The Den Hartog Stork

Meeting Baby Den Hartog.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

America, Without Her

Hi Again

Thanks for all your dear emails and phone calls. It was really fun to know y'all were out there, part of our adventure, via the blog.

Just wanted to email to let you know that now I am back in New Mexico. Marie Aigerim is still in Kazakhstan. We are waiting out the court-mandated waiting period after our OFFICIAL DECREE on friday. After this period passes, folks in Kazakhstan can get her official documents reissued in her newly decreed name, blah blah blah, and after that, then I can go to Almaty and ask the US Embassy there to finish processing my application for her to enter the US as my child and a US citizen. Less than a month before Nugget is here for good!

She is my sunshine and I can't believe she is 12 time zones away. What was I thinking?! She will be watching the doorway during the twice-daily visiting times and we will not be coming through the doorway to get her. That was one of the greatest treats of my life - watching her go from general happiness at being greeted to knowing and recognizing US. Of course, I also got a kick out of kneeling down and waiting for the little speedracer to zoom her walker over, grinning and giggling (both of us, of course) so we could hug and coo and squeal together. No room in the little Santa Fe house for speedracer's walker, but I suspect someone is going to be speedracing without the walker pretty soon. The day we had to get her a snowsuit, we could only find the "bag" kind not the kind with actual individual legs and feet. This will be interesting to see what Little Miss Crawly Zoom will think of that. It also seems like a great idea to keep me from actually losing her during the 7 hour layover in the Frankfurt Airport.

We went 32 hours from arriving at the Almaty airport to arriving at the Albuquerque airport, without leaving airplanes or airports. I should blog most of this I suppose but I can always cut and paste. After not enjoying, but getting quite good at coping with, the boorish borises, we boarded the Lufthansa airbus in Almaty and it flew two or three hours north to the new capitol, Astana. We did not disembark; instead we were instructed to leave the aisles clear and to undo our seatbelts. The pursers and attendants walked around checking ( at 3:30am just so you know) that all seat belts were unfastened on the passengers. With typical Germanic nonalarm, one purser explained "So we can get you out quickly if something happens." The plane was being refueled. Never done that before.

It's another 6 hours or so to Frankfurt. It's as far from the US to Frankfurt as it is from Frankfurt to Kazakhstan. The route goes right north of Moscow (according to the fine blue video screen I enjoyed for the flight).

It's an amazingly long flipping haul. And we'd already had to spend an extra 24 hours in Almaty on top of the usual 17 it takes to catch this flight - 2 hours flying from Karaganda, 15 hours until the flight to Frankfurt leaves Almaty.

So you can imagine there were several reasons I was GLAD to see Denver yesterday. Water and sanitation and health weren't the lowest on my list either. But one reason was clearly the top of my list.

I almost cried with joy coming through Denver immigration yesterday, knowing that next time, she will be with me and when the wheels touch the tarmac, she will be a tiny little brand new US citizen.

And I will get my sunshine into my life again!

Hurry, calendar, hurry!!

Sappy Happy Mommy

Friday, September 22, 2006

Administrative trivia

Aigerim's medical documentation arrived translated today and (of course, nervous mother) matched exactly what Dr. Olga and translator Olga had explained to us on day 2: this is one "active" vigilent "positive" mood girl with "good appetite" and "has interest to toys" Oh doesn't she!

The Air Astana office revised our tickets per our travel agent's reservations in about five minutes - we leave Karaganda KGF for Almaty ALA tomorrow morning.

The Lufthansa tickets must be reprinted at a Lufthansa desk, which we will not reach until Almaty tomorrow. Then we can check if seats have opened up on the next morning (Sunday) flight, otherwise we will reticket for our reservation on Monday morning flight and have an unexpected exploration of a new city for an extra day.

It has been strange to leave Malutka. I can't imagine how it will be for Aigerim. We traded some new baby clothes for her famous purple jumper today, to bring it with us to her new home and keep for when she wants to remember her baby days.

The other new families are our families too in a very special way. Very few people get to watch the miracle of a child and an adult turning into a family, and it happens here in such a relatively short time.

