Monday, February 26, 2007

India series runs & Veeka goes to church

Some of you may remember the 3-week trip I took to India last September to research a piece on the massive aborting of baby girls there. The first part of my 4-part series (it ends March 1) ran today - you can see it at this URL: - or just call up It was a ton of work but I am very proud of how it came out. I've attached a photo of Mary Calvert, the photographer who accompanied me, shooting colorfully-dressed women at dawn prayers in Jaipur.
Meanwhile on the home front, we are still getting Veeka's schedule to work. Today we visited the doctor, who advised me to be more regular with Veeka; easier said than done, as any time I take her somewhere in the car, she naps, which throws off her sleeping schedule. Things are are 6s and 7s here - piles EVERYWHERE around the house. I cannot get anything done and I am constantly interrupted. I am still struggling with how to get up the baby gates; mind you, no one has offered to help me so I am on my own with a drill, nails, screws and lots of little things to stick into the wall.
The Little One had lots of blood drawn today for titers - which caused many a screech - because the adoption agency in Almaty dropped the ball on getting us her vaccination records. They say one cannot trust medical records from overseas anyway so she might end up getting a lot of the same shots done again. So we have to do titers to see what antibodies there already are in her blood. And I also have to get poop samples for the next 5 days to test for other nasties. Icky.
Anyway, it is hard to get this child down for one nap, much less two. Yesterday was horrible; she would NOT go down in the afternoon. Today was not much better. I sometimes put her in the crib and walk off but when she's howling 20 minutes later, what to do? Today I brought her into my room, plunked her under my quilt and we both took a nap. She wants a lot of lap time - as do my kitties, who are looking very peaked and unhappy about this interloper moving in. If Veeka is not on my lap, one of the fur balls moves in.
Meanwhile, gifts from my sister-in-law Susan keep on pouring in. The new PJs were much appreciated as they cover her feet, which tend to get icy when she sleeps. The doctor said that's no big deal but it's a bit odd to pick up a child and find her extremities are so cold. I was also advised to stock up on milk that is at least 2% if not more and to work on the fine motor skills, ie making Veeka feed herself. Which she wants to do, part of the time. Being premature and from an orphanage means she's in the lower percentiles of almost every graph (height, weight, head growth, etc.) in the doctor's office. Her head has not grown since September - got to find some kind of food that feeds those grey cells up there.
The amount of trash outside my back door has quadrupled from my usual output. I did get busy and put together a bureau from Ikea; problem is, one of the measurements was off, so the bottom portion is too big, meaning the drawers do not shut correctly. This happenes EVERY TIME I put together a piece of furniture - something always screws up. And I know I followed instructions. I did drag Veeka to church (in the midst of a snow storm) yesterday. I thought my buzzer would be going off because she would be in the nursery missing me. Not a chance - the folks there told me she was incredibly social and loved being with the other kiddies. Then after the service, she found my lap and - ZONK- out like a light.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Veeka meets the relatives

For the last two nights, the Little One has NOT woken up at 3 a.m.! This is a major improvement from the first 2-3 nights. Oma flew in Monday which was VERY HELPFUL in terms of getting lots of free labor in helping me out. We have visited Sears, Toys R Us, Babies R Us and today we go to Ikea to buy a kiddie bureau. Oma has
1. laid plastic on the floor so that when Veeka feeds herself the food doesn't go all over the floor;
2. Helped childproof several rooms
3. Gone out in the mornings to get the WPost off the front lawn (I re-started up my subscription especially for her). Note: She has not asked to see the WTimes.
4. Is now (as I write) dressing Veeka in a blue sweater, purple onesie and red pants and new white sandals, courtesy of Opa and Oma from Babies R Us. Then she will put on a purple jacket from Carley (my oldest niece).
5. Helped let the kitties in and out. But when Serenity showed up at the window sill and mieowed, Oma couldn't figure out where she was. Serenity was miffed.
6. Sung lullabies to her newest grand-daughter that she learned from Birchie about eggs and boarding houses. Very weird.
7. Shopped at Safeway to get us goodies.
8. Is trying to teach Veeka how to count.
9. Suggested ways I could corral Veeka into enclosed spaces so I could get a moment's respite as I get dressed, etc.
10. Organized the pile of donated clothes Veeka has gotten.
Please see photo of Oma with Veeka on her tummy.
Then on Tuesday, we visited Aunt Dot and Uncle Ed at their new retirement home. Everyone there liked Veeka even if she didn't always like them. But she took a liking to her great-aunt and uncle. Aunt Dot is the one with the cane.
And then there was this morning when Veeka crawled into bed with me at 6 a.m. And I was up late paying all those bills I missed from not being around for 7 weeks.
Oma flies out Friday. Don't we wish she could stay longer?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The cats were not amused

