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 least during that month off. And by then I should know where Otto and I will be posted next.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Hello Summer - Trip to Istanbul

It is becoming a bit of a habit now. When Otto leaves our post to go home for the summer, we spend a few days together in a cool city. The last 2 years it was Paris. This year, Istanbul.  We had a great few days together. He is getting better about sightseeing, but i always plan a day or 2 alone after he leaves so i can do the hardcore sightseeing i love. Istanbul is a must see city. People are super friendly and not too pushy, it is very affordable and there is so much history. the perfect combo.

Here is our trip...

We took a Bosphorus Cruise. This is an incredibly well preserved fortress.
The coolest (literally) thing we did was a tour of the underground cisterns. It was HUGE. One of the mysteries are 2 medusa heads that are the base of columns, this one is upside down and the other is sideways. no one knows what the symbolism is behind this.
Inside the Basilica Cistern

Dinner at one of the many roof top restaurants. The sea of Marmara in the background.
The Hagia Sofia is just right there from these roof top bars. We stayed in the old city - Sultanahmet. We were there when there were all the problems at Taksim square, but that part of the city was closed to traffic and from where we were, you never wold have know.
Something we saw everywhere we went in the old town - cats and artifacts.

Inside the Hagia Sofia. It just glows, the ceilings are mosiac of shiny gold. it was mind blowing.
The main hall. It was originally a church, then converted to a mosque. Now a museum, so it is fascinating to see the mixture of the two religions and all the iconography.
One interesting (sad) thing is that when it was converted to a mosque, much of the mosaic was plastered over. here is a section that is being restored. The mosaic is so elaborate and bright, even after being covered for ages.

Otto's idea of Vacation:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Small World Story

I am getting a little out of order here with the blogs...but this story is just too good. I spend this past weekend in Istanbul with my son for our annual, brief summer trip as he heads back to the US to be with his dad for the summer.

We had just finished visiting the Spice and Grand Bazaars and stopped a a little shop to get something to drink.
Otto pondering the Grand bazaar at the little cafe.
The waiter had perfect English, without an accent. He commented that I must be American by my accent and I commented the same back to him, which got a laugh and started the conversation. He asked me what part of the US I am from. I usually say California, because overseas people definitely don't know Oregon, and if you say Washington, they think DC. But I went ahead and said Portland, OR. Well, he knew it well and said he had lived in Washington for 6 years growing up - hence the lack of accent.

And where did he live for those 6 years (and still has family).... BOTHELL!! That just happens to be where I graduated from High School. Now, how many of you reading this know where Bothell is? and here i am half way across the world talking to a local at a cafe in Istanbul and we both know Bothell.

But wait, the story gets better. I mentioned another funny coincidence to this local guy about Bothell.  One of my colleagues in Kyrgyzstan visits Bothell every year since his mother now lives there. I told him I think the 3 of us are the only ones in the whole region who know Bothell. Not 20 minutes later, I run into John, my colleague from Kyrgyzstan who knows Bothell. We bumped into each other on the main street in Sultanahmet. I was beside myself. I tell him the whole story and where the cafe is and suggest he stop in to completely freak out the waiter.

The picture for this post...Bothell of course. Now all of you know where it is on the map. Love this life!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sary Chelek

Oh, I must catch up. The problem is spring/summer is here and there is so much to do. Plus I have started back to school, so that adds an extra layer of busy-ness. For those who I have not told, I am back in school. This time to get my Doctorate. Yes...I know, what in the world am I thinking.

This is a most beautiful place (national park, bioreserve) here in Kyrgyzstan. About a 10 hour drive from Bishkek, but who cares, the drive alone was worth the trip. Mountains, rivers, green landscape everywhere. We did this trip about a month ago. A small group of us went from the Embassy and camped right by the lake...we had the whole place to ourselves. The day after we arrived we did an 8 mile loop hike that took us by 4 other lakes (it would have been 5, but one of them was dry). We really needed an extra day here (4 instead of 3), but I hope to go back.

This weekend I did my first outdoor climbing - what a blast!! I hate to say, but fortunately I didnt have my camera, so I can wait until my next trip there before I take photos and then feel pressure to post all of these amazing adventures. Have I mentioned how much I love this place!!!!

My tent by the lake
Sary Chelek main lake. The water is a watercolor blue.
Our hiking group
Another alpine lake in the area we passed on our hike
...and another alpine lake
Back at Sary Chelek. The snow peaked mountains in the back drop made it spectacular.
Some local villagers came by to welcome and entertain us. Vodka was had by all.
Just so you don't think I am making all of this up and am actually living in some alpine village in Europe. We stopped here on the ride home. This gentleman is selling horse milk and dried horse milk balls (the white golf ball looking things). I tried the horse milk here - very tart and musky. Don't need to try that again!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Antalya, Turkey

Had a chance to visit a friend from Ouagadougou on my way home from the conference in Johannesburg. We met in Antalya on the mediterranean coast - it is a one hour flight out of Istanbul. I was picked up from the airport sleep deprived and whisked into the mountains to 2000 year old ruins at a place called Termossos. it was to cool to describe. not very developed in a touristy way, so we were able to just wander around for hours and enjoy. It was obviously a very advanced society - water ways, sewage system, solid walls/construction. Much has fallen down, but because of an earthquake a long time ago. We had a knowledgeable guide.

one of the many tombs in the Necropolis

writing on one of the tombs

the stadium - the scale was impressive

elaborately carved column bases or tops...just laying around
my friend Kateri - thanks for a great trip!!