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.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Beautiful things I have acquired in Kyrgyzstan

It is March of the year I will move to a new post. This is when it really sets in, the planning starts, and all the conflicting emotions begin - excitement, sadness, impatience, anxiety, joy for every day have left in your current post, a race to try and fit everything in, an attempt to spend time with all the new friends you have gained over the past 1.5 years.

I am currently on spring break from school, so I technically have a week off, but really that only means I have a chance to get a bit ahead. It was a rough start to the semester with a brief (but exhausting) trip to Atlanta for our annual medical training and then soon after my return a death at post that was shocking and tragic. I only now feel like I am getting back to myself and caught up on life.

I also realize I haven't posted in a long while. I could have of course posted pictures of Atlanta, but unfortunately we weren't actually in Atlanta, but a ways out in strip mall hell (my opinion).  So, just do a google search for any mall in America and you will have your photos of my trip :)  I was also there during 'snowmageddon' and since it was only 2 inches of snow in barely below freezing temps, since I live in Kyrgyzstan, I found it hard to get too excited about it.

We have some new additions to our family which is the subject of this post and photos.  I love the crafts and art here and cannot seem to buy enough.

The beautiful hand made felt shyrdyks, I wish I had a house big enough to fill with one of every type and color.
There are many talented painters here. I got this at an art show and I love it more each day.
Bolt the Beautiful Cat


Oh yes, a cat is one of our new possessions. I don't know what I was thinking... Some friends of ours were leaving and because of import restrictions at their new post they couldn't take their cat. I knew Bolt from spending time with him at their house and he is honestly the best cat ever, so I told them I would 'foster' him and find a family for him before we left in the summer. Well, Otto is completely attached to him (and so am I actually...but I won't admit it to Otto!) and I am sure he would pick the cat over me if I attempted to move without him. So, it looks like we have a new family member. Jackson and he get along quite well (now) and I think Bolt actually has a calming effect on him.

I am taking holidays in Thailand in a couple of weeks, so no fear, I will finally have some good stories and photos to tell.  Otto's dads is coming for the month, so we will spend the first part of it on the beach paradise that is Krabi/Railay Thailand. I am so counting the days.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

CPR for residents

I am done with semester #1 - YEAH! It is so nice to know I don't have a paper to write and/or 100 pages of text to read.  I am trying to catch up with the final season of Breaking Bad, read a few books that have been calling my name and just sit around and do nothing.  Things will be quiet around the Embassy for the next few weeks since  many people are traveling out of country for the holidays. Otto left last weekend to spend a month with his dad.

A couple of weeks ago I co-taught a CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) class to Cardiology Residents here in Bishkek. It was good fun and they really enjoyed it.  The residents were very appreciative and engaged in the course.  One of my local colleagues, Dr. Tsoy did all of the translating. CPR is not commonly taught here even for the cardiologists.  Basic concepts are reviewed for them in school, but the formal training with mannequins is rare. It was a great event. It is a highlight for me to get out of the clinic and interact with people in the community.  here are a few photos:





Otto and I got our onward posting - we will be going to Bucharest, Romania next. Will be a big change. Much  more developed, part of the EU, many people speak English and the Embassy is much bigger. I was initially disappointed because I really wanted Burma - I much prefer the 'hardship' posts, but it will be a great place for Otto to do high school.  We will be there for 3  years, so start planning your trip!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Uzbekistan for fall break

Oh I am a bad blogger. Good thing I have a day job. My excuse:  I am back in school getting my doctorate (online at George Washington University - so cool!).  Needless to say, I am a tad busy. I started back into classes the week I got back from summer holidays in the U.S.  I have been struggling to keep up, do my real job, raise a 13yo (yes, Otto is now officially a teen) and get some sleep here and there.

Otto and I did manage to take a quick trip to Uzbekistan with some friends during his school break. It was amazing!!  I cannot believe how little I know about the history of Central Asia and how developed it was. Super cool architecture and art. It was a really good trip with friends who will soon be leaving us to move on to their next post...

Here are the photos. We started in Tashkent, drove to Samarkand, Bukhara and then flew back to Tashkent.  If you ever have the opportunity to visit Uzbekistan, I highly recommend it. It is a UNESCO world heritage site...and for good reason.

On the road to Samarkand. A stop at a little stand where we could buy nuts. The guy monitoring the bathroom got mad at me for taking photos...

Mausoleum for Amir Temur - the great ruler of Central Asia.  Look him up...pretty impressive
The detailed mosiac work is stunning.

Registan Square - the centerpiece of Samarkand.
Women praying at a functioning mosque in Registan Square. The whole room is almost entirely covered/painted in gold leaf.
Happy Birthday Otto! He turned 13 on our trip. We got a weird (but pretty) local cake. I just made him his real birthday cake today - a german chocolate cake.

This is a stand to hold the Koran
No, I am not showing you how polluted Samarkand is, look at this..remarkable site from a distance. And now look at the next photo.
A massive structure that we were able to see miles away. This site is still under renovation.
Now we are in Bukhara. The minaret was built in the 11th century and has very little renovation. Freaking amazing!!
The Uzbeks are known for their handicrafts. Hand embroidery, silk scarves of a very unique pattern.  They also make carpets. I tried to buy one, but the price was too much.
Bukhara - the old and the new.
I only wish I had more time. I would have liked to visit Nukus, a nothing city in the desert to the NW. The reason...they have an amazing art gallery there of avant-garde Russian and Central Asian art, collected and protected in the 50-60's when Stalin tried to outlaw such things.  If you have a chance, I recommend the documentary, The Desert of Forbidden Art.

I am done with this semester at the beginning of Dec. Hope to do a better job blogging...at least during that month off. And by then I should know where Otto and I will be posted next.