Imagine this: After nearly 7 weeks away, I walk into the house Saturday night and get a rapturous welcome from my two fur balls. They are ecstatic to see me back. Finally morning back rubs and cuddles! I give them lots of kisses. Then,
"Dear ones," I say, "there's someone you need to meet."
All of a sudden, their little world was blasted away by the arrival of a toddler who would like nothing better than to pet them then pull their tails. Things are very unhappy in Kitty-land right now. Negotiations are in progress as to how they shall be petted and by whom. The first salvo was fired at 1 a.m. when Veeka awoke, with a wet bed and diaper. I was still drugged out on Nyquil and too tired to think. But as I was cleaning up, Serenity decided to add to the mess by vomiting up her kitty food. Then this morning, Felicty, leapt on the bed and tried to be friendly with Veeka while Serenity hid out in the closet.
I think we spent 21 hours in the air yesterday. The Almaty-Frankfurt leg wasn't bad at all, chiefly because of one great Lufthansa stewardess who went out of her way to amuse the Little One. Plus, within 10 minutes of take-off, the stewards had the little bassinets set up on the bulkheads. Veeka took to hers like a bug in a rug. The time actually passed quickly.
The Lufthansa folks, however, misplaced my stroller so they sent me down to the special services room to borrow one for the 7-hour layover. While there, I got to know that airport a little better. Special services was actually quite nice -a ground-floor room with all sorts of adult and kiddie snacks and toys and magazines. Not a bad place to hang out. Then I chanced upon the other locale where everyone goes - McDonalds! Yes, up on the 3rd level at the main concourse there is a play area for kids. The eating area looks out on where the sun rises so I set up shop there at about 6:30 a.m., talking with a family who had just adopted from India. They were flying back to the States too. As the sun rose, the shop filled up and Veeka (blessedly) dozed off while I read all my tourist folders from the Central Asia shop I'd visited in Almaty. The really IN place to tour about is...Kyrgyzstan. Yes, all sorts of people told me to go there next time I am in the area; it is very much like Switzerland although you stay in a yurt instead of a chalet. But it's like Europe in the 1950s - gorgeous and unspoiled. Tajikstan (just south of Kyrgyzstan)is also a must-see - cool mountains and scenery right out of a documentary.
The Frankfurt-DC leg was not as pleasant; the steward/esses on United were quite grouchy and Veeka was harder to get down to nap. I had to argue with them to get them to set up a bassinet although they did switch out some passengers so I could get a bulkhead seat. Then they fought with me about using a bassinet. Strange. Anyway, I was getting lunch trays and food tossed at me when it was obvious I needed 8 hands as Veeka was on my lap. Finally some of the passengers took my tray so I could handle the Wiggly One - a photo of her beaming from the bassinet is included.
Susan was there at Dulles to pick me up although she had to wait as I had to wait in Customs Hell for 45 minutes as I had extra immigration docs for Veeka that some officials had to look over. I meant to get to church this morning but Veeka seemed unwilling to deal with more than 1-2 people today, plus Sara dropped by to provide company and groceries. Then tomorrow Oma shows up. Then I can run off and get a massage and see a chiropracter while Oma babysits! Wheeeeee!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Leaving on a jet plane

