Sunday, April 1, 2007

A Day in the Life...and then some

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away..." --Unknown

Well, the days pass slowly here, the four of us cooped up in this hotel. It is a demanding task, finding things for a 4- and 6-year-old to do for 15 hours a day, when you can’t really communicate with them and it’s cold and rainy outside. It’s funny, though--we are communicating amazingly well. We have of course picked up some key Russian words and phrases (like regarding eating, sleeping, going to the bathroom, etc.) and, I am already hearing them say an occasional word in English (Margarita said “thank you” to me today, rather than “sposiba” and she often now says “yes” instead of “da”--not much, but a start!). We use a lot of hand signals and facial expressions, and somehow we know what they are saying most of the time, and vice versa. They are both pretty strong-willed and independent, and make it very clear when they are unhappy. But the conflicts so far have been short-lived and in general we are having a really good time together.

We are in a suite--a living room with a separate sleeping area, which has been nice. It gives us room to spread out a little, and at night we can put them to bed at 8-8:30, and then sit in the living room and decompress/debrief with a glass of wine, talk about which things went right that day and which things need a different approach. The first night we had the kids, they put us in this enormous suite, with 5 different rooms including a kitchen, etc. It would normally have been fabulous, but in this case it was totally sensory overload for the kids--they flicked the light switches on and off in every room a million times, they turned on the two Tvs multiple times, they punched on the microwave, they banged on the internet ready computer, and, worst of all--we could not see the front door of the suite from any of the nearby rooms, it was sort of in an alcove. They were pretty much out of control and we were totally stressed out. And, as I mentioned in the last post, they have little sense of danger or caution; they quickly figured out how to open the door to the hallway, and since we couldn’t easily see the door, they were out the door and down the hall ringing for the elevator before we knew it! The result was that we were in that suite only about two hours; we had them move us to a much smaller suite, where there were fewer gadgets and where the door opens into the living room, where we spend most of our time. Between that, and the fact that they are already getting these multi-sensory experiences under their belt, life is fairly calm now and they stay put in the room and only flick the light switches on and off about a dozen times a day. It’s still exhausting for Mom and Dad, but let me tell you the fun stuff….

Can you imagine the things in this world that these kids haven’t done, or seen? They had never seen anyone shave, and they thought that Papa and his shaving cream was so funny. They have eaten a fairly limited range of food, so we have tried to order things for them they are familiar with but throw in a few that they weren’t (sparkling water was a hilarious find for them, potato chips were fabulous, French fries are terrific). They had never been to church, or to an amusement park (more about those later). And my favorite experience so far--they had obviously not taken many baths. We have this high-tech Japanese shower, that is small like a shower but is deep enough in the bottom to run a bath about 5-6 inches deep. Now Rita absolutely loves filling that up and taking a bath, but Serge panicked and cried and clung at the thought of getting in a bath. We stuck him in one night, kicking and screaming, and 10 minutes later you’d never know it was such an issue--they had a ball in their together, playing with the Army Seal plastic guys and spraying each other with the hand shower. He cried of course when he had to come out. We have great video of this one…. Anyway, photos in this area show the incredibly exciting things that we have been doing to entertain ourselves--seeing who can walk with a bottle on their head the furthest, babysitting the other infants while their parents shop or take a break, playing horsey, and applying princess stickers in the oddest places.

Three interesting things today, though:

(1) It was Palm Sunday, and we took the kids to the Russian Orthodox church nearby for services. It was so packed that we couldn’t get into the church, except to stick our heads in to see the icons and the priest. Palm fronds are, I guess, in short supply here in land-locked and high-elevation Kyrgyzstan, so they use pussy willow branches as their representation of the palm fronds laid out for Jesus. It was all lovely and though we didn’t see the service, it was very moving to see all the people. A kindly lady with a little knowledge of English explained to Rita and Sergey the meaning of Palm Sunday, since they didn’t seem to know.

(2) We went to a neat amusement park, situated in the main downtown park area. The kiddie rides were ancient but most seemed to be safe, so despite cold temps and a little drizzle, we spent a couple of hours there, letting the kids ride and eat chips and play the midway games. Rita had a fine time; Sergey did too I think but he had a little difficulty with “transitions” as they say in child development--difficulty leaving one fun activity to go in search of another.

(3) Not long after we got back to the hotel we had to evacuate, due to a phoned-in bomb threat! It was pretty disconcerting, but the hotel staff was great and quickly made arrangements for us to sit inside a police car, and later a hotel van, with our children (remember there are two infants in our group), rather than all stand outside in the cold and drizzle. After about 1 ½ hours we were cleared to go back inside; nothing was found and the policeman told us it was likely an April Fool’s Day joke (yes, it’s a tradition here, I guess).

