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The First Three Weeks Since Tanya and Uliana are in Belarus

I am writing this post during my fourth week alone, drugs and my first week back to work, so this will be all from memory, and not completely correct, but it will be close enough for government work. I was planning on doing a week by week post, since I expected to be really busy, but that sorta did not happen. My time was pretty much was laced with laziness.

The First Night

The very moment I finished work @ 4:30pm the day after I dropped Tanya and Uliana off  (Tuesday) was strange. I was free with nothing to that I had do, no child to babysit, no yoga class to take, no plans at all, just the emptiness of the night with nothing at all on the agenda, and no one calling for my attention. It was really strange. It has been a long time since I have had moments like that, especially for such a long stretch. Having a child changes things a little bit. =) It felt kind like getting out of basic training in the Navy for the first time, going from where your every minute is scheduled and demands are made of your time and attention, and then nothing. My mind really had no clue what the hell I should be doing. It was expecting to be expecting to be expected to have something to do. Twas strange for me to process. I slowly walked home from work taking my time thinking about all of the things I could do, and then I just went home to prepare for the coming time alone. The first night sleeping alone was a little strange too. I am sorta used to having Tanya there, and not having her there made it hard to sleep. =) =( I miss my Ribchik!!

Week One

The first week  I spent some time cooking, shopping, and doing laundry, as well as doing just a little bit of yoga in the evenings, not so much though. I joined the free trial of Redbox and started to watch some movies, as well as watched some shows of mine that were DVR’ed. I did not really do any reading, sadly enough. This first week had me staying up late, like until 11:00 to 12:00am. Much later than I like. On Wednesday I went down to the game shop to chill with the guys. There is usually a Bolt Action Game going on. Bolt Action is a World War II minis game. I think I also went down on Saturday too to check out the gaming goodness.

Weeks Two and Three (Vacation)

Things pick up a bit during these two weeks in which I was on vacation, and I did not accomplish everything that I was hoping to. Things were more laid back than I was planning. The complete lack of routine totally threw me for a loop. I work much better when I have a rigid routine in place and then I can fit things in as needed.

These first weeks of vacation had me staying up late, like until 12:00am to 1:00am in the morning watching movies on Redbox. I usually woke up late which is like 9:00am or so. I would get up, drink my honey-lemon-cinnamon water, take care of email and Facebook, do my yoga, and then shower. I would finish all of this around 12:00 to 1:00pm, and then I would eat breakfast which would usually start with a protein bar. Once all of that was done I would get on with my day.

Reading Books

I was originally planning on reading my Constitution Law book which I bought for my birthday in 2009 and spent a week of vacation reading it. During that week I read ~583 pages. If you get really bored you can read about that in those posts tagged Constitutional Law: Pricipals and Policies. However, since I really wanted to start at the beginning to read the 1300 pages straight through, preferably in a week, but most likely 2, I chickened out. Before your judgemental bastards judge me keep in mind that this is not like 1300 pages of Lord of the Rings, novel sized pages. These are 1300 pages of college text book sized dense law reading. =P

Below are the few things that I read instead:

First, I finished reading the the following 2 books which were already about 60% read:

God and the Gay Christian: This was perhaps the best book I have read on this topic. I have read a few and this is the first one that was really convincing and really gets it right. This is perhaps one of the most important books of the year.

Mary Magdalene: This is the second book on this topic that I have read and I really enjoyed it. Well researched and it really brought me a better understanding of the ways that Mary was and is understood and what it really means today. Good stuff.

Then I moved on to reading new books. You will notice a sort of a trend in the topics here:

Yoga for Regular Guys (YRG): I had picked this up the previous week and had taken a look at it. This week I spent some time going through the yoga routine in there. I recognized pretty much all of the poses in it so there were no surprises there. The forward for the book was written by Rob Zombie which was neat to see. The book was written in a laid back style for men, a bit sexist, but meant in fun, sorta like a professional wrestler wrote it. =O

So You Want to Open a Yoga Studio: This was a small but awesome book. It covered how and why to open up a studio plus what to look for in a space and so much more. If I were looking into opening up a new studio, this book would be a really great place to start.

Light on Law for Yoga Studios: This was written by the guy who is the legal counsel for Yoga Journal, I think. He is also a lawyer and a yoga teacher too, so this book is chocked full of great advice, thoughts, and actual legal forms you  can use to create your own forms. I will have to take a look at my own studio forms and change things around with the info from this book. I wish I had this when we started our studio and I put together our forms and waivers.

The Yogi Entrepreneur: This was a great book on running a studio from everything from choosing a teacher training program, finding work to social media management. A lot of great advice in there.

Yoga

I did yoga almost everyday. My sessions were anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 minutes, though I tended to average about 30 minutes. Loving it.

Gaming

I had Charles over and we played some of the following games which are featured on Will Wheaton’s Table Top series:

I also made it over to the game shop and played some:

I will send a shout out to Brian, who has always been kind to me. He has always played mini based games and he always had an army for me (and others) to play. He bought a Russian army for me and I was able to play it for the first time the last Saturday of vacation. He also has plenty of ships to go around for me to play Star Wars:X-Wing too… go Imperials!!

Strangely enough, especially since I am tactically challenged, I won most of the games. Perhaps their is something magical about vacations? Hmmm…. =)

We also had our bi-weekly Star Wars: Edge of Empire Role Playing Game game too, which went well, and Brian also GM’s that and has been our dedicated and tireless GM for 15 years. You go dude! … and thanks!!

