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February 2009

the dog walk


although i could do with out all the trash people throw on the ground, one of the enjoyable things about being a dog owner is getting out for a walk.  during the cold months, its easier to just walk from my house down the hill to a small park on svetlanska st.  here's a montage of what our walk typically looks like as i walk to the top of the hill i live on and then proceed to walk (or slide) down it to pushkinskya st.


a work bench coming home from a hard day or leaving to go to work, i couldn't tell.


some of the townhouse apartments that over look the bay.


this gives you an idea of how close they build the houses next to each other, this is the back yard for each townhouse. notice how the cars can park right over your backyard.  hope the brake is on, just saying.. the white structure is either a staircase addition or a missile silo.


more back yards, more townhouses, or just an archeological dig.


part of the hill on the descent.  not much for barriers so your own your own sliding down it.


babushkas shopping for fresh fish and meat, near the park.

Park bus stop

park bus stop.


some of the local youth inspired artwork.


at the park with lucia after her succesful search for something to gnaw on.

nothing like a hot meal after a day with clowns


i went to the circus again with my co-workers. there's something bittersweet about venturing to the circus.  i've seen three different troupes come through vlad, and some of the acts boarder on high school talent shows, while others should be shown in more than a one ring venue.  today circus had standouts in the jugglers, tight rope act and clowns. but mostly it was the clowns. the jovial ambassadors of humor consisted of a husband, wife, daughter team that interacted very well with the audience.  each routine was original and just the right blend of comedy to bring out the child in all of us.  the only downfall of the whole day was being shutdown by a woman when i tried to take pictures.  i didn't feel like arguing that my camera wasn't using a flash.  it does have a very loud 'click' when i snap a picture though. so no visual aids other than the mini feast picture above from a stop at the republic after the circus.  

happiness is a clean car..


monday morning, presidents day, day off.  but i had 5000lbs of guilt sitting outside my house that needed a trip to the car wash.  i also had an appointment for an oil change at noon. the car wash i use was packed even at 9:15am but i jumped into the queue, still not entirely sure if they have a system other than first come first serve, and asked for a wash.



i also discovered that the armor panels i installed in the summer for off-roading make a great catch all for road sludge.  the brown stuff oozing out of both sides of the flat panel, yeahhhh... that stuffs not suppose to be there. some of it broke free after the car wash but i had to get down and dirty with a pipe to bust out the rest of it.  why not let it melt?  i would but that panel has one hole i needed to get to for the garage to change the oil later today. nice...

with the car wash complete, i had enough time to run home for a short break before heading out again for the oil change.  a friend tipped me off to a good garage for suvs and 4x4s'.  the garage is actually named "4x4".  

the owner got my truck in quick and they finished it up in no time.  i had asked for an oil change and supplied them with a filter i had that matched.  they had their own stock but i had shipped a few just to make sure i would had some on-hand.  i did some research on my cruiser the night before and wondered if i should stick with the poly-synthetic or go all synthetic.  they said they can wash it out if i had poly in it before and put synthetic in it instead.  the consensus from other cruiser owners was synthetic so that's the route i took.  now i'm crossing my fingers hoping that the oil coursing through it's engine is not going to cause any problems.  i was surprised to see the final bill though.  the oil was around $10US a liter. i guess i haven't looked at oil prices in the US but i figured there must be a synthetic oil refinery somewhere in Russia.  it turned out they use imported oil so i wasn't lucky enough to escape the oil price gouging even in vladivostok.

after the oil change i stopped for coffee with a friend at a new restaurant called Che Guevara's, as in the guerrilla fighter and leader of Cuban socialism.  it was definitely an odd feeling seeing the whole place decked out in the revolutionary's honor with pictures of Castro and Che side by side. there was even a motorcycle sitting against the wall in memory of his early days traveling through latin america.  still the coffee and dessert hit the spot after a full day of running around vlad's still slippery byways.  

i have to comment that i'm totally satisfied with my vehicle and after three days of navigating the city's ice covered streets, i'm happy to report it ran like a champion.  even with the nearly vertical hills i had to drive on, which were forcing some people to turn around, i was still able to climb up and down them at will.  so if you're looking for a great vehicle that can handle lousy winter conditions look into toyota's fj cruiser.

i almost forgot to mention, i saw a black fj cruiser on saturday and monday.  i think it was the same driver because i waved at him saturday and got a wave back.  then today, i saw him again, this time he beat me to the greeting with a flash of his lights. so a tip of the hat to a fellow cruiser owner, nice ride you got there friend.  see ya around!

ski trip


it's saturday and i left with a friend to try out some skiing near the villege of артем (artyom).  actually it's closer to another villege but i can't recall the name of it right now.  it's located about an hour and a half northeast of vladivostok.  most of the drive took place through the mountains over dirt roads that were now buried in snow and ice.  i volunteered my toyota fj cruiser for the trip.  only five of us went since the weather and other issues caused a few others to cancel.  i started off around eight am and by the time we picked up everyone and arrived, it was about 10:30am.  i regret not stopping to take photos of the mountain roads but didn't want to block traffic on the narrow strip we were on.

it looked like we were the first to arrive at the slopes.  at first it looked like the place was closed.  but my friend had called before hand to check the ski conditions and to make sure it would be open.  we wandered around what looked like the ski shop and finally found a young man that could rent us equipment.  the rental was only a couple bucks and the skiing rate was 300rr or less than $10US an hour.  well worth the few hours to drive there.  


unfortunately, even the children/beginner slope was so icy it wore out even the veteran skiers.  i skied for about an hour and finally had to give up after seeing several wipe outs, luckily none of them involved me. i liked the ski lift they used.  it required a little dexterity to handle.  there's a rope that runs up the hill and loops back down to a motor.  you step up parallel to it, grab it with one hand and lean back.  it propels you up the hill as long as you keep your skis under you and your weight shifted back. (see above photo)

we stopped for lunch at a small cafe near the shop.  recharged, we went back to ski and try some inner tubing.  i wiped out on my first tube slide and banged up my upper back a bit.  but after giving the tube slope more respect, i enjoyed the rest of the slides.  

all in all, it was a beautiful day with clear air and a warm sun.  we called it a day since it would be getting colder, darker and we still had to deal with the drive back.  i'd go back again but it will have to be after a few more cold days without any rainfall.


thursday night, i heard news of another snow storm coming by friday.  so i was surprised when i found not snow, but rain coming down friday morning.  it's february right?  i skipped driving to work because i knew the worst of the weather would hit by the end of the day.  i donned icebreakers' (spiked sandals) over my winter boots and half-walked, half-rock climbed down my hill to work.  by noon the rain changed to snow and the slush began to piled up.  traffic started to make the streets look like the narrowest parking lot in the world and many people took to the sidewalks because it was faster.  by 5pm the slush morphed into ice with the changing temperature.  there was a six car accident down the street from the consulate.  any regrets about having to walk up my hill to go home were quickly replaced with the satisfaction that I wouldn't be stuck in traffic for an hour just to drive a mile.  the only downside to the day was I had to cancel plans to go watch a basketball game between vladivostok and st. petersburg.  

actually, there was one more surprise before the day ended.  a construction crew, next to our townhouses, cut the main power line feeding my home.  props to the crew for waiting until friday before botching the job.  another shout out goes to our landlord for his talent of talk but no show when it comes to fixing things like this.  fortunately our complex has a generator for electrical.  but the boiler isn't connected to it so some of the townhouses went without hot water all weekend.  we all lost heat for a couple days and expect to get it back by monday.