Sunday, November 15, 2015

A quick trip to London

Best part: The colors in the parks.

Beatles M&Ms at Leicester Square

An evening with Book of Mormon

The actual reason we were there.


Making a monster.

The Mire.

1/2 our hotel room.  So posh.
Ian and I did a quick trip to London this weekend.  As he puts it "She came to Moscow for me, so..." because it boiled down to a trip for a Dr. Who event and you really have to love someone to go all that distance for Dr. Who. I got the better end of the deal too, as I had a great time in Moscow.

Even cooler though, this lovely lady joined us in London.

My mom!
Wednesday we arrived in beautiful sunny London and joined our former DCM in Amman at her home for a dinner.  So great to see her and bring her a little piece of Amman in the form of a hanging lamp taken from our soon-to-be-demolished Oasis restaurant.  It's actually an ugly piece of art, but sentimental value goes a long way.

Since I hand-carried the lamp there, I had room in my bag. We're now the proud owners of one of these.  Every place we stay at in London has one of some sort, and we became rather attached to a colored-light-changing version in Northern Ireland.  This one lights up, but doesn't change color that we know of.  Honestly, we knew we were going to get one, basically forgot about it when we were on the ground, passed a grocery store and remembered, and bought the only one they had:

Sainsbury's Black Illuminating Kettle
Bring on the tea!
On Thursday we didn't have any plans, but at the dinner Wednesday night, another guest mentioned the British Library and how they have an original Magna Carta.  We were sold and it was an easy walk from the hotel (the British Museum was literally around the corner from our hotel but we never made it there).  What we didn't realize is they have a little of everything (not surprising to anyone but us apparently). A Tyndale Bible.  Hand-written Beatles lyrics on the back of an envelope. Original scores from Beethoven.

We learned it actually was a cry for help.  The handwriting change says it all.
Written music, before music was written. Mass-printed documents from hundreds of years before Gutenberg. A letter from Ann Boleyn with a post script by King Henry VIII asking someone or other to hurry up with Henry's divorce.  The British Library is a working library with exhibitions and was a highlight of our trip.

Since the weather was being Londony, we continued downtown and hopped a riverboat to Greenwich where we straddled 0* longitude.  Truly there wasn't enough time do the whole place in one afternoon as we skipped over the Maritime Museum entirely and mistakenly chose to see a planetarium show rather than stick with the longitude exhibition and see the observatory. As we put it, now we have a reason to go back.

East meets West.
That night Ian and I saw "The Book of Mormon."  Enough on that :)

Friday was Dr. Who day. Not a convention, but an indoor Festival at the Excel. It was a small event, with scheduled timings to see some of the actors, the writers, the assistant directors, the artists and special effects companies, with plenty of Daleks and Tardises for photos. There was no pushing, no real crowd, and plenty of opportunity to ask questions, especially of the special effects folks.

Dinner at "The Blue Door" meant eating at the hotel.  Though we didn't have a reservation, the restaurant was largely empty by 8 p.m. but the kitchen still busy and we discovered it was due to a Mathematics gathering in the meeting room downstairs.  I guess they were hungry mathematicians.

And then Paris happened.

And we came home.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Heartbreak and the emotional roller coaster of the past week.

Amman has been in the local, regional, and international news quite a bit this past week.  Our quiet little town has been rocked by terrible acts from nature and man.

We had another big dust storm which blanketed the city in a yellow cloud of grit that made you chew air and lasted for 2 days.

Followed by a 45-minute deluge of rain that turned streets into rushing rivers that killed four people and devastated businesses, homes, and property.

Followed by questionable deaths of 2 dual-citizen American-Jordanian sisters, friends of the queen, one who was a parent at ACS.

Followed by a shooting at a police training facility just on the edge of Amman which killed 2 Americans, a South African, a Jordanian, and wounded several others including 2 more Americans.

A week ago the Embassy was wrapping up a month's worth of planning for the First Lady to have a successful visit for her #LetGirlsLearn initiative. People were exhausted and worn from the daily ups and downs of plans that never seemed to get set in stone. Our Embassy is amazing in their ability to hop from one "must have" and "must do" to the next, pulling long hours and making things work even when they sometimes seem like impossible hurdles. Need to switch a program from day X to day Z even if day Z means bringing in hundreds of people on their day off from all over the city? Sure.  Want to switch arrival airports in an hour and ensure that everyone already at airport A is cleared and set at airport B? Fine. She might fly to point D, or drive to point D, but we don't know if she'll leave from point G or H yet? No problem. I'm in awe when these things go off right.

As it happened, it didn't go off at all. However much of your and my tax dollars were spent to prep for this event... however many man hours put into it... however many gray hairs sprouted and wrinkles gained, it doesn't matter anymore that the First Lady canceled her trip here. That feels like a year ago.

Instead we mourn our losses. Ian calls families 7 time zones away to tell them of theirs. And we try once again to make sense of the nonsensical, the frightening, and the heartbreak.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Moscow - the end, via Tel Aviv

So, our trip was awesome.  We can't thank the Donna Crew enough for their hospitality at home and willingness to traipse around the city. Visiting Moscow was a dream come true for Ian and I don't think it scared him off of bidding on it in the future.  We'll see.  You absolutely need Russian of some degree to function and he's not averse to learning, so there's that.  I think the constant observation would wear me down, but maybe you just get used to talking at light switches and fireplaces.

On the way home we transited back through Tel Aviv and made a pit stop in Jerusalem to see some very special someones...

Thanks for having us for a couple hours. We miss the Sabrina Crew a ton!  

Moscow - The Graveyard of Monuments

One of the last places we visited was the Monuments Graveyard, in the backyard of a huge art museum.  It's where a lot of sculptures came to rest, at one point in a giant pile of broken bits and severed heads, but now in a more artistic show.  The sculptures range in all forms from fairy tale stories (like the "wolf in sheep's clothing" below) to heads (see what I did there?) of state.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Moscow - Gorky Park Favorite

Gorky Park was such a treat.  Never mind that much of the trailway through the park was blocked off due to the yearly process of turning the walking paths into ice skating paths (how cool is THAT?), but the lake and fall leaves and crisp air and river walk were exactly the change we were looking for coming from Amman.

Right neat the playground we stopped at by the lake there was a vending machine of bird and squirrel snacks.  Bird snacks consisted of milled grains, of course.  Squirrel snack packs held chestnuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and the like.  We stuck to the birds (and the fish).

Clearly a highlight of Nicholas's trip.  Way better than any church.

Moscow - Regrets

Yup.  Wish I'd splurged on the painting.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015