The Woodard's Adoption Journey

Monday, August 28, 2006

Our Apologies: We are back safe and sound.....

We have returned to Georgia and the fast paced live style again. After numerous calls from upset blog readers, we felt it would be best to throw a little something on the blog informing everyone of our safe return. I will add the final blog entry by 9/1 to recap the flight home, 2 baby showers, Landen turning 1 on the day he became a citizen of the U.S. and much, much more.

P.S. We will have photo's to share as well.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Day 8 "The "final" Final Countdown

You are a gold medalist to me...
We feel like we are in jail and cannot get out.

Thursday, August 17th “Our last full day, we think..”

Privet from Almaty, KA3ACTAHCKNN.

We have faith that today is the last full day we will be in Kazakhstan for a long time.
Not to sound like it has not been a wonderful experience, but it is past time to be back with you all. I must say we had another scare dropped on us today….more on that later.
As for the day, it was another groundhog day in Almaty. After the excitement of the mountain yesterday, we got back into the: apartment most of the morning, going to the mall for Rylee to ice skate, then ending the night with dinner in the apartment.

Luckily, we were here… You know what it is like trying to get out the door with an infant (well, most of you can relate), today was one of those days. We were planning to do some last minute site seeing of Almaty and end the tour at the mall for Rylee’s regional ice skating championship. Plans of leaving at 3pm were delayed by moving slow, being lazy, tired, mental exhaustion, etc…. so we were not loaded up and ready to walk out until 4:40pm or so. We had been on the computer loading yesterday’s blog until 4:30pm, and then I switched the phone line to our apartment phone. This is a task that I have forgotten on several occasions, but what a blessing that I did not forget today. Bob (Kim’s Dad) called around 4:40pm to say hello and make sure everything was going well. At the time of that call, it was going great. We had said our good byes to Bob and grabbed the stroller to go on the walk. As we were walking out of the door, the phone rang again. We love getting phone calls, so we had to see who it was….and it was Jenia. He started very bluntly…WE HAVE ANOTHER PROBLEM. Can you believe our luck? Jenia went on to advise us that the Embassy called him just minutes earlier and said they needed a “37 Cable Form” before we can meet with them tomorrow for the exit interview. With my bottom jaw on the floor, I was able to ask what a Cable 37 form is. Come to find out, this is the FBI fingerprint form that is given to the Embassy in Kazakhstan from the CIS office in Atlanta, GA. Jenia wanted us to call the US and see what we could find out and he would call back at 10pm tonight to find out the status. At this point, that was just not good enough. We asked what time the Embassy closed and he replied “5pm, I think”. Bar the doors at the Embassy, the Woodard’s are coming armed with a “spit bomb” (doing much better actually) and fire-breathing parents. We had 15 minutes until closing, just enough time to speak our mind. We grabbed our copy of the adoption paperwork and ran to the Embassy. We walked in at 4:55pm, where we were stopped by security and questioned as to our reason for entering. After a quick explanation, he called the 18th floor to speak with someone who handles adoptions. Luckily, he was successful and then gave Kim the phone to explain what was happening. The woman was aware of the issues already and gave us a more detailed explanation of the problem. They had the form, but it had an expiration date of 8/17/2006. We searched our copies while she was on the phone and found the form, but our “copy of confirmation” had 9/17/2006 expiration. This was explained and the woman said she needs the original form, not a copy like we have and it needed to be sent from the CIS in Atlanta. We were 10 minutes into the conversation and Kim repeatedly was turned down for our request to come upstairs to discuss this in person. The lady said they were closed, we questioned why they called us just 15 minutes before closing….she came back with- Your coordinator did not deliver the paperwork soon enough as they just got it yesterday. Actually…. Kim, Rylee and Jenia hand delivered the paperwork on Monday, since we were planning to travel on Wednesday morning. Kim reminded the woman of this and she did not have a come back. Kim, now on the offensive, asked what our options were since they just told us of the problem. The woman said we have two options: 1) Fly back to America without the child, get the fingerprints updated and fly back… comment on our thoughts. 2) Apply for the form here and wait the mandatory 7 to 10 days for it to be returned… comment on our thoughts. The woman, back up a little bit, said if they were to get the forms emailed from the US (and they were not expired), we could make the flights as scheduled…now we are talking. We got all of the information for the US CIS to contact the Embassy and left to start our calling. It was now 5:30pm, 7:30am in Atlanta. We had two plans in mind as we got on the phone. First, Bob was gracious enough say he would go directly to the CIS if needed. We agreed on this before the office opened, so we were hoping there would not be a need for this. We had to be this first call of the morning at the CIS office (8:00:01), as the woman working was ready to get the problem solved. This woman was actually the one in charge of all adoptions, so she was familiar with the forms. She did a quick check and then told Kim she had already sent the request. We are not sure if she got an email from the Embassy here or started when she first got on the phone, but it was good news. She confirmed again to Kim that it was re-sent and everything will be fine.

At this point, you would think “oh no, here we go”, but during the entire ordeal we never doubted our faith and had a calming ease about the situation.

We are again back on track…..As for tomorrow-
9:00am - we will go to the Embassy to confirm receipt of the Cable 37 form.
3:00pm - we have our exit interview with the Embassy.
9:00pm - we contact the Lufthansa office to confirm our flights (say a lot of prayers)
12:30am Saturday - we will be first in line at the Lufstansa counter if we are still wait- listed when we make the call at 9:00 nine pm
2:20am - boarding call.
2:30 pm Saturday(Georgia time) we arrive in HOTLANTA!!!!

Couple points of interest:
- This will hopefully be our last entry, until we arrive home. We will then post one last entry to share the “flight story.” Put it this way….if you check the blog and we have not posted….this is great news, because we got on our flight!!!
- We called to confirm what we could carry on - Only restriction is liquids - if you have a child, you may be asked to taste anything you carry on. Nothing else.

******************************NEWS FLASH*****************************
After writing the blog, we got a knock on the door… was Jenia. He handed over Landen’s passport!!! We have it in our hands! One more hurdle down, just a few more to go!
Our little Kazakh citizen...
A passport from Heaven

Day 7 "The "final", Final Countdown" - A high...

Are you having fun?
Look at the birdie...
Family of Four
A view from above...

Wednesday, August 16th “Making the best of it”

Privet from Almaty, KA3ACTAHCKNN.

Well, if we thought too much about this being our “missed” travel day we would be going crazy (more so than we already are). We have been learning a valuable lesson in life….acceptance does not make your family weak, but overcoming makes your family stronger! While it is easier said than done, dealing with these “opportunities to make our family stronger” has been an experience we will take with us for the rest of our lives. We can laugh about “never leaving the country again” and “not being able to communicate with anybody here”, but it will be a long time before we plan another trip…if ever.

As for overcoming, we actually had a very interesting and fun day on Wednesday. The morning started out as many others, nothing on the schedule to fill the long hours of the day. We each had a little breakfast, a little playtime and the daily chores. I have blog duty, Kim has food and apartment duty, Rylee has watching movie duty and Landen, well he has demolition duty. Speaking of, he is great at his job of demolition. I will say it is very normal baby demolition and normal is so wonderful to us. One would never be able to tell he was raised for 11 months in a baby house and 2 weeks by us, because he sure does act different now. He has learned the art of “make a noise and see Mommy and Daddy run.” It is so funny to see that little guy figure out that there is so much in this world that he never knew about. He will ride in the stroller for hours and just sit back and enjoy seeing the world.

Back to the day, after the morning duties were taken care of, we received a call from Jenia around 12pm. We had asked earlier in the week “pre-P Day” about the mountains and what is there to do up there.… This was more of a general conversation, but we were interested as they are so incredible to look at. Jenia, in a wonderful attempt to make up for some of the problems encountered, wanted to take us up the mountain for site seeing. We had planned to take (what seems like the thousandth time) a walk to the mall for Rylee to ice skate, so this was something new and exciting. We agreed with little hesitation and packed up. If you know the Woodard’s at all (2 of the 4 and especially 1), we cannot just pack a little bag and go. We need time to pack for a weekend trip, even if it is a one hour outing. I must admit that on several occasions, as well as yesterday, we have been saved by what was packed.

Almaty is at the base of the mountains, which results in a 20-minute drive to enter the park. We were charged 200 tenge (around 1.50 US) for the carload of us, and then entered a guarded, gated entrance to the park. It was like visitation hour at a local jail, only this one charged you to enter. The drive was incredible and Jenia even slowed down to 30mph a couple times for me to capture it with a photo. As we traveled up, we passed some beautiful homes that Jenia said started around 1 million…I can believe it. We first stopped at the Ice Rink. This was truly a site to behold, even if it was the summer and no ice….you can always imagine. Rylee enjoyed the iceless rink, as she rented a scooter and took a few laps on that….. We took some awesome photos of the area and as I noted earlier, we needed to dig into the packed bags as it turned cold with in a matter of minutes. We went from the heat in Almaty to a cool winter day for GA and Landen was dressed for the heat. Kim had packed (oops, I let out who was the packer) him a change of clothes that included some pants she calls “onesy” or something like that. The fashion police on the spot would have arrested us, if we had not been in Kazakhstan. The main thing…he was warm. After a 30-minute stop at the rink, we decide to go “higher” on the mountain. The next stop was another interesting one as we saw horses and a Bercut. The horses were grazing on the grassy side of the dam. Yes, we were on top of a dam that had an incredible view of Almaty and the skating rink below. There were approximately 10 horses, 2 of which were small foals. Rylee wanted so badly to ride them, but we were able to talk her out of it very quickly….maybe the smell of the horse helped as well. Not our pretty and clean Scarlett! From the left side of the dam, you could see a small river flowing with hundreds of rocks laid out in the shapes of names of people that had visited this area. This was neat to see… We then came up on a Bercut bird. I think the spelling is translated correctly, but it looks like a brown eagle. The native Kazakh men used these birds for hunting. The bird had a “cap” that was placed over its head while the hunter went through the forest looking for fox. When a fox was spotted, the hunter would remove the cap and let the Bercut fly and catch the fox, then bring it back to the hunter. This seems incredible, but when you see the claws on this bird, there will be no doubt about it is ability to pick up and fly with a fox. I paid 200 tenge and got a picture with the Bercut on my arm with Rylee by my side. The owner had found the bird as a baby and raised him from then. He said the bird weights around 4kg or 9 pounds and has a diet of rats and small animals. Yes, another bird in our journey….. After the bird, we had Jenia translate the historical sign that detailed the dam itself. It was initially constructed in 1966 when the USSR controlled this land, then later renovated under Kazakhstan control. In 1972, a massive mudslide was heading for Almaty and would have caused massive destruction if not for the dam. What I had thought was over kill after seeing the small river way below, now seemed to be the perfect dam for this area. We left the dam area and started heading back down the mountainside, where we stopped to see the river flowing up close. You could see the construction going on in this area, but it was still quite impressive to view. Our journey ended around 2:30pm, as we were dropped off back at the apartment. This was the first time I can remember feeling as if we were on an enjoyable vacation as a family of four…about time.

The rest of the afternoon was spent playing with Landen and Rylee around the apartment. We had made plans to visit the mall again this evening for Rylee to skate, so we all packed up again and headed out around 5pm. Rylee skated for an hour, and then we grabbed some grocery from the huge store in the mall, and then went back to the apartment. We made the absolute most out of what was a mentally tough day for us….for that, we strengthened our family! Poka, Poka….

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Day 6 -"The "final" Final Countdown

Gifts from the Tooth Fairy
Miss Snaggle Tooth

Tuesday, August 15th “A day to forget”

Privet from Almaty, KA3ACTAHCKNN.

A day full of misery and disappointment ended up with some great news..
I am sure you will understand if I do not go into the full-blown details of the day as I cannot bear to rehash them again, but I will do my best to bring you up to speed.

As promised, we did have something good happen on Monday (now known as “P” day in the Woodard history book - “P” is for passport problem, etc….). Rylee lost her third tooth, all of which have been on the bottom. In Kazakhstan, the tooth fairy (aka T.F.) is not in charge of this country, they have the “tooth mouse” (aka T.M.). Come to find out the T.F. and T.M. are very good friends. Lena had told us of the tales about the T.M. while in Pavlodar and we were able to experience the T.M. ourselves and have a special long distance visit from the T.F. in Kazakhstan. To recap the important details: Rylee was on the couch with her head hanging off getting tickled by me, when I wanted to “work” her loose tooth, so as I put my finger on it…at the same time she pulled up with her head….It was out! Her eyes got sooooo big and she started getting a smile on her face. I was not sure what happened at first, and then saw a little blood from her mouth. I asked, “Is it out?”, she smiled and there was no doubt that it was out. My next concern, as was Kim’s, where is the tooth? We have a little vacuum cleaner named Landen that would love to find something new on the floor to suck up. Luckily, the full-scale search party was able to locate and disarm the tooth from the vacuum with out any issues. Rylee’s next 2 hours were spent having me write a letter to the T.F., preparing where she was going to place the tooth and letter, and then a massive cleaning of the apartment (You know the T.F. cannot visit a messy apartment). Kim and I laughed, as the only mess was Rylee’s, so she did not mind straightening her mess. We had purchased two little hand made decorative trinket boxes just of this occasion. One is shaped like as treasure chest and the other was rounded, both with stones added on them. Rylee, as the “big” sister had chosen the round one, placed her tooth in her box and placed it securely under her pillow. Being the concerned child, she had mentioned on her note to the T.F. that if she encounters a mouse not to be worried as it was the Kazakh T.M.

