Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gornii Vozdukh in the Fall

As I was saying in the previous post, I love the Fall in Sakhalin.  It's such a contrast to Qatar, where there isn't really a Fall season.  The leaves are just starting to turn different shades of yellow, red, and orange.  The weather is cool, but not too cold.  We wanted to go up the mountain before the snow came, so this past Sunday we did it.  It was the perfect day for it....no rain, not too cold outside...really a beautiful day.  Below are my photos from that day....

Gondola for the mountain (Gornii Vozdukh)

View as we are going up...

 All of these houses are right under the gondola track

View of the city as we are going up (I think that is
a football pitch in the background - Russian letters say "Sakhalin")

The leaves are starting to turn!

One of the ski runs we did last year

The view from the top....Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk

Shane and Adam at the top

Adam at the top of the mountain

Amanda at the halfway point

Fall in Sakhalin...Leaves Changing Colors, Cooler Weather, and FLIES!

I love fall weather in Sakhalin.  We arrived about this time last year, and it is just beautiful and pleasant here.  Well, almost.  There is something making it not that pleasant....flies.  There are thousands of them swarming around our compound.  From what I hear, it is because of the abundance of fish that have been dumped in the surrounding forests by fisherman.  These fish are apparently caught for their caviar only and then dumped.  This leaves a not-so-pleasant smell every now and then when the wind blows just the right (or wrong) way.  And of course, flies.  With the weather cooling down, they are swarming around the houses trying to keep warm.  Between me and the dogs, we kill our fair share of flies that have made their way inside the house, but as soon as a door is opened, more come in.  Below are some pictures that I took of the back side of our house...


Monday, September 14, 2009

First Day of School

Adam's first day of school at SIS

The Trip Back...

Our trip back to Sakhalin started out being uneventful and smooth....just how we like it.  We were all flying business class on the Continental flight (Adam and I upgraded), so we were looking forward to a nice trip.  And it was a nice trip...until we we arrived at Narita airport.

There were several (I would say at least 30) people on our flight from Houston that were continuing on to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk via Vlad Air.  They had a table set up right where you exit the aircraft with all of our boarding passes....well, everyone's but Shane's.  They told us to continue to the gate (which was a nice 30 minute walk) to find out what the problem was.  When we got to the gate, they clicked away on their keyboards and chatted on phones for what seemed like forever, and then they finally told us the bad news:  Shane didn't have a ticket.  We still don't exactly know why...our only guess is that the seat was reserved and not paid for, so no e-ticket was issued.  They wouldn't let us buy a ticket (even though the flight wasn't full) because it was less than 1 hour before the flight was scheduled to leave.  As you can imagine, we were less than thrilled to be a mere 2 hours from being home and able to go.  Adam and I had tickets, but we didn't have any Rubles to give the customs agent that was sure to be waiting on me since I would be traveling without my husband.  With Shane traveling with us, we don't have to pay anything.

So now comes the task of retrieving our luggage from the plane, a process that for some reason took 2 hours.  During that time we called the travel company that tickets Vlad Air and spoke to a very confused woman who tried to sell us a ticket on that day's flight - that had already left!  So I guess if we had found a phone that worked before the flight took off, Shane could have gone with us?  Who knows.  We decided not to wait around Tokyo until the next flight, which was two days later.  We took a bus to Haneda airport, checked into a hotel that was connected to terminal 2, and booked seats on an ANA flight to Sapporo and the company charter for the next day.  Whew!  But our fun wasn't over....

The next morning we woke up to Adam having some sort of stomach bug.  He threw up all over himself, the restaurant where we were having breakfast, the elevator, the hallway to our room...you get the picture.  We get back up to the room and I get him changed and cleaned up and than realized that we had left his favorite sleep toy.  Shane had gone back to the ANA counter to inquire about luggage fees vs. business class tickets (he opted for the latter...it was cheaper!), and Adam told me that he took Buzz Buzz (the toy's name).  Well, he didn't.  After interrogating everyone in the dining room about this toy, someone finally directs me to the lost and found box in the reception area of the hotel.  Sure enough, they had found it at our table and put it away.  Okay, crisis avoided.  Now we just had to hope and pray that Adam wouldn't get sick anymore, as our flight was in less than 2 hours.  I had visions of him puking all over the check in counter and being told that we couldn't fly.  The Japanese are scared to death of sickness, but they are even more afraid of the H1N1 virus.  Adam didn't have fever or any other symptoms.  I think it was a combination of being over-tired, over-hungry, and possibly some dodgy food on the airplane.  Well, fortunately that didn't happen and we made the rest of our flights without any more trouble.

We are now back in Yuzhno and getting back into our routines.  It's good to be home!

Astros Game

Shane was able to get tickets to an Astros game, which is always fun.  We took Adam to his first baseball game, which he enjoyed for a while, but then was bored so he played on Joseph's i-phone the rest of the time.  It's okay, we all had a good time, and the Astros won!

Daddy and Adam at the game

Pretty good seats!

Me and Mom

Playing on Joseph's phone

Shane and Amanda

Port "A"

After visiting my Dad, our next stop was Port Aransas, TX, with Shane's Mom.  We rented a house that was located about 10 minutes (walking) from the beach.  It was nice to have a little vacation within our 'vacation' home.  We ate a lot of seafood, made sandcastles, played in the waves, swam in the pool and got some sun (some of us got a little too much!).  At the end of the week Kim and Joe joined us.  Joe hadn't seen Shane since we moved to Doha!

Relaxing in the beach house
Eating at a local seafood restaurant
Walking to the beach
Wading through the sand
On the beach
Playing in the waves
Building sandcastles
Walking back to the house
Playing in the surf
Playing on the beach
I love this picture!
Swimming with a noodle - by himself!
Amanda and Kim
Group photo


The weekend after Shane arrived, we headed up to Dallas with my Dad to visit the Mearns side of my family.  We stayed with Vanessa, my step-sister, and her family.  The weather was very, very hot, so Shane and Adam made good use of their swimming pool while we were there!  We also got to visit with the rest of the family over some of Rodney's barbecued pulled-pork! Yum....

Shane and Adam cooling off
Playing in the pool
Shane chillin' in the pool
group photo
Vanessa, me, Clay
Adam with his cousins, Haley and Ashley

Space Center Houston

Adam has been really interested in space and astronauts lately, so we decided to take him to NASA in Houston. I hadn't been since I was a kid in elementary school, so I didn't know what it would be like. There was a lot for kids to do and see and Adam of course had a great time exploring. The only thing we didn't get to do that we wanted was take the tram tour around the Space Center. There is always next year if he is still interested. We did get his halloween costume there, though....one of the orange jumpsuits worn by the American astronauts!

Listening to the astronauts

Playing with a mission control panel and checking out his reflection in the mirrors

In the cramped Apollo capsule with Daddy and a family pic at NASA

photo op with C-3PO at the George Lucas exhibit

11 Years Ago....

Shane and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary on August 15, which is also the day that he arrived from Sakhalin! Jet-lag, schmet-lag....we celebrated by going to Pappasito's for dinner!

On our wedding day

not taken on our anniversary, but a nice picture of the two of us :)

Photo Session in ATX

As I mentioned in my previous post, part of my trip to Austin included meeting up with Kristen Roedner (Brown) from high school. We had reconnected on Facebook, and I have been admiring her photography work from afar for quite some time. I think she did a wonderful job, and can't wait to get my frames (coming in my shipment) so I can hang my large photos. If you are interested in Kristen's work or are in the Austin area and need a photographer, I highly recommend her - http://www.faux-toes.com/

Here are some of the photos from the session: