Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Real" Home

Today was actually pretty uneventful, as we did little but shop. Those who know me in real life understand that I consider that tedium, not a full on sport. But here there is the thrill of the hunt, as every little vendor’s stall has a hodge podge of items that makes it fun to see what you can find!

We decided today for our visit with the girls to do what we would do if back home. We wanted to pick up a few decorations for our little apartment for the holidays, and decided it might be fun to have them go along and then decorate later. So we grab a cab and our drive Alexander and are off to the indoor bazaar where Jocelyne and I had discovered some little fake trees for 600 Tenge which was only $4. We were quite a sight traipsing through the bazaar with 5 kids in tow, who all happened to be dressed in red jackets as that is what the girls have been wearing from the orphanage. We joked with Irina that since we are so helpless here without language skills, it is like she instantly went from single to having 7 kids! She got a kick out of that.

We head upstairs to find the trees and all of us packed into the cramped space. When we realized how cheap everything was…sort of Dollar Store quality and style but even cheaper…we decided to let the kids sort of “go to town”. At first the girls didn’t know what to think when we asked their opinions, they aren’t used to having any choice on anything at all. We did it by vote…which lights for the tree for 100 Tenge (Less than a buck…exchange rate is 148 Tenge to the dollar), Matt, Olesya and Olesya won on that one. What color of strands of garland? You mean, we get to get that too? Yes, it is 100 tenge. Can we get TWO colors? Sure, live life in the wild side! Then they started getting into it. We got a streamer of little trees for 100 tenge, some long strands of icicle type things and Angela wanted that in blue. I remembered the name of the color in blue from our Uno game, and said it…then she tested out the word in English. Olesya and Angela started discussing the color of this little foil table top tree decoration and finally settled on one.

Soon, we had a full bag and had spent a whopping $12 which I hope will lead to a nice afternoon tomorrow spent working together as a family to decorate. Then it was off in search of a real can opener, one of the items we needed to have to make life a tad bit easier here. After searching through a few places containing hamsters, a vast selection of irons, plastic baby baths, sexy clothing (everything everyone wears here is sexy!), and wash clothes we finally found one. 250 Tenge, and life is easier. We have also bought a lighter for the stove, because I am scared of using the matches, one serrated small knife, and 5 plastic cups. I am going to keep my eye out for forks purchased singly and get 3 or 4 more and we will be all set.

We headed downstairs where the food vendors were and asked the girls if they would like to get anything to take back to their family group to share. There are 18 kids in their family. The quickly decided they wanted some pistachios and walnuts so we got some and they pocketed those to take back. Since we were there, we decided to pick up a few things for ourselves that we needed…a chicken, some cooking oil, some grapes and a couple of onions. 2 onions only cost 11 Tenge!!! Must be plentiful because one small batch of grapes was over $5…way smaller than what you’d get at the store for half that price. But man can not live on salami alone! HAHA!

Irina got her lunch which consisted of a banana and some chocolates, which she proceeded to share with each of the kids. Later on, Matthew asked Angela what hers was and she offered him the rest of it to try. They joked with each other as he said “Spaaaaaaaasiiibaa” drawing it out never so slowly and she started laughing. It was time to leave, and the boys all left in the taxi and we girls remained behind waiting for Alexander to come. While there the girls tried to communicate a little with me, which was a first. When Irina came back inside after getting the taxi for the boys, I asked what we might think about doing for Joshua’s birthday, which is the day after Christmas. Olesya immediately said they would make him a card back at the orphanage. I said we would have a little party and get a cake. Then I asked if they could think of any place we might take him and they volunteered the “scene of the crime”, that Turkish place with the indoor playland that had been so filled with gloom a couple of weeks ago as Angela avoided us like the plague and Olesya was scared to try anything for fear of angering her. They seemed genuinely interested in going and Olesya said this time she would ride the little cars and chase Joshie around. Maybe Angela will let her guard down a little more and have a good time this time, it will be telling to see.

Since we had run out of time, we quickly stopped by the Oborn’s to pick up Yannik who was staying with us this afternoon. The girls then were introduced to Jocelyne and Sven, then we went straight back to the orphanage and dropped the girls off with a promise that we wouldn’t let the boys do anything with the decorations until they arrived tomorrow to help. As we got in the car, for the first time Angela encouraged me to sit between her and Olesya, and even held the door open for me a couple of times as I saw her also do for others when she didn’t know I was watching at the bazaar. It may not seem like much, but at this stage those baby steps of invitation mean an awful lot.

Later I spent a nice afternoon with Jocelyne shopping for Christmas. I got each of the boys a much warmer knit hat with ear flaps, that were fairly expensive when compared to Walmart but are necessary in this biting cold when we have to walk so much. They were $16 each…Ouch! When I saw the price they quickly became categorized as stocking stuffers rather than a “just because you need them” purchase, that way it will kill two birds with one stone and the boys are not expecting much anyway so it won’t be a letdown, and the hats ARE cute! We found Christmas bags instead of wrapping paper, and meandered and visited while we stall shopped.

We were talking about the fact that there is no rhyme or reason about the lack of predictability with the cost of items here. Things like the hats were way more expensive than I thought they would be, but it is often way cheaper to eat out than to buy foods at a small market. We bought a lot of Christmas decorations for almost nothing today, but in comparison fabric softener in a small jug was almost $6. It makes no sense at all, and I’d love someone to explain it to me.

