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.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

It's snowing in Kyiv

And Marilyn and Luther are here.

Five days until they take over Jack duty and KDN and I jet off to a luxurious weekend in Istanbul.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Once again, we are the vanguard

The first of what will, I'm sure, be dozens of articles in travel magazines and newspaper travel sections in the months to come about how super awesome Kiev and the entirety of Ukraine is and why you MUST visit NOW!

Not sure why I didn't get a mention...

Probably because we cancelled our subscription to T&L last year.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

So what happens when you leave the letter 's' out of our blog's address?

My sister Sarah found out by mistake, but I'll let you in on a little secret.

You get my other website.


Those sneaky christian website people. Anything that ends in rather than goes straight to their 'mega site of bible studies and information'.

So, for example, if I'm looking for

and made a slight typing mistake, I could find God instead.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Jack's got a new girl

Isabella. She's a younger woman; about a month younger.

But they seem to be developing a nice little relationship.

We met up with Isabella and her parents, Shelley and Wesley, at the Premier Palace Hotel today. There's a nice cafe there with a kids play area. On Saturdays, there is a woman in the play area from 12:00 to 6:00 pm who will play with your kids.

It was a bit awkward at first for Wesley (they arrived first) as he assumed she was the nanny of another friend there. The assumption that they would staff the little play area seemed odd, so not a strange mistake to make.

Anyway, Jack enjoyed Isabella's attention.

And he gave it back just as good. Atta Boy!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

In real time

It's 8:57 pm, 1:57 pm EST, 12:57 pm Central.

And this is what we're doing.

Time to press play...


Katherine and Tony, after a plate of pasta with a nice gravy.


And that's it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

NOT BOBBY!!!!!!!!!

While it was on, and after it was over, Katherine and I stayed willfully ignorant of the goings on in the final season of the Sopranos. We hadn't watched the series until Laos, where we watched everything up until the final season on DVD.

The final season was to start just as we arrived at FSI for training and moved into our furnished apartment (cable included). Great, we thought, we'll watch it in real time. Unfortunately, our apartment didn't have HBO. Showtime or Starz or some joke of a movie channel like that, but not HBO. Thus, no Sopranos.

Unfortunately, we also were unwillfully ignorant of the fact that you could choose one of a menu of movie channels, HBO being a choice, by telling the front desk at the complex which one you wanted. Live and learn.

So we didn't see any of the final episodes when we were in DC. And we made a conscious effort to avoid knowing the details of the season.

Last week we noticed that the final season on DVD was here (here being the embassy commissary) and we snatched it up. We are through 8 of 9 episodes.

Why did Bobby have to die? He was just a big, dumb, loyal guy who liked model trains. Why couldn't Janice have gotten it instead? She's mean, that one.

Tomorrow night we'll watch the finale. Katherine's going to make a big pot of pasta, we'll put Jack to bed, open a bottle of red, and have at it.

Unfortunately, the one thing about the finale that I couldn't avoid knowing about is the final scene. You would think it was the moon landing or the JFK assassination for all the talk. So some of the suspense will be gone for me. I don't think Katherine knows, though.

Don't tell her.

A mile in my shoes

Jack tries it, but only makes it about 10 feet before giving up.

Last Sunday before Katherine got up we were playing downstairs when Jack decided he wanted to wear some of my shoes.

He did pretty well given the foot to shoe size ratio he was dealing with.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Serious moves

It's been a while.

So here he is cuttin' a rug yesterday. Elvis Costello is his current favorite.

Breakfast on the Mara

While uploading a few videos of Jack bustin' moves, I was reminded of this one that I never put up.

It's of breakfast.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


So I text-messaged my friend Sarah, London resident who we stayed with on our way to Kenya.

I recieved a message back from her saying she was currently in Baghdad for the next few weeks (she's a journalist, as many of you know).

So, what number trip to Baghdad is this for you, I replied.

14 or 15, she wasn't exactly sure.

That's since 2003.

Friday, January 11, 2008

More of Jack's haircut

Katherine checks in:

Some lady out there on the East Coast in a very small town, with a long, hard to spell name, not far from the state capital of New York was criticizing Jack's haircut. This certain someone said something about the bangs being too short. And it wasn't Jan or Edith or Zva. So that only leaves about 3 ladies left in this unnamed town.

I think it is a fine haircut.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

About that cold weather

Katherine decided on Saturday that she and Jack had been cooped up indoors long enough and it was time to get out and get some fresh air, damn't!

But it was cold.


Note the cones in the road behind me. Businesses take over swaths of parking spots by placing cones or crowd control gates in front of their stores with a guy guarding them, removing them only after ascertaining whether the driver plans to visit the business in question. The salon next door to our building takes up major space.

One day there was nowhere else to park so I attempted to park in one of the 'coned' areas. The guy assigned to not allow me to do so came out waving me off. I parked, stepped out and inquired whether he was the owner of that part of the road. No, he said, but the salon had a contract that allowed them to block off the road.

Go get it, I said, I want to see it. He went inside and brought out some document in Ukrainian with an official-looking stamps. As an aside, we see fake documents with official-looking stamps daily in the consular section. I was, therefore, underwhelmed by the document. I told him I'd need a copy as I don't read Ukrainian, and would be bringing it to work so a co-worker could find the name of the city official giving out sole-use rights to public roadways and sidewalks. I said I was interested in getting my own parking spot on the street, and needed to know who to call.

At that point he said he couldn't make a copy without his director's say so. Fine, I said, I'll see you tomorrow.

The next day I asked him if he had my copy. No, unfortunately the director was very busy and he hadn't had time to ask. But, he said, we could work something out without bothering his director. If I came to park close to 6:00 pm, he'd let me park in one of his slots. Very noble of him. But it has been useful.

At some point we plan to get all of our neighbors together and take up all their parking spots on a Sunday when they are closed and leave our cars there for the week.


Katherine and I have had a running battle about when to give Jack his first haircut. I was pushing for later on the assumption that, like Samson, he derives his strength from his flowing locks.

Yesterday, I finally gave in.

The before...

A friend said that the bathtub was as good a place as any. Plus, his hair would already be wet. It was harder than we thought. He's a bit squirmy, and was interesting in watching the shiny scissors as they descended on him rather than sitting quietly staring straight ahead.

The end result. Not quite straight, but not bad.

Malu, cont'd

Hanging in the yard.

Riding shoulders.

Chasing bubbles.

Petting dogs while sitting on them.

And pretending to be a dog.

All good fun.

For an even fuller pictoral accounting of our trip, you can go here and see the slideshow in all its glory. Most of the pictures have already been posted below. I guess I went a bit overboard.

So that's the trip.

And now we're back and it's bitterly cold. But, with the bitter cold comes blue sky. So I guess that's something.

So Christmas

Katherine is out to dinner with friends, Jack is put to bed, it's 14 degrees on to Malu.

From Malewa Ranch House to Malu is a bone-jarring 10KM on a dirt road, 10KM on highway, and another bone-jarring 10KM on another dirt road. We had taken a cab of sorts the day before, and thought about hiring the guy to drive us.

Paul (I think that was his name) was an up and coming politician, running for local city council in Mwai Kibaki's party. As such, his small, mid-90s toyota sedan was covered in posters and topped by two large speakers. The better to get the word out, I guess. (As an aside, I hope he's okay. He's a nice guy. I haven't heard about any big problems around Gilgil, though). Anyway, the shocks on his weighted-down car were likely not up to the task. As such, Malewa organized a car for us that could more properly handle the roads, such as they were.

In the morning, the Malewa manager's fiance showed up in his small SUV. A banker in Nairobi, he was as surprised as us that he was roped into driving. He decided to take a back route which, while shorter, was also entirely on bone-jarring dirt road. It was the high route, through some beautiful scrub land, and a large parcel owned by the Kenya Nut Company. Seedlings of macadamia trees abounded.

Kevin, Bonnie, Harper and Pippa had arrived the day before. When we arrived, we all moved into a larger family cabin with two bedrooms, a fireplace, and a great deck overlooking the scrub of the Malu Nature Conservancy and Lake Naivasha in the distance.

A bit disconcerting was the note in the room regarding the dogs. The dogs themselves were great, as shown in previous pics and video. It was the warning about the dogs that had me a bit off-balance. The management requested that if the dogs were hanging around the cabin as dusk approached, we were to send them back to the manager's house lest they be hunted down and killed by the numerous leopards that lived around. I made a mental note to not let Jack stray too far.

Even more disconcerting was the fact that baboons roamed around the area. I tend to have sort of waking nightmares, just as I'm falling asleep at night, about bad things happening to Jack. A few weeks before our departure, I had a vivid thought/dream of Jack being stolen and very seriously hurt by baboons.

My fear was not unfounded, it seems, as Bonnie shared with us that the brother of a good Kenyan friend had actually been stolen by baboons when he was a little boy (she shared this before I had told her about my 'dream'). The kid's family was on a picnic near Lake Nakuru when he was taken.

The family bribed the baboons with food until they gave the mostly unharmed kid back.

And baboons could do some damage to my little boy.

While my fear wasn't unfounded, we didn't, in the end, see any baboons at Malu, and Jack was content to run around the place unfettered by bloodthirsty leopards or baboons.

We spent much of our time hanging out on our deck and in the large yard.

For Christmas, Jack and Harp got bubble guns. A most excellent gift. Dip the end in the soapy water, pull the trigger, and the dragon spits out bubbles. Very fun.

There was a working farm on the property, and we made daily pilgrimages to see the cows, donkeys, goats and horses. The horses had been adopted some years ago by a zebra named Bob, so he hung out in the horse stalls too.

Along the way there were lots of stops for rocks.

There were also chickens, ducks and geese. We were free to feed them to our hearts' content.

And yes, I wore the grey long-sleeved t-shirt quite a bit.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

And on to Malu for Christmas...

Where Jack learned he could fly.

And I returned to my Minnesota roots.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The wedding...

John and Katrina looking happy (and blurry) after the ceremony.

A wedding, by the way, in which the vows were interrupted by (I kid you not) a guest standing and yelling 'IS THERE A DOCTOR HERE?' Would have been better only if they would have used the more recognizable 'Is there a doctor in the house?' As we were in a church, it wouldn't have made as much sense, unless talking about the 'house of god'.

Seems a pregnant woman hadn't eaten much, was in a hot church, near the incense. It all became just a bit much. She was sitting right behind Katherine when she passed out. Jack and I had taken our leave of the service to go outside and eat rocks for a while so we saw her carried out, a rag doll in her boyfriend's arms. She came to about 20 seconds later and was fine, if not a little bit embarrassed. And the wedding concluded without incident.

After a bit of a happy hour at Katrina's parents' place, where we spent most of our time chasing after the kid...

...we borrowed our friends' rented Landcruiser and bounced back to our lodge to put Jack to bed. Another guest had brought their nanny along and she agreed to watch Jack as well while we returned to the reception to drink and dance the night away.

We're good parents.

John and his boys, Edward and Yohannes. They live in Norway with their mum, but visit John often in Laos, or wherever it is he might be at any given time. Here they were enjoying that song (maybe by a Norwegian) that goes Wa a a HEE Wa a a HAA Wa a a HO Wa a a HOO HOO or something like that.

The 300+ wedding guests were all under one tent. One HUGE tent. Four enormous poles, taller than a telephone pole, holding the center up.

The next morning we went back to the Patersons' for brunch, where we once again spent our time chasing the kid. Thankfully, he had Buzzy the Jack Russell Terrier to entertain him. And it seems Jack may be a future rugby player.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Up Next

A wedding in Gilgil.

And Christmas at Malu.

The Nervigs on Safari

Lions are exciting.

And maybe a little bit scary.

Elephants are big and loud.

Cheetahs are cool.

And sometimes you've just got to take a bit of a lie down and rest.

Or head back to your tent and watch elephants parade by.

And there were elephants

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Posing for the camera

Lots of warthogs running around.

We were very lucky to see one of the few black rhinos resident in the Mara.


My dad rode an ostrich at a rodeo when he was a kid in North Dakota.

Crowned cranes. Our driver/guide told us that the Masai dance (the jumping, the chin jut, etc.) is patterned after the crane's mating dance. We saw it in action, and I have to say they are quite similar.

A 'smiling' baby hippo sticks his head out from the pond.

Pretty bird with buffalo grazing in the background.

Animal Fights

These two were tussling amongst a herd of about 30 elephants. Just messing around, I guess.

Two Topis were having a bit more serious encounter. While I would venture a guess that they were fighting over women, there were actually no female Topis in sight. Maybe it was just practice.

These guys were definitely fighting over chicks. And they really went at it.

Two points. Takedown.

This male lion was feeling a bit amorous, but the female was having none of it. So he bit her in the head.

At which point she turned on him to express her displeasure. His displeasure was much louder.