Friday, July 21-Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Beginning of trip 2-B.J. (Before Jonathan)


I apologize for our delay in writing but the first part of our trip was quick and while our accommodations were nice for our final return to Astana, we had no internet, no phone access and lots of jet lag so doing much about having it not conveniently located, didn’t find its way into our schedule. 


We had an uneventfully long, but good flight to Astana.  A few close gate changes but that got our blood pumping a few times and that isn’t all bad.


We left Des Moines, which was a God send all in itself, and flew to Minneapolis.  It sure was nice not having to drive to Kansas City this time before ever getting on the plane.  It will be especially appreciated on our return flight home.  From Minneapolis, we had a 9 hour journey to Amsterdam and from there another 6 hours to Almaty.  We flew to Almaty first and then jumped on a local airline called Air Astana to make the final leg of our journey. We were able to get better times and we ultimately had to return to Almaty anyway so it all worked out the best. 


Back to Amsterdam.  We had a 6 or so hour layover there so we decided to live on the edge and rather than sit in the airport, we would lock up our carry on luggage and venture into the city with Rachael in tow.  Let me say that decision was not made with ease as we were unsure of what we would encounter once we got there.  You’ve heard the same stories about Amsterdam that we have. Fortunately, there are lots of English speaking people and so with the help and guidance of the flight attendants, some helpful souls in the airport and the kindness of an elderly Amsterdam couple, we made it clear we wanted to stay clear of the red light district and simply find the Anne Frank House. 


All went well and we enjoyed our excursion.  It is a very quaint city, lots and I mean lots of bicycles as modes of transportation, neat architecture and cool little side streets.  We finally found the Anne Frank Home but were disappointed to see that the line was a good 30 minutes long and by that time it meant we didn’t have time to stand in line and then make it through the House in time to head back to the airport.   Instead we opted as we usually do for some food.  We knew what we were in for in Kazakhstan by way of food so decided to load up on bagels before jumping back on the airplane. 


Rachael has been a trooper with the travel and her spirit of adventure.  Not a big thing I realize-going in to Amsterdam but I find as I age, I get less and less daring. 


We landed in Almaty at 5:15 a.m. on Sunday morning (the 23rd) and narrowly caught our 6:55 flight to Astana.  When you get off the plane-and we found this on our first trip through Astana-you have to stand in a line like cattle, with everyone pushing their way to the front to go through immigration.  We picked the slow line-though they are all slow-and made it to our flight with a few minutes to spare. 


Dina and Bauzan were there to pick us up once we arrived in Astana and took us to our “new apartment” to get settled.  We were right on Republicka Street this time; in a two bedroom apartment so we were closer to things but found other conveniences not readily available-like phone and internet, and we didn’t find time or energy to tackle the whole internet café thing.


Rachael wanted to see the Bateryk (the big Ball) and we were determined not to sleep so we headed out on our sightseeing mission.  That was fun and Rachael enjoyed seeing that as well as hanging with Dina but the no nap idea was quickly coming to pass.   We opted for a little siesta(or Spaht-pronounced “spot”) afterward before meeting Dina and Bauzan for dinner.  Four hours later we woke up just in time to be picked up to do our favorite thing-EAT. 


That’s when it happened.  Walking out of the apartment, Rachael and Bryan in front of me I proceeded to fall down the steps in my usual graceful fashion.  I’m certain I hit everyone going down too.  I laid there and laughed and thought of all the people who would not find that so unusual.  It seems to run in my family.  Yes-I hurt myself but I’m fine and now whenever there are stairs Bryan and Rachael run to either side to assist me like I’m elderly or something. 


Limping to the car we returned to the East-West Restaurant that we found just at the end of our first trip.  We had a nice evening and even ran into another family that we had been communicating with over the internet.  The fact that there were only two groups in the place (us and them) helped, but we really do stick out like sore thumbs.  Rachael by the way has not found a single thing, with the exception of the chocolate ice cream and pancakes(crepes)with hot chocolate and apple juice, that she likes so far.  the apple juice That could be a problem……..She’s already asking for Subway.  


We returned to our apartment after dinner at about 8:30 and we were all dead tired but we had to assemble our gifts for the Baby House pickup the next day.  Bryan made it as far as the living room couch and that was it for him.  Rachael helped me for a few minutes and then after making a trip to get something from the bedroom for me, she never came back so I was left to go it alone.  That actually ended up being ok. 


Tomorrow was the big day.   We were all really excited and just wanted the time to pass so we could pick up our new little boy/brother! 


Here are some pictures of the first leg of our journey.  Enjoy. 


 Family photo at the Des Moines airport before departure


 Rachael and Maggie in Amsterdam in front of the Queens residence.



The three of us at the top of the Bateryk on Sunday.



Dina and Rachael-new best buds.


Rachael, Bryan and Dina.  Bryan with his hand in the President's hand.  Supposed to be good luck.

Bauzan's girlfriend, Bauzan, Rachael and Dina and then Bryan and I eating dinner at East-West Restaraunt on Sunday evening.