Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tbilisi!

This week I had the chance to teach a course in Tbilisi Georgia.  It was my first time there, if anyone is thinking about going I would definitely recommend it. 

 Tbilisi is an incredible city, they have an old castle on a mountain.  It is gorgeous.  We took an aerial tram up to look around.  The other side is the botanical gardens, so looking over one side and you have a busy capital city, then the other side and complete beautiful nature.  I've never seen anything like it before. 

 This was their freedom square.  It was a massive round about.  I would not have done well there if I was driving.

 
 There is a river that goes through Tbilisi, this is the presidential palace.  There is an interesting mixture of modern and old architecture.


 One of the most interesting things was to see a new place with a new culture.  Georgia has its own alphabet and the people there have been there for thousands of years.  Georgians are really awesome, I was taken aback by how nice and welcoming they are.  They also like to have a good time.  When we were walking around on a Monday night it felt like Friday night.  People were out and about, music was going some people were dancing it felt really exciting.  Turns out that is their normal.  


 This was at the top of the aerial tram ride.

 One of the coolest cities I've been to.


Ran into the Mormon missionaries on my way to class one day.  I was a bit late and didn't have too much time to talk.  Georgia would be a fun place to serve a mission: great food and nice people, about all you could ask for.  

 I went to teach a course, it was part of Tallinn University's summer school and was funded by the Estonian government as part of their 100 year anniversary celebration program.  Turns out that Tbilisi State University and Georgia also celebrated 100 year anniversaries this year. 


 My favorite part of the trip was teaching the course and getting to know my students.  In Tallinn University some of our best students are from Georgia.  In Georgia right now there are final exams so the students who signed up were motivated.  Having an entire class full of bright motivated students is a dream come true.  I could tell that they will go on to be very successful in life. 


The food in Georgia is also great.  Georgians love their food.  There are Georgian restaurants everywhere.  It didn't seem like there was a huge variety, a few key dishes but it seemed that everyone loved to eat them.  Kind of like Pizza and hamburgers for us. 


 This is like a Cheese pizza without the tomato sauce.  The cheese is a bit more salty and much more flavorful.  This might have been my favorite, I could eat it every day.

 The balls in the middle can be spread onto bread.

 Khinkali is maybe the most popular food here, at least from my limited time there it seemed that way. It is basically a giant pelmeeni.  They make sure to suck the meat juices out first and then continue on to eat the rest. 

 I had some digestive issues and wasn't able to pig out the last night there which was a shame.  I've only been back 2 days and I wish I could go back for more.  Fortunately there are some nice Georgian places in Tallinn that I will have to start visiting.

 This was a pot of beans with a dense cornbread top that kept it hot.


 This is a green pop that is flavored after some plant, it is very sweet but has a planty taste to it.  The pear and grape flavors are better.  

 I was also surprised to see a ton of US fast food chains: KFC, Wendy's, McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts, Sub Way, and Hard Rock Cafe.  In Georgia people are very fond of the United States and Estonia.  There probably isn't another country in the world where I could feel better about myself than in Georgia.


 As much as I loved the Georgian food there really is nothing better than fried greasy chicken skin.  Fried chicken is something that Estonia has missed out on.  The KFC was right across the street from the university so I had to take advantage of it. 


 I went to Hard Rock Cafe with the brother of one of my Tallinn University students (from Georgia) and her best friend who also was taking the course in Tbilisi.  It felt like I was back in the USA for an hour.  Having a milkshake made with milk was incredible. 

 The last evening we went to a different city about 25 km outside of Tblisi.  A student and her brother took us.  Mtskheta (try to say that 10 times in a row) is the ancient capital of Georgia and it was beautiful. 





 A large monastery on the hill overlooking the city




There was a group of youth learning a dance.  It looked like everyone was having a great time.  I also had a great time in Georgia, hopefully I'll get to go again at some point.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

May update

May is always a nice month, probably the best month of the year.  We have birthdays, Eurovision, and Keila day.  This year it was gorgeous weather for the entire month, the best May I've ever had in Estonia.  We were loving it.

