Catching Up and “To the Market We Go”

September 29, 2008 at 2:47 am 4 comments

Sunday, September 28, 2008: Day 26 in Kostanai

Catching Up
It is has been a few days since I’ve posted so I thought I’d do a little writing while we wait for our ride to the baby house. As far as the adoption process goes, our application for a pre-court date has been filed and okayed so we are now waiting to be assigned an actual date to attend. There are a few things that need to be done before this occurs (of course). We’ll be told as soon as everything is in order and there is an opening in the judge’s busy schedule. I hate having to be patient, but everything will come together in due time.

The end of September has crept up on us very quickly! It is amazing to think that we’ve been here for almost a month and even more amazing to realize that our little guy, although still a peanut, is getting bigger and more coordinated every day. Yesterday, instead of wanting to eat when I was feeding him, he kept trying to talk and babble the entire time. This completely cracked me up, which made him even more unfocused and earned me some quizzical looks from the caretakers. [To the right is the typical lunch for the little ones.] Sitting up with less assistance and pulling himself forward seem to be skills where we’ve noticed growth. Clapping hands, his or mine, is also a new source of entertainment this week. Of course, having his little arms reach up whenever we come into the room is a development we love!

Our coordinator stopped by the baby room with us the other day to ask some clothes questions we’ve been wondering about. While we removed our coats and shoes, our little one, who was sitting in the middle of the room in his walker, just stared at her while she gathered the information we had asked for. As soon as Doug and I walked into the room, our little guy started bouncing (his equivalent of tail wagging) and smiling in our direction with instant recognition! This little event was noticed by all. Yippee! He knows who we are!

Daily Life in Kostanai

First, I just have to say that, today, it snowed. Mind you, it was just a few flurries but, today, it snowed. The temperature has been a little colder than I expected. Our first week here was very warm, even hot, but by week number two we were straight into fall. One of the reasons I haven’t posted much this week is that the weather has been beautiful. “Old Lady Summer”, as our coordinator has been calling it, ranges in the mid-50’s to mid-60’s. You need typically need a jacket and the mornings are see-your-breath cold, but when the sun is out a sweater will do. We’ve been taking advantage of the lovely afternoons to walk, walk, and walk some more.

Our daily outings typically take us to one of the two bazaars within walking distance of our apartment. One, known as the Green Market, has made an appearance in a previous post. It tends to be more food oriented with vegetables, fish, meats, and baked goods. There also babushka’s selling knit socks, fresh vegetables, and home baked bread. Stalls with home goods (and the ONLY place we could find matches) are mixed in with others selling very cheap, low quality clothing and shoes. There is a little bit of everything in this market that covers at least two large city blocks. [This picture shows us bargaining for a pair of Kazakhstan sweatpants.]

The second market is closer to Natasha’s apartment and doesn’t seem to be as large (one city block, maybe) but looks to be the place to purchase clothes, shoes, coats, and hats. Although the garments in this market are reputed to be of lesser quality than found in the abundant boutiques throughout Kostanai, they most certainly surpass what was seen in the other. With that said, it does have a reputation as a place to buy fur coats and hats! Although, I’m not quite sure what is sitting a top of Doug’s head!

Today, Doug found a nice pair of leather gloves and I left with a very warm hat. I was temped to buy a fur hat for 8500 tenge (a little less than $85) but I just couldn’t do it. Although, it was of normal proportions (unlike the ones in the picture), I couldn’t see spending that much money for a hat. I’m also not one to advocate the killing of animals for the satisfaction of human fashion. But I have to say that these garments are beautiful and, darn it, they are warm!  There is certainly a difference between wearing fur because it is fur and wearing it because it is the best protection from the cold. However, what ever your reason they are still pretty expensive.

We love going to the markets because it is a great place to practice our Russian and learn more. We’re getting pretty good with our numbers and, combined with a little sign language, we’ve even started haggling prices and joking with some of the vendors. The next things to work on are colors and remembering to say the correct word for small (MAlinikaya) instead of using the word for boy/child (MAlcheeky). [The picture on the left is me in my new hat with the kitchen department in the background.]

