Sunday, August 29, 2010

The bread chronicles continue

My mom sent me a couple of bread recipes from my grandma, and yesterday I thought I might experiment with one of them. My food supply had run low, and I wasn't in the mood to walk the 2 minutes to the grocery store... and with no milk, I was feeling like I might starve to death. The "stir and drop yeast rolls" recipe looked perfect, as I had little more than the flour, butter, water, one egg, salt, and yeast that it called for. Unfortunately, I do not have muffin tins, which is what you are supposed to drop the dough into to form a nice roll. Instead, I ended up with pieces of bread that slightly resembled pancakes, or large cookies:

I have to say, they are pretty tasty. I didn't get a picture of the last bread I made after I (over)baked it... but here is a picture of it right before going into the oven:

I went with a braided loaf because I think they're kind of fun. In the future I will save the braiding exclusively for challah, so as not to trick myself into thinking I have something that I don't.

This morning I went to the grocery store and bought some necessities...

Not pictured: beets and cabbage.

Tonight, in the middle of it, my absentee roommate will finally return. When I first arrived, the apartment appeared to have a bedroom (with bunkbeds and a normal bed), a living room (couch, chair, shelves, desk), and a kitchen. Initially it didn't even seem like someone else lived here... there was some stuff in the bedroom, but not enough to lead me to believe someone inhabited it. So, I made myself at home, and a couple of days later was told that there was, in fact, a roommate, and he would return toward the end of my training program. About a week after that, it dawned on me that the "living room" was actually meant to be a bedroom. The couch pulls out into a bed and everything. So, basically, I came into the apartment and took over some random person's bedroom. I ended up staying in there for the majority of the time because the room is much nicer. It has a lot of natural lighting, a nicer view, and a more spacious set up. I briefly considered moving all of his stuff into the other room while he was gone, but then thought that since there is a chance I will have to live with him for the next 9 months, that might start us out on the wrong foot. So this weekend I moved all of my stuff into the other bedroom (most of it was still packed anyway), but I think I will have to leave a note telling him about the confusion, or he might wonder why I organized his desk. I do not know much about him. One person told me he met him at a party once, where he refused to speak anything but Russian. Another person told me that his Russian as actually quite good. All I know for sure is that he's Irish, and if he tries to speak in Russian to me, I just might punch him in the face.

One other thing that has been on my mind today: I am having doubts that I will make it through the entire 9 months here. I am starting to experience some intense home and boyfriend (but not motion) sickness. Part of what brings this on, I think, is being alone in most of my free time (lucky for me, I do not have much free time...). I think it's good for me, to be alone and reflect on these feelings and deal with them, but that doesn't change the fact that it's not easy. I think things are about to get a little better, however. A girl I've been corresponding with who is part of the internship will be arriving on Tuesday, which I am super excited about. It will be nice to have a friend here in Mytishchi. It seems like there is a good chance I will be moving to the three bedroom apartment to live with her and the Irish guy. An Irishman, Canadian, and American all under one roof... that is much better than the alternative of living alone with the Irishman, or with the socially awkward couple. Plus, the three bedroom apartment is situated right above the school, instead of a 20 minute walk. My fingers are crossed. In addition, my mom will likely come visit over my winter break, and my dad a little while after that. Kyle and I didn't want to get our hopes up by planning for him to come visit but, as time goes on, I am thinking a visit from him would be well worth any expense incurred by the trip.

Ну, это все. До свидания!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Good weekend, bad weekend.

Just a few days ago I was reminiscing about how wonderful last weekend was. Well, today is only Saturday, and I already want to forget about this one.

The story goes like this: My friend from last weekend (we'll call her P), another guy from the training (let's call him T) and I decided to go out into the city, have a beer, wait for some others to finish their teaching later on in the evening, and so on. The evening actually started nicely, with a little walk through китай город. Now, some might translate this as Chinatown, as китай (kitay) is the Russian word for China, but they would be wrong, as we quickly found out. There were no dragons. Very disappointing. Anyway, it turns out that it's right next to Red Square, so we admired St. Basil's a little, then made our way to the row of souvenir booths, then eventually back to the neighborhood the school is in, where we ended up in an underground bar/lounge/restaurant for a few hours. The buy-one-get-one-free beer deal was too good to pass up, there was a sushi menu with some pretty good sushi (it's very popular in Moscow), and somehow we even got a free hookah landed at our table.

Finally the other interns were done with their teaching and we met up with them at the restaurant next to the school. Our group had grown to about 10 people and, amoeba that we were, eventually to 13. After a couple of hours the bar was about to close, and it was decision time for P and me: did we want to end the night early to ensure we would make it home, or should we stay out until the metro re-opens at 5:30am? Because we are obviously idiots (and have done very little outside of the training program), we opted for the latter.

First there was walking. For miles and miles. Somehow I ended up with a bottle of juice and some oranges for the walk. I suppose I can thank the FUCKING CRAZY Russian guy the others had picked up for that. It's hard to explain in words what it was about this individual that made him seem out of his mind, but we all agreed that he was totally insane. After a few stops along the long journey, we made it to one bar/club. Of course, having not dressed for going out and with a group of five guys and two girls (I have absolutely no idea what happened to our group from earlier, which had a much more balanced gender make-up), we were rejected. How sad. Around the corner we found a dark little lounge with some loud-ass dance/electronic music, and only about 20 people populating the place. P and I were the only people dancing for most of the time we were there (I think one or two other girls came out for awhile, and there were some guys on the sidelines doing their own thing. I actually really appreciate the ability to dance without anyone being all up in my business)... and we must have danced for hours, desperately trying to pass the time until the metro opened and we could get the fuck out of there. Several members of our group had fallen asleep on the couches, and at 5:15 P and I took the opportunity to leave our strange new friends behind and find the metro. The last hour or two at the bar and the trip home were some of the worst, most uncomfortable hours in recent memory. The exhaustion coupled with having spoken more Russian in those few hours than in months and months really did me in.

Of course, while the doors to the metro might officially open at 5:30, the first train going in our direction didn't come until 6. I arrived in Medvyedkovo (where I switch a bus for the final leg of the journey) at 6:45 and, as I had expected, the buses would not be running for another 15 minutes. A man standing by a car where the bus usually is asked me if I needed to go to Mytishchi. I contemplated this for a moment, asked how much it would cost (50 roubles! Same as the bus!), and jumped into the mystery car with two others going the same direction. I had a moment of concern when the guy asked where I needed to go, and I could produce little more than the name of the street. I told him I had forgotten, and would think about it. Thank god one of the other people in the car was going exactly where I needed to be let out.

So by 7:15 I was crawling into bed, cursing myself for decision I'd made, and vowing never to do it again. I slept for four or five hours, and spent the day in a depressed and depleted state, feeling lonely and missing Kyle immensely and dreading the work I have to do on Sunday for an assignment that I naturally put off until the last minute.

The end.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

a few pictures...

What the weather has been looking like lately... it's wonderful. View from my kitchen window.

Tree-shaped blin.

My diet for the first several days.

My cute little kitchen. The picture is being taken from the dining area table and bench.

A leather door! After seeing a door similar to this in Night Watch (only the best movie of all time), I was really hoping I would have one before I came. слава богу!

This ridiculous lock made me feel really secure until 3 Russian men barged into my apartment one morning. Thank god I was dressed (It was the landlord and people from the water company... in his defense, he had no idea there was a tenant.)

My apartment keys.

This was the view out of my bedroom widow for the first week or so. Nothing like fires and smoke to remind me of home.

They bakin' bread in her shoe.

I know it's already Wendnesday, but I am reflecting on how nice this past weekend was. And, because it's only Wednesday and I still have two more of these ridiculous, fucked up days this week.

Friday night, a good handful of us from the training went and had drinks at the restaurant/bar next door. Of course, those of us living in the outskirts left early, for fear of missing the last bus home from the metro stop. But, still, a good start to a non-reclusive existence in Moscow.

