a Coopers in Kazakhstan

Monday, December 31, 2007

Epilogue pt4 (of 4): Only the End of this Blog - Our Adventure Continues

The last two years have been rewarding beyond belief. Zarina has just turned three and it's still amazing to comprehend how incredibly blessed Mary and I were to find our daughter in Kazakhstan. It's been simply incredible and I will just be adding some more pictures. My life's work is now fulfilling the pledge I made to the Uralsk court 7 November 2005 about doing my best to ensure that Zarina grows up to realize her fullest potential and has a wonderfully happy life.

Here's my Princess - she just loves playing at Snow White, but as I understand it, she only has two dwarves. That makes me Grumpy and makes Alex Dopey!!!!! Oh well.

This is one of Zarina's favorite resting spots - the Buddha Belly. Daddy just doesn't get a break. Words just cannot explain what a marvelous person she is becoming, is right now. Hw much do I lover her? A: Infinity! How long will I lover her? A: Infinity!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


As you can see Zarina is growing up well and we are having wonderful adventures.

On the left is Alex with his prop-hat. Without fail people cannot walk by without commenting and flicking the propeller, followed by "I've always wanted to do that!"

Below is a pic of the whole gang at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom--boy does that guy in the floppy hat look good!

Zarina with her Grandpa (my Dad). They have really hit it off and she will frequently talk about "Grandpa Mal" and "Grandma Penny." She make a point of reminding me that "Grandpa Mal is your Dad."

On the right - Alex, Zarina, and that guy in the cool, floppy hat Plus their new friends Tigger, Pooh, and Eyore. She really takes to the characters, but it took a while to overcome her shyness. One moment she'll be the ultimate shy girl, hiding behind my legs and peeking around me, then the next she's talking to people and telling them her name and age.

Epilogue pt3 (of 4)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Second Anniversary of our Gotcha Day!

Two years ago we ventured on a journey of a lifetime, to a country which gave us a gift beyond measure. People invariably ask,“Why Kazakhstan?” Our answer to that question is because that was where our Daughter was. Let me explain, as this is not just a trite answer but my true and heartfelt belief. I am a Buddhist and I believe that we are connected deeply and strongly to those that we love in this life. In eastern Asian cultures there is a story that an invisible red string binds us to our loved ones and it is a connection that continues on and on for countless lifetimes. My red string happened to be 5,500 miles long and it tugged so sweetly and intently toward my Daughter in Kazakhstan. That was why two years ago we traveled to Kazakhstan. There is no doubt in my mind that Zarina was meant for us, that she is forever a part of us for countless lifetimes to come.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Epilogue pt2 (of 4)

We will post once or twice more before closing this blog out - Alex and Mary will contribute the final pieces. Then we intend to physically publish this entire blog as a Coffee Table Book so that we can keep this as a momento; we will also publish one for Zarina to keep so that she may see the adventure that brought her into our life.

Zarina is always a joy to watch. She may drive me crazy often (and on purpose oftimes), but even when she gets into stuff she shouldn't or she's still just plain wonderful - she's a joy whether she is being sweet or making mischief.

This little girl, my little girl, is my literal and figurative "golden treasure". It's as if she sprung directly from the image I created in my mind of the sort of daughter I wanted to have. She's funny, smart, physically gifted, and just plain perfect. And as you will see in the following photos, she's got her brother wrapped around her finger.

When I said funny, I meant as in actually having a sense of humor. To the right is her interpretation of a pirate. Once of her favorite shows is something on Nickleodeon called "Backyardigans" - in their adventures, the characters have various make-believe adventures in their backyard which is transformed into the backdrop of whatever they are doing, i.e sow mountains, the high seas, a prairie, etc. In one, they play at being pirates. This taught Zarina among other things, that a pirate says "Arrrg!" So Zarina will also say "Arrrg" when she see a pirate in an ad or in a show. As a matter of fact, I have an t-shirt with a pirate flag on it and Zarina will point to it and say "Arrg" and when I ask her my name while in the shirt, she will also say "Arrg".