When Rylee awoke in the morning, both the T.F. and T.M. had visited, left her a note and left her a special surprise from each of them. The T.M. story goes: the tooth is placed in a crack in the floor, and then the T.M. will visit in the night, remove the tooth and give you good luck for the future. Not to be outdone by the T.F., the T.M. on her home turf decided to leave 200.00 tenge and a sweet note in Russian. The T.F., as she had on the last two teeth, left a brand new $2.00 bill, a precious note, and made a pearl of her tooth. This pearl was placed on the bracelet with the other two and left in the trinket box for Rylee to find in the morning. This was just what we needed for an end to our Monday and start to what was going to be a long, hard day on Tuesday.

Now with a snaggle-toothed child, we were ready to face the day. When we left you last, nothing was known about our travel plans, and we had to wait until Tuesday for something to happen.

The morning started with us waiting on phone calls from Jenia…a theme of the day. After a couple of quick calls back home, we turned our attention to locating Jenia and booking a flight home. We still had not contact him at 10:00am, so we decided to call Bob (Kim’s Dad) and see if he could contact Lena or Svetlana in Pavlodar from his Skype. Not to our surprise, he was successful with his contact to Svetlana where he detailed our concerns. She immediately had Lena contact us in the apartment. Our first chance to tell someone what was going on was not wasted….she got all of the details and then some. She called Jenia, who immediately called us and made plans to arrive here at 11am. We had been told by our agency that Nadia would assist us in getting tickets, but she was nowhere to be seen. Jenia had contacted her and was told to take us to KLM airlines booking office. This was something odd because we have tickets with United/Luftansa, but we did what we were told and jumped into the car with Jenia around 11am and went directly to that office. After some details were exchanged, the woman gave us a printed off copy of an itinerary….and a $4,ooo price tag with it. The flights were for Sunday and would have connecting flights in Amsterdam and Minneapolis, but we would be heading the right way. We quickly realized that we were on our own…if we booked these, we loose everything we had paid for with Lufthansa…that was not acceptable at this point. We asked them to hold the reservations, which they did agree to hold until 7pm. We then had Jenia take us immediately to Lufthansa’s booking office in Almaty. After a 30 minute search for our reservations, the woman heard Kim’s fifth attempt to explain to hear that we had Landen’s reservation number …she then was able to locate all four of our reservations. The first time we could fly back was Saturday, so we locked in those dates with her, but she could only confirm the second flight to the US, not the flight from Almaty to Frankfurt. She arranged to contact Jenia before 6pm and let him know if she could confirm them. We now had three options….KLM, wait & see on these, or split the group with two flying tonight and two at an unknown later date.

We were dropped back off at the apartment around 1:45pm, where Jenia and I agreed we would be near the phone from 4pm to 6pm awaiting his call. We had time to kill, so we decided to let Rylee go Ice skate. She has been so wonderful through all of this and ice-skating is the only “fun” thing that she enjoys about being here. This would surely raise her “spirits”! As we walked into the mall, everyone noticed red balloons tied to the ice rink rails. When we got closer to the rink, we could see that the ice was covered with carpet and people were setting up some type of promotions for DERBES brewery….This was one of the toughest moments when Rylee realized she would not be able to skate today. The idea of not skating was not so bad, but another disappointment to a little girl that is so ready to get home to her “normal” life. Mr. Baskin Robbins assisted us with the healing process….Oreo Ice Cream heals everything.

Back in the room, we had the phone flanked on all side. One eye on the phone and one eye on clock…what else do we have to do? 5pm, 5:30pm, 6pm….no calls. Here we go again….at 6pm, we started calling Jenia again, unsuccessfully… (Remember we have a hold on a reservation until 7pm and a booked flight in 9 hours). I went and got a new calling card (the other one was only good for the internet) to try his long distance number and it worked….We reached Jenia and voiced our displeasure. He decided to go directly to the Lufthansa booking office and discuss with that woman that had helped us, and then come by the apartment to update us. Given the time of day, we were not optimistic of his chances. Remember the 7pm deadline with KLM.. It had passed. We were running out of options. Jenia showed up around 7:30pm and delivered some expected, but still hard to take bad news. They were closed... and we had indeed missed the deadline with KLM.

It was now 9:30am EST in the US, so our agency would be opening in 30 minutes and we could go back that direction. My resourceful wife had the owner’s cell phone number, but we could not reach her that way either. We started calling our travel agency, coordinators from Pavlodar and back to our agency. Finally, we reached our agency around 10am EST, now 8pm here. The agency was so upset with the way things were going and guaranteed she would get in touch with Yackov, and she did. Yackov called us immediately to work on some plans. The only plan they had a this point was to have Kim and Rylee leave on our booked flights tonight, and then Landen and I could find a ticket later. The thought behind this …it would be easier for us to find a ticket for one vs. two. While a viable option, it only added to the anxiety of the situation. All jokes aside, we were in a dilemma. After being told by several people that two should board the flight out at 3:20am, we decided “we came as a family and we will go as a family”. I told Yackov of our intentions and he stated he respected our decision. Now, what do we do…?

Kim had a great idea during these conversations. Go to the ticket counter at the airport…plead, beg, cry…whatever it took to get us home. The coordinators agreed and Jenia drove me to the airport around 11:15pm. Lufthansa flies mostly late night and early morning flights from Almaty, so their ticket office opened at 9pm and stayed open until 5am. I met with the most helpful and confident woman from Lufthansa so far. She got some information, which I could write a book on at this point, looked over the tickets I had from the fourth, and then gave me some great news. She confirmed the flight from Frankfurt to Atlanta on Saturday, but could only wait list us for the trip to Frankfurt from Almaty. Being concerned about this, she eased my mind by saying she will actually be on the same flight and could guarantee my family (all of us) would be as well. We can call nightly at 9pm to see if we have been confirmed, but if not we will go early with bags packed on Saturday to do what we can. She did not want to talk contingency plans, as she felt 100% confident we would fly Saturday. God works miracles, and if it is his will we will be home soon!

