Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Summer work

The girls wanted iPods this summer, so we provided them with the means of earning the necessary funds (the little guy just liked being out where the action was). They worked hard throughout the summer and both reached their goals: one iPod Shuffle and one Nano (and two very proud parents). 

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

At the lake

Summer wouldn't be complete without our annual day trip to Lake Minnetonka with family.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Taylors Falls

We have a long family history with Taylors Falls on the St. Croix River. My great great grandfather came to MN in 1878 to teach at settlements located along the river and settled himself nearby in Lindstrom, MN. His daughter, my great grandmother, tells a story that one night while walking from Taylors Falls to Lindstrom, her father was trailed by a large cougar. My grandfather recalls riding a sled to school in wintertime in Taylors Falls during the Depression, and walking it back uphill at the end of each day. My father camped, hiked, and motorcycled all through the area. 

As a child I remember visiting regularly to explore the huge potholes with my cousins. In high school I came with carloads of friends to go cliff jumping into the river, which is now illegal. This summer I took my own children to Taylors Falls to go rock climbing.

My brother is an experienced climber and he coached my girls, who were in the club d'escalade at school this year and chomping at the bit to climb.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Summer pace

When we signed up for life abroad, it marked the end of slow-paced summers. Now it's the only time we have to reconnect with stateside family and friends, so we have a lot of ground to cover. It is rare that we sleep in one place for more than 7 nights in a row.

For the first few years I tried, unsuccessfully, to simplify and slow things down; but I have come to accept it for what it is. We run it like a marathon, taking in every moment so that it will sustain us for the year ahead.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Moving On

Early on we were alerted to the possibility of completing our tour in Georgia in leisurely style aboard the ocean liner Queen Mary 2; we set our hearts upon it and made it happen. The ship departs from Southampton, England (the same point of departure for such epic voyages as the Mayflower and the Titanic) and 8 days later arrives in New York City. 

We thoroughly enjoyed the ship and all its varied amenities, but were surprised by the mostly cold, damp, and extremely windy passage. The few sunny days were spent outside and were fully documented.

Mealtime was a grand affair. Each night had a different theme and formal dress code. We mostly enjoyed dressing up but had the possibility to dine elsewhere when the formality became wearisome . . . which it did. Part way through the week I had an odd epiphany when I realized that no one was taking selfies during mealtime. Of the approximately 2600 passengers on board, the vast majority was over age 55. It was like taking a journey back in time to a bygone era.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Last night in Georgia

Eating at the newly opened Hard Rock Cafe Tbilisi.

We may have gone a bit overboard with the souvenirs.

Our last night in Georgia. Everything starts to speed up toward the end. This spring I often found myself looking out the window as we would drive through town, with the soundtrack of life playing in my head; and it'd be like that part of the movie after the protagonist has triumphed over the main obstacle and the story just speeds along with clipped scenes, overlaid with upbeat but conclusive music.

The Georgia we are leaving is not the same Georgia in which we arrived. On the positive side we have noticed much better supply chain management, improved roads and highways, and a general cleaning up of the city where before there was graffiti (of the dilapidated paper variety) everywhere -- litter is an ongoing problem. Many of the old abandoned buildings that have sat vacant for years are being torn down and new development is going up. There has been a deluge of Western-style development that has changed the face of Tbilisi. New shopping malls, grocery store chains, movie theaters, amusement parks, coffee and donut shops, American-chain pizza delivery and fast food restaurants, specialty restaurants, "Georgian-fusion" cuisine, city tour buses, an expanded and better developed tourism industry, and even a Hard Rock Cafe (what?!) have all popped up where before there was nothing of the kind. It's all happening so fast, I hope, truly, for the best for Georgia.

We are not the same people we were when we arrived. It is harder to quantify how we have changed, but, most obviously, we are now a French-speaking family, we are professional packers and travelers, and we are veteran expats. We've gained greater skill navigating the vicissitudes of life, we have an unmistakably clear understanding of what a privileged life we lead, and we have experienced firsthand the joys and tensions of cultural exchange. Our world-view has expanded.

These skills should serve us well, because it looks like we will be doing the expat thing for the foreseeable future. We are off to another post, another life, another reinventing of self and family. We go home to America for the summer, but next fall we begin anew in Moscow, Russia.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Last Sunday

The latest primary song to be translated into Georgian, for your viewing pleasure. 

There is so much to say about our time in the Avlabari Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more than I could ever write in a few paragraphs. Lots of blood, sweat and tears were spent. To sum it up: We had a mission, we worked hard, and the departure was bittersweet.

We will continue to look on with great interest and anticipation at the growth and progress of our tiny branch.

Summer work

The girls wanted iPods this summer, so we provided them with the means of earning the necessary funds (the little guy just liked being ...

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