Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!!

We will miss Halloween by the time we get back to Almaty so I promised the kids we would trick-or-treat in Rome. So, we set up a little door to door Halloween in the apartment. All the kids came up with their own costumes: Emily was Courtnie, Courtnie was Emily, Marcy was a leprecaun, Olivia was a janitor, and Tyler was a dog (or maybe a goat?) Each of the adults took a bowl of candy and a room. Frank dressed as a crazy hockey player and scared the kids on the balcony, I wore a creepy mask that Cori and I bought at a costume shop, Cori wore her cat mask and made the kids touch her (cold fettucine) brains, and Chris built a maze out of cushions and sheets and made the kids crawl through it. Not the traditional Halloween and minimal candy haul but I think they had fun!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Miles to go before we sleep

We did ALOT of walking on this trip. We chose to walk many places because they seemed awfully close and the metro was so convoluted it took almost as long as walking and involved almost as much walking. (Plus, all the kids were a bit freaked out about the metro after Mary got pickpocketed on Monday morning while riding the metro to the Vatican.) Cori and Courtnie had pedometers with them for the trip. We were consistently getting 16,000 steps and more per day. Frank was figuring that was something like 8-10 miles. The kids did amazingly well keeping up as long as we didn't make them wait too long for food and we promised gelatto.


We stayed right around the corner from the Colosseum so we got to see it everyday. It's amazing to see something like that still standing.

We took a tour of the Colosseum which at first was a little disappointing. The guide gave us a very quick bit of info outside, some more quick info inside, and then said we had 10 minutes to look around. 10 minutes!?! Luckily, we figured out how to take the tour of the below the floor area that just opened two weeks ago. That was a great tour!

Good Eats!!

We have certainly done plenty of eating while we are here in Rome. The variety has not moved beyond Italian. We have had pizza, pasta, paninis and discovered these incredible fried rice balls called suppli. Wow! Here are some of the best of the food photos.

Lunch on the Spanish Steps

Really good mushroom pizza (from the only restaurant that we repeated.)

One night we decided to cook at home - a pasta meal, of course. We had fettucine, gnocchi, and tortellini with meat sauce and pesto. We also had a salami and cheese tray, foccacia bread and lots of grated parmesan. I thought Cori and I did a great job and it was one of the better meals of the week.

(Oops, my picture got turned sideways)

We ate LOTS of gelatto. At the end Chris and Frank wanted to try to estimate how much money was spent on gelatto but I told them not to. The number would be too high and ruin the memory of all that tast gelatto. It kept the kids happy and motivated to keep moving!

This was the gelatto store around the corner from our place. The owner got used to seeing us everyday. I think he will miss us!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Things to see when you wander Rome

After hanging out and eating in Piazza Navona we decided to wander a bit and hopefully make our way to the Trevi Fountain. We just happened upon the Pantheon. It's like that everywhere here. Ruins everywhere - you never know what you'll come across.

The Pantheon has a big hole in the roof and small drains in the floor. Here's Olivia below the domed roof. We'd like to go back now that we've read and heard a bit about the Pantheon. We were uninformed when we happened upon it.

We did make it to the Trevi Fountain where the kids threw coins in and the adults drank a beer. A nice way to enjoy the scenery for all.

We took a nice long walk back to the apartment with various things to see along the way. The only problem is you just don't know what you are looking at half the time. You could be here for a long time and never see it all. Here's the gang having a bit of fun doing yoga poses on the walk home:

Italian Football

We were so excited to attend an Italian football game while we were in Rome. Lazio was playing on Sunday so we made our plans around the game. In the morning we made our way to an enormous flea market which seemed never-ending by the time we really wanted to leave. We could not find the way out. We all bought a little bit here and there including Lazio jerseys for the game. Here are some photos from the rest of the day:
The kids making funny faces at one of the Piazza Navona fountains:

Olivia with the caricature she had made at Piazza Navona:

Tyler giving in to jet lag at dinner:

All of us at Piazza Navona:

I'm sure you've noticed by now that there are no photos from the game. Turns out you can't buy tickets to the game at the stadium. No problem - Chris and Frank ran off to buy tickets at the box office down the road. It was closed. No problem - Chris and Frank found out you can buy tickets at the Lazio store across a bridge and down an alley. You have to have a passport. No problem - Chris has his with him. You need one for each ticket. Big problem - but perhaps they don't check ID at the stadium. Chris and Frank go back to the stadium entrance to check it out. Big problem - they were checking an ID for every person entering. Don't you think the guidebooks could have mentioned all this!!!

So, no Roman football but a nice afternoon at Piazza Navona and a bit more sightseeing that included the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain. (Photos to come in another blog.)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Blogging freedom

How nice to be able to log on and blog to my heart's content. There is lots to read below to catch everyone up on what's going on. I'm sure I'll do plenty more Rome blogging while I have the chance so check back often for the next week!

