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.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Healthy baby goy

So Katherine had her 20 week checkup today. Don't know if it's a boy or a girl, but believe it to be non-Jewish, so goy kind of fits all around.

And it's a healthy goy. We saw the whole 3D ultrasound for the first time. Pretty cool.

Now it's off to the Dynamo - Shakter game (UEFA Cup semi-finals -- two Ukrainian soccer teams), then tomorrow we all go to Portugal.

I have it on good authority that swine flu does not exist there, or in the plane that we will be flying there.


1-1 tie. Decent game, and our seats were in the heart of the Dynamo fan club sections, which was entertaining. But now Dynamo is looking at a tough game in Donetsk next Thursday.

Sadly, we'll be sitting next to our pool at our house in Colares, Portugal, so we can't be there.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Pox on our House!

Oh, and Jack came down with the chicken pox this week. He was vaccinated, but it turns out about 30% of kids who are vaccinated get it anyway -- usually a mild case.

Jack's was so mild we didn't really realize he had the pox. 6-8 dots was all, and he didn't complain.

All is well, we are through the contagious portion and looking forward to our trip to Portugal on Friday.

Hopefully the swine flu doesn't become a Euro-Atlantic pandemic and throw a wrench into our plans.

More from our trip last weekend

The castle at Kamyanets-Podilsky. It was impenetrable, until it was penetrated by Turks in the 16th century (or something).

The crew. With just the 12 of us, we were able to take the castle with little trouble.

And then we celebrated by having a picnic next to the nearby Khotyn castle.

And we decided to make this guy our patron saint, because he looks like he was probably pretty tough.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Road Trip -- Success!

So we survived our weekend with 6 kids and 6 adults on a long road trip for the weekend. It was touch and go there for a while.

A weekend of climbing around castles.

Kamyanets-Podilsky Castle -- with a parade going by.

Khotyn Castle

Friday, April 17, 2009

Road Trip

Tomorrow we are piling into the car and going here.

Kamyanets-Podilsky - historical, whatnot. This weekend is Orthodox Easter, so we've got a 3-day weekend.

We're going to head out tomorrow with some friends.

Near KP is the Khotyn castle. Very castley.

And, it is supposed to be 72 degrees this weekend.

Should be fun.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My peoples

Yesterday morning Jack crawled in to bed with us about 7:00 am. He didn't feel like sleeping anymore.

Instead, he looked at Katherine, put his hand on her and said "my mommy"

Then, he turned to me, put his hand on me and said "my daddy"

Then he spread his arms wide to grab both of us and said "MY PEOPLES!"

Pretty cute, no?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

People aren't much for rules...

...even in a Thai temple cave.

Jack breaks some news

Friday, April 10, 2009

An oldie, but a goodie

From January. The problem with having two cameras. We just downloaded a full memory stick from one, and we have pictures from Halloween last year (Jack was a dragon, by the way)

Jack would like everyone to know that he has now mastered the art of the thumbs up.

Sunday, April 05, 2009


While we spent most of our time on the beach or in the pool, we did take time out to do other things.

Highest on the list was our daily tuk-tuk rides. The tuk-tuks in Khao Lak weren't the traditional tuk-tuks we know and love from Laos, but they were fun none-the-less, and Jack didn't feel like we accomplished much in a day if it didn't include at least one ride.

Our friends Cliff, Courtney, Nicole and Mallory were with us on the beach. We took a trip to Phang Nga bay, an area full of limestone karsts, including James Bond island, made famous bby "The Man with the Golden Gun". We chose not to follow the hordes to the island as it basically is a collection of curio shops and not much more.

We hired a boat to take us around the bay for the day.

Jack liked it, but I think he may have liked the fact that he got a lollipop even more.

On the way back from Phang Nga, we stopped at a temple that is home to hundreds of monkeys. I assume that the monkeys live there in such numbers because the temple grounds provided a sanctuary from hunters back in the day, and the temple visitors provided a steady stream of food.
In any event, lots of monkeys. We got some bananas to hand out. Jack was a bit uncomfortable around all the monkeys, so Katherine and I fed the monkeys while he watched from what he considered a safe distance.

Oh, yeah. Asia

So it's about 40 days since we returned from Thailand and Laos. We just downloaded the bulk of the photos on to our brand new laptop, so I guess it's time to share.

Our old laptop, purchased in 2003, was pretty much held together with duct tape and baling wire. When our 3rd power cord crapped out, our cheap external monitor started to fade, and the computer continually froze and/or ran slower and slower, we decided to upgrade.

Anyway, a quick trip back in time to late January, early February, and our lovely trip to Thailand and Laos.

We spent a few days in Bangkok, back at our beloved Emporium Suites, where we spent quality time poolside and out and about in the city.

Jack was a huge fan of the skytrain, and took any opportunity to ride. His penchant for licking the poles on the trains bothered Katherine. I just saw it as yet another opportunity to boost his immunity system in the long-term.

