Thursday, May 22, 2014

Update from Maidan

Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the central square of Kyiv that we fondly remember from many trips to Ukraine's lovely capital city, has changed tremendously since we last visited. Erik is in Kyiv to participate in an observation mission for the presidential election this Sunday, and he walked through the square early this morning.

Over the years, he has taken many strolls along Khreshchatik, Kyiv's "Main Street". Maidan Nezlaezhnosti is located toward one end of Khreshchatik. The square, which had been transformed into the center of resistance to former President Yanukovych's regime, remains an occupied camp. The perimeter has guards on duty, though they were relaxed and even a bit jovial as Erik walked through the area. The tent city is still occupied, and people were up and about early: smoking, drinking, chatting, and making breakfast. Unlike the 2004 Orange Revolution occupation which felt more like a camping excursion, this tent city has a martial feel. Walking around the encampment, you can catch the subtle acrid whiff of burned tires from the pitched battles held just a few weeks ago.

Monuments to the "Heavenly Hundred" who died defending Maidan are everywhere: photos, signs, graffiti, and even the promise of a small park dedicated to the fallen. The starkest reminders of what occurred here, however, are the burned out shells of cars and the Trade Union building that give the area a post-apocalyptic atmosphere.

Deserted car with the Trade Union building in the background.

Trade Union Building

A shrine at the barricades.

Commemorating the "Heavenly Hundred."

Maidan Nezalezhnosti.

Another view of the Trade Union building.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

French Arrival Ceremony #WHSocial

Two years ago, after a failed attempt to secure White House Easter Egg Roll tickets, Lea became aware of a TweetUp to get access to the event. Our second effort was unsuccessful, but we made contact with the White House Social Media Office and procured Garden Tour tickets as a (great) consolation prize. Late last week, we received an invitation to submit for a lottery to attend the arrival ceremony for French President Francois Hollande. Erik was a lucky applicant and headed out early this morning to the White House. The air was crisp and frigid, but the sky was bright. After waiting in a few security lines, he made his way to the South Lawn. A bit after 9:00 am, the event began with the presentation of colors, renditions of Hail to the Chief and national anthems, and brief remarks by both presidents. While Erik was not quite in handshake-distance of the presidents, he was close along the rope line. Other obligations kept Erik from attending the follow-up session in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, but the opportunity to participate in the ceremony was fantastic. Photos below.

Soldiers and Sailors from the Armed Services
Waiting in the Cold
The Presidents through a Sea of Hands and Cellphones
Greetings from President Obama
More Greetings from President Obama
President Hollande Addressing the Crowd
The First Lady and Presidents at the Ceremony's End

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year 2014!

Although our DC area adventure was originally scheduled to end in 2013, we were able to stay for one more year when Erik's term at the NSF was extended. While we will transition away from DC in 2014, we have continued to enjoy all of the opportunities that the area provides.
  • In January, we woke up early and stood in the cold for several hours for the chance to witness the presidential inauguration.  
  • In March and April, we traveled to the Tidal Basin several times, only to find the Cherry Blossoms uncooperative. But, we spied a few lovely blossoms in this annual treat.
  • May brought one of our favorite events, embassy open houses. We visited Kazakhstan, Australia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Peru on one weekend. The following weekend, we returned for the EU celebration, dropping in on Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Netherlands, and Austria.
  • We continued running, completing many 5Ks, an 8K (where Carter finished 3rd in his age category), and a 10K. We are working toward a 10-miler in April. 
In addition to success running, Carter also achieved several milestones.
  • He turned eight and received First Communion and Reconciliation.
  • One of Carter's favorite birthday presents was a photography lesson from a good friend (who also happens to be a fabulous photojournalist). The lesson paid off - Carter's photo finished in second place in a county-wide competition (see below). 
  • He also continues to improve in his favorite extra-curricular activities, soccer and piano.
While DC is an amazing place, it is also close to many other great destinations.
  • We combined business and pleasure in January, flying to Florida for a conference as well as Epcot and the World of Harry Potter.
  • We visited Harpers Ferry in May, Shenandoah in June to climb Old Rag, the Outer Banks in North Carolina and New England in July, Rehoboth Beach (Delaware) in September and October, and Gettysburg and Antietam in November.
  • After a quick trip to see family in Michigan for Thanksgiving, we returned via Niagara Falls and were amazed by the fantastic glaze of ice.

Lea and Carter at Niagara Falls

Carter's Award-Winning Photo
Grandpa Bistak, Fr. Tuck, and Carter at First Communion
We wish everyone a joyous and peaceful New Year.