Day 1 in Ust

We slept fantastically well and still woke up tired.

The lovely Dinara met us at 10am at the hotel and she called the director of the babyhouse whilst Daniel and I sat and watched anxiously…

“She’s out, call back in 30 mins”

So we tried again and my Russian though rusty could make out “I don’t think he can wait until then”.  I had visions of being asked to come back next week/month/year.

Dinara hung up and we both stared at her.

“They suggested tomorrow but we’ve agreed 3.30pm this afternoon”

Dinara said we should go and buy some toys to take with us, just as an initial treat for the children.  I was delighted to discover a new toy shop across the road to the Irtyssh hotel which we originally stayed in all those years ago and so I had an excuse to look around the old neighbourhood.

The Kolos supermarket is still there and when we went in to get some water, I swear the woman behind the deli counter was the same one my mother struck up her bizarre friendship with 10 years ago.

The Maslenitza (Pancake House) is still there, I think we ate there almost every night by the end as it was just too cold to go anywhere else.  I plan to get there at some point and eat there for old times sake hopefully.

So we went a bit mad in the toyshop (courtesy of many kind parents at Daniel’s school and his teachers).  Big bags of Duplo style bricks, bucket and spade sets (no beaches in Kaz but sandpits!) stacking cups, hoop pyramids and rattles.  Daniel insisted on adding a couple of balls (and of course he was right).  We chose something for every age group until eventually Dinara made us stop!

Then we went back to the hotel, showered and put on our Sunday Best.

The ride out there was so very different to the one we made 10 years ago in so many ways:

  • the taxi was modern with seat belts, no bus of doom for us this time;
  • there was lots of traffic and the road was much more built up with shops and a sports centre;
  • the sun was shining and it was warm and pleasant with green trees and bushes;
  • and this time I wasn’t worried about what was waiting for me, but what was waiting for him.

Was this really a good idea?  I felt instinctively that this was the right thing for Daniel – to help him find his place in the world.  I’ve felt increasingly over the past couple of years that Daniel’s start in life at the babyhouse in Kazakhstan was a secret understood by the select few who have been there.  And that it wasn’t a club of which he was a member.

Obviously he knows in theory but in practice it is such a different reality to the one he has grown up in, that it was hard for him to access it in any meaningful way.

I was apprehensive for my boy but not in the same paralysing terror way as before.  I knew we would work it out one way or another whatever the hours ahead brought.

And then we drove through the gates that I thought I’d forgotten but in fact it transpired I remembered so well, past the tiny verandah I’d been allowed to go out on with him when the weather was still cold but bright and not windy.

Ten years fell away – I can’t believe where it’s gone.  I could almost imagine that I was going to go in and they were going to bring out that teeny tiny sickly little baby for me again.  I spent a short time thinking of my compatriots in our intital adventure – Adrienne, Declan, Aine and Alex and for a while my mum too and wished fleetingly that they could be here too.  Then we pulled up at the main entrance and the moment was gone – it was all about Daniel this time.

“We’re here” I said.

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