Wednesday, October 29, 2008

First Snow

We had our first snow here last night.  It's not much, but Adam was sure impressed.  Being from Texas, Shane and I were pretty excited as well.  It all melted off by 10 or so, but I suspect that it will be back, and it will probably bring more with it!

What we saw when we woke up this morning

Buster checking it out

Another view

It started snowing again while I was outside taking photos

My Froggy Hat

When a neighbor of mine, Lorraine, learned that Adam's halloween costume was in our air shipment (and probably not going to be here in time for him to wear it), she brought this back for him when she went on a shopping trip to Japan.  It was very sweet of her to remember him. He looks pretty cute, don't ya think?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My first month

We have now been in Yuzhno for 1 month.  How is it?  Well, it's not that bad.  Even though we are the new kids on the block, I don't feel all that green since this is not our first expat assignment.  I didn't come here with the expectation that it would be anything like Houston, which in my opinion is where some people start off wrong.  I knew that it would be different, and that the shopping would pale in comparison to the United States or Europe, or even the Middle East for that matter.  We are in Russia.  I get reminded of that as soon as the van pulls up to take us to school and the driver says, "доброе утро" (dohbrah ootrah, or good morning).  

When I go into town, I sometimes wish that I had a video camera to record some of the things that I see.  There is nothing like standing in line at the grocery store listening to people squabbling in Russian with the cashier while horrible techno music is blaring from the nearby speakers.  They play that stuff everywhere:  the shops, the cars, the park, everywhere.  It makes me miss the Doha stores where they would play the same Dolly Parton songs over and over again.  Just going to the grocery store here is an experience - I play a guessing game with the meats and cheeses and hope that it is at least something I have heard of, then get home and go to Google Translate to make sure.  So far so good on that one.  

Another game I play is "where is everyone from?".  That is always a fun one to play.  We did it a lot in Doha.  Americans are easy:  they are usually wearing sneakers and blue jeans.  Yes, me included, except I haven't worn sneakers in a long time.  My standard outfit in Doha was flip flops and blue jeans, but here I am either wearing boots or clogs.  Same difference, really.  If the footwear is comfortable, then you are probably from America.  The Russians are easy to spot also.  The women all seem to wear boots with at least a 4-inch heel - spiked heel, that is.  And they are usually wearing a mini-skirt.  All I have to say, is good for them.  I will wear my jeans and comfy, warm shoes with pride!  

Another big difference for us here is the school run.  It seems that Adam needs a ton of stuff for school:  his carseat, which we have to take out each time, his snack and drink, his book bag for his library books, his 'indoor shoes' (they require that the kids have a pair that are strictly for indoors and one for outdoors), his PE clothes, and an extra set of clothes in case he doesn't make it to the restroom.  In addition to all of that, he wears a coat, hat, and boots, which he has to shed once we get there.   

Another weird thing - trying to maintain a comfortable temperature in the house.  You wouldn't think this would be a problem, but it is.  We have hot water radiators, so they all have to be on so the pipes won't freeze.  The work crew came yesterday to 'winterize' the house, and they set them all on 4 (out of 5).  I turned a few down to 3, but it was still sweltering in here. Here it is 31 degrees outside, and I am laying in bed with the windows open and the air conditioner on!  Yes, the air conditioner.  

In case you're wondering, we still haven't received our air shipment.  I got a call at the end of last week saying that it was in Frankfurt and that it was due to arrive here on October 30th.  I am not holding my breath.  And as for my sea shipment, which had an ETA of October 22? When I check the tracking number online for our container, it says that it is due in Korea on November 14, and in Korsakov on October 22.  Hmm...apparently someone didn't put in the right month for the Korsakov arrival.  Well, the good news is the air shipment might actually beat the sea shipment, and I may win the bet afterall.  

I will try and get some more pictures of town next time I go.  We should hopefully have some snow pictures soon as well.  We had snow flurries today, but no accumulation.  No will be here soon enough!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Just beautiful!

