The Den Hartog Stork

Meeting Baby Den Hartog.

Friday, December 01, 2006

"It's going to be a long 18 years."

Goodbye and Good Luck

Thanks for participating in our blog and our adventure. We have gone on to quieter, more domestic things, and have involved almost zero Members of Congress and Senators in our daily wants and needs lately. That is nice for everyone.

Hope you enjoyed the ride.

See you 'round the Internet


Friday, October 27, 2006

Nearly epilogue

We are home in Santa Fe. We arrived in freezing rain, and Mitch had already come over and turned up the heat in the house. Nice.

Aigerim is still well and happy and still confused by when her body and her mom want her to sleep and eat, not to mention still tired from the 36 hour hotel-to-home endurance run. Who says mommy doesn't camp. She just does it in hotels, airports, and on airplanes.

We have some photos, I know this now.

Mom made spaghetti last night, Mitch delighted Aigerim (and the rest of us) by coming over, and Kris stopped by on his way home from airline purgatory to see Aigerim. We can't wait to get with Kris and Tari's baby, Jack, and see what everyone thinks of everyone else.

Speaking of thinking of everyone else, Aigerim is terrified of the cats. Never heard her or seen her do anything like this before. It's not that she is psychic and can see Ceniza's blood-red spikey drippy aura, because she is frightened of Moo as well. The biggest danger from Moo is fur with static cling.

Off to get Mom's shuttle to the airport arranged. She will be happy to get to her own house.
What a full two weeks its been for everyone.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Last night around 10:30 pm the Den Hartog caravan finally reached Albuquerque. They're home!

Marie Aigerim was in good spirits. But one of us (hi) had the bright idea of taking a group photo only after she had been insulated like a passive solar house. This tater's cooked:

I did get some happier photos, but none of them had the whole clan:

We drove through light rain and sleet on the way to Santa Fe. By the time we got her all the way home, the poor baby was really tired. Too tired to sleep in a strange new house with a lurking black giant cat. (Mr. Moo -- he must look different when he's almost as big as you are.) I left at 1:45 am, Aigerim lying on her mama's chest, unable to hold her head up, and unable to stop peeking every ten seconds to see that Bobi was still there.

Well hey, who wouldn't be tired after 34+ hours of traveling? Soon enough they'll all be rested and recovered. For now, it's just great to have them home.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"National Meat" Means "Horse"

"Just FYI," says Bobi.

Tonight the Den Hartogs had dinner in the hotel restaurant. Bobi ordered the National Meat Assortment. When the dish arrived she noticed the different cuts and asked the waiter "Kakoi?" (Which kinds)? He reared up like a horse and whinnied.

  1. The Mongol heritage is alive and well.
  2. Ask Bobi about "fleisch" sometime.
  3. Or ask Meg and Bobi about "burro adovada".

Free to go!!!

IT WAS ALL DONE AND WAITING FOR US! I walked in and said we were here to finish my daughter's visa. The clerk asked my name, nodded and left. Vice Counsul Baker came, wearing a natty long silk brocade trouser jacket, and gave us the great news.

The she handed us the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow: The sealed packet for the US CIS when we arrive, and the IR3 visa to America in Aigerim's passport!!!!

She was so nice. She asked about our flights.

Yea, our flights. Should there be no more landing on those squares in Monopoly that cause you unexpected delays, we will be on the 3:20 ALA-FRA flight tomorrow morning; the 1:50pm FRA-DEN flight and the flight that arrives from Denver in ABQ at 8:50 pm on Wednesday night.

Yipppeeeeeeeee skippppeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

Monday, October 23, 2006

More thank yous

Lisa, of the Washington DC BCIS

Norah MacCuish, asking for recommendations locally for an immigration attorney

there are many of you, I don't even know who all has jumped to get us out of here.


I hope this is it.

My shoulders feel like I've been through the greatest massage in the world. The relief is profound. The gratitude is amazing.