Saturday I met up with a friend from the program. She and I started at the school, then set out to wander around the city center, i.e. Red Square and the surrounding area. After a couple of metro stops we arrived. First on the agenda was to find a little pharmacy, to buy band-aids for my poor little feet, who had been mauled by my unsuspecting shoes (I swear they were suitable in the past). After that, I simply bought a new pair of (considerably more comfortable) shoes. The rest of the day was lovely. We wandered around looking for Red Square for awhile, ate piroshkis, walked through a nice park, found Red Square, stared at St. Basil's (and took a picture for a Russian couple) for a little bit (I'm not into sightseeing, per-say, but it was actually breathtaking), strolled through GUM, sat in a Starbucks with drinks and chatted and people-watched from the window for some time. We went home around 7:30. It was all very nice. I am glad to have a friend here.

My Sunday was equally rewarding, though different. I baked some bread which, as some may know, is a very new endeavor for me. It was a simple sweet bread recipe, and other than the oven recommendation being a little too high, and leaving it in a tad too long, it's actually pretty delicious (though somewhat dry). I've been putting various things on it, like: egg salad, tomato and melted cheese (sometimes with bacon, or whatever that mystery meat I bought recently is), tvorog and honey or chocolate hazelnut spread...anyway, my initial disappointment has blossomed into newfound acceptance, and it's really grown on me over the course of the week... It's very exciting for me to be baking bread, as I think there are few things in life more pleasurable than freshly baked bread. Especially challah (anyone in San Diego: Charlie's Best Bread in Pacific Beach has some of the softest, freshest, most delicious challah I have ever encountered). The day I can master that is the day that... actually, I'm not sure where that sentence is going. But it will truly be a miracle if it ever comes.

Today was long (as are all of my days) and slightly more frustrating than the others. In the end, everything is just tiring. Not frustrating, not overbearing or overwhelming... just tiring. I am looking forward to this weekend, during which I will have the privilege of writing some ridiculous 3-page assignment. I nonchalantly made it through my last year of college (or "university," for any non-American-English speakers)--taking all 12 of the upper division classes for my major--without having to write a single paper. I was naive to believe I was in the clear, at least for the time being.

I have been a little concerned about my Russian, and wanting to continue learning it and how to do that while in this English bubble of LanguageLink, and came to the obvious conclusion that it would be beneficial to be friends with someone who does not speak English. So, my mom had a suggestion for making Russian-only speaking friends: approach potential friend, ask (in Russian, obviously) if they speak any English, and if they say no, tell them "Great! Now we can be friends!" Seems like a reasonable plan to me.

(p.s. if you want pictures of these things, simply google "st. basil's," or "red square" or "bread")

Monday, August 23, 2010

Arrival details, etc.

From the beginning:

I arrived in the afternoon on Friday, August 6th. Finding the LL-sent driver was seamless. Two others in the program had been on the same flight as me, so we all piled into the car with our luggage. Lucky me, being the only female, got to sit up front. He dropped us off one at a time (as if there is another way to do it), starting with the guy living in the south of Moscow (Domededovo is south of the city). That leg of the trip probably took a solid hour. One down, and I was able to throw my over-sized backpack into the backseat, and the driver stopped making fun of me for not having enough leg room. My understanding of Russian in minimal, but I caught that. Then we dropped off the next guy... I want to say that took another hour. By then our two bottles of water (between four people) had run out, and it was coming up 2.5 hours in the car in the extreme heat, extreme smoke, and extreme traffic of Friday afternoon. The traffic is a whole other beast. Another hour and a half later, with a stop at a money exchange place, I made it to my apartment.

Those ~4 hours I spent with the driver constituted the most Russian I've spoken since arriving here 16 days ago. Because of the pretty intense training (between 7 and 10 hours a day are spent at the central school in Moscow, add the two and a half hour commute and I'm gone almost the entire day), I've been in an English bubble. I'm often very frustrated with the training, and occasionally it's even made me regret coming here... but, I do try to keep a positive outlook and remind myself that it's almost over and is doing its job of preparing me well for the teaching I'll be doing in two weeks. It's also a relief to know that everything in my life will just be a lot more chill once my teaching starts. I don't remember the exact numbers, but I think I'll only be teaching 22 hours a week, and I won't have to commute into Moscow regularly. Score 1 for Rhea.

That's it for my initial backtracking. There's a lot more but I wouldn't know where to begin. I'll try to field questions as they come. And I'll try to throw in bits and pieces of my earlier experiences as I move forward.