Vilnius, Lithuania is known for it’s old city area and it’s been photographed enough. It’s also going to be there for another hundred years, these guys are not!
Vilnius, Lithuania is known for it’s old city area and it’s been photographed enough. It’s also going to be there for another hundred years, these guys are not!
Lazy day away from Macau to Hong Kong. Skipping the usual Kowloon shopping district I found a pretty interesting guy taking a lunch break on a fishing boat. Just after he finished his rice he walked over to the edge of the boat and relieved himself into the ocean right next to the kiddies fishing off the warf! Welcome to China!
After being the last to board the plane a young couple argued with the guy behind me claiming that he was in their seats. Both of them were screaming that they had reserved a row of FOUR seats EACH! Once the hostess moved the poor guy they started an anoyingly loud conversation between their rows. It wasn’t long before everyone knew their names, Andrey and Natasha and before the hostess was back this time to warn them about drinking their own alcohol onboard.
The middle six hours of the flight were relatively quiet with my beauty sleep interrupted only by the occasional photo session and the hissing of some sort of perfumed water refresher spray from the rows behind. That was until Andrey decided that it was too quiet onboard and that a little bit of loud screechy Russian pop music was required. He perched his laptop on top of the seats and cranked up the volume on the undersized speakers and then continued their conversation over the top of the tinny din. This lasted for a good few songs until glares from surrounding passengers had him close his boom-box. We were then privileged to a personal conversation including such class topics like how much her butt hurts, stupid rules for drinking duty free on planes, daring each other to down contreau shots, sorting out what property belongs to the airline (apparently not much) and what to them and how unbelievably stupid the guy was who was in their seats when they got on.
Close to landing Andrey, not surprisingly had to be told three times to sit down even when he was doing such an important task as photographing Natasha filling in the landing card. Then as soon as the wheels touched the tarmac at 300km/h they both broke out into loud cheering and clapping obviously oblivious to the fact that thousands of people have sadly lost their lives on landing after this particular moment. Fortunately we did land safely and Andrey was able to place that call back to Moscow to find out what time it was there. Being 6am it was a pretty one sided conversation covering the highlights of their trip so far which, coincidentally, I managed to have covered in this post.
Bon voyage Andrey and Natasha!
Today was day two looking after two toddlers and a 12yo and making it to lights out was challenging to say the least. The two little ones are still getting over some sort of bronchitis so they are constantly coughing. Our apartment sat at a stuffy 30c all day so tempers were short and many toys were argued over. Nobody wanted to eat anything Dad cooked, hopefully the result of the sickness and heat rather than the actual food!
Later in the day we had a good time in the park even if Ryan did manage to get completely covered in sand. After a nice bath, small hen picks at dinner and nice quiet games with big brother it was off to bed with milk as usual. As I settled into the mountain of washing up that the day had created Ryan had a coughing fit and threw up in his bed. Luckily I managed to save his blanket and put him down again in my bed while I cleaned up. Of course round two kicked in and he managed to get sick on EVERYTHING after doing a face plant into the pool of goupy milk and macaroni. Bath time again!
By the time I’d made an enclosure of heavy pillows and laid down the last set of linnen he was ready to play. I spent the next hour fetching Teddy who was thrown over the edge of the bed many times. For the record… he was given fair warning each time! “Teddy, that’s all…!” toss! I would have left him there if there wasn’t so much begging for him to come back.
With the two of them finally cutely asleep I finally settled into my relaxing beer after what seemed like a 24 hour shift. I reflected on how hard many, many single parents work every day. If you are one of them I wish you a very sincere well done!
The last few days at our place have been a little out of control. This morning Elena caught James with a bunch of 100ruble notes that he managed grab from the top shelf of the dresser. She noticed him carefully feeding the notes one by one through the small gap in the ajar balcony door and letting them flutter six floors to the street below. As James noticed her noticing he hid the bunch behind his back, stuffed one more note out and blamed Ryan!
During the lesson about not throwing anything out the window that followed, I don’t know why but I asked James if it would be ok to throw his favorite teddy out too? Without thinking he nodded and motioned approvingly toward the window. Elena with her quick wit applauded me for not volunteering Ryan in place of Teddy!
Later in the evening it was Ryan’s turn to do something silly.
Ohh man these kids are hard work at this age! My age, not theirs!!!
The stars and the moon finally lined up work wise for a weekend getaway! Getting the weather for the trifecta escaped us this time but we still made the effort and packed up the kids in their winter warmies and headed off to Mir Castle or Мирский замок in Russian.
In my Trip Advisor review I shortened the whole story to…. Quaint Belorussian town, nice castle, service as usual!!! So if you are bored already, have better things to do with your time or flat out lazy, just leave it at that and go to the photos. Otherwise, read on!
