Kralovec Family Journal: February 8, 2020

Highlights from Oliver and Ocean’s Games

It was a busy day yesterday with all three children playing basketball games. The day started with breakfast for Ollie and Ocean and taking them over to the gymnasium. Ocean’s team lost 5-11 in a game with a running clock and slow-acting referees where most of the game was spent arranging players on free throws or inbounds plays. The referees did not recognize the importance of swift play to give the students the most amount of actual play.

Nadia counsels Owen during the conferences

Oliver’s team defeated a local school 53-18. They were much younger than our school and that happens occasionally when arranging games with local teams. I love the way Oliver attacks every moment on the floor with gusto! He is always hustling and supportive of his teammates.

Owen’s team also faced an inferior, younger opponent and won 78-9. It was a workout and the team did run through its sets in a full gym, but it was almost not worth the game.

It was a gorgeous spring-like day along the canals yesterday.

It was a beautiful day, more spring-like than winter with temperatures going up to 20C (68F) in the afternoon. I took advantage of the delightful day and went for a 10 kilometer run along the Ankhor Canal. Nadia and I had fun at the Tashkent Women International Group ball at the newly opened Hilton. All proceeds went to a children’s hospital . The theme was Hollywood and the organizers did a good job with the entertainment, including arranging for paparazzi to welcome us on the red carpet. We had some laughs and danced for a long time. Nadia looked beautiful in her Aunt Silvia-designed dress. I am lucky to have married such a mujerona.

Selfie at the Ball last night

I really enjoyed Parent-Teacher-Student conferences on Friday. With our kids growing up so quickly, these occasions will be coming to an end. It was funny to see Owen’s face as he was getting it from both me and Nadia. All of them are good kids, just not ambitious or studious at this point in their lives. All of them are well-adjusted and happy, and I guess I should be happy for that.

My Impressions of The Hague

A windy winter day on the dunes of the North Sea

This is my second visit to the Netherlands. I attended an IB conference in March of 2009 in Amsterdam. This week I was in Den Hague (The Hague) the third city of the Netherlands. The city is much smaller than Amsterdam, which I like. It has been awhile since I’ve been in an European city. I forgot how nice it is to have good public transport and most importantly, a strong cycling infrastructure.

The Netherlands is probably number one nation for cycling and in thinking back to my first trip over 10 years ago, I have developed into an avid cyclist. My five years in Japan gave me the opportunity to road cycle daily and I continue to find opportunities to cross-cycle in Tashkent. I rented a bicycle from the hotel and daily rode the 7 kilometers towards the coast to the International School of the Hague. Besides having protected cycle trails on both sides of the road, the drivers are hyper aware of bicycles. One of the employees of the hotel said he saw a television program that Americans were questioning why the Dutch do not have mandatory helmet laws. Research shows that often people do not bike because of the helmet laws and the Dutch government even went as far as to say helmet laws are bad for overall health of a population. I would say that the Dutch are probably more healthy than Americans because of high number of people with the bicycle as their main form of transport. 27% of all trips in the Netherlands are by bicycle! There are more bicycles (22 million) than citizens (17 million).

A classic Netherlands scene – residential canals in the Hague

I rode onto the dunes and visited the North Sea beaches two afternoons after the workshops finished for the day. The Hague is at 52 north latitude and darkness in late January comes around 5:30 PM (8:30 AM sunrise), so I had limited time. As in the city, there were clearly marked and protected cycle paths through the dunes with views to the beaches and the coastal towns inland. From the town of Kijkduin near the school, one day I went north, riding through Westduin Park and the second day, I rode south to the town of Monster.

My morning commute – kilometers of protected bike lanes in the city!

We are considering sending our children to the Netherlands to university. There are many English language programs and sadly, it is less expensive for non-EU citizens than in-state tuition for American universities. The Netherlands is smart to attract foreigners to come and study in the country. I think that may result in more business in the future for Dutch companies as smart people with strong ties to the country develop their careers. I would be OK with my children eventually living here. The one drawback to life here is the population density, which is slightly higher than India. However, they have such a great infrastructure (housing, roads) that it doesn’t feel crowded as other places I’ve been to.

The walking street in downtown Den Hague

The Hague is also known as the International City of Peace and Justice. I know it for being the site of the UN International Court of Justice and remember while living in Belgrade the many Bosnian Serbs that were captured and faced trials in the Hague. I visited the Peace Palace on a rainy Sunday morning and was pleasantly surprised that American Andrew Carnegie donated the funds to build the beautiful cathedral like building. Since the 1300s, the city has hosted peace conferences and meetings. Today, it is the seat of the Netherlands government, one of the most progressive governments in the world, and also international peace organizations.

International Peace Palace

Latest Reading: Before the Fall

It was an eerie coincidence that last night I finished Noah Hawley’s suspense novel “Before the Fall”. This morning I learned of NBA legend Kobe Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash. The novel centers around a private plane crash between Martha’s Vineyard and New York. On board the plane was the CEO of a fictional Fox News and his family and friends. The only survivors are a struggling artist and the 4-year old son.

After describing the crash and amazing survival story, the novel gives the back story of the 11 people on board. The story works toward the results of the investigation of the crash. Hawley is an author but more famous as a writer for television, including being a showrunner for the series Fargo and Legion. The book has a cinematic quality to it and I read where it is turning into a movie. Contemplating the cause of the crash assisted me falling asleep.

My takeaway from the novel is the idea of great wealth. Having more money than one can spend in a lifetime brings luxury and comfort, with no material worries. However, it does not bring true happiness and the most important things, such as family relationships (husband-wife, father-daughter, etc.), health, purpose are not enhanced with great wealth. In fact, running a fictional Fox News takes the father away from the family. His wife is a former school teacher 20 years younger than him. I think there is a sweet spot for wealth; to be comfortably upper middle class.