Some Italian firsts

We arrived in Rome today and did just a little exploring and eating. We decided to count how many times everyone has something on this trip - Olivia pasta, Emily gelato, Marcy chicken strips (because she eats them no matter what country we are in), Frank beer, and me Tylenol (because I arrived with a headache and am sure to have plenty more- sad!)

Here's Olivia after her first plate of pasta. I can't believe she ate the WHOLE thing!

And here's everyone with their first gelato. Emily tried "After-8" mint and vanilla for the first one. I guess we'll have to see how many flavors she tries as well.

We are heading off to mass in Italian in just a little while at the San Clemente Basilica around the corner. Marcy is most excited!

Same old, same old

I've been told since we arrived that it doesn't snow in Almaty until early Dec, late Nov at the earliest! As to be expected when you put me in the picture, this is what we woke up to on Friday morning. This is the view front our front balcony:
We had a light snow all day. It wasn't terribly cold so it didn't accumulate too much more then you see but those who live up the mountains a bit got about 8 inches. The girls and Snuggles were excited to see snow again so they got out there to play as soon as I dug out all the winter gear which was still packed in a suitcase because we weren't supposed to need it yet!!

Guess who???

We had to cancel our Girl Scout hike last weekend because our guide got sick and I do not know where the trails lead. I ended up leading the Juniors and Brownies by myself because for some reason no moms stuck around the meeting this time! But it went well. I set the Brownies up to make Halloween masks and left them to their imaginations and the task. I was so impressed with what they came up with. And since I was busy with the Juniors they really did it all by themselves - I didn't cut, glue, or even give advice!

Here they are revealing their true identities:

Soccer dance

AIS hosted Soccer Fest weekend recently to wrap up the season. The boys teams competed in a playoff tournament while the girls competed in some friendly matches since a playoff was not required for their league. Other International and local schools from Almaty participated in addition to AIS-Astana who came in town just to participate. To add a little social aspect the school hosted a dance for middle and high school students. Olivia went with a couple of her friends who spent the night at our house. They came over before the dance and dressed Olivia up. She looked really nice and grown-up (despite the obvious height difference.) They had a great time but said the strobe lights made them dizzy!

The varsity girls played in an all-star game on Sat against the AIS-Astana boys. The team combined girls from AIS and girls from Tien Shen (another international school-our big soccer rival) and a couple of Tien Shan boys. The girls won 4-1! Here's a photo of all three teams (AIS-Almaty in blue, Tien Shen in black and green, and AIS-Astana in red.)

It was fun to coach the girls and I look forward to it again in the spring. (And maybe I can sneak Emily on the field again.)


Some expats and Kazakh National Rugby team players host a rugby club for kids on Sunday mornings in Almaty. Of course Emily was game for that. (They also have circuit training for adults during the rugby practice which I have been participating in.) Emily caught on pretty quick and has been enjoying a new game. She sometimes gets to play with the "big boys" but they are pretty rough.

A couple weekends ago there was a tournament on Almaty of local and regional Kazakh teams and the rugby group went out for some practice and to enjoy some games. Here's Emily playing in a game of keep away:

The first game we watched was the women's national team which I thought would be cool for Emily to see but it was BRUTAL!!! Hitting and tackling and yanking of hair and pulling down shorts and just plain nasty (one of the English guys with the group assured me that in a pile there would also be biting and spitting and scratching going on.) I told Emily to stick with touch rugby.

Here are the women duking it out. The Kazakh national team is in red.

At one point three women were down at once. Medics came on the field and two got up pretty quickly but one was down for quite a while. We saw her later on the sideline with cotton stuffed up her nose and a big bandage. I couldn't resist getting a photo.

The men's Kazakh national team played as well. (The men's games were rough but didn't seem to have the same vicious undertone as the women. It's a fun game to watch and I can see how fans get passionate about a team.) One of Emily's coaches is #8 on the end. He really likes Emily and is often taking her aside to teach her some rugby moves.

It was a fun day and good to learn a little about a sport I never paid much attention to before.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Enough blogging

Enough for tonight. This is taking too long with a slow connection and Frank's "safe environment" software is telling me it's time for a work pace break. See new posts below and check in again in a couple of days. To come - Rugby, GS hike, Olivia's dance!


A couple of weekends ago Madeline and Austin attended the JPII homecoming dance. Madeline had to miss attending the actual football game because she had to cheer for St Marks. I think they were mostly excited (or Madeline was) about the chance to get dressed up and go out on an official date with dinnner etc and one they could drive to themselves. I don't think they stayed a long time at the dance, opting to wear their fancy clothes back to Austin's house and hang out. We had to miss the whole thing, of course, but Mary was nice enough to take some photos and be the responsible adult (she doesn't really relish this new role in Madeline's life!)

