Sunday, March 24, 2013

Happy New Year! (Nauriz) or March Madness!

On Monday, we made a trip into town to visit our visa clerk, Mira.  We had to take our passports to her so we could be registered with our new Kazakh visa.  The weather has warmed up a bit, so there was slush and water and still some ice all over the sidewalks.  She took a look at us with our boots and laughed at us!  She said, "don't people laugh at you?"  And we said, "yes, all the time!"  We're glad we can help make the Kazakh people happy!  We will not be wearing the boots much longer.

After visiting Mira, we headed to the market.  It was a couple of blocks away.  As we were walking, I said "I smell smoke!"  And then we noticed a crowd of people around this apartment building.  Smoke was pouring out of a window, and a mother and baby were at the next window.  We got to see a little drama play out as the firefighters helped the baby and the mother down the ladder.

Someone had climbed up onto the second floor ledge thinking he could help somehow before the firemen arrived.  The smoke is coming out of the window on the left side.

They were able to get the woman and baby down safely and the smoke stopped coming out of the window, so apparently they got the fire out.

After English on Tuesday night, we walked by this little market.  I have seen it before, but just realized that it is my niece's name "Kamila".  In Russian, the cursive u is like an e.  Cursive just complicates everything you thought you knew!

We had the opportunity to visit our friend Dr. Tamara this week.  (No photos.)  She is the head of neonatalogy at the university here.  We had borrowed some text books from her last year when we went to Tajikistan and had the opportunity to bring her some replacement books.
We also were invited to dinner with our neighbor.  We see her occasionally at the elevator.  Her name is Sara and her granddaughter, Zhanna, lives with her.  She made the traditional Kazakh dinner for us, bish bar mak.  Zhanna speaks English so she helps us communicate, but really we can understand Sara pretty well!  We got to show our family photos and brag a little about our family and she brags about her family.  We got along great.  Her two grandsons came too (15 and 12)  They had lots of questions about the U.S. and the younger one knows more about U.S. movies than anyone I have met here.  It reminded us of our grandsons, Jacob and Michael.
Another holiday has come to Kazakhstan.  They take their holidays very seriously!  This holiday is celebrated in the "stan" countries.  Russia has a different spring holiday, apparently.  Anyway, March 22 is Nauriz.  We came by Congress Hall as they were setting up for the celebration.  They have changed the ice skating rink to a green surface for roller blades.
This is an old traditional swing.  These kids had it going pretty high.
The little kids played it a bit safer.

This is a display of what a traditional family life would have been like.
The big official celebration was on Friday and too bad, the weather turned a bit cold again.  We saw lots of traditional costumes, but you still have to have a cell phone around here!
As soon as we arrived, we were asked where we were from.  How do they always pick us out of a crowd??  Anyway, the TV station wanted us to give a short congratulations to the people of Kazakhstan and tell who we are.  They even found a nice hat for Alan to use!

I think he looks like a Kazakh pirate!

They got me too!
Then we met Emin and his mother Raisa and visited some of the displays.

Beautiful Kazakh girls!
A Kazakh hunting falcon.  When it stretched out its wings, wow it was big!
Emin's keeping an eye on that bird!  Also, notice the hunting dogs in the back.

A warrior guy
These little ladies could sing!  And the man on the right plays the accordion.  They were enjoying themselves.  The Kazakh people are very happy.

Some musicians
Crafts and costumes.  We enjoy how they celebrate their traditions!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Kiev Again!

It has been six months since we went to Kiev last September for our Kazakh visa.  So, it was time to go again.  We left Astana early Monday morning and arrived in Kiev ... Monday morning!  It is a four hour time difference and a four hour flight.  We were happy to see our friend Viktor who picked us up at the airport and took us to get our visa clerk, Elena, and then go to the Kazakh consulate.  There we found out that the fee for visas for missionaries had increased, so we had to find a place to get some US Dollars.  Luckily, there was a Western Union nearby, so we were able to turn in our application before the office closed for lunch.

The weather was a bit warmer in Kiev.  The river there is now unfrozen (defrosted?)  But during the night, it snowed.  It was quite pretty the next morning.

This is a view outside our hotel room.  The lumber yard in front of the hotel looks nice covered in snow.
I took this photo while it was still dark.  It was beautiful to look out and only see the lights from the temple.  No other lights were turned on yet.

 The photo does not do it justice.  But it was a beautiful sight.
We were glad we had brought our big boots so we could walk to the temple.  It was about a 30 minute walk.  We were early enough to go into the Kiev Mission Office and visit with our friends Elder and Sister Ricks from Rexburg. 

The sign says I am a Child of God (in Ukrainian).  They shared some of their extra Liahona magazines for us to bring to the elders.  They were so excited to get some new reading material!
We enjoyed getting to see some of our temple friends.
The next day we ventured into the city.  We decided to find some real American pizza at Domino's.  Someone scolded us for not eating Ukrainian food, but we did have our share of borsh and vinagrette and some other native foods.  We came out of the Metro, not sure which way to go, and there it was!
They have these cute little scooters to deliver pizzas.  They were pretty busy that day.  And we enjoyed a taste of something familiar!  Alan had to do a little sign language to help the girl understand he wanted onions.  He pretended he was cutting something and had a tear running down his face!
You can see that it warmed up a bit, because the snow is melting, making puddles everywhere.  We wandered around a little bit and found a few interesting things.

Here is a statue of Lenin just off the main street.

It is a big busy city.  The shops in this area are like Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana.
They have a carousel set up with a plastic cover for weather protection.  Not too many of the ice cream kiosks were open, or they were selling coffee instead of ice cream.  I didn't get a photo of the McDonalds nearby, but it was very crowded as usual.  We had to do a little more sign language for ice cream cones.  We know the word for "ice cream", "мороженое", but for "cone", we had to draw a swirl in the air.

