Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sleeping with the Enemy

Ever since their mother and brother went home with Lina, the kittens have taken to sleeping with us.  I use the term sleeping loosely here as it usually consists of about 90 minutes of rough and tumble play before they settle down.  They run up and down our bodies, jump from one to the other and wrestle in the trough between us.  Once in awhile they run up to our shoulders, peer into our faces as if to say, "Aren't you asleep yet?  Are we keeping you awake?" Then they fall asleep between our feet and get booted awake if we roll over or get up in the night.

Three days ago they learned to sleep on a chair beside the bed as they are disturbed less in THEIR sleep.  But if I get up in the night, they wake up and come back to bed with us and play. At 3:00 am, this is not as cute as at 10:00 pm.  Tigritsa then will fall asleep on my pillow while Bonifatsi (Bonya) sleeps on Tanya's feet.  They have decided who belongs to which.

Bonya has been Tanya's baby since his mother went home and he climbed up on Tanya's shoulder, buried his face in her cheek and mewed himself to sleep.  Tigritsa knows I will rescue her when she gets into someplace she is afraid to get out of.

Bonya yesterday climbed up the carpet and then onto the big armoire in our bedroom.  Then he climbed back down again. Tigritsa decided to try it herself today; she made it to the the top of the armoire but was afraid to get down.  So she mewed and Bonya came running to the rescue.  He climbed up and showed her how to get from the top of the armoire to the top of the carpet roll.  No deal. So I had to rescue her.  Tanya says if the kittens continue to play up there she will never have to dust it again.

They have a little rattle ball they play Keep-Away with.  Tigritsa took it upstairs and they played fine until the ball went between the bannisters at the top of the stairwell and fell down over 2 meters, followed by Bonya in hot pursuit (we've now blocked it with a cushion). He was momentarily shaken but no harm done.  I wrote him off as the not-bright-one until Tigritsa went roaring out into the passageway to the outbuilding when I opened the door and promptly fell down the sump hole.  Bonya I could excuse, but she knew the sump hole was there, having played there a few times before.

How do I get down?

Am I glad to see you!

What is SHE doing?

Our sleeping chair

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Masha Graduates from the Fourth Class

Today was graduation day for the Class fours at Masha's school.  All four rooms and over 100 kids of them.  Each room had their own grad exercises and we were treated to 1 hour and 45 minutes of non-stop dancing, singing, skits, poems and general carryings on, followed by the handing out of diplomas and class pictures.

Every kid had several parts in the activities and each one performed well.  Solo performances, small and full group performances...the kids and the teacher(s) went all out.  When one of the mom's on behalf of the parents thanked her, the teacher broke down and cried.

You see, she had been with this room full of kids since they started school four years ago and they were like family to her.  She will be starting with a whole new grou of kids next fall.  And this is the last time the children  will be together as a class, because now some of them will be going to different schools.

Masha's marks were good enough and she passed the entrance exam to go to the Zholti Vody Gymnasium, (which for non-Europeans, is a Social Sciences, Education, Languages and Literature prep school).  Other classmates will no doubt join her there. Another group excelling in math and sciences will go to the Zholti Vody Lytsee.  (Note: Ukrainian usage of the terms may not match German or French usage).

The remaining students will be regrouped into fewer rooms. Next year and in the years following those who make the grade or make up their mind, may also apply to the Gymnasium or Lytsee schools. And at the end of 8th class, some students will go to other schools in the system such as vocational schools.

Some of the girls performing

Masha (left) and a few class mates

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Our Gun, a Wanganui Krupp Gun Story - a Book Review

Our Gun, a Wanganui Krupp Gun Story

By Geoff Lawson

Geoff Lawson, New Zealand black powder enthusiast and restorer of old firearms, set out to restore his biggest challenge ever. Krupp Number 4, a breech loading black powder 75 mm cannon of Boer War vintage that had sat out in the weather by the Wanganui Museum for over 100 years. He realized that the gun had great historical significance to New Zealand but found no one knew much about it.  This book, the history of Krupp Number 4, is the result of his research.

