Friday, July 18, 2008

Random Thoughts

As the days wear on we can honestly say that NOTHING seems new or noteworthy, so finding things to blog about can be a bit of a challenge at times. However, we know that at the very least reading a new blog lets you all know that we are alive and well, so here are some random thoughts that have passed through our minds the past eight weeks or so.

When we first arrived here in Ust our first apartment was only temporary and so we tried to avoid unpacking a lot or accumulating anything extra before we switched to our current location. On top of that, we were dead tired and completely disoriented in our surroundings. The first thing we did after our visit to the baby house on the first day was make a stop at Arzhan, which is similar to Costco to pick up some food and supplies. Of all the things we had on our minds, what we might eat for the next few days or weeks never crossed our minds, so when we arrived at the store, we went completely blank. In addition, we had no idea what we would find, and with our driver’s little car, we didn’t want to buy too much stuff so that both families would have room. One of the first things we laid eyes on was a bulk package of spaghetti (about 2kg). Perfect! Simple, versatile, easy to cook and store. We knew we’d be able to work with that and at the very least could have just plain ol’ spaghetti with butter.

So now it’s eight weeks later and we are still working on that same package of spaghetti! We are starting to feel that in addition to the movie Groundhog Day we can add segments from Forrest Gump as well when Forrest’s friend and business partner, Bubba, is telling Forrest about all the things you can do with shrimp. “You can bake it, broil it, fry it, make it with sauce, …”

Things That Don’t Translate Well
We expected the language thing to pose a few challenges along the way, but we are quite surprised by the two things that seem to be the most difficult to translate.
“Right of Way” – as in the pedestrian has the right of way. Here, it seems to have been interpreted as “the pedestrian had best move right out of the way if they wish to make it to their destination in one piece.” Now that we are moving about the city with a stroller, we have noticed people are more willing to stop to let you cross the street, but we are actually finding that even more tricky because with multi lane traffic you can’t assume that just because the first car stopped that the next car will catch on so you sometimes find yourself half way across the street peeking around a bus for oncoming traffic and the bus driver is getting a little impatient because he doesn’t want to fall behind schedule and he doesn’t know what you are stopping for.

Which leads me to another thought about strollers. I totally understand why you push them, but doesn’t it seem just a little strange that when we head out in the world with the children that we are trying our hardest to protect and nurture that we make them go first into whatever awaits us? Almost sounds like those medieval taste-testers that were forced to taste the king’s food to make sure it wasn’t poisonous. Okay kid, you go first, and if nothing bad happens, I’ll follow….

“Poop” – before we became parents we noticed that other parents spent a lot of time talking about poop. We didn’t know that so much could be said about poop. So when it came time to find out about how our little guy has been raised before we assume his care we felt obligated to find out about poop. We gave our translator a list of questions about his schedule, diet, sleep habits, etc. to ask the caregivers while we were having our visit. Now, not wanting to sound crude, we wrote “How often does he have a bowel movement?” Now, to some of you, that may seem like a really absurd question. But the whole time we had our visits, Max only had one soiled diaper, so we were wondering if he was one of those people who just didn’t need daily movements. (I know, too much info) And, knowing that we were about to completely throw his little system for a loop, we thought we should know if any of the changes we made were affecting his digestive system.

Anyway, we handed the translator our list and went about our merry way so we could enjoy our time with Max. A little while later, she returned and said she got information about most of our questions, but there were a few she needed to ask us about. Sure enough, the poop question was one of them! She said, “What is a bowel movement?” Now of course our first reaction was to go completely blank. It totally threw us for a loop that this would be one of the things we might have to do charades for. I even looked it up in our Russian/English phrasebook. No poop. You wouldn’t believe how long it took for us to try to find a tactful and not too disgusting way to explain what we were wondering. Her first reaction was one of, “He poops when he poops, you can’t set a clock to it, you just deal with it when it happens.” But, finally we were able to explain why we wanted to know and she seemed satisfied that we weren’t off our rockers. (Note to self – just because someone says they speak English (Russian, French, etc.) does not necessarily mean they understand it!)

