Friday, October 29, 2010

this, like a dream, keeps other time...

Today is very dreamy, and I say that because I have spent a good portion of it in bed. Or dreary, depending on one's mood, I suppose. It's overcast and snow is floating down from the sky, as though just above the clouds little angels were blowing the seeds off dandelion globes. Picturesque, enit? Anyway, I discovered an hour or two ago that despite the fact that there is frozen water coming from the sky, it isn't actually that cold here on the Earth. Today is not, in fact, the first snow of the season. The first snow was a couple of weeks ago, and while it didn't last, it did cause a much more wintery impression than today's. Here are some photos to illustrate:
First snow, October 15th, I believe.

Today. It only stuck to a couple of branches, despite the fact that it was falling for hours.

I suppose there is some catching up to do. The highlight of my life since Canadian Thanksgiving was probably the company hosted booze cruise along the Moscow River last Saturday, in celebration of the company's 16 years in Russia. The food was delicious, the views were amazing, and the company (the people, not the entity of employment) was fantastic. Here are a few pictures documenting the event:

Coming up on Moscow State University!

Jon Tucker, Katie, and I

What building is this?!

Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Obviously, Stalin ordered it destroyed in 1931 and originally planned for the site to build a monument of socialism (because they didn't have enough) called Palace of the Soviets. Long after funds ran out for that, in 1958, Nikita Khrushchev decided to go in the opposite direction and built(/dug) the world's largest open air swimming pool, known as the Moskva Pool. In 1995 it turned back into the world's tallest Orthodox church.

Katie and I, happy to be alive.

This is potentially our engagement photo.


Me towering over LL Director, Rob Jensky

The totally untapped bottle of vodka we found in the coat room after the rest of the alcohol ran out!

Eating cake with our hands. Classy.

Katie and Hannah

What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday evening! Afterward I wandered around with some people for awhile, looking for a bar. Then we were sitting in one, and I looked out the window and my roommate and his boyfriend were strolling past! What a strange coincidence. Of course I ran out to say hi. Once the metro was about to shut down, this particular group of people decided they wanted to go home, but as I walked with them to the metro stop, in a magnificent stroke of luck and timing, Polly was just arriving to meet up with us. So she and I went to a packed club with loud music for a few hours, then took a cab back to my apartment around 3:30 am. I was surprised to discover that it's only about 1000 rubles (~$30) from the center to Mytishchi, and that was without trying to haggle with the driver. And he didn't even charge extra for the time he spent driving around trying to figure out how to cross the creek in Mytishchi to get to my building. I think I spent Sunday sleeping, and generally not getting out of bed. The boots I wore are comfortable for... oh, I dunno... 8 hours, max. 13 was pretty bad.

The week came and went, like they all do. I enjoy my job more and more as time goes on, as I learn more techniques and games and activities, as I get to know my students more. This is a great opportunity to learn about what I want and enjoy. Who knew I would enjoy teaching? Who knew I would enjoy teaching teenagers so much? It's very cool. It's also exhausting, but it gives me something to really look forward to on my days off. Like, Fridays I usually spend relaxing alone, and Saturdays doing something more social. I have a new addition to my Saturday schedule: an individual lesson with a beginning level 7 year old girl. I had my first meeting with her last weekend, and basically tried to determine where to begin in the book with her. And considering I just flipped through the book and asked if she knew what things were, or if she had certain things, it was a lot of fun, and she enjoyed it and that's what's important. She is adorable, and very sweet, and I think it's going to be great to have her as a student.

And on Sundays, I go to church? A few weeks ago, Katie told me she found a Catholic church in Moscow that has an English mass at 3 pm on Sundays. She asked if I wanted to go with her, and of course I said yes. So two Sundays ago, we set off for the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Immaculate Conception (that is quite a title!). We arrived a couple of minutes late and hurried in and sat down. Fortunately it hadn't started yet. A minute later, the priest walked to the front of the room and started speaking. Spanish. Katie and I exchanged the most baffled looks one could imagine, but decided that we had come all this way, and God would know our intentions. Fortunately I had Katie, a life-long Catholic, to model my actions after (stand up, sit down, kneel on some uncomfortable piece of wood, shake hands with people, etc), so I didn't come off as a complete buffoon. She was relieved that the service seemed to be identical to those in North America.

Oy. That's enough for now. Tomorrow I have my second lesson with the 7 year old, and then Katie and I are going to a giant shopping mall in hopes of finding her a winter coat. I'm just excited to get out of the house!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A month of Sundays

I am not totally sure what the idiom means, but it sounds nice. I'd like to think it has something to do with relaxation and laziness, and today is a quintessential Sunday in that respect (except it's Saturday). I went for a jog this morning and had a pretty incredible experience. At the very end, as I was walking through the little park by my apartment, the ground was blanketed with yellow-orange leaves, and the light reflecting off of them created this very vivid visual experience, where everything was illuminated and glowing (which can probably be attributed, in part, to the so-called runner's high).

