Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Москва - Relaxing in the heart of Mother Russia

After three unsuccessful attempts and many doubts that the trip will really happen this time Kerstin and Jakob brought Markus on Monday morning to the airport as he was heading for his first visit to Moscow, the capital of the Russian Federation. Not having used the three previous one-year-visas he applied for resulted in the embassy only granting a 30-day visa. Maybe he is qualified now again for a longer one. Upon arrival at Domodedovo airport Russia presented itself with for November very mild 4 degrees but grey and overcast. Having been warned about the bad traffic Markus was quite surprised reaching the Ritz Carlton Hotel, just around the corner from the Kremlin and the State Duma, after 70 min by car. As his client arrived 1,5 hours later Markus used the time top explore the area by walking around the Kremlin and Red Square alongside quite a lot of moscovites. The day was concluded with a nice dinner at Nedal'nij Vostok with some of his Russian colleagues and his Scandinavian client where they had excellent famous Kamchatka crab.

In case you forget what day of the week it is: the elevator will tell you!

Due to the 2 hour time difference the next day started very early (pick-up at 0830 local time means 0630 Vienna time) and kicked off a day full with interesting meetings, hours in the car and experiencing the famous Moscow traffic. The fact that police is omnipresent on the roads provide a strange controversial feeling as on the one hand it feels “safe” but on the other hand one has the impression to be permanently controlled. What also is striking is the sharp contrast of wealth. You have Bentleys, Hummers, Maserati, Lamborghinis and Rolls Royce (not to mention “cheap” S-class Mercedes, BMW 7 series, Infiniti SUVs, Porsche Cayenne or Audi R8) stuck in traffic right next to old Ladas or Moskvitch. Most of the cars – even the expensive cars of the rich – were covered in dirt as the roads were pretty dirty, car exhausts polluting the air and the wet weather helped to spray it all over the place.

Saint Basil's Cathedral - One of the most famous sights in Moscow

The meeting-laden Tuesday was concluded with dinner at Café Pushkin, on of the oldest and most famous traditional Russian restaurants with typical Russian food. Vodka consumption on Markus’ table was low as his two colleagues drove their cars and stayed off the wagon and his client is anti-alcoholic anyway. That also meant that the whole trip provided a certain level of relaxation as not much alcohol and no partying at all were involved. There are probably not many people who can claim they go to Moscow and return relaxed. Given the tight schedule did not allow for any kind of sightseeing after dinner one of the Russian colleagues did a city tour through rainy Moscow in his car and showed & explained the two Moscow-rookies the main sights like the Kremlin, the State Duma, Lubyanka, the former KGB headquarter, and the famous Red Square with Lenin’s Mausoleum and St. Basil’s Cathedral.

The Red Square and Lenin's Mausoleum during a rainy November night

Several meetings on Wednesday and a few hours on the newly built Domodedovo Airport concluded this first trip to Russia. Moscow left a very positive impression on Markus and he for sure will be coming back again. It is a fascinating city with a lot of very present history, with huge obvious contrasts and a place where wealth is shown very openly but at the same time a city which can be very tricky and where one really needs a lot of money getting paid in order to have good life. And yet one is not able to enjoy the standard of living that Vienna offers.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A new challenge

Earlier this week we have had another appointment at the paediatrician with the main purpose of additional jabs for the little man. The immunization has been taken with lots of courage but obviously also with a loud scream going alongside the injection, but luckily this was the last (programmed) visit to the doctor for two months and hopefully also the last injection for a while. With a size of 66 cm and a weight of 7520 g after 18 weeks our junior is still well in the upper end of the development range and its quite obvious that recent illness has not caused any harm to his growth.

On Thursday morning a new era has started for Jakob, when he had his first session of baby-swimming in the Dianabad, not too far from home. At home in the bathtub we already realized that he likes the wet element and is enjoying himself and therefore we were optimistic that he would also like the indoor pool. Apart from the fact that he is not so enthusiastic about lying flat on the water and relaxing - he has the permanent urge to sit up and raise his head - it was good fun and we understood that he is looking forward to next weeks session. The big question mark is how he will like the diving, as that part was skipped in the first session. What turned out a real challenge was for Kerstin to changing & towelling our active son and herself in a rather small changing area with plenty of other moms with their children and many strollers in the way as well, but she is confident that experience will make that task easier going forward.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Monday, November 16, 2009

Brothers in arms

The group of friends and colleagues to play with in the future has grown again last month when Laurenz, Claudia & Oli's son was born on October 9th. After a rather hectic and less pleasant start with some additional examinations and special treatment in his first days of life Laurenz has started to develop very well and is growing in size and weight at decent speed now.

Laurenz & Jakob - the dynamic duo

Last week the two youngsters finally met when Kerstin & Jakob visited them on Thursday and it pretty much looks like, as if the two boys get along quite well (they obviously speak the same language) and we believe we all will have a lot of fun with the couple in the coming years!

"See ya later, folks!"

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A glorious weekend

We have started Jakob’s fourth month on this planet with a pretty busy weekend as on Saturday morning we decided to do some long overdue shopping. As the day started early anyway we could take our time and still headed off pretty early towards IKEA in the north of Vienna. It was the first visit to the Swedish furniture discounter but he missed it all the way as he slept all the time and missed the whole experience. Once finished we even forgot to pick up the obligatory cheap Frankfurter combo (a pair of Frankfurter + a bread roll + a drink with endless re-fill) but changed over to BabyOne a nearby store for general baby stuff and outfit where we bought some more stuff for our little one. This well assorted shop will most likely become one of our favourites in the coming months/years. Not only because it is easily reachable. In the afternoon, we ventured out for a stroll on Landstrasser Hauptstrasse where we finalized the weekend shopping food and vegetables.

