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.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

We're #2! We're #2

There was a chili cook-off tonight at the Marine House.

Katherine's delicious chili (the secret ingredient is beer) was awarded 2nd place.

I'm ever so proud of my talented wife.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Scandal rocks the State Department*

No, not that scandal which is really just more of an arrest of one person.

I'm talking about this one.

Nation Of Andorra Not In Africa, Shocked U.S. State Dept. Reports

Nation Of Andorra Not In Africa, Shocked U.S. State Dept. Reports

*For those that have contacted me to ask whether this is real, um, no. It's a joke. We have better maps of Africa.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Saturday, February 16, 2008

An afternoon at the park

It was 23 degrees and sunny today. We geared up and headed out to a park not far from the embassy.

A quick last drink of water and we were off.

We finally got the chance to use the sled that Diana and Alan gave Jack for Christmas. And he liked it.

We didn't go down hills that were too big, but he got a bit of speed going, even on the smallish hill.

After sledding, we toned it down a bit and did some teeter-tottering.

And spent some time gazing out of the playhouse window. Master of all he surveys.

Tonight I'm heading out with some friends to enjoy the Arsenal/Man. United match and about 48 beers. Tomorrow we are going to celebrate a belated Valentine's Day with Brunch at the Hilton, or Radisson, or some such place that supposedly has an incredible, and incredibly expensive, brunch. We're leaving Jack at home with a babysitter.

Our last fancy brunch was probably way back in May 2005 in Jakarta with Turner, MBP and Doug, and plenty of champagne, so I guess we're due to enjoy another one.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Markets

So it's getting into the 2nd week since we returned, but nothing much else has happened, so on we go with more from Istanbul.

Oh, and Marilyn left yesterday and is now back in Minnesota.

The Grand Bazaar is billed in some parts as the largest in the world. Katherine took issue with that. "It's not as large as Chatuchak" she said, somewhat derisively.

But still, it was a large, historical place that provided an opportunity for shopping, so she made do (how's that for a female stereotype?)

Katherine peeking around the entrance, encouraging me to hurry up.

A lane in the market.

Opportunities to buy...

Towels and soap...


...and carpets...

Throughout the tourist area and all the shops in Sultanahmet the touts calling to us to check out their wares were entertaining, polite, not pushy. Actually quite nice to interact with them. The carpet-seller from the shop shown above was no exception. He tried a little too hard, though, to make a connection with us, his potential customers. Upon hearing we were Americans on our first visit to Istanbul, he said

My wife is American, and she said during her first visit to the city that she wouldn't return. And now she's been back 22 times!

Wait, your wife has visited 22 times? She doesn't live here?

No, she lives in America. I live there 6 months a year.

Where do you live?


Oh yeah, what town?

Uh, O... uh, Okl, ah..

How do you not know where you live?

I visit 2 months a year.

2 or 6?

Ah, just wait.

At that point he went into the office for about five minutes and returned with a FEDEX envelope with an address on it showing an address in Oak Hill. We weren't going to buy a carpet anyway, just pricing them at this point, and we told him so from the beginning. But the discussion about his ersatz American bride didn't engender much confidence in him or our potential for a good deal, so we departed not long after.

We wandered out of the bazaar complex and out into the sunny streets (the bazaar itself being a small neighborhood that has, over the years, been covered). The only difference between the bazaar and the surrounding neighborhood seemed to be the sunlight. Chock full of small shops selling various and sundry things and crammed full of people doing a bit of Saturday shopping. Not a lot of tourists around. It is the off-season, afterall. But loads of Turkish families out and about; so much so that at many points we were shoulder to shoulder, shuffling our feet to keep moving.

Between the Grand Bazaar and the famed Spice Bazaar we passed the shotgun district. Dozens of small shops selling all types of shotgun. Double barrel, check. Over/under, check. We passed.

Later, in an underpass in another neighborhood, we entered the pistol district. Among the stalls selling shoes, crappy Chinese toys, watches, etc were six or seven stalls with wall displays of dozens, if not hundreds, of pistols. It was a bit surreal. Not locked in cases, just hanging on hooks about 4 feet behind a small counter by which hundreds of people walked. We weren't in the market for a pistol, either, but if we ever are, we know where to go.

The spice bazaar, which sells, well, lots of stuff...including spices.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Blue Mosque

It's not very blue on the outside. The name, however, is actually Sultan Ahmet Camii. It gained the name 'Blue Mosque' thanks to the beautiful blue iznik tiles on the inside. So, there you go.

The mosque played a central role in our weekend, as it was between our hotel and basically anywhere else we went, so we saw it from many different angles at all times day and night. It's pretty impressive, as far as huge, 17th century mosques go.

It was a bit controversial when it was first built because many thought that, by giving it 6 minarets, the builders and Sultan Ahmet were trying to rival the grandeur of the Great Mosque in Mecca (or something like that).

Either way, the Sultan got himself quite a mosque there in Istanbul.

Those going in for prayer are first supposed to go through their ablutions, washing their feet, hands, face, whatonot. As a large mosque catering to many people, the Blue Mosque has plenty of spigots for the faithful.

Pre-prayer ablutions.

No photo does the interior justice, but here's a taste. It was very beautiful, light and airy, with the sun shining through the myriad stained glass windows. The sun through the windows reminded me a bit of St. Chappelle in Paris, but, you know, bigger. The large chandeliers hung just above the heads of the tallest visitors, but were suspended from hundreds of cables hung from the very high ceiling.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Oh, yeah,


Briefly, because it's late and I have to go to bed; Nice to be away from the kid for a few days.

Our view of the Blue Mosque from the roof deck of our hotel.

The Hagya Sofiya - Was a church built in the 6th century, became a mosque in the 14th century, now a museum. and very cool all around.

We did lots of this. Tea and Baklava.

It was a nice change to be able to leave the hotel in the morning, wander all day with stops for tea, beer, snacks, whatnot whenever we wanted, and no need to search out baby-changing tables, playgrounds, and whatnot. While we didn't exactly miss the kid, we were both ready to see him by the time we rolled back into Kyiv on Monday. He is pretty cute, afterall.

More later.

Monday, February 04, 2008


We're back from Istanbul. Very nice place, very nice break.

But before we get to that, there has been a request for photographic proof that Luther and Marilyn are, indeed, here.


Jack quickly incorporated L&M into his nightly dance parties.

Happy Jack, happy Boppa.

Post-work dance party continues.

Then there is some quiet reading time with Grammy.

Marilyn and Luther, while good grandparents and good babysitters, have a tendency to not answer the phone when parents call from Istanbul to check up on their precious son. As such, they will receive a stern talking to when they get back from wherever the hell they went this morning, leaving Jack in the well-tended care of Nina at the park, and, for some unknown reason, leaving our apartment completely unlocked and leaving the cell phone they are supposed to have sitting on the kitchen counter.