May 16, 2008
As most of you know by now Scott and I were among the diplomats who left Belarus on May 3rd. Ten (10) American diplomats were declared persona non grata and the 11th (Scott) left for administrative reasons.
This news wasn’t widely covered in the United States, but did finally make the May 12th episode of the Colbert Report. We also managed to make it to YouTube. This video was taken on the day we left. Max has a cameo. I fortunately did not make the video. I was probably off to use the restroom as my traveler’s bladder was calling.
What this video depicts is the pre departure and the convoy heading toward and crossing the border to Lithuania. What this video does not depict are the friends and co-workers that we left behind.
Yesterday the US imposed further sanctions so I’m sure this is all far from over. Stay tuned.
April 28, 2008
Today was a Holiday for Orthodox Easter Monday. I had lunch with some friends and then spent the rest of the afternoon photographing various churches around Minsk. Here are a few of the better pictures of the day.
This is an old Russian Orthodox Church near the Old Town and Town Hall. The church is called Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. It’s a beautiful church and was built from 1642-87. The church has withstood time and two wars.
This is the Russian Orthodox church of St. Mary Magdeline. It is very near the embassy and I could smell the bread baking at the Bread Factory No 2. which is right next door. The church is beautiful with ornate gold and black roofing. The grounds are beautiful with tulips and water fountains.
This is a very popular church for wedding photographs. All most every weekend when the weather is nice you will see many brides here getting their picture taken. I’m not sure if they are actually married here but they definitely use the beauty of the church for photographs. Today we were lucky enough to hear the bells ring 6pm and were pleasantly surprised to see that the bells are actually operated by a human bell ringer. This is the orthodox Church of the Protection of the Holy Virgin. It is a beautiful church and sits right off of the main road…also at the beginning of the road to Luka’s house! You can see the big barrier off in the distance! This is also one of the prettiest areas of the city. The curbs are painted bright white, the park is well manicured and there is no trash or graffiti in sight. Of course the rest of the city is pretty clean, but this area is noticeably “cleaner”.
April 20, 2008
I finally got the appropriate drivers installed and was able to get the pictures from my camera! When my computer died many of my pictures were lost so I’m really thankful that I still had the pictures from Germany on my camera. I can’t remember when the last time I backed up my photo files was, but I’m pretty sure it was before Germany. My new promise to myself is going to be to store the pictures on a site like Flickr so that I don’t have to worry about this stuff anymore.
Ok, so last Tuesday was the day the movers came to crate up our boxes. You remember the ones. The ones that had to be packed in case we are leaving, but we are not sure we are leaving, but we need to be prepared in case we are leaving, so we are ready to leave if we need to leave, yeah those boxes. Thankfully it was a nice day, because I really needed to walk to relieve some stress. I was glad for the opportunity to take a few pictures on a nice, blue day. So here they are:
This is a picture of Take Away Sushi. It’s about a block from our apartment and best of all they deliver! It definitely isn’t the best sushi I’ve ever had, in fact, it’s pretty darn near the worst, but it’s sushi and it will do in a pinch especially during these “cupboard is bare” times. There is also a pizza place/restaurant nearby. We haven’t tried this one yet, but maybe one day this week. We’ve heard good things about it. It’s called Ziopepe.
At the end of the street is the Stella statue which I’ve posted pictures of before and on the other side of the street is this billboard which always has something festive. This says Republic of Belarus:
the sign is what I say marks the entrance of the park. The park is nice and there are several statues and later in the spring there will be many flowers. One of my favorite things in the park is this piece of graffiti which I’m surprised is still here:
This marks my half way point in the walk (I think). Since it was such a nice day I didn’t take my usual route. I wanted to take pictures of the statues and walk down around the water. A friend from work also suggested I see the peacock, so I went off in search of the bird. I was a little disappointed that his tail was not blooming. She said that later in the year his tail is in full bloom with so many beautiful flowers. Here he is, minus the splendour:
This gazebo type monument/statue is really pretty from a distance, but up close it has been heavily vandalized with graffiti. One of the things we comment on here is the lack of graffiti ( I know I’ve reference two pieces in this post). The city is really clean and beautiful. I personally think there is a group of Oompaloompas who go around and clean up the graffiti, though they have never been seen. They must not go in to the park though! Here’s a picture of the gazebo statue
In the distance behind the gazebo you can see the river. Once this is in my sight I’m on a mission. Up to this point I still hadn’t walked around the river because the weather just hadn’t been nice enough. This was the perfect day. Here are a few pictures:
I didn’t walk to the Island on this day, because I’d been there the day before. I do want to post a few more pictures of the Island because it was such an interesting place and such an important part of recent Belarussian history. As you are walking over the bridge you have an excellent view of the island (which is man made just for this memorial) and the memorial
The memorial itself is beautiful. There are four groups of women. To enter the memorial you walk through these iron gates. Each gate door has a handle which is inscribed with the name of a major city of Belarus. Inside the memorial the inside of each group of women is an altar with the walls containing the names of the fallen with a place for a candle next to each name. The ceiling has a light which from the outside you can see. They say this is illuminated at night, but I’ve never seen it (never been that close at night).