Our evening was spent in relative peace, I finally watched my first video and enjoyed it a lot…the remake of the Manchurian Candidate but could have done without the violence. The older I get, the less I seem to have a stomach for that. The boys were playing a computer game while Dominick watched “The Devil Wears Prada” which he loved. Right now, it is midnight and Dominick fell asleep on Matthew’s pull out couch with Matt snuggled next to him, Kenny didn’t even bother to pull out the bed on his and is sleeping on the sofa itself, and Josh is quietly snoring…fast asleep and hoping Kenny and Matthew don’t play a prank on him again like last night when they wrote on his feet sticking out of the covers “Joshua loves Matthew” and drew little smiley faces on each of his toes. That kid must sleep HARD!

Tomorrow we take another crack at becoming a family again. We will participate in a tradition shared with millions of people all over the world. It won’t be in our “real” home with the crèche that was made by my grandpa and put up by my mom, then I for the past 60 years. It will not include the ornaments so carefully selected each your and marked with meaning. Heck, it won’t even come with any certainty at all about what our family will look like next month, let alone next year.

But I guess we really are in our “real” home, although thousands of miles away from the place we view as “ours”. As long as Team LaJoy is together, and as long as God is present…

This IS our real home.


Lou said...

Cindy, I have been reading your blogs and the kids also for the last 10 days or so. I have cried with you all both out of sadness and out of joy.
You are a terrific writer and these adventures would make a great book some day. Thanks for sharing your experiences and we wish your family the best wishes for the holidays and that includes the girls. Lou & Marge

Anonymous said...

On the expense of things: If things are not generally used by the common public then it will be considered a luxury good and therefore quite expensive (ie: fabric softener!-In six years of working in Kyrgyzstan I don't think I've ever used it and have never seen anyone else use it either-but yes, my clothes came out quite stiff!). Grapes-almost all fruit in Central Asia is considered a luxury item in the winter and you are lucky to even have access to the grapes! Many villages you simply do not even have such things for sale as they are so impossible to come by. Clothes are cheap unless you want things that are not knock offs-quality clothing that is made well is always expensive. But "sexy" cheaply made clothing is, well, cheap. Often really cheap. Root vegetables: cheap. Tomatoes (if you can come by them right now) would be probably be outrageously expensive, though in the summer they would be super cheap. In the states we often forget that there are seasons for fruit and vegetables and we pay very little in difference for out of season produce. In Central Asia, if you want to live on a budget, you learn to eat what's in season! You can probably get dried apricots or raisins for far less than grapes. Hope that helps!

sue and craig said...

Team LaJoy,
We have been following you on your journey to your children and are so pleased to hear the new direction things are going. We adopted our son in March of this year from Almaty and remember how cold it can get. We live in Canada so for us to say Kaz is cold, it is!
We want to commend you for your positive attitude at this difficult time. We are so glad that Angela is softening to such a wonderful family.
We wish you all a wonderful holiday at your "real home" and hope that things continue to go better for you.

All the best,

Sue, Craig, Hannah and Nickolas

Stacie Brown said...

Yay! Progress is being made. Continued prayers here. Thinking of you often.

Much love and peace!
Stacie and Jeremy

Anonymous said...

Cindy -

Look for the country of origin on the items you are buying and next time look at the exchange rate board when you change money. A longer lecture on supply,demand, exchange rates and tax structures in Central Asia when you get home! Vegas

J said...

SO glad that things have settled down for you all. Now I can get on with my own decorations too - instead of checking your blog every 4 hours.


Seriously, I am so happy for you.
Happy Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Happy decorating to you all today!

From everyone in our family,

Peggy in Virginia

Kim Adams said...

Yes, we have been surprised by prices in Thailand - both high and low. A lot of it can be traced to the miles an item has traveled - imported goods being quite expensive. But even items made here that are intended for export and therefore to export standards (you can read between the lines) are very expensive - up to 30% higher than what we'd pay in US, as if they've been exported, then imported with the 30% duty added. Labor and consumables seem unbelievably inexpensive, while construction materials, cars, furniture are by comparison very expensive. But so many surprises. It's interesting. Makes for a good lesson for the boys on economics - food economics, Wal-Mart economics, supporting local economy vs. import, etc.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cindy, Dom, Josh, Maatthew, Kenny,
What a joy to hear that you are having positive, quality time with the girls. I already know all the positive times you have as Team La Joy and know that even if there is a team expansion you will continue to be one team that wins and wins on behalf of the whole world.

Love and prayers,

Kelly and Sne said...

How great for your wonderful twist of fate. It sounds like things are going your way. And, once again, you are making me nostalgic for Kazakstan. Home is where your heart is!

Maria said...

I LOVE the story of the boys drawing on Josh's feet. SO TYPICAL of boys. Sounds like regular ole' fun going on over there these days -- shopping, decorating -- just like at home. Glad you are settling a bit. Christmas is a wonderful time to share love and become a family, don't you think?

Bill and Cathe: said...

Go Team LaJoy, Go!

We loved doing things as a family as we got to know each other. It made us all sure in our hearts and minds that we were ready.

This is the greatest Christmas present.