Aigerim, clever bug, knows something is up. Mitch was out sick for both visits yesterday and I was sad that it was my last "regular" day at Malutka with her. She bawled each of the two times I left (though informants say she found something else promptly...)

Clever little one is also strong little one. She stood up in her crib yesterday. This morning, after court, we went right to the Baby House, to visit Aigerim and have a little party with the doctor and the director. It was very very nice. When it was time to return Aigerim, the dear caretakers took her from me and tried to engage her since she was starting to cry. No tears. We've never seen tears yet. Just unhappiness. But Mom was about in tears :)

I didn't dare look back inside, for fear of setting her off again. Mitch looked. He came back grinning: she's in the playpen, watching another baby, and standing up.

That's my girl. Now we reset the timer to 15 days and watch yet another countdown.

What an amazing blessing.

Marie Aigerim has a real mama.

And I have a daughter.

So said the judge today.

Love to all.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Eenie Meenie...

The kitchen sink has cold water.
The bathroom sink has hot water.
The loo has no water.
Place your bets on the bathtub.

We love 'KalGel Gel Zubnoi'

When Aigerim gets fussy Bobi puts a little drop of "Kazakh Anbesol" on her finger and rubs it over the baby's gums. Then Aigerim starts trying to eat the anesthetic.

Then Mom makes a funny face because it feels weird having a baby's numb tongue milking your finger.

(Sorry, we didn't know how to phrase that so it didn't sound weird...)
[Added 2006/10/01]

dis organized

[Updated September 30 to add photos]

Hi all. There are some fun photos but they are on the cameras still.

The Ministry of Education interview apparently went well enough because court has been rescheduled for this Friday. Talk about a quandry. We can leave as soon as court is over but I hate leaving Aigerim.

We've had a good day with her today. Yesterday was good but she was not so well. No one is well. All but one of the Spanish families, I think, have had at least one casualty this week and we are pretty lucky to have skirted the worst so far.

One photo you would see, had I moved it here, is of Aigerim's "neckline" yesterday: three layers of regular clothes. And a hat. For us to go the the neighboring music room and play. All the families are in one playroom now, the sunniest warmest one. The orphanage has had no heat, electricity or water for two days now. Half the city has no water. This is something that was planned but I don't know what. Somehow the caretakers are still making hot formula for the kids.

We also discovered today that Aigerim has been graduated to a new, bigger crib. It was vacated by the little nugget that kept visiting us while Aigerim ate or kept checking out Mitch's watch: he has gone to Astana to be united for good with his family from Spain! So, Aigerim got the bigger (read: taller sided) crib. We are pretty sure it's because someone is not going to keep from standing up for much longer. Go baby!! (Note to self: before returning for Aigerim, lower the crib mattress. All the way.)

I have not paid any fees here yet, nor given any of my papers to Larisa yet, have not seen the written translation of the baby's medical report (so I can ask questions of Dr. Svetlana while we are all still here) yet, and am not sure when it will all happen. I am sure it will happen. I am just not good enough at doing all my own stuff ahead of time so that "the last minute" is available for other people - that's for my own stuff!! Can you hear me hyperventilating? What a drama queen. Just Deal With It.

Packing. Oh boy. I have shopped for souvenirs for nugget which is why yesterday Mitch had a hat with a feather on his head.

Mommy got a little crazy on the shopping. Can you say "overweight charges" for the airplane flight?

Mitch was trying to teach Aigerim the word "auto-didactic". She grinned and blew bubbles at him. Seems right.

Our return flights seem to be also disorganized. We can get to Almaty on Saturday, but not onto the Sunday flight toward ABQ; we can get on the Monday morning flight to ward ABQ but cannot get into Almaty on Sunday. So we will go to Almaty on Saturday, spent 36 hours there, and then go onward. We might be able to get on the Sunday ALA-FRA-DEN-ABQ sequence if something magic happens, but who knows.

So if this trapeze act works, Mitch and I will be back in NM by Monday night. It will be horrid to be without Marie Aigerim, but the earlier court date also means an earlier return date so I will have to keep my eyes on that prize.

