Friday, December 28, 2012

Goodbye 2012

I want to wish everyone a fantastic upcoming year for 2013. I can only hope mine is equally as good as 2012. In looking back, it was a busy year, with many transitions but we managed it all and move into the new year happy and ready for our next adventures.

I feel a bit guilty I haven't written in a long while. But every time I thought about writing, I realized I didn't have anything that interesting to say. Life feels so normal here. It is easy with very few difficulties compared to Ouaga. I don't have the heat and dust to deal with so I am less cranky.  Yes, it gets COLD here and after about 4-5 days of -20F, I am ready for just simply freezing weather, but the snow is beautiful and I am cozy in my house cooking and reading. Also, I didn't do any traveling over the holidays because Otto went back to Portland for the month to visit his dad. I have done some snowboarding and hanging out with friends, but it has been pretty uneventful.

I will get back up to the mountains tomorrow. So far the best place I have boarded is Chimbulak in Almaty - it had good terrain and 2 high speed quads. The places around here have the old style 2 seater chairs (take over twice as long to get to the top of the mountain compared to riding down). The terrain is very tame. I need to find people who want to hike up and look for powder spots. But, there is usually a big group going up every weekend, so the social aspect is really nice. And it costs between $10-16 for a lift ticket, so I guess I shouldn't complain.

My other new favorite thing is this all women's bath house a friend introduced me to. I try to go once a week (although once Otto is back I am sure it won't be so regular). I start off with a 1.5 hour massage that is really good (these Russian women are strong and know what they are doing). This costs $20!!! Then I can get a pedicure/manicure or head straight down to the bath area where there is dry and wet saunas, a huge freezing cold pool, you can get a chocolate-oatmeal scrub, and a tasty meal. Only women in the whole place and it is a nice cultural thing that they take this time to hang out together and take care of themselves. People are very comfortable with their bodies, so it is very relaxed (although the first couple of times it took me a little while to relax!). I have never spend more than $30 for the whole experience.

Here are my photos... I will try to do a better job getting more to share.

compare this with one of my early photos of our house yard area. we get just enough snow here. i have this great gardener who comes twice a week and keeps my compound in perfect order.

Another view of the snow accumulation...and a fire a couple of doors down. This happened last week. The fire dept did show up, but not a lot they could do. it is very dry here and people heat with whatever they can - often coal or wood. this is one of the cases where it feels so developed here on the surface, but some people are living a much more basic life. i talked to my staff about a house fire like this and home owner's insurance. doesn't exist. this family will get no support from the government and will have no recourse or assistance to rebuild or replace all that was lost.

Not my tree, but had to have an X-mas tree in this entry because it was Christmas! this was at the house of my friends where i went for a lovely cozy dinner.

Our table all perfectly set for Christmas dinner. It was a wonderful meal.
Happy Holiday Season to All!!! thanks for reading.

One last note.  I feel a deep appreciation for our folks in the military who are often away from their families during the holidays and working hard for our country. Even if we don't all agree with our government's policies, these people are selfless, uncomplaining, interesting, everyday people. A few of us from the Embassy had a very fun day baking cookies and Christmas treats with a small group from the Transit Center - they were so appreciative to have a day of baking, a holiday ritual for many, as they were all missing their families and were not feeling the holiday spirit. We shared a lot of laughs, were hugging each other by the end of the day...and oh yes, we made some darn yummy cookies which we sent back to the Transit Center to deliver holiday cheer to the soldiers back on base.