10 February 2005: Almaty

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Success calling home using an AT&T calling card. We got to speak to our daughter who wants us to come home real soon. Thanks again to Rita's parents who are watching her. They said they have been having fun and that Carla is very good girl. Unable to catch my mother who said she would not be available until today. She was due for knee surgery the day after we were flying out. I will try tonight to catch her on Thursday morning, but I bet I will have better luck tomorrow morning, which would be Thursday evening.

We conked out early, around 9:00, and were up early, Rita at 2:30 and me at 5:00. I suspect that will be our general pattern for the rest of this trip. I spent the morning unpacking and straightening up. Yesterday we were rather out of it to do much except roll with the punches.

Dima arrived at 10:00. Each day I will take a picture on the ride. Today it is the science institute which is just around the corner from our apartment. It is a gorgeous example of Soviet style architecture. When we here two and a half years ago we got some better pictures and were able to get close ups of the fountain which looks rather forbidding in winter.

At the Baby House we went straight to the play room where Murat was waiting with his care giver Maigul. She left us alone with him. We spent most of the hour and a half trying to engage him. He seems to not know what to do with the undivided attention of two adults, but as the time went on he gradually warmed to us. The pictures are in order and it is pretty clear that he got more engaged and animated as time went on. He liked fruit snacks, walking around and around the play room, chasing after and bringing back a wind up car, and finally being pretend "thrown" and "dropped" by Rita. It will be really hard to spend the next two and a half weeks bonding and playing with him, and then have to leave him for two weeks. Will he recognize Rita when she gets back for the final stage? Will he be playful or will he be back to being inert? I do wish we could take him away as soon as the court proceedings are complete.

We went to the office to talk with Gulbanu. We paid the fees and for the apartment. We pay Dima directly and he said he would collect at the end of the week. We will visit every day except Sunday on which we are encouraged to do some sightseeing. We will get the dates for the second trip sometime next week and it should be short; four or five days. Rita will be doing it alone as I cannot afford to miss more teaching time. There is only one trip to court, but we will have a dry run with Zhanara who will be our translator in court a day or two before our court date. Gulbanu is very nice and was disappointed that we did not bring pictures of Carla. We promised we would do so on our next visit.

Back to the Ramstore. I picked up a Nursat i-card to access the Internet with my lap top from the apartment. We also picked up some items that we had forgotten on our first trip at the grocery store. Accessing the Internet proved to be a big mistake as I got bad work related news. An experiment I had been working on, BTeV, has been canceled. Cost over-runs in other sectors and a generally tight federal budget have led to the canceling of my project. Some unhappy emails in my in box. Not much I can do about it especially from Kazakhstan. The headache of what to do in response will have to wait until I get back.

I am amazed at how well connected we are here. There are 70 channels on the TV in the apartment including the BBC, CNN, FoxNews, and many French channels that my wife particularly enjoys. This is quite a contrast to Uralsk where our only contact with the outside world was via the interned cafe, short wave radio, and trying to decipher three or four Russian and Kazakh television channels.

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