Today was an impromptu shopping day. We were going a little stir crazy and needed to get out. Now, as those of you who know me well already know, I consider shopping more of a spectator sport and actually am not all that fond of it. But when you are trapped in an apartment with 3 little boys who have been on their utterly best behavior and are doing their school work diligently, but have had no outdoor time, you do your best to come up with ways they can fit in a little activity. It is SO COLD here right now and growing colder, and they can not play outside at all. How cold is it? Cold enough that within about 5 minutes outside Joshie almost wanted to cry...and it is STILL going to get colder, if you can believe that! Dominick has warned us that Saturday it could get to 70- with the wind chill factored in. Now THAT is something I can't fathom, or maybe it is that I desperately don't WANT to fathom it!
Our coordinator has been busy with the Oborn Family who was getting their daughter Anna today, and we have plans with the girls the next couple of days so we decided to make it easy on everyone and not have our regular visit today to help keep things from being too chaotic. Coordinators have a ton of running around to do behind the scenes, and being one person with 2 families makes it that much harder. Usually you have a coordinator AND a translator, but this time Irina is both and that means she has double duty. So hopefully, as I write this, Anna is safe and tucked away on the Oborn's apartment for her first night with her new family.
So, since the boys had not yet experiences Taiga, the huge indoor bazaar, and had not visited the Kazakh gift store, we set out for a day of warm adventure...with the exception of the 1 block walk to the Kazakh store, which we made first.
I know I now have daughters, I know I have many wonderful shopping trips ahead of me that might just make shopping more than a chore...but I had no idea I had boys who would give any Female Shopaholic a run for her money!!
The Kazakh gift shop is in the corner of a bridal shop. Jocelyne had taken me there this week to check it out. We enter the store, and the chilly breeze followed us right in. For some reason, the lights were all off. I am not sure if it was that the power was out, as we had yesterday and a few other times, or if it was by choice. There were 3 women sitting in a sitting area off to the side, and at first we got the once over and were ignored. The boys started looking around to see if there was anything they wanted to spend their heard earned souvenir money on.
They had everything there! For a small shop there was a nice selection of items. Ceramics, jewelry, the most beautiful traditional clothing that was of better construction than many I have seen, there were whips and shields and little wooden dolls. There was so much to see that the boys were in 7th heaven! It didn't take long for the women behind us to start giggling and smiling when they heard English being spoken by these obviously Central Asian boys, and one jumped up to help us and was quite sweet.
I appreciated that the boys didn't touch anything at all, as it put her at ease quickly seeing they were not going to roughhouse or destroy the many delicate items there. They asked me to pick up things they were interested in, had long debates about whether they should pool their money for a couple of items for their bedroom or not, which REALLY had the shopkeeper chuckling behind her hand. After about 45 minutes and much thoughtful dialogue, Kenny and Joshua each decided to get a hat. They hadn't saved as much money as Matthew had and I reminded them we would be other places where they would find other things they might like as well. Joshie picked out his hat and set it on the counter, and the Kazakh shopkeeper picked it up, found a stain on it, and without us saying a word exchanged it for a nicer one.
This is not quite like the fruit and veggie stand ladies at Dominick's "Walmart" who always sneak in the bad apples and potatoes for us on purpose...they sort through the apples and LOOK for the bad ones to pawn off on us. Last time she bagged them up, I looked at them through the bag and refused them, walking away apple-less. I am hoping next time she gets the hint. But his "Bread Lady" loves him and always gives us the good stuff! Hahaha!
Meanwhile, Matthew was looking at the traditional outfits which surprised me. We have a couple of robes at home, but these were very nice sets with a hat and pants to match. While the pants are very oddly shaped and are hugely baggy at the waist but beautifully embroidered, the length was right and the jacket looked like a good fit. He shyly asked if I thought it was a good bargain, and our little shopkeeper urged him to the fitting room to try it on to see what he thought. He came out with his face lit up, and I don't know who was beaming more...Matthew or the 3 ladies. It was obvious they enjoyed seeing a Kazakh-American boy who was so proud of his Kazakh heritage, and I was reminded how important it is for others here to see that our kids will NEVER forget where they came from.
Matthew took it off and returned, and my usually very careful spender said without a moment's hesitation or consultation "I'll take it!"...then he pointed at a 10" or so ceramic bust of a Kazakh warrior which he also wanted and he asked her by himself "Skolka Stoyt?"..."How much?". She told him 4000 Tenge (about $27) and he calculated it in his head, asking me if I thought it was about $30 and I said yes, it was close. He said "I'll take that too! I want it for my desk at home so I can see it every day."
Kenny was looking at hats and wanted one "more fancy" than Joshua's and finally found a beautiful one he liked as well. He told me "Now I have learned something important, I should have saved more of my money this year like you told me too. But it seemed so far away and I wanted to spend it. Next time I will be more like Matthew and save most of it and not spend it on silly stuff." I told him I was glad he learned something and that he still had a very nice hat and his previous purchase, and a little money left.
That is when Matthew chimed up to them both "Guys, I suggest you go ahead and spend all your money in Kazakhstan. We will never be here again, but we can always earn more money!". So much for my saver :-)
The woman ended up giving Joshie a Kazakh flag pin he had been looking at and Kenny a little bracelet he had been eyeing saying "present", which was very nice of her. We left the shop with the boys' pockets a little lighter but having had a great experience and them VERY happy with their purchases. Kenny and Josh insisted on wearing their Kazakh hats as we shopped throughout Taiga and it was hilarious to watch the women customers and shopkeepers as they gave their usual hard stares and then see the gentle smiles as the boys walked past...ok and it was also quite funny when we stopped somewhere and I had been bringing up the rear to join them and then the confused looks we got at that point!
Here is mom's one real purchase for myself out of all 4 trips here, a hat that is really supposedly a guy's hat but looks pretty feminine, know one in America will know the difference (other than my blog readers who will laugh at me for all kinds of other things so why not this) and Jocelyne - The Hat Queen - and I decided it was more girlie and I liked it. It is a tiny bit too big for my head and needs to be snugged just a bit, but it is pretty and will always remind me of our time here in the coldest place on earth...I mean...Petropavlovsk. The traditional Kazakh hats like these are inexpensive and can be found at the Kazakh gift shop!
Matthew modeling Mom's hat
Of course, they wore them all day...I am wondering if they will take them off when they go to bed!
So we end today a little worn out from our adventure, which ended unceremoniously with me losing the key to our apartment and having to wait for our landlord to bring us another. Luckily, later in the evening there was a knock at our door and a little boy from the building was standing there with the lost key in his hand...it must have dropped out of my jacket pocket somewhere in front of the building. So much for feeling independent here!
We will need to look for some ethnic Russian items for the girls, and hope to find a few nice things in Almaty or Astana. There is the Russian House here we we got wooden combs for them with "Petropavlovsk" carved in them, but not much else that really caught my eye.
Tomorrow we go to some sort of puppet show/children's holiday show which Irina said is only $3 per child and should be fun even if our boys can't understand anything. The girls will be able to be let out of school to go with us, and we are excited about that! Next day is Yannik's birthday and the girls will join us for that little celebration as well, so we have a couple of things to look forward to that will get us out briefly.
In the meantime we are hitting the books hard, trying to get ahead and catch up at the same time. We won't have the time to do much once we leave Petro so we are trying to get as much done as we can.
The wind is howling SO hard outside our kitchen window, and I dread the next few days even getting out to get in a taxi! It is such a hard life here, even for us with the privilege of a very nice apartment and the money to hire a taxi when needed. How do people survive here?? And I am out of Coke Light and think my life is awful because of that! How dare I???