He was less enamored with Jatujak, the large weekend market. I had successfully avoided a visit there in our two years in Laos -- and many trips in Bangkok throughout. But Katherine convinced me with four simple words..."we won't stay long".

I was sold.

Jack crapped out about halfway into our visit to JJ. I envied him.

The beach was up next. We returned to Khao Lak, a long, lovely beach with a gentle slope into the water (perfect for a 2 year old unsure of whether he likes the ocean) about 80 KM north of Phuket that we visited in 2002 with Cob, Geoffrey, Ari and Jennine, back when we were all carefree and childless.

Khao Lak was devestated by the 2004 Tsunami, but they have rebuilt and things are generally back to where they were -- more developed, in fact, as larger, more upscale resorts have in many instances replaced the smaller bungalow operations that were destroyed.

Ayara Villas -- beachfront bungalow #2. Nice

Vone spent 5 days with us on the beach. It was great to be able to see her, and I think she was very happy to see Jack all grown up.

We spent quality time on our little veranda. There was a clay pot full of water to clean sand of feet and whatnot. It proved to be a source of continual entertainment.

And the beach. Fun stuff. Jack played in the sand for hours a day, and took to the water like a fish know.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Throw the bums out!

Domestic politics in Ukraine is never dull.

We've got a president and prime minister who can't stand each other. The PM is being battered by the ongoing economic crisis, and the president is increasingly isolated and unpopular. And they were allies in the 2004 Orange revolution, and until September 2008 had a fragile coalition in the parliament that imploded basically the first week I covered domestic politics for the embassy. We've got an economic crisis that is hitting Ukraine hard, an IMF package that Ukraine could lose if it doesn't pass meaningful economic reform legislation, all in the shadow of a presidential election next fall/winter, and potentially pre-term parliamentary elections before that.

So Ukraine has a lot on its plate, politically-speaking.

And so, to thrown more on the pile, in Kyiv we've been treated to two recent "mass protests" organized by the opposition party, the Party of Regions. On March 27, Regions organized a nationwide protest that was to attract more than 100,000 people. Less than 50,00 eventually turned out, and primarily in Regions strongholds in the East. About 3,000 people protested in Kyiv -- far less than the 15,000 Regions had predicted.

Then, Friday, they decided to have another go. 50,000 would come out in Kyiv to protest against the Rada (parliament), the president, the prime minister, the government...pretty-much everybody except for the Regions party...for their lack of action in the face of the continuing economic crisis, which has hit Ukraine especially hard.

They got about 9,000 protesters to come out on Friday. Again, much less than the 50,000 predicted by Regions. Still, when crowd is gathered and the flags are waving even a few thousand people look impressive.

In the morning, they protested in front of the Presidential Secretariat, the Cabinet of Ministers, and the Rada. Inside the Rada, Party of Regions members of parliament were blocking the session hall for a second day. It's a relatively common tactic here to block work in the parliament.

I headed over to talk to a few people at the Rada and had to wade through the sea (like maybe the Sea of Azov or something, not the Carribean or anything...not so big, but still, you know, a sea) of light blue Party of Regions flags to get there.

That's the Rada with the dome on top.

After the parliament passed the 2009 budget on December 27, Regions announced it would give the government 100 days to get Ukraine out of the crisis (or something). The 100 days are up.

Thus ..."100 days of silence -- And now we say NO!"

"The Government is the shame of Ukraine"

"Down with the Orange Forces - WE WANT YANUKOVYCH" The Orange forces a reference to the western-leaning political forces that brought about the Orange revolution and led to President Yushchenko's election, and Yanukovych being the head of Regions and the guy that Yushchenko ultimately beat in a 3rd round of elections in 2004 after Yanukovych "won" what was considered a fixed election.

I spoke to a few protesters, and none could really articulate just why they were out protesting against everyone...and for Party of Regions. It is an open secret here that the vast majority of general protests (as opposed to say, protests by a specific group for a specific reason, e.g. coal miners for higher wages) are organized by paying protesters to participate -- the exception being the orange revolution, where hundreds of thousands of people protested in Kyiv for weeks, and millions protested around the country.

Rumor has the price for the April 3 protest at about $12.50 + lunch and a r/t bus ride from wherever you are from. Not a bad way to spend your day if you are out of work, I guess.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

An evening in Neverland

We escaped to Neverland on Saturday night and without question Phil was the cutest Tinkerbell there!

Costumes designed and made by Katherine (I'm putting my new sewing skills and sewing machine to good use!)

Jack Quote of the week

While eating dinner last night we tried to get Jack to eat some vegetables. It is a daily struggle but he did try one pea and after about 3 seconds he spit it out.

In an attempt to get Jack to like peas Phil sang a song about how much he liked peas. Jack, not missing a beat, sang one back "I don't like peas....I like meat."