Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!!

Reading is fundamental...

Papa is reading to me but I'm looking at the camera!!
I love books. Today I said the word "book" and my mama and papa got very's the little things that keep them happy. Love Grace

Modern city

There are about 250,000 people in this town. What does the city look like, you ask? Imagine a city built during the Soviet era sixties and seventies. Did you imagine gray cement? You are correct. Most of the buildings are flat gray buildings on the initial look. We live in the Semey Hotel a 5 story gray building. There are no more then a handful of buildings taller. I would say 10-12 stories is as tall as you get. It is funny when we first got here we saw nothing but flat gray buildings but the more we get around we see some pink and orange color. We see blue and gold colors. We see some buildings with architectural interest with columns or window frames. We also see many very old wooden structures that have great craftsmanship in the doilies on the eves and over doors. Many of these structures look run down but you can tell that in is heyday this down was quite beautiful and it still is. Many of the apartments in the center of town are named after the Soviet leader who was there at the time of Kennedy. They are very nice looking on the outside. On the inside they were built to accommodate as many families as possible so they are quite small. It looks like every one lives in apartments here, except for the few newly rich, those who acquired wealth by being in the position of power when the soviet wall came down. According to one local’s theory. They city is littered with little parks and big parks. Our hotel is at the eastern end of victory park. Dedicated to the locals who fought in World War Two. They still light a flame on May 9th the day after the war was over for the Soviets. It is a very nice memorial It is interesting that they shoveled the center of the park where there is a square and the place for the flame. But they did not shovel the paths leading to the center. In an other park in the city center they did the same thing. The whole square is shoveled. Both parks have trees and grass on the edges but the center is all cement block. I am sure it looks beautiful during the summer. Maybe we will come back then. One other statue we saw was dedicated to the locals who fought in Afghanistan 1979-1989. One was a boy that was taught by our interpreter when she was part of 5th grade class. It is sad to see the name of a person you know on a memorial monument.
Overall the city has grown on us. We are able to communicate better and better every day. We see the buaty that surrounds us. We also see the potential and wish we could buy and renovate every empty building in town. I am looking few a few partners with plenty of cash…we’ll make a killing… more on economics of the city later.

City tour

On Sunday we went on a tour of the city of Semey. The city was founded by the army of Peter the great in 1718 as a fortress. The army that defended the fort were the Cossacks from west Russia. Semey was a walled in city with a gate facing the river. The river is the Irtish, it flows from China in the east to Russia to the north. A replica gate has been built to show where the original city wall was. Near the gate the Semey people had a magnificent bridge built connecting the industrial West or left bank to the residential/business right bank. It is the only suspension bridge in the former soviet union countries. The called it the Golden Gate Bridge of the Steppes. I looks like it might be as big as the Golden Gate. Tricia I let you know if I get to walk over it.
We are told that the Japanese built the bridge. People are very proud of the bridge.
The river itself is pretty big. We were told it was much wider and deeper in the past. It has a park along the right bank. It looks like a great place to be in the summer. There are gazebos and paths and trees. It is nice. At one point we went to the Semey University right along the river and in the court yard they have these statues. About 20-25 of them. All dominated by a 4 story tall statue of Lenin. All of the other statues are people from the Soviet times. Plus one of Marx. At the time of the fall of Russia the Mayor of Semey decided to gather all of the Soviet era Statues. He did not want to destroy them just keep them for historical purposes in one area. Many older people were not happy about this. They wanted them to remain in the center of the city. The older folks are still not thrilled that the Soviets life is gone. I’ll talk economics at another time.
Another park we went to was a memorial to the local victims of nuclear testing done by the Soviets. It was dedicated in 1999; 50 years after the 1st test explosion. The soviets did all of there testing right outside of Semey. The above ground testing were stopped after the people of the area held “Nevada” rallies to protest the tests. From 1963 to 1987 the tests were under ground. The monument is 20 stories tall with black marble shell representing the belief that the testing was justified to protect the soviet union. The inner part is rough stone in the shape of a mushroom cloud. At the base within the hollow cloud is a statue of a mother protecting her child. It is a very moving memorial. Next to it is a Traditional Kazakh wish tree. Where you place a piece of cloth on the tree and make a wish. There are 100s of thousands pieces of cloth on the tree. We added ours and gave the wish to our kids.
The last stop was to the Abay (sp?) statue. He is the Shakespeare of the Kazakh people. He died in 1904. He wrote great wisdom and tolerance at a time when there was cultural unrest. He is recognized by UNESCO as an important world literary figure. More if we have time.

Lunch time at the ranch.

Mama only feeds me in her lab coat.
Today I am eating Baked eggs and curds. And that cup of kafiel. I don't like to drink from the cup. I just recently came off the bottle...I still prefer the bottle. I was on my best behavior today no spitting or throwing food. I am saving that for when we get home. See you later. Michael.