To all the people who have jumped when it is their responsibility, and to all of them who have jumped when it hasn't been but they have cared --

Thank you so much. You deserve more than those four words. I can only start with them.

I hope this is the last blog of DHS uncertainty. I hope in the next one I can tell you that I am holding a Kazakhstani passport with the most hilarious photo of a wideeyed chipmunk - and it has an IR3 visa for entry and Citizenship to the US in it.

Thank you List!

Mitch Chapman, Miriam Rand, Chris Ivins, Senator Jeff Bingaman, Representative Tom Udall, Mr. Jason Shaffer of the Senator's office, Robert Vasquez of the Representative's office, Jacqueline Snyder, Don Smith, the Utah branch of the USCIS, the New Jersey branch of the USCIS, the 1-800 number branch of the USCIS

Vice Counsel Anne Baker of the US Embassy in Kazakhstan, and, I bet you wouldn't have guessed this one - the Moscow branch of the USCIS.

We have phoned the Embassy, things look in order, please come at 3pm;

We have phoned Svetlana, the student who is covering for our adoption agency's translator Lola while dear Lola leaves us per her new assignment from Reaching Out, escorting two children to Atlanta. Svetlana has arranged for our driver Leonid to come and take us to the Embassy, wait for us and return us to the hotel. She is very sorry but has to write three midterms examinations today and cannot go with us. She wishes us well and will phone after her examinations to see what we must arrange next.

We have phoned Lufthansa City Office, and I don't know which of the three agents was on the other end but she knew right off who we were and what to change : you want to change your flights on 10/27 to 10/25?! YES WE DO. Please. We don't have to announce our name anymore some places. Counting one trip to the Lufthansa City Office from the first trip, we have already traveled there four times for ticket changes and to buy Aigerim's lap ticket. It was nice to change this over the phone for us. The cab fares for the trip range from $8-$20, another little easy but hidden cost. And the time and stress of the cab trip add up too.

The dear woman at Lufthansa, said, "oh I am sorry". [Bobi's mind races: no bassinet? who cares. via Bangkok? who cares.] "The Denver to ABQ flight is full, you will arrive in ABQ at 8:50pm instead."

I could have kissed her. THAT connection was the one item on the "concerns" list when I started this trip (that, and that Aigerim had changed her mind about me being a good idea as a Mom, of course. But then, she's not a teen yet)(yet...) - only an hour and a half in Denver to go through customs, plus Aigerim's DHS processing, switch terminals, and make the next flight. Mitch and I barely did it last time, without the DHS processing, and with an extra 10 or 20 minutes. So we figured our tails were going to be on the later flight anyway.

And now they are not only on the later flight, but we do not have to worry about whether seats will be available, together, whether we should stress and race through the processing (as if one has a choice of the speed, to be honest), whether we should tell our friends to come early or wait for a phone call or what....

So. If all goes as is on the current, collectively approved plan, WE WILL ARRIVE IN ABQ WEDNESDAY OCT 25 AT 8:50 PM!!!!!

I can't tell you all how differently this morning feels, after Mitch's phone call got through. The local calls listed above, you see we have kind of figured out how to make local calls. The phone has been mayhem. We have finally figured out that when you dial the front desk, you have to bellow "ENGLISH" or they will hang up. You have to bellow mostly because the connection is whacked. Last night, we had such despair and distress trying to dial ("dial"?!) that we finally phoned 0, did our "ENGLISH" thing, refused to listen to the instructions (9-8-10...) one more time, and insisted that someone come up and dial the dang thing for us. God bless them, they asked Mom where we wanted to phone - America, then "where in America"? I heard "New Mexico" go by and wondered what beautiful international telephone rathole we could head down now. I wonder what is the country code for Mexico?

Dear Svetlana tried to explain to the front desk again yesterday afternoon but I think people aren't used to trying calling cards, so we never communicate that part of the problem. We got the a) dial 9-8-10 (I KNOW THAT) then b) they will ring you in ten minutes in your room to see if the phone is working. We let it go at that. Yes, it rang, it worked. The phone rang at 11:20 last night, on schedule, we bash out of bed in a sound sleep hoping to God its our salvation, the baby wails (she's not upset, just left out), we pick it up (the phone) , and it goes beep beep beep beep beep beep.