And a photo, for my friend Anadine!
After we got off the metro, the ride back to the hotel on the marshuka was not so great.  There was construction / road repairs on the highway, and some accidents to boot.  It was taking forever!  The driver took every shortcut he could by driving into a parking lot or gas station along the highway and then speeding ahead to get in front of some of the traffic.  At one point, he had the two right side wheels up on the sidewalk to pass by some cars.  I was the only one on the bus that seemed worried about tipping over!  We were glad when we made it back safely!
We found these cute little candies at the nearby supermarket.  Bounty is like Almond Joy, but without the almonds.
The Kazakh consulate is closed on Wednesdays, so on Thursday, we headed back to pick up our visas.  We thought about maybe going back into the city in the afternoon, but our bus ride the day before made us decide otherwise.
So on Friday morning it was raining.  We thought about walking over to the temple, but we'd have to drag our bags with us, or leave them at the hotel.  Then, our driver called and offered to drive us over to the temple.  We spent some time in the church and mission office, then got to attend the afternoon session.  When it ended, our friend Viktor was there to drive us to the airport.
We decided to get a bite to eat at the airport.  We were in a different terminal this time.  Some of the airport food we've encountered is not so great.  There was a pretty nice Italian place in this terminal, so we got some soup and salad.  Then we went upstairs and through security and what did we see????
T.G.I.Fridays??!!  I was so sorry to be full already!  I could have had a chicken quesadilla!  Well, now we know!
The plane left Kiev at 10:30 pm and we arrived back in Astana Saturday morning as the sun was coming up.  Can you say jet lag?
We were surprised to see that they have been working hard to clean up the snow and ice in the courtyard.  The parking lot is still icy and slippery, but the children seemed happy to be able to play.  Someone even had a new bike to try out.
So our temperature got above freezing!  It is 47 F as I write this.  We took a short walk this afternoon and where there was snow, now it is sloshy and / or puddles of water.  Spring may actually be around the corner.  We'll see!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Silent World / ARDI / Kazakh Society of the Blind

These have to be the biggest tulips ever!  We saw this truck the other day.  They have been setting up displays all over town.  Friday March 8 was International Women's Day.  They take their holidays very seriously around here.  I was given flowers and candy by several kind people!  I don't know why the US doesn't celebrate this day.  Seems like a pretty good idea to me!
I promised a photo of our parking lot.  This is actually a pretty good day.  In fact, the colder days are often better than the warmer ones.  It gets too slushy and wet as it melts.

We went to visit Maria at Silent World.  This is our friend Alibek helping us communicate.  This organization hires the hearing impaired to make souveniers and do sewing contracts.  We came to tell her that her project has recently been approved.  The church is going to provide an embroidery machine so they can make traditional Kazakh costumes.
We had a laugh about her Kazakh Barbie collection.  She said she buys the dolls but then she has to paint the eyes brown instead of blue and try to make the eyes look slanted like Oriental girls!

This is a photo of the China Palace where we had dinner a few weeks ago.
This is a hotel in Almaty that we stayed at this week.  It is closer to the branch building so we thought we'd try it.  It does have a scary elevator, the bed was nice, but overall I think it's overpriced.
Anyway, when we landed in Almaty the sun was shining and there was hardly any snow around.  At mid-day, the sky clouded over and it started raining.  And raining.  And then it started snowing.  And snowing.  But it was nice while it lasted!  We ended up happy we brought the big old boots after all.

I thought this was an interesting design of a Kazakh falconer.
This is a dry ball pool that the church has provided to an organization in Almaty.  When we visited them last time, their director was not there so we were glad to get to visit with her this time.  The boys are enjoying their pool.  They said we should get in with them because it's fun!

This is the new treadmill they received.  This young man was happy to demonstrate for us.

This girl was happy to see us because we interrupted her physical therapy!

They are very happy to have a new stove as well.

We enjoyed seeing our friends at ARDI.

The girl in the wheelchair is Danara.  I remembered meeting her the last time we came here.  She has the most beautiful smile.  I asked if she was happy and she said yes, I am happy.  (And she speaks English!)

Next we went to see the sewing shop run by the Kazakh Society for the Blind in Almaty.  These sewing machines are VERY old!!  They have a man that helps keep them running.  They do amazing work.  It is very neat.  This organization had sent a request for assistance and we wanted to see their location since we were in town.  We hope to be able to help them get some new equipment.  They employ about 70 people with low vision.

This is the hallway from the sewing room towards the office.  This is definitely an old Soviet-era building.

This is the lobby of the building.  Not a great facility, but very nice people!  We enjoyed our visit with them.

Later we walked to the food court.  The rain was turning to snow.  Alan's still smiling!

What!!!  We found Doritos at the grocery store there!  Only Taco and Nacho flavors, but wow!
I just realized we didn't take any photos at our Zone Conference.  But we did have a wonderful time and enjoyed meeting together with President and Sister Gibbons.  They now have multiple entry visas so it will make it much easier for them to visit Kazakhstan in the future.

On Friday we came back to Astana.  We had a Talent Night Activity for our English group and the branch.  This is a view out of the window at the branch.  The security guy is moving some of the snow.
Nurgissa is playing a traditional Kazakh instrument the dombra.  There are only two strings on it and he knows how to make it sing!

The elders performed too along with some of our little girls in the branch.  One of our English students played Chopin on the piano.  She is very talented!

This morning there was a little bobcat out in the courtyard trying to clean up some snow.  I'm not sure why it's the thing to do now, but he was working away on it all the same.