Monday, June 30, 2008

Travel to Taraz, Kazakhstan

This page is designed as a resource for adoptive families who have not yet traveled and are looking for ideas on what to do and bring
From USA: We elected to fly Lufthansa as we live in Denver and they offered the only 1 stop flight. British Airways, Northwest/KLM were alternatives with additional stops. International flights go to Almaty. You must find other transportation from Almaty if you are not staying there. American, United, Delta and yes even Southwest do not have service to Kazakhstan.
Waiting in Frankfurt Scat Plane unloading in Taraz
Inside Kazakhstan: We traveled between Almaty and Taraz via Scat Air, the Soviet train and the Spanish train. On the Spanish, we had a first class sleeper compartment. This consisted of two fold out beds and a restroom with toilet and shower. It was a comfortable overnight journey, leaving Almaty around 2100 and arriving in Taraz around 0600. There were a couple of very short stops but otherwise the train kept rolling. The Spanish train books fast. Our agency/coordinator seemed more organized than most and booked our train tickets while we were still in the states. There is also turbo-prop service (Russian built AN-24) on Tuesdays and Saturdays via Scat Air which takes about 90 minutes, we used this on all but one occasion and it was definitely our favorite way to go. Air Astana does not offer service at this time between Almaty and Taraz. The Spanish train was approximately $60 per person one way, the plane costs 12500 Tenge or about $95. The Soviet train was by far the least enjoyable experience. While it is about a 10 1/2 hour trip via the Soviet train, one would be well advised to avoid the restrooms if possible. The upside to the Soviet train is that it cost 1500 Tenge for all of us (about $11USD). To imagine the Soviet train, think of how it must have been to ride on the train in the days of the frontier, replace the steam engine with diesel, add electricity, subtract the Dalton Gang and the Soviet train is essentially what you will have.
Taraz Hotel: Hotel Zhambyl is a comfortable hotel in the heart of Taraz. It costs 7950 tenge, about $60USD per night. Tole bi Street 42 Taraz, Kazakhstan 484000, Telephone 7-3262-452552. The rooms are comparable in size to a Marriott Courtyard. The tv has three stations all in Russian. There is a restaurant but the dishes are different than most American tastes are accustomed to. There is a small refrigerator in each room and there is a hair salon on the main level. There is no fitness center at the hotel or anywhere in town to the best of our knowledge. If you bring a laptop you can connect to the internet via the room phone via free local call. Set up a Nursat account for free now. You can get I Cards here which are like prepaying your usage, these can also be used as calling cards. From Taraz the access number is 911911, if calling from a hotel you will need to dial 9 first so the number would be 9911911. The other hotel in Taraz is the Gazovic which is nice according to others that we have spoken to.
Interlink: They are a humanitarian organization in Taraz and one of their functions is to help the orphanages and provide assistance to adoptive families. They have many DVD's available to loan and do not charge a fee which is reason alone to check them out. Very nice people - thanks Beth and Ken!
Favorite Taraz Restaurants:

Cafe Istanbul - Pizza, Durums (Turkish Burritos), kebobs. Menu has pictures and some English. No beer/liquor but food is good and full of locals. Average meal cost with a Coke is 350-400 tenge (about $3USD) Cafe Istanbul had our favorite pizza - either Margherita which was essentially cheese or Doner which had beef, tomatoes and corn.

Cafe Bosfor - similar menu slightly more expensive and upscale atmosphere, full bar Average cost with a tall beer would be $4.50USD Try the Brizol which has thinly sliced beef and vegetables enclosed in an egg wrap with a tasty sauce, served with rice or french fries. They bring unlimited free hot bread which is very tasty.

Cafe Marmaris - Pizza, kebabs, durums - try the Ufa Kebab which is either lamb or beef (we were told both on different occasions) on a skewer with a Turkish tortilla, rice and vegetables. Full Bar and larger tables. Most entrees with a beer or Coke would be about $5USD.
Both Cafe Bosfor and Cafe Marmaris turn into popluar night spots with dancing.
There is no such thing as a non smoking section in Kazakhstan.

What to Bring: toys (the selection here is not as good as in the US), books (for you and the kid), laptop, DVD's (Bring an exercise DVD if you want to exercise in your room), ziploc bags (not available here but wish we had them), camera (and all necessary accessories!), electrical converters/adapters, vitamins, prescription drugs, drain stop for the sink/shower in your room (handy for washing clothes in your room)
What not to Bring: toilet paper (it's provided and comparable to what is offered at public facilities in the US), food (plenty here though with the exception of Coke & Pepsi it will be European or Asian brands), bottled water, extra toiletries, cigarettes, liquor