FINALLY we are ready to go. It's midnight here and in about 3 hours, our Lufthansa flight takes off for Frankfurt. It will have been almost 7 weeks - 47 days - since I left on New Year's Eve to come here.
Yesterday we finally got out of the city to see Chimbulak, a fabulous ski area that unfortunately has no snow but the scenery is magnificent. The winding road to get up to it makes the two-laner to Whistler/Blackcomb seem like a super highway. My goodness. It had quite a steep pitch. But the mountains surrounding it were Swiss alps redux - I only wish we could have taken the chair lift but we got there too late in the day. We overlooked Medeo, a huge public ice rink that is quite the place to hang out. Both were in the mountains overlooking the smoggy city. While stopping at the Chimbulak coffee shop, Veeka and Andrew (the other little boy being adopted) spied a grey kitty sleeping in the sun. They ooohed and aaahed over it. Good sign for my furballs.
Today I did some last-minute purchases and then we showed up at a skyscraper south of the city where the American consulate was on the 17th floor. There were no signs, nothing, outside signifying its presence and we had to go through metal detectors to get through the door. The interview process was very short - and we faced the employee through a thick plate glass window and slid pieces of paper back and forth through a slot. As if the place was fortified against suicide bombers. Not friendly.
What put a sour note in the proceedings was that when we walked in, Mike and I were informed we owed $380 for the visa fee. We looked at each other. We had paid our coordinator, Baha, money for a visa over a month ago. Well, apparently she's done something else with it, as the consulate showed no sign of her having paid the money. It was the final dig in what's been one trial after another with this coordinator from hell. The illegal stuff she has goodness. And, when we were paying out $12 K for all our adoption expenses when we first arrived, she refused to give us a receipt. Well, now we know why. We cannot prove we paid for our visas nor anything else for that matter.
I marked down on my visa form that I wanted to talk alone with one of the consular officials there but when he gave me all my paperwork, he ignored the note. I got his phone number and later contacted him through the consular switchboard, asking him why they put up with agencies that bilk people out of thousands of dollars. Well, the American consulate is not losing sleep over this, let me tell you. I told him about some of the illegal things that take place; he was blase. I told him about the unbelievable overcharges; a child's visa costs $50 in Kazakhstan. We were charged $500. We were charged $170/day for driver/coordinator and translator only to find out that on the ground, the drivers and translators are seeing very little of that money. Ditto for the orphanages.
He said they've gotten used to the idea that the Kaz way of doing things is to grease as many palms as possible. I replied that I could understand things costing twice as much. But TEN TIMES as much?? I asked him why no one there was indignant that all these visiting American citizens are at the mercy of these horrific people - he said it's worse in Russia. Gee, that's comforting. In fact, he added that he and his wife are adopting - from China! So he knows what a mess things are in Kazakhstan but quite honestly, our embassy is not there for us. During some of my worst moments last month when I was arguing with this awful coordinator, I entertained the idea of calling the embassy and pleading for help. Glad I didn't bother.
Anyway, we left with our kiddie passports and tons of other paperwork. Veeka was unbelievably bouncy this evening; it took me three hours to put her down. You read that right. The thought of the next 21 hours or so in various airports (a 7-hour layover in Frankfurt - groan)- those of you who pray, please do for me! But then I'll be HOME!
Here I come.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sniffle, sniffle

Not much new here! Signed some more docs this morning for my US embassy interview tomorrow. Am having dinner tonight with a contact from the US embassy. Am glad I am missing that nasty snowstorm on the east coast! The computers here at the hotel won't let me post photos unfortunately.
Am still feeling physically awful with this cold. This morning at 6, I woke up to see a little gremlin dressed in yellow pajamas standing by my head. She crawled into bed with me and all was well.

Delays, delays

Well, I *thought* I'd be leaving early Friday morning, to get home the same day, but I was beyond annoyed to learn last night that there had been some delay in my documents so I cannot leave until Saturday morning at the earliest. So for the 2nd time, I have had to change my plane tickets home. At this point, I am getting into Dulles at 3;23 p.m. on Lufthansa 9050, which doubles as a United flight for some reason. I am still arguing with Lufthansa over the change fees; it's supposed to be $75 but they wanted to stick me with $200.
Veeka's medical exam yesterday (which was pretty cursory) went well and cost me a whopping $108. Sigh. As Mike, the guy adopting with me keeps on saying, "It's only money." I spent the afternoon wandering up and down Gogol Street - their Fifth Avenue - although Almaty has a l-o-n-g way to go before it merits much of a comparison. True, Versace, Prada and Armani have stores there but I don't think many people visit there. Salaries here are quite low and where the crowds gather are in the cell phone and computer stores. It's 6 degrees Celsius here (upper 40s?) and Almaty is largely a grey city of concrete block buildings. Even their war memorial in Panifilov Park looks like Soviet lite; huge blocky statues, the dates of both world wars and eternal flame set in black obsidian. I liked the Kazakh musical instruments museum set in a traditional wooden Russian building as well as Zenkov cathedral; a gingerbread-like confection full of onion domes, bright yellow and white paint with green trim. Inside, some ceremony was going on, so I heard some great chants from their professional choir.
Today was full of petty annoyances; the delay in going home, the inability of our translator here to speak English (this is not a joke; her neurosurgeon son does a better job than she does)and just the exhaustion of having a cold myself and keeping up with Veeka, who's a handful at her best. Last night I went to a French restaurant with the local New York Times correspondent and a young woman who's trying to get to the USA to do her doctorate in education - quite an interesting evening and I loved indulging in European food. Veeka was so cute, everyone was ooohing and aahing over her. Ilan, the NYT guy, loved holding her - didn't want to let her go.
Despite my feeling awful, I took Veeka out to lunch to a cafe but the clouds of smoke there nearly overwhelmed me. Central Asians are where Europe was 10 years ago; still smoking up a storm. Then I had people yelling at me because they felt Veeka was underdressed for the weater (Veeka kept on trying to shed her clothes I might add and I could not keep mittens on her). One woman just bellowed at me - she was vicious - so I yelled back at her "Ya ne panaymayoo pa-Russki!" (I do not speak Russian). I wanted to say some other things to her but didn't know the right nasty words.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Back in Almaty