We called our favorite taxi driver Jenia, who was happy to take us on the 100km ride for a very reasonable price. Actually for what we paid you probably wouldn’t get far away from an airport in the states and nowhere in a black cab in London.
Our hotel was relatively newly renovated and actually located right in a wing of the restored castle with views over the small lake complete with ice fishermen. The rooms were nice enough but it was obvious that they were trying a little too hard to go hi-tech with all the electrics working through little remotes stuck to the wall where the switches usually would be. The remote above the bed (also stuck to the wall) was the master that controlled all the other remotes and to the kids delight also the motor drive curtains! At the same time they’d run out of budget for carpet underlay and mini fridges.
We settled into the rooms quickly and headed off to the city to stock up on wine, cheese and fruit that got left behind in Minsk during the usual tense moments that seem to be unavoidable before we go on any trip. Not far away from the hotel / castle there is a small town square with four little grocery stores with a selection of wines. Unfortunately there was nothing over 23,000 Rubles ($3) for semi sweet and the dry selection was limited to 15,000 Rubles ($2) across all the stores. In the end we chose the most expensive bottle we could find hoping it didn’t turn out to be overly sweetened grape juice with a hint of petrol on the nose.
Anyway, amazingly enough in all but one of the stores we were alone and the one store that had people in it had a que, at the alcohol counter. We couldn’t imagine how much of a discount they could have been giving based on the prices we had seen so it could really only be some sort of credit driving the trade. In any case either the cheap alcohol or credit on alcohol is Sad, very sad!
Here is one of the guys
Things have warmed up a bit here. The difference between -30 and -12 I have learnt, is quite a bit. At -30 I need a double layer of thermals and socks while at -12 a single layer is fine. One thing I did notice with double thermals is that it is almost impossible to discretely clear even a mild wedgie!
Bring on spring!!!
Winter started more than six weeks ago and finally there is enough snow to take out the sanki (sled) and give James his first ever sanki rides! They weren’t without incident though, as you can imagine.
There was a heart-stopping moment for about a dozen morning commuters last Tuesday in a pedestrian underpass in central Minsk, Belarus. Shortly after 10am the peak hour rush was in frozen animation for several seconds while a projectile about the size of a 1/2 litre thermos flask ricocheted loudly in different directions down into the underpass. The object came to rest near 8-10 startled people. One bystander later said it was like a slow motion scene from an action movie!
Later in the day a slightly embarrassed expatriate worker came forward claiming that it was actually a Thermos knocked out of his backback bottle holder by the hand railing as he was maneuvering his bicycle down the ramp. He added that the thermos survived the heavy fall and still works fine even with a few dents, scratches and a slightly oval shape.
I don’t know what happened but I just saw this assignment topic on CNN called ‘Eye on Azerbaijan’. With my two years of experience way behind me in the 90′s I thought I’d go through a few of my old photos to see if there were any worth sharing. What a trip down memory lane that was sorting through to find something decent to post. Anyway, I got some together and posted my first ever iReport at CNN. It ended up being the 2nd most read post in the assignment series right behind one called ’10 surprises about Azerbaijan’ and with a title like that of course it’s gunna get clicked!
Check out my Eye on Azerbaijan – An Expat’s Life
More and more people are beginning to be able to support themselves from income from their personal web presences. Photography is one area that has recently stood out as one that can generate income for all levels of photographers. While I’m still struggling to monetize some of my better images others with only a few years in the photography business are making an excellent living while really taking the time to actually live! One such person is Trey Ratcliff who with only a few years taking photos his site Stuck in Customs has 150,000 of hits per day on his photos! Yes per day! Monetizing that sort of traffic to some extent can’t be difficult but the way Trey has gone about it is truly admirable. His doesn’t accept paid advertising, he doesn’t endorse products and doesn’t do contract photo shoots. All he does is provide plenty of free content, personally interacts with his massive online community and then sells his stuff at reasonable prices. Go check out what he has for you!
After failing a couple of roast lamb legs in recent times I went for a rack of pork today with a recipe that I found on Taste.com.au. Looking for as many healthy options as possible (without going OTT) Richard and I rode the 6km round trip to Komorovski Market hoping that the little old ladies in the free section (home grown produce) still had some good veggies and also to lessen the chances of eating at midnight which has happened more than once before. We found the market a lot busier than usual with most isles making you feel like you are in a flooded river full of black coats jostling you for no apparent reason. Unusually on this trip we didn’t run into any really super rude sellers and got what we needed in pretty good time. With back packs full I snapped this quick photo of an old lady making garlic chains to pedal to the rivers of people.