Week Four – At Work

With the start of a new week and starting work, I did some cooking and laundry too. It was not too bad getting back to work since I stopped in on both Sundays to clean out my mailbox and see if anything needed to be done.

DDP Yoga

So, I purchased the DVD Max Pack for DDP Yoga and started it Thursday of last week and have done it everyday so far, except for Sunday. It is pretty intense, and I am definitely sweating when I am done. I am looking forward to continuing this practice to help lean me up and lose some weight.  Now that I am back to work I am getting up at 6:00am so I can get my Yoga in before I go to work which will also charge up my metabolism too. It is going pretty well so far and I am going to bed at around 10:00pm too, which is right about where I want to. It is only 2 days in, but things are going well. For more info on DDP Yoga and why I choose it see my next post.

Tonight I will go to Marley’s and then go to see Godzilla.

Next week I pick up Tanya and Uliana on Friday night, and then, thankfully, everything will be back to normal.

I think I have rambled enough for one post.

The Wife and Kid are off to Belarus

It has been a while since I have last posted, sale but I have some kinda big news for you…

Yesterday, pill I dropped Tanya and Uliana off at the Chicago airport so they can make their way to Belarus for a month where they will spend time with family and friends. This will be Uliana’s first trip on a plane (and to Belarus)  and Tanya’s first trip back home since Uliana was born (~ 5 years). I am not going, pathopsychology because we could not afford it at this time. =(

The Trip

We had a goodbye lunch with my parents at a Chinese place at noon, and then Tanya finished up their packing and pre-trip checks.  We left by 3:22pm and drove down I-90 to get to the airport. The drive was pretty uneventful due to the rain even though there was a lot of construction zones. We made it there in about 3 hours (~6:30pm). Once we got there we checked their baggage, obtained their ticket,s and then they left for the security check @ 7:35pm. By 8:45pm I received the call that they were finally on board the plane, and that their security check was really quick. Their flight was scheduled to leave at 9:00pm for a nice overnight flight. I started my long drive back home after I knew that they has passed the security check OK. I arrived in Baraboo at 10:40pm and the whole trip cost 1 tank (15 gallons) of gas in our Santa Fe.

I will call them at noon to see how things went. Hopefully, it went well. =)

Update: At 11:15am I received a text and a  voicemail  from Katia saying that they landed, Uliana was great,  and everything went well. Whew!

My Thoughts on Their Trip

I am very happy that they finally get to go to Belarus. I know Tanya has been a bit homesick and really wanting her mother to finally be able to spend time with her grand daughter. We have a lot of family and friends over there that we have not seen in 5 or 6 years. Distance from them is hard. Skype is only so good. There is no replacing talking and meeting in person. Although, we keep our selves really busy, so that helps to not think about it too much.

Uliana’s Passport

While they are there Tanya will have to work on getting Uliana a Belarussian passport. Unfortunately, it is required by Belarussian law that Uliana gets one. She already has a US passport since she is a US citizen, but as far as Belarussian law is concerned she does not choose her citizenship until she is 16 and is kind of considered a citizen of both countries until she is old enough to choose. In the US getting a passport is a pretty painless process. Go and fill out a form, get a picture, pay some money, and then wait a little bit. In Belarus it is significantly more difficult. They are still dealing with Soviet era bureaucracy and red tape. It will go kinda like this: she will need to fill out a form, then go somewhere else to get someone’s signature, then go somewhere else across town get a stamp to verify the signature, then fill out another form, and perhaps do the previous steps too for that form. She may also have to get a signature to verify the stamp which verifies the signature. It is pretty crazy and it can take a month to get a passport as the red tape deals with itself. This is our main concern while they are over there, because if we are not able to get Uliana’s passport done by the time they are scheduled to leave then they will not be able to leave the country. So, this is going to be a noticeable shadow and stressor over their trip until that gets resolved. We plan on expediting this as quickly as we can, but that only goes so far.

Uliana’s Personality

I am a bit concerned about Uliana’s personality. When she is having fun and entertained she is great, but as soon as that bus stops she can be quite stubborn (she gets that from Tanya… for reals) and mean. Since they are in Belarus and are not in our own house,  disciplining Uliana can be a real challenge. She is going to be around a whole new culture and people and I am worried that she will be overstimulated which may make her cranky a lot. I fear that the trip for both of them will be a complete nightmare. On the other hand, since everything is new all of the time she may be in a great mood since she will be continually entertained… until they have to leave someplace fun. Plus they will be speaking Russian all of the time. Since Russian is not an easy language and she will have to try and think which may make her cranky. This may also add an additional stressor to their trip.

We shall see. I hope and pray for the best possible trip so they both survive to return home. =O =)

Friends and Family

We have a lot of friends and family over there. We have our girls who were here with Tanya – Katia, Ania, and Lena over there who we miss terribly. Katia from St. Petersburg who we met here in Wisconsin last year will make her way via train to see them for a whole day. We really miss her too. Tanya’s mother, brother, aunt and uncle and their families, and everyone else too. She has a lot of other friends to see too. A month is almost enough time to make the rounds to everyone at least once. It will be a great time to reconnect and renewing those relationships. It is a wonderful thing. I am soooo jealous. =)

What About Me?

