Wednesday, February 14, 2007
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.