Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Breakfast: Hagelslag

This morning: yoghurt, buttered toast with chocolate sprinkles, a cup of coffee, banana slices drizzled with macadamia nut honey.

I've never seen these chocolate sprinkles outside of the Netherlands. I have this soft memory of breakfast in Amsterdam: overlooking the community garden, small terrace, milk, coffee, chocolate and other brightly-colored sprinkles on thick toast. Ethan brought me a small bag full from Europe, along with some other treats.

Starting today, I'm going to work from home 2 1/2 days a week and hopefully -cross my fingers - I can flesh out this report with our research findings. I have a month to do so. Stress.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Drama and Kittens

I think that sums up life lately.

I haven't even been able to digest the rest of my Silk Roads trip because as soon as--and, really, before--I arrived back in Cambodia, news of the shady NGO crackdown came my way. Unfortunately, the whole thing did not blow over while I was away. An organization with whom we've worked very closely to monitor and research the Railways Project has been suspended under the pretext of the new NGO law, which itself is set to place egregious limits on freedom of expression. Our organization is also under the gun, and my research activities have been frozen since my departure in late July. It simply boggles my mind.

Some updates and news here, here, here, and here.

Somehow, as this drama continues to unfold, I've found some peace and quiet. Vivian's 3 kittens, all ginger and energy, continue to terrorize the house. They get into our wardrobes, though they prefer Heather's over mine. Their pitter-patter resounds off the wooden floors all hours of the night.

Ethan and I spent last night making tomato sauce from scratch, in an attempt to salvage the huge bag of basil that was quickly languishing in my fridge. We watched Midnight in Paris.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Glimpses from Almaty, Kazakhstan

It turns out I could not access blogger from either Kazakhstan or China. And so I am going to have to reconstruct my trip from the bits and pieces of memory that haven't already been erased and the few pictures I was able to take.

Almaty is a pleasant city. The connotations of post-Soviet structures -- which I associate with memories of central Russia and Mongolia (and which I secretly crave), which Ethan associates with his layover in Kyiv, Ukraine -- didn't hold up. The city was quaint, with a walking boulevard and park running through it and so much green space. With the exception s of the hookers calling our hotel room, my interactions with locals were lovely, and everyone we met was helpful and warm.

I'm pretty horrible at capturing the big tourist sites (i.e., I am lazy), and I much prefer capturing daily life that strike me on my wanderings in the city. And that is what we did.

Some highlights:
  1. One day, we wandered around the city and came across Panfilov Heroes Memorial Park, a memorial to World War II -- and quite the place for newlyweds to take pictures. That day, we counted at least 10 wedding entourages traipsing through the park. That day was a taste of summer, as I remember it: melting ice cream, walking in the park, flowers, trees, a bright, warm day.
  2. To beat the heat that day, we stopped at a small fountain with a view of the snow-capped Almaty Mountains and dipped our feet in the cold water.
  3. On another day, after our plan to see the theatre was curbed, we walked up to the hill, past the golden gilded mosque, to sample a view of the city and to have a picnic. Prior to the walk, we raided the local grocery store and bought beet salad (yum), a local cheese (not so yum), freshly baked, dark brown bread, cookies, and a bottle of red wine. We found a bench, had our picnic, read our books, took a nap.
  4. Our hotel was what one would call "Soviet chic" - drab, chintzy, full of tschotskes and non-functioning, seemingly superfluous fixtures.
  5. The local grocery store: camel milk, lots of Kazakhstan candies, dark brown bread, and being reprimanded by staff for taking pictures.
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