Sunday, January 24, 2010


So, we don't have a whole lot to say, in all honestly. Since our action-packed Christmas/New Year's time, things have settled back into a routine. Language and culture study is once again the order of the day. And since I know none of you wants to read my analysis of T kinship terms or hear a practice exercise with domestic animals, we'll go to pictures instead.

Above, you can see the ice slide that is downtown. Steve loves to go down it. In fact, winter is a much better time for slide-lovers in T-land. In the summer, you're apt to get a splinter from going down a wooden slide, but in the winter someone throws a bucket of water down and then it's all ice and works perfectly. This one is not set up that way - every winter they build a few slides entirely out of ice, but the principle is the same. We don't spend a lot of time outdoors due to the cold, but the boys do enjoy a change of scenery now and again.

Does anyone know what this is? It's an abacus - sort of an ancient calculator, and the shops here still use them. Whenever we buy our groceries, it's followed by the lady furiously spinning these beads back and forth, and we just trust her figure in the end. One day I'd like to learn how to read them so I could at least have confidence she's not stiffing me! ;-)

Below is a funny picture Bobbie took the other day. It seems Steven might be following his father down the road to bookworm-dom. He certainly picked out one of the biggest books on the shelves to entertain him on the potty!

This week we had over several guests, one of whom was a friend that our coworkers introduced us to. They enjoyed their time, seemingly, and we got along with them really well. They have children around the same age as ours, and their son Norbu loved playing with some of Matthew's toys, including his sunglasses.

And that's about it. We just don't have any other interesting pictures to put up, so I decided to look through my childhood pictures folder for any that might be interesting. This one is when we lived in Indonesia. My little brother Sam looks so much like Matthew, right down to his zealous attitude when guarding food!

And this is me. I think a few months old - and super cute! What happened?

This is one of the indigenous people my parents worked with in Bolivia. He's showing off the results of his hunt - a jochi (a large rodent, and owner of perhaps the tastiest flesh in the world) and a howler monkey.

And I was going to close it with that one, when I spotted just one more picture that made me laugh from our old days in the US. I didn't dare to post it, but Bobbie said I couldn't leave it out, so here it is. The people in the photo are welcome to take it up with her if they wish.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

It's the Most Hectic Time of the Year!

But it's still a wonderful time of year! It's so great to celebrate both the New Year and His birth at this time of year. This year we even threw in few more birth celebrations for good measure, as my language helper invited us to their son's дой (more on that in a bit), and our teammates' son's also had a birthday party.

Anyway, Bobbie's been trying to convince me for some time that the boys' hair needed to grow out during the winter, but Steven was getting just too girly-looking for Daddy and so he got a Christmas haircut. Definitely getting better at sitting still.

Our friends' English Club is always looking to celebrate Western holidays, so they had us over to celebrate with them. We did a word search (I'd brag about doing it the fastest, but seeing as it was in English, I guess there's not much credit to be found there), ate a bunch of food, and even taught them a carol.

So, Christmas morning we did the obvious gift-opening time. Except, being an international family and all, we skyped Bobbie's parents so they could watch the boys opening the gifts Poppa and Grandma had sent. This is the before picture:

And during, with help from Mommy to open boxes:

I don't think I got a picture of the "after," there was too much excitement and playing with all the new goodies. Matthew was kind enough to pose in his new footies. Clearly, he inherited his father's svelte physique, guaranteed to help his modeling career.

This next photo is apropos of absolutely nothing, except that if you can read Cyrillic, you might find it funny along with us. The brand name of this whipped cream spray, which we bought to make homemade egg nog, is "Fitness." Because nothing says fitness like aerosol sugar.

I mentioned above that my language helper invited us to a celebration. It turns out that T people have kind of a baby shower-type thing (called a дой, pronounced "toy") when their kid gets close to 1 year old. They would never have anything like that before the baby is born, since they would think that to be tempting fate that something bad would happen.

Anyway, A's son Aldar was 7 months old, and so they decided it was time. Many of his relatives had never seen Aldar, so this was a celebration of his birth and a time for him to be introduced to the family, basically. They consulted a shaman to find out a good day for the event, and decided that particular Sunday was the right time (not sure yet how exactly that was decided, but it was important that it be on a good day).

We showed up an hour late (A warned me not to come before that) and were the first ones there. I thought Bolivians were slack on time issues; T people might rival them! Eventually, people started trickling in and I think we started about two hours after the time the invitation said to come. They sat us down in a cafe they had rented out, with the Buddhist prayer flags and crest joining the New Year's tree and balloons for decoration.

The tables were standard Russian party fare - decked out. Champagne, vodka, juice, wine, mineral water, a starter salad, fruits, vegetables, bread, and later on out came the two main courses.

The main events of the evening were toasts. One by one, everyone got up and offered a toast to Aldar and his parents, wishing him health and wealth and success, etc. Then we all had to raise our glasses to affirm our agreement, followed by the next person coming up and everything repeating itself.

Gifts were also offered by the ones giving the toasts, often with an explanation. Here the guest of honor is receiving a toy (?) Buddhist prayer wheel from an aunt.

Of course, in between toasts there were some party games and dancing as well. I was called up for what I thought was a "who can blow up the balloon the fastest" competition, but mine burst. I thought I won until the lady on the right claimed victory after slowly, carefully puffing hers up bigger than anyone else's without it popping. Goes to show what paying attention can do for you.

Everyone got in on the dancing. Except me, of course. I am the world's worst dancer, and generally avoid it like the plague. This time I was getting ready to give my toast (my first public speaking experience in T!) so I begged out and just picked up the camera.

A and I post-celebration

Our friends' son Josiah had his birthday party since our last post as well. We had a great time over there celebrating, as they invited over some of the T families that they know that we haven't spent much time with. Here they're playing "Pin the Bowtie on the Puppy." You know the one, right? It's a totally famous game!

One of the guys whom I'd never met before was an avid hunter, so he wanted to see all the photos of our recent hunting trip. You can see Spiderman wandering around in the background if you look carefully.

If I can get it to work, I'll try to upload here a video of an interesting phenomenon we recently observed. I read online that if it's -40° or colder, when you throw boiling water into the air it freezes instantaneously.

Of course, we wanted to try it out, so when it got down to -45° the other day we gave it a shot. It took a minute to get from the kitchen to the street, so the water isn't right at boiling, but it's pretty close. As you can hopefully see, most of it freezes immediately and only a little of it actually falls back down to the ground.

My next experiment is going to be to verify/disprove Jack London's statement that at -50°, your spit will freeze before it hits the ground. Look for a video of that if it ever gets that cold during the day (so far it's gotten down to -50° C, but only at night).

I'll leave you with poor little Matthew, bundled up to go out in all this cold. He looks excited, no?