It was a long trip, but it went without hitch. A nice bonus was that the flight from Amsterdam to Almaty was mostly empty. We were both able to stretch out and get some sleep. One down side of coming in late at night is that we could see absolutely nothing from the air. Quite a contrast from our previous trip where Almaty was quite impressive from the air being between the desert and the mountains.
Scary moments in Almaty when the Kazakh customs officers asked to count all of our US currency. We had forgotten to declare our pocket money, about $40 which we thought was negligible compared to the $13,000 we had in money belts. They clearly wanted a bribe and eventually we decided to split our pocket change with them.
We met our driver Dima and Dilnoza who takes care of the housing and they drove us to our apartment. We were pretty out of it so there was little conversation. We could see nothing of the city except lots of car dealerships in the dark. The apartment is nice. One large bedroom and living room. See the pictures which I took this morning. It was completely empty except for furniture, cook ware, and towels. No soap which we did not bring, and nothing food related except a little salt and pepper. The latter was not a surprise. The former was a big disappointment, but we showered and slept soundly. The morning revealed a clear and cold winter's day. Dima told us that it has been unusually cold in Almaty, but that it should warm up in the next weeks. Lots of snow on the ground and there clearly has not been any melting in a while.
We expected to be picked up around 10:00 this morning for a visit to the sisters office, but by 10:30 the phone had not rung. We called Dima and he counciled us to be patient. Around 11:00 Zhanara called and said we would not be seeing the sisters this morning as originally planned, but that we would go to the Baby House this afternoon. We told her that then we would go food shopping right away. We stocked up at the Ramstore forgetting spices and sugar, but in general getting all we needed. It is nice to have supermarket, but the colorful "big market" in Uralsk was more fun and cheaper.
At 3:30 we headed off to the Baby House #2 which is on the outskirts of the city. See the pictures of our first meeting with Murat and another boy, Yernar. The Baby House director was very nice giving us a full run down on Murat. His mother was 28, had a previous pregnancy about which nothing is known, and terminated her parental rights just after giving birth. She had no care during pregnancy. Murat was small at birth and had a common congenital heart defect. He remained in the hospital while they worked on his "intra-cranial hypertension"; any doctor we have spoken to does not recognize this condition. He was sick a bunch during his first year with many respiratory tract virus infections and encephalopathy. Since then he has been healthy with only a couple of bouts of bronchitis. He looked fine to us, but quite small for a 28 month old.
We then went to a play room and played with the two boys. Yernar was quite charming, being easy to entertain and laugh. Murat easily got fascinated by toys such as the shape box, but we had to work to get him to smile and laugh. They both really enjoyed sliding on the slide, and playing with the piano. Our time was way too short and Murat cried when we had to pull him away from the piano. Rita comforted him and what finally worked was us telling him that we would be back to play tomorrow. See the pictures.
We only get to visit once a day and we decided to do it in the morning. Dima will see us at 10:00 tomorrow and after our morning visit we will see the sisters. Back at the apartment and both of us are tired from the emotional stress and jet lag. Now going to try calling home. More tomorrow.
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