The four-hour flight on a rickety plane with bouncy Veeka was not a joy, let me tell you, but fortunately a Kazakh boy took it on himself to help entertain her, so she stopped howling and played with him.
I've been in Almaty a day now - am staying at a hotel called Kaz Zhol - it's very nice - much cheaper than the Hyatt - and we're close to downtown. I spent this morning getting the Little One's passport photo, then went shopping at ZHUM - the big store - have enough Kazakh Christmas ornaments and yurt jewel boxes to serve as gifts for the next few years! As usual, Veeka charmed everyone and enticed one of the saleswomen to give up a bottle of apple juice for her. Veeka loves juice - any juice. Meanwhile in the hotel room, I race about, trying to keep this little girl from poking her fingers into electrical sockets. What IS it about kids they like doing this???
To our surprise, Almaty was 20 degrees warmer with no snow - quite a different city from what I saw 6 weeks ago. We ate lunch in an open air market with women dressed in Russian costumes serving up Slavic deserts and a barbecue stand that combined carrots, lamb, mayonaisse, onions and a bunch of other stuff for the yummiest tortilla sandwich you ever had.
Last night, we went to the craziest restaurant - PCB or something like that - that was done up as take-off on the old KGB days. There was a hammer and sickle etched into the ceiling, secret taping machines, photos of Brezhnev, Khrushev (spelled that wrong, I know) and Che Gueverra - lots of Party photos showing bronzed men and muscular women fighting for the Fatherland - they even give you commemorative Party postcards when you leave.
Today we took passport photos; tomorrow hopefully we will do Veeka's medicals. Unfortunately everything depends on when the coordinator arrives from Astana with all the adoption stuff OK'd by their state apparatus. So we wait and wait...