I recommend the book, it is a page-turner and Hawley gives lots of details about psychology, motivations, childhoods, about each of the characters that give depth to the action thriller.

Kobe Bryant, age 41, died in a private helicopter crash along with his daughter and friends. He was on his way to a basketball game. His immense wealth (and bad luck) was the cause of his death as he could afford to fly to the game instead of driving like most people do in metro Los Angeles.

Happy Birthday Nadia

We celebrated Nadia’s birthday, January 26, 2020, with a stay at the local Hyatt Regency. This is Nadia’s favorite place in Tashkent! We had a nice dinner at the Italian restaurant on the top floor Saturday evening. The next day we had a long breakfast, watched Australian Open tennis and went for a swim in the afternoon before checking out. It was a relaxing stay for us.

We were greeted with a light covering of snow in the morning.

The Hyatt treated us right with a birthday cake in the morning!

Day on the Slopes

Owen and I at the Top of Amirsoy

I always say that any day I am outdoors more than indoors, it is a good day. We really enjoyed a day at the new Amirsoy Resort. We didn’t have school yesterday and it was not a national holiday so it was the perfect day to go skiing. With no waiting times for the chair life and gondola, we had the slopes almost to ourselves.

Owen is getting better as a snowboarder. He switched to snowboarding on a school trip last year in Japan and continues to develop his skills. I was a bit out of sorts yesterday, being a little slow thinking and lethargic, but as the day progressed, I felt more comfortable. After lunch, a heavy snow softened the hard edges and it was pure pleasure to swoosh lightly through the deep powder. It was snowing and blowing so heavily at the top of the mountain that the resort closed the highest slopes in the afternoon.

Refreshing Mountain Views

It would be nice for the school to develop ways to integrate winter sports into our physical education curriculum. With lift tickets/rental under $35 per person and the resort only a 90-minute drive, it is possible. I hope to come back a couple more times this winter.

Kralovec Family Basketball

It was a grand day last Saturday with Owen, Oliver and Ocean all playing in basketball games. Owen is a junior and a starter on the Tashkent International School varsity boys high school team. Grade 8 Oliver is on the junior varsity team and Grade 6 Ocean is on the middle school girls team. The joy of watching our children participate in interscholastic team sports was tinged with a bit of sadness. I wish my parents were alive to see them play. My mom and dad were avid supporters of youth sports and loved nothing better than to watch their children play sports. They would have been beaming with love and pride to see their grandchildren on the basketball floor.

An historic moment – Ocean’s first basketball game!

Ocean was the hero of the day! She has played a lot growing up with two brothers and it showed on the court. At another game this week, she made the winning basket (see YouTube video above).

I love watching Oliver play. He plays with reckless abandon and loves to be physical. His happy-go-lucky attitude in life shows on the court and he truly enjoys the competition and camaraderie of being on a team. He has a big frame and uses it to his advantage.

A proud dad!

Owen has a passion for sport and is an outstanding ball handler and rebounder. It is strange to have a left-handed son but I get so much pleasure from being around the team as an assistant coach and interacting with Owen and his teammates. I try to teach them the fundamentals of basketball and give them insights into how to win more games.

Interscholastic sports at international schools have not become intense like US public and private schools. It is a bit old-fashioned with practices 3 times per week and 10-15 games per season. I just want for my children to get the experience of playing on a team, learning the sport, deal with winning and losing and be active.

They have culminating Central Asia and Tashkent tournaments coming up next month and I will be blogging more and include highlights of Owen’s games.

Tashkent Journal: Mosaics, Lenin and a Japanese Pond

I love this colorful Soviet mosaic on Taras Shevchenko Street in Tashkent. The mosaic is on the wall of School #110, which also bears the name of the Ukrainian poet, Taras Shevchenko. The large mosaic panel was made by artist V. Kutkin and was dedicated on June 1, 1970. Many Ukrainians settled this part of the Tashkent and the mosaic and park was part of the rebuild after the 1966 earthquake. A statue of Shevchenko in front of the mosaic was dedicated in 2002 and the then Ukrainian president attended the ceremony.

You can see Shevchenko in the left center of the panel, playing a kobzar, a traditional Ukrainian guitar. I am not sure what is taking place on the left side. I see a muscled worker with a newly forged sword and some fellow workers saluting his work. To the left looks like some people suffering, but I am not sure what is the cause of their suffering. As one moves past Shevchenko, spear-carrying soldiers appear to be marching by a muscled women holding both arms up. On the far right, Uzbekistan is celebrated by its rivers, cotton production and golden sunshine

Who was Taras Shevchenko? He was a artist and author who lived in the 1800s. He is regarded as the “father” of the Ukrainian literature and the modern Ukrainian language and had strong views of Ukrainian independence and often ridiculed the Russian royal house.

The art of the Soviet Union is fascinating and I hope city officials preserve them. In the late Soviet times, all building projects had 5% of the budget dedicated to “artistic elements”. It is part of the history of the city and as we get further away from the Uzbek SSR times, there will be pressure to modernize and demolish Soviet art and architecture. I feel it is one of the charms of the former Soviet sphere for foreigners. I understand not all people would agree, but I also think that all periods of history of a country should be preserved in part. This is a good website that gives a more in depth history of Soviet mosaic panels.

This is another 1970s Soviet building. It was completed in 1970 to celebrated the centennial of Lenin and was a museum dedicated to him. For 20 years, middle and high schools in the city led mandatory field trips to the museum. After independence, it was changed to a museum of Uzbekistan.

In 2001, the Japanese Embassy and the Uzbek Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations built a park near the Tashkent Tower. There were quite a few water fowl in the large pond.