Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Home!


OK, OK, I know I've spent time before addressing the fact that we're not truly "home" anywhere, but I'm wondering if the Wandering Family shouldn't take on a new moniker. Maybe "Settled Family," or perhaps "Homebody Family." Doesn't have quite the cachet, somehow. But yes, for the forseeable future, the Wandering Family is through wandering. Maybe we'll meander a bit, or if circumstances change return to our nomadic ways, but it's not in the plans. Because we're finally home!

Since we've arrived here in T-land, we've had no shortage of adventures, not least of which was our computer deciding that it won't work without a functional fan. Sadly, this has limited our blogging ability in the extreme, since it's hard to do without a computer. Add that to dial-up internet access, and you'll probably see a lot less videos, and possibly fewer pictures as well in the future, but I came down to the internet cafe today to fill you in at least in plaintext. Maybe I can get some pics off our coworkers' websites to load on here, and that will give you at least something.

So yes, we are here. Since we got here we've had registration fun, I went on a three day conference, we found an apartment, fixed it up a bit, and had all of our stuff arrive and moved in. A busy couple of weeks. The conference was fantastic - a great way to get our culture study off with a bang. It was put on by a group striving for the preservation of T culture and language, especially in teaching in schools. There were so many different aspects of the culture covered - we watched a traditional play, saw two different religious services, watched them hang prayer flags, got to swim in a salt lake, watched a T wrestling match, heard throat singing, the whole shebang. It was great. I have a feeling I'm going to be going over the video and pictures we took with a language and culture helper for a long time mining all the different aspects of the different things we saw.

Our apartment, even though I don't have any pictures, is wonderful! We're renting a place right up on the edge of the main hill in town, so we have a fantastic view from our living room of all the mountains. And, more importantly, it's less than a third what we were paying in Moscow! We're not sure how long we're going to be there, as we have some possible developments on buying an apartment in the future, but for now it's a great place for us.

Other than that, I've been quite sick with some sort of persistent cough, but feel a bit better today and hopefully that's going away. Again, sorry we don't have pictures for you today (unless I am able to get the other folks' pictures up, in which case disregard this), but hopefully our computer can be fixed and then we'll be back in business.

Thanks so much for thinking of us in this time - we've still got lots to do. Today I'm trying to find a shower curtain rod that will work in our odd-shaped bathroom, and also headed by the immigration office to check in on our residency permits. Hope you all have a great week, and we'll try to post again sometime soon.

Edit: I did get some pictures to work, so here you go:


Here's me, with a T yurt. I swear, they are pretty normal in size; this one just looks tiny next to me! The flag in the background is the national flag here.


One of the services we attended was led by a lama. I bet you thought that burnt offerings went out of style a few thousand years ago, but here they offered the remainders of the lamb on the fire. Not sure on the cultural reasons behind that, but they'll be among the things we explore with our language and culture helpers.


This picture requires some explanation. Years ago, when I was 6, we visited the Dead Sea in Israel. Included in our family photo album is a shot of my Dad reading a newspaper while floating on the incredibly buoyant water. Here I recreated the picture at the salt lake that's about 70 km from K-town. People go here to soak in the water and rub the mud on them, which is supposed to be good for your skin.

The weirdest part about the lake, to me, was how it got warmer the deeper you went. Apparently, the salt in the water acts like a magnifying glass, so the top few cms of water are cold, then it's mild for a meter or so, and then if you get your toes down a few meters, it's almost boiling! Very odd feeling.


Here people are hanging prayer flags at a holy place/monument.


My birthday was also last week, so we went with our teammates to a spot on the river nearby and had a shashlik picnic. I'm forbidden by my contract with my and B's parents to post a blog devoid of grandkid pictures, so here's a shot of Matthew and his new friend Micah at the picnic.

Here's just a shot of the people at one of the services for you to remember. Thanks again for stopping by to read.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

One Last Moscow Post

The big day has finally arrived! Well, I suppose it will arrive in another 4 hours, since it's still Sunday, but we leave for good tomorrow. I thought I'd post one last post from here, since we lose our high speed internet connection tomorrow and will be reduced in the future to dialup. I'll still try to put a picture or two up (our coworkers seem to manage even with the slow speeds), but you won't get video updates from us any more, unfortunately.

Anyway, be all that as it may, here's some pictures we took during the move. As you're aware if you've read our last few posts, it turned out to be cheaper to ship our stuff out to T-land rather than selling it and buying new furniture there. That meant hiring a container, which was delivered to our place last week. They park it outside your house and you have 4 hours to fill it up with your stuff before they close the doors and ship it to Siberia.

