Life on the Mekong and Other Rivers

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog, including strong statements in support of weinerdog-riding monkeys, are our own, and not those of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. government.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Jack climbs a ladder

Quite a literal title.

Plus, a window into our lives, where we, like monkeys (or dogs, if you will), smell each others' butts.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Commemorating the 1932-33 famine

Holodomor - death by starvation, in which an estimated four to 10 million people died during the forced collectivisation of farms in Ukraine and the seizure of all crops by the Soviet Authorities. It is commemorated annually; a somber, but beautiful, event, with thousands of people lighting candles in St. Sofia Square and in front of the nearby Mikhailovsky Monastery.

We went (a bit late) with our friend Erin, of Laos fame, who was in for Thanksgiving from Paris.

Afterwards, we headed down into Podil, the old merchant/port part of town and now a trendy area of cafes, bars and restaurants. You can take a funicular from just behind the Monastery. And so we did.

Our destination was El Asador, an Argentine steak house. Pretty good stuff. Empanadas, Chorizo, Provoleta, and Steak. The chimichurri sauce was electric green, but not bad.

As Erin was loading her bag into the cab to go to the airport, we realized we had no photos of all of us together from the weekend. And so, cab driver became photographer.

He decided that the point of view wasn't so great, and maybe we should go to the boulevard to get a better photo with the trees stretching into the distance. We decided against it. What better backdrop than a beauty salon for such beautiful people?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Told ya the traffic was bad.

Even the Washington Post says so.

Did I tell you about the day I picked up our car once it cleared customs? 2 hours and 40 minutes to go 2.5 miles. It takes about 10 minutes in the morning on those days (most days) when I wake up late and take a cab (the city doesn't really wake up until about 9:00 am, and I'm at work by 8:30), and I walk it in about 35 minutes. 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pissed off Minnesotans

For Children of Norway, a Rift With the Mother Country *

What's got the (admittedly few) Minnesotans interviewed so angry (well, as angry as Minnesotans get, I guess)?

The beloved Norwegian Consulate in Minneapolis is closing (gasp!).

But, but, who will represent Norway at the annual smorgasbord at Concordia Norwegian Language Camp in Bemidji? Who will represent Norway at the annual Syttende Mai parade in Northfield? Who will be the official judge of the annual meatball and lutefisk bake off in Long Prairie (most controversial comment last year? 'Oh, very spicy, very, very spicy. You used black pepper didn't you.').

It's a travesty, I tell you. And a conspiracy.

I don't know how Minnesota can go on without a Consulate most people probably never knew existed.

*to avoid a simpering e-mail later, I acknowledge receipt of this article from Geoffrey Knoell.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Grandma Bonnie's contribution to our slide into insanity

A birthday gift from Bonnie and Stephen on Jack's feet. The ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL part of the shoes is that as Jack walks they play an incredibly loud, annoying song. Step, step, step. song, Song, SONG.

Thanks much, Bonnie.

Luckily, all the stepping and songing soon wore him out.

I think from now on we'll save them for really special occasions.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Birthday fun

Again our camera seems to be having trouble focusing.

Birthday boy getting a birthday carrot cupcake

Although he got some very fun gifts, Jack continues to play with the rather mundane trappings of our apartment.

Birthday the first

So one year ago today in Bangkok; the first photo as I brought Jack from the O.R. to the recovery room.

And a year later.

Damn, the weather sure changes in a year.

So one year on, what wisdom have we collectively gathered?

Not much.

But it does seem that electric cords, plugs, ladders, stairs, and anything else potentially dangerous and/or deadly are very fun to play with.

I had no idea.

Semper Fi

Mostly blurry, but maybe that is apt. It was a party, afterall.

November 10 was the 232nd Anniversary of the US Marine Corps. Marines around the world celebrate by throwing a party. Marines, besides being kick-ass in general, are also tasked with protecting Embassies around the world. The Marine Security Guards' first task; provide classified information.

So, as I understand it, if there is a terrorist, a Marine, a classified document and me in the room, the Marine ensures that the classified doesn't fall into the hands of the terrorist as the terrorist chokes me.

That said, they provide invaluable security for embassies. It is a great example of inter-agency cooperation.

In Kyiv, the Marines celebrated tonight. Katherine and I attended our first Marine Ball.

For whatever reason, the photo didn't really turn out. But you get the idea. Most men wear a tuxedo. I don't own one. I was one of the losers wearing a suit.

One of my colleagues is a retired Marine. 22 years in, including the initial Iraq invasion in 2003. Now a civilian. But, once a Marine, always a Marine.

Camera now in my hand, somehow the picture isn't so blurry. Is it my deft photography skills, or the beauty surrounding colleague Lewis that made the picture turn out? Hard to say.

Bond...Lewis Bond.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Love at first sight for Jack and Bess...

...Including sloppy kisses...

Became somewhat riskier once in the tub....

Jack's first lesson that women are dangerous...

All was well, in the end, though, and both Jack and Bess enjoyed their time together. Bess even made a chocolate malt.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Gratuitous Nudity


I ventured out last night in the driving snow to play some pool and again this morning to play tennis. My Minnesota roots mean that I am an oak, walking on the slushy, icy sidewalks with impunity while lesser mortals slip and fall all around me. I stop to point and laugh, then walk on with confidence.

Walking out of a bank today I received my comeuppance. Three steps out of the bank I turned my ankle and went down...right in a puddle of muck and slush.

But, on the upside, I didn't slip...I just fell.

And, Katherine and Jack are on their way home, so I've got that going for me.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Technology is cool

So yesterday evening I was watching my cousin Maia (update: photo #18, not the officials) play soccer for Concordia College in a game in Eau Claire, Wisconsin via streaming video, e-mailing with another cousin (and older sister of Maia), Brit, about said game, which she was watching from a coffee shop in Denver, and using Skype to talk to Michael and Mary Beth as they drove around Washington, DC, all at the same time.

All from my apartment in Kyiv.

Now, I may be something of a luddite. I mean, I haven't even spent 24 hours camped out in line to buy an iPhone. But still, pretty cool.

Sadly, Maia and her team went down to defeat 1-2 to a bunch of cheaters from Carthage College.

Dateline, London

Looks like the sun is shining there.

Meanwhile it was cold and rainy here yesterday and today it is cold, windy and snowing. But I shall venture forth into the void to play pool and drink beer tonight.

One of the benefits Kyiv has over Vientiane. Honest to goodness pool halls.

One of the negatives...the aforementioned cold and snow.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Bachelor - Kyiv edition

Katherine and Jack left this morning for four days in London with Amanda, Blair, Bex and Gus.

Work, not to mention the prohibitively expensive flight for what would have been, for me, 36 hours in London, has kept me in the warm embrace of a very cold Kyiv.

So what does one do when one's loving wife and darling son are separated from one by the whole of the Continent and the English Channel?

Well, I don't know, but it certainly will include beer.

However, I am currently somewhat incapacitated by some sort of illness, so will have to overcome that to truly enjoy this temporary bachelorhood.

Hanging with his cousins

Jack has taken interest in pictures (now that we actually have pictures unpacked and up), and carries them around the apartment.

And so he spent part of last Saturday morning hanging with his cousin, Ben.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Jack finishing his dessert...

...And talking about it.