Beep beep beep.

The baby goes gah gah gah and bonk her heavy head falls back asleep. Mom turns to me and says, "Who was calling us?"

There are alot of things I don't know.

Oh yea, back from the Embassy and Lufthansa and baby is overtired and overhungry and we burdened by bad news and I go back upstairs and try to telephone Mitch. Mitch, as you can see, needs to know the update so that he and everyone else know where we are in the battle so that they can take over and try to make progress.

Too many failures. The bellboy comes up at last, (Mom's favorite. He circled the location of the post office on our map for her, and comes over to say hi whenever we are in the lobby. We live here now.), and it takes him button, hook,wait; button, wait, button button, hook wait; you have to get access to about three lines in order to get out, I guess, you have to know when to wait, when to push a button, when to fold. Kind of like that Kenny Rogers song about playing cards.

God bless the folks at the desk, though - he came up with "8 -9 - 10 - 1 - 505" on a sheet of paper for us - the hotel exit code and international access code and the area code of the number we did want to call. It was the same set of numbers we were calling: we just didn't know how to play the phone lines like the delicate fickle instruments that they are.

It took him several minutes of hanging up and retrying, and then...Mitch was on the line.

We thanked the bellboy profusely.


Miriam M Rand, M. ED, LPCC
Family Matters: Adoption Resources
PO Box 7990
Albuquerque, NM 87194-7990
505-344-8811 Office Phone
505-343-1919 Office Fax Email Address

Attached Message
RE: (no subject)
Mon, 23 Oct 2006 11:58 PM

Fingerprints were sent this morning. If you need anything else please let me know.

Jason Shaffer
Constituent Service Representative
United States Senator Jeff Bingaman
(505) 346-6601 phone
(505) 346-6780 fax
From: []
Sent: Monday, October 23, 2006 10:20 AM
To: Shaffer, Jason (Bingaman); Wunder, Marc (Bingaman)
Subject: (no subject)

To: Senator Bingaman

Dear Sir:

I am writing on behalf of <...>, who resides at <...> in Santa Fe. She is trapped in Almaty, Kazakhstan, with her newly-adopted daughter. We desperately need your help in getting them home!

They are trapped because, according to the U.S. embassy in Almaty: the embassy has never received a transmission of the I-600A approval from Bobi's August, 2006, re-fingerprinting; and the original I-600A transmission was unusable because, although the document's approval date was 21 October 2005, it stated that Bobi's fingerprints expired on 6 October 2005.

At the Albuquerque INS Bobi's case has been handled by Officer Peter Rechkemmer. His telephone number is (505) 241-0422.I and several other people have been trying since Friday, 20 October 2006, to reach Officer Rechkemmer and to get her new fingerprints re- transmitted to the embassy. He has not yet answered his telephone.Bobi visited the Albuquerque INS in early August of 2006, believing that her original paperwork had been correct and that her fingerprints needed to be re-submitted, since they were about to expire.Officer Rechkemmer assured her at that time that her new fingerprints had been transmitted to the embassy.

On 4 October 2006 the U.S. embassy in Almaty confirmed via email to her adoption agency that they had received the new fingerprints and that all was well.

Had it not been for these confirmations, she would not now be in Kazakhstan.

Anything you can do to help resolve this matter would be very much appreciated. If you need any other information, including corroborative documents, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you.

Mitchell S. Chapman


Today we visited the US Embassy. Vice Counsul Anne Baker was very kind and very appalled at the lack of response from BCIS. To be ignored, she says, does not happen.
She explains that

* there has NEVER been a transmission from the August refingerprinting, AND
* the original visa transmission was unusable because of wrong entries

We saw a copy of the original visa transmission, apparently backdated and goofed on (compare the approval and preparation date, never mind the expiration date) when Mr. Udall's office intervened to get it out of BCIS 8 months after I submitted it.