Well, well…..something good. Kim was overcome with joy when I got back and shared the great news (now 2:00am). All times are the same as they would have been for the flights we had scheduled…Leave here at 3:20am, but most importantly we will be in Atlanta on Saturday at 2:30pm.

If all goes well……the weekend plans are still a go.

Just something neat in Landen’s live: As planned now, he will become a US citizen on his first birthday. WOW, what a present!

Sneak peak for Wednesday - we had a “high” point during the day and some passport news. This should be posted around 1pm EST. By the way, your comments could not have been more uplifting and positive. They sure did help!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Day 5 "not the final countdown after all"

Monday, August 14th “Check up to check out” We need your prayers….

Privet from Almaty, KA3ACTAHCKNN. You will be able to get the bad news at the end, so please read from the beginning to see how the “better” part of the day was spent.

What a change for us, we actually had to be up and going early this morning. With the new “handicap” we have for getting ready, we started extra early. Actually, the credit should go to Landen and Rylee for getting Kim and I up….Rylee rolled over on Landen around 6:15am and it was all over. He let her have it, us too…. He was fine, just mad that his sleep was disturbed. I know from experience with Rylee that she is good for a kick or two during the night.

After being waken earlier than he wanted to, Landen decided to work the crowd for some food. He started with a bottle, then around 7:45am he got some cereal. As all good men do, he decided to take a nap, since he had a full belly. He had one of those Thanksgiving Day naps, you know eat, sleep, eat, sleep and so on. Oops, I forgot a poopy in the middle of the naps.

Jenia arrived around 9:45am to take us to the medical exam. We were not sure what to expect at the exam, so we just went with the flow. Kim wanted to check the paperwork she had been preparing with Jenia, but he decided we could do that in the lobby while we waited. The building was named “International SOS” and looked like a medium sized doctors office in the US. Most of the staff spoke English to one degree or another, but everyone was extremely nice during our visit. The receptionist area in the front of the building was our first stop. We signed in and gave them the paperwork Kim and Jenia completed it while we were waiting. Rylee, Landen and I had a chance to read I Spy (Sesame Street)….well Rylee and I, Landen just pulled the pages and tried to throw it in the floor. After 15 minutes or so, a lady came into the waiting area, introduced herself and said she was a nurse. She had Kim and Landen follow her to take his vitals. Not to be left out, Mommy #2 (RyRy) followed close behind them and did not miss a thing. Landen weighed in a 21.16 pounds and 29 inches long. Since the last check in at the baby house he has gained almost 2 pounds. I told you he was an eater. That made Kim and I remember Rylee being a baby, not the eater…the weight. She was 10 pounds at birth. Kim has made the comment a couple of times that holding Landen reminds her so much of Rylee as a baby. They do the same things with there arms and legs, their heads are shaped a like and they both love to be held (a lot). It amazing to us how a child that made it 11 months without being held at all, cannot make it 11 minutes with being held. I’m not sure, but I don’t think Kim can make it 11 minutes with picking him up either. Well, the little fellow deserves it!

After the nurse completed the spec’s on Landen, we were told to go up stairs and wait to see the doctor. After a few minutes of waiting, a female Russian doctor came out and said “Robert Landen Woodard” with the heavy Russian accent. It’s neat to hear how they pronounce it here. We all went in and it was a good thing, as it took all of us holding him down to allow the doctor to check his nose and mouth. Until that point, he was very willing to allow her to check him out as he was busy with his eyes checking out everything she was doing. He is so interested in everything: wheels, sounds, pictures, etc… or maybe he is just noisy. She said he was a fine boy a few times, something mom and I already knew. He did have “slightly” inflamed nostrals and his throat was a tad bit red. Both ears looked good…he had been pulling at them earlier in the week, so we were relieved to hear that. As she finished, she said he is a………good boy, I was waiting to hear a ….spoiled rotten boy as she was able to look in his eyes and I just knew she could see it spilling out of him…..Yes, he is spoiled already… and that is from Dr. Daddy! We went back down to the lobby and finished up by paying the bill, getting his vaccination history for Dr. Plotkin and a sealed envelope for the US. Embassy.

That was our next stop, the US. Embassy. Landen had eaten again, so it was back to turkey day nap time and he quickly feel asleep on the 5 minute ride to the US. Embassy. Kim had a few questions she wanted to ask, so I stayed in the car with Landen while Mommy 1 and 2 went in the embassy.

******** News Alert - Disaster Strikes ********
We interrupt this blog entry for a news flash:

Not a joke - The Woodard’s are being delayed from leaving…. I had this entry ready to go with the morning update and was just pending some fun details from our last full night in Almaty when the unthinkable happened. Jenia came to our apartment and delivered the most shocking news imaginable - Landen’s Passport has an error.

We went immediately to the US Embassy, where they called the Astana counsel (they found the error and will not release his passport) and try to allow us to travel with the misprint. The error on his passport came from the Pavlodar police when they filed the application. They placed Robert Landen Woodard in the child and father’s name. This is unbelievable since we were packed and ready to go. Without going to deep into the detail for now, we will not be able to travel until 8/19 (yes, Landen’s birthday). That would not be so bad, but we have been on the phone for hours with United, our Agency, our travel agent and local staff trying to find a flight….the first flight out so far is 8/29. When our agency heard this they were going to get right on it and get something done. All we can do is pray.

As for now, we are in a holding pattern with no set time to fly back. We will be posting ome short entries with updates, and we are staying positive….we know the good Lord is going to get us home…

As for pictures….we hope you can all understand, it was not a picture "perfect" day, therefore, we will try to make up for it tomorrow…

Until then……Poka, poka

P.S. Guess what the best thing of the day was....I'll tell you tomorrow....

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Day 4 "The Final Countdown" - Bobdog club (double click for pics)

(We have posted 2 times today, so be sure to check out Day 3 to catch up on Saturday and this one for Sunday.)

Sunday, August 13th “As another day goes by”

Privet from Almaty, KA3ACTAHCKNN.