Well, tomorrow we head to Almaty, a 4-5 hour van ride, to visit the regional US Embassy for medical exams and paperwork. We will try and post on Tuesday night, as we arrive in Almaty late tomorrow night. I guess you can say we are in the home stretch….

Love to all.


Madeline Petersen & Tim Avery said...

Hi John and Debbie,
WOW, what a beginning....who would have thought light switches would have been such a focus of activity? Seems like being in a hotel room would make things a little more challenging than if you were at home. Also, the weather seems to be on the chilly will, no doubt, be a bit of a relief to return to warm and sunny San Diego. I spoke to my nephew David. He and Phoebe are planning to get married this year.....the date spans anywhere from June to October, but once they set a date, I'm sure their "wedding planning" activities will calm a little. Of course, the best part is, that this year...sometime....we will be in San Diego. I sure hope by then you will be able to handle an afternoon drop in from us just to meet Maggie Mae and Sam, and of course, we haven't even met Zach yet.......I feel like I know all three of them by now. I will probably head back to Maui in June and/or September for some meetings I want to attend. Kaanapali Shores livingrooms and bedrooms have been remodeled, so they are a lot better......when Anne and Franck were visiting us from France, they had Emma and Leo with them and they stayed at Kaanapali Shores, and found it quite kid for thought. Right now, you are probably just thinking of getting to your beautiful home and staying put for awhile while things settle down a little.
Thinking of you with much Aloha

Madeline Petersen & Tim Avery said...

Hi John and Debbie,
Can't wait to hear of your further adventures, but know your "blog" input time is clearly limited. I keep looking at the photos of Maggie Mae and Sam, those little faces, and thinking about the change in their lives and yours. Seeing Maggie Mae in her little pink parka and girly colors made my eyes a little misty. And I adore that photo of John playing "horsey" with them.....
Also, just seeing how many clothes they are wearing, and you guys, indicates it has got to be on the cool side there. Luckily, this past week-end, we had picture perfect weather in the bay area, with lots of sun and this incredible gentle breeze....take your breath away beautiful, but then you know about good outdoor weather living in San Diego. My mother told me that with kids, the key is physical activity...she told me, "if you ever have children, just keep them physically active"....not the easiest of assignments in a hotel room. I'm imagining that, as most kids, they are like sponges, and probably absorbing English from the two of you. Tim and I are thinking of you and talking about you with much Aloha. I have forwarded your blog to my friend Annelys, who has a daughter just over a year old and a son of five...she and her husband are not young, and had to go through some procedures to have the kids....they are intensely interested in your experiences on the "Silk Road", also, my best friend Agnes who is a child psychologist and ran a parent participant child day care center when her own 2 children were growing up, have been talking a lot about your "newly reconstituted" family. We are both thinking of Zach, as I know you are, the two of you, and what we have been calling "The Gang of Five from San Diego" Aloha for now, and looking forward to more "Adventures from the Silk Road"

Madeline Petersen & Tim Avery said...

Hi Debbie and John,
We are checking your blog every day for news from you and the kids. We are thinking of you and hoping you are traveling safely and all goes smooth as silk.
Thinking of you with much Aloha

LaJoy Family said...

John and Debbie,

Thanks so much for your wonderful posts, hearing what is so new for your kids is helping me mentally prepare for our 8 year old we are going to get in many things that we take for granted that a child of 8 should have experienced and yet, how could he? WOW! We relaly will get more firsts than I had imagined :-) Keep on writing in as much detail as you can...I am at the "John and Debbie Kyrgyz University"!!!

Julie & John Wright said...

What a blessing to two more kids with a future ! Thankyou

Madeline Petersen & Tim Avery said...

Hi John and Debbie,
For those who are reading "Debbie's Blog"....I called them a couple of days ago and they are home safe and sound in San Diego (after a 30 hour plane ride, said John). I only spoke to John for about 20 seconds as he was home with, at least, Maggie Mae, as she answered the phone with several "Da's", which I'm told means yes.....Debbie was at the dentist, and John was on the other line, so I'm not sure they have settled down enough to do much "outreach" to their friends. But....they are home safe. I suspect it will be quite a little bit before they can do any real blog updates.

amber. said...

I am so inspired by you. (I found your story when I was looking through Craig's List) What a wonderful story of courage and determination. Truly, you have made my day! May you continue to have safe and exciting adventures as you move forward in your journey!