When I am able to pull myself out of fetal position long enough to wipe the tears from my eyes I plan on hiring a bunch a strippers and having a keg on tap the whole time…I just gotta party when I can… While the cat is away the mice will play…

Ok, maybe not quite that. I plan on cramming a lot of stuff into my head. I have the following to read:

  • a book and a half on Mary Magdalene
  • 3 books on yoga studio management
  • a 1200 page Constitutional Law Book
  • books are religion and theology
  • books on writing

I also plan on fitting in some gaming. Brian has a Russian army I can play for the Bolt Action WWII miniature game. I will also be playing the our normal FFG Star Wars Game, and if I can fit in another game day or two I will.

Next weekend , my awesome nephew, Tyler, is turning 21 so I may go up to Marshfield to partake in that celebration. =)

I will post an update later on about how things are going.

Green Card Lottery Winner!!!

I have some good news to break to everyone. We just found out that my wife’s brother and his wife have won the US Department of State’s Green Card Lottery and have been officially accepted for immigration into the US. They are looking at coming over sometime in May. We are quite excited at this prospect, gastritis especially since we will be having a baby shortly after that. So much to do and so little time. Yea!

The Wife’s Birthday

I took the day off for my wife’s birthday so we can spend time together. We went to Madison to stay the night at a hotel, sick and while there we went to see the musical Church Basement Ladies at the Overture Center. The next day we went the Milwaukee County Zoo. She loves going there and really wanted to go again, so that was our ultimate birthday destination.

Overture Center

I wish that I had been to the Overture Center before, because it is really easy to get to: take I-90 to 151S and ride all the way to the other side of the Capitol, and you’re there. The Overture Center is a beautiful building – large, clean and stylish. We are going to make it there more often. A Russian ballet troupe will be coming as will an Opera or two. I have always wanted to see and Opera just out of curiosity and to say ‘Been there. Done That.’

This was one of the times that we were going somewhere and not rushed. We got there early so we could walk around a little bit and pick up our tickets while not in a dead sprint. =) Of course, it is all my fault if we are. =)

There was some fantasy art displayed on a wall, by who I will assume is as local artist, that was phenomenal. Most were done as pencils. They were a very classical Brothers Grim sort of fantasy. Very cool. Very expensive.

Church Basement Ladies

This was an interesting musical. It is based in a Norwegian Lutheran church in Minnesota during 1964 and 1965, and based on real life experiences of the writer of the book that the musical is based on . It stars a man who plays a priest and 4 women as the church basement ladies, and that is all of the cast. The whole thing is set in the basement and no where else.

The time went really fast. The musical was about 2 1/2 hours including break and it did not seem more than an hour of time passed. It was quick and funny.

Milwaukee County Zoo

We got there at probably 11:00 after driving from Madison. The day was overcast and not so bright. We worried a little bit about it raining. I talked to my mom and sister on the phone during our trip there and they had received some rain… so we remain concerned. The impending clouds taunting us as we go.

The zoo, as always was cool. So many wonderful and beautiful creatures. We had the pleasure of petting and feeding Stingrays. That was very cool! Tanya was a little bit afraid to touch it, but in the end she braved it.

It rained lightly for about 10 minutes and then later, a little more that an hour before closing, it it rained consistently hard. We braved since we had an umbrella handy, but at that point the animals were not so cooperative.

Tanya has made the time to post some pictures of the Milwaukee Zoo for you. The site is in Russian but the controls should be pretty self evident

I Have a Tamarack Timeshare

I may sound really pissy when I write this so please forgive me. I have close friends and in-laws that live there and I know that they have to endure this list of things. Knowing this makes me rather cranky. =)

Bureaucracy

My unequivocal largest gripe, refractionist OK second largest gripe, doctor with life in Belarus is the layers of bureaucracy that have to be waded through to get stuff done. I will write more about this later. It takes about two complete days of wandering around and shuffling paper to get stuff done. Grrrr…..

Public Restrooms

This is probably my largest grip. I know what you are thinking silly little wussy American….

Now this I really cannot understand at all. I can see that this is OK with Bealrussians because it is what they are used to. This is what life has always been like and they do not know anything different. But why is it this way?

The bathrooms are a borderline biohazard area. They have not been cleaned in God knows how long; the toilet seats is missing; the smell of urine and defecation is strong; there will most likely not be toilet paper; and there may not be a door; or paper towels or soap to wash your hands.

*blink, page blink*

I fear going anywhere that is not someone’s house for having the possibility of having to use a public rest room. I eat really lightly if we plan on going somewhere public. Eeeekk!

Bring your own toilet paper and work those quads so you do not have to touch the seat (if it is there), cause that is what they do. It would suck to get rabies from toilet and have to go to a hospital there. (Yes, I know you cannot get rabies from a toilet seat – using literary license).

Hospitals

Holy breeding ground for disease. The buildings are not well kept. They are dirty, with paint peeling, and lights and other fixtures missing. They will put like 6 people to a room with no separation or privacy that should hold about 2 or 3 people. They have not enough lighting in the halls or rooms. The doctors and nurses (because they are at work) are not exactly there to help and are grumpy.