Ah, so, I suppose it's time to address Canadian Thanksgiving, now that a week has passed. As previously mentioned, Canadian Thanksgiving also has a tradition of eating turkey on this day (due to thievery), so Katie and I set out to find a Turkey the day of, a big thanks to Dima who came early to drive us to the store and help us prepare. So, in the hypermarket of Aushan, we see there are turkey pieces (legs, wings, breasts) packaged, but no whole turkeys. We ask a few people, get sent to different freezers/refrigerators, then understand that there would be no whole turkey at that store. Given Moscow traffic and the rapidly-approaching party time, we had to choose: do we buy all of the pieces of a turkey, and tie them together like some sort of a Thanksgiving puzzle? Or do we settle for chickens? (we also briefly considered duck, but nothing really happened there) As comical as I thought (and still think) the turkey puzzle would have been, we settled on two little chickens (and I don't mean cornish gamehens) and called them baby turkeys.

In addition to the baby turkeys, we made some other Thanksgiving favorites: stuffing, gravy, a veggie ratatouille type dish, cranberry sauce (which I actually forgot to serve, and now have it all to myself!), sweet dinner rolls, mashed potatoes, and, of course, an apple pie. I made enough pie crusts to give one to Katie's roommate, who surprised us by offering to make a pumpkin pie from scratch for the event. For reasons unknown to me, I spent about an hour and a half fighting with the pie crusts in my attempt to fit them into the pie tins. Eventually I settled on a rectangular glass baking dish for my apple pie (which worked out perfectly) and somewhat crudely managed to get one pie tin properly lined with crust. I think part of what was so confusing about this being such a time-consuming ordeal is that last night I rolled out some dough and lined a pie tin in 15 minutes flat. Anyway, I gave her the pie tin and let her have at it. And I think I will spend the rest of my life wondering why that pie was so salty. Salty to the point of being inedible. But rumor has it that she was happy with the way it came out, and it has spent the last week in their fridge being slowly eaten, not unlike a gazelle carcass left on the Serengeti plains, I imagine. So confusing.

Other than that, the night was a huge success. Some people brought sides and desserts, which was awesome, a lot of people brought drinks (or a few people brought a lot of drinks), so there was enough to go around. I think about 22 people came in total, though there probably weren't that many there at any one point in time. I think 9 people spent the night, which was surprisingly comfortable, thanks to the numerous extra beds in Katie's apartment. The only uncomfortable part was the next morning, when everyone except for one Russian guy had left, and was just hanging around while we cleaned the apartment. I was washing dishes, and all the sudden realized he was just standing in the kitchen... and Katie was cleaning stuff up, and looked up, and he was just sitting alone in her room on the couch. Totally awkward.

Anyway, here are a few photos from the event, in no particular order:

Polly hanging out on my leg

Polly and Katie, hanging out in the kitchen

So happy...

Obviously thrilled to be fastening the cape around her.

Not sure what they're preparing, but they are happy to be doing it.

Making the gravy!!

Spiced pre-pie apples

The most delicious apple pie in the world.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Searching for my voice

In the days since the epic Canadian Thanksgiving party (which was the perfect warmer for the real Thanksgiving just around the corner) which took place Saturday, I have been feeling progressively sicker. Today while I was teaching my first class, my voice started to fail me. I cancelled my two other classes for the day and went home, only for my voice to leave completely.

I've spent my afternoon and evening drinking various warm drinks with honey and lemon, drifting in and out of sleep, and watching Mean Girls, in order to prepare an activity for my teen classes tomorrow. It turns out that I am actually ahead of the pacing schedule for my books in both of those classes and need to slow it down; that coupled with the fact that I can barely talk means that we're going to be watching this classic piece of American cinema as a class. For me personally, this means that I will have watched "Mean Girls" three times in a 24-hour period. Every day I try to one-up myself, tomorrow I will succeed fo sho.

While I am not quite prepared to write about our Canadian Thanksgiving celebration, I feel that I should give you some information about this holiday in order to prepare for my next entry:

Fact 1: America graciously gave our manatee-of-a-neighbor this holiday because it felt bad for Canada.

Fact 2: Pilgrims never really wanted to move to Canada, they simply got lost while looking for America and had to chose between settling and starving to death. It's better that way, as Real Americans would have rather starved than settled for Canada.

Fact 3: While America was happy to give Canada the successful holiday of Thanksgiving, Canada did steal the turkey tradition without permission.

Fact 4: Canadians are only thankful for the maple tree and maple derived or related products.

Fact 5: Canadian Thanksgiving coincides with Columbus Day*, an obvious means of condoning the enslavement, rape, and genocide of indigenous people everywhere. Bravo, Canada, bravo.

All jokes aside, I couldn't possibly hate a Country who produced a person as wonderful as Katie.

*this is the only true fact

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Falling behind.

