I've spent a lot of time this week in the presence of three little host kids (cousins) who are finally warming up to me. They used to stare at me from behind doors and laugh uncontrollably when I saw them. It was fun at first . . . . then a bit repetitive. But a couple days ago, the doorbell rang when I was home alone, I opened it, and there stood Amanzhan all alone and four years old, stiff with winter clothing. He walked into the house like a cowboy and stuck a hand out (well, more out) so that I could take off his glove. I took the scarf off his little face first, then his gloves, then his shoes, then (5 minutes later), his mother entered the house, saw that Dilda wasn't home, and bundled him up again.
Ever since, he and his brother have talked to me. It's wonderful! I can ask them "what's this?" as much as I want without annoying them. But I do have to be careful - they're young enough that every animal is a bear, a cow, or a cat. The older boy told me about his chicken mask for New Year's, and asked me if I had an owl mask (I have an owl picture on my wall). No. I don't have an owl mask. I showed him my New Year's mask. "What kind of bird's that?" he asked. "I don't know." He stood looking at it. "Neither of us knows."
The two of them are already expert teachers. They used to speak only Kazakh, and their friend, a neighbor, spoke only Russian. The three boys wanted to play together, so Amanzhan and Bauerzhan took their friend Yuri to their mother. Their mother interpreted the Russian for them, and from that point on, the boys taught each other Russian and Kazakh. Now, Yuri is almost fluent in Kazakh (as fluent as a 4-year-old is in any language) and the two Kazakh boys know Russian. So cool.
They were playing hide-and-go-seek with Camila, their cousin today. They'd count to five or so and then aske "are you done?" and then the kids who were hiding would say "yes."