"At Home" in the hotel
Baby-free paragraph for dear brother
The rugby scores are getting to me courtesy of a well trained accountant back in the office who adds them to the end of the management accounts when he emails then.  Not the same as watching it though.  Being with the Irish has its advantages as we can be smug together about the rugby as I gather the Irish are also playing quite well. 

The Kazakh-ethnic women here are un-nervingly beautiful almost without exception.  We women do not like it but the men don't seem to complain.  Alex was visited in his room by a lady of the night last week and for all his bravado I think he was nearly wetting himself - I wonder if he would have been so terrified if his wife hadn't only popped up to my room for a quick chat.

A "quick chat" consists of a shot of vodka in a large glass of orange juice.

The local beer is good and the vodka and orange is excellent but the wine is ochin dorogaya (very expensive).  Food is really not at all bad.  We found an expensive Chinese which is really not dissimilar to one at home which is expensive by local standards (main course, rice, veg and wine about £15) but is the first meal we had where we were absolutely stuffed at the end.  Local portions are small - doubt there are many type two diabetics here.  We also went out last night to a very grand Italian, again expensive due to the wine as it cost about £20 for two courses and wine.

The service is a little "Faulty Towers", dishes arrive as they are cooked and not in any particular order - starters arrive after the main course and at the Chinese, having finished everything and in the process of perusing the desert menu, one of our starters arrived!   You get used to it and they do bring the drinks straight away so that's a blessing.

The toy stores all sell very menacing looking guns which you would love but I'm a bit worried about getting them through security at Heathrow so Junior will not be getting one for Xmas.

My travel partners now seem convinced that my Russian is fluent and have taken to saying things like "ask them if nuclear physics is a popular subject in the universities or if contemporary Irish literature is studied at all".  My general translation of that is - "moshna free toje spaseeba" (can we have fries as well please).  They don't seem to realise, I make up an answer and we eat well.  Everyone's happy.

Sorry about the blubbing - no doubt normal service will be resumed shortly after Xmas with a little blubbing then.

Can you get baby Scarlets jerseys I wonder.  What a way to give Junior an identity crisis, a kazakh boy living in England wearing a Welsh rugby jersey.  Hope you are enjoying Me & My Girl (tee hee).
Sarah, yes I think all names addresses etc need to be translated (transliterated) into Russian.

Paul (and Alison) how fantastic that your papers are on the move congratulations.  Mine moved quite fast once they left the Embassy so start planning now.  You can borrow my travel kettle if you ask nicely, it has been a life saver.

Foxie - say hello to Brenda for me, will bring him over to meet her once we've settled in.

Catherine/Liz - are you two swapping over this weekend?  My mum has my key so call her if you need her to feed the cats at all.
Court Day
Court day needs some thinking about before I write it up so you'll have to make do with a picture for now.  I have added some photos to the photo album and you can click on them to enlarge them so you can see how beautiful my boy is.
Siberia arrives in Ust
The weather has turned dramatically and we have gone from barely needing coats to blizzard conditions.  I'll post photos tomorrow...
Court - expanded
We were called together on Sunday evening to be told that we have a court slot at 10am on Monday morning but that the necessary documents had not arrived from Astana but that we should be ready for court anyway as there was a chance that we could still make it.  Otherwise the court had a full schedule for two weeks!!!!

So the following morning our translator came to the room at 9.15 to tell us that court was off with no idea when it would be on again.  Driving to the baby-house that day was a solemn affair and the maroon `minibus became nicknamed "Bus of Doom".  It was Adrienne and Declan's little boy Alex's first birthday so we all felt bad and rushed off at lunchtime for them to buy him a cake and we all went in and sang happy birthday to him.  The day ended well when we were told that we had court on Tuesday at 11.30am.  Hurrah!