Lawsuit Fodder Everywhere

There are so many things that happen there that would be major lawsuit fodder here inthe United States like construction being done and the construction area (pit with sharp metal pointing out) is not cordoned off properly with kids playing and jumping over it; or not enough lighting in all of the hallways for their apartments with something on the floor for you to trip over. I can make list after list, but this along with the bathroom issue should be enough to give you an idea.

They do not have lawyers suing everyone because they are bored like they do here in the United States, so things like this go on and no one can really do anything about it. There is no one that really cares enough or has money enough to deal with it. Ugghhhhh!

Hot Water (Heating) Turns Off(On)

The Government will turn off the centralized hot water city-wide for 2 weeks a year “for maintenance”? What the hell is this? Is this a benefit of a Soviet communist infrastructure? Somebody sign me up. =(

Granted this is not a lot of time per year, but who was the genius that designed the hot water systems this way?

The heating systems for all of the apartments, and believe me there are many, as most people live in them, is turned on when the government decides that it is cold enough to turn it on… perhaps a few weeks into October or so. It gets colder there than it does here.

*shakes head*

Crosswalk Indicators

Their crosswalk indicators count down the seconds until it changes state. Very cool.

Halva (Sunflower)

Halva is a desert like thing that is made from crushed and compressed sunflower seeds. It is eaten primarily with tea. Check out the Wikipedia Entry for Halva.

People

The people are warm, pharm
happy, health
and friendly (as long as you do not catch them at work). Very social, warm, and they love to tell stories, and ,of course, drink vodka. I had about 4 shot of vodka a night every other night, and about 8 shots for special occasions.

If you catch them at work and ask them to do something related to their job they can be downright cantankerous, obstinate, and ornery – a far cry from our service oriented business here in America.

Pelmeni

Pelmeni is like our traditional ravioli but is usually purchased frozen and without sauce. Wow does this stuff Roxors My Boxors! Check the Wikipedia Entry for Pelmeni

Stop Lights

This may seem like a small thing but the their stop lights blink yellow before the light changes to signal a change from Green to Red and vice verse.

Sunrise and Sunset

The sun comes up at about 06:00 (6:00am) and sets at about 22:00 (10:00pm) each day. This makes for nice long days where you can get a lot done.

I was lucky enough to pick up this timeshare from someone that really wanted to just get rid of it following a divorce. They no longer used it and it was costing them money.

We have obtained a timeshare at the Tamarack (Peppertree) near Mirror Lake that is about 5 minutes from our house primarily so my family and I can take advantage of the workout center (weight gym, here
in-door and out-door pools, more
in-door, ailment
and out-door tennis courts)
. My wife, my parents, and I will be able to partake of all of this at about $500 a year, in addition to having a week available there.

My dad and I play tennis at least once and week, and My mom, Tanya and I really would like a place to work out and swim so this will be a good deal for all of us. Alone I was paying $360 a year for a gym membership. Tanya had done a similar thing else where. Assuming we use it we will be saving ourselves some money. It will be an even better deal if my parents end up using it as well.

We do not plan on using the week (Nov 9 – Nov 16)we have there, so if anyone is interested in staying in the Wisconsin Dells it is a 2 floor condo that fits about 7 people. Just let me know and we can make arrangements. =) We are looking for about $600 to rent it for the week.

The Top 6 Things I Like About Life in Belarus

I may sound really pissy when I write this so please forgive me. I have close friends and in-laws that live there and I know that they have to endure this list of things. Knowing this makes me rather cranky. =)

Bureaucracy

My unequivocal largest gripe, refractionist OK second largest gripe, doctor with life in Belarus is the layers of bureaucracy that have to be waded through to get stuff done. I will write more about this later. It takes about two complete days of wandering around and shuffling paper to get stuff done. Grrrr…..

Public Restrooms

This is probably my largest grip. I know what you are thinking silly little wussy American….

Now this I really cannot understand at all. I can see that this is OK with Bealrussians because it is what they are used to. This is what life has always been like and they do not know anything different. But why is it this way?

The bathrooms are a borderline biohazard area. They have not been cleaned in God knows how long; the toilet seats is missing; the smell of urine and defecation is strong; there will most likely not be toilet paper; and there may not be a door; or paper towels or soap to wash your hands.

*blink, page blink*

I fear going anywhere that is not someone’s house for having the possibility of having to use a public rest room. I eat really lightly if we plan on going somewhere public. Eeeekk!

Bring your own toilet paper and work those quads so you do not have to touch the seat (if it is there), cause that is what they do. It would suck to get rabies from toilet and have to go to a hospital there. (Yes, I know you cannot get rabies from a toilet seat – using literary license).

Hospitals

Holy breeding ground for disease. The buildings are not well kept. They are dirty, with paint peeling, and lights and other fixtures missing. They will put like 6 people to a room with no separation or privacy that should hold about 2 or 3 people. They have not enough lighting in the halls or rooms. The doctors and nurses (because they are at work) are not exactly there to help and are grumpy.

Lawsuit Fodder Everywhere

There are so many things that happen there that would be major lawsuit fodder here inthe United States like construction being done and the construction area (pit with sharp metal pointing out) is not cordoned off properly with kids playing and jumping over it; or not enough lighting in all of the hallways for their apartments with something on the floor for you to trip over. I can make list after list, but this along with the bathroom issue should be enough to give you an idea.

They do not have lawyers suing everyone because they are bored like they do here in the United States, so things like this go on and no one can really do anything about it. There is no one that really cares enough or has money enough to deal with it. Ugghhhhh!