It seems everyone tried to be outdoors on Sunday! Even the monkeys.

Sunday morning presented itself in the most beautiful way with sunshine and mild temperatures and so the decision was easily taken over breakfast to visit the zoo in Schoenbrunn again. The three of us have not been there yet together and we could not imagine a better day for this first family trip. Not only did the sun turn Vienna into a real golden autumn but also we have never seen the animals in the zoo so active and outgoing. While the elephants were trumpeting along celebrating a real concert all the giraffes enjoyed themselves outdoor enclosure, the white-hand gibbons played catch-me-if-u-can with each other outside and even the rather slow Orang-Utans were sunbathing on the trees in the fresh air. Jakob was pretty fascinated by the busy zoo, the many children and maybe also by some animals, even though we did not have the impression he was watching them a lot. But for sure the time will come when he will laugh just the way we did today when he sees the animals playing and enjoying themselves so much.

On our way out we realised how lucky we were as the queue at the entrance was pretty long and for sure the afternoon was extremely crowded in front of the enclosures. Yet again we realised how good it is to get up early in the morning. One definitely has more of the day.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Friday, November 13, 2009

4 months, counting and audible

Today Jakob turned 4 months and the past weeks have brought a lot of changes and new things. The probably most obvious and at the same time most surprising is that the little man has got two teeth by now, one of which broke through more than a month ago! While the initial teething could hardly be relieved as Jakob has not entered the oral stage yet and did not use toys, fingers or anything else to bite on and get relief from the pain, he has in the meantime started to do so. This behaviour of chewing on everything/anything has probably been the starting point for another premiere, our first illness and stay in hospital due to an infection with the a norovirus. Quite obviously this one we could have done easily without!

Growth in size and weight continued as well, even though the few days in hospital and disruption in normal eating rhythm slowed down the growth a little bit, but we are at ca 65 cm and more than 7.3 kg anyway. The most recent developments make our lives a little bit more complicated and cumbersome again, as Jakob fell back to behaviour from his very early days: he does not sleep a lot, cries, or better said screams a lot and doe not like to be put to bed or lay him down in general. What makes things even worse this time round is that he is extremely focussed on kerstin and screams as soon as someone else holds him, plays with him or tries to entertain the prince. Even Markus has got no chance to calm Jakob down and so it is pretty difficult to allow Kerstin to relax and recover unless one wears earplugs. The "honeymoon" with our new neighbours definitely is over and now they have to realise that the area is not as quiet, as they might have expected.

A very rare picture these days: J sleeping peacefully

We are pretty sure though that the current phase will not last forever and that soon again Markus and friends and family will be able to spend time with Jakob but without Kerstin again in a calm way. Until we reach that again, we will be patient and keep on saying: "It is only a phase"

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Thursday, November 5, 2009

We together and the virus

Premieres are an important part of our lifes and we are all excited when things happen the first time, but there are though certain things which we are not so keen on and ideally want them never to happen at all. Sunday afternoon, once Heidi and Sandra headed back towards Vorarlberg the three of us went in nice, yet cold weather on an extensive walk through the Prater and the 3rd district with Jakob sleeping very well in his Bugaboo and the later afternoon was also still very ok. We played a lot, had fun and the bath in the evning together with Markus was fun as always. When bedtime has arrived we have had no hints yet what could expect us and even when Jakob woke up around 2200 as he was spitting and lying on wet betclothes we were still not thinking anything bad. A bit more than an hour later though we realised that something was not normal at all, as he was throwing up in bed and all the milk he had in the evening was spread all over the bed. What followed was several cloth-changes and several times of throwing up and so we decided to go to hospital and have him checked in the emergency room.

We showed up at the Rudolfstiftung, a hospital nearby which can be even seen from our terrace, at 0230 and before adn during the check up Jakob was throwing up again. What fascinated us as well as the doctors was though that he was smiling and full of energy, even though he was really suffering. In order to prevent Jakob from de-hydration Jakob registered his first stay in hospital at the age of 17 weeks. While Kerstin stayed with our little one Markus went home at 0530, gort ready for work and brought some toys and clothes into the hopsital on the way to the office. Jakob was in the meantime supplied with an intravenous drip which meant that he could not be caried very far – his radius of movement was ca 1,5m.

In fairly good mood given the circumstances

When the infusion was taken away on Tuesday morning Jakob seemed to be well but anorectic. Towards the end of the day though Kerstin felt more and more bad and so she started throwing up in the evening as well. Markus got a special permission to stay in hospital and take care of Jakob in all matters apart from feeding, but unfortunately also he started throwing up by 0330 in the morning. So in the end all thre of us got a viral infection with the norovirus which means that we are currently highly infectious. Markus’ brother Stefan helped a lot on Wednesday taking care of Jakob & Kerstin at the hospital, bringing them home, shopping for us and cooking a delicious chicke-soup. Luckily we all, somehow still toxic assets, are feeling much better by now and are clearly on the road of improvement, have disinfected our flat and hope we haven’t handed over the virus to other people, especially Stefan.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus