May 9th Astana to home…

We boarded the train at 6pm, said our goodbyes and settled in for the 14 hour ride. Nothing changed, still the same old start and stop of the train all the way to Astana.
Karina is out Kazakh friend who visited us and has traveled throughout America meeting and teaching Kazakh children about their culture. We had emailed back to her as she wanted her family to pick us up at the train. We told her we had to check in to the hotel and sign papers with the coordinator and didn’t want her family to come all the way there for nothing. Well, they were there when we got off! They were so nice, we felt really bad about leaving them behind but made plans to go with them at 3pm. We did not want to impose on them for anything but they insisted.

They picked us up at three and we went to their flat. There was a girl named Erina there who happed to be a coordinator for the Astana orphanage. She was to be our interpreter. The younger brother and sister spoke some English. Of course, we were nervous, not knowing what to expect but the day could not have turned out better!

These people immediately made us feel like we had been dear friends our whole lives! The house and mood was warm and inviting we were comfortable in minutes. Karina’s mother, her sister and their mother were there along with an older brother, sister in law and the younger two. The table was set and we were going to have the traditional Kazakh meal. Marie was so hungry she could eat a horse… and she did! She loved it, she ate mine too!

The mood was much different than in Arkalyk, their speech seemed softer, there was not Vodka pouring and they were not the least bit critical about anything we talked about. They were so polite, warm and welcoming. I felt as comfortable as if I were with my own family.

The family had lived in Arkalyk when Karina was born. She was born in the same maternity hospital as our girls.

In the blink of an eye, the Kazakh sweet table rolled out, they were awesome! Karina’s mother then gave Marie a bottle of perfume as a gift to remember her by. Earlier, we were impressed that they had been on a recent trip to Egypt. Then my gift appeared. It was a genuine “hookah” a Middle Eastern tobacco smoking device complete with tobacco. I joked and asked if this was “legal” to bring into the U.S.!
They then wanted to take us on a tour of Astana. It was amazing; the construction going on here is phenomenal! Everywhere you turned there were buildings going up. The architecture is so different from ours; it was a site to see. They spared no time and took us all over to make sure we saw the heart of Astana. It was beautiful. The train ride became depressing as all we thought of was, having to leave Emily behind. Marie threatened to jump off at the next stop several times! We were so overwhelmed with their generosity and hospitality. At the end of this bittersweet trip, it brought us a lot of comfort and reminded us our own family waiting for us at home. The memories of today will last a lifetime for us. We have seen more “layers” of Kazakhstan and liked what we saw.

We are headed to the airport for our 16 hours of flights. We will try to post this from Astana but most likely the minute we get home. (Well, after the hours of hugs and kisses with the kids!)

Paka, (oops Bye!)

Bill
And of course, the Presidential Palace
The Peace Convention Center
The Central Mosque
The Kazakh Oil Building

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