Hot Water (Heating) Turns Off(On)

The Government will turn off the centralized hot water city-wide for 2 weeks a year “for maintenance”? What the hell is this? Is this a benefit of a Soviet communist infrastructure? Somebody sign me up. =(

Granted this is not a lot of time per year, but who was the genius that designed the hot water systems this way?

The heating systems for all of the apartments, and believe me there are many, as most people live in them, is turned on when the government decides that it is cold enough to turn it on… perhaps a few weeks into October or so. It gets colder there than it does here.

*shakes head*

Crosswalk Indicators

Their crosswalk indicators count down the seconds until it changes state. Very cool.

Halva (Sunflower)

Halva is a desert like thing that is made from crushed and compressed sunflower seeds. It is eaten primarily with tea. Check out the Wikipedia Entry for Halva.

People

The people are warm, pharm
happy, health
and friendly (as long as you do not catch them at work). Very social, warm, and they love to tell stories, and ,of course, drink vodka. I had about 4 shot of vodka a night every other night, and about 8 shots for special occasions.

If you catch them at work and ask them to do something related to their job they can be downright cantankerous, obstinate, and ornery – a far cry from our service oriented business here in America.

Pelmeni

Pelmeni is like our traditional ravioli but is usually purchased frozen and without sauce. Wow does this stuff Roxors My Boxors! Check the Wikipedia Entry for Pelmeni

Stop Lights

This may seem like a small thing but the their stop lights blink yellow before the light changes to signal a change from Green to Red and vice verse.

Sunrise and Sunset

The sun comes up at about 06:00 (6:00am) and sets at about 22:00 (10:00pm) each day. This makes for nice long days where you can get a lot done.

Category: Belarus, Culture, Life  2 Comments

The Top 5 Things I Dislike About Life in Belarus

I may sound really pissy when I write this so please forgive me. I have close friends and in-laws that live there and I know that they have to endure this list of things. Knowing this makes me rather cranky. =)

Bureaucracy

My unequivocal largest gripe, refractionist OK second largest gripe, doctor with life in Belarus is the layers of bureaucracy that have to be waded through to get stuff done. I will write more about this later. It takes about two complete days of wandering around and shuffling paper to get stuff done. Grrrr…..

Public Restrooms

This is probably my largest grip. I know what you are thinking silly little wussy American….

Now this I really cannot understand at all. I can see that this is OK with Bealrussians because it is what they are used to. This is what life has always been like and they do not know anything different. But why is it this way?

The bathrooms are a borderline biohazard area. They have not been cleaned in God knows how long; the toilet seats is missing; the smell of urine and defecation is strong; there will most likely not be toilet paper; and there may not be a door; or paper towels or soap to wash your hands.

*blink, page blink*

I fear going anywhere that is not someone’s house for having the possibility of having to use a public rest room. I eat really lightly if we plan on going somewhere public. Eeeekk!

Bring your own toilet paper and work those quads so you do not have to touch the seat (if it is there), cause that is what they do. It would suck to get rabies from toilet and have to go to a hospital there. (Yes, I know you cannot get rabies from a toilet seat – using literary license).

Hospitals

Holy breeding ground for disease. The buildings are not well kept. They are dirty, with paint peeling, and lights and other fixtures missing. They will put like 6 people to a room with no separation or privacy that should hold about 2 or 3 people. They have not enough lighting in the halls or rooms. The doctors and nurses (because they are at work) are not exactly there to help and are grumpy.

Lawsuit Fodder Everywhere

There are so many things that happen there that would be major lawsuit fodder here inthe United States like construction being done and the construction area (pit with sharp metal pointing out) is not cordoned off properly with kids playing and jumping over it; or not enough lighting in all of the hallways for their apartments with something on the floor for you to trip over. I can make list after list, but this along with the bathroom issue should be enough to give you an idea.

They do not have lawyers suing everyone because they are bored like they do here in the United States, so things like this go on and no one can really do anything about it. There is no one that really cares enough or has money enough to deal with it. Ugghhhhh!

Hot Water (Heating) Turns Off(On)

The Government will turn off the centralized hot water city-wide for 2 weeks a year “for maintenance”? What the hell is this? Is this a benefit of a Soviet communist infrastructure? Somebody sign me up. =(

Granted this is not a lot of time per year, but who was the genius that designed the hot water systems this way?

The heating systems for all of the apartments, and believe me there are many, as most people live in them, is turned on when the government decides that it is cold enough to turn it on… perhaps a few weeks into October or so. It gets colder there than it does here.

*shakes head*

Category: Belarus, Culture, Life  2 Comments

Back From Belarus

This post will be pretty short. I will post a little more later when I have more time

We have finally returned from Belarus last Thursday at about 16:30 (4:30pm) and went to bed at about 22:30 (10:30pm) and woke up at 06:30 (6:30am) the next morning with no jet lag at all, here just confusion as to why we feel fine and not suffering from jetlag.

Our trip was great. Tanya was there for 3 months to finish her degree. I was there for the entire month of June. We spent most most of our time with her family and friends and we spent a lot of time with close mutual friends. All of our peeps are found in the 3 major cities Grodna, nurse Minsk, there and Mogilev. Most of our time was spent in Mogilev where she was finishing her degree.