Significant Steps In Our Adoption Timeline

January 7, 2005 - Sign on with Aurora International Adoptions as our adoption agency for Kazakhstan adoption.
January 8 - Sign on with Claar Foundation as Colorado homestudy agency.
January 8 - Submitted I600A
January 22 - Begin Colorado classes with Claar
February 12 - Fingerprinted
March 12 - Completed classes with Claar
March 19 - Completed homestudy visits with Claar
April 11 - Advised by Claar that homestudy was sent to state for approval
April 18 - Learned that homestudy had not been sent to state.
April 25 - Advised by Claar that homestudy was sent to state for approval
May 2 - Homestudy approved at state level
June 25 - I-171H received
July 20 - Dossier translated and off to the consulate in New York
August 4 - Dossier moves from consulate to Kazakhstan
October 27 - LOI received
November 14 - Begin trip one!
December 15 - Bonding and Guardianship completed
December 18 - End of trip 1
January 5 - Begin trip 2
January 18 - Court date (after being postponed twice by court)
February 2 - 15 day post court hold completed (adoption final)
February 7 - Olesya leaves the baby house
February 9 - Say goodbye to Taraz and head to Almaty
February 15 - Olesya reaches Denver

About Olesya

What we know about Olesya - pronounced ah-LYE-syah
Olesya Addison Magoffin was born May 3, 2005 and lives in Taraz, Kazakhstan. She was born in week 38, weighed 8.16 lbs., and measured 21.65 inches. She is a very happy kid and loves to smile and seldom fusses. We are very happy that she is becoming a part of our family.

September 14

Due to a slow down in Almaty we have been assigned to Taraz (formally Zhambyl) which is west of Almaty on the Krgyzstan border. We believe we will keep the name Olesya. She was born May 3, 2005 and is scheduled to be available for international adoption on December 1, 2005. At this point, we plan to travel to Kazakhstan in mid November to initiate the bonding period in advance of the court date which we hope to be on or near the December 1 date.
Since we were originally planning for a 3-4 year old, there is much work to be done in changing things to accommodate a younger child. In the grand scheme of things, this is a small problem and one we are happy to work through.
This is good news in the sense that it should allow us to attend Tim and Marci's wedding in San Diego.

May 25

We learned today that Olesya is in Almaty which is a large city in the southeast portion of Kazakhstan (a map is available in the upper left portion of this page). Almaty is the main city in Kazakhstan with regards to international air traffic. It will be nice not to have to make additional travel inside Kazakhstan and at this time it is possible to fly to Almaty with only one stop (Denver-Frankfurt-Almaty) on Lufthansa. Not bad when I consider that when I was with GP I once flew to LA from Denver with stops in Salt Lake, Reno and Fresno. We are still waiting for our I171 from the USCIS. Once we get it, it should be about 4 months we learned today until we travel. There is a backup at the embassy in New York and also at the Ministry of Education in Kazakhstan. This means the timing should allow Kim to start with her new class at Asbury Elementary as she had hoped. It also means that it could come close to Tim and Marci's wedding in which Joe is slated to be a groomsman. We will work on getting this squared away somehow.
In talking with our friend Sherri who is also adopting from Kazakhstan and whom we met during the homestudy process, we are at the same point in the process with the USCIS today, with both of us receiving a request for resubmittal of some form. Perhaps we will meet up in Almaty for dinner in the fall.?.

March 9

Hello everyone,
Since we are getting overwhelmed by paperwork, and since I can't remember who I've told what to, I've resorted to mass emails. I thought this would be the best way to keep everyone updated with what's going on with things.

We have taken 2 out of our 4 classes. So far we have taken adoption basics part one and two. This Saturday is adopting from Russia and the Ukraine (not exactly appropriate for us, but that's the closest thing and we have to have 24 hours of classes anyway.) Our final class, adopting 3 and older will be rolled into our home study process since we were the only ones that signed up for it.

Now that our fingerprints have finally cleared (thank goodness we're not criminals), our home study can begin. This will consist of three visits with a social worker, at least one of which will be at our house. After this, we will receive a report which will be included in our dossier and also sent to INS. After INS processes more paperwork, we will receive the last form we need for our dossier and will then send it in to our agency. It will then get sent to Washington D.C and then on to Kazakhstan. Hopefully after our home study is completed, we will receive more information about Olesya. We really have no idea when we will be going to Kazakhstan - most likely sometime this summer. For those of you who have seen the movie, The Money Pit with Tom Hanks - remember how everything always took "two weeks" to get done? Well, our motto seems to be 4-6 weeks. It seems like that is how long everything will take.

On the decorating front, Olesya's room is painted (cream, pink, and green) with furniture in it. We have also painted the bathroom (bright blue with rubber duckies). Along the way Joe has demonstrated painting skills that were previously unrealized. :) Now with nothing else to decorate, I guess I have to just sit and wait - the hardest part.

March 22

Our homestudy is done. Now it is a question of waiting for the I-171 from the USCIS. This will likely take at least another month. We also learned that we need to take another trip to the fingerprint place.
At this point, June travel is a very best case and perhaps too optimistic. We'll see...
On the brighter side, Olesya's room is complete. Her bed is made, furniture and some toys (ee-GROOSH-ka) are in place. We also have a few clothing items at this point, but are trying not to go overboard since we are unsure what size will be required once we do meet her.