This was officially groundhog’s day in Almaty, Kazakhstan! We had no idea that Kazakhstan celebrated this day as we do in the US, but they do. As for the prediction - we are gonna have “hot” weather in 3 days! Yes, we will be in Atlanta where the heat is awaiting us.

I could tell you the details of the day around: meals, calls made and received, places we went, things we did, but I will not bore you with those same details that I have talked about the same things for the last 45 days. Instead, I will talk about some new things that happened today..

First, the best surprise of all….Jenia came by this morning around 10am with a copy of Landen’s passport. The importance of this - we can go to the Embassy and complete the medical exam. If you did not realize why we could not go last Friday to the Embassy, this was the reason. Now that we have the passport copy, we only need the medical exam on Monday, the exit interview on Tuesday and receive the original passport in order to leave. If we had not gotten the copy today, we would probably have to re-book our flights. If that had happened, I would have needed to find a temp job to pay our way. Couldn’t you see me trying to cook a horse burger? I would have been disowned by my daughter.

After the morning surprise with the passport, Mom got an earlier Mother’s Day present…Landen said Ma Ma, twice. Kim was in tears as she jumped up to find me and Rylee, asking if we heard it. (Don’t tell Kim, but I agreed when I really had not heard it just to keep the smile on her face) This evening allowed Kim more motherly satisfaction as he said it again…this time we (Rylee and I) heard it. What a joy for a Mother to hear her child say that for the first time!

Later on in the day, one of the best things that have happened so far on the journey…. ESPN is on our TV. Well, it is good for me, not for Kim and is not even in her top 10 best things that have happened so far…its 11th. Believe it or not, I may get to watch a baseball game tonight…in English. I’m not sure if I can handle that much excitement in one day.

We did make it back to the mall (an every day outing), but tried something new. We decided to venture away from the normal pizza and burger places and go to the café on the second floor. Rylee had the pancakes, which were the exact, same as the ones we had in Pavlodar, and Kim and I tried chicken dishes. Kim ordered a chicken and mushroom in a cream sauce. It was better as it cooled and the sauce thickened, so Kim was agreeable with the meal. I had sweet n sour chicken that was nothing like what we get back home. The chicken was broiled I think and the sauce was more sour than sweet. I was hungry, so I can’t say it was that bad, just different. Landen had a little bread (Annie Ann idea), cereal and some water for his dinner. Most of it, if not all of it stayed down.

After eating, our little Ice Princess went at it again. She has watched Ice Princess so many times that she thinks tomorrow will be the regional finals. I have been selected to coach and judge, so guess who will win! More details on the competition tomorrow.

We found a keeper today. Kim was looking for some pants that we could pack on the plane (just in case) when I heard from the other side of the store - “Bobby, you have got to see this”. Kim sometimes gets excited while shopping, but nothing like this. It was either a snake in the store or something she liked. Luckily it was something she liked and I think all of the men in the family will to. If you know our family at all, you will undoubtedly know what the first name of all the men are. Correct, Robert…Woodard’s and Bickerstaff’s. Again correct, Landen’s first name is Robert as well. Now, the keeper is a child baseball cap with “BOBDOG Club” stitched into the front. I guess he is an official member now. By the way, he loves the hat. Hope you enjoy that picture!

We also found the worst liquid imaginable! There were a couple of salesmen with a drink stand set up outside of a grocery store and as we passed by they offered Kim and Rylee a drink. Kim said “English, no Russian” thinking that would get us out of sampling the drinks, but it did not work. One of the men spoke English and insisted on them trying the drink as “it is good for the body“. I was attempting to “run” again, but after two calls from Kim, I reluctantly went back and tried a sip. The looks on Kim and Rylee’s faces were enough to alarm me from drinking it, but I fell into Kim’s joke. That so called drink was absolutely the worst thing I have ever put in my mouth. It tasted like a combination of buttermilk, salt and seltzer water. Kim was laughing so hard and our polite little girl was trying to keep a smile on her face while she nodded with a reluctant approval. I, on the other had immediately turned away and headed for the door in an attempt to not swallow before I could remove it from my mouth. All I could hear in the background was the man saying “You like, You like?” All I could think of was how they should be arrested for giving something like that away. Wow, that was nasty!

To top off the day of new things, we went a different direction walking home from the mall today. This is kinda scary for us, but turned out to be great. Kim thinks the dogs over here have a higher IQ than the dogs in the US. She is basing this on one dog that did not pay any attention to us, until the owner said something in Russian to the dog. At that moment, the dog came to us and rolled over on its back to allow Kim and Rylee to pet him. I guess that’s why Kim thinks the dogs are smarter; I think it was because they know Russian. We found a park around the corner that is open to the public (we think). Our plans for tomorrow were made as we found this park…. We plan to visit there tomorrow and have some play time with the kids. As for the rest of tomorrow….we have Jenia coming by at 9:50am, the medical exam at 10am, visit the park after that and finish up the day on a treasure hunt…we need some formula. Landen has only been able to consistently hold down this one type of formula and one could guess that we are running out. That would be an awful thing to the people around us on the plane and worse than that to our clothes.

We have gotten emails and comments from many of you out there which are greatly appreciated. For those that may be wondering about international adoption….what a gift from God our journey has been and the perfect child for us is now a part of our family. We can not wait to share him with all of you!

Poka, Poka….

Day 3 "The Final Countdown" - tour of Almaty (double click for pics)

Saturday, August 12th “As the time goes by”

Privet from Almaty, KA3ACTAHCKNN. Looks like we have the correct date now…

Today was another similar day to yesterday and tomorrow…That gives us opportunity to make it different…and we did the best we could!

The morning was spent roll playing with Rylee and playing with Landen. Rylee has turned into the little entrepreneur on this trip. She started with the snack store, and then moved up to a souvenir store, then a clothing store, now she has combined them all and included a restaurant. She is keeping a bill and I can promise you, she will collect every penny or tenge. It has been wonderful for her math skills! We also had some calls from family and friends during the morning, which we cannot express enough how this helps us through those tough times.