It seems I've gotta pick up the pace on this blogging business, but I'm just not sure what to write. Though more because I'm lazy, I've realized, rather than an actual absence of material. Probably most importantly, last Sunday Katie, Polly, our new friend Dima and I went on a mini tour of Moscow-- stopping by the honey festival once again, roaming through Tsaritsino Park, stopping by a Starbucks, before our final landing at МГУ (Moscow State University) and Sparrow Hill. Here are a few photos from that day:

Entrance to the fair, adorable little child staring at us:

First things first, getting some medovukha (some sort of honey-based alcoholic beverage) samples!

Now we can move on to honey samples...

Above you see some sort of women's medovukha being sold by the same vendor who was selling the "man juice" below:

We decided to be brave and sample them... but they weren't as tasty as some of the other medovukhas. You can't quite tell from the photos, but there were hundreds and hundreds of vendors from every obscure region of Russia that you can imagine. This made it very difficult to decided not only which kind of honey we wanted to buy, but from where.

Since the honey festival was being held right next to Tsaristino park (just like the first time I went...), we wandered through like a pack of bear cubs there when we were all honey-d out.

Some beautiful fall trees... I'm still blown away by how beautiful the season is here.

Peering out from the bridge...

The stunning palace:

Beautiful Orthodox church, called "Source of Life" (Живоносный Источник)

"United Russia," the largest political party in Russia:

We spent a good little while relaxing in Starbucks, soaking up the warmth and enjoying the people watching that Old Arbat (a pedestrian street in a very wealthy area of Moscow dating back to at least the 15th century) had to offer.

Then we made our way to МГУ (Moscow State University)!! Built in the so-called Stalin Style of architecture (Сталинский ампир). It's difficult to fully capture the size of this place in a photo. It's hard to describe it in any way but "breathtaking."

Posing next to Mendeleev, creator of the periodic table of the elements (basically) and pioneer in regulations on mass vodka production.

Pavlov... anyone hear a bell? We were going for posing like dogs, but probably look more like bunnies.

The four of us atop Sparrow Hill, offering an amazing panoramic view of Moscow:

It was pretty chilly, and Katie put Canada to shame by being freezing for the last hour or two we were out, but it didn't rain and was, overall, a lovely day. And what a treat to be driven around the city. AND, we even got a discount on the honey we bought, as a sign of American-Canadian-Russian friendship. Can't beat that.

Things are not especially exciting here in Mytishchi. Hectic weeks followed by long weekends, and twice a month I get paid. In roubles. Straight cash. I'm also enjoying my return to running, something I realized I haven't done regularly in years.

Next up on the blogging agenda is the Canadian Thanksgiving Katie and I held last night at her apartment. I'll do my best to write about it before another week slips by.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I always dreamed of a place where frost crunched under your feet

The last few days I've walked to work in the morning, I've had a strangely familiar sensation. The chilly air and frost covering the ground reminds me of home. I don't mean a metaphorical home, but it actually reminds me of Escondido. It reminds me of waking up early for school, seeing the frost covering the other rooftops (giving the wonderful illusion of winter), walking out to the car (that my dad had already warmed up) across slightly crunchy grass and feeling the air bite my face.

Things are a little different now, obviously. My dad isn't here to warm up my clothes in the dryer before I have to get dressed. I don't even have a dryer. And I'm walking to work, alone, instead of being driven to school by my dad (or in a van-full of neighborhood children). But still, there is something familiar about it. It's weird to think about the span of weather I will have seen in just four months by the time December comes. When I arrived nine weeks ago, it was the heat wave of the century, the city was ablaze and shrouded in smoke. Being from Southern California, this ever-changing weather is a new experience for me. I wouldn't go as far as to say we lack seasons back home, but the changes are subtle and the weather mild.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Originally I thought I would end up being too lazy to post many pictures (it's a complicated process: first you have to take them, then you have to actually put them on the computer, and THEN you have to upload them to the blog), but now I'm starting to think I'm having the opposite problem of only posting pictures and not writing much more than captions. Perhaps that is what I'm doing right now...

Triumphant in front of St. Basil's after the 5k.

Some beautiful golden trees and leaves on my walk to the school.

From the run.

Moscow River at night.

Beginning of the run at dusk.

So many people! Allegedly over 12,000?! Also, I enjoyed the massive Reebok advertisement at the Nike-sponsored event.

Don't start running yet, Katie!!

The run was lovely, even for how out of shape I apparently am. Nevertheless, I suppose I am glad to be running again (I even went for a jog along a creek behind my apartment yesterday).

Oh, something remarkable from the event: we started talking with the people in the registration line because they were speaking English (a weird phenomenon--never in the states did I strike up conversation with people solely because they spoke English), and it turned out they were from San Diego! And the woman (they were a young married couple) had gone to UCSD! What a big coincidence! (though some might argue that there are no small coincidences and big coincidences! only coincidences!)

It's time for me to sleep. Tomorrow is a big day of venturing out into Moscow with Katie and Padruga-P, primarily to hit the honey festival again. Besides, I think I might attempt another jog in the morning? I've gotta keep up my momentum! Especially if I hope to start jogging with Katie someday.