Our time at Malutka has been so special. It will be sad to remember their warmth and enthusiasm and dedication and to not see them again. Marie Aigerim will be brought to me in Almaty so I will have no schedule to return to Karaganda.

OK that's what I know and I wouldn't ask anyone to stick by it.

Talk to you later gator

Monday, September 18, 2006

Feeding the baby, take two

Every day the caretakers have given us a bottle of kefir (yogurt) to feed to Aigerim. But only twice have they let Bobi feed the baby her first meal of the day.

The first attempt didn't go too well :) This morning she got another chance, with much better results.

I'm not sure how this is supposed to work. Each baby is expected to eat a bowl containing cream of wheat, porridge, an egg, bread and shaved cheese. That wouldn't be too hard, but the bowl looks like it's about half as big as the baby. How much food will fit into those little bodies? And (we still haven't figured this out) where does it come out?

Somehow, it does work. Today Aigerim even tried to cooperate with Bobi instead of squishing her hands around in the bowl. Still, after a couple of minutes of spooning she just couldn't take in any more food, and it slopped out over her chin.

My best guess, offered freely from a safe distance across the room, was that when the food comes back out, it needs to be thinned out with warm tea. This actually worked a couple of times.

It's amazing all the things a 7-month-old can already do: standing up, making noises which are more articulate than anything I can produce before the first cup of coffee, eating semi-solid food and drinking tea from a cup.

Aigerim couldn't quite finish the bowl. She tried -- she's such a sweet-natured little baby, and she loves sitting with her mama even when porridge is involved. But there was just too much food.

Galina was funny as always. Toward the end she came over and started calling Aigerim "deyavuchka princessa" (girl princess), probably because of her "leisurely" dining style. Then with much repetition and pantomime she predicted that Aigerim would look the same on her first birthday as she did today, with small bits of food in unexpected parts of her body. Then she helped rinse the baby, and we were off to play time.


I don't know how it went. Some of the questions were easy to answer (does anyone in your family need body parts) and some should have been expected (how does your family feel about the child's Asian appearance) and some would have required a team of accountants to answer (how much did you pay and to whom for this adoption).

The folks were quite nice in general. There was a young man, a woman and then behind the boss-desk was someone high up in the Ministry. He asked the hardest questions. Then, as we were done, he spoke and Olga translated:
"He says that you are skinny for an American"

I turned to look at him, and sure enough, he was grinning, had his hands spread wide to indicate size and he repeated, "Amerikanska".

I really don't know how it went.

Ministry of Education Meeting

(This a quick update from Mitch.)

Bobi has just gone off to her meeting with the Ministry of Education, set for 5 pm. Please keep her in your early morning thoughts!

There are only two significant hurdles left in the adoption process, and today's is the big one. A representative of the Ministry of Education will ask Bobi some hard questions, checking one last time that she's a good prospective mother.

Once that's done, the last hurdle will be the court appearance. As I understand it the person who interviews her today will appear in court as an advocate for Bobi's adoption. That's why today's interview is the big deal.

Needless to say, Bobi has been a bit nervous. But she has her eyes on the outcome; after all of the paperwork and home studies she's done, this afternoon should be a formality.

Despite the jitters I think she looks very composed.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


Do they still sell these wheeled-walkers in the US?

Commenting back at ya

I love your comments. It is so fun to hear from you. It is so neat! I love the "Computer Internet"! I can't thank you enough - Mom, Kevin and Dee, Suzanne, Meg, Jan, Crystal, Diana, Kris and the strangers who are so familiar! Nope, we haven't quite found a bakery with an English speaker yet. It sounds very nice, Candy and it would be welcome. And Laura - didn't you have a blog? I think you did?

(And thank you Crystal for making me feel less criminal for enlarging the hole in the bottle nipple!)

Kevin and Dee, my brother and sister-in-law, mention Lucy - born in December, and Kris and Tari mention Jack - born in February. So Marie Aigerim has ready playmates and it couldn't be better. I hear Jack is standing up in the crib - ha ha, Mom and Dad! Can you imagine what they will come up with when they have accomplices!

