Letters from Karaganda:  " The Last Week"


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Finally, the Last Week - May 30th

Today they told us we would be leaving for Almaty on Sunday, June 5th. This means we will be heading home on Wednesday, June 8th as originally scheduled. We were disappointed it wouldnít be sooner, but at least we know the date now. We will e-mail our travel agent in NYC and have her purchase plane tickets for the children (itís cheaper to do it this way). Andrei has been asking us a hundred times a day when we will be leavingÖhe doesnít exactly ask, he puts his arms out like a planeís wings and says "America?" We keep telling him one week, but Iím not sure he understands.

Andrei has been learning English pretty quickly. He can now count to ten and he says several phrases. His first full sentence was "donít do that"ÖIím sure you can understand why. He and I have been doing a lot of shopping which he pronounces "schloping". He likes to ask: "Mama, Andrei schloping?" His favorite word is "tomorrow". I think because every time his asks to do something we say weíll do it tomorrowÖÖwe are going to be very busy "tomorrow".

He spoke to his Grandmother on the phone a couple of days ago. He was so excited. He had previously asked me about his "babushka" (the Russian word for grandmother) before he spoke with her and I told him his babushkas were in America. When he got on the phone with Daveís Mom he said "ahlo babushka!" Now every time we pass a telephone or the phone in our room rings he yells "ahlo babushka!"

During a couple of our shopping excursions, he asked if I would buy him a video cassette (cassita in Russian). Since we have a TV/VCR combo in our room, I bought him one (he wonít watch any of the English DVDs we brought for him). He selected "The Lion King". He loves it and its given Dave and I a break from having to constantly entertain him in the hotel room (not that Iím unhappy he doesnít care much for TV). We have since purchased several others and I will bring them home with us. When I get back to the U.S., Iíll buy the same movies in English which should be helpful with learning the language.

We have had to be creative in finding ways to keep the children entertained in the hotel. Once a day (usually in the afternoon sometime) we let them run up and down the corridor outside our room (itís really long)Öthe children think this is a riot and they scream while they do it (which is why they arenít permitted to do it often). They also like to hide in the closet and peak out at us. Andrei likes to play dress-up with our clothesÖheís quite the little actor. He dresses himself in several items of our clothing and stands in front of the mirror and dances around. Vera can entertain herself for a good 20 minutes playing with our shoes.

We do try to get them outside two to three times a day and would love to take them to a decent playground, but the playgrounds are dreadful. There are lots of them, but you wouldnít believe how much broken glass and equipment are on these playgrounds. One of the playgrounds actually has an old car with broken windows as part of the playground equipment. We still take them, but we cringe all the while we are there for their safety.

For some reason, people here are very disrespectful of their public spaces. The parks and sidewalks would be so much nicer if there wasnít trash all over the place. The apartment complexes have large uncovered trash bins and animals drag trash everywhere. We are constantly scolding Andrei about picking up things on the street which is how he learned the word "yucky".

The other children we meet at the playgrounds are really nice though. They try talking to us and when I tell them we donít understand Russian they just keeping talking anyway. This one little boy that Andrei made friends with was chattering on and on about something and every once and awhile he would say "Spiderman". He really didnít care if we understood him.

The children have both changed some in the two weeks since they left the orphanage. They seem more relaxed now. They both had this franticness about them the first week. It was as though the fun would end at any minute and they were trying desperately to do everything. Maybe this comes from living on a very strict schedule for their whole lives.

Vera is starting to cry when she doesnít get what she wants. (Crying didnít yield any results at the orphanage.) Her disposition is still generally pleasant, but she is trying to make the crying work to her advantage. Maybe we didnít see it at the orphanage, but we believe this is new behavior for her.

Andrei is well-behaved and pleasant most of the time. He has a couple of temper tantrums each day, but he seems to be listening better. We are trying to teach him how to interact with the other Americans who are here with us. We have been trying to teach him peopleís names so he can call them by name instead of hitting them on the arm when he wants their attention. He has learned the word "somebody" (I think because when he hears a noise outside our room I tell him itís "just somebody"). When we asked him what our friendsí names were and pointed to each of them he called every one of them "somebody". For some reason he thinks my name is "Dave". Iíve been trying to explain to him thatís his fatherís name, but heís not getting it.

It wonít be long and you will all get to meet the children yourselves. I canít begin to tell you how much we want to come home! I can understand why people kiss the ground when they arrive home.

This will probably be the last letter I send. Iím grateful for all the support everyone has given us throughout this process. We deeply appreciate the help many of you provided to enable us to be away from home for so long. We especially want to thank Chris Jones for posting our letters and pictures to the St. Stephenís web site. Being able to see the pictures provided a lot of reassurance to our family and friends.

Thanks also to Susan Townsend for getting the car seats, to Sheri & Paul Kisiel for watching our house, to my Dad and Betty for tending to our bills and mail, and to Rich Hunter for picking us up at the airport.

Your e-mails were a great comfort to us. They helped us feel less homesick. Iím sorry I wasnít able to answer all the e-mails. Some I answered and suspect they didnít go through (especially through the extremely secure DCJS firewalls).

Please understand how grateful we are for keeping our family in your prayers while God answered ours. See you soon!

Dave, Denise, Andrei & Vera Crates

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