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Oy, oy, oy

That's what Russians say to you if they think your child isn't dressed warmly enough. "Oy, oy, oy" means "shame, shame, shame." A lot of the other Americans here have gotten such lectures; fortunately I have not although one woman berated me for letting Veeka's hat fall over her face. The *good* thing about this culture is that these folks really like kids, so the other night when Madina and I and her son went out to dinner, Veeka was in high spirits, running about the restaurant. One of the couples there - strangers - let her climb on their laps and they played with her. That would never happen in the US of A. The restaurant staff where I eat breakfast every morning is accustomed to Miss Veeka wandering in and out of the kitchen. She is so disarming and everyone likes to pick her up.
The down side is that restaurants here have never heard of high seats so one must balance the child one's lap and aim carefully at the open mouth. I have gotten quite good at this. Today I was walking Veeka about, trying to get her to snooze so I could come here. She would NOT drop off, so we toured a local mall where we found a restaurant that served me some buckwheat groats with beef. Veeka refused the buckwheat after a few mouthfuls. Fortunately I had brought along potato chips which she munched on. This kid is not getting the most balanced diet.
I shopped around the mall, looking to buy a very pretty - but expensive - hat. One thing I've noticed about the store help here; they can be quite unfriendly! The woman in the hat shop spit out the price - 15,000 tenge (more than $100) - and wouldn't come down a bit. It had been less a few weeks before. Anyway, she was rude and obviously didn't want to make a sale so instead I bought Veeka a Kazakh doll at a shop where the clerk was a bit nicer and came down 100 tenge for me. The exchange rate is 125.2 tenge to $1 today. Got some Orthodox icons for gifts, and also because *that* clerk was super friendly and help Veeka as I was trying to decide between St. Andrew and Mary of the Desert and some Russian angel I'd never heard of.
The photos here are of yesterday when I took Veeka for a walk in the park and she was trying to talk to the pigeons. She was on a push/sleigh - a stroller with blades which comes in quite useful in these snow-covered parts. One of the wheels on my stroller is kaput - after 2 weeks - the folks at the hotel said it was cheap Chinese goods and that it was not made for freezing weather. Still, I paid 4100 tenge for it! Mike says he will help me duct-tape the wheel so I can get it through my final week here. We've noticed how badly things are made here. The Chinese goods that flood this country are sloppily made and fall apart easily. There must be some kind of manufacturing hierarchy whereby the good exports get shipped off to the USA and Europe and the junky stuff comes here.
Anyway, it was the loveliest day with everyone outside and yellow-breasted chickadees and white birch trees and pink park benches and bright blue sky. Later we went to the circus, which Veeka LOVED - especially the clown. She would sit in my lap, her hands in the air, swaying back and forth. It's the kind of circus one would have seen in the US maybe 100 years ago - almost vaudeville - with scantily-clad girls, a few animals and acrobats and magic tricks. But the kiddies liked it.
Today (Friday) should be a red letter day for me as supposedly our adoptions are finalized at 6 p.m. Our coordinator is in town but true to form, we've not heard from her. If all goes well, we fly back to Almaty tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Kaput kaluska

A "kaluska" is a stroller and today mine utterly died. Its wheels were falling off in the street. So I slogged to a specialty baby store and paid $52 for another one - more of the "umbrella stroller" variety. Sigh. Again, I couldn't figure out how to negotiate with the help until an English-speaking woman walked by - who was from Moscow - and helped me with the purchase. Turns out my old stroller was Russian-made (no wonder it didn't last) and the new one is Chinese-made so we'll see how long that lasts.
Anyway, we finally fly out Sunday afternoon back to Almaty. We just bought our tickets an hour ago. Pray we don't get fogged out! Our adoption coordinator was delayed 24 hours out of the Almaty airport cuz of the fog. Yesterday got a real lift: my parents had sent me a package 3 1/2 weeks ago regular airmail and it actually got here! I am already 1/3 through one of the paperbacks they sent me and am reveling in the new Langenscheidts Russian dictionary. Shared the Hershey's kisses with some college students I took out last night for dinner. Veeka polished off one trail mix bar as soon as I opened the package and has already started on no. 2. Yum, yum, she says.
Hopefully with the modem my dad sent me I can send posts from my hotel room in Almaty. Today it's snowing and snowing and snowing.

Kazakh life

For all of you who wonder when I'm coming home, it'll either be Feb. 16 or 17 by the looks of it. Mike - the other American here with me adopting little Andrew - and I are a tad annoyed that our adoption coordinator is not in as big a hurry to get us out of here as we are. The judge will sign off on our adoptions Friday afternoon and HOPEFULLY we will fly to Almaty on Saturday. So you might say that this Friday (Feb. 8? - one loses track of time here) will be Olivia Veronika's official adoption date.
Today I was eating breakfast when I got to talking with a Kazakh from Almaty who's up here on business. His name is Marlen - given to him by Communist parents who wanted their child named after Marx and Lenin. He noticed the time I was having with Veeka - who was throwing bread on the floor and screeching - and he said, "My wife looked just like you do when she was raising our two children when they were small." He was trying to be kind but I didn't know I looked that ragged! Veeka was up til past 11 last night - she was very wired - I could NOT get her down and having no crib, I couldn't just leave her on the bed. She's now picked up a habit of taking things OUT of the trash can.
And dressing her or putting on a diaper is like wrestling with an octopus; you get one extremity pinned down and the others rise up to bite you. And I have introduced her to a new food delight: Pringles. Oh, does she like those potato chips! She loves hot cereal (that's what was served up in the baby house) and bread and meat. I've not gotten her to understand how to use a straw yet; maybe that's something they pick up when they turn 2?
The photo is of Sergey holding Veeka right after she got a bath while I was in Lisakovsk. She was in SUCH a good mood. She's not into things on computer screens or TV monitors yet. We tried watching "The Shawshank Redemption" last night on DVD and all she wanted to do is place her little feet atop my keyboard.