Here they are before the dance. We think Madeline looks particularly beautiful and very grown up (and of course Austin looks handsome and grown up too!)

Scenes from Almaty

A couple weekends ago the girls and I went out and did a bit of exploring in Almaty. Nothing too exotic - we went to the big bazaar/market in town and then to a local park to kill some time before going to church. At the market we wandered through many stalls and managed to find a bunch of things we needed - a shower rod for Emily's bathroom so she could finally take a shower with a curtain, some adapters for all our appliances from Singapore with the wrong type of plugs, a desk lamp for Marcy's room and Marcy's skating outfit (see Ice Princess post below.) I also walked the girls through the "meat" section of the market but they wouldn't let me take photos. Really wanted a picture of the girls in from of the pig heads hanging from hooks. I had to take them out quickly because I thought they might start gagging. How embarrassing would that be??

Next we went to a nearby park. I thought it might just be some pathways with trees and a few statues but there was quite a scene hidden back off the road. Here's a picture of the building at the center of the park. I have no idea what it is or what it is used for but very bright and interesting:

They had pony rides, carriages, food vendors, and a few carnival style games. And a tremendous number of pidgeons which people were feeding and holding. Marcy took some photos for me and got Emily as she was scaring them off. (By the way - this is Emily's new church attire - her Penguins jersey. Frank let her wear it once and now it's the thing to wear.)

At one point all the birds took off at once while Olivia and Marcy were in the midst of them. Scared the heck out of them and I managed to catch there reaction:

Lastly, we came upon a wedding in another section of the park. Wedding here are a really big deal with several venues being used throughout the day for photos and dancing and food, etc. The whole wedding party will travel through the city in decorated limos and cars in procession. It's almost like a funeral procession - everyone stays together with headlights on. Except you'll see about 10-15 on any normal Saturday drive. This is the wedding party we happened upon. Non-wedding members were all just standing around watching:

From closer to home, this was the view out the library window last week. This field is between the school and our neighborhood. Apparently the man who owns these cows and goats (and sheep you can't see) takes them for a "walk" often. He walks in front and they all just follow behind:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More blogging to come

I've had a long break between blogs because Frank went out of town for nearly 2 weeks taking his computer with him. I think I need to set up my own VPN. Is that possible? Then I could post whenever I feel like it. There are a couple new blogs below but more to come. Frank's "safe environment" software has told me that he has reached his daily limit in computer use so I have to stop. I guess he was pretty busy at work today after being away for so long. He's totally jet-lagged and snoring away in the bed behind me. I guess I won't be sleeping too well tonight.

Check back again later this week for more updates from Almaty!

Ice Princess

Marcy wanted to continue ice skating lessons that she began last year while we were in Calgary. With help from our driver we managed to find an English speaker coach at the Mega-Mall here in Almaty. She gets private lessons twice a week (for only about $15/half hour!) and they have made a dramatic improvement in her skating. As a bonus for her teacher, we have since sent 2 other girls to her for some skating lessons in English.

Here is Marcy practicing some of her moves. She definitely has much more style and grace on the ice than she did last year.

What we are sure has really added to her new skills is her new outfit. She has been begging for a skating outfit which I find so funny as I would never have been caught dead in something like this when I was a kid. But, we went to the local market and found a skirted leotard and some tights and she was so proud and excited to go out on the ice! She wants something with a little more bling for Christmas but until then here she is in ice princess mode (working on her spins.)

I don't mean to brag but....

I volunteered at the school to be the girls soccer coach. I intended to just coach the JV team with the underlying motive being that I would be able to let Emily play on the team even though she is not old enough. Turns out they handed over the reigns of the girls program to me without any hesitation. The teacher sponsor came to two practices and quickly realized she could use the time elsewhere. So, I coached the JV and Varsity girls. The season ends on Friday with a friendly soccer fest with some other area school. Unfortunately, the JV team lost every game and never scored a goal. On the upside, the Varisty girls had their first undefeated season, were scored on only 4 times, and were the league champions!

My ulterior motive of letting Emily play did not quite work out. I managed to come up with an excuse for her to play in one JV game but later was told in a round-about way to not do that again. The athletic director was also told not to let me do that again. There are strict rules that you must be 12-14 to play. Regardless, Emily at 10 outplayed all the other players on both teams to the point that the Kazakh referee who speaks no English came to shake her hand after the game. She's a big fish in a small pond here but still one heck of a great soccer player. (Like I said, don't mean to brag but...)

Here she is before the game. She got the only uniform that was left which was an extra large. she wore shorts under her shorts just in case they fell off!!

#28 ready to play the ball in!

Emily and Coach Mom