Today I had to give a name for her passport, so I wrote down "Olivia Veronika Duin." There you have it. At present, she's known as "Veeka;" maybe that will stick for the rest of her life - who knows - but I wanted to get my grandmother's name (and that of an aunt) in there somewhere. The Russian pronunciation of VeroNEEKa is quite pretty but the Americans, I am afraid, will mangle it to sound like the "Veronica" of "Archie and Veronica" comics which I am not so wild about. So we'll agonize later on whether to go with "Livvy" or "Veeka" or a combo.
Yesterday we did not go to the orphanage; wish I could say I had found a church but was not able to get my translator to help me find one. An Orthodox one would've been great (for Orthodox Christmas) and I hear there is a Baptist one somewhere but there is no such thing as Yellow Pages in this country so a church is hard to find. Instead, the translator, Valetin, took us to the local municipal museum which was quite interesting - all on the history of the Kazakh steppes and how the nasty Russians showed up to collectivize all the peasants whereupon the nomads killed their horses enmass rather than submit to the Soviets. Plus, seeing all the World War II stuff was amazing - so many of the men sent from here to fight the Germans never came back. I'd also forgotten that the Russian space program took place in these parts. Lots of steppe for them to land on and take off from. All the nuclear tests were in Semey, on the east side of the country.
Later Valentin took me to the "Victory Park" commemorating all the WW2 dead. There was a huge statue of Lenin there so we got into an interesting discussion of whether or not Lenin was evil. I said he was because Lenin laid the foundation for a godless society that made Stalin's mass murders possible. Valentin was puzzled as to why Lenin was bad, then proferred that he really didn't believe in God anyway because all religions were the same. WELL, that got me going as we slipped and slid through the snow in the late afternoon sun on our way back to the hotel - as I explained how Christianity is truly unique from other religions. Mind you, this is a city where the mosque is in the center of town and the Orthodox and Catholic churches are in the outskirts somewhere. Then Valentin volunteered that his grandmother is a Jehovah's Witness.
Tomorrow (Tuesday)I will have dinner with a local English translator - who is Muslim - and her daughter, the latter whom needs help with her French studies. So I will be conversing with this girl in French. Today Valentin helped me with my Russian numbers. The words "nine" and "nineteen" and "twenty" and "ninety" sound the same. The dipthongs here are horrendous - all the words have "dv" or "nv" or "py" or "sy" in them.