Lawson is a good writer and the story moves swiftly and smoothly.  In 96 pages with many photos, illustrations and a couple of maps, Lawson conveys a great deal of information.  No words are wasted.  In the first part of the book he outlines the events that led up to the war.  Most of the book is then describes in more detail the battles in which Krupp Number 4 participated.  Having waded through Pakenham's The Boer War, I was delighted to find that Lawson did not use it as a reference, instead using several other sources.  So I learned things that were not in Pakenham's book, always a plus for me. 

Krupp Number 4 was one of a number of cannon purchased from Krupp (see Manchester's The Arms of Krupp) by Orange Free State (Oranje Vriestaat or OVS) in the build up to the Second Anglo-Boer War.  OVS artillery under the command of Major Albrecht was part of General Cronje's Boer army on the western front. 

The gun participated in initial attacks establishing the siege of Mafeking and of Kimberley. The British sent a relief force under Lt General Methuen who planned to march up the railway to Kimberly pushing the Boers out of the way.  The Boers prepared to push back and the gun went with them.

Krupp Number 4 played a role in the battles of Graspan, Modder River and Magersfontein.  Magersfontein (December 11, 1899) handed the British a severe beating. The relief force ground to a halt and the two armies sat facing each other.

The Boer War was the first foreign conflict in which Canadian, Australian and New Zealand participated.  New Zealand was the first to volunteer assistance in case of war and the first colonial troops from the Dominions to arrive in Cape Town. The Colonials made the fight a little more even as they could at least ride and shoot.

Field Marshal General Lord Roberts, now in charge of the campaign set out to relieve Kimberley by going east outflanking Cronje.  Cavalry under French, including New Zealanders, had to gain control of the river crossings.  New Zealanders participated in the battle of Klip Drift on the Modder River, arriving just in time to drive off the Boers before they could set up their defenses and were first into Kimberley.

Cronje was now trapped between Methuen and French.  He and his army, including Krupp Number 4, tried to escape to the east and got as far as Paardeberg when they were surrounded and could go no further.  After a 10 day siege ending February 27, 1900) they were forced to surrender, the beginning of the end of the war and definitely the end for Krupp Number 4.

The cannon was eventually awarded to the Fourth New Zealand Contingent by Lord Kitchener (who took over from Roberts) and arrived in NZ in 1901.

The last section of the book describes the fate of the gun in New Zealand, the decision to restore it and the restoration process (no small task in itself), as well as a full list of references and bibliography.

Lawson published the book himself so it is available only from this website:  I suggested to him that he might consider converting it to electronic format to gain a wider set of readers, though one would perhaps lose the value of full page photos. 

I would certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Boer War. It was a fascinating read and took less than two days to finish; I couldn't put it down.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Life in Ukraine - The law does not have to make any sense

We have been without a car for over five months now.  Our Kia Carens had 150,000 km on it and was in excellent condition with about $1500 worth of maintenance (mostly suspension related) plus new tires in the past year.

Front view of damage
About three weeks after his brother's untimely death, Andrei tried to make a clean sweep of it.  He and a friend were going somewhere at night in our car.  I made an agreement with him to look after maintenance, put gas in the car for his use and pay his share of repairs until he could afford to buy his own car. My Tanya was NOT in favour, let it be said, for the record.

Andrei said he was going 75 kmph and a tire blew when he was turning the corner.  That put the car into a skid which blew both tires on the driver's side and hit a tree at an angle. The front door post fortunately took most of the impact but the car is pretty much a write-off. Good thing Kias are built solid. The policeman at the scene, a friend of Andrei's, agreed and absolved him from all responsibility for the accident in his report.

Andrei had a couple of broken/cracked ribs and his left knee was badly banged up and may yet need an operation; not enough to warrant hospitalization at least.  His friend was thrown across in front of the steering wheel into the windshield, smashing his arm in three places and also breaking a vertebrae.  He was taken to hospital in Krivii Rih. Neither of them were wearing seat belts, though it is the law.

There was no insurance and even if there was it would have done us no good.  For a couple of years we carried insurance that basically would fix the car if we were not at fault.  We had one claim and by the time we made trips to Dnipropetrovsk and all the red tape, we could well have paid it out of pocket.  Saskatchewan style no-fault insurance with ample liability coverage is either unknown here or priced so high, no one uses it.

Andrei's friend had two operations in Krivii Rih to repair his arm and his back.  He is walking again but his arm did not set right and he needs further operations in Kyiv.  Andrei paid for the operations in Krivii Rih, as far as we know.  The operations in Kyiv will cost $4000.  We have no further information than that, though we have asked repeatedly.

The car was towed to P'yatikhatki. Because someone was seriously injured a criminal case was opened and professional investigation experts were called in.  In order to stop this procedure, you have to have enough money to buy off the chief prosecutor for Dnipropetrovskaya Oblast. Lawmakers make stupid laws because they know that they themselves will never be subject to them.

The official investigation of the accident said Andrei was going too fast for road conditions (100 to 120 kmph at night in fog) and did not see the corner in time, and threw the car into a skid which blew both tires. (This sounds a little more plausible to me as I know Andrei but that is neither here nor there).

If Andrei's friend signed off that Andrei is not responsible for his injury and for all future medical costs then the case will be dropped.  So the car sat in the police compound for over two months, waiting to see if the friend recovered from his injuries.  When it was obvious that he would not recover and would not sign off, the case proceeded further and mechanical experts (for which we paid their gas bill from Krivii Rih) came to examine the car to ensure that there was no mechanical reason for the accident.  For example if the tires had been poor, my Tanya, the car's owner, would suddenly have been on the hot seat.

The car was eventually released with a clean bill of health and towed back to Zhovti Vody where it sits in storage.  We cannot do anything to it until the case is decided which could take a year or ten years for all we know.  It will depend on Andrei's friend's recovery.  if he is unable to use his arm for life (especially if no one has $4000) that will impact the severity of the judgement against Andrei. The car may be again called into evidence if the case goes to court ie if Andrei fights it.

The documents about the case are 80% complete but there have been two murders in P'yatikhatski Raion and the local investigation people are busy with that.  Next week they will send the documents to Dnipro to be completed by someone with some spare time.

In the meantime our car sits. We could sell it for parts or if the frame was not bent, it might be reparable given that labour is so cheap.  But the longer it sits the less it is worth.  One learns about the law the hard way, it seems.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

And then there were only two

Lina moved back to her flat about three weeks ago and on Sunday, took Krastoka home with her.  And Vovochka, not Bonifatsy (Bonya).

She kind of liked the evil looking little runt with all his antics and curiosity.  She also felt we would have a better chance of finding a home for Bonya or Tigritsa.  Krasotka was glad to be home after almost 4 and a half months away.  Vovo explored everywhere and settle right in.

Bonya and Tigritsa did not do so well the first few days as they kept looking for their mother.  Especially Bonya who tended to be a bit of a Mommy's boy anyhow.  Tanya became the comforter and he would climb on her lap to go to sleep.  Tigritsa was more independent.

The kittens stick pretty close to us.  If we are upstairs, they come upstairs and if we are down stairs they come down again.  But they are actively playing together and curl up together for naps. I bought them four little ping pong ball toys with rattles inside.  They would play keep-away with one of the balls at a time until eventually they ended up where all good toys go - under the couch where they can't reach them.

Tigritsa could play circles around Bonifatsy as she was faster and more agile.  He is bigger and slower.  She performs flawless jump spins and jump somersaults while he is mostly Thump and Bonk. He loves to climb and jump down - thump - and is constantly running into things - bonk.

They play outside in the morning while we drink our coffee on the landing.  Kuchma is usually around and will give nose-to-nose greetings if pressed but mostly ignores them.  Bonya wants to play with him so badly.  Yesterday he pounced on Kuchma's tail.  Kuchma spun around and cuffed him into the middle of next week.  Poor Bonya.

Puh-lease, we are TRYING to sleep
Bonya the carpet climber
Tigritsa is not to be outdone

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Spring Dance Festival

The 2013 Spring Children's Dance Festival was held in Zholti Vody over the weekend.  Tanya and I went Saturday morning to watch Masha's performance.  The theme of the first groups of dancers seemed to be traditional Ukrainian and Russian dances.  The costumes were beautiful and certainly a great deal of effort had gone into the training of the kids who appeared to range in age from about 5 to 17 years.

Masha did the same routine as previously, a solo Turkish dance, but in a brilliant yellow costume and she had several new moves.  I asked Tanya why she danced solo and it is because she loves to dance but her left leg, a problem since birth, will not allow her to do the fast footwork, splits etc of the traditional dances, so they give her one with less footwork.  At any rate, she was invited to a competition in Kyiv.

We only stayed two hours and after Masha was finished we took her for pizza.  I asked Masha when she was going to Turkey to live in a harem and she laughed and laughed.

Not knowing anything about choreography, I supposed many of the groups could be doing the same routines as last time but just in different costumes and different music.  They are complicated enough routines that it would make sense.

A word about the red boots.  These were THE height of fashion in "the olden days" and the Cossack warrior who could bring his girl a pair of red boots was certain to win her heart.  The things you learn from watching Ukrainian cartoons.

The MCs

Masha performs
Ukrainian costumes and dance

These gals are steppin' out

Too cute for words
The Finale

Red boots

Russian costume and more red boots

Ukrainian costumes and dance

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Life in Ukraine - The Vegetable Market

The wet market in Zhovti Vody is located behind the shopping centre Devyatya (Nine or Ninth) and has a small outdoor market attached to it.  We do not often buy meat at the wet market, preferring the quality at the grocery supermarket Velika Kshenia "Big Spoon" but we often buy vegetables and eggs at the little market as the quality is good and the price is somewhat better than "Big Spoon".  One person owns two stalls there, employing two sales staff and kept busy all day long hauling boxes from his truck to keep their stands full.

Tanya, pictured below, is my favourite to buy from, mostly because of her personality.  She has been there for all the years we have lived here and NEVER stops talking to her customers, NEVER stops moving and ALWAYS suggests further purchases.  There is always a line up at her stall. She could make a fortune selling cookware at an exhibition.  I asked if I could take pictures to post on my blog and she agreed.

Tanya wanted to pose for one picture

Hard at work, bagging, weighing and keeping a running total on the adding machine

Customers bag their own from boxes close to the front of the stall

Produce comes from Turkey and Crimea mainly.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

My New Toy

Yesterday I bought a brushcutter (translation of Motokoca), a heavy grass and brush cutter run by a 2 cycle motor, complete with harness to help lug it around.

The shoulder harness snaps on halfway between motor and handles
It comes with the 10" blade shown for heavy grass, weeds and small brush; a 10" carbide tip blade for larger trees, up to 4"; and a fishline grass cutter.  All for less than $200.  We had been needing one for a few years now and finally made the plunge.

We planted grass seed about five years ago under the trees all across the back of our yard.  The package showed a nice green lawn but the seed was actually wheatgrass, both slender and intermediate.  These are bunch grasses, not creeping rooted.  The grass grows 2 feet tall which is fine if we are cutting hay but if just left to go to seed, it looks like no one cares.

So a month too late to try to turn it into anything resembling lawn, we are mowing it down.  The hay will go for the dogs to sleep on this winter.  I cut under the walnut trees across the street from us and half the back yard on 3/4 litre of gas.  The brushcutter and I ran out of gas at the same time.

Tomorrow at 6:00 am I will finish the back yard and start on the abandoned garden behind Babushka's old cottage.  If I cut it back about 2 or 3 meters along Tanya's kitchen garden it will keep weeds from spreading into the garden...we hope.  Our neighbour's two goats can keep the rest of it down. Then I will do Babushka's yard, to keep it from looking like a jungle again.

Next spring I want to get a lawn mower.  Between mower and brush cutter we should be able to make our grass look like something other than a hay field.

