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!



  1. I want a honey jar of honey!

    Love that you're so excited about Subway, maybe you can find some vitamin water too. Evan and I went to Gulliftys and I told him about the time you were like "Are you getting taco salad AGAIN). He thought it was funny. Were practicing numbers in Russian class which is confusing. Miss you!


  2. haha yeah i don't think vitamin water exists here. and i think i'm a pro at numbers now because zoya (our russian prof) forces us to say them all the time. there was so much more to numbers than i thought! ah. and i miss you too! :(

  3. NEVER read fairy tales in Russian. youz crazy.