Friday, May 25, 2007

Some Pictures

So we haven't had that much time to go out and take pictures (and since we're limited to "I don't speak Russian" or "Please speak slower"-type conversations), I don't have a lot of stuff for you to see yet, but if you're patient, maybe in a couple of weeks we'll be able to get you more pictures of Moscow.

However, I can show you a few of our first pics of the city:
I'm a country boy (a jungle boy, to be precise), so I'm not really used to life in the big city. Here's a typical scene near our apartment. If you look closely, there's a small slice of sky visible in the corner. :)

Every apartment does have a nicely painted playground nearby, and here's the one just down the block from us. Apparently, it's a cultural phenomenon to have your kids outside at least some time every day, so in the afternoons of the nice days we've been having, these have been full of people with little kids playing.

Moscow must be booming, because everywhere you go, these giant cranes building new apartment buildings. Of course, with the prices they rent for, it's no wonder that the new entrepreneurs are frantically building apartments as fast as they can.

Here's our first haul from a grocery store - all these goodies (plus a few bathroom items not pictured) for around $60. This was from a more "Western" grocery store, so prices were just a little higher than back home, but not too bad. We've since located a slightly cheaper store, plus markets for our fruits and veggies.

Speaking of open markets, B went out to one yesterday with Steven. Several babushkas gave her grief about bringing him there (apparently, this is a cultural taboo we weren't aware of), but they had a good time, and came home with some fresh potatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, and oregano. We had a nice fresh spaghetti sauce last night with hand-picked sauteed mushrooms, fresh oregano, and minced lamb. Yum!

By the way, our baby boy is now 6 months old! We made a little video about his first six months with B's family, so here's a link to it: Link To Steven Video. Sorry about the quality of the whole thing, we had to reduce it to a lower bitrate to get it online. Big thanks to the Vonks for helping us edit this.

Anyway, that's it for now. We're planning a touristy-style venture sometime this week, so maybe next post we'll have a picture of Red Square or St. Basil's for you. Thanks for your thoughts, especially as we hunt for a place to live.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ok, so we're alive...

Indeed, we have arrived, and we're OK.

So far, we've slept, gone out and changed money, gotten some groceries, slept some more, and come over to a coworkers house for dinner. In fact, we're at their house now, and we're borrowing their wireless connection, which is much better than the dialup phone card we have at our place.

However, I don't mean that to say that our guest apartment isn't nice; on the contrary, it's really pretty wonderful! Nice bedrooms, a lovely kitchen, a nice bathroom, really, everything nice! Of course, it's not ours, but we've been told we can stay there for a while while we look for a place.

The trip was, well, a long trip. It really can't be a terrific experience, as any of you who have taken long flights will understand, but as long trips go, it went well. Thanks to all of you who thought of us, as Steven did great! He went to sleep within 5 minutes of takeoff every flight, and slept for almost all the plane time. We didn't have any trouble with visas or luggage, other than the fact that we had to leave security every connection and go through the checks again to get our boarding pass (all our flights were on different airlines). Not to mention the strange airport situation at Stockholm; have any of you ever been there? Just strange trying to find the right line, and then the airline reps weren't even there until 90 minutes before the plane was scheduled to leave, etc. Anyway, we did eventually get to the right place, and then all our bags got here with us. All I can say is thank you for remembering us!

As far as our first impressions, I have to say that everything is more "Western" than I had expected. Our apartment really is nice, the grocery store was pretty similar to the ones we had in England (prices maybe just slightly higher than the US). So far, apart from being totally exhausted (Steven had some bad carrots for his first meal here and screamed most of last night), we're doing great. Couldn't ask for anything better.

Tomorrow, we're headed to a meeting with one of our coworkers, then the whole team is getting together for a chat. It looks like we'll have a couple of weeks before we have to start language learning (although just walking around is language exposure at this point), so that will be nice. Thanks for continuing to think of us as we begin the search for a place to live this week. Hopefully, we'll be able to post some pictures of our apartment and the town sometime next week.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

We're Off, ...

...but we've gotta' be a little bit off, or we wouldn't be doing anything like this!

Aaaanyway, we need to apologize for the delay in blogging. Usually we try to get something up at least once a week or so. I know, I know, you're looking back at our history, and complaining that we've never actually accomplished that, but give us a break. What's that you say? "The road to someplace warm is paved with good intentions"? How intolerant of you! :)

Basically, the reason we haven't posted is not because there hasn't been anything going on, but rather that there's been too much going on. We leave tomorrow, and the past few weeks have been consumed in a flurry of activity; meeting with these people, packing this item, going shopping for that indispensable thing, having dinner with these folks, ad nauseum. I'm actually looking forward to a long plane ride to relax, if you can imagine.

Anyway, on to the pictures, to tell the story of our time:

This is a picture of the fishing adventure, part II, which had one of those "it'll be funny when I tell the grandkids" endings. To make a long story short, after catching some fish and having a good time, we were returning to the dock to tie up for the night. Unfortunately, we ran out of gas within sight of the dock, but the wind carried us the other way. Thank goodness for modern technology, because if we hadn't had cell phone phone coverage out on the lake, we wouldn't have been able to call some friends for a rescue. To be honest, though, I'm not sure the rescue was worth it, what with the grief the so-called "friends" gave us when they came to bring some gas. Overall, though, another thoroughly enjoyable evening, with a funny ending.

As most of you know, J's grandmother passed away a couple of weeks ago, so we traveled down to Florida for the memorial service. J's parents came up as well, so they were able to see Steven (actually, in the case of J's dad, it was the first time meeting him). Here he enjoys a romp on the beach with grandma.

One of the other features of our trip was a voyage up the St. John's River by pontoon boat, and we saw quite a few alligators (I think the total count was over 50 for a three-hour ride). Really a lot of fun.

Here Steven investigates his grandpa on J's side for one of the first times. He really enjoyed the whisker rubs by the end of the week!

Another feature of our time recently was a combined eating/camping trip with B's family last weekend. We ate at the Daniel Boone Inn (fantastic eating, if you're ever in the mood to eat approximately enough food to feed Mogadishu for a week) and then camped out near Linville Falls.

Ah, camping. As you can maybe see from the table behind us, the fact that we had all just committed gluttony 30 miles down the road was not enough to prevent us from making a delicious dessert of S'mores. Yum!

Again, with B's family, celebrating (or mourning?) our departure around a table covered with goodies. It's a good thing we're moving away, because I've definitely put on some weight living in this house. It was a fantastic meal, though! No idea what mom is yelling about, though, so maybe we should hold a caption contest for this photo in the comments section?

We did find the time to take a family snapshot before we left, so this is the new family portrait. If only we all looked this good all the time ...

I'm too tired to post a Blog Debate, so you'll have to wait until next week, when I'll do my best to think of something creative. Next post: overseas! Goodbye to all of you in this country for a few years, and please know that we've enjoyed our time with you immensely. Please do keep in touch with us and be thinking of us as we travel.