Saturday, December 27, 2014

October Tour of Transylvania

Here are some photos of our trip to the Transylvania region.  We did a big loop going over a beautiful mountain pass, the Transfagarasan (the 2nd highest pass in the Carpathian mountain range) that has been made famous by the British show Top Gear (  On our way to Sibiu we stopped at Poenari Castle, where Vlad the Impaler lived, and it is sometimes called the real Dracula's castle.

It sits high up on a hill. There is no road and one must climb the 1480 steps to get to it. This is a view down the valley from the castle.
From here we stayed in Sibiu a quaint old town with German heritage, with winding streets and a beautifully restored pedestrian only town square.

We headed to Brasov and Sighisoara two similar old cities. On the way we stopped at a bunch of fortified churches.

Otto in the top of one of the clock towers
One of the greatest things about the trip were all the castles that littered the country side, although Otto got sick of it pretty fast. We used a guide book to try and find the recommended ones, but while driving we would just see them on the hill tops. This one, the Rupea Fortress, was one of the most impressive. It was build into a black rock formation high up on a hill.  It was first documented in 1324 as a fortress. It has been mostly restored.  Of course the photos do not do it justice. It was hard to capture the awe of seeing it on the hill top as we were driving on the highway.

I LOVE this stuff! Can't wait to get out and explore more...

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The life (or lack there of) of a doctoral student

I hardly know I live in Bucharest, except that life is very easy compared to our last 2 posts.  I could pretty much be living anywhere in the world since all I have done since the day I landed is sit in my chair in front of my computer and read/write for school when I am not at work. I am just now coming out of the shackles of my most brutal semester back at school. I apologize to those of you who actually follow this craziness (and fun!) that is my life in the foreign service. I have now been in Bucharest exactly 4 months and today was one of the few days I actually went out and explored (darn...I didn't bring my camera).  It is a freaking beautiful, happening city!!  It has been of course busy moving and getting settled in our new home; adjusting to a new health unit and school for Otto. Otto has adjusted very well, but he is a new person now that he is a teenager (not always in a good way).  School was rough for him at first after 2 years of doing nothing in school in Bishkek, but he has made great progress and his teachers all see what a bright (but lazy) boy he is. I am really happy with the school and it is a perfect place for him.

I am working in a very organized, fully staffed, new health unit.  And even better, we are busy. I am actually seeing lots of patients each day. Nothing like my ER days, but busy enough that I really miss electronic health records for the charting support.  I have been lucky enough to have already stitched 3 people up (their injury misfortune is my joy!).  I am running into the usual early adjustment with the new staff, we are all feeling each other out, but honestly, I feel mostly bad for them having to deal with a new 'boss' every 3 years...and I am not the easiest person when it comes to insisting on high clinic standards. People have been welcoming and there is so much going on in the Embassy community being in a big, European city...the sad part is that I have not been able to participate.

I hope to do some city exploring (with camera in hand) over the next week. Otto flew out today to visit his dad in Portland and I am a free soul.  I do have some great photos from a trip Otto, his dad and I took to the Transylvania region in October.  Famous for everything Dracula. It was a lovely trip, so many castles. I will post photos soon.

In the meantime, I have updated my blog background and permanent photos to reflect my current post.  I had to include a picture of Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) since he is the most famous part of Romania to tourists.  I have also put an open book as the background since I will be in school for another year so do not feel like I can honestly lure you in with a beautiful scenic photo of something representative of Romania since I know most of my time here will be spent at my desk...for now. Once I have completed my studies, I will put up a representative background and get back to more regular blogging. In the mean time, I will do what I can.

Something to look forward to...I will only take one class next semester so I can actually try to enjoy my life here and in March I go to Lisbon, Portugal for my annual medical training.  Did I mention life is good :)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Home leave in Portland (and DC, Los Angeles, Seattle, Eugene...)

Otto and I are wrapping  up our summer vacation in between posts. It has been a good trip, but always busier than I would prefer. How to fit everyone-everything in and still have endless days to laze around!?!  We leave next Friday for Bucharest, Romania - our new home and adventure for the next 3 years. I have been spending my holidays trying to convince all of my friends and family to come for a visit - it is Europe after all!

The look of the blog will change and a new map will go up. I wanted to post a few fun photos of this trip home though before I move on.

Otto on his new adult sized bike. He is now officially taller than me! By a good inch. He of course likes to stand next to me in front of any available mirror to remind me of this new fact :)
I was fortunate enough to fit in a visit to the world famous crochet museum - located in Joshua Tree.
This is inside the museum and just how it makes one feel being surrounded by such treasures.
A hike in the hills of LA with Midge and Annie - cutest dogs ever.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Quick trip to Istanbul

Sorry, no pictures this time - I didn't even bring my camera. It was a brief trip to drop Otto off on likely his last unaccompanied minor trip internationally (he is flying to Ottawa by himself in 10 days, so that will be a good test!).  Otto and I spend the first 2 days together wandering, eating, sleeping and trying to watch a few last episodes of Lost...although we didn't have time to finish the series.  We went up to Taksim square which was closed last year because of the riots/protests.