The "Date Prepared" is 10/06/2005. The "Form I-600A Approved On" date is 10/21/2005. The "Fingerprints Expire" date is 10/06/2005.


The August 2006 reprinting results have never been received in Almaty.

She was so kind and informative that I only weakly asked why someone at the Embassy thought the paperwork was in order when they told us that before this trip. I said it so that we didn't look like completely bumbling idiots, we really did try to have our ducks in a row. Somewhere.

She advised we reschedule our flights for friday. The whole if-nothing-is-resolved-in-the-US on Monday -then-we-run-into-the-Kaz-holiday-on-wednesday thing. Day of the Republic, it is.

We have had the Lufthansa people put new stickers on top of the old stickers on top of the original flight dates. They have given us their phone numbers and said to just phone next time, we do not need to visit them anymore to rebook this itinerary.

You're sick of reading this. I'm sick of writing it. Baby is upstairs and too tired and hungry to eat or sleep, she pushes the nipple out with her tongue and just wails a quavering back-arching wail, and Grandma is luridly postmorteming , and won't come brave the women at the business center to ask for a scan and email so I am torn up and down here trying to do the business and my usually-so-brave baby is upstairs with real tears on her face.

There were another 2 gyrations in the phone thingy and for a moment the MCI connection worked. But I thought it would be just rude to wake Mitch up at 5:30 in the morning, especially without happy news.

Tomorrow is Nugget's 9 month birthday, if I haven' t botched that math either.


Mom went up to the room earlier today when I was on the internet. The door was open as she approached. Two hotel men were inside, scratching their heads and examining the telephone.

A waitress who helped bring us a high chair this morning looked at Nugget and asked, "Aigerim?".

While Mom was upstairs (with the telephone repair team, who were, bless them, still trying to figure out what the Amerikanskas are having problems with), Aigerim and I were in the business center. One of the women came over and got the unhappy strollerized baby and walked a happy unstrollerized baby up and down while I printed out some pdfs Mitch has sent of (other) fingerprint/AFIS/FBI fingerprint clearances.

More randomness

I am nattering nervously on the Internet because we go to the Embassy in 3 hours. Then we either go to the airport to America or go to Lufthansa and reschedule our flights again.

We have at last figured out, perhaps, the elevators, though a new nuance appeared to me on the way down to the business center. Each car is about half again as large as a telephone booth (remember those?), there are three cars, and they run on separate call buttons.

A call button has a red light, but no up or down signs. Maybe the red light means available, maybe it means in service, maybe this light is how you pick which of the three buttons to push.

You get yer own personal car. Good, nonstop (Mom's word) service. It's a time saver from Just In Time, etc, philosophies: three little cars running independently instead of one running like a bus and stopping at every floor up and down.

Heaven knows we've been balling up that system, pushing all the buttons :)

Our outing this morning was the fourth attempt to find KazPost for postage for post cards. Yesterday, on the third, we found a KazPost office and store hours that did not include sunday. So we confidently toodled back there this morning, Mom whipped out her filled out post cards and the man at the desk quoted some number. I didn't understand it and made the 'write it out please' sign.

He held out a laminated card. "nye" was all I could say. 6500 kzt is about $50 USD. Per card. Not quite the $1 I recalled from Karaganda. He pointed at a sign and said "Express" (it transliterates if you can read the Cyrillic alphabet.) Ah!!!!


He pointed us the right direction, and we all laughed, and smiled, and trucked the baby and the stroller out (separately of course), and got into the right post office. 140kzt I think per card, Mom handled it all herself so I may not get the precise number right from memory...we had a success!

OK I'll go calm down with more caffeine or something. I don't know whether to pack or not. I packed last week and that had a devastating effect. Partly because it rearranged everything in the room and in the ensuing disappointment I still haven't found the little kit with the leatherman in it, and it took a few days to figure out where other things were, things that were half packed. It was just one more disorganization to fight. So I organized but didn't pack. I will be so happy to be going home that I will have Nugget's food, diapers, toys and all our documents, and anything else can get dumped in the bags (ok not the cameras) and we will go.

I hope that by the time you awaken in America I will have been able to write you that we are coming home...with Aigierim on an IR3.

Later gators,

Mom's windfall of cash

Hey, what great timing! Mom's WorldCom stocks are going to pay off :)

Free Aigerim

We could maybe get out of here with Aigerim on a tourist visa. After all, we can explain what an enthusiastic tourist she is. We have proof. Movies of her at the war memorial, at the park, at the Zhenkov cathedral, at the zoo. Sleeping, of course, but she has toured.

I would have to really be won over to do that. Because the reason we have dinked so long with the BCIS is to get her, not only into the US, but CITIZENSHIP. You and I as US Citizens have the right for our spouses and children to become US citizens. You have to do a potload of paperwork. I have done a potload of paperwork. You pay a bunch of money.

Then you hope someone sends the information correctly to the US Embassy in the country where you are.

This magic visa for a baby is called an IR3. We want an IR3 visa. We need an IR3 visa. It converts to automatic US Citizenship when those ten little tiny toes hit US soil (or are suspended happily in my arms on the Denver tarmac, whatever).

So if the BCIS can't make us a priority now (NOW?) and get the paperwork right, I'd really dread taking another type of visa and getting sent down a we'll-fix-it-later rathole. Like we'd have any priority at all then.

Baby is sleeping. Grandma is watching CNN. We are betting on the sentencing for Ken Lay junior (whatever his name is) .

The highlight in Kaz news is that the out-of-country printers misspelled "Kazakhstan" - not in any reasonable misspelling, either, they put a period in place of the leading K. Well they misspelled it on the new currency. Some of which is already in circulation. So there is much brewhaw and debate and crafting of a statement in the legislative branch that will be sent to President Nazarbaev indicating the displeasure over said thing.

Nothing like good QA in the receiving department. Hey, kind of like the folks at the US Embassy, which come to think of it were clerk level and thus probably Kazakhstani, who accepted my biometric reclearance and told my placing agency they had received it - without checking that the expiration date wasn't 2 years ago.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

That's a lot of quarters...

[Bobi asked me to post this, since the computer she was using today was uncooperative.]

Mom is betting on Officer Reskimer having listened to his phone messages and resent the form with all the correct information on it. And our being on the flight tonight. I would bet something on the latter.

Also, tried to check on the phone bill. I have spent at least 40 minutes on the Spanish-English language BCIS 1-800 number, some to Officer Reskimer's machine, some to Don Smith of Reaching Out's, some to Chris, and maybe two or three hours with Mitch telling him what papers are where, and getting updated on the efforts on the home front. Chris too has kept me updated.

The lady at the front desk couldn't look up my specific bill. She estimates, though, that the cost is about $5 a minute.

[That sounds about right. My long-distance bill for September was about $360 for about one hour of calls back to the states.]

Virtual Tour of Karaganda

google earth logo Bobi posted lots of photos of Karaganda from our first trip. Back when we believed this second visit would be short, I thought it would be fun to use her pictures to build a virtual tour of Karaganda.

Have you downloaded Google Earth? If so, you can go on walkabout in Karaganda, see where Bobi's photos came from, and read a little background about each place. See the baby house from space. See the apartment. Read about the statues and museums and department stores. Look at relics of the Cold War. Etc.

It's like those vacation slide shows we all used to endure, but you can escape from this one when you run out of chips.

Here's a KMZ file to serve as your guide:
Kazakhstan Trip.kmz (2006/10/18)

To use it: download, open with Google Earth, and start double-clicking on placemarks.

Let me know if you have any problems. For starters, I may have screwed up the link to the KMZ file :)


Oh yes, why would the first rescheduled flight available be on Thursday morning?
Because if we miss Monday's working day in Kaz, which we should because nothing has been resolved from the US and the next US working day Monday is Monday night in Kaz, we have to try for Tuesday working day in Kaz.

__________[Bobi: Monday, Oct 23 here: I thought Sunday was 23. Holiday is 25; Aigerim's 9 month birthday is 24th. It doesn't help that I can't figure out what day it is...]____-
Tuesday is Independence Day in Kaz. Or Constitution day. Or something.

So the next working day in Kaz is wednesday. Which makes the first possible exit on Thursday.

Which, if Quantum Legalities happen, is irrelevant and we will be out of here late tomorrow; but until that legal wormhole opens, is why everything I can know or tell you or speculate or beg for got blasted onto the web last night. And if we miss the thursday working day in the US, "Alot of people in BCIS don't work on friday" was one of the notes of hope(?) offered up last weekend to explain the latest nonmovement.

Which means you will be getting a new scandal sheet from my hypertense self next saturday.

We have found places with brewed coffee, not nescafe. I will stoke before typing. That will save the emergency fund something at 8 cents an internet minute :)

We are starting to settle into seige mode. We now have tea, beer, dish soap, new pampers, more baby shampoo, more baby clothes in the room upstairs and are truly starting to move in. Housekeeping is starting to look worried.

And if tomorrow goes to crap (ie: does not get us all out of Kaz with A on an IR3 visa), hey, at least now we know where to go for the celebrations at Republican Square!

Jacqui has suggested I check out Almaty real estate.

Tomorrow is Marie Aigerim's 9-month birthday. It is the first month-day she will have had with a family.

We will celebrate no matter what any government anywhere says.

You will all be in our thoughts.

"Hi Mrs Paar"

"This is Kari. Thanks for sending the replacement baby sitter."

Maybe you like The Incredibles too. I feel sort of like poor Kari after her increasingly
frantic calls to Jack-Jack's mom. I feel especially like her since the overall situation was not only not resolved, but far worse.

You all are so great at offering help. Can I just ask that instead of a baby gift you could help with the phone bills at our shower? We can have a free-the-hostage-baby welcome-baby event instead? I am terrified to ask the front desk about the bills. I was going to pay our $450 hotel bill in cash, I will switch our new $900 hotel bill (lodging only) to the credit card. Oh, and that's $900 only if we get out Tuesday morning. Which would take some inversion of the time-space continuum, or a sudden waiver by a dozen bureaucracies. I'd bet on the Einsteiny thing first.

OK the phone bill. I asked that people try to phone in to us because it should be cheaper; Chris Ivins can work it out; Mitch gets hung up on at the front desk; local drunks phone about once every night when we are sound asleep, and while most hang up when I say hello, sometimes someone wishes me a goodnatured something or another.

We tried to figure out how to use a calling card, because we did in Karaganda, and because it should be cheaper. I think I have tried every possible combination of hotel exit numbers and calling card access numbers. Mom said to explain the problem to the front desk. I tried to call the front desk. They hung up on me. I think I may have reached the same front desk as Mitch! Mom said to go downstairs and explain the problem to the front desk. I said my Russian can't do that any better than hers can. She went downstairs to try to explain our phone troubles.


Someone came up and switched out the phone in our room for a new one.

We are still paying hotel rates if we want to actually connect and talk to someone....

So, the telephone fund is probably the most runaway of the financial problems - at the moment. By Monday COB in the States, I'll know if I need an immigration lawyer.

Mitch is standing by to FedEx more of our prescriptions to us if we are stuck much longer. We should have arrived in Abq 8 hours ago. How did they say that at Cape Kennedy, T+8 hours? It makes me sad. Mitch, please add my Lorazepam to the list. If it is empty, we need to make another phone call :)

The strain comes from not knowing when, if ever(? not possible. Right?!?) this logjam will break free. I WISH I HAD MY LAPTOP. Damn it, the first trip I take without it in YEARS. I may console myself tomorrow by going after the Embassy appointment, if it fails (and after we go change the plane tickets THURSDAY) and buy a damn computer. And more HD tapes for the camera.

