Wednesday, September 30, 2009

honey, devils, and some soviet propaganda

hey all. hope everyone is doing well. i always feel like it's been forever since my last post.
last week, like i had said, i didn't really do much until saturday. on friday night i went out
with kerri, erin, joey, kate, and jenny to try and find patriarch's pond. i'd never been to
this part of the city and it was actually in a really nice area. it was still really close to
the center of downtown but it didn't feel like that at all. it kind of reminded me of when i
was in prague because the streets were really small and the buildings were old but still
preserved beautifully. i got the impression it was a fairly affluent area judging from the
amount of mercedes parked on the streets. but anyway, we found patriarch's pond (the pond
from bulgakov's master and margarita novel) and it was nice. it wasn't a touristy area at all
and there were some cool statues and monuments around the pond. unfortunately the weather was pretty cold and cloudy but that's pretty much the norm now though. so afterwards we were going to try and get some dinner at the margarita cafe but you had to have a reservation, so we had to look somewhere else. there were a few restaurants and we ended up going to this bar with a fat man on the sign haha. i got a really good pasta dish and garlic bread and also a french
beer which was surprisingly good. afterwards we went across the street to another cafe for
dessert and i had the best dessert i've eaten in a long time. it was this apple pastry thing
and it was amazing. i will definitely go back there haha. after that we just headed home.

on saturday we had our group excursion to tsaritsyno estate and the honey fair. now, since i
am a homestay person, i usually just make my way to the metro stop where we are meeting by
myself since it's easier than meeting everyone somewhere. so we were supposed to meet at the stop by 12. i woke up around 10 and showered, changed etc. i am not used to eating breakfast at home so i just have a bad habit of not factoring in the 30 min. breakfast eating time that i need
to here. i also severely underestimated how long it would take me to get to this stop since i had
never actually been on this specific metro line before. so it took me forever basically, and
i ended up being 20 minutes late, so i felt kind of bad about that.

but the estate itself was beautiful, it was on a huge plot of land and there were a ton of
buildings, ponds, and bridges. there was also a huge singing fountain that played tchaikovsky
and a couple other songs. the story goes that there was a contest to choose an architect to
build this woman's estate, and after the first architect was chosen, she hated the design and
had it mostly destroyed. it was rebuilt and restored and so now there are the new buildings
and some of the old ruins from the old estate.

we walked around for a while and took photos and then we eventually headed across the street to where the honey fair was going on. the honey fair was crazy. it was hundreds of little stands selling homemade honey. all of the honey sellers were so aggressive about you trying and buying
their honey. i figured all of the honey was good so i eventually just bought a couple containers
of one that i liked. there were so many kinds though, i never knew that honey was so umm..
complicated? but it was fun and we had a good time. we lost a few people because the maze of
honey stands was impossible to escape from. after we were done we took the metro downtown and kind of were indecisive for a while until we ended up just going to get lunch.

saturday night, people had been talking about going out to a club, and so once the dust settled,
me, amanda, kelly, and sam ended up going out. we looked up directions for propaganda, which
is supposed to be a popular club downtown with no cover charge or face control (bleh). so we
took the metro to our stop and started looking. it's amazing how simple google maps makes directions and streets look, and then you get there, and the streets look nothing like how they did on the computer. we wandered and eventually stopped two extremely well dressed guys. they actually spoke some english so they told us where to go, and they also recommended another club called fabrique, because according to them, propaganda is "old". we decided to go to propaganda first anyway, though. we got there fine and the place was pretty small. it was really dark and they really only played techno house music ALL night. literally the beat never changed. this was a lot different from the clubs i had been to in prague where they actually played legit songs. so i was kind of disappointed, but the drinks were really cheap and it was still fun, so we stayed for a while.