I experienced a Russian Orthdox wedding (of a close friend) as well as working at a Dacha (summer house of Tanya’s mother), as well as drinking vodka almost every day. It was a good time and we were sorry that it ended too soon. Too many people to see in too many cities and not enough time to spend with them. If none our the people we wanted to spend time with worked things would be much better, but as we all know life, for some reason insists on intruding in our desires.

Later I will post the top things I like and do not like about life in Belarus as well as a rant about Soviet Communist Theory on Efficiency.

Heading Towards the East…

Tomorrow morning I will head to the O’Hare airport with my parents driving me there in my car with my wonderful IPass. I finished most of my packing last night and finalized it tonight. I have exactly no room to take anything else with me. 1 large suitcase to check weighing in at 50 lbs in and one to carry on weighing in at 13lbs. I also have my backpack with reading materials – mostly books to learn Russian.

I have my money, caries my US passport and my World Citizen Passport, gastritis as well as a bit of spending money, physician and an older IPod Nano to keep me company.

I am excited and very much looking forward to this trip. I will be able to see my wife after about 2 months of separation while she has been working on finishing her degree there. While I will be driving tomorrow she will be taking her final General Exams. I will get to see our close friends and my in-laws for the first time in two years. =)

World Citizen – At Last!

With the potential of going to Belarus under questionable political circumstances I have broken down and filed to be a World Citizen. I have wanted to do this for a really, click really long time, approved but could not justify the expense. Now, there is some reason and possible use for the documents provided by the World Service Authority (WSA).

The WSA can provide a Passport, Identification Card, Birth Certificate as well as other documents relevant to your identity and travel ability – their service is used heavily by refugees. I have filed for the aforementioned documents as well as a few others. For people, especially Americans, that are traveling abroad to places where Americans might not be looked kindly upon, an extra, or camouflage passport, is something that can help ensure our safety.

The WSA was founded by Gary Davis September 4, 1953 based on the 1948 United Nations document called the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights‘, specifically articles 13, 14, and 15. Give it a read. It is not too painful and is really relevant in today’s world.

To Go Or Not To Go – to Belarus

Politics and a Trip to Belarus

So, information pills the wife is in Belarus for 3 months and I am planning on going there for a month to attend the wedding of a close friend and then spend time in Belarus with my in-laws and our friends there. I am really looking forward it, this since it has been quite a while since I have been there.

I am faced with some annoying facts while planning a trip to Belarus. The U.S. government has currently frozen the assets of a Belarussian oil company there as a show of unhappiness towards the imprisoning of the the opposition leader during the last completely corrupted and farce of an election. (In Response to Sanctions, Belarus Seeks to Oust U.S. Envoy: WP March 8, 2008)

In retaliation for that the Belarussian government has demanded that the U.S. embassy in Minsk have its staff reduced down to a level equal to or less than that of the their embassy in the U.S.. The U.S. has also basically closed down the embassy and is not issuing any visas. (Belarus wants U.S. embassy staff cut to seven: Reuters April 2, 2008)

Will their be a second string of maneuvers and counter-maneuvers and how will it affect me, and other U.S. citizens making their way to Belarus. Will I be in danger due to Belarus’ corrupt government?

A Visa to Belarus

For more information on Visas and Belarus check my previous post on December 15, 2005.

So, now I gather the things that I need for a tourist visa (a passport picture, passport, a visa application form and a check) for a month long trip to Belarus. As long as I am there for less than 30 days I do not need an invitation and can get a standard tourist visa. Tanya is arranging to get an invitation ready for me in case I need one while I am there. Specifically, if she or I have issues with leaving the country due to political or immigration issues. Wish me luck! =)

The FedEx Experience – Part II

I had previously reported on my first experience calling to FedEx and that was very positive. I am just going to update that a little bit.

I called to check on something and there was naught a warm transfer to be found. =( So my basic impression of FedEx customer service will go back to ‘just another customer support line – nothing special’.

Trip to Cancun (Day 6 of 9; Thursday)

To put this a little in perspective I watched the first three Aliens movies this week and I think I was sitting a few rows too close to the front. I had heard a little bit about the plot online – specifically that it breaks from canon a little bit.

Aliens vs Predator: Requiem was fun to watch. The character action of the humans did not detract for me as some have said. There were plenty of Aliens to look at and a prominent Predator. They introduced some new Predator technology (as far as I know) which was cool. I cannot say that it wowed me but it was fun to watch. The ending had me asking a question. I am hoping that they did not do that so that they had room to make a sequel. They have not found someone to do either the Alien or Predator franchise real justice since the orignals.

The original Predator movie rocked. I played the original ‘AVP: Aliens vs Predator’ game as a Predator and loved it. The PG-13 ‘AVP: Aliens vs Predator’ movie was fun to watch, page but it was PG-13; need I say more. ‘Predator 2’ was decent and the ending was interesting. The first 3 Alien movies were tense and great.

Today is spa day. We arranged for a day to go check out a not so local spa as a benefit for checking out the Time Share crap. The van leaves the hotel at 09:30 (9:30am). We got up, sales showered, opisthorchiasis
ate breakfast, malady
and then went down to wait for our transportation. The small van arrived a little early and we left at about 09:45 (9:45am).

