The hangman puzzle is solved. Thanks for playing :).
So, Kokshetau it is. We are about 186 miles north of Astana. See map - right above Shchuchinsk and below Petro. It looks like we are not that far from the Serra clan in Kostanai which is northwest of us. According to Wikipedia, Kokshetau (meaning "blue mountains") is the administrative center of Akmola province. We are 30 miles from Burabai or "Kazakhstani Switzerland" and are at the end of the largest power line in the world!
Typically people travel here from Almaty via Air Kokshetau, but they aren't selling enough tickets right now and are out of jet fuel, so service is suspended. Instead, we flew into Astana and made the rest of the trip by car.
Astana rises up out of the flat, empty earth like the Emerald City. It is the new capitol of Kazakhstan and most everything there is only 10 years old. Our coordinator said there are lots of "banks and shops." Because it is so new, it doesn't seem to have the buffer of a ring of suburbs that most large American cities have. It seems to go straight from city to empty flatlands. I imagine that this is what some of the large cities in the Middle East look like.
Outside of the city, the landscape is flat and prairie-like for quite a while. There is very little that gives structure to the terrain - no billboards or exit ramps or fences or gas stations or hotels or anything. There is the occasional Lada parked at the side of the road with the driver selling jarred stuff - maybe honey? - and random livestock roaming free (again, no fences) or being herded by Kazakh shepherds (?). As we got closer to Kokshetau, I saw more trees and stands of birchs . . . and steppes, lots of beautiful, undulating steppes. We only drove past one town during the entire 4 hour car ride.
And, we did see a rainbow when we drove through the entrance to the city. What an amazing sign.
This morning we got up pretty early (5 ish) and Skyped with my mom and Luca. Skype helps a lot, but I have gone through these intense times of missing him so much. I know time will pass very quickly and we will be back home with him before we know it.
We had our meeting with the official from the Ministry of Education. He was pleasant. Our interpreter said he was in a good mood today. Basically, he just wants to check adoptive parents out. He asked questions that ranged from "Who is going to be the next American president?" (seems he is rooting for Obama too) to "What is the weather like where you live?" to "Do you have a preference for the ethnicity of the child?". At times, I felt like he was pulling questions out of the air . . . saying to himself, "Hmmm. What should I ask them next?" He also asked what we thought about the Georgian conflict. It seems both our interpreter and the official believe Russia is getting a bad rap in the American press because Georgia really started the conflict.
After that, we went over to the maternity hospital. Kokshetau may be the only city who keeps babies in the maternity hospital, not in a baby house (orphanage). So, our visits actually take place in a small room in the hospital.
The baby we hope will soon be our daughter is not named Saskia (Luca was pretty disappointed, but compromised by saying that Saskia will be her nickname). We really did consider the name, but we like her given name which is Alia, which means lofty, sublime, exalted. We thought this was the perfect name for the daughter we have been waiting for and also a way for her to stay connected to her birth country.
When we met Alia, we were greeted with an open-mouthed smile (very much reminds me of Shannon's Alexa) and giggles. She is such a sweet, sweet child. She could care less about any of the toys we put in front of her today. She just wanted us to hold her. I remember both Karen and Catalina writing about focusing on emotional needs before worrying about developmental issues. They were both speaking in reference to older children, but this seems to make sense for Alia as well. In the hospital, she does not have a lot of one-on-one time with nurses, so it makes sense to give her this before anything else. Alia is fascinated by Scott. I held her for a long time while she studied his face. She is very observant and alert. She loves to be lifted into the air . . . the "lifter" is rewarded with the best giggles. But, she can also be very serious. For the first part of the visit, we talked to her, held her and played a little. She got worn out pretty quickly. I had to remind myself not to get too crazy with the stimulus. The rest of the visit Scott or I held her and walked back and forth in our little room. She fell asleep for a little while in my arms. I forgot that babies double in weight when sleeping!
It really seemed like she has been waiting for us - maybe that explains the rainbow.
We will visit her every day from 10 am-12 pm. In a few days we plan to ask if we can stay longer. After 14 days of visitation, we can petition for a court date. I think we also have pre-court. We are making 2 trips because of Luca and because I am teaching this semester. There is a pretty significant wait between the request for the court date and the court date (roughly 3 weeks).
Hopefully, we will return by the beginning of October for court with Scott's mom. A good thing about this region is that immediate custody is often awarded after court. We will still have the 15 day waiting period, but actually get custody of Alia while we wait. After court, I will go back home and Scott and his mom will finish the process. Maybe we will all be together by Halloween. We can only hope.
I would love to show you a full photo of this little munchkin. I really would, but I can't. She is not our daughter yet - we still have a long way to go. Thanks so much for the great comments and checking on us - it means so very much.
1 year ago