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, July 27, 2008

Floods in Western Ukraine

Dangerous floods devastate Ukraine and Romania

Marla comes a callin'

Apropos of what we do with all our Jewish visitors, we took Marla to Babi Yar.

While we did do this, it is not all we did with her. Katherine and Marla spent a few days in Yalta while Jack and I hung at home. Marla and I spent quality time drinking in Shevchenko Park while Katherine wrote the Embassy Newsletter. Katherine, Marla and I overate at a Georgian restaurant while Jack stayed home with Nina. And other stuff.

But since these are the only pictures we have downloaded, thus far, of her visit, it will indeed look like the only thing we do for our visitors who also happen to be Jewish is take them to Holocaust memorials.

But we learned something. Turns out the memorial I visited in 1992* (shown below) was not the on the exact site where 30K+ Jewish residents of Kyiv were killed by the Germans in 2 days in 1941, and where a total of 100K+ people were killed between 1943 and 1945.

But it is a big, Soviet-type memorial. So it's got that going for it.

A smaller, less ostentatious memorial was put in the actual place sometime in the 1990s. A menorah (missing two branches, though).

Not certain if Jack was actually desecrating the memorial. He was going after the stones that Jewish visitors place on the memorial in memory of those who perished*.

Either way, I was on the way to get him down as this shot was taken, so we did our best to not offend.

The next day, we walked across a pedestrian bridge to Turkhanov Island and hung out along the river at a restaurant. Shashlik, beer, river.

Jack hung out with his friends Addie and Cee Cee.

*Everything I ever knew about Judaism I learned from Marty Kagan.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A musical family

First, there's this.

As an aside, did you know that there are, like, 14 verses to that song, about the teapot going to China, Mexico, the opera, the jungle, fox hunting, to space, etc? At least in Jack's current favorite book (given to him by Grandpa Alan) there are. And the anthropomorphic teapot (complete with shoes) is accompanied on all his adventures by two tea-drinking kids. We read the book, and sing the book, about 4 times a day, currently. It's just about time to 'misplace' the book for a while, I think.

Second, we are now the proud owners of a quality 'Ukraina' brand piano. We got it for free from some friends who are leaving, who got it for free when Heather's piano teacher told her that she found a piano that was theirs if they would just pay to get it out of the deceased's apartment. So they generously said it was ours if we would just pay to now get it out of THEIR aparment. They live in the next building over from us, so it's a matter of two flights down and five flights up...with a piano.

The first moving company quoted us $530 for the job. Probably twice what the piano is actually worth. WE then found another place, and Larissa called for Katherine to get a quote. 700 Hryvna, or about $150. Better. So yesterday two guys showed up at 9:00 to move the piano. Two guys. They looked at the piano and asked how much we had been quoted for the job. 700, we said. Oh, who told you that, they asked. Well, a woman at your company did, I answered. Well, of course, she didn't know the type of piano. This piano is more expensive to move. well played, I thought. We had planned to give them 800 Hryvna to include a nice tip, so when he said it would be 900 to move this type of piano, I countered with an offer of 800. Done.

Honestly, though, two people. They looped a wide strap (the type used to tie down loads on a truck with that racheting winch-type thing) under the piano, looped the ends around their shoulders, and were off. They made a lot of rest stops, but seriously. The piano is heavy.

After watching them work, we decided an extra 100 was called for, and gave them their 900. And now we have a piano.

and so we expect to be doing lots of this for the foreseeable future.


A regular Algonquin roundtable...for three

Conversations with Jack.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Hate appears to be a growth industry here

Ukraine grapples with alarming rise in hate crimes

Friday, July 11, 2008

Cherries...a play in 7 parts.

Delicious cherries...I can't get enough of them.

Oh my god, they are so good, I can't stand it...

Okay, I'm calm, but seriously...the cherries.

I like the cherries, generally...

BUT NO!...I'm sad....So very sad.

So very, very sad, even though I have the cherries.

Okay, I've worked through it. And I just want to say...the cherries...they actually make me happy...again.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Well, that was a good match.

I met a few friends out to watch it at a bar. Bar didn't have it. Moved to another. They didn't have it.

Finally returned to a friend's house and watched it on AFN. Armed Forces Network is a series of channels for overseas military personnel you can pick up with a small dish, a decoder, and a pin code you get from the military if you qualify (we do, but we don't have the decoder...yet).

So we got to watch the match with Johnny Mac doing the color commentary instead of some Ukrainian guy speaking, you know, Ukrainian.

During the first rain delay I decided to call it a night, as I could get home to hang with Jack a bit before bed.

When Federer won the 4th set, I went back over to watch the 5th (my friend with the magic AFN box lives in the building next to ours).

Anyway, great match.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Happy Will Smith Day

So yesterday was Independence Day.

The Embassy had its official July 4 party at the Ambassador's residence. I was there. Then I was at an Irish Bar with some co-workers. Then I was on the metro. Then I was home, but quite late.

Of course, this morning was my turn to get up with Jack so he decided to get up at 6:00.

So now we are up.


Friday, July 04, 2008

July 7 - Travel Channel

Anthony Bourdain, or Tony, as I like to call him, even though I've never met him, has a show called No Reservations, or something like that.

Whatever it's called, he travels around the world and eats stuff and does other things. He's a chef, so his adventures surround food, but I'm told his show is much more (his show isn't on the Tee Vee here).

On July 7 his season premiere finds him in Laos.

He says that 'Laos, for most outsiders, is an empty page...'


Not for you.

You, dear readers, have either visited us when we were there or visited us through the magic of the internet (meaning this blog) when we were there.

Either way, here's a teaser (note: I'm not sure, but it seems the shaded view across the river at about 0:25 is either from, or just outside, the fabled Sunset Bar where we often drank beer):

Anthony Bourdain in Laos

Sanya, the hotelier in the video with Tony (as I like to call him) is the owner/operator of the Auberge in Phonsavan that I stayed at a few times for work and one time with Katherine and the new kid.

He's a good guy, and it's great to see him get some air time.