after about an hour or so we decided we decided to try fabrique since the guys had recommended it. we left and got a taxi there. the driver was really nice and we attempted conversation, haha. anyway, we got there and it was pretty obvious that fabrique was a lot nicer since A) there were a lot more people hanging out outside and B) there was a hefty cover (like 500 roubles). we got in and checked our coats (note this for later haha) and looked for seats somewhere. fabrique was a LOT bigger than propaganda, probably 5 times at least. i liked the atmosphere better and they kind of played real songs (aka techno mixes of radio edits). so we hung out for a while and it was starting to get late. the metro didn't open until around 5 so we had to stay until at least 4:30 or so. we danced a few times and amanda actually got up on stage with one of the dancers haha. after a while she started to feel sick so a bouncer took her to a bathroom and we kind of sat around, danced, waited etc. when it was time to go, we all went up to get our coats and amanda couldn't find her ticket. unfortunately the charge for a lost ticket was 500 roubles, roughly 15 dollars, which the four of us combined didn't have. eventually one of the club employees offered to walk amanda to the nearest atm (which in moscow is not near at all) to get money. i walked with her and it took about at least 30 minutes to get there and back. we were both extremely tired and when we finally got back to the club and met sam and kelly, we realized the money amanda had just withdrawn was missing. so yeah, needless to say it was kind of a disaster. apparently, while we were gone, the club's manager, aleksei, talked with sam and kelly, and he offered to go get her coat for her. no questions asked, he just walked in and grabbed it. THEN he offered to take us to breakfast, in his escalade haha. so we went with and we went to a pretty upscale restaurant with him and one of his um..lady friends. at this point i was ready to pass out and we literally sat and ate and drank tea for 3 hours at least. quite possibly the most bizarre night of my life, he told us about how he cheats on his wife but it's ok if you don't get caught haha. he was hilarious. when we FINALLY left, he drove us to the metro, i went home, slept, did my homework and that was basically my sunday.

so the weekend really killed me, and lucky me, we had an excursion on monday to what i would describe as a ballroom/russian folk/satanic dance concert. it was basically three parts. the first was an amazing exhibition of different types of ballroom dance from all over the world. puts dancing with the stars to shame. the second was traditional russian folk dancing in the infamous ridiculously brightly colored costumes. and then finally, apparently based on a folk story set in ukraine, there was a probably 20-30 minute long dance with witches, demons, the devil etc. the choreography was amazing and it just blew my mind. it was probably my favorite excursion so far.

today, tuesday, i had signed up to visit and russian high school to speak with kids about life in
america, in general, things like that. they didn't really give us much information but
i wasn't expecting anything out of the ordinary. ele, amanda, kathryn, kate, anya, and me went
with lena and andrei, a director from the school, took two freaking marshrutkas to get there.
we got to the school and, this is so ridiculous, as we walked through the front doors, we could see
a fairly sizeable group of kids waiting anxiously inside, holding up cameras, taking a million
pictures, and surrounded by balloons. they were SO excited to see us. i couldn't even believe it.
one of the kids spoke english fairly well and so he gave us the grand tour of the school. and for
russia, it was pretty decent. after we had our tour, they led us to a classroom with a long table
set out, and they sat us every other chair so we could have russian students between everyone. they started bringing out pastries, tea, chocolates, and blini. i was in awe the entire time because
i hadn't expected anything like this at all. i mean, from what i can remember, whenever guest speakers came to my high school it practically took threats from the teacher to get us to do more than stand up and say hi.

so after andrei gave a little introduction, we started to eat and it was basically just an open
forum to talk with whoever we wanted. a good majority of the russian students spoke english fairly well, and i think all of them understood it at leat a little. some were definitely better than others though. i sat next to a kid named yura and i didn't think he spoke english at first since he only asked me questions in russian, but he did speak english eventually, and well enough for me to understand. i talked with him in russian for a fairly good amount of time though about volleyball (he asked, no idea why this is so popular in russia) and other things. his friend joined us halfway through and they wanted me to explain to them how baseball works. it took a good mix of my english and russian to get them to the point where i *think* they understood. afterwards, andrei helped the kids set up a game where we had to match important russian events with the years in which they occurred. we did that, chatted a little more, and then left. before we left, andrei asked us if we'd be interested in coming back and working on some sort of group project with the students (such blatant desperation for english practice haha, but it's fun so w/e) and we told him we would. but the students were beyond friendly and really enthusiastic which is always a plus, so we'll probably be back soon.

so yeah i guess i didn't realize how busy i have been since the end of last week, and i still managed to catch up with survivor somewhere in there, of course. nothing is really planned now until sunday, we're going to a soccer match at luzhniki stadium, which is the huge golden domed stadium on the moskva river. i'm super excited for this because i love to watch soccer. i'll be glued to the field the entire time. also, there's a possibility of aleksei inviting kelly, me, etc to a barbecue at his dacha or something haha, but we're not really sure what's going on with that. so we'll see. our petersburg trip was moved (boo) back a week so that's not til the week before and leading up to halloween. will keep everyone updated. hoping everyone is well!