Let me at least tell you a couple of stories about our days, we are fighting to stay calm (hence blasting every piece of information and speculation I can to you all and hoping someone can fish through it all for an answer), and keep baby happy.

She is a hero. Mom is a trooper. You know we brought a sterilizer for Aigerim's bottles and utensils. You know it seemed to go on the blink, literally. Well, I've been paranoid about hygeine for her bottles, go figure after our Karaganda experiences. To get clean water, we haul 5L jugs ("a pints a pound the world around" gave Mom and me a discussion all the way back from the grocery store about how much then the 5L bottle weighs. We will probably discuss it again the next time we have to haul the next one up and down the stairs of the underground street crossing.

Lola loaned us her personally electric teakettle, so between the kettle and the jug, we have hot drinkable water whenever we need. Don't think about boiling the tap water in the kettle, we tried in K and maybe now think that just bringing it to a boil (automatic shutoff can't be overridden) might not be enough to kill things that you want killed. The hotel provides water at 40 cents per half liter in the minibar, which is a damn site better than the Frankfurt Airtpot $3.50 for a third of a liter, but still we haul the 5L that costs $1.25 and we are set for days.

This still doesn't quite get the bottles and all as nice as I'd like. Also, between some mayhem between kefir and formula, the nipples for the playtex dropin bottles are all set for kefir: we are feeding her formula. Like Victoria Falls. So skip the platex bottles. This leaves us the one bottle we bought in Kaz for her trip from Almaty, and it can't use the playtex nipples, the bottle mouth is too small.
Back when I thought we were going to be on an airline with an infant still on formula (we'll be on steak by the time we leave now...) , I fretted about how to sterilize the bottles en route, and considered how to get around the $3.50/.33L water price for the 8 hour layover in Frankfurt.

The Kaz nipples fit exactly over the mouths of water bottles.

We make up the formula using mostly room temperature water, then add a bit of boiling water to bringing it to warmth. On goes the nipple, down goes the formula, out goes the dirty bottle and no fear of using a contaminated bottle or ring. Every shop on the street or in the airport has small bottles of water. Clean bottles. We are golden.

The nipples still require cleaning properly and I work on those. But those are easier than carrying a bottle brush (and cleaning it as well) and using unsure tap water.

We have had another flash that keeps us in clean baby utensils. I take down her bag of cereal with us to breakfast in the morning. I pour it in a coffee cup, add hot water, stir with a demitasse spoon, cool with some of my bottled water or the kefir and voila. We have baby cereal and clean dishes.

Mitch: Kefir is buttermilk. It's GOOD. Or else we're just feeding her buttermilk and not kefir. That could be true too.

So yesterday, we could keep nugget on her schedule while out and about. We grocery shopped, and then went around the corner to a bench, whipped out a bottle of water, a baggie of formula and a clean nipple, and had a very happy fed baby. As we were feeding her, the young sacker who had helped us came running around from the store: he had forgotten to put in one of the two new packages of nipples we had purchased, and was bringing it to us. He was so glad to have found us. He was so sweet.

There are alot of thoughtful people in our world. You, our friends who follow this blog, are comforting to us -- thank you thank you. It is like throwing the bottle with the message into the sea - but knowing that someone will get it. From us maroonees.

We enjoy every kindness shown to us, every speck of responsibility and courtesy.

I was determined to get out of the hotel today. We negotiated our own private vehicle-cum taxi and joked down his original bid of 800kzt to the local price of 500kzt.

Then, rather redundantly given our legal situation, we went to the zoo.

It was a nice way to spend some time, a nice park. More on that later, I must get back upstairs and find a way to warm a bottle of kefir using an electric kettle that can only boil water.

When it was time to return from the park, we found another private-vehicle-cum taxi and showed him our map and asked about going to Astana Park (I figured I could pronounce it) near our hotel. There was some confusion, but it was a taxi, and he bid 400 kzt so in went went.