After the morning session of play time, we got ready for a day out on the town. We toured the north side (I guess) of Almaty. Kim had seen a “neat” street that she wanted to tour, so we started in that direction. I hope the photos are complimentary of the scenery that we enjoyed on our walk. The terrain was sloped upwards as we walk towards the end of the visible road, where we could see some very tall mountains. The mountains actually have snow on the caps…what a beautiful site to behold. Rylee kept asking when we were going skating, so I replied after we climb that mountain. After a few seconds of silence as we continued our walk towards the mountains….she said “I don’t think we’re getting any closer”, Kim and I could not help but to laugh. No words were exchanged with her, so we continued to walk. After another minute or so, she finally said” Dad, you’re kidding about climbing that mountain, aren’t you?”. If she only knew how tired I was getting she would not have had to ask… During the walk, we came up on a busy intersection that did not have a cross walk. We found a tunnel that goes under the road where we could cross with a stroller. They had a tunnel like this in Pavlodar, so Rylee was excited about crossing it. I was prepared with my change to encounter some “street beggars” like we did in Pavlodar, but to my surprise we found a commerce center under there. Not what you may think (no GAP, Best Buy, etc), but they did have a little clothing store and a print shop. Hopefully the photo will do it justice. We reached the end of the road and took some incredible photos of the mountains. Most of the good ones were with Bob and Diane’s camera, so we will not be able to post them. This area seems to be like most cities in America (north end had a lot of wealthy people) as we saw some incredible apartments, playgrounds, all kinds of spa’s and beauty salons, and the high end jewelry stores. As Kim and Rylee walked around, I was in a fast run to avoid these stores, so the pictures may be a blur…. The buildings around this area are newer and have more interesting architectural design to them. There were 3 “skyscraper” type buildings with similar design, in which one had a ROLEX display built on top of the building. Again, I’m running at this point… We turned the corner of main road and headed down the street towards the mall. This road is parallel to the road we went up, but very different looking. At one point, I forgot that I was in Kazakhstan, as there was green grass on the lawns, large, plush trees on each side of the road that met over the top of the road to give a tunnel feel. It was so peaceful and pleasant to walk down this street (yes, I’m walking at this point). The area seemed to be for housing versus business on the other side, but there was still the smaller business in the bottom of the apartment buildings.

As in Pavlodar, we did encounter a homeless gentleman sitting on side of the road. Rylee asked if she could give him some change, then dug into her purse where she pulled out some change, then gave it to the man. The man was an elder Kazakh man with all of the signs of being homeless. Rylee placed some change in a cup and the man in a soft voice, and with a slight nod of his head, was thanking her in Kazakh. He talked for about 30 seconds and you could see the joy in his eyes as he spoke to Rylee. We nodded our heads and turned to finish our walk. Rylee after a couple seconds asked me what he said. With out missing a beat, I responded…. You are a beautiful girl with a big heart and thank you so much for………..the beer later! I told her I was joking as I could only make out the beautiful girl with a big heart part, while knowing in my mind what it was going for!

We reached the mall after the 1hour stroll around northern Almaty and found it a little less crowded than it was yesterday. This was good as we got to take our time and visit some of the stores we had missed out on the day before. Rylee was continuously looking at the ice rink, so we decided to let her go now versus later. Kim and I stayed on the side with Landen, while our little “professional” ice skater did her thing. She said since I was her coach, that made her a professional. My job as a coach is to watch her go around and when she comes by me she will stop and ask how she did and what I want her to do the next go around. We have seen a couple little girls that were very good here and they had either their Dad or a coach on the side doing this. It made her feel special, especially since she was probably the best one of the 5 or 6 on the rink. She had not fallen until I told her on one pass that she had a lot of people watching her. When asked how many, I told her 40 to 50.…that was it then, she was trying to watch people around the rink versus concentrating on skating. A few falls later, she was done….I must say that she gets up quicker than anybody on the ice…we think she is trying to avoid anyone seeing her on the ice since she is a ”professional“. All and all, she has really gotten to be a good skater. Too bad she lives in Hotlanta….

We again had diner at the mall (I had pizza along with Rylee and Kim had a baked potato) Landen had his cereal and milk. After eating, we continued the tour of the mall where we found a game room. To our surprise, Landen was not frightened by the rides and actually wanted to stay on the donkey ride Rylee was riding. They also rode a little car, guess who had to drive…Mr. Landen. After the game room, we also had another normal occurrence; we had a bigggg poopie diaper to take care of. He is regular! The night ended with a walk home that gave us a little more excitement. A man on a horse was flying down with little care about the cars going around him. The horse was white, like Rylee’s pony, and you could tell it was well trained for passage on these roads. I got one picture from far away, but you can tell what was going on. The night ended uneventful, as we gave Rylee and Landen a bath (still loves those baths) and went to bed.

I did hear on the news that the terrorist plot was to happen on the 16th with international flights from Europe (UK) to the US. We are so thankful for this being exposed and the arrest made, given the fact we would have been flying out that same day from Frankfurt.

Until tomorrow, Poka, Poka…

P.S. - Nana, sorry for getting cut off with you on the phone, our internet card ran out and the store was not open that late. We got a new one this morning, so we should be good to go again.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Day 2 - "The Final Countdown"(double click for pics)

Friday, August 12th “Hello Almaty”

Privet from Almaty KA3ACTAHCKNN.

Plans change again…When I left you yesterday, we had a planned visit for Landen’s medical exam scheduled for 10am and I had just returned from the grocery store. Aeda showed up to take us to the Embassy for the medical exam, but as we started preparing the paperwork in the room, Aeda could not find a copy of Landen’s passport. She was under the impression that we would have a copy, but we were told by Lena prior to flying from Pavlodar that a copy of the passport had been faxed to Almaty (either Aeda or the Embassy directly). Aeda did not have a copy and she was assured that the Embassy would not take a direct fax like that. Calls were placed to Svetlana and Lena, but we were not able to reach them. Aeda left our apartment around 10:20am and said she would be back in 40 minutes depending on traffic. Well, it was 2:30pm and she was still not back. I guess the traffic here is worse than Atlanta during Friday rush hour…. Kim and I wanted to get out of the apartment and explore, but we were pinned down until we heard from Aeda. We still had not checked in with family, we had no idea how to call out, we were getting low on baby food…can you get the drift? She did return at 2:30 as noted and had 2 young men with her. Appears she is having some health issues and will be leaving town for a few days. One of the men, Jenia will be taking over for her. We are not too sure how he came into the process, but as long as we can fly home on time, it does not matter. Jenia actually speaks better English than Aeda and was interpreting for her during this conversation. As for our medical exam, we had to move it until 10am on Monday. That will then move the exit interview to Tuesday…basically we are on track to fly on time, but can not have anything else happen or we may be delayed. Please pray for a streamlined process from hear out. For Aeda, we hope and pray for a speedy recover as it appears to be something serious…Puts things back in place doesn’t it?

