Visit with Alia
We arrive at the Maternity Hospital around 10:00 a.m. The hospital itself is incredibly run-down on the exterior, but is clean and tidy inside. The grounds remind me of those which surround abandoned factories - broken glass, weeds, chunks of masonry. Amid the decay, someone has painted old tires bright colors, laid them on their sides and planted flowers in them.
Scott and I were talking about the run-down appearance of most buildings here - not only in Kokshetau, but also in larger cities like Almaty. As most people who come here find out, the apartments in these buildings are often very nice - bright with hardwood floors, contemporary fixtures, etc. I can only speculate that people expect the state to maintain the civic spaces, not only during the Soviet era, but now also. Kazakhstan is officially socialist, so the government still takes care of a lot of services. Scott also said that Kazakhstan is on the edges of the former Soviet Union, so perhaps not as much money made it here.
We are dropped off behind the hospital. There is a line of blue doors in the back - sometimes they are open, sometimes not. It doesn't look like there is any air conditioning in the hospital, so I assume that they are open for ventilation. From what I can see (and hear from others), central air is almost nonexistent. I do see LG window units dotting the exterior walls of apartment buildings. This is in a place that gets rather hot in the summers - high 90s at times. I have read many blog entries about stifling hot visitation rooms at baby houses. Heat, however, is centralized and controlled by the government. Someone flips an on switch in fall and off switch in the spring.
We make our way through a small dark entry way to 2 small rooms - the first looks like a reception area, the other one has medical stuff in it. I will have to look more carefully at exactly what is in there tomorrow. We then walk out into a large corridor. There is sometimes a nurse with one of those chef's hats on sitting at a desk at the end. It is very dim - there aren't any lights on that I can see - just natural light that filters in through the rooms and a few windows at the end of the hall. The visitation room is the first door on the left. I often feel very covert . . . not sure why, but I do.
We pass through a small room to get into the room where Alia is staying. It is about 8' x 20' with rippling linoleum on the floor. There is a crib with a thick, wooly blanket hanging at the end, a cot with a thin mattress & large pillow and 2 small cabinets where we keep the toys and other stuff like baby wipes & spit-up cloths we bring. At the end of the room is a large window with a deep sill. The window opens at the top, however there is no screen. It looks out onto the area where we are dropped off. There is also a dirt path (lots of dirt paths here!) that cuts through brush and weeds with an apartment building in the distance. There is a pretty constant parade of people walking by. There is also a marble topped table with a plastic jar on top. The jar is covered with a rag and has a piece of paper with dates written on it rubber-banded to it. I have not looked in the jar - it looks a little ominous. There is a bathroom off of the room. I haven't looked too carefully in there either. A tall window looks out onto the corridor, but most of it is covered with paper. There is a constant din from the hospital - crying children, plates rattling (I saw a cart of plates today that looked like my grandmother's china - no plastic there!), nurses talking, doors slamming.
It seems like an unlikely place to become a family, but there we are.
We are asked to bring 8 diapers and a new outfit for Alia every day. I think we have fallen into some sort of routine. The first part of the visit is focused on distracting her while we wait for her bottle. Sometimes it comes at 10:30 . . . sometimes at 11. She has a cold right now and breathes heavily through her nose. It seems like her breathing is really urgent while we await the bottle - no crying, just heavy breathing. We did a little massage and stretching again today, but quickly went back to holding and walking. Dr. Seuss's One Fish . . . was the book of the day & Vince Guaraldi was the musician of the day today. When we were reading she grabbed the book on her own and seemed to be trying to turn the pages. She has also been making good eye contact - I think that is a positive sign (?).
The second part of the visit focuses on her nap. After she wolfs down her bottle in record speed, we sway and walk until she falls asleep. Today, she took a pretty long nap - about 1/2 an hour. She slept on me the whole time. It amazes me that she can trust us to do that, but a warm body has to feel good.
And, what a feeling for us to have that little being snoozing on us! Every once in a while she lets out a little snore or a halting sigh or sucks on her lower lip - other than that she curls up against us and dreams away.
Yesterday, Scott described her as serene . . . Buddha-like. She looks at us steadily, deeply, carefully as if she knows who we are.
I really have to remind myself not to overdo the stimuli. That is my tendency. I want to develop that brain, but I think what she wants now is some physical attention. She is much like a newborn that way.
At some point during the visit, our interpreter comes in and takes a family photo for court. The judge may ask for proof that we were there with Alia every day during the bonding period. We have a photo taken and will print them out with dates stamps and take them to court when we appear.
Our driver shows up around 12:20 p.m. We get in the car where I make an attempt to say hello in Russian (Privyet, Yuri!) and we are whisked away to wherever we want to go in Kokshetau.
Life in Kokshetau
Today we visited the Green Market. The name is deceiving - it was only half green. The other half was piles of dead animal flesh. Whoa! I have never seen so much meat in my life! I am sure there was an assortment, but I didn't look too hard.
Everything seemed so cheap there . . . and they had anything you would want. A few aisles of fruits, vegetables, nuts, dried fruits, a whole room of eggs, a few bakeries, a movie store, lots of candy. I guess it most reminds me of the Farmer's Market in South Bend because it is inside and not just produce.
The women who waited on us were all very nice and accommodating despite the fact that we know very, very little Russian. The woman who sold us our produce thought I wanted 6 KILOS of potatoes, rather than 6 individual ones. When I told her what I wanted by holding up 6 fingers, she disappeared for quite a while, then came out with about 36 rather than 6 potatoes. We all had a good laugh about that! In addition to the potatoes, we bought beets, carrots, tomatoes, red chiles, bananas, cucumbers and apples. All that produce was 400 tenge (less than $2). I spend $20 easy at our Farmer's Market in Carbondale. We also bought a hunk of butter, cheese & bread.
The butter reminds me of the butter my grandmother used to make - yes, my grandmother MADE butter. They lived on a dairy farm. Milk came straight from the cows. It sat out until the cream rose to the top and that was magically turned into butter. My grandmother made me cheese and butter sandwiches. Can you imagine what the nutritionists would say about that? They were divine, though.
We also stopped at the pick-up store for some other stuff. There is almost no produce there. They have a produce section, but it is very, very sad. It is sparse and what is there is definitely past its prime. Scott picked up some Baltika 5, Susan.
I am thinking about making some more pierogies with a mix of roasted root vegetables tonight . . . or lentils & rice with carmelized onions.
I have so many things on my minds - the abundance of workers wherever we go (is that a carry-over from the Soviet era as well?), Russian women's poker faces (I am trying to think of a better description, but they have the attitude of cool mastered), decaying buildings, stores with no display windows, building large stone houses in the middle of tiny, decrepit houses behind corrugated metal fences and why I stood in the coffee aisle today for 15 minutes thinking that I would somehow magically figure out which coffee was best (I wish I would have brought a bag of coffee to start with, a cardigan to wear in the house and envelopes). But this is already long.
Until tomorrow . . .
P.S. Thanks for the comments and emails!!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you! It helps so much to stay connected and not feel isolated. I have read many blogs and many people write this while here, but now I know how incredibly important it is to read those comments.
1 year ago