Sunday, November 7

Halloween & Fall Fair

We've had a busy Fall season with two halloween parties and the Merrifield Fair. Madison decided he didn't want to play soccer because most of the boys were playing travel soccer so I tried to find other things for us to do this season. Basketball starts up mid November YAY which Maddy can't wait to get right in to. Here are some pictures I took of us at the Fair, Christophers pumpkin painting party and Dominics halloween party.

Maddy's favorite part of the Merrifield Fall Fair

His fourth time up the wall

Building a Fire Boat

the finished product

Inside the bouncy house

Painting pumpkins at Dominics House
Playing games

At Dominic's house - An Ork, Scary dude and Darth Vadar

With Jack

Hallelujah Night

Maddy and I were invited to the Samoan church Hallelujah night (before Halloween) for fun and games and trunk or treat. All the kids were dressed up in costume while a few of us (namely Vai, Elizabeth, myself and one other parent) dressed up in costume. The youth leaders put on a great show with fun games, kids performances, lots of yummy food to eat and then ending the night with trunk and treat.

Baby Alex dressed up as a pirate

Maddy dressed up as a Metal Skull Rider (he outgrew his Ninja costume within two weeks LOL)

Goddess Athena, Goddess Elizabeth & Vampire Mistress

Getting ready to show off their costumes

Dancing while playing musical chairs

Having fun

Dance off

Saturday, November 6

Working Abroad: Mongolia & China

My last job took me to Mongolia and China. Talk about going to the far reaches of the planet. It was a 15 hour direct flight from Washington, D.C. to Beijing and then another 2.5 hours to Ulaanbaatar. The time difference between DC and UB was exactly 12 hours. It's hard to get any farther from home than that, in fact the Mongolian staff called UB the end of the line. Everybody off the train, there are no more stops after this.

In front of the Peace Corps office in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
UB is a rather gray and gloomy place that has a distinct industrial type town feel to it. There wasn't much to do or see there and in the middle of October it was cold. There were snow flurries almost everyday while we were there. You'd think a place like this wouldn't leave much of an impression but after having my credit card stolen, getting booted off my flight from DC (even though I had a confirmed ticket) and having to walk to work each day despite the sub freezing temperatures, I will not soon forget my time in Mongolia.

The winding path that lead up the mountain to the Great Wall of China
My colleague Rajiv and I left Mongolia a few days early to spend some time in Beijing before we had to report for work in Chengdu. It was one of the best decisions I made because we wouldn't have otherwise had the opportunity to see the Great Wall, Ming Tombs or the Forbidden City.

Atop the Great Wall of China in the driving rain
The Ming Tombs where emperors of the Ming Dynasty were buried
These guards were all smiles until we asked to take their photo
The visit to Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City was the highlight of the trip for me. If you've ever seen the movie The Last Emperor you will remember how magnificent the expansive courtyard looked and in real life, it didn't disappoint. Oh and by the way, I dropped my camera in Tienanmen Square and didn't have a camera the rest of the trip. Luckily my colleague did and the rest of the photos were taken with his camera.

Tienanmen Square

The courtyard of the Temple of Supreme Harmony
My colleague Rajiv
In the Forbidden City

Checking out the Temple of Medium Harmony
The architecture of this place was amazing
Rajiv and I took bike taxis from the hotel
You'd think things in China would be cheap but everything was overpriced. Apparently you are supposed to bargain for everything. Even in department stores. For people who aren't used to this concept, a trip to China could end up being very expensive. My dad would make a killing there though, his bargaining skills would surely have come in handy in a place like this. On top of that, everyone seemed to want to swindle us out of our money. For example, the bike taxis in the photo above advertised a ride for 50c but tried to take us for $50. The thought of spending time in a Chinese jail prevented me from wrapping my hands around their necks.

Visiting China's most adorable ambassadors to the world
At a popular tourist spot, Jingli Street in Chengdu
How do these guys survive in the wild? All they do is eat and sleep all day.
The HQ crew; Rajiv, me, Umar and Rob
I hope to take Rach and Maddy to China one day. The Chinese have such a rich and long cultural history, unlike any I've experienced before and I'd love to share that with the family.

Sunday, October 10

Snake Eyes (Halloween Costume)

Maddy as Snake Eyes - his new halloween costume for this year. He'll be going to Christophers house next Saturday for a pumpkin painting party and then the following week to Dominics house for a Halloween Party :-)

Silver Diner School Fundraiser

Having fun with Nicholas, Patrick & Andrew @ Silver Diner
School Fundraiser

Wednesday, September 15

Playdate with Patrick

Maddy has made a new friend and his name is Patrick. It just so happens he is in the same class as Maddy and they live in our apartment building too. This is one of many more playdates to come :-)

Thursday, September 9

Happy Birthday Grandma

Happy Birthday Grandma
We Miss & Love You
Matt, Rach & Madison xox

Wednesday, September 8

Happy Birthday Aunty Sachi

Hope you have a fun day today and get lots of goodies from Mareko & Micah
Much Love Matt, Rach & Maddy xox

Sunday, September 5

Working Abroad: Albania & Moldova

Albania's location in Europe
My latest travels took me to Albania and Moldova.

Albania is a small country in south eastern Europe that shares a border with Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Greece. It has coastlines on the Adriatic Sea to the west and the Ionian Sea to the east. If you've never heard of the Ionian Sea before, that would make 2 of us.

Due to a hectic first 2 weeks, I was not able to get out of Tirana and see much of the countryside. Normally this is how a trip goes for me. I get to see a lot of the airport, office and the inside of my hotel room.

I am happy to report though, that the people of Albania were warm and friendly. I was told that they like Americans so for once I didn't mind identifying myself as American while I was there. The IT Specialist, Iris, recently had surgery to remove her entire stomach but managed to soldier on at work despite the obvious discomfort she was in. I'd be out of work for 3 months if that was me.

Moldova's location in Europe
I'm writing this post from Chisinau, Moldova. Moldova is located in between Romania and Ukraine. The people of Moldova speak both Romanian and Russian, neither of which bears a resemblance to Samoan.

To get to Moldova from Albania, my teammate Graham and I had to fly via Vienna, Austria thanks to the Fly America Act, so instead of a 2 hour flight between countries, it took us 18 hours to get from A to B. Normally I would complain about something like this except Vienna is a world class city that I have only read about and seen in movies so I was happy to use the layover to tour the city.

I will be returning home in a week and I am looking forward to rejoining Rach and Maddy who I miss terribly. Next up is Mongolia and China in October.

St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Austria
At the entrance to the Old Orhei cave monastery

Here we go down and into the mountain

The caves emerge on the cliff face overlooking a river 200 feet below

A functioning chapel in the caves

I can tell you Samoans would never have survived living in caves this small

People trek to the top of the mountain to pray and leave money at the base of this cross

I couldn't go further than this because I was wearing shorts

My gracious host and tour guide, Andrei Rusu

By a water well in a small Moldovan village near Orhei

Not an uncommon sight in the rural Moldovan villages, a horse drawn cart