Jenia was able to take care of some question we had; what’s the phone number here, how can I access the internet, where’s the trash can outside? Trash has been an obstacle…. If you were to pass by our house in Newnan on a Monday morning, you know we have a lot of trash. Add a bunch of dirty diapers and thousands of empty water bottles to the mix and we need a regular trash pick up here. In Pavlodar, we could set our trash outside the door daily and the custodian of the apartment would pick it up and take it away. It got to be a lot there, so we started feeling bad and would take it down ourselves. Now here, we don’t have anybody to pick it up and I don’t care to smell poopy diapers for 4 more days….Thanks to Jenia…I won‘t! On the internet, I purchased a NURSAT icard+ to access the internet. This will be a lot cheaper than it was in Pavlodar. It was nice to be back on line, but even better to get to talk with some of you again. Back on line, trash situation under control, and free time until Monday means the “fun” Woodard’s went…… sleep. Actually Landen went to sleep, Rylee played with a horse sticker book, I worked on the blog and Kim was the understanding wife that sat up with me to help finish the blog.

It was getting to be late in the afternoon, so we went ahead and got ready to go over to the Ram store (mall). We had promised RyRy that we would take her ice skating every day we’re in Almaty. Loaded up with every possible thing a 11mth old could possibly need (Mom did the packing of course), we headed down to the mall. The mall is approximately 4 blocks from the apartment and an easy walk. Well, the walk would be easy if we were not in the middle of the “INDY 500”. We have discussed this in the past, but just to reiterate the point, pedestrians are like possums in the US. You don’t want to hit one, but if you do…oh well. Even with a stroller, cars go flying by you and they will not even stop at a cross walk. Even the best dirty looks we can muster up have no effect. It may take 10 minutes to walk to the mall on a direct shot, but add 10-15 minutes to cross the street…

I must say we had another first as we were getting ready to go to the mall. Landen got his first “scolding” by Dad. He has been biting our shoulder at times and we needed to correct this behavior before a law suit. I’m serious about the law suit as the bites are lethal. He dug into my shoulder and I pulled him from my shoulder (his favorites spot to lay on us) and placed him directly in front of me and said “No Bite, Nyet Bite” and shook my head no. Kim and I had planned this discipline in advance as we noticed the occurrence picking up. Well, it worked. Sam Edwards and I had discussed this strategical method of corrective behavior in the past and agree that you teach the kids earlier what no means. Although, I got the worst of this one as he was so upset and cried for 30 minutes. It broke his heart in two and mine in a hundred pieces. He got red faced and pulled up crying screams from his toes…boy they were loud. One would think I had done something much worse than a scolding…Ok all of you grandparents….he was fine after the 30 minute cry and even allowed me to carry him out. All was better and back to normal with a valuable lesson learned (by both of us)…

At the mall, we decided to eat out for a change. Kim and Rylee had a slice of pizza and bottled water and I had a burger and fries. Not the same, but ok. I could not finish either, but it was something close to home. Landen had cereal…..not much of a variety in his diet these days…but he’s doing a lot better with the spit ups. After diner, our ice princess got to try out this rink. It is smaller than the one in Pavlodar and Kim thought the ice was a little different as it had melted a little bit. Rylee is doing much better on the ice…she does not hold on to Mom or the side rail and can maneuver around the other skaters. While she still fell 3 or 4 times, she told Kim that she thinks “God wants her to be an ice skater”. After time on the ice, Rylee had a bruise on each knee and elbow…not sure what God was saying about those….

Walking around the mall, we again noticed the American influence everywhere. The stores carry American magazines, Disney items, beauty care products, gardening supplies etc… The funny thing about the magazines was the cost. A golf digest cost 1900 tenge, or $18.00 US dollars…and they don’t even play golf here…. A couple of the stores were very interesting. One huge store is like a super Wal-Mart, but much better. Put an upscale grocery store with a Target and you get the picture. The other store that caught my attention and luckily not my wallet was a children’s clothing store. One pair of jeans for a 18mth old boy was 15600 tenge, or $140.00 US dollars. Needless to say, I was ready to leave the minute I saw the first price tag….There really was a lot of cute clothes… All and all we had a very enjoyable evening out. We got back to the apartment and noticed the man that owns the apartment was waiting outside for us. He had two other guys with him and they were holding what appeared to be crib parts. They in deed had the crib that Aeda had promised us, so they came in a put it together for us. A lot of wasted time, since he was right back in the bed… I must admit that Rylee and Kim were correct on the safety of the crib…not too good. Also, the mattress was an old, old quilt…“no way a baby of mine will sleep in that” was a quote from one of us…I’ll let you think about who said that…

We ended the night with a call from Uncle Pitts. We owe Uncle Pitts a lot for his great job of taking care of the big dogs, all the critters and the house while we’re gone. Pitts had Kim rolling during the call, so I will share one story with you as I sign off. Jim had gotten a sandwich brought to him from his brother Bob that was handmade by Merlene, Jim’s mom. She makes a great sandwich; just ask the big dogs…. Yes, Jim had heated up the sandwich, placed his favorite mustard on it and had it on a plate ready for lunch, when he heard someone at the door. He was gone 3-4 minutes while attending to the man at the door and returned to find an empty plate. I hope my dogs liked the mustard!

Poka, poka from Almaty….. Fyi, check yesterdays blog for some updated photos.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Day 1 - Final Countdown (double click for pics)

*** We will post photos later and a new post for Friday tonight ***
Thursday, August 11th “So long Pavlodar”

Privet from Almaty KA3ACTAHCKNN. Yes, we are in Almaty and everybody’s doing well.

As I write this post from our apartment in Almaty, we do not have the internet up and running in our room, but we are working on it. We are going out to find somewhere to post, possible a local internet café… We also do not have the phone number; again Aeda is working on that as well. More on the apartment later…

After Wednesday’s post, we had the best playtime imaginable. Landen seems to be so excited about everything that he does not want to miss one minute of the action. When he takes a nap, the least little noise will awake him and it’s time to go at it again. Although he has been getting a lot of action, he has missed out on some sleep. I do remember from Rylee’s baby days that lack of sleep and little babies does not mix well….We will work on this one. Back to Wednesday night….we had another family movie night (only the 28th since we left Atlanta) and it was another special evening. Rylee was partially into the movie and partially into playtime. Mom and I had a chance to play together with Landen which made for some fun times. Landen would crawl all around the floor with the biggest smile on his face. When he got to the front of the couch where Kim and Rylee were, he would pull up and laugh, smile, kiss, giggle…you get the picture… He also played ball for a good bit of the time. He will pick up the little ball we got at the carnival and actually throw it. Where ever it goes, his little pitter patter of a crawl is not far behind.... then he does it again, and again… We played for hours with out any tummy troubles, but plenty of poopies. He is up to 4 per day as the liquid diet is going through him easily.