Looks like something the goat chewed.
Uncut.  Tomorrow morning's chores.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Why Athletes Can't Get Regular Jobs

Not fair to all athletes and some seem to be fictitious but still very funny.  Thanks to my brother Stan at The English Cowpath for emailing these.

1. Chicago Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson on being a role model:
"I wan' all dem kids to do what I do, to look up to me. I wan' all the kids to copulate me."

2. New Orleans Saint RB George Rogers when asked about the upcoming season:
"I want to rush for 1,000 or 1,500 yards, whichever comes first."

3. And, upon hearing Joe Jacobi of the 'Skin's say:
"I'd run over my own mother to win the Super Bowl,"
Matt Millen of the Raiders said: "To win, I'd run over Joe's Mom, too."

4. Torrin Polk, University of Houston receiver, on his coach, John Jenkins:
"He treat us like mens. He let us wear earrings."

5. Football commentator and former player Joe Theismann:
"Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."

6. Senior basketball player at the University of Pittsburgh :
"I'm going to graduate on time, no matter how long it takes."
(Now that is beautiful)

7. Bill Peterson, a Florida State football coach:
"You guys line up alphabetically by height."
And, "You guys pair up in groups of three, and then line up in a circle."

8. Boxing promoter Dan Duva on Mike Tyson going to prison:
"Why would anyone expect him to come out smarter? He went to prison for three years, not Princeton."

9. Stu Grimson, Chicago Blackhawks left wing, explaining why he keeps a color photo of himself above his locker:
"That's so when I forget how to spell my name, I can still find my clothes."

10. Lou Duva, veteran boxing trainer, on the Spartan training regimen of heavyweight Andrew Golota:
"He's a guy who gets up at six o'clock in the morning, regardless of what time it is."

11. Chuck Nevitt , North Carolina State basketball player, explaining to Coach Jim Valvano why he appeared nervous at practice:
"My sister's expecting a baby, and I don't know if I'm going to be an uncle or an aunt.

12. Frank Layden , Utah Jazz president, on a former player:
"I asked him, 'Son, what is it with you? Is it ignorance or apathy?'
He said, 'Coach, I don't know and I don't care.'"

13. Shelby Metcalf, basketball coach at Texas A&M, recounting what he told a player who received four F's and one D:
"Son, looks to me like you're spending too much time on one subject."

14. In the words of NC State great Charles Shackelford:
"I can go to my left or right, I am amphibious."

15. Former Houston Oilers coach Bum Phillips when asked by Bob Costas why he takes his wife on all the road trips,
Phillips responded: "Because she's too ugly to kiss good-bye."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Life in Ukraine - Local transportation

There is never a time, day or night, when there is not someone walking on the streets and roads of our town and countryside.  They are not walking for fun or exercise.  They are walking to get from point A to point B.  Because they have no other means of transportation; because they cannot afford a taxi; because the public transportation, good as it is, only goes to certain places.

They are carrying something.  Usually shopping bags.  Or pushing or pulling something to help carry the load.  Old baby carriages, strollers, home-made wagons.

There are bicycles.  Not for fun or exercise or status but because the rider could afford one, usually long ago, from the looks of the bikes. They also double as transportation for goods; i have seen three large bags of vegetables tied onto a bike and the owner pushing it along.  There are some new bicycles, too, but no fancy multi-multi gear speed bikes, mostly wide tire mountain type bikes to deal with the roads.

Sometimes you see pictures of families loaded onto a scooter with small ones precariously balanced.  The pictures are usually titled something like "bad parenting".  No, these people are making do with what they can afford for transportation.  Those with a little money will buy scooters; those with a little more money will buy motorcycles, like the ones we rode in the early 70s. The safety conscious may have helmets.  If they can afford them and gas too.

Taxis may have regulations and standards but I expect they are honoured more in the breach.  Standards and regulations add to cost if you don't mind what you ride in.  There are two taxi "companies" in town.  How they are organized, I don't know.  But they have central numbers and dispatchers. There are also lots of freelancers on certain days.  You buy a taxi light for the top of your car and hang out where people need rides.  Like grocery stores.

