We all had a great time back in Ontario for the month of July. The boys really enjoyed their grandparents and cousins. Andrew caught his first fish and Matthew started crawling on all fours while there. Since April Andrew has grown more than 3cm and Matthew has added about the same to his length.
We are very much looking forward to moving into our house this fall, touch wood. More on that later.
Andrew loves to use the digital camera and take photos. He took some good ones.
Matthew is 3 months old. About to be 4. We have been enjoying all the changes he has been going through and he continues to make us all smile and wonder at him. Andrew loves his brother and showers him with kisses every chance he gets. I am particularly surprised by this behaviour since Andrew was the terror of the park when he first started to visit there, pinching every child with exposed skin. There appears to be no jealousy of Matthew though Andrew does often ask mom to put him to sleep. We hope the next months will continue this way, however, we are very aware that teeth are coming soon. We are as prepared as anyone could be for that very painful experience.
The massage lady came this week. She is an expert massage therapist for babies. See the video. Matthew loves a massage.
Andrew and I ventured out of the house for a second time in a week. I had it in my mind to get to the Chinese market to buy some Thai curry paste and coconut milk because I am nuts about Thai green curry chicken with rice vermicelli. I had heard about this Chinese market for years from people who live here. I scouted it out a few months ago. The market is typical of many here. It's the place to buy things cheaper than in the shops. It's all out of doors and you can buy everything from cheap gold jewelry to underwear and bananas. I found the Chinese grocer deep inside the market, way at the back. Having lived in Toronto and shopped in Chinatown and Kensington market this Chinese grocery did not impress me so much by the goods that it carried, but that these goods were available here! I located the green curry paste and vowed to return.
Andrew insisted we take the metro. It's deep underground here, like some of the stations in the London underground. One station has two levels of escalators, each about 4 stories high. You can eat an entire ice-cream bar before you hit the bottom. Andrew went silent in the metro. He was taking it all in. Once we were out he walked most of the way still not saying a word until he spotted some birds in a cage on the sidewalk outside a small market stall of cheap bar soaps and dish detergents. He pointed out the colours of the birds as we both hunched down to get a closer look. I would not have seen the birds had Andrew not stopped to look. The only creatures that close to the ground are toddlers and cats.
Being a visible minority in this country is very very difficult. And being a visible minority working in the alley-ways and recesses of the Ukrainain rynok (market) must be even worse. Ukraine has a reputation of being intolerant to visible minorities. Amnesty, The Jamestown Foundation and the EU commission on Tolerance have all written reports denouncing attacks on blacks and Asians by gangs here in the last few years. Even Borat, or Sasha Cohen is not tolerated by the Ukrainian censors who banned his latest film from cinemas. The censors worry about the homosexual content. So, as I am meandering through this vast market with my sweet son I become aware of the the glances and rolling eyes the Ukrainian market stall operators impress upon their Chinese competitors as they walk past each other going about their usual daily business.
We ended our trip home by stopping off at Maiden Nezaleznasty. Say, it slowly and you'll get it. It's another "town square" here in Kiev though not at all square. There is an underground shopping mall and above ground statues, fountains and concrete. Great places for kids to hang out, drink beer, skate board and be cool. This is where the Great Orange Revolution took place in 2004-2005 when Ukrainians finally stood up against the corrupt leaders and stood out in the blistering cold for months until a more sanitized set of corrupt leaders were given the chance to become the new government. This is the place where Bryan Adams played, twice. Elton John played here too and did not throw a hissy fit. Sir Paul also played in the pouring rain. That was a great show. The best frikin Beatles cover band in the world, with Paul on bass. Oh, yeah, and these shows were free! You have to pay to see Deep Purple, but Paul McCartney does it for free.
I hope you are enjoying my attempt at a vacation diary as much as I am enjoying writing it. Andrew can't wait till I write about his trip to the fish shop.
Kiev is a beautiful city, on a good day. Like today for example. The weather has cooled, a few clouds linger, and maybe some rain later, traffic's not clogging the streets. One could almost admire me living here. Andrew and I ventured out after his morning routines of eating and playing were complete. We headed toward downtown. I wanted to show him a couple of the famous monuments in Kiev, since he is a Kievite and half Ukrainian as well, he should know a couple of things about the place where he was born.
