Visits with Alia
Our first visits with Alia revolved around holding and feeding her. She smiled at us the first day we met her, but the only other activity that made her smile was lifting her in the air. Her arms and legs were stiff and curled up close to her body. She didn't even know to reach out and grab anything that was in front of her. The only thing she showed interest in was the books we read to her. Alia sat with a lot of assistance. One of us had to sit behind her and brace her on either side because if she was left to her own devices, she would tip over in no time. There wasn't a lot of "conversation" either - it was nonexistent actually.
Here we are a couple of weeks later and she grabs practically everything we put in front of her. For a while I thought that we were going to be the only family to come to Kazakhstan who found no use for the stacking cups. I took them with us one of the first days and she didn't so much as look at them. Instead the little boy who came to visit us a few times played with them. Now she grabs them - usually the smaller ones, but sometimes the large red one - and knocks over the towers that we set up over and over. I think Luca may like to build those towers for her. Today she did this while SHE SAT UP UNASSISTED. Yes, I realize that I wrote that she has a long way to go with her sitting skills in the last post. Perhaps she knew I wrote that and saw it as a challenge. She has gone from wobbling back & forth and falling over to sitting for a few minutes on her own in one day.
Yesterday, Alia also crawled a tiny bit. She is trying to get all the parts in the right places. She has gone beyond the swimming motion which keeps her in place to the beginnings of a military crawl. Her hand/eye coordination and motor skills are improving every day. She is turning book pages without any help. It is like she is discovering she has a body that can move. She puts her arms out on the air like the Karate Kid and pumps her legs vigorously. Scott does some simple exercises with her every day first thing. They appear to be making a huge difference.
Alia smiles easily. If we look at her from across the room and smile, she giggles and smiles back. She has gotten more and more vocal. Yesterday she emoted, laughed and gurgled practically the whole time.
Hygiene is not high on Alia's list :). Scott tried to clean her neck with a baby wipe yesterday and she went into a full blown cry. Bath time will be interesting. I don't think she has had a lot of them. The wipe is cold . . . that might be part of it.
I have read a lot about the rapid development that occurs when PAPs start visiting their kids, but it still seemed unreal to me. It is amazing to see this little girl begin to discover herself and respond to the world around her. I once told a friend that watching a child develop is similar to what happens with the patients in the movie Awakenings. Watching Alia these last few days has been like Awakenings fast forwarded.
Life in Kokshetau
A couple of days ago, our housemates and I walked to the Green Market to shop for a dinner party we had last night. Their interpreter and her family (husband, daughter & niece) joined us for dinner. We were very proud of ourselves for finding the Green Market, purchasing everything we needed and carrying about 15 pounds worth of produce, 3 pork chops (not for us!), 20 eggs in a sack, 3 loaves of bread and a small container of the best honey I have ever tasted home. Not many people here speak English that we have found. So, when any of us does anything like this - such as normal, everyday shopping - without incident, the feeling of accomplishment is amazing. Then we tell our interpreters and they smile at us like we are little children.
Our experience has been unusual in many ways - most significant is that we have housemates. We were here on our own for a week, which was nice, but I was starting to feel really isolated. We kept hearing that another family would be here and we wondered if we would get along. How would we share this space with another couple who are complete strangers? We have a large house, but it isn't that large - ~1200 square feet. There is only one full bath. Our bedrooms are right across the hall from one another. We also spend a lot of time here . . . and we didn't know who the heck these people are.
I think if we did know who they were I would have been even more worried. On paper we are about as different as night and day in all areas - politics, religion, you name it. Imagine McCain & Obama rooming together. In the unlikely event that our paths crossed in the States we all would have nodded and smiled politely and kept on walking.
But, guess what? We get along GREAT! I have not laughed so much in a long, long time. C & M are warm, funny (hilarious, actually), generous, kind and easy going. Our schedules work well together. They leave an hour before we do, so we all get enough time in the bathroom. All of us share food without worrying about who's eating or drinking what. We eat meals together - heck, we entertained together last night. We share our computers and Pepcid and vitamins. We both sneak in the occasional load of forbidden laundry. We talk endlessly about practically anything - kids, marriage, politics, religion, books, education, friends, family. All of this without a hint of animosity or trepidation.
I am very grateful for our housemates. I could not have picked two better people to share this experience with. I will really miss them when we go back home.
And, home . . . in just a few days we are headed back (4 hour car ride through the northern plains of Kazakhstan, 2 international flights and 1 domestic). I both intensely dread and look forward to going back home. How can that be?
P.S. Luca went to Chuck E. Cheese with his cousins and grandparents for the first time last night. While playing a driving video game, Chuck E. himself laid his hand on Luca's shoulder. Later Luca said, "Grandma, I don't want that mouse to touch me ever again" to my mom. So much for friendly, plush, oversized mice.
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