 Cherry blossom season in Keila is May, a bit later than Japan.  Still beautiful.

 Our first kid was in a song competition!  The youngest to go from her kindergarten.  She didn't want to go up but on the third try I went with her and she went and sang her entire song!  We're very proud of her. 

We spent a lot of time outside and even saw a snake at the walking paths!  It is poisonous but not deadly.  scary. 



 Keila day was really nice this year.  It's the equivalent of the county fair, but it is a single day event not a week long.  Every year we increase our budget and we come home having spent all our money wishing that we had a little more. Bigger budget for 2019!  I love trying the extreme donuts.

 The kids love the pony rides.


 Last year our youngest was too scared to go, she loved it this year!

 They also went for a pony wagon ride.

 The kids got an all day pass to the bounce houses. 




Birthdays!

May is a great month because I have a birthday and our 2nd child has a birthday.  For my birthday we went to McDonald's and went swimming.


 I ordered a specialty cake from a good bakery in town, it was great.  Go Niners!

 I love McDonald's but hardly ever go.


Maris got me a massive bag full of candy.  Everyone was happy to help me out eating it. 

 
 We also went to a mall just to look around and hang out.  The kids kind of liked this train ride.  Our oldest demanded to get off mid ride, fortunately no one was hurt in the process!  If they can't handle this for 2 min they might need a bit more seasoning before they take on Disneyland.  It was a great birthday, except I didn't feel well the day after.  Next year I'll cut down on the protein and sweets. 

 I got this awesome candy surprise for my birthday, it came a bit late so we saved it for birthday party number 2.  They got my sweet tooth and loved the candy.


 We had a party at a play room here in Keila.  I think this is our 3rd birthday party here and the kids love it. 
 Maris found this cute cake at the store so we went with this one.






Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Eurovision 2018!

This was another epic year for Eurovision, and is one of the highlights of our year.  Is there a better celebration of humanity out there?  I doubt it.  Here is a great article about Eurovision from the Economist.  A celebration of humanityBelow are a few of our favorites from this year's competition.



Israel was the winner.  This was our favorite too.  Nothing says girl power better than a good chicken dance right?  The music video sounds better because they were able to add more sounds.





Cyprus came in 2nd and also had a good song.





Moldova was once again one of the hero's of Eurovision.  No sax guy, but still an epic performance.




Estonia came in 8th and had a really good song.

Can't wait until 2019!


Sunday, April 29, 2018

April in review

April was a good month, filled with lots of excitement.  Here are some updates:

 On April 2nd we were hit with a large snow storm.  We had hoped that winter was done, but we weren't that lucky.  This year winter came late and stayed late. 



 The tram I was riding to work one day hit this van.  Luckily the tram rang the bell for a little bit before the accident, so most people had time to brace themselves.  No one was hurt, but it was still a pretty big hit.  As you can see the tram did much better than the van. 


 The Balti Jaama Turg (market) has been rebuilt for a few years now and I have never actually gone inside.  It is right next door to the train station and I guess I always felt I was too busy.  Luckly for me I decided to finally go and look around.  I was shocked at what a cool place it was.  Big lesson to me: take time to enjoy the beautifies of life. Especially the ones right next to us.

They had these cute booths where some food stores were.  This pink one was a bakery.  In the back not in the picture is a Muhu Leib bakery and man the best bread I have ever had.  
 

 The kids loved these super cute cookies.  They were extremely expensive and tasted very average.  The cuteness kind of makes up for it.
 There was a Georgian food restaurant too!  It was not a full sized place, they just had a few items for take away.  Really tasty stuff. 
 On one of the kids home days we decided to take a train ride to Laagri.  This is them before the trip, they were very excited.
Elder Uchtdorf came to visit Tallinn.  He gave a good message.  I translated one talk into English but he said later that he couldn't really hear it.  Maybe I wasn't speaking into the microphone?  Oops. 

All in all a good month and the best month is right around the corner.