Covid-19 Journal

Palace of International Forums at Sunset

It has been an unusual Spring Break for me and my family. We finished school on Friday with a faculty meeting to update everyone in case Covid-19 cases were confirmed in Tashkent. On Sunday, March 15 the first case was confirmed, a woman arriving from Paris. Since then, it has been many crisis management team meetings and communication. Expatriates have to make the difficult decision to stay or leave. There is so much uncertainty to what is the best course of action and it has been stressful for everyone. I am trying my best as the director of the school to help all employees, students and parents. Time has slowed way down, and that Sunday feels like a month ago.

Part of the uneasiness is the fast nature of the pandemic. When we were making travel plans during the winter to visit Japan, we never thought that spring break would be filled with contingency plans and preparing for an extended social distancing anti-viral campaign. Everyone has been sorting through different emotions and with the huge amount of information we now receive via the internet, it is overwhelming. The Uzbek government, like many around the world has stopped outgoing and incoming flights.

Apricot Tree in flower on my street

Another source of uneasiness is how long this pandemic will last. In looking at the early hot spots of China, South Korea, Italy and Japan, it could take a while, even until this summer. I also do not know how the virus will spread here in Uzbekistan. There are limited testing kits and medical facilities will not be able to handle a large number of patients. It is a young population here, but there is also a lot of poverty and I worry about the disadvantaged population here, the poor and elderly. I hope our school and my family can help.

Owen making breakfast in the kitchen

I now want to prepare for the worst and make sure that our family is ready to the challenge ahead. We will stock our pantry with non-perishable food to carry us over in case we are homebound.

One thing I am doing to relax is to cycle and on my rides I take some pictures of Tashkent.

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.