We have spent the day largely at the apartment, having gone out to visit the grocery store and the notary, and to pick up Dominick's tickets home. The temperature dropped significantly today after the almost balmy 5 above zero we had this week!! Today it was back to 25 or 30 below plus wind chill thrown in for good measure. Extremely cold, and my fingers were numb even in my ski style gloves...and that was on a barely 5 minute walk from the market to the car!! I found a heavier scarf which has helped some, but folks...when it gets this cold and you have to be out in it there just isn't much you can do but freeze your fanny off! Luckily the jackets we brought are definitely warm enough, so that has been a big help.
So we went to the market and I thought I would share a little more of the differences of day to day life here:
1) Eggs don't come in cartons, they come 10 to a plastic baggie. Unwashed.
2) We bought potatoes that were still caked with dirt, they too are unwashed. Which helps with sales as once you get them home and wash them you can see how green many of them are!
3)Our water finally changed. We had commented on how surprised we were that it was very clear. Spoke too soon, today it was literally brown out of the tap and it doesn't feel safe to even wash dishes in. Now THAT'S more like the Kazakhstan we know and love!
4) No such thing as a gallon or half gallon carton of milk here, all in smaller portions, but juice is in bigger containers.
5) It's cold here, right? VERY cold. Tomatoes are often sold at outdoor vendors. Frozen solid. Many of the indoor ones we have found have been rotted or frozen and thawed.
6) Warm water for a shower. Sometimes. Sometimes not. Sometimes you hop around when it turns very, very cold.
7) NO cheddar cheese anywhere. There is some golden orangy cheese of some sort, but every time we get it, it has a different taste.
8) Clerks standing around in every department to help you, labor here is excessive and yet it is cheap so why not have half a dozen staff to help one person.
9) Meat you can't identify...what animal did it come from? And you look like a happy idiot standing there mooing like a cow or whinnying like a horse...but it does get laughter out of everyone.
10) Going anywhere with 3 Kazakh/Kyrgyz boys who speak English will get you lots of stares. It also scores them huge quantities of treats everywhere they go! The notary, the travel office, the vendors...you name it, they spoil 'em. I am wondering what our local little shop ladies will think at Dominick's version of Walmart, the Corona store will think when we come in eventually with 3 boys AND 2 girls!! They all seem to get a huge kick out of three little voices piping up with "Spasiba!" spoken in an obviously less-than-Russian accent out of faces they expect to sound very different!
We went for a very short visit of about 15 minutes at the orphanage today, as we wanted Irina and Alexander to get home to their families for the holidays. We went up to their family area and into their bedroom. When we arrived Olesya handed me a little flower she had made out of something similar to pipe cleaners. Angela quickly unzipped Joshie and even Matthew out of their coats, and helped Kenny off with his! It was so cute and they all giggled at that. Then Angela sneaked over to her bed, and under her pillow was a little bag of candy...she pulled it out and gave it to us as a gift to share for the whole family with a bit smile on her face! A business had come in for the holiday and brought some little candies, and she wanted to make sure we all got some! We had brought some treats for their family group...a variety of nuts and other snacks. Those girls LOVE pistachio nuts! They grinned back at us and said they would split it all up tonight with everyone in their family group. Then, too soon, it was time to leave and we all zippered back up and after hugs all the way around we soon were on our way back to the apartment.
We did nothing the rest of the afternoon, but play computer games, watch movies and read quietly. We are all really and truly exhausted now...no one is sleeping well, everyone's schedules are totally out of whack, beds are uncomfortable and I sound like an old lady every morning getting up complaining about the arthritis in my back and hips. I always thought it was sort of humorous to hear others complain about feeling the cold in their joints...but not anymore. Man, do I feel it!! Between 20 below weather and a way too hard mattress I can hardly find a comfortable position to sleep in...I am jealous that Dominick gets to go home to our bed for a bit!!
But other than that, we are fine and hoping to spend tomorrow laying around resting and doing nothing...maybe we can all catch up on sleep and get back on a more normal schedule. This is beginning to take a toll on all of us, even though we really have very nice accommodations. Stress, illness (I am still not feeling very well), darkness, exhaustion, it is all catching up with us.
New Years Eve in Kazakhstan is kind of cool, even if you have nowhere to go! We all sat in the dark on our bed the last 15 minutes before midnight and talked about 2009, what resolutions were and if we wanted to make any for 2010. We were all pretty content with life, thankful for what we have and who we are with, looking at big changes in the coming months and being realistic about it all. I was asked if I would give up Diet Coke and I nicely declined :-) Then it was midnight, and the fireworks began...EVERYONE around us in our complex and neighboring complexes were shooting them off all around us! For an hour all we could hear was the crackle of fireworks soon joined by the ringing of the cathedral bells. As we watched the fireworks through the swirling snow caught up in the heavy winds, it was a wondrous and beautiful moment filled with light and sound and gentle togetherness in a land far from home.
We have a lot to remember in 2009. We have much to be thankful for. We have had internal struggles and big changes as we contemplate where we are headed in this life and what God wants for us all. 2010 brings new surprises, and hopefully much happiness and good health. It will be a year of exploration and discovery, a year no doubt of frustration and complexity. A life well lived is not necessarily a "safe" life nor is it always "comfortable". My wish for my family is cohesiveness and love. My wish for my friends is presence for them the way they have been present for us. My wish for myself is a sense of sharp focus and direction, of understanding and wisdom, of health and compassion.
And for all, grateful hearts.
Happy Hew Year Everyone!