We all finally got into bed for the last time in that apartment….in Pavlodar. That was another moment for Kim and me to reflect back, but this time we were going way back to GA. You know it’s been a long time when you have to reflect back on your own home..

Thursday morning started off early….around 6:30am as Landen wanted to get as much out of his last day in Pavlodar as he could. We had a quick breakfast (we are using what food is left in the apartment, so I will spare you the -”why did they make a meal out of that” thoughts and just say they were quick. Our main two goals for the day were to visit Sergey and Luba at the photo shop, then pack. We did accomplish both with some unexpected surprises…

We did a little packing prior to our planned time to visit (3:00pm), but left plenty enough for Kim to get that motivation of having “a ton to do and we’re running out of time” going for her. When we got to the Kodak store, Sergey was not there, so Kim had a tearful good bye with Luba. Luba told Kim that she is in Kazakhstan, but her heart is in Atlanta…that’s where here daughter and two grandchildren live… Kim got emotional with Luba as she could see the pain in her smiles when she was telling us goodbye. We gave Luba a box of chocolates (just call me Forrest Gump) and took some photo’s to remember her by. She asked us if she could get Rylee a little gift and we of course said yes, but really hoped it was not chocolates…to our surprise, she had Rylee pick out 2 little key chains and two for Landen. Rylee has a collection of key chains attached to her book bag, so this was perfect for her. Landen just got something else to drool on…After 15 minutes or so, we sadly said the last good bye and promised to contact her family and say hello from her when we get back to Atlanta. We were disappointed not to see Sergey, but Kim was getting into the “lot to do in a little time” mood, so we headed back. Suddenly half way through our walk back, a blue van pulled up beside up and a big, Russian man was getting out….my first thought was we have made it this far, don’t let something happen now. As the man rounded the corner of the van, we could tell it was Sergey. He had a Landen type smile on his face (those from ear to ear) as he approached. He was able to communicate that Luba had called him and he came looking for us. I can’t express what a pleasant and happy man he is, just like Rylee’s granddad’s back home. He asked if he could hug Landen and we gladly pulled him from his stroller for a BIG hug. By the way, Landen loves the stroller…he will just sit back and chill while he’s on the rides all the time swinging his little legs. Kim thinks it is so cute, I think he is working on field goals or something like that… Sergey then picked up Rylee and told her he loved her, just as Luba had. Rylee truly cares about them, even though we have spent very little time with them…that’s the power of Grandparents. We took a photo of the three of them, and then Sergey asked if we could take our camera to the store for him and Luba to get copies of the photos. We were honored to do so, so we headed back. Now, Kim is really getting into the mode of packing with a little time (makes it easier on me…). We got another chance to say goodbye to Luba, gave them the memory stick to copy the pictures, then actually left and made it back to the room. It was now around 4:45pm and we had a lot left to do.

Kim knocked out most of the packing, while I made dinner out of a few odds and ins items, Rylee did a little playing with Landen and Landen, well lets say he decided to stay up and do his part. Lena arrived around 7:45pm with Sergey, our driver, and Leeza. Sergey had the unenviable task of taking our luggage down 5 flights of stairs. Those of you that know how my wife packs can appreciate his pain. I was thankful for saving me the pain. Leeza and Rylee went down with Sergey on his first trip (of 5) and said their goodbyes. Rylee had prepared a small gift to Leeza and likewise Leeza had a gift for Rylee. Leeza’a grandmother had hand-sewn a large pillow for Rylee that favors a quilt.… She loved it and realized how special it is. The airport is about 45minutes from the apartment and on the trip you go by the baby house. Kim and I both had several emotions going through us, but Rylee soon made us laugh as she reminded us we could still stop and get a baby sister to go with her baby brother. Just think Landen just passed the only place he has ever known as a home and is starting his new life!

We got a little “sticker” shock at the airport. The airport charges for bags over 20k, which we had known but did not realize how much more we had. Lena could not go back with us where they were weighing the bags, so we struggled to understand what we were being told. Kim was impressed at how calm I remained, as I did not even try to speak Russian to them. I was taken back out into the main area where Lena was and had to pay for the bags. Now, I look in my wallet and find that I’m no where near having the money(tenge) they are asking for on the bags. All kind of thoughts are going through my head as Lena and the lady are discussing the situation. The only word I could make out was Nyet (no). Lena finally asked if I had any American money so we could “payoff” the lady and board. I was asked to give $150.00 to board the bags and at this point what’s another $150.00?….Lets just board and start flying home.

We boarded the plane with little trouble…our seats were on the first row, where the rows only have 4 seats per row. I know everyone wants to know how Rylee and especially Landen’s first flight went. Well, to sum it up on both of them….ZZZZZZZZZZZ
Yes, Landen took a bottle at take-off to help with his ears and he was asleep before he finished. Only one little scare as he could not get comfortable at first, but after that, he woke up and it was 6:30am in Almaty.

As for the rest of us, we arrived at the airport around 12:30am where we were to meet Aeda. Half of the parties were there…us. Aeda put a good scare in us when she did not show for 15 minutes or so. We were so happy when she arrived and loaded her car and another taxi to get our bags to the apartment. Aeda was able to make up those 15 minutes on the roads….remember she goes fast!

We got to the apartment around 1:20am and after waiting for the key from some Kazakh man, we opened the door of the final place on our journey. The apartment is beside the hotel we stayed in on the flight over. We are next to the US Embassy and the mall. To describe the apartment, in a word it is “decent”. On initial appearance it was pretty good, but after Kim’s cleanliness inspect it scored out quite a bit lower. There is one bedroom with a queen bed, 1 bathroom and large room with a kitchen/living area. We have most of the same channels, but can actually get FOX News….much better than CNN… The kitchen has most of the needed utensils plus a microwave. Hey, we could stay anywhere for 5 days and this place is a lot better than anywhere!

I made a trip out this morning to a store next door and to my surprise, it was awesome. It is better than any grocery store we visited in Pavlodar. The upstairs is like a mall with many shops offering all types of goods. Appears we will be fine these last few days as we COUNTDOWN our return home.