About a week or two before the final event, we started packing stuff into the living room. All of our dressers, dining room table, office chair, boxes of dishes and decorations, it all ended up in here. Our actual living space got smaller and smaller in that room, but we only had company a couple of times so it wasn't so bad.

We managed to dig out the abdominal exerciser that had been sitting on our balcony, unused. Steven tried his best to develop a six-pack, but I think he was doing something wrong.

One of the two things that we didn't already own in our apartment was the stove (the other was the phone). Since they're expensive out East, we decided to look for a secondhand stove here and ship it with the other stuff. It ended up being quite a saga, but eventually, we managed to track one down. Of course, getting it back to our apartment was another story.

Fortunately, our new coworker Nathan came with me to the person's place, and I flagged down one of Moscow's "unofficial taxis." Pretty much any car in Moscow will work as a taxi; you just wave at the side of the road until someone stops. Then you find out if he's going your way, and if so, you negotiate a price to drop you along the way. It works fine if it's just you; you plus a stove means you hope that a bigger car stops. However, we managed to just fit the stove in the back of this little Zhiguli that was the first car to stop, and the driver was happy to transport us back to our house for around $15.

The lovely B, having patiently endured the rather poor oven that came with our apartment for two years, was sooooo excited with her new stove! We'll let you know how it works once we've got it installed out in T-land.

So, moving day began with the container actually arriving three hours early! That meant that we hadn't taped up all the doors and lids to boxes and cabinets, and I didn't get to help carry things down to the street. Poor me.

I did, however, manage to go through two huge rolls of duct tape, recently brought over from the US by B's parents. Hooray for duct tape! Why it's not sold outside of America (at least not regularly, or at reasonable prices) is one of life's enduring mysteries.

So, here's the container, as seen from our window. We knew we had more things than would go in the 5-ton, so we ordered the next size up, which was 20. I had thought this would mean plenty of room, so I didn't break down any of the cabinets or dressers. However, this meant that we ended up filling the container pretty well full, and even had to rearrange a little at the end to fit everything in. Kind of weird to see how much stuff we have accumulated in just two years here, when I remember that we came with just 6 suitcases! I guess buying furniture and having kids will do that to you.

Once we had gotten everything down to the street level, we started to realize that we were going to be hard pressed to get everything inside in time. I found three Uzbek street sweeper-type workers who were in the area, and who jumped at the chance to make some extra cash. After negotiations, they agreed to help us load the container for a few hours, which made a big difference.

Our apartment, almost completely empty, except for the few things we are actually taking with us on the plane.

The exhausted team (minus me, who I think took this picture). Our coworker's cousin, Matt, is the one on the left; he was in for a visit and was hence doomed to a day of helping some people he barely knew move. Bad timing for him, but helpful for us (thanks, Matt!). The rest of the people you know already, I think.

So, since then, we've had a few days off to relax. Our original plan was to leave after only two days, which would give us more time in T-land to find an apartment before our stuff gets there. However, the airline was sold out of economy tickets for that flight, so we got a chance to relax a bit here before we leave.

Of course, we went ahead and moved out of our apartment; lacking blankets and towels and a fridge, it would have been tough to live there. Fortunately, the guest apartment was available, so we've been here for the week. B, above, even got to go with our coworkers out to eat some borshch at a nearby restaurant.

Our coworkers left for a visa trip after a few days, so we've been here alone with the boys. Since we still have the ability to post videos, I'll post this one last one for the grandparents, from a trip B took to the mall with Steven yesterday.

video

And that about wraps it up. To sum up, we leave tomorrow for T-land, and you can be thinking not only about the travelling (it will be a long day; we arrive at 4 in the morning the next day or so), but about our setup there. We will be staying in a hotel for a few days to get registered, and I'm actually scheduled to attend a conference the day after we get there. I get back from that a few days later, and then we have about 3 days before our stuff could possibly show up (they said 14-24 days; we're hoping it's closer to the latter).

Obviously, we need to have an apartment to put all of our furniture in when it arrives, so we'll need to really be on the ball with finding one. We could use your thoughts for the hunt for a place to stay; that he'll put us in just the right place to develop relationships for the long term with neighbors and nearby folks. Of course, we'll try to keep you posted on what's going on with us after we get settled in as well, but soon we'll be diving into another language, and we could use your thoughts for that as well!

Thanks for visiting, and hopefully we can get something up on here about our first days in T-land and the trip in a week or two.