Recently she has begun to copy our mannerisms - she learned from Mary how to put her hands on her hips and to day she was copying me sitting at the table with my hand on my chin - I will try to get photos of this behavior somehow. She will sometime wag her finger at us and say "No, no, no!!!"

Alex is a very good brother to Zarina, even though she claims as many of his toys as possible. He's very helpful and is on track to be a very good babysitter someday...soon...oh please ...oh please (just kidding). :-)

Zarina loves spending time with Alex - even if Alex wants some quiet time to himself to read, watch tv, play videos, etc. His new nickname is "Ah-da" since that is how Zarina pronounces Alex. All we hear all day is "Ah-dah...Ah-dah" and then hear Zarina zipping off in one direction or the other chasing him down.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Epilogue (pt 1 of several)

I've had a lot of time to mentally compose this post and yet I am not sure of all that I should say - not because I don't know what to say, but that there is so much good and fun stuff (and more happens each day) that I can't really decide on what I should include and what I should leave out:

Suffice it to say that Zarina is doing well; that we are doing well; that every day has been a joy and this adoption has been far more successful than I could have imagined.

Zarina means "golden treasure" and that is exactly what she is literally and figuratively. Her skin tone often seems golden, her smile is a ray of sunshine and her voice is like honey. Either of them can cut through any gloom and bring out a smile in anyone. She can always raise my spirits when I come home from a long day at work - all it takes is her smile or her yelling "Dada dada!!" But usually she smiles, yells "Dada dada!!", runs up and grabs my leg. Then after I pick her up, she goes through my dress shirt pocket and removes the pen, business cards and anything else she finds - she then hands them over to me and says "Dat You" which is how shes says "Thank You."

But you don't want to hear this - you want some pictures, so here are a few to tide you over.

1. Alex pushing Zarina , 2. Alex, Mary, and Zarina sightseeing at Mount Vernon. That's the Potomac river in the background.

Now back to my speechifying ways.

Zarina has done incredibly well in the last 10 months. She has grown over 6 inches and six pounds - she is now over 32 inches tall and over 25 pounds which puts her in the 75th percentile in height and 60th percentile in weight. She has hair down past her shoulders, however it is naturally curly so you can't tell how long it really is unles she is in the bath.

Zarina is quite smart and very physicaly gifted (I know all parents think their child is special, but in this case I'm not exaggerating. Really!!!! I mean it!!!) For several months now she has been able to do a pull up - she grabs counters, hangs, and then pull herself up. She can also do 5 situps, stand on tippy-toes like a ballerina, balance on one foot and pull the other one up in the air like a ballerina (really! I need toget a picture of it and then I will post it). Last month she taught herself to do somersaults.

And now for a word from our sponsor. Okay, okay - a picture or three of Zarina being incredible.

Here we are pedaling at Ocean City.

Alex is in the picture, but he is directly behind us on his own tricycle - see pic below.

This is Alex on his trike. We pedaled up and down the boardwalk several times. He wanted to keep going, but I was oo tuckered out from pedaling the surrey.

Here's the two smartest and most beautiful women in my family. This is Zarina's first time on the beach andin the ocean - I think she found it a bit cold, although she did run in and out of the surf for a few moments.

Unfortunately, she is a bit of a neat freak (she gets it from her Mom), so when she played in the sand, she kept trying to clean her hands and then when she sat down, she couldn't get up because to do so would require her to put her hands back into the sand, but that would require her to get her hands dirty. Can you say "frustrated"? A short amusing anecdote, but maybe you just had to be there.

Part two is coming up soon with more photos.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Nov 19 - Arrived Safely!!!

We landed at Dulles 30 minutes early and cleared Customs and Immigration in a total of 5 minutes (after waiting 45 minutes to get off the plan and finding our luggage).