This van ride was quite long and was past where the snorkeling trip was the previous day. It was long bus ride (over 40 minutes), but we arrived without any problems. Once we got there we were ushered out of the van and brought into the front desk where we signed in. They brought forth a person to give us a tour and show us what all is available for us to enjoy in their 3 floor building.

Building Description

Waterfall in lobby of a Cancun Spa.

Waterfall in lobby of a Cancun Spa.

The first floor was the front desk, and it had a cave like motif to it. There was as 3 floor water fall in the lobby area which was really cool to see. The open courtyard/lobby/front desk area also had rock wall to climb, but it not look like it was open for business. They also had a nice hot pool here. A small garden was outside that you could walk in.

The second floor had their really large and labyrinthine bathrooms/changing room/private male only/female only jacuzzi/whirlpool/lounge area, as well as a small lounge, dry hot and cold saunas, as well as massage rooms (which were extra).

The third floor had pool with a jacuzzi on the roof as well deck side hammocks and comfy chairs. They last thing that was on the roof was a healthy restaurant.

Our Day

We started by going to change. We went to our respect bathroom areas. This area was huge and I really got lost in it. The bathroom stalls looked just like the shower stalls. They had nice half lockers made of wood with keys that were in a strap for you to take. The private spa there was nice and big with jacuzzi and sauna for only men. I changed and then went out to meet the wife to start touring the first floor.

Hot Bubbly Pool at Spa

We went down to the main floor to take a look around. Our first stop was the pool. The pool was really warm especially with our sunburns as bad as they were. We were quite a bit temperature sensitive at this point. It took us a little bit of time to get in but once we did it was really, really warm. The side nearest to door had a jacuzzi like thing going on and a bed of bars that you could lay on so that you could just lay there and enjoy the bubbles. That was really relaxing. The far side had three really small waterfalls or streams of water flowing from the wall.

Next, we started by checking out the dry cool sauna. It used menthol to cool the air and to tighten your pores. It was interesting. I cannot say much more than that as it did not effect me so very much. Tanya liked it a lot.

We then went to the dry hot sauna. I do not remember what they used for this, I think it was mint based somehow. It may have just been hot rocks. This, as the cool sauna, was not so intense as I was expecting. There were several tiles missing a one fell out while were sitting here.

Following that Tanya went to practice some Yoga on a covered balcony area. While she did that I read a book and relaxed. She finished practicing sooner than she would have liked because there was a little too much activity in the are for her to really concentrate. She could have locked the door and had permission to do so, but did not feel comfortable doing so.

Rooftop Paradise at Spa

Rooftop Paradise at Spa

Once we got the Yoga out of our system we went to the third floor and Tanya swam in the pool for a while. I was nursing my sunburn so I did not. I sat in a hammock and just watched her have fun swimming.

By this time we were getting really hungry and it was not too much longer before we would have to leave. We looked at a restaurant menu but decided that we would wait until we got back to eat.

We were so tired and a bit hungry by the time that we left. We were so very glad to be heading back to the hotel so we could recover from such a relaxing day. Relaxing so intensely is exhausting. We barely talked on our way back to the hotel.

When we returned to the hotel we went to eat at the buffet and then went to bed at about 20:00 (8:00pm). Not an overly exciting day to write about, but that is what happened. I suppose I could try to write in a chase scene! That would be fun. =)

The FedEx Experience

So, salve I mentioned earlier that the Royal Holiday people in Hyatt in Cancun told us that we should take the Royal Holiday welcome package back to the US since we had to send it back to their home office in Miami.

I sent the materials back through our local Mailboxes Etc… (who were really great) via FedEx back to Cancun. Eventually a FedEx rep called me saying that the recipients were not going to pay the customs taxes and that I need to contact them.

I called their offices via the number that they left on my voice mail and talked to their agent who was really knowledgeable and friendly. It turns out that I will need to pay the customs import tax and that the Mexican customs agents will not charge directly to a credit card and that I would need to setup a FedEx account. The agent ‘warm transferred‘ me to their accounts person.

For those of you who do not know what a ‘warm transfer‘ is I will let you know. I worked for At&T Worldnet and At&T Business Dial technical support each for a year, and only in the Business Dial did we do warm transfers. Warm Transfers are where you put the customer on hold, call up the place where you need to transfer the customer, talk to the agent to inform them what is going on and so they can pull up their account, conference in the customer and let them know the name of the agent and that they will handle their issue from here.

Warm transfers are very nice and rare to see in this day and age, and that is a shame. They are reassuring and ensure that their is less confusion and less time wasted for everyone. I wish more business would do this.

So, my experience, as limited as it was, with FedEx was great. Oh, and Warm Transfers Rock!!

Edit: Follow-up review The FedEx experience Part II.

Trip to Cancun (Day 5 of 9; Wednesday)

Crabhouse Restaurant

Crabhouse Restaurant

Today we finally had the chance to go snorkeling. This was the one tour that we had the money to do. We, order on purpose, did not bring a lot of money on this trip. Hopefully, if we are able to come again, we will bring more money as there are so many, many other things we would like to do while we are here.

We had to be at the Crab House which was about a 10 minute bus ride from our hotel to meet the tour peeps that would be taking us to the snorkeling point. We woke up at about 06:00 (6:00am) to get showered, eat breakfast at the buffet, and get there. This is way too early to get up on a vacation. 09:00 (9:00am)is good for me. Uggghhh!

Snorkeling

Who is this snorkeling?

Who is this snorkeling?

We finished getting ready by collecting the disposable underwater camera that we bought in the US and our swimming suits, then we were off to the Crab House. We arrived about 07:35 (7:35am) which was well before the meeting time. We waited and got a little antsy at about 07:50 (7:30am) and and asked someone near by if they knew anything about this and they did not. Right about then this empty tour bus arrived and it looked suspiciously like it could be ours. We asked the man and ‘woo hoo’ this was it. We got on the bus and waited for what was to be about 13 other people that were to join us. By about 08:10 (8:10am) everyone was on board and we were off to snorkeling. I think just about every person on the bus was American.

The bus ride to the Punta Maroma area, which was near Playa del Carmen, if I remember correctly, and took about 45 minutes to get there. This was a long bus ride. The seats were comfortable enough and so was the company, but we were antsy and wanting to get the fun started. Both of us were really looking forward to swimming in the sea and seeing all sorts of aquatic critters up close, and a bus ride was not our idea of relaxing or seeing the aquatic critters. Enough of the whining already. =)

Eventually we got there and they got us all together and had us sign the waivers and pay the ‘Reef Tax‘ which was about $2 a person. Then we had to wait by a beach side restaurant for 15 really long minutes before they were ready for us, at which time they went over all of the safety and other required verbiage. Finally, the 20 or so or us made our way onto the uneven pier and to the neat looking trimaran which is a sail boat with three protruding outrigger hulls.

Our trip would take us to two 40 minute snorkeling stops along what I think is the Belize Barrier Reef around Punta Maroma. We all loaded up into the trimaran and were given our mask/snorkel, flippers, and life vest and were told to sit down and enjoy the ride. Tanya and I laid down and stretched out to get ourselves some sun. This part was nothing overly special for me as I was on a carrier in the Navy and saw plenty of open blue water. Tanya enjoyed the view a lot.

A school of white bodied and yellow tailed fish at the Belize Barrier Reef near Punta Maroma, Mexico.

A school of white bodied and yellow tailed fish at the Belize Barrier Reef near Punta Maroma, Mexico.

We stopped for our first snorkeling point and we all jumped into the water (or climbed down the and ladder) and began to look at the wondrous underwater world full of fish, corral and other beautiful things. It was so very beautiful and serene. Breathing out of the snorkel and not breathing in water took some practice to get used to it.

Small school of yellowish fish at the Belize Barrier Reef near Punta Maroma, Mexico.

Small school of yellowish fish at the Belize Barrier Reef near Punta Maroma, Mexico.

I have never seen so many fish like this. With the fins you could swim fast and you would like to reach out and touch them, but they can sense your bioelectric field or a change in water pressure as you approach and they move just out of your reach. It was a lot of tiring fun.

By the end of the first dive Tanya had used up pretty much all of the film in the camera we brought. We were tired from all of the swimming, but you do not really notice it until you have a chance to rest because you are caught up in the moment: the water, the mask, the fish, and not wanting to miss anything. We went to the second snorkeling point, and swam, and looked. It was a very good work out and by the end of the second one I was done for the day. =) Snorkeling is a lot of fun and breathtaking in more ways than one.

The Post-Snorkeling Night

After we finished we were whipped and were very quiet on the ride back. They were so kind as to have small van/bus thingy take us straight to our hotel. Yea! We dragged out feet into the entrance. I almost tripped on one the steps as we went in to the hotel. Once we get upstairs to our room we took a shower.

Market 28

As if tiring ourselves out from snorkeling was not enough we decided to head out to down town Cancun to Market 28 to check out what they have and to see what the bartering is like. Why is it called Market 28? I am not sure. I assume that is has to do with the street or neighbor hood name or address or something.

In Belarus, when Tanya was young, her and her brother sold things at a market there and they bartered, but what they did there was quite a bit different than what is done here. In Belarus they give their price and you can go down a little bit from there, and I mean a little bit. Here You can almost cut the price in half and possibly still have room to work with. Tanya was frustrated and did not like it so much because it was very different from what she was used to – a whole different frame of mind that is hard for her to wrap her beautiful little mind around. We spent a little time just getting a taste for it and then we went home. We were both tired and a little cranky from all of the swimming, walking, heat, and bus rides.

Tai Restaurant in the Oasis Palm Beach"
Tai Restaurant

We made our reservation early in the morning and were quite ready to eat by this time. We were quite hungry especially from our busy day swimming and walking.

Mexican Party Band

They had a Mexican cover/party band that sang all sort of songs American and Mexican and was hoping to get people out there to dance, and some did. We did for a little bit, but in our tired state it was not for too long. Tanya met a Belarussian couple there who is there in Cancun for their sixth trip. They talked for a little bit. The band was alright they sang well, but there was nothing really special or that stood out with them. They were also, unfortunately, plagued with some technical difficulties with which they were annoyed with, but they eventually got that settled.

Gargling Contest

In the middle of the band’s break the hotel entertainment crew started a small contest. They picked 4 girls out from the crowd to perform a gargling contest. They specifically picked my wife and introduced her as the reigning champion, seeming as she won the last contest they had – the little dance contest, as well as 3 other girls. All 4 had to gargle Tequila to the lyrics of ‘La Cucaracha’. Tanya one this as well. She was really the only one where you could really tell the song. Have I mentioned that my wife rocks? If I haven’t – She does.