We got to Sofia's square and looked at the statute of Bogdan Kolmenitski. He sits in the square, which is not square at all, high up on a bronze horse. Old Bogdan is a famous Ukrainian hetman and Cossack and even though he has his own statue smack in the middle of the city he was a betraying bastard. Yes, he held back the invading Turks and managed to keep the Polish imperial armies out as well. But he buckled to Moscow and essentially sold Ukraine to Russia. He is considered a hero but not unlike many of the politicians here today he was just protecting his own private interests.
St Sophia Cathedral is a marvel. It is on the UNESCO cultural heritage list, and it stands large in the middle of the city. There were once 3 Sophia’s. One in Novgorod Russia, one in Kiev and one in Istanbul. The trail of Sophias maps the spread of Christianity throughout this part of the world. Kiev's Sophia is a massive building with old flying buttress support walls. Some famous dead saints are buried there and the interior walls have ancient Ukrainian graffiti of some religious sort. The best part of the site is the leaning bell tower.
On our way home we saw how Americans spend some of their tax dollars. Vice President Joe Biden was in town eyeing up the local beauties and living the highlife at the Hyatt across from St Sophia's where a room can cost upto 500 euro a night. And when you travel with about 200 people, well, you do the math. Andrew really wanted to test the security shield and insisted we get our asses over there. The VeeP was clearly not on site but was likely to be expected since it was nearly lunch time and close to nap time too. We sauntered in through the revolving front door past suited men and women all of whom looked very important with badges and brief cases. To make us look legit I inquired about the restaurant, looked at some hideously expensive watches under glass and then made our way back out the door back onto the street. At the end of the hotel drive cars were being stopped for security checks. We had to walk on the drive and not the side walk since the side walk was full of local police and more men and women in suits with badges and brief cases. As we neared the end of the drive I saw an American looking guy with a great big German Shepherd. I noticed the dog had a badge on its collar and I understood this was a police dog. I did not, however, understand it was on duty. Andrew loves dogs. When he sees one he says, Daddy, awf, awf. So I point to this dog and say, Andrew look! The dog lunges toward me. Thankfully the handler was on duty too and barked a quick NO to K-9 pulling him back to position number one. I apologized,for what, I don't know, nearly getting taken down by a 50 kilogram police dog, but neither the police officer nor the dog batted an eye. Andrew and I headed home.
It's the last time I try to crash the US Secret Service.
There's too much technology in my life. I know I am to blame since I am the one who has either purchased it or logged on to it. Difficult though to opt out of it all. I need a computer. I also need an external hard drive, an mp3 player, digital camera, mobile phone, email accounts and I absolutely need to be able to download music I want to listen to. It takes up a lot of my time though, working with, organizing and maintaining this technology. How though can I live without it all.
Andrew loves looking at pictures of his buddy Benjamin Taylor on the computer. He loves to look at his Canadian grandma on the SKYPE video call and he loves to walk around with the cell phone pretending he is talking to someone. When I was a kid it was a dream to imagine a time when we could talk to someone on the phone and see them on a screen at the same time. I wonder what Andrew will dream about for his future?
This week the wee lad started kindergarten. It's one of the oldest kindergartens in Kiev. Masha attended it starting at 13 months. It's going to take time for him to get used to the fact that there are other kids in the world besides himself. And, that there are authorities other than mom, dad and grandma. He is the youngest in his group but the older boys have already taken a shine to him. Andrew loves going to the dacha or summer home. This is where grandma works in her garden. Andrew has taken to removing his clothes and walking around naked most of the day. He stays in the shade, for those of you worried about UV rays, and puts clothes on when he goes to the garden to help grandma water.
The local entertainment at the dacha consists of clucking hens, cock-a-doodling roosters, barking dogs, a cow and a horse in the field. These things keep Andrew alert while spending time there. But the world lights up if we see the cow or horse pee or poop in the field. Let me tell you that when this happens we talk about it for weeks.