Overall, these two markets are typically very busy. One reason might be that the prices are so much less than what is found in local shops. I guess one could think of them as Kostanai’s local bargain store. The other reason is that you can get pretty much anything you need in one area. At first the cluster of uncountable booths (metal storage containers) seem overwhelming and incapable of navigation, but after multiple trips we’re actually able to find our way around and return to previously visited retailers.

It has been difficult, however, to find a good selection of traditional Kazakh items. We’ve located one store in the TSUM (what we call the “mall”) and in another store across from our apartment. Maybe we just don’t know where to look or maybe it is the newness of this country and its break from the former Soviet Union that has resulted in a lesser market for what is known. Traditions certainly still exist, but with the chance to experience “the new” at will, it seems like the old may have been cast aside for a time.

In relation to the “new”, we’ve been astounded at the number of small grocery markets as well as almost any other store you can imagine. When asking our coordinator about this, she explained that as soon as people were given the freedom to open businesses, everyone wanted a business. And, it looks as though everyone HAS a business. We’ve walked miles around Kostanai and almost every doorstep on street level is either a shop or the entrance to a mini-shopping plaza. I can’t imagine how they all stay open. It is like someone picked out ten different types of businesses, took a giant cookie cutter to make copies, and then sprinkled them around each block and neighborhood so no one had to walk more than ten feet to find any item they may want. Of course, after doing some comparison-shopping, they aren’t all quite the same but it takes a little exploring to find that out.

In fact, it takes a little exploring to actually realize that a store is a store. Many have little or no signage and the shades are usually drawn so that, even if you think you’re entering a children’s shop, for example, you’re not quite sure if it is actually open or what it is until you get inside. (Of course it would help to be able to read more Russian, but we can figure most existing signs out.) At first I was a little apprehensive about going through the various steel and uninviting doors but now I enter with a zdrastvuteur (hello), walk around, and then leave with a spaceba (thank you). I don’t typically buy anything, but the adventure is always fun. And if you happen to want to purchase an item…well, I’ll talk about that more in another post that I’m going to call “Shoe Shopping”. Until then…

Note: New pictures and videos have been posted for those of you that know where to go. Enjoy!


Entry filed under: Kazakhstan Adoption.

Another Milestone Reached…Perhaps, Two Awkward Moments in Kazakhstan

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kerri  |  September 29, 2008 at 3:21 am

    thanks for sharing your stories! cute pics too.
    can’t wait to hear more.


  • 2. Tricia  |  September 29, 2008 at 4:24 am

    I love the big fur hat on you. How cute! I agree with you. I was so impressed with the furs there and the beautiful detail on the coats, but couldn’t bring myself to buy anything.

  • 3. Mum  |  September 29, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Love your new hat (Doug’s as well). So happy to hear from you.

    Love you

  • 4. Susan  |  September 30, 2008 at 3:20 am

    I would never wear a fur hat, as the temps in a Florida winter mirror our weather now (which is gorgeous) but I am thinking one of those knit hats that we saw last week may be in order. They were so cute! I also need to find some pants tomatch that groovy jacket we found. Ya’ll are totally good luck shoppers to have around, ALTHOUGH, I did a great solo trip yesterday and got lots and lots of stuff, mostly for Leeza though. 🙂 However, I did find some socks for me and a new purse that is really pretty and on sale. 🙂
    woo hoo!!

    so happy to hear about your darling son getting excited to see you. Of course he recognizes you!!!! that is the best feeling in the world to have it appear that your child is as excited to see you as you are to see him (or her)
    It just keeps getting better and better.

    The longer stay in Kostanai is really worth it-the bond you are able to form with your child while they are still in their familiar environment is priceless-and your ability to get to know the wonderful town of Kostanai is advantageous too.

    I look forward to walking around with you guys with Leeza too!



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