Thursday, November 21, 2002

Ok, I admit it, the reason I wait so long in between blogs is that I never have a good idea to write about and I feel like another list of the cultural activities (ballets, hockey games, museum tours) I've been to would just be boring. So I thought I'd just describe one of my favorite moments in my day - my morning walk to the metro. So as I'm leaving the house, my babushka asks me when I'll be home. I usually bungle the answer, but she's cool and patient and helps me figure out what I'm saying (the other day I kept telling her 20, when I meant to say 12). I descend in the elevator and step out into the weather - lately it's just been muddy, as we've had a little warm spell, but when it's snowy, it's beautiful and I take a moment to admire the whiteness. I wade through the deep parts and find my little path which takes me by the school and the playground. In the playground I look at the little congregation of babushka's (grandmas) and mom's in their fur hats or shawls watching their heavily bunddled dyeti (kids) waddle around in the snow. My other favorite thing is looking out for dogs with clothes on, which is a farely common site around my neighborhood - there's nothing cuter than a poodle in a sweater. As I emerge onto the big street - I see the church. It's red with green trim and is topped by 5 gold onion domes. On sunny days, they shine bright, on foggy days, they dissapear in the mist and at night, they're lit up by spotlights and the church looks it's most impressive. I head down the corridor of birch trees that line the sidwalk and join the throng of Russians heading to work. I admire some more fur hats and check out the latest styles of boots and also try to note the looks in people's faces. My favorite are the really old, timeworn babushkas and dedushkas that walk along, usually with their grocceries. I just imagine how much history they've seen and if I could talk to them I could ask them a million questions about growing up a soviet and living throught WWII, which absolutely destroyed much of the country and coping with the crazy changes that have swept Russian in the last 10 years. But I can't talk to them (yet). I pass by the auto repair shop with it's 24 hour guard outside (why does a repair shop need a guard? The whole thing sounds like a mafia mess to me) and the million little cookie and pastry stands and flower ladies and people selling everything from maps to books to boots off of their card tables. I finally make it to the metro (hopefully still on time track for class), enter and then whole new story begins.

Friday, November 01, 2002

So I finally get myself to blog after a whole month absence and how long do I have? 10 minutes. What have I been through in the last several weeks. Well... I got sick first, which is a little more dramatic in Moscow than in CA. My babushka bannished me to bed the first time she heard me cough and then kept bringing me strange brews to drink and chopped onion to smell (I much prefer domes, thank you) and when she finally let me leave the house after 3 days, she made me wear, I regret to say a rather dorky hat. Besides being sick (I secretly took some Tylenol cold, which I think cured me although I'm sure the mandatory 6 glasses of tea with honey a day probaly helped), I went to Estonia, twice. The first time our whole group went and had such a grand time in the beautiful and historical capital city of Tallinn, that I decided to go again with my friend Julie during our week off of classes. I totally recommend this town to anyone who loves fairytales and wants to see where they actually could have taken place. The town itself is a wonderful maze of crooked cobbled streets and old watch towers and many midevil churches and a short bus trip will take you to the forest, where Julie and I wandere until we found a hidden German graveyard. Too spooky and cool. So now I sound a bit like a travel guide and I'm desperately out of time. I'll not be a slacker and write more soon, I hope.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Finally, a chance to blog. This week has been busy making up for work I skipped while on our trip. Ah St Petersburg - that was really beautiful, but a really fast trip too. We arrived off the night train on Sat morn and tried to recover before heading to the Hermitage. I have to say that the first thing about that museum is it's huge. I got lost with my friend Julie and we spent 2 hours looking at Flemish and Dutch paitings alone! Didn't even get to the impressionists or any of the other tons of exhibits. Well, now we're planning a trip back anyways... That night was my favorite activity on the trip - we rode a little boat on the Neva River - right through town. It was an exciting ride although freezing. Sunday was Petergoff (Peter the Great's summer residence - by the way, the Hermitage is housed in his winter palace - this guy knew how to live large). Imagine the view from the front porch of his palace there - several marble staircases run down a hill which has about 30 golden statues of greek gods and numerous geiser/fountains that trickle down into a canal running through a half mile of birch forest into the Baltic Sea. It was some view. We spent 3 hours wandering and were amazed over and over again. We were lucky to get nice weather while we were there too.
Ok, this week I've had several firsts that I though it would be fun to record. Last night I went to my first Russian prayer meeting with two of the kids from the advanced group here. It was a great time - so much like an American prayer meeting would be - we met in a room downstairs at church, made introductions, set up chairs in a circle, shared prayer requests, inquired after relatives and asked for updates in problems and then prayed. Only thing was I hardly understood any of it! They were really nice people though, and I'm excited to go back. Another first - last night I was sitting with Kate doing my homework and I muttered 'harasho' (which means good) when I got an answer right. Well, Kate freaked out and said - you just said that without and accent. She even turned around and told her grandma -hey, Ani just said harahso without an accent. I pretented to be embarrased,but of course was secretlyl pleased. This morning was an exciting (though slightly ominous) first. Yes, it hit the 0 C mark and snowed! It was really soft and mixed with rain so it didn't exactly stick, but I was excited anyways. I walked the whole way to the metro huddled under my umbrella with a slappy grin on my face. So that was this week - things are keeping exciting around here. Hope I write again sooner than later.

Friday, September 27, 2002

Time for a quick quick blog before I head off to pack for my trip this weekend. So, first off I'd like to apologize for using the term 'onion dome' like 20 times in my last entry. Upon rereading, but unfortunately after publishing, I realized how redundant it sounded. But think of it as on purpose - I was trying to emphasize how great I think they are. They're so, well, Russian and they're on top of churches, which are buildings I like a lot. Anyways, the other reason I noticed is because my friend Heather Tangen is here and she pointed it out to me - yes, you read that right, Heather T is in Mocow! We had the best time having a slumber party at my place last night and then going on a wild goose chase to refind her group today. We have to much to talk about that I'm sure we were annoying people in the metro by talking nonstop in loud English. It's been really fun, like my bday in Sept. My time's up - next blog will be a St. P account.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

The trip to the old towns was really interesting. First of all, the bus ride through the countryside was so beautiful - 5 hours of birch forest and little towns. In the towns themselves (we went to three) we mostly visited churches and monastaries and I calculate that I must have seen over 1000 onion domes in one weekend. Every church was painted inside with floor to ceiling frescoes of Biblical scenes or saints. We got to hear some traditional Russian choirs (think a barbershop quartet only more beautiful and solemn of course) and I even bought a tape to fall asleep to at night. Very soothing. It was tons of fun to hang out with all the other students, too. On Saturday night, when some of the more adventurous kids were out on the town, a few of us bought some tea and a huge chocolate bar and played cards and listened to MTV until late in the night. Good bonding stuff. One of the more shocking parts of the trip was the weather - coldest I've ever been exposed to I think. That's because these towns were up North where the chill is legendary. The highlight was climbing to the top of a bell tower of one of the monestaries in Yaraslavl. It's the city that had over 500 churches in it's center before 1917, of which 250 still remain. Anyways, the sun was just setting when we got up there and the view was breathtaking. On one side was the Volga River and of course some birch forests and in the other directions was the town with church after church dotting the scene. They're very easy to spot because they each have at least 3 (and sometimes up to 15) of the famous Russian onion domes. So that's the trip report. Now I'm back to daily life - 3 hours of grammar class today, sigh. It's all good though. Should be another good week.

Friday, September 20, 2002

My enthusiasm for this city (which is great) took a blow on Tues when my wallet got pickpocketed on the metro. The metro! My favorite place to be, sigh. But oh well, besides that things are moving along nicely. I think I'm really starting to realize my dream of understanding this fair language. I love to sit at the kitchen table and eavesdrop on Kate telling her grandma about her day at work (she works at a theater) and then surprising them by actually understanding parts of it. I'm looking forward to a trip to some historic towns outside of Moscow this weekend and (trumpets sound, please) St Petersburg next weekend! I can finally visit the Hermitage in real person, instead of via virtual tour on their website (which I totally recommend). I gotta go, I'll write more soon.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Wow, sorry it 's been so long. So I'm in my homestay and loving it. My family includes babushka (grandma), who's apparently sole purpose is to stuff me full of fattening (yet delicious) food - can you say vskoosnee? It means tasty in Russian. Next is dedushka (grandpa) who studied English way back in school and loves to try to communicate, which is so thoughtful. We have fun just looking through their Russ-Eng dictionary and trying to put together sentences like, 'I live on the West coast of the USA.' Last is 18 yr old Katya, my favorite Russian ever. She speaks very good English and is just warm and friendly and enthusiastic about everything, but especially painting and Barbara Streisand. We can relate over the first at least. I love my little room with a great 7th story view of the apartment building forest as I like to think of it. Time around the house is nothing but pleasant - Katya is a tea conisseuer (oh yeah, like I know how to spell that) and everytime I come home from anywhere I have to have my mandatory cup of tea and talk to her. I love it.
I've gotten to do less site seeing since classes started, but I think just the walk to the metro from my apartment in fascinating. Oh yeah, today it got cold suddenly. The day before yesterday was warm (23 C - room temp) and today was a chilly 1 C. I had to bust out my jacket and I have a feeling I won't be putting it away for a while. Classes are interesting - tomorrow is my favorite, oral language. We go to Natasha (our teacher)'s apartment and sit around her kitchen table and drink (what else?) tea and discuss deep topics like Dr. Doolittle in Russian. I'm not kidding - 2 weeks of class and I'm an expert on 'the horse needed glasses.' I'm kidding, but it's a lot of fun. I'll try to write more soon.