Friday, December 31, 2010
And here is Marcy. (Ask me sometime about that boy Muhammed standing behind her.)
Emily's concert followed closely after (both held in the school music room.) Here is the entire 10 year old class (equivalent of grade 5):
Working at the school I know how many teachers had to pitch in to put the concerts together. There are only 2 music teachers for the whole school. The language teachers all put together their own acts and classroom teachers gave up lots of time for practice schedules. I wonder if they do a Spring concert also??
Emily and Marcy still had a good time skating. It seems to be the new thing we do. Skate where we can. Marcy did say she was a bit scared by all the people on the ice who did not know how to skate. Olivia, Frank and I planned to skate but there were lines to pay, lines to get skates, lines to return skates, and lines to collect your skate deposit. We gave up. Olivia will get her own skates for Christmas so we don't run into this problem anymore. It seems we skate enough these days.
Madeline and I stopped for a closer look at Medeo when we were there. We spied the sign below inside the gates. We are open to any explantion anyone can give about what this sign might mean. I can only guess that it's a really bad English translation.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Emily's only problem right now is the fact that the coaches speak Russian only. Luckily 2-3 boys speak English and Russian and one in particular (a Korean who speaks English as his THIRD language) makes sure that Emily knows what is going on. And Emily is picking up quite a bit of Russian on her own.
After a long afternoon of romping around outside and inside and running up and down the stairs and playing with toys and going for a walk and being led from room to room, Chinook finally passed out. (Too early for my liking - I have no doubt he'll be up in the middle of the night.)
Chinook had only one accident in the house today but the girls took him out about every 15 minutes so he wasn't given much chance to mess up. He already knows the sit command but only if you say it in Russian and give his rear a little nudge. We'll have to work on his English language skills! Much work to do after Christmas.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
We started our tour of the city at the Kremlin. They have an amazing museum inside and the guide did a great job of explaining Russian history while showing us the highlights. The Kremlin is a walled city or citadel built and rebuilt several times over but the wall surrounding it and the 20 towers are original (if I remember everything correctly.) Here are some photos of the various towers, all different and individually named:
This is the largest bell in the world and was meant to be placed in the bell tower of another church in Cathedral square. It is 200 tons! But, while it was cooling in it's cast (or whatever you do when you are making a bell) there was a big fire which went so far as to burn the wooden scaffolding around the bell. The dramatic change in temperature caused it to crack an a 7 ton piece broke off. So it's never been wrung with it's 1 ton clapper and now it's just a really big bell.
Here are Frank and fellow Chevron-ite Jason in front the portion of the Kremlin still in use by the Russian government today. There was surprisingly little security. The guide said it's because everyone knows if you get to close that they'll just take you around a corner and shoot you. I'm not sure how much she was kidding.
This is the "ceremonial" entrance to the Kremlin from Red Square. This is the most accurate clock in all of Russia we were told. Now how do you know that and how exactly can you tell when there is no second hand? Anyway, it's always been important and even today the ringing of the clock bells is broadcast on Russian radio at 6am and 12am everyday (a very big deal at 12am on New Year's Eve!)
There is a big skating rink in the middle of Red Square. The tour guide says this is one of things that amazes her most about the changes in Russia. She says 15 years ago a skating rink there could not have been imagined. Frank took Emily and Marcy skating. Too cold for Olivia (who stayed at the hotel) and me (I found a grocery store inside the adjacent mall!)
The lit up building in this photo is a modern mall built in the early 1900s. Because Red Square was used as an open air market they thought it appropriate to build an indoor market as well. It's very high end with all the expensive international names.
Last is the Balshoy (sp?) theatre - famous for ballet and opera. It's not exactly in Red Square but close by and we passed walking back to the hotel. Thought we should have a photo. It's been under renovation for about 4 years and is almost ready to fully reopen. Apparently only one section of the complex has been in use.
While we were here the girls and Frank decided to have McDonald's for dinner. (I generally pass on McDonald's except for stealing french fries.) It was the craziest McDonald's I have ever been in. It was packed with long lines for food and people standing around with trays waiting for a place to sit down. Once again, unbelieveable. The Russians have certainly embraced American fast food. Couldn't resist a photo of the Russian McDonald's:
Had to get a photo of Olivia eating McDonald's. Last year she saw the movie Super Size Me and refused to eat fast food again. She has held to it pretty well unless given no other options. But, having been fast food deprived, without a single US outlet available in Almaty, she has been craving Wendy's. She settled for McDonald's and enjoyed every bite:
Later we saw some polar bears who also don't mind the weather but you can see that the girls are a bit more frozen at this point. We didn't even really stop to watch the polar bears who were playing and jumping around. We were in pursuit of the next indoor spot!
Here are the indoor photos. Much more enjoyable! We spent alot of time watching the elephants, especially the baby. We stuck around long enough to see them get fed. One elephant was very greedy and swept big pile of food to his own spot with his trunk. The baby elephant spent alot of time eating the middle of a loaf of bread and leaving the crust behind, just like kids would do.
We spent the longest time inside with the orangutans, especially this little guy who sat by the glass the entire time with a big one we decided was the grandma. He especially liked Marcy's gloves - if she put them up to the glass he would try to bite at them. I could have watched him for a long time. In this photo he was blowing his lips against the glass, again, just like a kid.
One more stop inside was the Africa area. They had meerkats and zebras and giraffes and ostriches and antelope and warthogs. Despite the smell we preferred to be inside. Olivia says her coat still smells like the zoo!
We went back to the hotel for a swim in the much overheated fitness area of the hotel. It was a great way to warm up!
Marcy and Jordan both said it was the best Thanksgiving ever. They didn't eat much but enjoyed the slides and running around drinking free flowing soda and ice cream.
The food was pretty good. The turkey was turkey and the mashed potatoes were really good (but they obviously did not plan well and when they ran out they had to serve rice as a substitute.) The stuffing was interesting but actually very good - it had hard boiled egg in it chopped very small. And the gravy was orange???? (maybe tomato-based????) Dessert was typical buffett table dessert selection but Madeline brought pumpkin pie ingredients with her so I made two pies that we all ate very quickly.
As I said, a nice evening but definitely not your typical Thanksgiving dinner. I think it was a bit too chaotic for me. Maybe next year we will get some roast chicken and have pseudo-Thanksgiving at home.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
This is the after shot. Most everyone is still smiling. If we had all the parents who hiked in the picture there would be less smiles. The adults were definitely less tolerant of the mud and mess than the girls.
At the top of the hike there was a nice flat spot used as a helicopter pad. Lots of snow and a good place to stop for a drink and snack before heading back down.
I think we'll hike again in the spring. It was a hit with all the girls. Not sure we'll get so many parent volunteers next time!!