They squeezed us into a packed court schedule at 11.30am, one after the other and just as Adrienne and Declan were called in the lawyer acting for us came out and said that my updated medical and employers letter which were sent over just before travelling weren't in my file and that I couldn't go ahead without them. A desperate 20 minutes went by and suddenly there was a flurry of activity and the lawyer rushed out, pointed at me and said "bistra, bistra" which means FAST! In other words I was to go in immediately, so confused, we all ran into the judges office - "we all" was me and our translator Alfiya, the judge, the prosecutor, the court secretary, the representative from the ministry of education and the director of the baby house - in a room about 10ft by 7ft. The MOE lady spoke confirming that the child was legally available for adoption and that they had checked my dossier and that I had complied with Kazakh law and had provided all necessary paperwork from my own country and that I was financially able to support a child and various other legalities. The Director of the baby-house stood up and said that since I had been visiting Damir that he was already benefiting from the one-to-one attention he was getting from me and his muscles were already stronger and that she felt it would be in his best interests to be adopted. I read my speech, about taking good care of Damir and providing him with a loving family with only a slight wobble of the lip (no time for tears) , then the prosecutor (who acts on behalf of the child) asked me questions mostly about how I was going to manage a child when I went back to work and how long I was taking off work to be with him and who was going to help me look after him. All of which I thought were very fair and was expecting questions of that sort being a single mother. I supplied dated photos of Damir and I for each of the bonding days and one of my family which everyone checked then I made a formal petition to the court to adopt Damir and we retired to the outer office for the judge to consider his verdict We were called back in later for his verdict and it was all over, sort of... I now have 15 days to appeal the decision! All the officials took their part in this event very seriously and in a way (although it was daunting) it seemed appropriately solemn given that it's such a life changing event for Daniel Damir and I.

I was extremely confused at the time about what went on with the paperwork but was told the following day that the Ministry of Education did have the missing documents but they hadn't been put into the file so the Judge agreed to go ahead on the basis that the representative from the MOE undertook to file them correctly before the appeal period expired.

The good thing was that it was all such a rush at the end that I didn't have time to get too emotional.

We then all went off to lunch with Alfiya and driver Alexei and did not go to the babyhouse that day, so I'm mooching around feeling very weird and very emotional. How odd to become a mother without seeing your child. On the upside hopefully I did get a good nights sleep for the first time in a while and was refreshed and able to say hello to my son for the first time the next day in a great mood.

Lets hope that there's no nasty surprises during the appeal period. All fingers and toes crossed

Documents Appear
We have a new Coordinator!  We were unhappy with our old co-ordinator who turned up for the first few days then disappeared leaving our poor translator to shrug a lot saying "I don't know".  The advantage to using an established agency is that you have someone to complain to back home when things are not going well.  Yesterday a very nice Kazakh man called Baurzhan has been parachuted in and so far we are all very happy with him and I hope that the remaining appeal period and subsequent application for passports will be much smoother.  Alfiya is noticeably happier as she is not having to deal with our demanding questions.

Fiona - we only have National Geographic channel here and I think of you every night as in between the polar bear repeats and the sex life of a dragon fly the Mastercard advert repeats incesssantly.....priceless, for everything else there's Mastercard (in an Australian accent).  Could you please use your influence to get them to replace it with something else... anything!

The temperature has plummeted like a stone and more snow fell last night.  Interesting driving in these conditions in a pre-war van...
A Lonely Birthday
There is a new little boy in the sick bay this week, who is probably the most beautiful child I've ever seen.  He has a head of little blond curls and the kind a face that advertisers use to sell baby food.  It was his first birthday yesterday the carer told me and so we sang happy birthday to him in Russian, very softly just the two of us, her and I. No cake, no candles, no presents, no other people.  It was a real tug at the heartstrings and you must all promise to go home tonight and give your children an extra hug and kiss before bed.

I have no idea whether he is not available for adoption (many of the children aren't) or if his adoptive parents have gone home to wait out the post court period.  The carer said to him today "where is your mama?" as if she is expecting one to return but sadly my Russian wasn't up to asking the background.  He is obviously a sensitive child and opens like a flower if you give him any affection, but I fear that he has none of the suspicion of strangers you would normally expect in a child of that age and I think he is already developing the classic indiscriminate affection associated with attachment problems.

