Friday, October 25, 2013

Another Week, Another Trip Abroad...

25.X.13
Kristen says...

Well, for me anyway...tomorrow I'm off to a training in Germany, lucky me!

Today we had our Consulate Halloween party, which was lots of fun, and I got to re-use my flapper costume from Honduras! (Of course I don't have any pictures of me in it...the problem of being the photographer!) :)

I made what I think are some of the most adorable (and EASY!) Halloween treats...
Seriously, just add frosting eyes to Meringue cookies...so easy, so cute!
Witch's hats... :)

Chris also had a costume...kind of :)
I'm not sure there are words to describe how much I absolutely love this man.
Anyway, I need to be packing (or sleeping, one of the two), but hopefully I'll be able to squeeze in a small post from Germany! :)

KF

Thursday, October 17, 2013

We're Back...China was GREAT!


18.X.13
Kristen says...

Well, we had a wonderful 4-day weekend, in Hong Kong!

Neither Chris nor I had ever been to China before, but I lived for a while in the UK, so I was interested to see what was leftover from British rule...
Post office box with ERII
Looking the "wrong way" on the roads
 And then there were the things that were so clearly Chinese influenced:
Fish drying on the side of the road...
Those poor ducks look uncomfortable...
And of course the carryovers that have been given their own Hong Kong flavor (literally):
Hong Kong Style Milk Tea on the right, English style milk tea on the left...yummy!

We had a lot of fun on our first day exploring the city.
We saw the Man Mo Temple:
(under construction, unfortunately)
Lanterns
More lanterns and incense burners
Shrine within the temple
Markets: Food market, Temple Street Night Market, Fabric floor at the Western Market:



Parks: Possession Point and Hong Kong Park
Chris on the foot reflexology pad in Possession Point
Tai Chi in Hong Kong Park
Flagstaff Museum of Teaware in Hong Kong Park
View from the Hong Kong Park
We were also really excited about some general features of the city:
Trash cans everywhere--Hong Kong was so clean! There were even public litter boxes for dogs!
The only "Western" food chain we have in Vlad is Cinnabon, so I was so very happy to see the Golden Arches...we also ate at Outback Steakhouse and the Hard Rock Cafe. I would have felt guilty if I still lived in the States, but I couldn't pass up a Blooming Onion!!
We even managed to catch an Iowa State game on TV!! (it was a rerun, and unfortunately they lost, but...still. Good times!)

Later that day we met up with some State Department friends from Honduras who are now stationed just a few hours away from Hong Kong in China. We decided to take advantage of the Columbus Day weekend (and my 30th birthday!), as well as a direct flight from Vlad to HK to see them and meet their adorable son! This was our second birthday-weekend international trip with them, and it was GREAT to see them again!!


The next day we all traveled together to the Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery, which are located just outside the city.

Before you get there you pass through, of all things, an outlet mall...
Funny, we found the Chris store!
One of only two pictures of Chris and I during this trip...oops!
 Then you have the choice to take the bus or a gondola up the mountain.

We arrived to got up in the early afternoon, which of course was peak tourist time, so we opted for the shorter line of the bus. It was maybe a 30 minute trip, so nothing terrible, and we got to see some nice beaches and pretty countryside. It actually reminded all of us of our time in Honduras!

Once you arrive at the top you walk through a courtyard of statues featuring gods of different times of the day, as well as different Chinese years. Chris and I are "Year of the Boar," so here is our god:
Picture 2 of us...and that's it! :)
 Unfortunately the Monastery was closed for refurbishment but we were still able to go up and see the world's largest outdoor Buddha:
You can see how amazing the Monastery will be in just a few months...such vivid colors!
It was a loooong way up...and pretty warm, too!

A shrine between the Monastery and the Buddha
We were there at just the wrong time of day for the lighting, but it was still really spectacular to see.
The crowds were a bit thinner on the way back down, so we opted for the gondola trip...and not just any gondola, but a glass-bottomed one!

One of our last views of the Buddha...amazing
The gondola was definitely worth the price of admission!
 The next day we hopped the plane back to Vlad (and had to endure about a 40° temperature drop upon arrival...brrr!! It really is fall here in Vlad!) but we had a wonderful long weekend in China!
The view from the 32nd Floor
It looks like we might have some more international travel coming up in the coming weeks...I'll keep you posted, and hopefully have some more fun information from Vladivostok soon, too! :)

KF

Monday, October 7, 2013

Planning a Little Trip... :)

7.X.13
Kristen says...

We are planning a little trip... I'm not telling you where we're going, but I'll tell you all about it when we get back. :)

To keep you occupied while you're wondering, here is one of the funniest things I've found since being in Russia:
 Needless to say, that egg did not get eaten! :)

Have a great week! :)

KF

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tiger Day! (День Тигра)

1.X.13
Kristen says...

As promised, I finally get to write about Tiger Day! :)

In case you didn't know, (and to be honest, I didn't know before moving here) the Amur Tiger (probably better known as the Siberian Tiger) is native to this part of the world! It is, like all tigers, critically endangered...

Luckily the people of Vladivostok seem more than committed to protecting the few wild tigers left in the forests surrounding the city (yes, theoretically I could see a real tiger, in the wild, if I sat out in the forest long enough...I could, but I won't...I don't like sitting in the forest that well!)

Hence, Tiger Day!
 The bulk of the event was held in the central square of the city (fittingly, although you can't see it well on the side of the tall white building on the left, the tiger-clad crest of the city overlooked the Tiger Day celebration).

I took the bus downtown (Chris was down and out with a respiratory infection, poor guy) and was immediately assailed with people in all stages of "tiger dress" (and, in true Russian fashion, basically any other big cat-like clothing people could obtain.)

The festivities were marked by tents manned by various tiger-supporting organizations, including the Phoenix Fund and WWF. Both organizations were selling items to raise money for tiger support:
WWF T-shirt: "Save the Tiger Together!"
Around noon most of the people dressed as tigers, lions, leopards, and various other nature-y motifs converged a block or so away from the central square and started a very long, VERY tiger-y parade.

Here are some of the highlights:

Tigers made of various materials being carried on supporters' shoulders:
The characters from Avatar!?
It was like a Chinese dragon...only it was a Vladivostokian Tiger!
I vote this one the coolest of the day...what a wonderful way yo use old boxes!
Another Chinese dragon-esque tiger
It reminds me of a National Geographic magazine cover
There were quite a few tigers made out of bunches of balloons:


And surrounded by balloons
Can you spot the famous face in the crowd?

There were also some very impressive signs:


Some signs were even in languages I can read!


And (as promised above,) people dressed as tigers:

And other animals in need of protection:

Actually, for it being "Tiger Day", there were quite a few other endangered animals represented as well:

After the parade the city hosted a cheer-leading competition (yeah, I didn't see the connection either), sidewalk (ok, central square) decorating:

The motorized vehicles are a regular weekend attraction in many parts of Vladivostok--parents can rent the vehicles for their children to play with...kind of a cute idea, really.
There were other activities for kids, too...like a makeshift skateboarding park and this:

The premise seemed to be that kids in a harness swung back and forth, kicking off of the Harry Potter balloon...again, what it had to do with Tiger Day I don't know, but it looked kind of fun...

So that was Tiger Day. As you can tell, the weather was beautiful, which was really great...it's supposed to be cold and raining tomorrow, and I've been assured we will see snow before the end of the month...yikes! Winter is coming too quickly!

KF