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

sorry sir, i don't carry change

sorry for not updating in a while, last week was kind of busy since all the new students arrived, and i've been getting a lot of russian homework. but anyway, i think i left off around a week ago. we went to the opera last tuesday night which was interesting. i didn't really understand anything at all, but it was done in the more modern style as opposed to the classic style, so the costumes and sets were really colorful and abstract. not really sure what my opinion of it is, but it was an experience nonetheless.

this past weekend we had our excursion to the kremlin, which was on saturday. we had to wake up really early since our tour was at 10:30, so we met outside the kremlin and got some breakfast before heading in. our tour guide lady was so nice, she was sweet, very russian, and had a kind of odd sense of humor. inside the kremlin was not what i was expecting at all. it literally looks like a small town with streets, parks, and churches. if nobody told
you, you really wouldn't realize it was a government area. well, i guess the militsiya give it away, but still haha. so yeah, we walked around and got a short but thorough tour of the grounds. since it was a saturday it was empty aside from tour groups. we saw some of the more prominent goverment buildings, a huge cannon, and the tsar's bell, which was saved from a fire and now has a huge crack in it. it's a GIGANTIC bell. after that, we visited some of the churches and went inside to see all of the icons. this was my favorite part because i've
taken a couple classes on russian icons and it was amazing to actually see some of the icons i had studied in person. the restoration work done on some of the churches is incredible, though. in one of the churches, we were lucky to catch a small choir of about 5 people who sang in russian for a couple minutes. the tour was short but we definitely got to see a lot.

after the kremlin, i stayed out the rest of the day with a bunch of people. we went to get some lunch and then mostly wandered around for a while. i bought a book of skazki (fairy tales) which i will attempt to read and it will probably take me all semester to read one story, haha. more for vocab practice though. we also went to tsum, which is the [supposed] baby version of gum, the dept. store on red square. this was without a shadow of a doubt the most expensive store i have been in in my entire life. i honestly don't even know who shops here. even if i was rich i wouldn't shop there. i saw a tshirt for 200 dollars, and that's all it was...a tshirt. everything
else was upwards of 1000+ dollars. so yeah, we weren't there for very long. we also went to a vegan restaurant since one of the girls in our group is vegan. it was actually pretty cool and i probably would've eaten something if i had been hungry. we met a few guys who spoke english there too so we sat with them and talked for a while. afterwards, we met up with some of the other kids from our group and tried to find a bar to go to for the night. we were aiming for karaoke but never actually found it, so we ended up at a live jazz club, which actually
turned out to be a lot of fun. although we really need to find somewhere for cheap drinks here because so far nowhere has been. so that was my entire saturday, basically.

sunday i didn't really do anything at all, except homework. on monday i had class again and i'm really enjoying my language class here. i feel like i'm progressing a ton and i learn new words all the time and our teacher does a realy good job of enforcing the use of new words repetitively, which is good, since i learn best that way. after class, ele, kelly, both amandas and i decided to try and get dinner in a part of the city we'd never been to before, so we picked out a georgian restaurant which claimed to have a great view of novodevichy monastery. we met up and took the metro to where we needed to transfer, and only then did we realize the guidebook said the
restaurant required suit and tie type dress haha. so we decided to just get off where we were (park kultury) and find somewhere there. it was actually a pretty nice area of the city, right near the river, and we found this outdoor restaurant. we were starving and the food took forever, but it was decent. although my chicken was um..dark, i think, not so sure i will be ordering meat so soon here again. but everything else was good, and i even spotted a SUBWAY!!! right near the restaurant, which i didn't even know existed here in russia, so i will
definitely be making a trip back there soon. on the way back home we were waiting for our train in the metro when this drunk man came up to us and just started talking. he claimed to have been born in moldova, and spoke russian, greek, and "1000% english". which was just absolutely not true at all. it was pretty funny until he followed us onto the train and started bothering kelly, so we just got off at the next stop and caught the next train. but seriously, this happens on a MONDAY night???!!? so yeah i was exhausted again and had not done any of my homework, and i didn't get home until like, 11:30, so i was up forever.

oh and so good news, i actually was able to download some tv here so i am actually going to go watch survivor when i am done typing this up. but yeah, forgot to mention that. woohoo.

