Saturday, February 28, 2009

Saturday Shopping

Well, I finally decided my sheet situation was no longer acceptable, so I spent the day shopping.... Geez, what a pain. But I have sheets and a duvet cover that fit...

When I go to get on the metro, I decided I would try to find this underground mall someone told me about at the Okhotny Ryad metro stop near Red Square. She told me it might be hard for me to find. One thing I remember people asking me when I first got here - was if I was good at finding places.... Well, those that know me well know I get lost in Nashville, but amazingly I have not been lost here! I think it is because here getting lost might be kind of bad - but in Nashville, I can call my friends up and they will give me directions!

So, I find the underground mall. Funny, alot of Moscow is underground. I think there are some underground tunnels that are now a tourist attraction.

In this mall, I am thinking I might find a department store that sells housewares..... Of course, this is Russia.... only clothes and shoe stores.... with very nice,expensive brands.

Shoes are extra important here in Moscow. Shoe stores everywhere, and shoe "remont" - repair... A girl at work said she could tell I was American from my coat and my shoes.... they are functional, not fashionable.

I did manage to find banya shoes. It was so funny - I knew I had to buy them because they say "Hot pepper - Don't burn yourself!" They are probably too big, but oh well, they are flip-flops to be worn in water.

Tonight on the metro, I saw a girl in a pair of boots with a very high heel. I've done some research on the internet, and found a picture...

Yes, they DO wear these.... on the ice.... As I was researching Russian Fashion, I came across a few sites I found quite interesting. I learned a few things... You might enjoy them. (some comments might contain foul language or reference to sex - this is Russia.... so, if you will be offended, don't look at these links - and don't come to Russia!).


I really hope this can give you some insight as to what I have been describing... Bob, you finally get to see pictures!

Back to shopping- so, no luck at the mall. So, I take the metro to 1000 Things. This is the best store I have found.... Most like Wal-Mart - without the food.

So, I go to the sheet section - and start looking. As you have learned, fashion here is quite different. Some very unusual sheet patterns. I want something simple! Then, I start to notice there are ALOT of different sizes of sheets - not the 3 or 4 we have in US. These sheets are expensive too! So, I think about how hard it would be for me to return sheets if they didn't fit (not sure that is even possible). So, I need something to measure my bed with..... Luckily 1000 Things has tape measures!

With my new and improved Russian - I tell the lady I want the tape measure - I already forgot the word, but it started with "r". Knowing where the accent in words are is hard here - as it is not written. Whenever I tell people I live at Dobrininskaya - somehow, because I do not get the accent right, they mis-understand the whole word...

So, I measure my bed. 200 x 180 CM. I go back to 1000 Things, because I want this over! They close at 8, and I got there about 7. So now I know the size, but geez - talk about some ugly sheet sets.. So, I decide if I can find my size, I am going to take it! Finally, I settle on a set that is light blue with some white dogwood flowers... I'll take a picture sometime soon.

Oh, I also bought a skillet today! So, I went to the grocery store tonight, and made myself an egg and cheese sandwich for dinner! I am very happy! In the grocery store, the music being played in the store - I am pretty sure the guy kept saying "vodka" and then playing music over and over.....

Today is really the first day I have felt like this was home. I feel like the "survival mode" may be easing up. I have food and water, know how to get around, and can speak a bit better. Also, last night, I went to a party with work people - so I have met a ton more people. I guess it is not so strange that the people I meet are much like me - adventurous! Guess you'd have to be to come here.

I really think I'm going to like it here. I will be very glad when I am more fluent in Russian though..

But, things are good!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Maslenitsa (Pancake week)/Drunken Bear Wrestling

I found out yesterday it is Pancake Week! Apparently, it is a Pagan holiday "for letting the long-annoying winter out and the long-awaited spring in." They burn scarecrows to say goodbye to winter. Also seems to be associated with indulging in eating and drinking before Lent somehow.

Here is a site about the holiday and traditions. Please look under the "history, and traditions" tab. Fist fighting and bear performance....

So, when researching what happens on Maslenita, I found this article -
about drunken bear wrestling in Red Square.

I really thought this was a joke. I thought nothing could shock me anymore. But, the idea of bears drinking vodka and wrestling....

So, I asked this girl at work, and she say "yes, we have bears here." She then sent me a picture of a tiny bear cub she saw in St. Petersburg....

Things are just different here....

The pancakes here are pretty thin - but are made of the same kind of batter. Some are filled with jam, butter, meat or cheese. Like French crepes.

So, I am certainly going to Red Square on Sunday - although I'm told I probably will not see a bear... But, maybe some fighting?

I will certainly provide an update of Sunday's activities!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Things in my house.....

Me in my banya hat! My cow magnet I bought for 14 rubles at the grocery store.

Spices, pasta, coffee, cereal and pita bread.
Regular water and mineral water... not so sure about the mineral water. It is popular here for health reasons, but I guess it is an acquired taste.

Orange juice, pomagrante juice and milk.

Vanish (I believe this is like bleach), bathtub cleaner, something like Woolite and fabric softner.

