?  It's wehre we bought the quilted jackets and hooded towels and went inside to buy a present for Dinara's new baby.

Then it was a right turn down past the Tsum and straight down to the Irtyssh hotel and the Kolos supermarket.

The Tsum has been refurbished, they appear to have built an entire new building around it and there's a very swanky new shopping centre next door now.  There are also more cars around with quite a number of them smart and new as well as the usual battered old heaps.  I'm guessing they don't have MOT tests here! (Editors note: for my American readers in the Uk once your car is over 3 years old it has to pass a roadworthiness test every year called the MOT)

Non-Ust families may like to rejoin the narrative here

We had important shopping to do in Kolos becausse the next day, Dinara had invited us out to her parents house by the lake.

LB rather alarmed "Have you never heard of the film The Lake House?"  I thought it must be a horror film by the look on his face and looked it up.  It's a romance... much the same thing then to a ten year old.

Dinara warned me "It's very simple" and I translated to LB that probably meant very, very basic.  But it would be an amazing experience which very few children in his position would get (I think I'm beginning to sound like my mother at this point).  He may even be the only child adopted from Kazakhstan to be invited out to The Lake House.  There were no shops for miles so we needed to bring food with us.  Hence the trip to Kolos, I knew it was somewhere I could get tinned tuna and bread so he wouldn't starve to death in a few hours.

After we'd finished and had taken the obligatory photos of the Irtyssh hotel (to be shared later), we caught a taxi back to the hotel.  I was ripped off by the taxi driver of course; I knew I was ripped off, and he knew I knew from my raised eyebrow and slight laugh.

But what the heck, £1 instead of 50p wasn't worth the effort of trying to think of the right words in Russian.

And tomorrow we head off into the mountains... see you on the other side...

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The Elliotts | Reply 31.05.2016 00:14

We're loving following your adventures!!! In Kew at the mo with my I laws. We have explained to Harry where you are but he says he misses Daniel!! Xx

Sandy | Reply 30.05.2016 19:54

Sue, beautifully written and described. Wish I was there. Try to locate Tatiana or her daughter. One of the nicest caregivers. Please say hello

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10.07 | 13:22

We all have heard that dogs love to chew bones, Bones are a good source of minerals and other essential nutrients to satisfy the dog’s appetite.

07.06 | 16:37

Thank you so much for sharing. Makes me want to be there. We have told Ben and Ruthie we too will make a trip back and I hope it's soon!

03.06 | 11:35

Tears are flowing and laughter ensuing.

31.05 | 00:14

We're loving following your adventures!!! In Kew at the mo with my I laws. We have explained to Harry where you are but he says he misses Daniel!! Xx

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