hmmm and then yeah, yesterday, tuesday, grint had their moskva boat tour excursion, so this was my second boat tour. it was a little colder than the first but still nice and yeah, ya know, the same thing. we hung around for the rest of the night and got dinner at coffee house (i hate this chain so much they are literally on every block in moscow) and the service was pretty terrible. more about dining in general in a bit. but yeah and then we just walked around a little bit, went back to gum where i saw some really cheap cds of russian singers i like that i will probably go back and buy at some point. and then i headed back to svetlana's.

as far as this week goes, i don't really have anything planned until saturday. on saturday we're heading out to the tsaritsyno estate, which is just basically a big national park area with historic sites, and there's also a honey fair going on (YESSS) which is sure to enable my procurement of many cheap and delicious jars of honey goodness to bring back home and share with all. maybe i will actually go to a legit nightclub this weekend, who knows. i noticed this crazy looking bar or something on top of a building right outside red square the other night and i had never noticed it before. i want to look into it and see if i can figure out what it is.

but anyway, a couple more pieces of russian craziness. first of all, i need to talk about the dining out situation here. rule number one: service sucks. sometimes you have a nice ofitsiant(ka) but most of the time, no, and you have to hail them everytime you want to order/get more whatever/pay. otherwise they would let you sit there all night long. it's ridiculous. and then the one thing that drives me crazy, in the states and anywhere else. separate checks. alright, i understand that not all restaurants can do it, but really russia, since 99% of your stores will bitch me to hell if i try and pay with a 1000 rouble note ($30 people) i NEVER have small bills (also almost ALL atms give out massive size bills) so it's hell to try and split a bill in a restaurant. this leads to confusion/angry staff/loss of money etc etc. even when the bill is like, thousands
of roubles, they will still proceed to present you with a check a mile long including everyone's orders and then huff and puff when you take too long to work out your money situation. most of the time one person just ends up paying for it all with their credit card and getting money from everyone else later. but really, i don't understand the contempt for giving change here. which leads me to...

SMALL CHANGE. ahhh this drives me INSANE. ok, at home, i never, ever do this. i know some people (aka old women and people who like to hold up lines at stores) enjoy doing this, but i never give extra coins to a cashier in order to avoid them having to give me change with coins. i just don't care and especially since i don't have a purse like girls do, my change is never organized and i would just hold up the line. well, here, almost all cashiers in stores EXPECT you to give them that extra 30/40/50 whatever kopecks. and when i tell them i don't have it
i get the ugliest glare and they proceed to throw my change at me without so much as a thanks. now i know customer service is not alive and well here but oh jeez i sure am tired of seeming like the only person who doesn't carry around and use spare change.

lastly, this is something i noticed from the first couple days but never really realized how amusing it was. the metro here is seriously a place of business for so many people. first, there are just hordes of babushkas outside the entrance selling everything from fruits to clothes, and then the biggest ticket item, flowers. the flower business here in russia, for whatever strange reason, is huge. wherever you go there are people carrying/selling/buying flowers. i don't know for what or for whom but it's all over. so these old babushkas are so industrious, even at midnight they are still on the metro trying to pawn off their last few bouquets. i will probably
eventually buy one for svetlana, but it's just so funny how flowers are so popular here. also on the metro, there are ordinary people who i assume, for extra income, agree to purchase and then attempt to resell crappy things that nobody wants to the commuters on the train. so you can just be sitting there and someone will get up and start talking about and demonstrating how to use a head rest, or a flashlight, or whatever other piece of crap they have that day. i have never seen anyone buy anything, because frankly it's super sketchy and creepy, and i can't imagine how it could be profitable.

but anyway sorry for taking forever to update, i'll try to update again before the weekend comes around, or maybe right after the honey fair. hope everyone is well!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

the weekends here always go so quickly, or at least they seem to haha. i had class on friday again and we took a while to decide what we wanted to do on friday night. we decided to walk arbat (the tourist-y pedestrian street) and then find a bar or something like that. we were originally going to go a jazz bar, but we couldn't find the one we were looking for, so we ended up going to a pub we found. it was called john bull, who is apparently england's equivalent of uncle sam. john bull was umm...unique, haha. it was themed kind of like an early 1900s
bar/saloon/tavern, take your pick. the waitresses were dressed in little plaid dresses, and the entire restaurant was covered in a hazy smoke. but it was really nice, and the food and drinks weren't too expensive. i think our waitress liked how hard we tried to speak to her in russian. but it took us a while to get her to understand that we wanted to keep one menu so we could order more, haha. they had a bunch of irish and english beers, so i got a few of those, and we shared some garlic breads and things like that. but yeah, thanks john bull for a thoroughly
entertaining night!

i felt like being really lazy on saturday so i slept late and then svetlana made me breakfast. i know, do i even need to say it anymore? um, yogurt, salad, and empty omelette. although, i will say that among all of these breakfast disasters i think i am slowly becoming extremely friendly with kefir, which, spoiled milk. it's an entirely russian invention, although i believe it has made it's way to the states in various forms. but in russia, and especially on russian tv, it's advertised as an extremely healthy digestive product, kind of like metamucil or something. technically, it's even called "bio-kefir". but yeah, i put it in my yogurt every morning and it's actually really tasty. i don't know if i'm at the point where i will drink it straight from a cup like svetlana though, haha. maybe someday...

but yeah, svetlana left for the day so i had the apartment to myself so i decided to do some exploring and to my surprise i found a super secret room off of her bedroom. actually it's really just a window balcony, but the mystery as to where she dries my clothes has been solved. showered and headed to the dorms to try and get homework done (did not happen). oh and one of the new students arrived the other night. her name's anya. so we hung out for a little bit and then i went home.

then on sunday we had the organ concert downtown. it was ok, it was basically just a recital open to the public and the woman played for about 90 minutes. i had a lot of homework though so i just went back to svetlana's afterwards and did that for the rest of the night.

then monday, all of the new students (about 10) from the arizona program finally got here, so they were doing their orientation while we were in morning classes. i met some of them but not for very long. we're supposed to get one new person in our class even though zoya apparently would prefer nobody, haha. but yeah, that was my weekend. and then tuesday night we went to the opera. it was called ruslan and lyudmila and was about a princess who got
kidnapped and the prince who tried to save her. i understood nothing but it was fun to watch. afterwards we went out for pizza and then went back.

oh, so a few more things i have noticed about russians, since i have been told many a person enjoyed the last installment. i know i have mentioned this kind of already, but russians will drive and park their cars ANYWHERE. i am not even honestly sure if it's possible to be issued a parking ticket in russia. i have seen cars parked in the middle of major roads, backs sticking out into traffic (accident waiting to happen), and just about anywhere in general. also, so many of the roads here are too small for two lane traffic, so people will regularly drive up onto curbs and sidewalks to let each other pass. also, i was watching tv with svetlana the other day, and i can now rest easy knowing that trashy american tv has found its way to russia. it was, generally speaking, judge judy, except instead of the judge screaming, the plaintiff and defendant would just go at it for like, 10 minutes straight. i'm not even sure if i saw either of them pause to take a breath. there was no way i was ever going to understand what they were arguing about because they were being so belligerent and obnoxious, but it was fun to watch. i have also been told there is a show similar to jerry springer, but i haven't actually seen it so i will have to keep an eye out for that.

alright so that's it for now because my internet sucks. we are having an excursion to the kremlin on sat. though so that will be fun. also, expect postcards semi-soonish.


Friday, September 11, 2009

останкино и мы плаваем по москве

so even though i didn't have class on wednesday i've been keeping pretty busy. zoya gave us a ton of HW on tues. night so that took forever to do. on wednesday, since aleksandr is on vacation..somewhere, we went to ostankino tv tower instead of our normal lecture. it was nice because i got to sleep in for a couple more hours, and then we met at VDNKh, which is a neighborhood on the outskirts of the northeastern end of moscow. it's a really nice
area, a lot nicer than vykhino sadly. the walk to the tower was far but it was nice seeing a different suburban neighborhood for a change, as opposed to downtown. VDNKh had its own monorail, which is unfortunately lacking in vykhino, and it was just nicer in general. we got to the tower and were a little early so we walked around a bit. and ok let me just say that the security at this thing was ridiculous. compared to prague's tv tower, i had to give them my passport, student id, and then they had to make us actual plastic id cards just for a tour. i also
had to check my backpack and was mostly stripped of all my worldly possessions. and then finally we had to go through 2 separate security checkpoints and metal detectors. but overall it was worth it, the views from the tower were pretty incredible, you could see the kremlin, arbat, the new moscow financial center, and um, lots of nuclear power plants. it was funny because the tour was in russian, and they made us watch a video beforehand about what to do in case of an emergency. obviously we didn't understand it, but they used hilarious photos and examples
which included people in gas masks. and that's all i'll say about that. but Lena was with us and she eventually got the lady tourguide to give us a private tour from the observation deck and lena translated. so yeah we were there for about 3 hours or so. it was fun though. afterwards kathryn, katya, alyssa and i found a park and walked around, got ice cream, etc etc. we found a small children's amusement park that was kind of decrepit but apparently still in use. pity the children.