Off we went. Mitch, we went down Dostyk Street, past #44 the Archaeological Museum. Hey did you know that it is closed on Sundays :) What was it, only four weeks ago, five weeks ago you and I visited it? Time becomes meaningless when you're in the joint.

Hmm, Abaya Street went by, four blocks south of the hotel, where Line Brew served Mom and Aigerim and me a fine steak dinner the other night. And we're still going south. Hell, I'm excited I recognize any of the streets and figure we can either walk or get another cab if we have to.

The dear man pulls over next to the Monument of Independence, the winged-snow-leopard golden-man thing in Republican Square. People massed in this place to demand independence from the USSR. He points southward and calls it Astana Park. Different than the Astana Park Mom and Aigerim and I have walked through a few times, and different than the one I pointed to on the map, but ok then. I agree with him about Furmanov street's location, something Kan street's location, and Abaya street's location. So now I know where we are and that the hotel is directly north, some blocks, and we can stroll if need be. We get out, pay him, and I figure we should grab a photo with Aigerim and the monument while we're here. So its probably herky jerky and horrid but the photo is supposed to show me holding Aigerim, and her hand in the handprint representing participation on the bronze page representating the constitution of independence.

We are still shooting photos when the driver comes back. He looks kind and apologetic, and now points north to to indicate Astana Park. Da, da, da, I say in relief. We go back to his car, he folds the stroller for us this time, and makes a gesture with his hand at his head to say he was confused.

We get in and the dear takes us the 8-10 blocks. It is nearing time for A's bottle, and we have our road-bottles at hand if needed but I would like to add warm water for her if we can, and let her into her crib on time. It was nice to have that ride. I offer him another, small note for being kind enough to come back when he didn't have to, and for saving us the walk. He refuses, we protest, he refuses, and gets out and unfolds the strollers for us. Drivers don't usually handle strollers. We bow and bob and smile and say thank you and put our hands over our hearts and smile and he smiles and waves.

We restrollerize Nugget, and that is never popular. Beep beep beep. I look up and the driver has backed down the street to stop beside us, holding up something.

My sunglasses.

You all must be sending some parts of yourselves this way. We appreciate it very very much.

Grateful for your warmth this far around the world,


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Update - trying to contacting the ABQ office in person.

Enter Miriam Rand, social worker, homestudy doer, social justice fighter - and the last one, she's going to get some practice.

In the football parlance, she just made a brilliant effort and got some great distance and then got wacked out of bounds and the play got called back. I think that's football parlance.

The way you get to see the ABQ BCIS in person is to use You cannot walk in without an appointment. People without appointments are a threat that is too big to risk. You cannot phone a live person. That would be a waste of someone's time, or perhaps a security threat to the nation. (I am being cynical. But what other reason for all these barriers?)

Miriam, God bless her, has already tried to get an appointment through InfoPass, the official channel. There is no way to know if Officer Reskimer will be in on any particular day, so it is a crap shoot anyway as I was often told that no one else could help me, I had to come another day (ie make another appointment sometime in the distant future - and try my luck again)

Oh yes, speaking of distant future, the earliest date Miriam could get on InfoPass for the ABQ BCIS:

November 2.

Postnote - DHS rules say that you can go in person and ask for the District Officer in an emergency and you are supposed to be seen. Miriam did this at the ABQ DHS and was refused. Twice.

It is nice that there is alot to see in Almaty. Mom just tipped the housekeeper in US bills to keep the clean sheets, towels, and everything coming, they have been coming wonderfully and now we are in even sweeter position for our stay here. Since we are now entering longterm relationships with the dining room people, the business center people, the bell captain, the woman at the money exchange, the bar/coffee tender, the housekeepers and the laundry people.

Our earliest exist possible is wednesday and I'm keeping my hopes, as another American said at breakfast, a man experienced in the dealings of international business and politicals, "modest".

We are learning that countries in which you can pay for services mean you can get services.