I can't believe that today is our last day in Karaganda! As I write this, Steve is packing up our 40,000 suitcases (a rough estimate - five people traveling in Kazakhstan in the winter sure use up a lot of luggage space) and I'm typing because it's a safe, quiet activity that will not interfere with this packing. He's always passionate about suitcases - it's best to steer clear and just let him work his magic.
Honestly, I just can't believe that we're leaving. I thought it would be so cool to go to Almaty and hang out in the big city, but now I just want to stay in happy little Karaganda! Not that we have a choice, of course, our schedule is definitely not our own and now it is time to go to Almaty to finish Sasha's US paperwork. I'm just feeling a little wistful about leaving.
We got Sasha's new birth certificate yesterday and I have to say that I teared up a little when I saw a document that listed (albeit in Russian) Steve and I as her parents.
Anyway, we've spent our last few days here enjoying a few more Karaganda sights. We went to the Bazaar, which was really cool. It's an open-air market (I know, seems a little odd to have just south of Siberia, but whatever) and most of the kiosks are metal shipping containers situated next to each other to form makeshift stalls. Pretty ingenious!
Here are a few favorite sights at the Bazaar:
Yesterday we went to the "Ecomuseum" in the ground floor of the geology building here in Karaganda. It was really cool, although I guess we should have sprung for the tour because we had no idea what we were looking at most of the time. No matter, the boys got to twiddle dials and flip switches to their hearts' content, and that was truly all they needed in order to have a good time.
And then today was a big old banquet at Mario's Pizza Palace - we got the whole crew together! Ben, Chanda, Jennifer, Oxana, and even the Gildehauses were there! Jill and Matt Gildehaus are our original travel companions - they flew in last night and we will continue the rest of the trip together now that they've been reunited with their son John Marat.
Ben and Chanda brought caviar flavored potato chips to Mario's, which I think has to be the pinnacle of our survey of strange chip flavors of Kazakhstan. To be honest, all of the anticipation made for a bit of a let down - I mean, you expect a lot from a caviar chip. They just tasted like slightly fishy potato chips. Oh well, at least we have a cool photo to show for it and they made for some fun celebration-meal conversation!
After Mario's we headed over to the Tsum (sounds like "Soom") one last time for a final souvenir purchase. I cannot believe that I actually acquiesced to this, but we are now the "proud" owners of a genuine replica Kaz sword. Oh well, I can justify displaying it as part of my daughter's birth culture, right? I should probably just be proud of myself that with eight and five year old boys, this will actually be our first weapon on display in the home. Plus it makes a heck of an apple slicer.
And we rounded out our last evening in Karaganda with a scoop of Baskin Robbins and a final trip to Babylon. Steve challenged the boys to a final game of laser tag and while they were running out their crazies Sasha and I hit the kiddie rides. Her favorite, by far, was the giraffe that played It's a Small World in its entirety four full times before it was over. That's a whole lotta fun for 80 tengue.
We've had an amazing time here in Karaganda and our 54 days are simply filled with memories... meeting Sasha, navigating with our really crappy Russian, becoming a family of five, and the incredible folks that we've worked with - Oxana, Natasha, Vadim, the baby house workers... It's hard to leave such a great group of people. But I will admit that it feels good to be one step closer to home.