Aloe infused beauty juice! The yogurt drinks are very popular. I thought I'd try it out and see if it works!


Today, I was talking to a Russian girl at work, telling her about our banya mishap..... She said that the reason the men did not acknowledge us or say anything to us is because they thought we were prostitutes that had been called to the banya!

Kinda of makes it more funny now, but I am glad I didn't realize that yesterday!

Ah, everything is an adventure here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Russian Banya - Warning, this contains references to nudity

Sorry to say there will be no pictures in this post :) my camera is at my desk.

So, Katie and I set out today find Sanduny Banya..... We had quite a time... We fould the area, but there were like 4 or 5 bulidings - the restaurant, men's section, women's section, and who knows what else...

We start noticing the very expensive cars parked on the sidewalks. We think this means there are some rich people at the banya.

We find one building, and decide to go in........ Of course our Russian is horrible, and we have no idea which area we are going into....

You guessed it! We picked the men's banya!!! Oh my! It was a surreal experience.... Obviously, we had coats and hats on, and were GIRLS.... We are standing there looking incredibly stupid - not knowing exactly what to do.... no one says anything to us. no one even acknowledges we are there... A bunch of guys walking around in towels, smoking and drinking....

Ok, so, we were not really "inside" the banya. What we later found out in the women's banya, is that you come into an area - much like a restaurant - booths and tables.... and people in various stages of undress. This is not the part of the banya with water..... that is further inside. This is the area where you eat/drink/rest.

So, we are still a bit shellshocked as to how this experience works.... but, in a few minutes, we are inside the banya proper. In the main room, there are showers, bath tubs, pools, lots of buckets for pouring water on yourself....

Then there is the sauna. Ok, we didn't have our banya shoes, so it was like firewalking.... The sauna was the hottest one I have ever been in. You come out and you can dump cold water on yourself, or stand under a bucket that will spill water on you from above.

Here, they wear felt hats in the sauna.....

This is no joke... these pictures are for real, people wear these hats. I would take a picture of my hat, but my camera is at work as previously mentioned... Supposedly, the hat will keep you from getting too hot. Not quite sure how that logic works..

This place would not be good for anyone who is very modest. People are not shy with their bodies here... We wanted to get "soap massages," but that will be for another day.

We were both quite proud of ourselves for actually going there and actually doing "banya." Now, we know how it works... and we know we need to buy flip flops - or the very large Russian woman will keep yelling at us :) I didn't care so much because I did not know what she was saying!

I certainly think banya will be something I like to do here. It reminds me of Gray Bear...

I guess I forgot to go to Red Square today to see if anything was going on for the Men's Day Celebration. I can hear fireworks going off at the moment.

The next holiday is March 8 - which is Women's Day... I can't wait to see what that is like..

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Entrance to Red Square

I believe this is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

This is considered the center of Russia - yes, I know geographically that is impossible. You stand on this spot, make a wish and throw a coin over your shoulder. I have not done it yet.

I was debating on going to McDonald's but decided to eat in the Gum Mall. Fried chicken and potatoes (which were quite good).

This was a sign in the restaurant. I need to figure out what it says.

Gum (гум)Mall
This place is quite beautiful. It is very expensive shopping!
Saturday was Valentine's Day. At first I thought that is why I was seeing girls in wedding dresses. However, I have found out that it is a tradition for newlyweds to get their pictures made at tourist sites around town!

A mosaic inside my metro.

Shopping in the metro. Mom had asked me about shopping in the metro. This is in the underground cross at my metro.

I made a snowman on my balcony! I used straws for his arms, eyes and mouth!

Pictures from this weekend

So, Saturday, I walked to Red Square. Here are pics from that walk.

This is a church near my apartment.

Another church along the way!

The view of St. Basil's and the Kremlin is very good from this bridge. As you can see, it was snowing pretty hard!

This is Lenin's Masoleum. Леийи is cryllic for Lenin.

I'll post more pics in a second entry.

This weekend - without pictures.

Yesterday morning (Saturday), it was so nice to walk up to Red Square in the snow. It has snowed pretty much all weekend. Temperature is about 31 F, but I'd say there's been about 8 inches of snow.

Just fyi - my USB cable is at work, so I can't download any pics until I find that....

So, approaching Red Square yesterday, it was snowing so hard that I could not make out the Kremlin walls. Eventually, I got my bearings and made way to the Square.

I had to wait in line about 1/2 hr. for Lenin's tomb. Waiting in line was very interesting. There was a young Russian woman in front of me - she had no hat and no gloves on. She ended up with her hair covered in about an inch of snow.....but, I must say she kept checking to see if her mascara was in place!

When our small group was finally ushered into the tomb, the first thing I noticed was how dark it was inside. Maybe my eyes were still adjusting from the brightness of the snow... but you are only in the tomb for like 3-4 minutes. Lenin is elevated in the center, and you sort of walk around him.... and then out.

Really, to me, it looked like someone who was embalmed. I could not really make out great details due to the distance, and my eyes adjusting to the darkness.