I show Marie Aigerim the photos in the baby book you gave me, Kevin and Dee, and it's not like the content really seems to make an impression at this point, but your daughters and Grandma are in the photos. So Marie Aigerim sees Lucy and Lily and Holly and Grandma Den Hartog every day!

Her dear name, she is Aigerim to us but this might not work well in America. Even Galina calls her "Marie Aigerim" (Have I mentioned how much I respect and adore Galina?!) to help her transition.

Thanks for the comments, I really appreciate and enjoy them. Sorry if I missed anyone - oh, like Pat who gave us a pun (how could we go so long without a pun from you?!) - and hope to hear/speak with/see you all soon.


Day Fourteen - Sunday September 17 2006

Day Fourteen (Sunday, September 17, 2006)

[These photos go with yesterday’s blog but didn’t get transferred between the computers in time.

Did I mention that we “met” Harry Potter?!]

Sundays are the worst days, we parents visiting Malutka say to each other. Why? Because we only get to visit in the mornings. The afternoon is eerily laughter free.

We make the best of it and plan outings for the empty afternoon. But first, let’s show you some of the morning visit!

There are other pictures on Mitch’s still camera and on his video. We laugh and laugh watching the babies in the walkers move so easily. I call to Aigerim across the playroom of Room 4, and someone sooner or later turns around and lights up! Then the toes paddle and the hands go into the air and the “ha ha” hooting noises start and Mommy drops to her knees in laughter with her arms around the little bit of sunshine. We cuddle and laugh and greet each other. While Mitch videotaped this yesterday, we also were visited by other babies in their walkers, making a big happy interested cluster of noise and activity!

We are getting better at baby maintenance. Aigerim was uncomfortable, so cleverly we thought maybe she needed to get a bubble out. Oh yea. On videotape. And my foot. I bet you can’t wait to see videotape :)

And oh boy I knew better but I tried to free the little nugget from the layers of clothes and leave her in one thick sleeper. Like the lightning bolt of God came Galina. Three layers. Stop goofing around with the baby.

That is why her new outfits are on top of her existing outfits: I was not going to dare take off any clothes just to help her get familiar with the clothing I’d bought her for her trip home. I DID dare take off the outer layer of socks, or perhaps she did and I just didn’t dash to put them back on.

Aigerim put up with the new sleeper and the new frilly outfit (yes, I did buy her a frilly pink outfit. One. The frill made her look like Queen Elizabeth or something.) (Elizabeth I, not the current Queen of England, whom I have never seen in a frill, I think.)

You asked for it, you got it – photos of me with Aigerim. The deal is that, not only do I not take pictures of myself with the kiddo, but we tend to do quieter cuddlier activities. Which means no great big lit up grin from the baby. Rolling around on the floor with her is the best way to get her to light up – our little climber.

In the afternoon, we went to the Karaganda province museum. It is packed with bones, prehistory, animals, history, technology, costumes. We found a reference to a “Khaness” whose name was spelled almost the same as Aigerim’s. Hmmm. Our Russian obviously limited us to guessing a lot of stuff but a few things had English titles and we could recognize a lot. Saturday, I asked Olga about some things we wanted to see in the area – the maternity hospital where Aigerim had been, the mines, the churches, all that and she proposed an excursion for next Sunday afternoon. Then I asked about Karlag. The response was a flat “oops”. The museum did not flinch about showing Karlag, the Gulag camp and showed photos of the still-standing administration building and memorials to entire nationalities that we wanted to see. We saw what the photographer saw on arrival in a Nazi concentration camp. We saw the story of the pilot whose statue still tells his story, how he put his plane into the oncoming German tanks after he had run out of ammunition. We saw certificates and photos of shock workers – workers recognized for their extremely high dedication and productivity. We saw space rockets and the Kazakhstan cosmonauts and gold and bronze and iron from 2700 year old burial mounds. We saw a telegram from Stalin congratulating a theatre troupe. We saw goats with faces like nostril-less moose and a very frightening hunting bird, complete with photos of one of its kind taking down a small wolf.

