Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Day in the Life (2)

"Veeka gets excited over Mommy's reading glasses."

Sometimes the 25-mile to Rudny is quite an adventure, as it was this morning when we slid the whole distance on the iciest, snow-drifty roads imaginable. Fortunately I am in the back seat of a van; the driver said I could sit up front where it's warmer, which I'd do if there were seatbelts! As we passed several accidents on the way, I decided discretion was the better part of valor.
The Rudny baby house, as they call it, is a brick structure on a side road in the next town south of Kostenai. I'll be posting a photo of it soon. It's clean enough inside but in some of the rooms, the smell of urine is enough to knock you over. The squalling of babies never stops. We walk up one flight of steps and into an airy play room which is where I spend my time with Veeka. She howls when she's first brought out but soon the sniffles stop and we're riding around on the truck or the tricycle. Unlike the little boy who's also getting adopted the same time, Veeka is not a stacker or a builder. Nope. That's too boring. She's into detailed stuff; folding and unfolding paper, pushing buttons on my Olympus camera and opening and shutting all manner of things. She's just getting the hang of zippers now. Re-sealable plastic bags are a bit beyond her ken but she's working on them. We stood by the huge picture windows to one side of the room and watched the birds. Then I put a piece of snow in her hand. That was too cold for Miss Veeka but she really got off on how it soon melted and then she could keep on dipping her finger in the resulting puddle.
Sometimes as we play, a passle of little boys will just stand there behind a glass door leading to another room, staring at us. It's so obvious they too would like a mommy. I have met some of the other kids, including a cute little blond who is 3-4 years old who's got huge attachment issues; runs around and hugs everyone, is very cross-eyed and bow-legged. Something is not working there. Then there's "Yulia," a little dark-haired girl with the loveliest face who will talk your ear off in Russian. Then I looked down and noticed her legs curled under her in a strange way. She scoots on her rear across the floor and there is a huge hump on her lower back. I assume her parents dumped her when they saw that. I'd take her in a minute as I hate to think what her fate will be. I assume in the States that could be remedied by surgery, whatever "that" is.
After 90 minutes or so, the caretakers come by to take them to "yum yum" or lunch. Then it's back in the van for our slip-and-slide back to Kostenai where I either 1. go to the supermarket or 2. haunt one of the Internet cafes or 3. go to the local mall. Kazakhstan is such a weird mixture of first and third-world. They have ramps for the handicapped on all their curbs but then again, they have a distressing habit of not taking credit cards in this part of the country, which keeps the spending down a bit. At night, the whole city is lit up in Christmas lights. This being a largely Muslim country, the lights are a bit odd just by themselves or strung on Christmas trees and there's nary a creche to be seen. The big amusement here is to bring bread crumbs for the pigeons in the park or drag your kid behind you not in a stroller but in a sled. Which makes sense as ice and snow are everywhere.

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