Russian Music Videos
In addition to our one and a half English television stations (CNN and a sports channel that is sometimes English and sometimes Russian) we have about 40 Russian stations that we surf through once in a while to see if there is anything we can watch, even if we can’t listen to it. Funniest Animals is one of our favourites because it is actually just as funny, if not better, without the annoying commentary. Sometimes we can catch a music video channel that plays a lot of music from North America (the popular music here is about 50% North American and 50% other) so when we can we tune in to it for some variety. We’ve noticed that a lot of the Russian music videos that we’ve seen look like they are right out of the 80’s. Very low budget, so they end up looking a lot like “Mickey” by Toni Basil (as in, “Oh Mickey you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Mickey, hey Mickey!”) or some of the early Cindi Lauper or Madonna videos. Nostalgic yes, but not necessarily good.

Dish Racks
Now here’s a great idea. In the cupboard above our sink is a built in drying rack for dishes. The dishes can drip dry right into the sink and you don’t have to go back to them to put them away because the dish rack doubles as cupboard space. The only downside for our North American lifestyles is that as far as we know, most people like to situate their sinks by a window and so to have a built in dish rack you would have to sacrifice your view. However here, where dish towels seem to have absolutely no absorbing qualities whatsoever, we love the built in dish rack.

Another interesting thing we’ve noticed here is that there doesn’t seem to be any zoning bylaws. We originally thought that the plan right from the start was to build the stores along the street and the living areas above them. As time passed and we saw a few new stores being established, we realized that most buildings were once completely living spaces, but as times got better, if one wanted to start a store of their own, all they had to do was purchase a ground floor suite or two which they could renovate into a store. As time passed, more and more people did this, which has lead to the street level shopping and apartments above.

So, that’s all for the random thoughts from our little corner of the world. You never know, we may come up with more, we may not. Here’s hoping your little corner of the world is happy, healthy and looking forward to a terrific day!


Crystal & Kirk said...

Hello from Davidson!We are so excited to finally have our hands on your blog address and see/read how things are going. Gerald has kept us posted from time to time. What an amazing adventure you are on. I can't imagine the emotional roller coaster you have been on. I have only got to July 5th of your blogs and have been bawling the whole read (tears of happiness for you,of course). Kirk and I are so excited to meet Max and welcome him to the neighbourhood. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help out and make your "coming home" adjustment a little easier. We have an extra car seat that you can borrow to get Max home from the airport and keep as long as you need (if needed). If you think of anything, please don't be afraid to ask. We are learning that accepting help from friends and family are a must in the maintaining sanity department! Have a safe journey home and we'll see you soon!
Crystal & Kirk Johnson

BG & JoG said...

Hi, guys!
sorry I know it's been a few days but we have been busy with Ashley (wisdom teeth removal and recovery) and Jordan seems to have decided he should leave the house by either the front or back door whenever he just plain feels like it...of course, the backyard is always the better choice but he doesn't come to me (like he use to) and take my hand and direct or gesture at the back door or even if he would use the PECS card for outside would be terrific....anyhow, he has been unusually inquisitive or mischeivous and knows I'm preoccupied so he does it when I am in the washroom or downstairs for a quick check of Ash or putting a load of laundry in...well, that's really interesting about your 'poop" questions and how they didn't refer to it as having a bowel else does a person ask or explain in the nicest way possible other than what you did?? and get some answers to work with...guess Max didn't come with a 'how to' manual...darn...for some things it would be nice,huh? well, we are happy tohear things are moving along and it won't be long until you're home again...keep in touch if possible and if nothing else we'll get info from Catherine and Larry's side of the fence....I don't suppose I should ask such a silly question as 'have you taken pictures of almost everything from Kaz?" You have so many good pictures already and we have really enjoyed them...thanks for keeping in's such a miracle and we hope you will continue to be blessed....take care until we post again...
Brian & JOanne & Jordan
Ashley, Jon, ERin, Amy....

The Willners said...

Hey Guys!!
We are all so glad that everything is well and everyone is healthy! We enjoy reading your blog and we can't wait to meet Max! Have a great, safe trip home!!
The Willners
p.s. The Riders won yesterday!!4-0!