Thursday, October 5, 2006

And Back to Canada (Belated Remarks)

Canadian FlagsTime flies so fast! I wanted to write a couple of words about our trip to Canada, even though it seems like a long time ago.

Winter at NiagaraWhen I saw the Niagara Falls for the first time back in 2002, I had a mixed feelings about them. They are undoubtedly beautiful, but somehow I was expecting more. I think that the hype about these falls affects the first impression; and urbanized area around slightly shifts the focus of attention from the graces of nature to the creative powers of mankind.

Horse Shoe FallsWhen I saw the Falls for the second time and tried to really appreciate them for what they are, I was more impressed. The Niagara Falls are indeed a grand place, filled with energy and charm. I only wish it was possible to have a private session with them – away from all the tourists and buildings, and cars…

CN Tower, TorontoIn Toronto the main point of attraction was the CN Tower – the “world’s tallest freestanding structure on land” (553.33 meters high). According to wikipedia, it is 13 meters taller then Moscow’s Ostankino Tower and almost twice as tall as the Eiffel Tower. The CN Tower was topped off on April 2, 1975 after 40 months of construction and was opened to the public on June 26, 1976. The sky was ominous during our trip there! twisted

360 Restaurant in CN TowerWe had a dinner at the 360 restaurant, located in the tower. All of us had to buy main entries for the dinner (the food was good, by the way).  I guess that’s reasonable, because there are a lot of people, who want to enjoy the view from this revolving restaurant, and making everybody buy something expensive somewhat limits the number of guests. The view was amazing. We took some pictures, but they can’t really reflect the feeling of being up there…

Golden Building in TorontoIn general I liked Toronto – it seemed clean and friendly. There is a very beautiful skyscraper in downtown; it stands out because of its golden color.

Toronto City HallToronto’s City Hall is also very memorable. It was designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell and opened in 1965. The saucer-like council chamber is located between 2 curved towers of different height, which look like 2 protective hands.

City Hall: NailsInside one of the City Hall buildings is a very interesting panel, made from nails of various thickness, length and color. 
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Friday, October 6, 2006

Triple 7 Weddings

777I heard a funny thing on the radio today. Robin from Howard Stern Show mentioned that a record number of couples are planning their weddings to fall on July 7, 2007. 07/07/07 that is. People are liking the lucky in love theme. A simple search on Google seems to confirm this to be true.

I’m posting this because if you remember my original post about our date considerations, 7/7/7 was one of them. Never mind the fact that we didn’t hit any of the dates I was talking about, but it still is an interesting fact.

As for me, I’ve become quite fond of November 23rd over the past couple of weeks. )
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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Wedding Dinner

Rio Hotel & CasinoThe last thing of big planning is done. Today we requested a contract for reservation at Antonio’s Italian Ristorante located at Rio Hotel.

After looking some more into this part we saw that all restaurants want you to order from a special menu, once you have 10 or more people. Since we have 16 people, we fall into this category. Most of those menus have a very high price and a very limited selection. In addition to that, since our wedding party is not big enough, they just connect 2 tables together in the main room, and that’s that.

We picked Antonio’s because the group menu has a pretty good selection of entries for a moderate price, the food reviews are good, and we get a private room, which is pretty good. In addition to that, we can substitute the desert for the wedding cake without any extra fees. But I guess that depends on the cake we choose. Or I probably should say Alena chooses. I made it her responsibility, since I really know nothing about cakes.

Here’s a list of the main entries from the menu that we selected:
  • Penne Rigate with Fingerling Italian Sausage
    Roasted Garlic & Peppers, Tomato & Oregano Ragout
  • Spaghetti Con Polpette
    Bolognaise Ragout, Meatballs, & Fresh Mozzarella
  • Pan Seared Ahi Tuna
    Braised Rice Beans, marinated Tomatoes, Soft Herbs & Roasted Pepper Putansca
  • Filet of Angus Beef with Spinach & Fontina Crust
    Herb Pasta Wrapper, Lemon Scented Potatoes, Seasonal Vegetables Selection
  • Veal Marsala
    Ragout of Porcini Mushrooms, Garlic, Parsley, Essence of Dry Marsala
  • Oven Roasted Spring Chicken
    Layered with Marinated Eggplant, Mozzarella, Fresh Herbs & Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Now we just need to sit and wait for our wedding to come! teeth
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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Odessa Trip

Visas to UkraineThis was a really unexpected turn of events for us, but we’re going to Odessa, Ukraine in 9 days for a week. The whole thing came up as a business trip for me about a week ago, since I have a team of programmers there. And we just bought a ticket for Alena ourselves. Originally we thought that visa for her is going to be a problem. Turned out that you just have to pay a travel agency of choice, and they’ll do all the work for you. Alena picked up the visa yesterday, so we’re good to go now.

In Odessa we’re going to meet up with Alena’s mom and her sister. She hasn’t seen them in over 4 years, and I have never seen them at all. So I’m going to meet them all a month before our wedding. This is exciting and scary at the same moment. 8O

As a part of the business trip, I have a co-worker friend going with me – Geoff. The interesting part about it is that Geoff has never been outside of United States (maybe Canada?), and he doesn’t speak a word of Russian. It’s going to be interesting to see his reactions / impressions. If I’d be Geoff, I’d be scared, but Geoff is looking forward to the whole trip.

What’s even more interesting is that we’re going to come back with another guy, who used to work for us in Odessa before. Now he was officially hired by our company here. He received a visa to enter U.S. last week, so we bought a ticket for him as well. That’s going to be another interesting thing. He hasn’t been to United States yet, and it should be a cool experience for him. He’s going to stay here for 18 months.

I, myself, am still not sure if I like this whole idea, but it’s not like I have much choice at the moment. Hopefully it will be more fun and less scary then before. o.O

P.S. U.S. citizens don’t need visas to enter Ukraine anymore, but I still have one from my previous trips there.
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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Work Drive

TireAs some of you know, I have to drive 70 miles each way to work. Our office is in Norwalk, CT. Today I had one hell of a drive. Wasting about an hour being stuck in traffic was the best thing of the whole drive. When I was getting close to the office I heard a loud bang. I turned the stereo off to listen what it was. Everything sounded fine, so I just continued. 3 or so minutes later the car started shaking, so I pulled over onto the shoulder.

When I got out I saw what was left of the tire – nothing. The rim was there, the tire was gone. I walked a little bit back and saw what was left of the tire. It was cut into 2 pieces.

Bloody HandTried to change the wheel on the side of the road. Besides having a crappy jack, the lugs were really tight on the wheel. In the process of getting them loose, I got bloody marks on my hands and I managed to break off one of the lugs at the base. cry

Geoff came out from the office and we called AAA. They got a tow track to us pretty quickly and I had the car dropped off at the auto shop near our office. So what they had to do was to take out the broken lug and put my spare wheel on. However they said that the only way to do that was to drill out the stud, then have it replaced. The whole thing cost me only $260!!! x And that not counting the fact that i had to order new tires (I decided to order a set of 4 to replace all of the old ones). That ran me another $524.

Now I just pray that I can get home without any trouble. This was the last day in the office before the Odessa trip. So much stress!!! crycry
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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Our Odessa Trip

OdessaWe’re back!! Our trip to Odessa is history and I must tell you that it’s nice to be home. )

FamilyWe’ve met with my family – my mom, my sister Ludmila and my cute little niece Viktoria. I was really happy to see them all. It seemed almost as if there were no years of separation, as if we just still live somewhere near each other.

Vika and AlenaVika looks very much like her father. She’s got so much energy – if I had even a half of it, I would become …. hmmm…. well, anybody I can think of. ) She is very sweet and loves to be included into everything.

LudaMy sister looks just as I remember and even though she complains about a new wrinkle, she really should not worry about that stuff yet.

My mom said she feels more comfortable with me being away now after I introduced Danya to them. She told us that she sees how we care for each other and that she is very happy for us.

We arrived to Odessa on Saturday, and on Sunday Danya got very sick. We’re still not sure what happened exactly, but most probably it was some kind of food poisoning. He wasn’t able to eat for 2 days and we even went to the local polyclinic to see a doctor. She prescribed him some drugs and they seemed to help. The doctor in Brooklyn (Danya visited him yesterday) said that her diagnose was wrong and that the prescribed medicine had little or no effect on Danya’s recovery. Anyway, good thing that it’s over now, because all of us were really worried about him back in Odessa.

In Odessa we also met Artem, his wife Darya and their parents. All of them are very nice people and we had a good time during a dinner, which Artem’s father arranged for us. Artem was hired by [Company Name] and flew to New York with us. He lives at his aunt’s house for the time being.

We lived in the “Black sea” hotel, which was Ok, but a bit overprised IMO. It cost us 107$ per night and for Odessa it’s a pretty considerable amount of money. My family rented a private 1-bedroom apartment for approximately a third of this price.

Daniel and Geoff Drinking GorilkaGeoff seemed to had a very good time too. He liked the city, the hospitality of the people, and I have a feeling that overall he really enjoyed the trip.

Alena's FamilyIt was hard for me to say goodbye to my family. I wish they lived somewhere close, so we can visit each other and enjoy each other’s company. I don’t know when or where we’ll met the next time, but it would be great if my sister could visit us here.
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