Sadly my Russian also struggled when explaining to the carers today that my mother was arriving on Monday.  When asked how old she was, I said 608 and it wasn't until they laughed that I realised what I said and corrected myself.  Ah well, they'll think she looks bloody marvellous for her age.
Various musings

Daniel is a popular name in Kazakstan and I have tried to convince our translator that I have named him after her husband but she doesn't seem convinced. Better than thinking I named him after the big supermarket in town which also seems to be called Daniel! In fact my grandfather's father was Daniel Jones and it seemed to bring the various parts of his past and future life together whilst going well with his given name Damir. Of course I had any number of names in mind (as you do) but when I met him complete panic took over when I realised that he didn't look like any of them (I never understood what people meant when they said that before!). I was so delighted when I discovered that Daniel was a popular Kazakh name - another of those omens which I don't believe in. Spending day and night with four Irish Catholics is having a seriously detrimental effect on my prosaic British no-nonsense'ness (and a similar effect on my spelling/grammar).

The Collerans left early this morning to go home and spend a couple of weeks with their two girls Darrelle (11) and Elena (4) (sorry Adrienne, if names/ages are slightly out). I'm sure that they find the balancing of the needs of all three of their children incredibly hard, though frankly I think they should have taken my needs into account too. Adrienne buys most of the vodka and I have none in my room now, only orange juice which is bugger all good on its own. (Yes I know I don't drink much but living with the Irish has driven me to it).  Added to which I miss having them across the hall as I have no-one to borrow milk from (the Hendersons are on a different floor) and they've only been gone about 8 hours.

I'm told by Alfiya that the snow is here to stay - it is now too cold to clear and there will be snow on the ground now until Spring. It is so cold that the hairs of your nose freeze if you're out too long at night. Our driver Alexei keeps chortling at us saying how cold it is - "nyet, nyet" he says. I gather it gets MUCH colder in January/February [Editors note: as I was to find out].

Poor little Daniel has a bad cold and a cough so our two visits today both consisted of 20 minutes grizzle, 20 minutes eat, 10 minutes grizzle, 30 minutes sleep in my arms (not that I want him to be sick but that was quite nice - how heartless am I!) I haven't been well myself for a day or so and ended up dosing myself with a third of a bottle of Medised! I have no idea if it was the right dose for an adult but it seemed to do the trick. It's so horrible being ill away from home, but thankfully I have been pretty much back to normal today.

Marion - say hello to the Russian class for me - they would be horrified with my Russian, my grammar has all but disappeared but I seem to be getting by and even managed to argue about a restaurant bill a few nights ago when they'd double charged us for an item!

Saturday night in my hotel room
Saturday night is really like any other night for us here, only Sunday varies as we only visit once in the morning.  The days all blend into each and its quite hard to keep track of time.  The big excitement for this weekend is that my mum should be arriving in Almaty on Sunday then travels on to Ust on Monday.  She is more than a little terrified of navigating across Almaty to the hotel and back to the airport and getting herself on a plane to Ust without the benefit of a word of Russian and I suspect I will owe her many favours for a number of years to come... I am so looking forward to having her here.

At the moment we are down to Joanie and her mom from Texas, her husbands and kids went home earlier this week, Aine and Alex from Ireland and me.  We feel like such a small band after having 15 in total (including 3 children and one mother) last week.  Joanie and her mum spent the evening in my room ostensibly swapping DVD's but in reality swapping stories.  They gave me Pride and Prejudice which I think I will have finished in its entirety today.

Catrin, no doubt I will make it down at some point probably when the weather warms up a little in the spring.  Most of the babies take a while to settle down when they get home obviously its such a huge change for them so big outings and being passed aroung lots of people are out for about a month or two (depending how he is).  He doesn't like being passed around strange people so the rule when I get home will be play with him but not hold him until he is comfortable with everyone.  And of course more importantly, at the moment I am just one of many carers that he has so he will not start to learn that I am his only mummy until I take him out of the baby-house and then he will need a little time to learn it.  I know it will be hard on everyone to not be able to carry him around at first, but in a few months time when he is settled properly, you can carry him all you like!

Vicky - nice to see the Llanelli Massive online and in touch with the modern world!  I hope Grandma gets to see the photos - I will post her some bigger photos when I get home.

Liz - I too never thought I would see the day that I resorted to vodka but the first night I had some I felt the best the following day that I had for a while.  Have restricted myself to a glass every other night or so, so am not exactly becoming a lush (though you may be right - perhaps thats why I've been feeling ill, no vodka for a few days). 

Our post court appeal period ends on 5th December (fingers crossed) and hopefully I will have some idea by then of how long the passports will take after that.  I'm hoping to come home on 16th December at the moment, but if the passports and British immigration isn't sorted by then I have a big problem - a) Public Holiday here 18th & 19th so British Embassy shut and; b) my mums visa runs out then so she goes home come what may.  Any delay would mean I won't get home until 23rd December which would be a nightmare in so many ways - a small baby in a hotel for an extra week on my own!
Sunday - Mum arrives tomorrow. Yay!

Interesting day today. The snow is beginning to pile up and we only have one visit (being a Sunday). I took in a couple of small boxes of fruit juice and a large bar of the locally made chocolate in to give to the two carers on duty, as has become my habit. The fridge in my hotel room is stocked with various things every day and apparently is included in the price of the room and I use very little of it so I have taken to giving it away to people randomly - a bit like Mother Christmas! Our driver Alexei gets beer, but only at the end of the day as he drops us off (just in case!). Anyway, one of my favorite carers was on today, she generally leaves Daniel and I in peace to spend time alone, but today they decided that the bonding room was too cold and set me up a little bench in the corner of the main sickbay to play with him. There are only three children in at the moment - Daniel, the little boy who was one last week and an older boy (about three or four I would think) who I suspect is already institutionalised or perhaps has some degree of special needs as he does not speak at all and vocalises very little either. It was quite calm because of the small group so the carers put the two little ones in walkers out on the floor and Daniel has just found that he can push himself backwards in the walker (I hate them but I have to say he loves it so much that I haven't the heart not to give him a quick go in one). I was rewarded for my forbearance by him learning to push himself forwards today and the carers all duly admired his new found ability to sit up properly at last which we showed off.

His carers and I managed a rudimentary conversation in Russian (must bring dictionary in tomorrow) and I was even prevailed upon to translate dosage instructions from English into Russian on a medicine bottle (that should give my Russian class a HUGE laugh the thought of me becoming a translator) then nice carer said (in Russian obviously) "you must have some lunch"  OH NO!  Please, no more bacon fat, and I always liked her so much...
 "I must go soon" I explained to her,
 "Not until noon though" she said.
 Damn she was right, it was only quarter to twelve. So I manfully sat down on a baby chair again with a sense of horrific sense of deja vu to be presented with a plate of sliced meats and sausage, a piece of bread and a cup of something clear. And a much larger portion than the bacon fat - a huge plateful. And d'you know - it was absolutely delicious. The bread was fresh, the sliced meat was a whole boned chicken wrapped tight then sliced (so a mixture of white and dark meat) and the sausage had a mildly smoky garlicky flavour and the consistency of a frankfurter. I was told it was chicken which surprised me as it really tasted much meatier than that, but then chickens do seem to here. The clear juice is what they called compote and I discovered is roughly chopped cooking apples simmered in water then cooled to room temperature. The liquid is like a very tasty, watery, more natural-tasting apple juice, then you eat the apple which is like a firmer stewed apple. So no cheap laughs for you lot and a pleasant if early lunch for me.  Yum.  I hope they don't think they have to feed me everyday in exchange for the chocolate because sooner or later I will meet bacon fat woman again.  Perhaps I will take to giving it as I leave for the day.

The most surreal part of the day came as I saw amongst the meat she had on the table, a bulb of garlic and I asked what it was in Russian (ches-nok) -
"I love garlic" I said in my best Russian "Ya lu-blyoo ches-nok"
So I'm now the proud owner of a whole bulb of kazakh garlic. Do you think it will keep until I get home in a few weeks?

A few new photos added to the album, tracking my attempts at feeding an easily distracted boy.  And apologies to Joannie, contrary to my earlier paragraph, she does only have the one husband rather than "husbands".

Mum arrives tomorrow. Keep you fingers crossed - she gets lost driving around Kew, what hope for finding Ust-Kamenogorsk?

Mum, d'you think you could try finding my mouth this time?

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Latest comments

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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