The ride back home was very quiet as we were all dead tired - Zarina slept most of the flight, but Mary and I got very little in between handoffs of Zarina to each other. Alex ended up entertaining a young military officer with tales and entertaining gameplay (at the end of the flight, I went to thank him for keeping Alex busy, but he waved me off and thanked Alex for "taking care of him").

You know how blessed you are when not only other passengers come up to you to tell you how good, polite, and well-behaved your kids are, but also the Flight Attendants. Alex continued on this trend by helping get the luggage, pushing one of the carts through customs and then helping load the van.

When we got back , I gave Zarina a little tour of the house - we started in her room (above).

And ended up in Alex's room (above).

Zarina became very excited, squealed alot, smiled and ran around (with a little help of holding onto the furniture. After dinner I took her back up and we crawled around before her bath.

When I asked Zarina how she liked her new room, she lay down on the floor and tried to go to sleep!!! I took the hint and put her to bed at 750pm. Shortly thereafter Alex passed out and I had to carry him to his bed. Mary and I conked out at 8pm.

We are home!!!!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Nov 18 - catnap before going home!!!!

We are ready to go home: packed and waiting for our ride at 1am for the 4am flight home.

I will update this with photos after we get home and have a fast connection.

Before our doctor's appointment on 17 Nov, we went to the Zoom store (mayne it's Zum?). This is an awesome department store, only it's filled with kiosk after kiosk of independent shops. On the first floor are electronics and appliances. On the second floor are clothing, perfumes, and other good stuff - we went to the third floor to see all the toys, souvenirs, cultural items, knicknacks, jewelry, china, and other cool stuff.

We found some very beautiful amber jewelry, I finally got a Russian hat (I'll post a picture in the future), and matrioshka nesting dolls, and a young girl's traditional outfit for Zarina when she is older (I will post photos later also). I have some pictures of the store in the camera and will post later - if you come to Almaty you must come here!!! They had traditional hats, leather shields, horse whips, chess sets, backgammon (the national game I think), traditional costume, pottery, artwork, other crafts, and more.

The doctor's appointment went fine except for one thing: We arrived early at 130pm for our 2pm appointment and then found out that they had the Brown's down for 2pm and us for 2:30. Well, we knew the Brown's weren't coming until close to 2:30, but they made us wait. And wait and wait (no doctor).

We finally saw the doctor at 2:40 and he gave a quick perfunctory examination and proclaimed Zarina fit. He said that they would have the paperwork ready in 5 minutes.

10 minutes later they asked me to come to the desk and I paid the bill. They said the paperwork would be ready in 5 minutes (where did I hear that before?). The Browns were called in at 3pm for their appointment.

1 hour later, I get the paperwork and we all beat feet back to the apartment for a good homecooked meal by Mary.

After the doctor's appointment we went to Sasha's house - he's the entrepeneur who outfits most of the families with cell phones and internet accounts. He also sells Kazak gifts - check out his website at http://www.kazakhcrafts.com/. Not only are there beautiful gifts to buy, but there is also a treasure trove of info on Kazakhstan. We got a Dream Quilt (http://www.kazakhcrafts.com/?id=almaty_kazakhstan_kazakstan&g=8&name=dreamquilts), a silk painting and a matrioshka nesting doll - then Sasha and his wife gifted Zarina with a beautiful doll and alex with a woolen toy camel and a woolen toy Yurt (traditional Kazak home).

This was a wonderful gesture - if you want unique and beautiful artwork or just gifts for someone else, please checkout his website. If you come to Kazakhstan, Sasha can fix you up with a rental cell phone and get you hooked up to the Internet.

On the 18th, we went to the Embassy and got Zarina her visa - now we can take her home. On the way back to the apartment, we went back one last time to the Zoom store to get some more souvenirs/artwork. We just coulddn't pass up all the crafts - Alex scored a set of boy and girl figures (Alex and Zarina maybe?) in traditional garb and Mary got some more jewelry (she deserves it and more).

We are all packed and this will be our last post from Kazakhstan. Stayed tuned for our triumphant arrival back home: Zarina becomes a citizen when we clear Customs.