We stopped at the grocery store on the way home to reload. I drank a whole liter of gassy water last night. I feel better, remarkably.
We aren’t sure if this is a logo or a content indicator. Whatever, it sure tastes good.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Day Thirteen - September 16 2006

Day Thirteen
Saturday, September 16, 2006

First of all, Friday was not a great day for baby. She tried to smile but the tiredness from being sick was too much. So we left the camera in the bag and just held her and walked. She was a sweetheart even when sick.

Between visits to Malutka on Friday, we worked on our tourist shopping. I’d seen nice stamps at the Post Office last Sunday, so we returned Friday during working hours. We got some very nice stamps of Kazakhstani wildlife, sports, music, people, space program for Aigerim. Something bizarre (but harmless and entertaining) happened with a stranger who asked if either of us spoke German. I said, in horrid German, only a little. This apparently means "open the firehose" in some protocol I don't know. His name is Enrico, he is fifty-sixtyish, he lives in Karaganda with his wife, has two sons, one of whom lives in Hamburg, his father was half Italian half Polish (hence "Enrico") his mother was Russa, he studied electro-physics in Tomsk, he and his wife lived in Germany (she doesn't speak German) , they moved to Karaganda for a better climate, he emails someone in German or maybe English, and he found my German a little substandard (THAT'S WHAT "only a little" MEANS) but decided I forgot because I learned it so long ago. Mitch could contribute in Swedish and electro-physical terminology, which was stirred without question into the mix. The stamp seller, another individual, was doing something for us the whole time.

We left, spun, after having had a discussion in pseudolanguage with someone who had explained to us that he had studied Maxwell's equations in Siberia.

That was fun.

If Aigerim was not well, neither of us was feeling all that great either. I am tired of the feeling in my stomach (you are tired of reading it, doubtless) and surprised at how many pharmaceutical products I miss from my house. I have not had this trouble traveling before. Until this trip, ibuprofen, pepto bismol, benadryl and immodium have been the only over-the-counter aids I’ve ever carried, and the immodium has only been pulled out in very rare situations. Dear Mitch coughs. We are fortunate that the apartment is warm, the bath water is hot, and our schedule is pretty simple and allows for a lot of time to recover.

The apartment is really nice. The city hot water (turned on, as you heard, last Monday) not only provides a nice shower, it silently heats the radiators throughout the apartment. If anything, the apartment is too warm when we return home! The updated windows can provide some cooling if we need it: we don’t need it. The cleaning lady comes twice a week and our hello/please/thankyou/goodbye repertoire of Russian is used earnestly. The apartment is quiet and clean and warm and comfortable.

Vladimir, the driver, got tired of our repertoire and added “home?” (Dom) and “good evening” (Dobria vaycha) just to shake it up.

We spend a lot of time in the little kitchen, at the table. We can watch the washing machine, brew up coffee or tea or bouillon, and get something out of the fridge all without moving more than one step any direction. It is convenient.

As far as bouillon, I’m still stocked thanks. The smallest container had 48 blocks of it. Only 42 left as far as I recall.

The washing machine is quite conscientious. It runs for about three hours. Of course, we have little idea what settings we told it.

Our afternoon with Aigerim was again spent indoors. Some of the other children are showing sickness too, just little sniffy colds, but it sure makes them uncomfortable.
Friday night, I wanted to indulge my stomach and got a grilled half chicken with cooked vegetables and hot French fries at “Johnny Walker Pub”.
On our way there, the sun broke through the damp clouds and lit up the Palace of the Coal Miners stunningly.

At Johnny Walker Pub, the waitstaff wear kilts, and bring you the pub menu as well as a sushi menu. The bigscreen tvs played “Patch Adams” silently. We decided that a good actor is one that doesn’t need to have his or her dialog heard to convey what is happening. Robin Williams certainly qualifies. I still cringe over the “Mork” days but we all have things we wish we hadn’t had to do.

For our homies at the Catamount in Santa Fe, we tried the local version of the margarita. The photo is blurry. It sort of suits. The salt is table salt, the garnish is a lemon, and while the menu said Sauza Gold and Sauza Silver, it isn’t clear if either made it into the mix. Something alcoholic did, doubtless, and the greenish liquid had a somewhat familiar sweet and sour taste to it. Here’s to the Catamount.

