Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Boring Post (Update: Now With Something Interesting, At No Extra Charge!)

So, I know we need to post a blog, but there's really not much to tell about. Jesse and I are still chugging along in language and trying to develop relationships with people, and it's tough to come up with an interesting post built on that.

One thing that could be of interest is that we might have a few opportunities to go with families to some of the various areas of T-land. Oh, and it's been a little crazy with the weather here. It will be real hot (38 C) and a storm will come in a it will be chilly (20 C) for the next few days.

Thankfully, we are all healthy. Unless, you consider poor Matthew who has a total of 120 mosquito bites on his body. Poor guy looks like he has a disease or something. The rest of us also have bites but only a few. I guess Matthew is just too sweet.

Well, that is about it. Sorry, nothing too exciting, so I'll just post pictures. Enjoy.

Yep, manly men have tea parties. And below, a look at poor Matthew's bites. We thought we were avoiding the mosquitoes when we decided to work here instead of in the jungle!

Part of having boys is stifling that cringing sensation you get ("You'll hurt yourself!") sometimes. As in, when they decide to climb the balcony ladder. Actually, Steven climbs like a monkey. It's Matthew that makes us nervous when he climbs up to the top.

You know the meat is top quality when it's more fat than actual hamburger, right? Right?

Just some souvenirs. I really have nothing else to post, sorry.

*Update* Bobbie asked me to spellcheck this and post it today, but then we were spontaneously invited by my language helper to go out to "Salt Lake." If you'll recall from last year, this is a nearby tourist attraction that, much like the Dead Sea, has an extremely high salt concentration. The locals go there to bathe in its healing waters; we just went so the boys could experience a beach!

Both Matthew and Steven thoroughly enjoyed the unlimited size of the "sandbox." They didn't like getting the salty water in their faces, but once they learned to avoid that they loved it.

This is my language helper, A, and the shashlik we fixed for dinner.

We posted a similar picture last year, but we duplicated it again today. The water is so salty, you float almost on top of it, so I took a newspaper out in the waves to catch up on my reading. I don't remember if I talked about this last year, but one of the things that fascinates me about the lake is the lens effect that the salt has on the water.

What I mean is that there is so much salt in it, that it concentrates the sun's rays like a lens. It gets warmer the deeper you go, and about 5 feet down it is almost boiling! It's so bizarre to be standing in the water and to have your feet boiling hot, your waist comfortably warm, and your chest chilly.

The locals prize the mud for its curative powers. It must do something, because Bobbie tried it once a few months ago and said it did make her skin soft. I filled up a bottle with the mud for her before we left, so she could put some on here at home.

Steven and A's daughter having a grand time splashing and playing. It was so great to get the boys outside where they could just run and play wherever they wanted!

Right before we left, it started to rain and a storm looked to be brewing. As we drove across the steppe, we could look back and see the storm sweeping across the lake behind us.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Meetings

And now for something completely different.

Does anyone else remember how Monty Python would always start their skits off with that phrase? And since it represents our life of late, I thought I would start off with it.

How have things been completely different? Just this - in the past two weeks, we've had a language consultant come to check us on our project, and a couple of guys from other parts of the country to check our team and our work here and find out how things were going.

All of this has meant lots of meetings. First, it meant lots of meetings for those of us on the team so we could kind of crystallize somewhat exactly what our future plans are. What kinds of things each of us will do, timelines, that sort of thing. After we met as a team and finessed our plan, we met together with these two guys from other areas, and they gave their input. During all of this, we had our language consultant also in town, and she was checking on how we are doing in culture and language acquisition. So it was a busy time, and involved a lot of this:

That is to say, a lot of sitting around, drinking coffee, and talking. Planning, discussing, arguing ... well, of course not arguing. I mean, we're always in agreement on every detail, of course! ;-)

Fortunately, not all the meetings were about big picture things. Below is our language consultant, who last visited us in October and now came back to see how we were doing. We don't have any pictures of the things we did with her, but it basically involved her observing how we go about our culture and language study and then offering tips to improve it. Of course, there was also the dreaded level check, which actually was a source of pretty good news, all things considered.

Both Bobbie and I are at a level of Basic High in T, which means that we're close to entering the Progressing Level where you can create more freely with the language and just generally start getting out of the box of memorized phrases and variations on them. I'm really looking forward to that level; it will make getting around and just making friends much easier to do. We were both encouraged, especially Bobbie who's doing really well in T and loving it! Not to say that I'm not, it's just that the difference between this language and last has been more notable in Bobbie's case.

Of course, we did take one afternoon off the formal meetings to just take the guys around town and show them the sights. Here they are, looking suitably touristy, snapping photos of the snow-capped mountains across the river.

We also took them downtown to the big Buddhist prayer wheel. I don't think we've ever posted a picture of it on here without snow on it, so here it is wearing the latest in summer fashions - no snow.

And lastly, just for the sheer purtiness of it, a shot of the sunset. T-land is certainly a beautiful place to live!

Thanks for lifting us up during these meetings, which I think were really helpful to our overall work here. Please continue to do so as we return to regular culture and language study tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Back to Blogging

He'll be rooting for Brazil, of course!

So, now that we've gotten off that other website that we used to use to keep in touch with y'all, it's back to the blog. And back we are, with a vengeance! Or at least, with a lot of pictures. I don't know which of those is more threatening.

The fun never stops in this part of the world, and now that spring has sprung (and pretty much gone by now; we only get about a month of spring before it's warm enough that it has to be called summer) the whole world has opened up and we can go outside again!

Recently we had the huge celebration for V-E day where all of Russia celebrates the end of World War II. In the US, this holiday has sort of fizzled as all the veterans die off, but here it's still a very important day. Remember, as many people as the US lost in the war, the Soviet Union lost almost 60 times as many. Seriously. So the holiday commemorating the victory is a very big deal. Here the students line up for the parade in the schoolyard outside our window.

And then there's the parade itself. Also a big deal, with all kinds of different troops and schools and things.

Steven managed to find a decent vantage point high above the rest of us.


Of course, you can't have a holiday celebration without grilled meat! And here's the shashlik lady, right on cue with skewers of it for us to enjoy.

A couple of weeks later, the schools had some sort of big celebration in that same yard right outside our place. Russians (and, by extension, people in the T school system too) love to give out what are called "gramoti," like certificates of achievement, for almost anything. They gathered all the schools in the area together around a bonfire and spent an hour handing them out recognizing various achievements. By the end I figure almost every student and teacher there had gotten a certificate for something or other.

Another big thing that we've been "up to," or more accurately "down to," is being sick. This month has been a bad one for our health; the boys and I were sick off and on for quite some time, and even Bobbie had a week of feeling poorly. Thankfully there were DVDs to put on for sick little boys, and a bed to lay on for the sick parents. We're all feeling better now, so thank you SO much to those of you who were thinking of us.

I never put video on here, since it takes so long to upload, but I decided to put this one on to upload while I went and did other things, and came back and here it is! Just the boys being cute, mostly for the grandparents.

video

Oh, and one more cute one of Matthew, who managed to get into Mommy's clothes this morning. I like his expression; sort of a "Really? You're going to take pictures of this?" look.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by, and be sure to do so more regularly. We're planning to get back to updating every week or 10 days, since we're now solely available to you on here.