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|Link to 12/5 Journal
|Link to 12/3 Journal
|Today was a very busy day. We got to feed the two of you for the first time and got to experience authentic Kazakh
hospitality by having dinner at our friend Gulmira’s home.
At the baby house you are fed 5 times a day at 6 A.M., 10 A.M., 2 P.M., 6 P.M. and 10 P.M. We took part in your 10 A.
M. feeding. It began with one of your doctors and a care giver coming in with a pot of cream of wheat, a jar of baby
applesauce, and some non-caffeinated tea with cookies. The care giver grabbed Rose, stuffed a towel into her collar
and unceremoniously started shoveling cream of wheat mixed with the applesauce into her mouth. The care giver
was so efficient at feeding her that she made it look easy…which was not the case. Your mom starting feeding Iris the
same way but at about one twentieth the efficiency…literally. Food was going every where besides Iris’ mouth. Your
dad of course, after carefully studying what turned out to be the slight of hand of the care giver, thought he could do a
better job…NOT. When I took over feeding the process came to a stand still. The care giver actually had to take
over Iris’ feeding after she had successfully maneuvered a bowl of hot cereal and a ½ cup of tea with a couple of
cookies soaked in there into Rose’s gullet…all within about 5 minutes. Apparently this is the only way they can get all
the babies fed per their schedule. During the feeding we got and informative lesson in baby nutrition from the Doctor
(the doctor by the way was a real MD with 6 years of medical school and probably a good 20 years of practice).
That evening we went to dinner at our new friend Gulmira’s home. Gulmira came and met us at the hotel and our
driver Misha took us to some suburbs of Uralsk to her parent’s house. Gulmira is a beautiful 21 year old Kazakh
woman who works at the restaurant in our hotel. When we got to the house Gulmira explained to us that their home
was once a part of stable for a wealthy estate. We were greeted at the door warmly by Gulmira’s mother (43 years
old), and her two brothers (16 and 4 years old). Her father was out of town on a construction job where he works 1
week on and 1 week off. Their home was quite small with no running water and an outhouse. The room we first
walked into was a cold earthy room that was used as a shed. In the corner lay a cot with a bunch of cabbage on top
covered with a blanket. There was also a work bench with a basket of potatoes and a bucket full of peelings. In
another corner was a trap door that had a vertical ladder beneath it that led to a cold storage room where they had
jars and jars of pickled vegetables from the summer.
From that room we were led through a door into a very small foyer with a small kitchen to one side and a medium
sized living room at the end of a short hallway. In the middle of the hallway was a large rectangular hearth that had a
steady gas flame running in it. The heat from this hearth radiated and warmed the entire abode. Next to it was a sink
with a cauldron of water sitting next to it.
The living room area had beautiful hand woven carpets hanging on two of the walls with a couch also covered with a
hand woven carpet. Also in the room were two arm chairs and a medium/small television and a boom box stereo in
the corner. In the center of the room there was a low dining room table with beautiful flat pillows all around it.
After a little chit chatting and gift exchange we were asked to sit down for dinner. Upon seating Gulmira’s brother
brought us a basin and a pot of water so we could wash our hands. The mother then started bringing out the food.
Wonderful pickled vegetables from their summer garden and Besbarmak…literally translated “Five Fingers”.
Besbarmak is a pasta-like dish where a broth based beef stew with onions and potatoes which is served over
homemade sheet of pasta. The reason it is called Five Fingers is that it is traditionally eaten with your hands…it was
really delicious. It was wonderful sitting there around the table with a big plate of Besbarmak and everyone just
reaching in and eating at their leisure. The next course was bread, cheese, salami, desserts and tea, which we had
very little room for because we had eaten so much Besbarmak.
We relaxed around the table for a while and got to peek at the parent’s bedroom which was the size of a modest walk-
in closet with two cot sized beds jammed in there. We learned that Gulmira and her brother sleep in the living room
(Gulmira on the couch and her brother on the floor) and the 4 year old sleeps with the parents.
As we said our goodbyes we marveled at how full and contented we felt. In spite of the home’s seemingly
impoverished state, it was full of love and contentment. The food was wonderful and copious, the setting was
comfortable and warm and the company was kind and loving. We were particularly struck with how kind and wonderful
Gulmira and her brother were towards their mother…it was truly a happy home.