Friday, April 10, 2009

April 10, 2009

Today was the coldest day we’ve had since we’ve been here. Even though it snowed a few days ago, it warmed right up that day and was a great temperature by 9:45 AM, the time we meet our driver outside of our apartment building. One of our windows was left open last night so most of the apartment was like an ice box this morning. There is central heating and since we have no control over the temperature in our apartment via a thermostat, we leave a window or two open at night because it can get too hot. We have heard that the heat will be turned off in the middle of April.

Luckily this morning, the man who was bothering us yesterday was not outside. We purposely did not wait for the driver outside-we made sure he was there before going outside. Nathaniel was the first baby out of his crib this morning. Kevin had a tough time feeding him because the breakfast was so watery-it was like soup and dribbled all over Nate’s belly. It was frustrating feeling like he wasn’t getting enough food to tide him over and not being able to give him anything else. He spent some time in his walker this morning and then some time playing on the carpet before music class. He really loves music class, especially when the caregivers bring around the stuffed/toy animals for the kids to touch during the songs. He flaps his arms and has a huge smile on his face. We realized this morning that we forgot to bring the camera so we won’t have any pictures from today. Nate’s doctor came to get him to give him his daily check-up and she was not happy with us because of the teething toy he was chomping on. We bought him a teething ring that we put in the freezer overnight. We take it out before going to the baby house in the morning and by the time we give it to him, it has been out for about 45 minutes so it is cold but not frozen. He loves to chew on it in the mornings when it is cold. Apparently it is not healthy for him and he is not allowed to have it when it is cold. That is definitely a cultural difference.

It was back to the Ankara restaurant that we went to yesterday for lunch and a few minutes after we finished telling our translator about the strange man from last night, Kevin spots him outside in the shopping area that the restaurant is in. He went outside with our translator and pointed him out to her. The man’s back was to them so he didn’t see them outside. About halfway through our lunch, the back door of the restaurant opens and the man comes in and tries to sit down at our table. It was as if he knew we were there and was coming there specifically for us. Very weird and kind of unsettling. We don’t think he would do anything to harm us but we just don’t want him stalking us. We had to go exchange an outfit that we bought yesterday because they gave us the wrong size and we didn’t check before we left the store. It has been somewhat frustrating buying clothes for Nate because the workers generally take out “girlie” clothes and we want clothes that are definitely for a boy!

After we arrived back at the baby house for our afternoon session, our translator notified our facilitator about the weird man and we think that the word traveled to numerous other people. We were told that life here is about “having connections” and we have no doubt about that. We spent the rest of the day inside, giving Nathaniel time on his belly (no crawling today, just inching), time in his walker, and time sitting and standing.

The strange man was not outside our apartment building at all this afternoon or evening and we are wondering about “people having connections” and any relevance that that might have to our situation. Hopefully our problem has been resolved. It was off to English class this evening and they were really happy when we arrived a few minutes late. They didn’t think we were going to show up but Kev was busy putting together some CDs for them. We wanted to give them time to start their lessons because they didn’t accomplish much during the last session due to our presence. They had been worried that we weren’t going to come tonight. We listened as they practiced family relationships and hobbies. They had some questions for us and we had some questions for them. We learned that Kazak families are typically large and they have at least 3 children. All four students are Kazak and the teacher is Russian. She is married to a Kazak man and her daughter is Kazak. Irina had a blast playing with her daughter again today. Yesterday her daughter went to school and told people how she met an American. Kevin asked some political questions about what the people here think about Americans and our involvement in some world events. Natasha, the teacher, said that they don’t really have opinions of it but that they don’t understand why someone would make a movie (Borat) that mocks their society. They don’t want people to think that all of the women here are prostitutes or any of the other parts from the movie. We assured them that Americans don’t think badly of them due to the movie and that it was offensive for Americans as well. Natasha brought Irina some chocolates and she brought us some postcard-like pictures of things in this area for us. The pictures are just wonderful and we know that Irina and Nathaniel will really appreciate them when they are older.

During our class, we also learned about the school system. Parents may send their children to Russian school or Kazak school. Natasha’s daughter attends Russian school and learns English as part of the curriculum. From ages 2-5, students go to kindergarten and then they go to pre-school for a year before going to primary school. It was funny to hear that their terms are the reverse of the American terms. Students with disabilities do not attend school here. Teachers go to their homes to teach them, if they can afford to pay for the teacher. Universities do not have any programs to meet any special needs so students with disabilities or special needs cannot attend university. Prior to 2001, students would attend university for 4 years and then get a bachelor’s and master’s degree after those 4 years. Since 2001, students attend university for 4 years and graduate with a bachelor’s degree. They can attend school for 2 more years to earn a master’s degree. A PhD program would be 3-4 more years after that. The topic of religion came up and it was interesting to learn that the Russian people are Catholic and the Kazak people are Muslim. The next class is on Wednesday and we are hoping to be on our way to the airport at that time on Wednesday. The students were very disappointed that we are leaving and that we don’t know when we’ll be back to Karaganda. (We will be in Almaty for our second trip and won’t be returning to Karaganda.). They are eager to meet up with us again so we told them where they can find us during lunch for our remaining time and they were very excited. We exchanged email addresses and Skype information so that we can keep in touch. We plan to mail a box of “American goodies” to them once we get back home.

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