Monday, January 11, 2010

Back to Siberia, I mean Sakhalin

While we were in Hawaii, Sakhalin received massive amounts of snow, especially for this time of year.  When we got back, our house looked the same as it did at the end of March of last year.  There was at least 3.5 or 4 feet on the ground!  And it was still coming....there was a blizzard expected the night we arrived and it continued for 2 days.  Since then, the temperatures dropped.....WAY down.  I don't remember experiencing subzero (and I'm talking Fahrenheit, not Celsius) temperatures last year.  This morning my thermometer read -16 F!  Yikes, that's cold.  That's probably the coldest weather I've been in.  Last year the lowest I remember seeing was 1 or 2 degrees Fahrenheit.  So who knows what the rest of the Winter will bring us...all I know is I'm ready to hit the slopes!

Adam is dressed for the cold

Our house when we returned

The snow is piled up!

up to my elbows in snow

Adam and Shane sledding down the street

New Years in Kauai

From Oahu, we took a 25 minute flight to Kauai, dubbed the "Garden Isle" of Hawaii.  It has definitely earned that name...I have never seen so many shades of green in my life.  Most of the scenery looked straight off of a postcard, painting or a movie.  It was all so picturesque.  The beaches in Kauai are very different from Oahu, and in the winter months they can can be especially dangerous.  So we didn't hit the beach as much as we did in Oahu.  Instead, we explored the island as best we could with a car.  What we couldn't see by car (only about 20% of the island is accessible by car), we saw on a helicopter tour and boat tour. We saw some incredible things on the helicopter ride, one of which was the so called "Jurassic Park" falls that was featured in the movie.  It was beautiful.  We also saw parts of the Na Pali coast, which is the northern coast of the island that is all cliffs.  We also decided to do some horseback riding, and much to our surprise, Adam rode his own horse!  A year ago he would have been terrified, but he got up there without a second thought.  We drove up to the north shore and visited one beach that looked okay, but within 20 minutes a storm started coming in and everyone took off, so we took the cue and left as well.  One thing that everyone told us, if there isn't anyone on the beach, there is a good reason.  Rather to be safe than sorry I guess.  Shane was even able to sneak in a round of golf at the Princeville golf course, which was something that he really wanted to do.  After our boat tour of the Na Pali coast, we drove up to the Waimea Canyon (dubbed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific).  We had flown over it in the helicopter, but it was different viewing it from the ground.  Our vacation was wonderful, and we hated to see it end, but alas, the real world was calling.... 

the scenery was beautiful

Adam with his horse and guide

the "Jurassic Park" falls

flying over part of the Waimea Canyon


waterfalls everywhere

picturesque lighthouse at the northern-most tip of Kauai

on the beach with all the lava rocks behind me

Adam playing on the beach

Shane and Adam on the boat

Na Pali coast

Na Pali coast

The captain let Adam "drive"

Adam at the Waimea Canyon lookout

Shane playing golf in Princeville

fun in our hotel pool

Christmas in Oahu

After braving the cold Sakhalin winter last year, we decided to spend Christmas in a warmer place.  Hawaii was the chosen destination, as it was only a 7 hour flight from Tokyo.  Actually, our flight there was just shy of 6 hours, but our return flight was a little over 9, but whatever.  Neither of us had ever been, and it was definitely on our list of places we would like to go, so we booked it.  My parents and brother decided to join us for part of the trip, and it was really great to see them.  I didn't really get to spend that much time - quality time - with them when we were all home in August.  Anyway, we all met up in Honolulu a few days before Christmas.  A friend of mine in Sakhalin had recommended a really nice condo/time share hotel (Marriot Ko Olina Vacation Club) on the west coast of Oahu, and it was fantastic.  The man-made lagoons were perfect for Adam to swim in without us having to worry about the currents.  The weather was near perfect, with only 1 day with clouds and a few sprinkles.  When we weren't laying on the beach or playing in the water, we visited other parts of the island.  We went up to the North Shore to see the enormous waves, visited the Dole Plantation, went snorkeling, went to a Luau, and even went parasailing.  Needless to say, we had a great time in Oahu!  My only regret is that we missed out on seeing Pearl Harbor.  We went, but unbeknownst to us, there are only 4000 tickets to the Arizona Memorial per day, and they were all sold out by 7:20 am....we arrived at 9.  Next time, we will put it at the beginning of our trip instead of the ending....

Here are a few selected pictures from our time in Oahu...

Adam ready to hit the beach

relaxing on the beach

Shane trying to get some color

Fun in the water

we found Santa Claus!

Mom, me and Joseph at a luau


Shane and Joseph feeding the fish

family pic on the North Shore

Shane and Adam watching the huge waves

getting ready to parasail

looking out on Waikiki

sunset at Ko Olina

getting ready to board the Pineapple Express train

sunset on the beach

Adam loves these "rocket ships" at Pearl Harbor

Making friends on Waikiki beach

The Great King Gaspar

Adam's class put on a nativity play for the end-of-term assembly before the Christmas break.  Adam played the part of King Gaspar, and he was very proud.  He even had a line to say, which he did twice in case we didn't get it the first time!  The play was really cute and the kids did a great job.

Adam as King Gaspar

The Three Kings


The Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas on December 6, which is Father Christmas' birthday.  Since Adam goes to a Shell School, this holiday is celebrated in a big way.  Father Christmas has these helpers called the Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) that go down the chimney for him to deliver gifts and candy (and are black because of the chimney soot).  They are mischievous and usually leave behind a mess, I guess so that the children will know that they were there.  Another Sinterklaas tradition is the children leave their shoes by the door so that the Black Pete will leave them a present inside.  Kind of like us leaving stockings hung on the chimney I suppose.  Anyway, there was a big Sinterklaas celebration at the school, which I found fascinating.  I don't remember seeing it last year, which is odd because I know we were here.  Adam spoke for weeks before the assembly about Sinterklaas and the Black Petes, and I had no idea what he was talking about until I asked the teacher.  For the Sinterklaas celebration, Adam's class performed the Macarena, which was hilarious.  Throughout the assembly, the Black Petes performed tricks and handed out papernotes (Dutch cookies that remind me of a cross between a snickerdoodle and a gingersnap).  Adam had a great time, and kept asking me when the Black Petes would visit our house...

Adam's class left out their shoes for the Black Petes

Father Christmas and the Black Petes at the Sinterklaas celebration at school

Black Pete giving out papernotes

Adam and his class getting ready to perform for Father Christmas

Doing the Macarena

Getting Ready for the Holidays

Okay, so first off, I have been really lax about the blog lately.  I am not too happy with the new version of is much slower and it seems to take forever to get the posts done.  I am considering changing, so if anyone has any ideas, I am open to hearing them.

On to what this post is really about....getting ready for the Christmas holiday season.  As we do every year, we put up our tree and decorations the weekend after Thanksgiving.  I dressed Adam in a green shirt (red would have been better, but he doesn't have a plain red shirt) and talked him into letting me take his picture in front of it.  Trust me, it wasn't easy.  Our Community Center requested that all the kids come up and decorate their tree, which they were all thrilled to do.  Of course, when they were finished,  all the ornaments were located at the bottom of the tree, but hey, a good time was had by all.  We also went to our fair share of holiday parties....the major one being the one ENL hosted at the Santa Hotel.  It was a nice party, and it was also nice to get dressed up, leave Adam with a sitter and go out and celebrate with friends.

Adam in front of our tree

family picture

the children came up to help decorate the tree at our Community Center

all dressed up for the ENL holiday party