Sunday, November 25, 2012

Winter is here

...and so is my car - YEA! the Foreign Service has made me realize how dependent I am on my car. I am quite unhappy without one. a month or 6 weeks is fine, but after that it really grates on me. I feel so restricted and i hate depending on other people. Well, this time it has arrived just in time as winter is really here. and here are some photos to prove it.

We found some killer icicles

The Ski areas are just opening up. We went opening day to Zil, which is about an hour outside of  Bishkek. it wasn't terribly thrilling, but the snow is world class...not the heavy stuff we are used to. Otto has really become a great snowboarder. i haven't been on my board for 2.5 years, but it came right back. now i am ready for some challenging runs and back country powder.

there was only one lift and this was the gate. it was pretty high tech...we had a card that we had to swipe to get in.
Base of Zil Ski Resort
Winter Wonderland. walking Jackson (in his fleece vest) at the park near our house. he actually loves the snow and doesn't seem to be as bothered by the cold as we thought he would be.

A little hike on Veteran's day at Ala Archa national park.

It is lovely here. very cold, generally below freezing, although it warmed up a bit the last 2 days, so some of the snow in the city has melted. this is the only thing Ouagadougou was missing.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Trip to Almaty, Kazakhstan

We traveled to Almaty last weekend to pick up Jackson. He had spent the previous 3 weeks in NY in a kennel after there was a problem with his paperwork from Portland to NY when he was originally shipped in early Oct. Otto and I were again so excited to see him, but also anxious...worried that he wouldn't actually make it again. But it worked and he is with us. It was a painful experience getting the dog through customs. first off most flights way out here in Central Asia land in the middle of the Jackson's flight arrived at 2am, so i had to be at the airport (cargo warehouse) at 1:30am. From there it was go here and talk to this person, go there to talk to another, go back to the original went on like this for 4 hours. it was as if they had never cleared a dog through customs. Ugghhh, incredible frustrating. i had to pay someone ($250!!!) to translate, because of course i speak no Russian and the customs folks speak no English and are not the slightest bit motivated to help (unless you slip them a little cash...)

We had a very nice long weekend in Almaty. My regional doctor in the State Dept, who lives there, was kind enough to let us stay with him. His 4 yo was with him and she took to Otto...and Otto was very patient with her. it was very cute - but Otto wouldn't let me snap a photo. And the double bonus, they had a full weekend of things going on and we got to tag along. pictures follow. Almaty is so, so, so developed compared to Bishkek.  and so very expensive. hard to believe they are a 4 hour drive away from each other. Kazakhstan is oil rich which accounts for the difference. It is an equally beautiful city with mountains close enough to touch. The finishing touch to a great weekend was the fact that Otto's birthday was on the Sunday we returned home.

Zenov Orthodox Church at Panfilov Park. This church is in the center of the city in a beautiful park. It was build in 1905 - entirely of wood, including the nails. it is one of the only historic buildings that survived a big earthquake in the early 1900's

Base of Chimbulak ski area. it is about a 20 minute drive from the city center. it was so fun to be at a ski area, Otto and I are excited for the ski season to begin.

Base of Chimbulak. we had a nice lunch here.

Medeu Ice skating rink, on the way to Chimbulak. it is the size of a football field and used regionally for Olympics training.

One of the many huge sky scrapers in Almaty. this has been nicknamed the deathstar by some Foreign service folks that live nearby. it is close to the US Consulate. This takes up about 4 city blocks and it is being added on to. We dont have anything like this in Bishkek.

More lovely scenery. We went to a trout farm one of the days to fish and eat. it was a beautiful setting with this little river running at the back end of the farm.

Otto caught a trout - actually he caught a ton, but after keeping 5, he threw the rest back. it wasn't much of a challenge because this pond is almost overflowing with trout. after you catch as many as you want, the staff cleans/guts them and cooks them. we had a very nice meal. Otto said the trout was tasty.

Back at  home in Bishkek. Otto and Jackson settling in. Jackson has adjusted without problem. he is an amazing traveler. doesn't seem to phase him. he seems quite happy here. we have a nice yard for him to run around in. the weather is still really nice, sunny, warm, so it has been a good transition for him. not quite sure what he will think of snow.

Happy Birthday Otto - 12 this year. How did that happen?!?

We really enjoyed the trip to Almaty. but it made us realize that we are quite happy in Bishkek. This is a nice size city for us. and much more affordable. i am sure we will visit Almaty a number of times during our stay here. it is nice to know we have such a developed city so close. Otto loves Almaty because you can buy REAL lego there.