I took these on the way home from the park.  The way the sun was shining through the trees, and with all the colors - it was just a beautiful sight!  I recommend that you click on the pictures and view the large versions. 

Another day at the park

Showing off that cute smile

Playing in the truck

On the train

On the merry-go-round

About to take a slide

Posing for Mom

This one's for Matish!

On the swings

Pushing Mommy on the merry-go-round

The Park opens!

The children's play area in our compound is open!  I am happy that it opened before the snow came.  Adam hasn't been able to play at the park for a few months, since Doha is much too hot in the summers for it.  I am sure we will be here everyday this week since school is out for Autumn break.  

Playing on the truck

On the see-saw

On the merry-go-round with friends

International Festival

Saturday evening was the 1st Annual International Festival at our compound.  Everyone was to bring a food and/or item from their home country.  Of course, Shane and I didn't really have anything to bring for the table that was for the USA.  All of our stuff is on the way, but I am not even sure we have a flag or a book or anything like that in there.  I know, we are bad citizens.  As for food, I wanted to make Mexican cornbread, but I couldn't find any of the ingredients.  I made German potatoes instead.  I know, neither one of those say "American", but really, what does - McDonald's?

The USA table


No snow yet!  We have had a couple of mornings with frost, but the white stuff hasn't arrived yet.  This particular morning it was around 25F and stayed pretty cold all day.  Since then, the temperatures have "warmed up" to the upper 30s at night and 60s during the day.  Nice!

Morning frost

A chilled Adam waiting for the van to take us to school

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Which will get here first, the air or sea shipment?

I shouldn't even have to ask this question, but at this point, it is anyone's guess.  Just like with our move to Doha, the company gives us two shipments:  an air shipment, which is supposed to take 1-2 weeks and is for 'immediate needs' items, and a sea shipment, which usually takes 6-8 weeks, and contains all the rest of our junk.  Both shipments were packed on September 21.  I received a notice from our shipping company yesterday that our sea shipment will arrive in Sakhalin on October 22!  That is just 4 weeks!  Well, what about our air shipment?  It is still in Doha as I type this.  It is full of - you guessed it - items that I am really needing right now.  Yes, I have already called and chewed on them, and today got a notice that it is due to leave tomorrow for Amsterdam.  I am pretty irritated that it has taken them almost 4 weeks to even send it.  They should have just put it on the boat with our container!  Oh, well, as long as I eventually receive it.  

So which will arrive first?  I don't have an ETA on the air shipment yet, but Shane is betting on the sea shipment.  Stay tuned...

Shopping in Yuzhno

Being here a little over 2 weeks now, I have had the opportunity to locate some of the more popular shopping spots (according to my neighbors, anyway).  They have all been very nice and helpful, taking me to all sorts of different places to find what I need/want.  

So far I have been to three grocery stores:  Lubemi's, Slavyanski's and Magazine 1. They are very small, even by Doha standards.  The baskets are tiny, and so are the aisles. Everytime I am in Magazine 1, it is so packed with people and everyone is rushing around that it is hard to stop and look at anything.  The only reason I still go there is to buy fresh meat and bread.  Their selection is better than Slavyanski's.  I made chicken that I bought there, and it was really good! Anytime I would buy chicken in Doha it was like rubber disks once it was cooked.  Lubemi's is a really good place to find household cleaners and toiletries.  They carry most of the brands I was used to seeing in Doha.  I have also been to SMS and Panorama, which sell things like trashcans, cutlery, kitchen stuff, etc.  

Today I was taken to a warehouse/commercial sales area known as Mira 19.  There are many different shops, all catering to grocery stores and small stores.  They have everything it seems, from food, alcohol, children's clothes, toys, bread, and appliances to name a few.  The nice thing is you get it in bulk quantities, so I don't have to run to the store every other day to get things like milk and juice.  The place is a far cry from Costco or Sam's Club, but serves it's purpose just the same.