The rates are dirt cheap.  Some cabs have meters, most do not.  There are sort of zones and rates are similar within those zones.  But you always ask first.  From our house to downtown is about 6 km and costs $3 plus or minus. Gasoline is the same price here as Canada so go figure.

The cars are usually old beaters, bought for a couple hundred bucks and maintained and repaired by the owner.  Ladas, Volgas, Samaras, sometimes a Moskvich or a Zhiguli.  Once in awhile a newer Daewoo or ZAZ, both made in Zaporizhzhia.  There is one relatively new BMW in town with a taxi sign on it but I think it is a free lance.  Of course in the larger cities the cars are newer, nicer and the rates higher.

Public transportation in town and to the surrounding countryside and villages is not as frequent as it was in Soviet times but still runs often enough to be very useful.  The buses and minibuses are also old beaters, bought from the larger centres as they bring in good used from Germany or elsewhere.

The farther out from the large centres you get, the older the cars are.  We have more old Ladas than Dnipropetrovsk which likely has more than Kyiv.  And in the villages, old beaters got to die.  Our town has a good mix of newer cars, more every year though I have no idea how they are paid for as the economy is the pits.  Mostly lower end stuff like Ladas, Daewoos, Cherys, Aveos in that order but better brands too.  And of course those that can afford it go all out for conspicuous consumption.  Black cars with black windows.

Monday, May 13, 2013


I dream of houses with halls and walls lined with books.  Books are friends to be kept, not borrowed, not sold in second hand shops.  Leaving Canada meant leaving most of my books behind.  My kids, especially my son, took most of them but some ended up at the RSO fund raiser book sale.  I don't know which ones and I don't want to know.

Books need shelves.  No end of shelves.  HERE is a site with fireplace bookshelf ideas.  Googling bookshelves images will give you more ideas.  Facebook periodically has pictures of unique bookshelves, some of which I have saved.

This one came from HERE and is the only one I liked

Love the idea but a bit unhandy to browse

This is awesome

Several walls of these would be nice

Reading nook or bed under the stairs

All my life I wanted to live in a house with secret doors and passageways

An old piano put to new use.

The idea is good but who sleeps in which bed?
A good idea for slim folks like my brother Stan

Saturday, May 11, 2013

One Kitten to Her New Home

The kittens are two days short of 8 weeks and ready to move to new homes.  Litter box trained, eating and drinking well, pretty much weaned from Krasotka and very independent.

Katya's 13 yr old daughter, Natasha, came to pick up her kitten this afternoon.  She picked the little calico with the white eye.  A good choice, as the kitten is the quietest, likes to spend time by herself playing, loves to have tummy rubs and purrs like a (tiny) engine.  Last night she climbed up by Tanya on the couch, snuggled up to her and went to sleep.

She took to Natasha right away.  We got a little box that the kittens had been playing with, put a soft cloth in it and the kitten settled right down for the walk home.  I am sad to see her go but happy she has such a good place to go to.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Vovochka Ras-Putin Kitten (Pictures)

Our guests from Chelyabinsk went to Kyiv for the day yesterday.  Left on the night train, arrived 7:00 am and did a great deal of sightseeing bt 5:30 when they left to come home on the express.  They were home by 10:30 pm.  Liza (11 yrs) went straight to bed; she was dog tired.

Tanya bought the tickets on-line, using her bank card.  This is NEW and beats standing in line at the ticket agency. Cost for the night train was $15 per person and for the brand new Hundai-built express  was $32.50 per person (double what it was on the old reliable electric train that served so well for so many years).

Today they have gone to Dnipropetrovsk with Tanya to do more shopping and sightseeing.  So Sveta and I have the house to ourselves.

The kittens were 7 weeks yesterday.  Pretty much weaned, on solid food both wet and dry, drinking from a dish, litter box trained.  Next week we will start finding them homes...maybe. Krasotka is getting restless, pacing back and forth, goes outside, comes back inside, meowing constantly.  Sveta says she needs a man but that is Sveta's answer to all women's problems.  She is "on the pill", Krasotka, not Sveta...(well, Sveta might be too, I don't know).  Kuchma is hanging around, paying attention but Krasotka won't have anything to do with him.