The preparation for this meal was surprisingly simple and not at all messy. Finally dinner was up around 5.30pm with an hours help from Daylight Savings which we hadn’t noticed had kicked in until timing the roast. Probably the last time I’ll be at the market at 9am on a Sunday morning!
The roast pork turned out pretty good. The crackling wasn’t that crackly but then we didn’t eat it anyway as we were going for the healthy option. The 2.4kg rack was turned into a small slither of one rack with a little stuffing and no roast apples. Yummy!
Just out of curiosity I pushed the little microphone button on the google maps (maps.google.com) page and dictated an address off the top of my head. Here are the strange / funny results…
1. it’s kevin place scrotum I c t 2615
2. I did ask evan place (I tried to drop the state and post code)
3. 87 place curtain
4. meskerem play scripts in icy t 2605
5. ice skatin place cookin I ct 2605
6. ice skatin place curtain I c t 2605
7. ice skatin place clifton act 2605
8. thanks kevin place curtain act 2605
9. thanks kevin play scripts in a c t 2615
Maybe it’s my accent?
For those of you who don’t know the address see if you can work it out!!! Comment with your guesses.
With a long dreary three day weekend on the weather charts for Minsk and the only hope for some sunshine being a little cloud seeding by the government for the May 9th celebrations I thought I might pop over to Warsaw in Poland for a looksee. The 8.40pm train looked great getting me in at about 6am. As usual I cut things a bit fine before travelling and attempting to purchase my ticket 15mins before the train didn’t pan out so well. Negotiating my way to the front of the line with 5mins to spare the cashier said “you have to buy that ticket from the international cashier” pointing towards other windows with zillions of people waiting. Weighing up pushing my luck any further I decided I’ll settle for a dreary weekend and headed home.
While pottering around feeding on the last of the pelimeni and sour cream, surfing the internet and chatting on Skype with home (who btw thought it was hilarious that I missed my train) I noticed that there was one more train to Warsaw. This time it was just after midnight arriving at 8ish in the morning. With the trip back on again, bag still packed and family taking even more piss out of me I flew out the door with yet again time pressure to not miss my second train for the day.
My experience from earlier in the evening I managed to go directly to the correct cashier in the adjacent building to the main terminal (important information for catching a train from Minsk to Warsaw) where this time there was no line at all. Just one single cashier dimly lit in her booth alone in the huge building. Great I thought as I approached her again with only about 15mins to spare. Of course nothing is that simple in Russia or even Belorussia. It was her break!!! The dreaded ‘technichki perireef’ sign clearly noted on her window that from 1155pm to 0010 she was on technical break and not going to serve me. She did manage to tell me that there would still be plenty of time after her break and before the train to purchase the tickets and indeed there was, I finally made it.
Train wasn’t the newest but it was nice enough. Strange design almost European in design with three seats facing a wall with a small sink in the corner. The bottom row of seats turns into a bed as to be expected and the top bunk was permanently out. I didn’t mind the configuration as I didn’t have any surprise travel buddies to accommodate for my third train ride in a row. The one unusual, obviously soviet inclusion that I did get a kick out of was the apparent vanity cabinet above the sink. Upon opening it I found as to be expected in such a cabinet a mirror and a shaving outlet which came in handy for charging the notebook. The kicker was the neatly arranged and snugly clipped in vodka decanter and three shot glasses obviously carefully thought through to match the number of seats in the compartment.
The ride was pretty uneventful just the border crossing was a bit of a pain. It takes a good two hours with customs and immigration on both sides pretty intense as you could fairly expect crossing from the Russia to Europe. The worst is the 45mins of jolting and banging as they do some pretty serious work to get the wheels the right gauge for the tracks on the other side. I managed to get about three hours sleep after doing some urgent work as is usually the case as I head anywhere for days off or vacations.
More photos from a ‘Weekend in Warsaw’ can be found here.
Arriving at 8am Warsaw time I headed out of the terminal to the nearest 5* hotel. Not to stay of course, just to
Long lost in a pile of junk paper of bank statements, 4th grade homework, unpaid bills, etc. I just found this classic hand written note.
When J wakes up
I’ll be on the phone or online
Hope be back for lunch.
So after the shock of waking up in the deep end of the pool I got to, following the list to the letter. Things were going well for the first few points and I was thinking that I’m a super dad until the food wasn’t enough and the begging started. So i simply repeated the steps so far that had worked well pouring more food, juice, food and milk into the kid. Problem solved for another 30mins or so until it was poo time. Hey, that wasn’t even on the list! Negotiated the situation well enough though and with just one more oz of milk he was back to sleep.
Dream kid so far!