Another area I have visited recently was the Korean Markets.  This place reminded me of Souq Waqif and the Vegetable and Fish markets in Doha.   There were small shops set up outside selling fruits and vegetables, shops set up inside for meats, candy, spices, clothes, and just about anything else you might want.  I have been real impressed with the fruit and vegetable selection so far.  I thought everything might be questionable quality, but I have been pleasantly surprised - or maybe I have been away from shopping at HEB too long!  

Inside the Korean market

Candy, anyone?

Some fruit and vegetable stands

More Fall Pictures of Yuzhno

I am amazed at how fast the leaves are changing here!  We have been here 2 weeks and what was dark green and lush when we arrived is now yellow, orange or red and almost bare! Everyone keeps saying that the snow will arrive soon, and that it had already snowed this time last year.  The temperatures during the day have been really nice - somewhere between 50 and 60 F.  At night it is getting colder - down in the 30s.  Who knows what the next two weeks will bring? Snow, perhaps?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Someone besides my Mom reads this blog?

I have been following White Sun of the Desert, a blog by a British expat living on Sakhalin Island, since I found out we were moving here earlier this year.  He has great stories and pictures about his life on the island, and is full of helpful information for us 'newbies' on his other site,  Well, somehow, he noticed my little blog and posted a big Welcome for us on his site.  Because of his post, traffic on my blog has gone up 1000%! Thank you, Tim, for the warm welcome, and come back anytime!

Strictly for the Grandparents

I have been taking so many pictures of our new surroundings lately, and I realized that I needed some of Adam.  We went out for a walk again yesterday and I managed to get a few good shots...Enjoy!

Fall in Sakhalin

I have heard that Fall will come and go very quickly here.  I thought I'd better get a few pictures of it before it's too late.  We are really enjoying the weather - and the scenery - right now.  The sun has been out, and it is comfortable wearing just a sweater and a pair of jeans.  I know things will turn on us soon, but we are loving it while it lasts!  Here are a few pictures of the changing foliage in our compound:

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A walk around Olympia

The weather was really nice this weekend, and with the sun out, it wasn't that cold.  We decided to take advantage of it and go for a walk.  Adam wasn't as into it as we were, so we took the stroller in case he got tired...and he did about mid-way.  We went again on Sunday and took the dogs.  He made it almost the whole way this time...I only had to carry him for a few minutes.  You have to understand...we never walked around Doha - it was always too hot or too dusty!

The walking trail

Yuzhno's mountains in the background

Adam gave up and got in the stroller

Walking trails

The leaves are won't be long and everything will be white

Beautiful sunflowers

A few shots of Yuzhno

Since moving here last week, I have been into Yuzhno twice.  It is about a 30 minute ride into town from our compound, and we have to have a driver take us when we go.  EM provides cars and drivers for us to use instead of us having to purchase and drive our own cars.  I am not sure if I like this yet, I guess time will tell.  I am an independent person, and am not afraid to drive around strange places.  I figure...I drove in Houston and the Middle East - how hard could it be here?  Oh, well, I guess just like anything else, it will take some getting used to.  Definitely a car payments, buying gas, car maintenance, insurance, registration, potential car accidents, hmmm...maybe this won't be so bad.

I was able to take some pictures as we drove to town, but most of these would have turned out much better had we stopped to take them.  I didn't ask the driver to stop, mostly because I am not yet comfortable with having someone take me everywhere - much less stop every 10 minutes because I want to take a picture of something...

This looks like a church

Vodka display - next to the pickles, of course (here they chase shots with pickles)

A sign at the entrance of town (the yellow letters say "Welcome to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk", not sure what the red ones say yet)

Sign is promoting border protection policies

This is a shopping mall - probably won't be finished until after we leave

I want to stop one day and get a better shot of the hill in the background...the fall colors are starting to come out!

An apartment building in town