Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January happenings

We took the kids to see Ringling Bros, Barnum & Bailey Circus here in Miami!  The "Dragons" show.  There were lots of acts to enjoy, and overall I was surprised at how toned-down it felt, stylistically.  Maybe they're experiencing budget cuts as well?  There was less glitz than in previous years (which suited me just fine.)

Baz has taken up running.  He decided he wanted to build up to run a 5k here in Miami, so starting in the New Year we began a regular program, running several days a week.  The first day, he managed a mile.  He can now do 3!  So the two of us have signed up to run the Miami Zoo 5k on February 9.

Isa got a Butterfly Kit for Christmas.  We sent away for the caterpillars, and she spent a week observing the 10 of them in two little jars, growing bigger and developing chrysalises.

Then, a couple of days ago, the butterflies emerged!  All 3 kids excitedly went out with me to collect flowers and sugar to feed the butterflies, and we've spent several days now watching them flutter around their netted enclosure.  In our living room.

Nastia and I are getting Isa and Ilya ready to start school this fall.  Besides the schoolwork we do with them at home, once or twice a week we get together in the kitchen to tutor them .  I am teaching Ilya to read, in English, and Nastia works with Isa on Russian.  We Moms look much happier in this picture than the kids, and that is pretty accurate for the whole situation.

The school kids have found a great climbing tree just outside Totem's fence, and they head over there a few times a week to clamber around on it at recess. Thank goodness for this diversion. In every city they seem to latch on to some particular game for outside during school breaks, and in this city they've been stuck on a "boys chase girls and put them in jail" game, which is driving me crazy.

 Palm trees are weird.  And weird stuff falls off them all the time.  This huge piece of - bark? - crashed down right behind us as we were walking the other day.

Greg, his Dad, and the kids went to Manatee Park in Fort Myers, and got to see lots and lots of these beautiful animals.  Apparently there is a power plant there, which discharges warm water into the bay, and the manatees are drawn to the warmth.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

One side of Miami

Today I went for a bike ride, north on Ocean Boulevard.  I discovered that each beach town has its own character... Sunny Isles, where we live, is all high-rise hotels and apartments.  Or, you could say, where the fairly-rich come to vacation.  The next town up is Golden Beach, which is apparently where the filthy-rich come to live.  Multi-million dollar homes like this one (the ocean is directly behind the house) line the boulevard.  Wikipedia tells me that Golden Beach's 919 residents include Bill Gates, Ricky Martin and Paul Newman.  Here's a very amusing newspaper article from 1981 about the town closing its roads,  to keep out "criminals, curious tourists, joggers and Haitian refugees".

This side of life in Miami is somewhat entertaining.... like the bright red sports cars, the women bursting out of bikinis and decked out in jewelry, and the ladies at my yoga class who sit around afterwards comparing Botox treatments and hair colorists.

It's gorgeous weather but wow, I can't imagine living here forever.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Greg, flying

A couple of months ago, Greg decided to pursue something that's always been a dream of his.  He is learning to fly a plane, working towards his private pilot's license.  The photo above was taken the day of his first solo flight (yes, you read that right) - he's pictured with his instructor, Dennis, and with a Cessna 172.

It's been a strange couple of months in our household, adjusting to Greg's new project.  While I'm used to him disappearing for hours on end to manipulate shapes built out of wood, metal or PVC pipe, I can't recall him ever pursuing a hobby with any seriousness, unrelated to juggling.  And, like Greg, this one is a bit of an extreme - of course he's not going to take up bowling or jigsaw puzzles.

Flight lessons suit his personality well in many ways.  There is a science behind all of it, requiring hours of textbook study on the physics of flight and the operation of these fairly complex machines.  The flying itself is a kind of manipulation, a high-stakes one that Greg seems to thrive on.  He's always been an analytical, highly controlled (if sometimes aggressive) driver - now he's taking those skills to a new level.

People have asked me if I'm nervous about Greg's flying.  No, I don't fear for his life.  He's taking a very prescribed course of study with professionals, who I don't think are going to let him crash the plane.  If anything, I am disoriented by his many hours away from home (on top of his regular long work hours) and I'm perplexed by the fact that these Cessnas only hold 4 passengers.  But, practical or not, convenient or not, I'm still proud of him for pursuing something that's a bit daring, extremely challenging, and above all, something that is for his satisfaction and accomplishment alone.  Our time on tour has allowed me the time and freedom to pursue lots of things... yoga, running, Russian study, leisure reading .... and I'm glad that Greg has found something he can do as well.

So here it is, a video of Greg's first solo plane landing.  He's all by himself!  Flying a plane!  Wow!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Oleta State Park

Today Greg, Isa and I finally pulled our bikes out.  Our final month in Atlanta was so cold, and we've been busy with other things since arriving here in Florida ... the bikes haven't seen the light of day for nearly two months.  But it felt great to get out and ride again!  Less than a mile from our house is a big green space called Oleta State Park.  Lots of trails for biking, waterways for kayaking, and a remarkable quiet peacefulness so close to the busy roads of North Miami Beach.  Isa, riding behind me on the Trail-A-Bike, especially enjoyed the birdwatching.  This heron was as tall as she was!

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Everglades

Only about an hour from our home in Miami is Everglades National Park, and today we joined my Mom and Dad for a visit there.

It was a perfect day to explore the Everglades, a quiet winter Monday with mild temperatures and low mosquito count.  The photo here is of the first creature we saw upon our arrival - an American alligator mom, right beside the road with dozens of baby alligators behind her!  It was incredible.  

The day continued with lots more sightings of alligators and birds and fish, nature trails, ranger talks, and learning about the diverse landscapes of the Everglades.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Another beach picture

Probably just the beginning of our bright beach pictures, this is only our first week here!  This is Isa with her little Belorussian friend Alina.

To be honest the ocean isn't my favorite place to spend time.  Nor is Florida my favorite place in the world.  But the sun, and the salty air and the warm sand, have an intoxicating effect... it's impossible not to be happy here.    Maybe it's just the ambiance of rampant relaxation.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Estamos en Miami!

Yes, that's Spanish, mi amigos.  No, I don't speak any Spanish whatsoever.  It's noticeable here!  Where 62% of the population speaks Spanish at home.  (A Huffington Post article on the prevalence of the Spanish language in Miami, here.)  I'd like to say that I'll take this opportunity to work on my Spanish while I'm here, but that would be an outright lie - Russian is all I can handle at the moment, I'm doing poorly enough at that.  Espanol will have to wait for another lifetime.

We have been in Miami for several days now, and the warm sunshine has been a shock to our systems. For the first day or two I was blinking like a mole outside.  But we are slowly adapting, spending time each day at the pool or the beach, and packing away all of our sweaters and gloves. It didn't take a lot of persuading for these boys to jump in the waves ... that's Baz, Petr, Ilya, and Yahor.

Greg and I are also finding a lot to occupy ourselves here... Greg has started lessons at a new flight school, and I've found a nearby Bikram Yoga studio.

Last night, we got out for a date to see Orchid, a burlesque-circus-theater production produced by our old friend Marty LaSalle.  Here we are with Marty after the show.  It was a great evening out ... we started with dinner at a nice Italian restaurant, and the show itself was 2 hours of talented performers putting out song and dance and acrobatics and high energy.  We are so impressed with Marty's success ... the audience was full, the crowds were enthusiastic!

So these are all the good things about our arrival in Miami.  Not everything is perfect - the apartment we're staying at, while in a dazzling location, is possibly the poorest quality we've yet experienced on tour, lots of stuff falling apart.  Additionally, there are distances to travel here - we are 6 or 7 miles from the Cirque site, and most of the other families are in apartments 6 or 7 miles beyond that - and no public transportation.  With these kinds of difficulties, I may have to give up some of the English classes I've been teaching - it will be too much to get everyone to schlep to the site on a regular basis.  I'm going to miss the camaraderie of sharing an apartment building (Georgian Terrace!) with all of the other families.

So, the sun and surf will have to be our companions for the next couple of months... it could be worse.