Another interesting point - the tomb is quite heavily populated with guards who make sure you are not taking pictures or talking...

After this, I went to the Gum Mall and had lunch.

I'll post some pics as soon as I can!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Russian Valentine

I really was going to try to send something through email, but it was all in Russian, and it would take forever to figure it out... so, I thought I'd put a few images here! I am told the translation of this one is "I like sweets, especially you!"

I do not see any particularly "Russian" valentines here, probably because it is a US Hallmark Holiday. Most of the paper cards I saw in the metro had kitty cats on them. I wanted to buy some, but never did.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My kitty Ginger

Here are some pictures of Ginger playing! I sure do miss my girls! But, looks like they are having fun!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wednesday night

Not much exciting to report. I have been working alot. I found my favorite frozen dinner at the grocery near me. It is chicken and rice, but it has some curry and maybe cinnamon spices - with peas, corn, peppers and raisins in it. Glad to know there is something I can count on.

I am doing pretty well with the stove, although sometimes it is still a challenge to light. Good thing the buildings here are brick and not wood.

Well, Saturday is Valentine's day. Almost everyone I know here will be gone out of the country. I plan to try to visit Lenin's tomb. For those of you who don't know, Lenin's body has been preserved since 1978, and you can go see it. It is free admission, but you have to wait in line. Oh well, I have nothing better to do!

Here is a link to a site about it:

I tried to make an appointment at a spa, but told they were completely booked because it is "lovers' day."

We have a holiday coming upon February 22nd - Defender of the Fatherland Day (Men's Day). Should be very interesting. There is also "Women's Day" in March I believe.
Men's Day falls on a Sunday, so we are off on Monday.

We plan to go to the banya Sunday evening. This should be a very interesting experience.

I hope everyone back home is doing well.

What I have learned so far - is just about anything is possible.

Das Vidanya.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Moscow Metro

I found this website a while ago.

This person has done an incredible job of capturing the metro, like I will never be able to do.... Remember, my station is Dobrininskaya.

Another really intersting and funny website. I love the writing style of these guys. This is a link to the "metro photos" section, but you could spend hours looking at all the stuff here.

I tell you, I have laughed so much here....Just the little things - like, sometimes the water just goes off... this morning in my shower that happened. What to do? Well, a friend had suggested to fill up the empty 5 liter water bottles with tap water when I'm done with them for this specific purpose.. Luckily, the water came back on. I finshed, and dried off with the little kitchen towel I've been using for a week:) Things can be a bit challenging here, but I choose to laugh...

So, there is a restaurant near my metro called My My, which is pronounced Mu Mu (they are obsessed with cows over here. I believe it is the year of the cow in Chinese astrology). It is a buffet, and has a menu in English, you can point, and it is cheap. Well, last weekend when I was still starving, I decided to go. I had chicken noodle soup, chicken in mushroom sauce and potatoes, and it was like $6.

Here is a pic of the restaurant.

Well, later today on Arbat Street, there was another My My restaurant. Katie took my picture with the cow.

Here are some other pictures of Arbat Street.

Here is a Georgian restaurant I ate at my first week here.

Well, now I have hummus, pita bread, cheese and crackers and orange juice and towels. I think I've gotten the food part under control now, so I am feeling much better.
When my friend left tonight, he called me and told me the Cuban embassy is just to the north of me (an area I have not walked yet). I'll try to get some pictures tomorrow.

Successful shopping

This was my first Saturday with nothing that I really HAD to do. I'm not starving anymore, and I have a place to live, so all is well.

Katie and I decided to go to McDonalds and go shopping for towels, sheets and food. We got two out of three... so I am happy!

I took some more pictures of the area around me. I am around several embassies - Argentinian and Jamaicain, I believe - and the Malyn Theater.

I live in the Zamoskvorechye District. Here is a link to an article about this area.

This is the buliding across from me.

Here is the Malyn Theater

I love the parking here. I actually admire them for making it work.

I have to go meet someone for dinner now. I will post more later... I have some interesting pictures from today!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Shopping for meat

Ok, I have to say I have never seen this, and I did not take this picture. Katie took it this morning........

She says there are usually stray dogs hanging around.
No matter how hungry I get, I will never buy food like this!
On another note, I was so proud of myself last night! I lit my stove and made pasta. I took a picture of the flame, but my camera is at home.....

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Pictures of my new apartment!

Here is my bedroom. I cannot figure out if the bed is a king or a queen. A friend from work has given me sheets till I can make it to Ikea next weekend.

Chandelier in my bedroom. Never had one of those before!

Living room to balcony view. The bottom half of the balcony is obstructed by some pvc particle board (which will be removed). I asked the landlady what the purpose for it was, and she said something about privacy..... I really don't think anyone can see in this high up.... But, they will also put curtains over these windows... which I believe I will open!

Another view of the living room. I sure have alot of storage space..

A view from my balcony.

I discovered today that I am near a theater. There seem to be lots of interesting cafes and restaurants.

More to come!!!