I then spent almost 3 days there on my own doing more wandering and more sight seeing. I visited the Topkapi Palace to finish up my check list of all the 'major' sites in old town.  After that I just wanted to hit the less traveled path - although at this time of year, I doubt that exists.  I took a ferry to the Prince's Islands which was lovely and then did a day hike on the main island (Buyukada) which has essentially no motor vehicles on it. I walked/urban hiked to the top of the hill where there is a very old church.  The next day I wandered around the markets and checked out the Rustam Pasha and Suyleimanye mosque.  Eating plenty of good food along the way.

Now I am back in Bishkek making my final arrangements to leave for good. It will be a busy couple of weeks as I prepare to pack out and hand over the health unit to my replacement.  I wish I had time to do a bit more climbing and hiking, but that just won't happen. I will try to fit in a weekly massage until I leave.

Hopefully the next time you check this blog, the background will change as Otto and I prepare to move to Bucharest, Romania.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Run the Silk Road

I participated in my first running event in years. I wasn't up for the full marathon, but did run the 1/2 marathon (13.1 miles). It was very fun and makes me want to run more distance events...maybe even a marathon. My time was so slow compared to when I was at my peak which is depressing, but it felt very good and I just need to accept the fact that I am getting older (ugghhh!). My time was only 2 minutes over my goal, so I am pretty happy about that.

The event was the 3rd international event sponsored by the Japanese Embassy out at Lake Issy-Kul. Beautiful course that had nice gently ups and downs.  A few people from the Embassy went, but we all ran different distances. I even got Otto to run the 5K and as much as he complained about it, in the end he said he had fun and would consider doing one in the future. I have a couple of photos...Otto refused to let me take his picture. I also didn't carry my camera with me during the run, so no photos of the course that ran along the lake...

Start/Finish of the race. The only thing I didn't like about the course is that it was an out and back instead of a loop.
After the race outside of a cafe. Natalya, one of the doctors I work with is on the left.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Final weekend of Dave's visit

We had such a great holiday with Dave.  We had hoped to do a road trip to the south to Osh, but still too much snow in the passes. Instead we did a day trip to Burana Tower and Kochkor.  Then on Sunday we went rock climbing. Spring here is so beautiful with the green foot hills and the dramatic snow-capped mountains in the distance. Here are the photos!

This is one of the only remaining ancient sites in Kyrgyzstan.  Burana tower dates to the 9th century. It is possible to climb to the top via a very narrow staircase (below). It used to be taller, but a earthquake in the 15th century destroyed the top half.
The staircase to the top. Very steep and dark.
Detailed brick work on the outside. Similar to what we saw in Uzbekistan.  The story goes that in the 19th century, the locals disassembled parts of the tower to use the bricks for buildings in town.  Those areas have since been renovated.
Sculpted grave stones in a field near the tower.
The field of grave stones
The single bolted climbing area in Kyrgyzstan, there are supposedly other single bolted routes in the mountains, but this area has probably 20 or so bolted routes. Most are easy, so it is a great place to climb for those of us no longer doing 5.10c's and beyond!! It isn't possible to top rope, everything has to be led.
Gearing up at the car.
Post climbing beer and snacks at a very nice outdoor restaurant near the climbing area.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Thailand - best vacation spot ever!

(full disclosure, I am not being paid by the Thai tourism bureau...)

Returned a couple of weeks ago from a fantastic vacation with Otto and Dave (Otto's dad) to Thailand. We focused on the SW coast on the Andaman Sea and then a couple of days in Bangkok on our way out.  There are so many reasons to love Thailand as a vacation spot. The food is amazing (if you like spicy), you can do a cheap or high end holiday, beaches are picture perfect, the climbing is awesome, the people are wonderful, cheap/good massage everywhere.  I could do without the humidity, but it is worth it.  It is a place for everyone from college backpackers, to families with young and older children, to older folks. And then there is the whole sex tourism - we steered clear of that :)

We are already planning our next trip back, but this time we will do a full on climbing trip it was that good. Here are the pics!

Our first view of Railay where we stayed the majority of the trip
Breakfast spot. We are some happy travelers!
Actual photo...I didn't just take a picture of a post card. This is a view from the first guest house we stayed at.
Snorkeling during our 7 island tour out of Railay. Great trip!
This is a shrine right by where we climbed the first day. And yes, those are penises
Here we are with our climbing guide Tar. Great guy!
Cranky Otto (at least he made an effort to smile for the camera). He hates rock climbing... he certainly picked the wrong parents!
Another strenuous day hanging out at the beach
We rented scooters in Koh Lanta to cruise around the Island. Super fun. This is how humid it was. After this photo, my camera stopped working until we got back to very dry Bishkek.

And did I mention the daily $10 one hour full body massage.  What is not to love.