by, 04-18-2010 at 03:57 PM (3806 Views)
This is an update to my adoption blog. You can read that blog here: http://www.online-literature.com/for...og.php?b=10136.
When I left off I mentioned we had a call to travel to Astana, Kazakhstanís capital, and that there would be two infant boys to choose from. We really built a lot of dreams on those pieces of information. Either of those two boys sounded wonderful, and being in the capital, a relatively cosmopolitan place, I thought the experience would be less intimidating. We had to wait for formal letter of invitation from the ministry of something in Kazakhstan, so we can then take that letter to the Kazak embassy for a visa to travel. We had expected to be in the air traveling in three weeks, which would have been a few days ago.
I had made plans to leave off work by the Tuesday of this past week, giving me time to finalize my home arrangements before I left, had coordinated the transitioning of my work responsibilities (despite the several crises that came up in these past two weeks), and had established means for checking on my mother, for bill paying and home management while away, and established means of communication back to key people here in mother land. It seemed things would be under control.
After a week went by and we still hadnít heard, we began to get antsy. Our agency had not heard from their contact in Kazakhstan, the person that originally matched us with those boys, and, given it was over the Easter and Passover week and weekend, people were I guess on vacation or just out, and ok, not much we could do. Somewhere mid week my agency heard we were no longer to go to Astana. What? What about those two boys? She had no answer. Something in Astana caused that regionís adoptions to be put on hold Ė at least thatís as far as she knew. Frankly I think we lost out to some other agency. There are so many agencies vying for placing infants that Iím sure there are all sorts of under the table payoffs and bribes that go on. While I donít know for a fact, Iím sure those boys were claimed by others elbowing their way in.
We were given a new destination of Shymkent in Southern Kazakhstan. Shymkent? Where the heck is that? And this time she could not tell us what children are available. So they replaced a cosmopolitan city and two specific children with some place I never heard of and no specifics. That was not pleasing to say the least. And then I looked up Shymkent in my Kazakhstan travel book and it introduced the city with this:
Wonderful. Thatís not exactly what I wanted to hear. At that point I was definitely angry. A cursory search came up with drug trafficking and organized crime and other social problems. And when I found a youtube video of two men in Shymkent fighting, one shooting the other, I began to worry whether this was a smart thing to do.The capital of South Kazakhstan Region and the largest city in the south, with a population well over half a million, Shymkent is considered by urban Kazakhstanis in Astana or Almaty as a wild and lawless place. The pavements are uneven, and the driving manic. It often hits the Kazakhstani headlines for the wrong reasons, as for example with a health scandal emerging in 2006, involving the HIV infection of local children during blood transfusions. (p. 364, Kazakhstan, Paul Brummell, Bradt travel guides)
In the mean time we had another form (donít ask me what it was - I just sign the papers) to notarize and whatever, and still we were waiting for that formal invitation. Iíve now restructured my schedule again at work. I really donít know when weíre leaving. People ask me when Iím leaving. I just throw up my hands. I play it week by week. My wife keeps expecting it every day. I keep feeling like a carpet keeps being pulled from under my feet and Iím trying to maintain my balance while itís sliding. News keeps throwing fear into my heart. Neighboring Kyrgyzstan has a coup that over throws the government, an American womanís stupidity shuts down neighboring Russiaís adoption program with the U.S., and an Icelandic volcano shuts down air travel to Europe, which is our flight stepping stone (we should be connecting in Frankfurt, Germany) to Kazakhstan. As a side note, the delay actually saved us some aggravation. Our original estimate was to travel two days ago, Friday, and that was right in the middle of the volcanic ash airline shut down. We would have been one of those travelers who had to turn around, and if you think weíre frustrated now, can you imagine after that?
In the meanwhile Iíve been researching Shymkent. Perhaps I was hasty in my fears. Every city has some criminal element to it. Weíve found a number of blogs by people who have adopted from there and from young people serving in the Peace Corps there. If you Google ďShymkent BlogsĒ you can peruse a few. And you can see some pictures and city information here: http://aboutkazakhstan.com/Chimkent_city.shtml. The travel guide goes on to say that it has a long history, back to the 12th century where it was a resting stop along the Silk Route across Asia. Under Soviet rule it became an industrial city (lead processing and petrochemicals), and it still is, and it seems to pride itself on its beer, apparently the best in Kazakhstan. Hereís how the travel guide moderates its harsh opening characterization:
Here are a couple of videos set to rap and local music of driving around the city, and a third video is of a shopping mall that they are really proud of. And rightly so, itís quite impressive.But Shymkent is also vibrant and lively city, with the most colorful bazaar in Kazakhstan, and offers a good range of accommodations and eating options. The cityís parks throng with people until late into the evening in summer.
The Mega Mall: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug8oS...eature=related
Now I donít mind a rough edged city and people. Hey I grew up in Brooklyn and Iíd rather be around earthy and folksy people, even if theyíre a bit coarse, than the elitist types. (Just no crime please.) What I think Iím really going to like about this region is the Kazakh culture. This is probably the heart of Kazakh ethnic culture. They are horse people, or used to be, and though I doubt there will be horses in the city, Iím hoping to catch some of their local sports. We just missed a big festival they have called Nariyz. You can see some highlights of their Nariyz games in this video, which includes Kokpar, a sort of polo game with a goat carcass, and wrestling on horseback. Really cool.
And here is a clip of images of Kazakh culture. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6NrJ...eature=related
And so we wait for this letter of invitation. One lucky circumstance is that the Kazakh embassy from which we get our visa to travel is located here in New York City. Once we get the letter we can go in person, just a hop into Manhattan, and save a couple of days of mailing time. It feels like ages since we got that original call. I suspect we will be traveling in ten to fourteen days. Either that or Iíll be an old man before we finally go.