Friday, July 19, 2013

A Train Trip to the Airport and Back...For No Reason at All!

Kristen says...

Last weekend was GORGEOUS!

Check out this view from our apartment:
(Sadly, this weekend is going to be crazy-rainy and cold!)
  Luckily, Chris and I were able to take full advantage of the lovely weather with a train trip to the airport and back.

 This may not seem like that big of a deal, but the airport is actually located 44 km outside of the city, so it takes a bit of doing to get there and back.

Believe it or not there are many ways to get to the Vladivostok airport:
   -get in your car and drive (it's between a 40 minute to 1 hr drive, depending on traffic)
   -take a taxi (same length of time, but it costs upwards of $30 both ways)
   -take the bus (cheaper but much more public, and it only runs 10 times/day)
   -take the new, lovely Aeroexpress train!
Which is what Chris and I did last weekend.

Of course, we weren't flying anywhere (sniff) but we enjoyed the ride, anyway!

 There are two basic fares to the airport; standard class is 200 Ruble (around $6), business class is 350 Ruble (around $11).

 We decided to take business class (why not!), which was lovely. We were almost the only people in the car both on the way to the airport and back.

 Since it was such a lovely day we had clear views of the lovely Russian countryside (and coastline!):
A bay
Not sure what this is...could be a place to practice driving, or motocross rink, or...??
Another train
A pretty pier
Another (more functional) pier
The new stadium! Local basketball and hockey teams coming soon...
A Russian dacha (country home)
More dachas
The road to the airport! :)
 Forty-eight minutes later we arrived.

We saw both the new airport:

 And the old one:
 The funniest part was that the trains arrive with about 12 minutes leeway before they take off back to we had just enough time to go into the airport, buy our return ticket, and head back to the train before it took off again. I'm pretty sure the ticket people on the train thought we were crazy Americans!

 When we got back to town we walked back to the city center (probably 3 city blocks) to take the bus back home and saw my favorite of all the statues in Vladivostok:
Yul Brynner--one of Vladivostok's favorite sons!
 Yes, the actor Yul Brynner was born in Vladivostok, and his statue stands just a block or so away from the train station! What a hunk! :) (His son, Rock, comes to Vladivostok almost every year in September for the Vladivostok Film Festival--hopefully I'll get to meet him this year!)

 We also saw the pretty downtown "square" in's amazing how different it looks now than it looked when we first got here!



Friday, July 12, 2013

Happy Independence Day (better late than never)!

Kristen says...

 It's summer in Vladivostok! I wouldn't have believed it when we arrived in January, but I am writing this wearing SHORTS and a t-shirt!!

Sailboats! Blue skies! Green trees!
 It's amazing how many times we celebrated Independence day this year, considering we weren't even in the US for the holiday... :)

 The big day was officially a day off for both Chris and I, but we had an official visitor in town for an international security conference, so we both ended up going in to work...Chris in his official capacity, me as of our colleagues had lost a button on his suit coat, so I was enlisted to fix it. :)

 The Consulate's official Independence Day Celebration was originally supposed to have been held on the 5th of July, but ended up being moved because of the visit, and since the actual day was a busy one for the employees of the Consulate, we decided to postpone our unofficial celebration as well.

 That celebration came a little earlier than the official one, however, it was just two days later. It was strongly reminiscent of our Memorial Day celebration with one big difference: no GAS in a can! :)
 Instead, on a tip from a Russian co-worker, we soaked the charcoal (natural stuff, not briquettes like we're used to in the US) in lighter fluid for a few minutes (hence the bucket) before setting it on fire!
It worked like a dream!
No blowtorch necessary! :)
 Of course, there were still some the fact that the Weber grill we used last time fell apart and was unusable this time we had to make do with a large shashlik (think shish-kabaobs) grill with the round Weber grill top:
Crude, but effective!
The Weber lid came in handy too:

 Later, after the charcoal (lighter fluid) started to die down we put sausages right on the coals...we also cooked some corn on the cob in the coals. Yum!

 That, of course, was the small, unofficial celebration...the Consulate's Official Celebration was held yesterday, and I'm still recovering!

I was "in charge" of decorations for the event, which was fun...and time consuming!!

A large part of that time was consumed by this pile of fabric:
 The venue for the event is two levels--the entryway has 7 square columns holding up the event space above. So, of course, I decided we needed to cover them. And, even more of course, the ready-made column covers we ordered were out of stock. SO, we ordered 120+ feet of patriotic fabric, and I spent FOUR hours this week cutting, ironing, and hemming the column covers!

It was a lot of work, but it was really worth it! The entryway looked awesome (in my opinion)! :)
 The upstairs was a nice, big room with a balcony and some railings. Our theme was San Fransisco (often compared to Vlad because of the hills, bridges, and fog!), so we hung pictures of the city from the balcony and gave out Ghirardelli chocolate to the guests as they left.

Here is a glance at the upstairs part of the venue:
Note the pictures hanging from the balcony and the Welcome to San Fransisco sign to the left...
 I didn't get to take pictures during the event because I was busy in the greeting line and then pushing chocolate on people as they left (easiest. job. ever!) but if you click here you can see our Consulate Facebook page with lots of lovely pictures! I especially like the bell and toothpick table decorations (and no, that's not a chocolate bell, it was made completely out of foil). The cake was multi-layer with dried and fresh fruits and chocolate in-between the layers. Interesting.

It was really cool to be part of a foreign official celebration of our country's birthday!

Last week was also the 153rd birthday of Vladivostok, so there were a lot of city celebrations and a World Record for the Largest Human Flag set! Pretty awesome stuff!