Also on the island is a statue of an angel boy who is rying. This statue is at the end of one of the paths leading from the memorial.
If you look very carefully you might notice that the penis on this statue is a little shiny. Apparently many brides come to the island on their wedding day and rub the angel’s penis. This is supposed to bless the marriage with fertility and a male son. I don’t know if that is true or not, and my friend doesn’t know how this story orignated, but we have witnessed many brides crossing the bridge to the Island of Tears.
This picture is taken heading up the hill to the American Embassy. You’ll notice the American Flag showing through the trees.
April 15, 2008
The movers came back today to crate up all the boxes that they packed a little over a week ago. This was just bizzare to me…I mean where are the boxes going and why? Am I going somewhere? I wish that question would be answered soon. Here’s another question…if I’m not going anywhere will my boxes come back? This I was able to get a response to…”Don’t plan on it.” WOW~
So at least it is a nice day here in Belarus and I was able to enjoy a nice stroll with my camera while I headed in to work. I took a lot of great pictures, none of which I will be able to share with you because I still haven’t located the software I need … (oh, and I’m blogging at work again so even if I found it I couldn’t put it on this computer anyway). I will share these pictures with you though. These pictures were taken by Col. Casey on one of his trips to Belarus.
This is the memorial on the Island of Tears. This memorial was built to honor 771 of the soldiers (young men) who died in the Soviet-Afghan War, and was opened on August 3, 1996.
You’ll notice the women, these are the mother’s, sister’s and widow’s of the soliders. Inside the memorial are 4 chambers (atlars) (each one of the groups of women is a chamber) are the names of the soldiers who gave their lives etched on to the wall, beside each name is a place for a candle (I took a picture of this and will update this post when I am able to upload the photo). To enter the memorial you can walk through one of 4 iron gates. On the inside the handles of the gates represent each of major cities of Belarus are represented, young men from each of these areas were killed (Minsk, Gomel, Mogilev, Brest, Hrodna, Vitebsk, Polotsk and Nesvizh).
Also on this island and not pictured, because I want to save it for another post is a little praying angel statue. This statue has come to be a fertility statue of sorts, but more on that later.
I also walked along the Svisloch river and took a lot of great photos of the old town and the park. I can’t wait to share them with you.
April 3, 2008
After work today Lena and Inna met me at the salon for a haircut. I had the same girl as last time, Люба (Looba – means love, I love this name). The Mullet Maker was working his magic again this evening. I am fascinated by his work.
After another great haircut by Люба, we (Lena and Inna, not me and the Mullet Maker) went next door to Mixx Pubb for some juice. I know, it sounds crazy to go to a pub for juice, but that’s what we did.
I was all prepared to order apple juice, but chickened out at the last minute (not confident enough with my adjectives yet). I just waited for Lena to order and then said “Мне тоже пожалуйста” (me too please). That worked and I had grape juice. Thank goodness she didn’t order tomato juice…I would have been really disappointed. I did get a really nice compliment from Люба and Lena. They say that I have a very natural sounding accent. I guess those language lessons are paying off – Thanks Grigory!
After the pub, Inna agreed to walk with me back to the Embassy. It was a great night for a stroll, the weather here has really gotten so much better. It was about 55F, and very comfortable. We strolled and walked and talked. I hope this political thing works out and we are able to stay. I’m going to hate to say goodbye to my friends, though Inna promised she would visit (even if we go to New Delhi).
I was really looking forward to seeing Minsk in the spring/summer time. I wanted to hunt for mushrooms in the forest and cook shaslik “down by the river” (every time I say that I think of Chris Farley in that stupid SNL skit when he’s the motivational speaker – do you know the one I’m talking about?). Hopefully we’ll know something soon.
Tomorrow is Friday and we will be having game night. A much scaled down version, and we will be playing our new game “Ticket to Ride – Europe”! FUN.
January 5, 2008
My mom read yesterday’s post and wanted to know more about the Isle of Tears in Minsk. I have only seen it from a distance as I’m waiting for a nice/warm day to actually walk there and take pictures. From the stories that I’ve heard it is actually a sad place.
There is supposed to be a statue there memorializing the soldiers that died during the USSR/Afghanistan 9 year war. The statue is of grieving women, mothers, sisters, etc. there.
This is also a place where brides visit on their wedding day. Apparently there is a statue there that if groped by the bride (you know the area – and supposedly it’s shiny from so much groping) her marriage will be blessed with fertility.
On Fridays and Saturdays we’ve seen several wedding parties walking along the river heading toward the island. Weddings are a big “to do” here just as they are in the states. Cars are decorated and the wedding party travels from place to place taking pictures because there are so many beautiful monuments here.
So that’s all I know about the Isle of Tears. It is only a 5 minute walk from the Embassy and very close to Old Town Minsk. Come on nice weather!