Monday, September 27, 2010

Why am I still awake?

One problem with becoming a teacher after a lifetime of education is that you can never quite shake the anxiety of oversleeping your alarm and missing class. For some reason that thought reminded me of having dreams about school. My dad tells me he still has dreams of taking a final for a class he didn't attend all quarter (I knew he had to be lazy sometime, if only in his dreams)... Which doesn't bode well for us young folk. But it got me thinking: why in the world do people even have that dream?! It's not like that actually happens in real life. Like you would sign up for a class, maybe even start off going to it, and forget about it--for MONTHS, you would just totally forget the class was even going on--then all of the sudden remember it, and then decide to actually take the final. That can't have actually happened to someone. Ever. Now, oversleeping an alarm, that shit is real.

This is a photograph:

The end. Спокойны ночи.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Один прекрасный день...

Today was wonderful. It was warm and sunny outside, Katie and I went for a walk through the park in Mytishchi, we bought a watermelon from an outdoor market, and watched the latest episode of The Jersey Shore. Score!

One fine morning, about a week or two ago, I looked out my kitchen window and had the sudden realization that fall was upon us. This is approximately what I saw (because I didn't take a picture until a day or two later):

The trees are changing colors! I've never experienced a season changing like this. I've seen colorful trees in fall, and I've been in the snow and cold places, but there is something remarkable about feeling the season change.

In the course of two weeks, I watched this tree go from green to orange/yellow/red to bare. It's on my walk through a little field to school.

Another very important thing happened recently: Katie and I made BORSCHT. Last night. I've made it successfully a couple of times back in the states, but it seems more authentic here. Someone asked me recently if there was anything from home that you can't get here, and I think I've figured it out: leafy green veggies (like rainbow chard and spinach) and San Diego style mexican food. What I wouldn't do for a carne asada burrito. God. Otherwise, things are different, but I can deal with it. For instance, I love coffee, and lattes, and those are things I just don't drink here. The most popular thing seems to be instant coffee, and I don't see the point. If I really wanted a latte, I could hunt down a coffee shop, maybe. They definitely exist in Moscow, I'm not so sure about Mytishchi. They definitely don't have cafes here like they do back home.

Here I am, sauteing up some onion and cabbage. Side note: look at that! My hair can finally be gathered in a tiny little ponytail! Katie, on the other hand, has more than enough hair for the both of us...

I'm so jealous! Anyway, here she is, stirring the pot of borscht, or perhaps preparing to climb into it... After letting it simmer for awhile, we had dinner:

While eating dinner, we watched the movie Transsiberian, which was easily one of the worst movies I have ever seen, so I will not say anything else, so as not to relive the experience. But dinner was wonderful.

Katie and I are going into Moscow tomorrow. There is a Nike-sponsored 5k that she convinced me to run (what is it about me running in races when I'm totally out of shape? This is like a repeat of the Edinburgh 10K in 2008), which is obviously a marketing ploy to convince Muscovites to spend their money on expensive running gear. Adidas really seems to have a hold on the athletic apparel market here, so I'm guessing Nike saw running as an untapped goldmine. I've gotta admit, something about Russia makes me love Adidas tracksuits. But, hey, it's a free t-shirt for me and a jog around Moscow. I'm actually excited about it, and excited about possibly starting to jog again, and having a jogging partner. Actually, I am just thrilled to have Katie as a friend here (or anywhere! I emphasize here because it had the potential of being a lonely and isolating experience, and it definitely will not be like that). Not only is she basically the nicest person in the world, but every time we hang out it seems like we have something else in common. It's a great experience to instantly feel like you've known someone a lifetime.

One big disappointment is that it seems I have missed out on mushroom gathering season. I think the extreme heat and fires fucked it up anyway. My uncle messaged me awhile back, and it turns out that he actually went mushroom gathering in the Czech republic a few weeks back! He doesn't even live in Eastern Europe, and he beat me to it! So I am a little bummed about missing out on this experience, but it actually turns out that you can buy mushrooms in stores...

Random blurry night shot from my kitchen.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pictures of things

Moscow River, Kremlin

Stained glass in a window in Mytishchi that reminded me of Cat.

Zucchini bread with chocolate chips and a lemon glaze!

Mosaic in metro station... I do not remember which one.

Lake at Tsaritsino Park

Tsaritsino Park

Ducks in Tsaritsino Park
Same park

Honey Festival!!!!!!

Honey Festival!!!

Entrance to Tsaritsino Park

ВДНХ (Выставка достижений народного хозяйства). VDNkh, the Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy. The statue up ahead features a factory worker and a farmer, holding a bushel of wheat over his head.

The outside of some swanky elephant club.

It's hard to see unless it's full-sized, but this fountain is covered in beautiful tiles/pieces of glass. (click on the photo, then click on it again to see full-sized image)

Some Ukrainian Republic building in VDNKh... I thought it was so extravagant and wonderful!

San Diego should learn from Moscow and hold a Fire Safety exhibition

Uninhabited end of an exhibition center, which is now home to a row of booths with all of your gardening needs

Glory to the heroes of Soviet labor!

