Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sophia Turns 7 - Part 1 - Thursday, 12 November 2009

What is it like to celebrate your 7th birthday one month after moving to a foreign country where almost nobody speaks your native language?

(Picture is of Sophia playing in the snow outside Duman Center. She wrote her name in the snow with her feet.)

I was rather concerned about what it would be like, especially after she had a long Skype talk with a Greenville friend on Sunday--she had a great, one-hour talk (they ended up playing with their stuffed animals over Skype) but when it ended, she said she didn't want to have a birthday. Why? Because she had no friends, no one would give her presents.

She went up and down during the week about her excitement for her birthday. We woke up at 7 am on 12 November so she could Skype her friend before her friend's bedtime on Wednesday night. I had had difficulty wrapping her presents the night before--the only wrapping paper I had found during my Saturday excursion was over 1000 Tenge, so I had not bought any--but in the end was proud of what I did with the little resources I had. One present was wrapped in the large sheet of paper that had come with the clothes-dryer rack; another present was wrapped in a scarf and tied with a sparkly ribbon (that I had accidentally brought with me from the States). I put these presents next to the large stuffed dog (unwrapped) on her windowsill, and closed the curtains.

Christie had given her a bag with a present inside the day before, and Sophia had carried that bag with her everywhere, peeking in enough to see that it was something pink. I put that next to the presents.

So when she woke up, I told her to look by her window, and she could see her presents and the dog.

She was quite pleased with the dog; however, I would not let her open any presents or eat the cake until later in the day. We had plans for part of the day, but I wanted something to do during the later part of the day. I would have preferred there to be school on this day, so she could bring cake to school and celebrate there--a bit merrier than just mommy and me.

We did have plans--I had planned to take her to Duman Center and the aquarium. The day before, Lynn had run into Irene's parents and told them about Sophia's birthday and got the dad's phone number, which she proudly handed over to me. I had called him and he agreed to take Irene to Duman at 11:30. So Sophia would have one other child to celebrate her birthday!

We took Bus 35 and sat anxiously by the foggy windows, unsure exactly where our stop would be. It was a long ride, over the river, past Beyterek, and on and on. I hoped that we had not missed our stop. Christie had said I would recognize it because it is across the street from the circus, which is in a circular building. It's amazing how many circular buildings there are.

Finally I saw the letters "Думан" --Duman-- and knew our stop would be next.

We exited and played in the snow for over half an hour, waiting for Irene. Finally I was freezing and tried to call her father. Well, the number I had would not work. Later I would learn that to dial a cell phone from a cell phone you must first dial a plus sign (+). Really? How odd. (Everybody who I have called has called me first, and I have simply saved their number in my phone; hence, I've never had to pay attention to the +.)

As I was calling Lynn to double-check the phone number, Irene showed up with her mother and father. They would spend the day with us. I had half expected that the driver would drop Irene off. I had taken plenty of money, unsure of how expensive at day at Duman with two young girls would be.

I am not very forceful when it comes to money; Irene's father quickly strode over to the payment booth and bought us entrance tokens before I could say anything. It was nice being with another foreigner, as his Russian is worse than mine, and we tried to enter but were told we couldn't--we needed to check our coats first. So off came the heavy coats, the scarves, the hats, the gloves, etc, etc. Then we entered the main complex.

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