oh and i forgot, svetlana's daughter Lyena was over the apartment the other night when i got home, and she speaks some english, so i was thrilled because she translated some semi-pressing issues to svetlana for me, such as laundry. turned out i was correct in what i had thought svetlana told me, but i just wanted to make sure. we watched the end of a movie which, from what i gathered, had something to do with a man who could see the future and um, yeah. that's it. lyena is nice though so i hope she comes over again. she said she likes to practice her english so who knows.

hmm let's see. thursday i had class again and it was zoya's birthday so we got her flowers and chocolates. she was happy, i think haha. it's also a russian tradition to give other people candy or small crap on your birthday so she bought some french truffles for us. mmmmm. lunch was gross as usual (lately they have been serving terrible things such as kicel' which is a drink that has a consistency halfway between juice and jello).

anyway the boat tour of downtown was after lunch so i went with katya and alyssa. it was pretty cool, we passed by the kremlin, sparrow hills, red oktober chocolate factory, gorkii park and stuff like that. i bought a czech beer on the boat which i had had when i was in prague, but the bottle turned out to be huge (i had no idea i swear) so by the end of the ride i was a little blehh. it was fun though.

i don't really have plans for this weekend yet, besides sunday we're going to the moscow conservatory for some kind of organ concert. nobody really ever gives us information prior to excursions so they always seem to be somewhat of a surprise, haha. russians don't really like to plan too far ahead. some of us also might be going out on friday night with someone we met on the boat tour, not sure about that yet though. we haven't really done much nightlife stuff yet because we've still been figuring out how everything will work and stuff.

but yeah i think i have been getting more confident in ordering things in russian and just making small conversation with people wherever. the other day i went into the elevator with someone and they asked me which floor and i understood and [promptly] responded haha, so i was proud of myself. but yeah umm i guess that's it for now, but hopefully next time i will probably talk about the conservatory trip and any possible nightclub trips from this upcoming weekend. which i am highly looking forward to haha.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

if you build it [underground], they will come

so yesterday i went with ele and amanda to okhotny ryad, which is the large 3 floor underground mall right outside of red square. you wouldn't really know it was there unless you were told, most likely, but i had known about it previously and so i was excited to see what it was like. it's neat though because there arethese big glass domes above ground that actually form part of the roof. but the mall itself is actually pretty similar to a lot of malls in the US. it was pretty much all clothing stores, but i was on the hunt for a jacket haha, so that was what i was hoping for. the prices were....meh well they were kind of expensive. it was just weird because some things were overpriced while other things were relatively reasonable. i saw a lot of coats that i wouldn't expect to pay over $100 for at home that were $250+. i did eventually find a good fall jacket for
about $35 though. the only thing i didn't like about the mall was, and this seems to be a problem in general in moscow, that there was mostly nowhere to sit and rest. i tried to stop and rest a few times only to nearly be trampled by the neverending stream of people. as previously mentioned, russians do not like to move out of your way, haha.

after the mall we kind of just hung out and got some ice cream (russians loooooove ice cream, there are stands everywhere, literally everywhere, and people are walking around eating it all the time). we went and saw the eternal flame outside the kremlin for the WWII soldiers, and we actually got there right before the changing of the guard, so we got to see that which was cool.

as far as school,'s really really laid back, at least i feel like it is anyway. i always have russian homework, but it doesn't take me like five bajillion hours to do like it does at home, although i feel like that's ok because i already spend over 3 hours speaking constantly in class, not to mention the rest of my day. i already feel like my russian is improving a lot though just by learning so much new vocab and stuff, though. just the repetitiveness of seeing and using certain things that i wouldn't really ever use at home in class helps my memory retain it a lot more easily. but yeah, overall, i barely do anything school-wise which is amazingggg.