Tanya says the black one looks like Putin so she named him Vovochka (pronounced more like Wowochka) which is the ultra-diminutive of Vladimir.  Rob Bear suggested we could call him Rasputin which is a good idea as he is a HOLY terror, especially on bare feet.

When the kittens are awake they are going flat out.  They learned how to climb up on the couch.  Getting down was a challenge at first.  Today they discovered the stairs, though they have only gone to the landing.  We have a hand towel tied to the oven door.  the kittens all reach up and grab it.  Yesterday the little Vovochka swung his back legs up too and swung back and forth.  Then as if on cue they all go to sleep.  They found a good place in the cupboard under the sink.  Dark and quiet.

The other night they were tearing around the house still at 10:30, starting to climb the drapes.  Tanya gathered them up, sent them all to their room and shut the door for the night. I said to her "You are a terrible person; worse than their mother.  they were just having fun".  She sent me to my room and shut the door for the night.

Playing on the couch

Shall we climb on the drapes?

He does look like Putin

MY cushon

Maybe I'll have a cat-nap

Making the leap to a comfy blanket 

The stairs are quite fun to play on

Silly brother will not pose

How do I get down again?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Family Visitors

Lina decided she would try moving back to her flat.  She has not lived there since Roman died Jan 1 and it will be hard for her to be alone, I know. but she is working such long hours these days, she will not have time or energy to think.

The funeral company she works for also sells grave markers and related site amenities, fences, etc.  Easter is May 5th this year and the Sunday after is when people visit the gravesites of relatives, many traveling long distances.  People have been busy since the weather turned nice cleaning and planting flowers etc.  Lina's company had 150 grave markers and related to install this spring and she has been working 12 hour days, sometimes 7 days a week getting everything and everyone organized.

Sveta Romanenko, Tanya's niece, is staying at our house for a couple weeks before she leaves with her mother to Kazakhstan on an extended visit to her mother's sister and other relatives.  So we traded one for one.

Tanya's cousin Nadia (Nadezhda), Nadia's daughter-in-law Lucia (Ludmilla) and granddaughter Liza (11 yrs) from Chelyabinsk arrived in Dnipropetrovsk on the Moscow train at 7:00 this morning.  Tanya had not seen Nadia for 20 years, though the last couple of years they spoke on Skype several times a week.

Nadia's mother, Natasha, the last of six sisters, is in her 80's and lives with Nadia.  I met her in Abakan a couple of times.  She is awesome.  Not very big but she has "kharakter" as Tanya says.  (Tanya's mother and all her aunts had "kharakter" from my observation).  She was the best heavy duty welder (HER choice of careers) in all Krasnoyarsk Krai and worked mainly on logging and road construction equipment until she retired.  She may not have been the man in charge but I suspect she ran the shops where she worked.  Her late husband was an avid outdoorsman and would disappear for days at a time into the forest with his rifle and two dogs.  He could at least boss the dogs.

Tanya left at 4:00 this morning to meet the train which she thought arrived at 6:00 and they arrived back at the house about 9:00 am.  Sveta and I were up at 6:00 (could have been 7:00, darn!) to get last minute cleaning done and breakfast ready.

Breakfast was cold sliced meats; oven roast chicken, carrots and potatoes; green salad; pickled olives, mushrooms, red peppers and cucumbers; and lepyoshka (yeast-raised bannock) hot from the frying pan.  And six 10:00 am.

And Tania and Dasha (Daria) came home from the hospital today.  Dasha is a week old today.  Masha informed us she would be busy for the next few days helping her mother look after the baby. We have not seen Dasha yet nor even pictures.  I hope we can go see her tomorrow but I have not heard back from Andrei yet.  It is the custom of some people in Ukraine to keep all visitors away from the baby for several days (I don't know the exact time) to prevent the baby from getting sick.  Whether Tania is one of those or not, I don't know.

The place is full of females.  I feel like a capon in a hen house.