Saturday went GREAT at Malutka. We walked in to see Miss Great Big Grin who came paddling toward us and put her arms up. Oh yea. What a dear.

Remember the big pink snowsuit bag? We figured it was either going to be child abuse to put her into it, we thought it was so big, or as Mitch called her “checked baggage”: nope! Still a little quiet from being sick, she loved the softness and warmth and HELD STILL in it, loving it. I am no longer embarrassed to take it to the nannies as it will not look like I have zero idea of my own daughter’s size.

We went back into Room 4 after everyone was settled and the nannies weren’t so busy, and asked to take their photos with Aigerim. I call the lady on the left “Kondarush” which is not anything like her name, we know this from the giggles in the background, but my Kazakh stinks: I do hope to get her name properly spelled at least by the time we leave.

The nanny on the right took over and took Marie Aigerim through her paces. Oh my goodness! We got the “operations” manual for that baby!

She is a treat!

We shopped more at lunch, finding a child’s book of Kazakhstan (I have been able to translate ten Russian words – one hour’s work – so far – only about a thousand more to go…) and stopping at Aladdin restaurant for lunch.

Mitch, who does not live in the rich cat-like fantasy world I do, surprised me by stepping into Aladdin, looking around at the geni and lamp and gaudy painted walls and saying “Oh, our friends aren’t here – let’s go”.

What? Oh! I get it. We had already been sighted by the staff. We did not feel up to the purple clouds and the funhouse 1001 Arabian Nights décor. Dinara had told us “good for children”. We saw now what she meant…

We walked back in the direction we had come. We had heard of the pilot statue, and Mitch had found his story. In WWII, this pilot had run out of ammunition when he saw a tank column heading for his troops. The statue pretty eloquently shows his decision and his trajectory. A brave man.

There was a grill on the corner we had passed, and it looked like a place ordinary folks were having an ordinary lunch. No lurid turbaned fantasy creatures looming on the walls. It advertised Efes. It also said “grill bar” in English.

Efes is the brand of beer made at the factory we pass every day on the way to Malutka. In fact, on one side of the road is the Efes Beer factory, on the other, Karaganda Confyet – confections – candy! (We also had found a shop of Karaganda chocolates and got a test box. Oh, those are just fine! )

No English, so we laughed at looked at the Russian menu. Mitch recognizes Myasa as meat, so we sort of at least got onto the main dish pages. The waitress was really kind and helpful. I flipped through the menu book and she returned me to the pages of things proper for lunch meals. We tried “meat Kazak” to be told no, meaning there was none. We looked at some other things and the waitress pointed at an entry and gave it a thumbs up and we ordered two of them. Then what to drink. There was an Efes poster. We pointed. We spent the time waiting for the food translating the details of the dish we had ordered. “Mayonnaise”, “Egg”,”Garlic”, “Onion” – and then it arrived. Wowee it was tasty!

Other folks had metal cafeteria trays, but maybe that goes with what you order. You can see the pretty presentation and the variety of things on the plate. The rice and the meat were delicious and I can’t recall every greeting canned peas so warmly ever in my life.

Malutka afternoon was marked by trying the “new” bottle – a Playtex thing from the States, with the 3-6 month “fast” flow nipple. As if. It took half an hour to down the 4 o’clock bottle, the one we once clocked at 2 minutes. Before I boiled up the nipple last night, I enlarged the hole a little bit (of course it says not to. It also probably says don’t leave your kid in an orphanage.) and we will see how this goes. I am not looking to match the speed of the milk-bong but something in between would work.

We spent a lot of time watching Aigerim, wondering if the kefir was thin enough to even go through the opening of the nipple yesterday. She didn’t complain and kept at it until it was gone.

Yesterday, Olga told me I would have my Ministry of Education interview at 5:00 on Monday afternoon. She prepped me with some questions. I don’t know at what point I started having anxiety attacks about bureaucracy. My heart starts up and then I get my breath and slow it down. Maybe it’s because of my dismal experience with the USCIS.
It’s not so much that I fear the outcome as I fear the ordeal. I will survive. I know this :)

The MoE interview is the big test. It is another step forward. We keep taking steps.