Going to Lisakovsk

Remember that nice college student, Masha, who helped me buy some baby clothes my first full day with Veeka? Well, she invited me to come visit her parents for the weekend. They live about 2 hours away by bus about an hour south of Rudny. On a map, find Kostenai, then follow the Togol river SW til you get to Lisakovsk, a small town of 60,000.
I stayed in a small 2-bedroom apartment with Masha, 18, her sister, Dareen, 3, and her parents: Gulnara and Sergey. Masha's fiance, Sergei, picked us up at the station. The place is typical 1960s-era Soviet tenement city; drab, drab, drab, except for a few buildings with some splashes of color. There was another sister, Dasha, who'd be 17 now had she not died in 2002 of an inoperable brain tumor. I spent much of Saturday evening going over family photos with Gulnara, who showed me what Dasha - a local beauty queen - had looked like. The saddest one was of Dasha standing forlornly by a bridge in Moscow just after she'd gotten news from doctors there that her condition was hopeless. The family sent her there on a 3-day train ride in a last-ditch attempt to try to find treatment for her. I told Gulnara I had an aunt who had died at about the same age in the 1930s.
Anyway, Gulnara fixed a goose in honor of my coming and invited quite a few of the church members to come meet me.
Sunday morning, we repaired to another building a few blocks away where about 40 adults and lots of kids were gathered for a very passable evangelical/charismatic Christian assembly. The guy who founded the church, Don Wallis, is a Canadian who 18 years ago came to Kazakhstan to sell thrashers. For those of you not familiar with farm equipment, thrashers have something to do with harvesting early wheat - it's great for climates like northern Kazakhstan and midwestern Canada where the growing season is short and the winters set in in September. Don knew all this, growing up in Saskatchewan. His family is now in Vancouver.
After the service, the church members all gathered around a long table with a samovar (large urn-type container that dispenses hot tea) in the middle and many plates of sweets. Apparently this is a Russian custom. Then Don took me around to show me the new church he's building in the middle of town. We talked for several hours about how he came here to set up a factory for these thrashers (he has something like a national patent on them but the locals, he says, don't really honor patents) and ended up founding a church. What he has done is convert a lot of the men who work in his factory; as a result last Sunday, a lot of the folks in there were young men. Most churches in Russia are filled with women. That is certainly true of "Blagodat," the Kazakh church I visited the Sunday before.
It really helps that Don is Canadian - he said there is a lot of anti-American feeling around - not for any particular reason, really. He was telling me that because of the oil industry in the western part of the country on the Caspian sea, money is pouring into Kazakhstan and the economy is very healthy so more people are having kids and spending. But it will take awhile to get a lot of the Communist Party mentality out of these folks; a mentality he said has really emasculated the men. I've noticed too a certain fatalism here; a reluctance to be ambitious or stand apart from the crowd.
I was in awe of what Don has done here in terms of changing peoples' lives. He had fascinating anecdotes about how he's had to teach these folks what a work ethic is, what it means to show up for work (and church) on time, what it means to service the products you sell, how one works with local Party bosses to get protection from the Mafia types who want to do you in, all the info about the church scene in Kazakhstan; who is successful and who is not - it was a great afternoon. I guess that is what it takes: if you want to influence a country, you have to basically plant yourself in one city and make a difference there. He's helped several local businesses get started and this new church he's building incorporates a lot of the local culture - ie a place for the babushkas to sit and a place for the old men to sit and drink tea in the courtyard every morning. And a spiral staircase - a real innovation here.
Am including 2 photos: one of Don preaching with Julie, his interpreter; the other, from the left, is the worship band. Sergey is on the far left; Masha is the woman in the middle and her fiance, Sergei, is on the far right. Being there was like a lovely dream and it got me out of the dreary routine here.

Thursday, February 1, 2007


It is -13 C out - must be about 0 Fahrenheit...Veeka shrieked when I wheeled her out into the cold but sunny weather this a.m. It truly feels like Siberia today. She has a sunny personality and all the hotel staff love her and blow her kisses. She has really blossomed in the past week.
No huge news - am meeting with a Russian evangelist at 4 p.m. just to learn what the church scene is here. Valentin will interpret. Was up at 3 a.m. today for some strange reason. Guess I'd better get used to it, eh?