Space monument and stray puppy.

Armenian pavilion. There is an ATM inside.

Friendship of Nations fountain. As one website put it: "The Fountain has gilded statues of maidens in the national costumes of all Soviet republics demurely encircle a golden wheat sheaf."

Friday, September 17, 2010

I had a clever title, but forgot it.

Dear readers, prepare to be disappointed. You see, last weekend, while eventful, did not include many of the promised activities that I commanded you to look forward to. Sourdough rye bread? НЕТ (no)! Honey festival? НЕТ (no)! Mushroom hunting and gathering? НЕТ (no)!

Now that I have listed the things I didn't do, I shall tell you of some of the things I did accomplish...

I did actually make it to the soviet photography exhibition. It was actually from the '60s and '70s, not the '50s and '60s as I previously said. Please forgive me. It was good. Always interesting to see images from the past. Who are those people? What were they like? What became of them?

Padruga-P and I attempted going out again last weekend, as well. I promised myself I would never spend another entire night out in that city, but it would bound to happen. Originally we were led to believe that we were going to a party in Zelenograd (in the Moskva Oblast', maybe a little farther from the city than Mytishchi) with some fresh meat (the new interns). I'll spare you the gossip: long story short, it was called off. So we went to a bar down the street. They had a two-for-one cocktail deal going until 11 pm, so we were there for awhile, then P&I decided to meet up with another group of people we knew who happened to be just down the street. 15 minutes later, we were back in the very same bar, for lack of options. The happy hour ended, we made out way out, and the exact situation that I did not want to happen, happened: It was P, me, and this guy from the training that I generally find almost unbearable to be around. It's hard to explain why, exactly. But he just strikes me as being a melodramatic bitch, for lack of more eloquent wording (suggestions, anyone?). We just went back to his apartment (which is really shitty, by the way. I didn't realize I was living in the lap of luxury out here in Mytishchi. The LL apartments in Moscow really suck, apparently) and drank beer and listened to music on youtube. It was better than I had expected, and at least we were indoors and P&I had a pull out couch to share, but still not desirable.

Right now a strange thing is happening in my apartment. I mentioned a few weeks ago that the landlord & co. barged into my apartment one day. Well, today, they did the same thing (I had been notified this time), and have (allegedly) been installing a water meter for the past hour and a half. Weird. Ah... silence seems to have befallen my apartment. Perhaps they have departed. Oh... no. This is much weirder. A woman is sitting in my kitchen. She does not want tea. She seems to be waiting for something. Oy. The landlord told me something. All I really understood was that he needed some part and was going to the store and would return. All's quiet in the apartment, again. Thank god.

Ah, anyway, I am trying to remember the rest of my weekend. I think it just involved hanging out with Katie and eating dinner Sunday night with her, my roommate, and his boyfriend.

The week was uneventful. The teaching is kind of fun. My group of teenagers is very quiet, I appreciate that they're well behaved. My children (8-10 year olds) are a little out of control, so I think I'll have to start reigning them in. This coming week is going to be much busier. I will have 6 classes and hit 18 academic hours a week (which is only 13.5 normal hours, but anyone who has ever taught will know that's a lot of time to spend in front of a class... plus there is the lesson planning I do in my spare time). I am very grateful to have 3 day weekends up until this point. The highlight of my week was the cabbage rolls I made last night. I could eat them every day. Experimenting with a new bread recipe... some sort of basic sweet roll. The dough has almost risen.

The plans for this weekend include: a trip to Moscow with Katie and the internet masters, to go to the Apple store and see if they will do anything about Katie's ipod that she spilled tea on (we will omit this last piece of information), and also to the honey festival!!!! I'm not that into taking pictures, but I will take some of that fo' sho. My roommate is out of town, so I have invited Katie over to be my weekend roommate. She is experiencing hella drama (I said it) with her roommates, so she is happy for the opportunity to escape. And have internet. Her roommates, C&S, have gotten on just about everyone's bad side. It will remain to be seen if they make it through the entire nine month contract.

Random information: done.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Голубца моя, как я тебя люблю

Okay, technically, the singular is голубец, but if you know the song (О, голубка моя, будь со мною, молю/ В этом синем и пенном просторе/ В дальнем родном краю./ О, голубка моя, как тебя я люблю/ Как ловлю я за рокотом моря/ Дальнюю песнь твою.) then it makes more sense...

So, there are approximately two readers who understand what I'm talking about, and my labored explanation took away any humor or cute pun. The point is, I had a delicious and successful experiment in CABBAGE ROLLS last night:

When I lived in San Diego, if I had a cabbage roll craving, I would make a quick trip to the local Eastern European market/deli and buy them freshly prepared. Now that I live in Russia, surrounded by Russians who probably eat them at rates astronomically higher than people in the Southern California region, I make them myself. And I don't know why I didn't before. I got twelve rolls out of a cup of cooked rice, half a head of cabbage, a pound of ground beef, and some canned tomatoes. Not to mention the sour cream I eat them smothered in.

