We all talked later today about how this visit felt like we had crossed some sort of bridge, that we are mentally all moving into Phase 2...thinking about traveling and moving on, playing together naturally and sharing our lives more easily. While we still have a week and a half before we can move on from Petropavlovsk and on to Astana, we are all finally realizing that visiting is almost over and some transitional stage of real life will soon begin. I think we are all really ready for that.
We spoke with Irina today about our next steps here, about address registrations and unregistrations, about Consular registrations and Embassy appointments. Our tentative plans as of right now are that we will say good bye to Petropavlovsk on February 4th. We will had to Astana where we will spend a few days while waiting for paperwork to finish processing. There we have been thankful to have had the Oborn's connect us with their coordinator in that city who has been emailing us back and forth and will be taking care of us there, finding us an inexpensive apartment, arranging transportation for us each day, and will be spending each afternoon with us translating and taking us to see the various fun and cultural sites in the nation's capital. We are so glad we are going to have the opportunity to do this, to have our kids see the shining star of their country and leave with that as a lasting impression. One day, it just might be that all of Kazakhstan has pulled out of their pre-independence days and become the prosperous nation it is poised to become. We can only hope.
We are making the final decision tomorrow after a little more research but have decided to try and save money and add to the adventure by taking the train both to Astana and then to Almaty, if all goes well! It will save over $600 for all of us for this travel and we are excited and hope it works out. Trains here are a fraction of the cost of Amtrak in America...if it were this inexpensive we would be visiting all OVER the US! The train ticket to Astana from Petro is only $17 per adult and $9 per child! What an amazing deal! It travels 12 hours over night, and it will be a blast to have all the kids experience train travel here. I only wish it was going to be light enough to see a little of the countryside. We are making sure we can get 2 of our own "cupas" or rooms as otherwise it won't work well because we could be spread all over the train and we don't feel comfortable with that. The girls, of course, have never been on a train OR a plane, and Josh was very little the only time we were on a train so he doesn't really remember it, so it will be our first step on introducing our daughters to the Big Old World and would be a lot of fun...I hope it works out!
Here are the pictures of the goofing around that poor Irina had to put up with today! I am sure at moments she has said to herself "Oh my, it sure is easier to have parents adopting infants and going to the baby house!" but she has been a great sport about everything, participating in making paper dolls, decorating for the holidays, helping with impromptu fashion shows and trying hard not to laugh out loud as the kids all run around and rough house together as their own personal way of bonding begins.