we also don't have lecture class this wednesday so we're going on an excursion to Ostankino tv tower. i'm pretty excited for it actually since it should have amazing views of moscow. it's also the tallest freestanding structure in europe..i believe. and then on sunday night we're going to some sort of musical concert, not too sure about specifics more later i suppose.

hmmm...svetlana is still doing well. she has started doing my laundry so i am thrilled, needless to say. i talked to her about how much she wants me to pay her and when, and i believe she wants me to give her money at the end of every month. not 100% on that though, haha. she also changed my sheets tonight wooo.

oh and a new group of kids is supposed to be arriving sometime at the end of this week, from the arizona program that partners with grint. they are moving into the dorms so i will meet them when they do i guess. apparently there are a couple more guys which is cool since viktor and i are the only two right now haha. we also have been wanting to find a bar/club whatever to sample some beers and stuff but we haven't really gotten a chance yet just because we've only just figured out the metro well enough. maybe this weekend or definitely next though. going to patriarch pond today. also, possible moskva river cruise on thursday? not sure though.

but anyway i will try and update again before the weekend about all of that...

до свидания


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Спассная Башня

so before i say anything else, because i keep forgetting...every morning when svetlana gives me my tea, she gives it to me in this mug that says around the inner rim: we wanna live healthily, being healthy is beautiful, do you like vegetable? so that always makes me laugh and she probably has no idea why it's funny.

but anyway, hmm, let's see, on friday night we went out to get dinner and ended up going to a blini stand where i ordered my own blini in russian. i was proud of myself. it was blueberries and cream and it was really good. then we made a stop at dom knigi (house of books) which is a bookstore in russia that's pretty much their equivalent of barnes and noble. it's decent, i guess. i just wanted to get a book in english so i have something to do when i'm bored on school nights since i get basically no homework here. i found something even though the books are really overpriced. afterwards we went to shokoladnitsa (chocolate-y or something? haha) which
turned out to be a really fancy restaurant after we were directed to the basement. we mostly got dessert and drinks though. we ordered in russian there too and the waitress was slightly confused when we tried to explain that we wanted our checks split.

i slept until 2 yesterday just because i was tired and went to bed late. we were supposed to meet lena (our events coordinator, she's really nice) at pushkinskaya around 5 so i left svetlana's around 4 to meet everyone else at the metro. svetlana left a few minutes before i did but i have no idea where she was going since she hardly ever leaves the apartment, so when she does it's kind of a big deal. plus she had makeup on and everything. go figure. so anyway we met lena and hung out around tverskaya for a while. this weekend is all devoted to moscow day celebrations so they had closed down the major streets to cars and had a bunch of stages and stands set up. it was a lot of fun, actually. we watched the singers they had for a little bit who were singing crazy russian techno songs and then headed towards red square. we ate lunch at sbarro [pause so i can roll my eyes] and just got pizza. there were several problems with this. first is that even though lena is really nice, she doesn't really understand that some people in our group don't know any russian at all, and she also walks REALLY fast in crowds. so we got split up while we were ordering at sbarro, and so we had to pair up and order together. so not only did i have to order my own food but i also had to butcher the menu items and order food for someone else. the cashier lady basically just stared at me as i thought for like five minutes about how to translate "i want tomato pizza and she wants spinach" haha. at least it was good pizza, which is surprising for sbarro.

after we had dinner we found out seats in red square which were actually really good. we were directly across from st. basil's and right next to lenin's tomb (which i still have not seen yet). the entire performance lasted about 3 hours. it was amazing. militaries from a bunch of different countries (finland, france, UK, israel, india, china, italy, russia, kazakshtan, armenia etc) performed and there was also a singer and a ton of fireworks at the end right over st. basil's. i had a great time and it was definitely an awesome thing to be able to see.

so before i end, i said last time i would mention some of the things that i have noticed since arriving in russia. first is that there definitely are a LOT of stray animals running around. it doesn't personally bother me, but it is kind of sad even though i'm not a huge cat/dog fan. not so many cats but i've seen a few. but nobody really seems to even pay any attention to them. also, the russian mullet is still very much in fashion. i don't really understand why...but they seem to like it haha. i have also been able to see a good amount of russian tv so far thanks to svetlana's addiction to russian soap operas, and literally any hour of any day, you can find a soap on. i mean, i guess some of them are actually prime time dramas, but they all have the same production values so it's not like you can tell the difference like you can between good shows like survivor and crap like days of our lives or something haha. and then several other things that i think are funny quickly...