Next up on the bread experiment list is some form of a rye-sourdough. I figured if I'm going to live in Eastern Europe, I ought to be making foods typical to the region.

But that won't stop me from trying a pizza place down the street with the other teachers sometime soon. I am quite pleased with my fellow native English speaking coworkers. My roommate is a gay Irishman, and I find him and his Russian boyfriend to be delightful. Katie is absolutely lovely and I couldn't have designed a better friend to be here with. Even the couple has been growing on me, because I realized my previous attitude toward them was both premature and going to cause me suffering in some form. These things all help ease the home sickness, though I find myself frequently awash with longing for my friends and family and everything familiar. You are all in my thoughts.

You may all look forward to the following in my next update(s):

My recently commenced teaching
The honey festival
A '50s and '60s soviet photography exhibition
Attempted mushroom gathering in a forest

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Success in Bread (and other areas)

As I write this, I am relaxing in my (couch)bed, eating syrniki, drinking tea, and generally basking in the relief that has washed over me. You see, my dear readers, my training ended on Friday night. Here I am at the local (relative to the central school-- it's about 45 minutes commute from my house) waterhole where we met up for our last evening together, looking especially pleased/smug/? (which is exactly how I should feel after getting a 95% on my grammar test. boo-ya):

With memories of last weekend still fresh in my mind, I made the decision to go home before the metro/buses stopped running. I decided to stop by Katie's apartment (who had arrived just a few days before!!!! finally!) on my way home to see what she was doing. It was only 11:30, but she was already asleep (out of boredom, she claims). I felt bad for waking her up, but said she was really happy to see me. You are too nice, Katie. Anyway, we stayed up chatting a few hours then went to sleep. The next day we made our way over to my apartment and hung out with my roommate's (he returned early Monday morning!) boyfriend, went into Moscow and ate an early dinner (salad and pizza at an Italian restaurant), then stopped by the Aushan, which I don't quite know how to describe. Imagine Wal-Mart, but much larger, and with some other stores inside of it. Like a consumer's matryoska. Most of you know that I never shop at Wal-Mart... partially for moral reasons (but let's be honest, what the fuck does that even mean?), and partially because it frightens me a little: . That said, I will return to the Aushan on a week day (when it will be a little less insane, and not about to close) to more thoroughly browse its offerings. It could take days. Plus, they have a nice honey selection. I decided on this jar, mostly because of the cute little bears on the label:

Awwww! Oh, and SPEAKING OF HONEY... There is an annual honey festival (ярмарка меда) happening in Moscow from September-October 3rd!!!!! Katie and I will probably make the trip soon. Next weekend, perhaps. My mom was recently in Switzerland, which is the original "land of milk and honey," but I think they might be rivaled by Russia in the honey area. Milk, on the other hand, is a whole other story in this country.

My first night here, in the heat and smoke, I was craving a glass of milk. Normal. So I walk across the street to the supermarket, locate the dairy products, and select one of the many containers labeled milk, feeling pretty confident in myself and my Russian. I purchase it, go home, pour a glass, and...... what is this? It's thick, and slightly sour. I look back to the container: yes, as I previously had seen, it is milk. Confused and jet-lagged, I drank my "milk" and went to bed. The next morning, I went back to the store, to further inspect the dairy case. This time I buy one in a plastic bottle, where I can see the contents and be sure of the contents. Still craving a glass of milk, I am anxious to get home and try some... and to compare the two bottles. This is what I was looking at:

Unless I should be worried about the left bottle being cat's milk, I am totally baffled as to what the difference could possibly be. One friend suggested that if the bottle on the right was in the yogurt section, it could be different than the milk in the proper milk section. Oh, Russia... So I eventually get to the ingredients in my bottle inspection, and see that the right-most bottle is "изготовлено из нормализованного коровьего молоко," which I knew roughly translated to prepared from normalized (homogenized?) cow's milk. Prepared from? I don't pour water into a glass and say I prepared a glass of water. Compare that to the ingredients of the actual milk (or maybe cat's milk): цельное молоко, обезжиренное молоко (whole milk, skim milk). That's more like it. It appears the former was buttermilk, maybe. So... mystery solved. Kind of. In any case, I am more careful when purchasing milk now.

In my title story, and last piece of food news, I have perfected the art of my yeast rolls:

They are amazing. Light and fluffy and delicious. Who's laughing now, mom, who's laughing now? HA HA!*

In other news: I start working on Tuesday. My first group of students consists of four 9-year-olds. Very cute. When I told my dad, he said something like this (via skype-chat):

How cute
They will fall in love with you!
Any maybe you will get to know their rich parents
They will invite you to their villa on the Black Sea
And offer you a high paying job with their company
.... which is probably connected with the mafia
you can ride in their private jet all over the world

I would be happy if someone invited me to go mushroom gathering at their dacha over the weekend. A girl can dream, can't she?

*My mom told me that when she saw the picture of my sad little roll-pancakes she laughed out loud! Unbelievable!