-russian people seem to fall into one of two categories: either really ugly or really good looking
-russians do not move out of your way, you move out of theirs
-bathrooms here are 95% likely to not have toilet paper (not even GUM!)
-there are about 20 different commercials that run on a constant loop on tv. they never change.

and so i guess that's it for internet still sucks and looks as though it will continue to do so, so possibly updates every 3-4 days is likely but not guaranteed. second week of classes starts tomorrow so maybe ill go into more detail on my russian class next time.

do svidaniya!


Thursday, September 3, 2009

the calm before the cold

so they are telling us that right now, moscow is having its "indian summer", since it's really not all that cold right now. it's definitely a lot cooler than home, but i guess the temperature has been around 65 as an average since i got here. it's still hot during the middle of the day though. but everyone is saying that in a week or two, it's going to get a lot colder and wetter quickly, so i'm probably going to need to go buy a warmer coat, or something.

anyway, i guess it's been a while since my last update. i'm trying to post as often as possible but my internetsituation has still not improved, and my choices are either the dorms, which involves lugging my computer to classand most likely around the city for the rest of the day...or mcdonalds. so yeah neither is really convenient. i don't have any terrible, immediate need for my computer, but it'd be nice to check stuff for a couple minutes each
day without having to keep it in my bag until that night. hopefully soon i will find a better solution.

classes started this week. on monday we had a kind of orientation day which was fun because we didn't really haveto do much, haha. we met alexander rouchkin, who is the head of Grint, and we took our placement tests. they divided the 10 of us into 3 classes, and i'm in the middle level class. on tuesday was my first russian class, which lasts for about 3.5 hours. so needless to say i'm pretty much exhausted once it's over. unlike at home, though, i still have to spend the rest of my day attempting to speak russian, haha. so it really never ends :P

on wednesday we had our english lecture, which is supposed to be about the "political and economic geography of russia and its former states". the guy who teaches it is really, really, really pro-russia and tries his best to give an unbiased viewpoint, but usually fails haha. btw he doesn't like poland at all for some reason. but he seems like a really nice guy, and we only have it once a week on wednesdays except next wednesday because apparently he is on vacation. also presumably we have no homework for this class, and from what i have gathered, one test at the end. sounds like my kind of class, haha.

so aside from school, we've also been doing the touristy things, which is partly why i'm so exhausted and have been going to bed at like 10 (crazy, i know) lately. we've been to red square, of course. i was actually there by myself one night last week, but only stayed for a little while since it was getting dark and i didn't want svetlana to worry, haha. but it's funny because even though i've seen so many pictures from so many angles of the square, to be honest, the layout of it is nothing like what i expected. i'm not even sure why, really. but yeah, the square is beautiful, with GUM, the kremlin, and st. basil's on 3 sides, and at night with all the lights it's
even more amazing. it's amazing to think of all the history you are literally standing on there. st basil's is also a lot smaller than i expected. i guess it's all perspective, though.

other than red square, today i went on another walking tour with one of the directors from sras, and we started outside tretyakovskaya gallery, continued down towards luzhkov bridge where all of the trees with the padlocks from just married couples are, and then we crossed the moskva with a great view of the kremlin and red square, and then finally finished by going past okhotny ryad (hunter's row, the underground mall), bolshoi theater (which is regrettably closed until 2013...or later) and the first mcdonalds in russia.

so that's what i've been up to this week so far. i've been really tired lately but i think it's still just a little of the jetlag combined with all of the sightseeing, so that will hopefully go away soon, especially once i get into a regular schedule. my next plans are for saturday night, because sunday is moscow day (every russian city has a city day) and so there are a bunch of celebrations planned for this weekend. on sat. night we're going to red square where they have been setting up this week for a huge festival type thing. there's supposed to be
bands (we actually saw a HUGE marching band practicing while we were there the other day) and fireworks and all that kind of fun stuff. so i guess i'll talk about that next time! haha.

so this has gone on really long again so i'll cut it here. hopefully they won't ALL be this long, i'm trying to update as often as possible. next time i think i'll devote a small part of my post to some observations i've made since i've been here, because there are some things that are just so laughably odd that they need to be mentioned.

anyway, wishing everyone well! do svidaniya!