Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I'm In

I am such a dork for telling everyone I know, but I am so excited I can't help it. I got a letter of acceptance to UNC-Chapel Hill to study history nexzt year and I am jumping up and down! I still want to wait and hear from the other places I applied, but this is sweet and I really think it is the best for me!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Smoke on the Moscow River

Well, I didn't write about it earlier because we had to find pictures to confirm our suspicions, but Molly and I had an encounter with Rock and Roll greatness in Moscow on Thursday night last week.

We were sitting in a cafe/restaurant having coffee and two or three middle aged non-Russian men came in and sat at a table in the corner. Middle aged men are not out of the ordinary, but their appearance was. They screamed: OLD ROCK STARS. Then the rest of the band came in. Then some roadies. Then some more roadies. You get the idea. Soon there was a large group of them trying to order, but the waiter didn't speak English, so they found someone from somewhere to translate. This would have been rather comical, except that it was our waiter, we wanted our check, and Deep Purple over in the corner was taking him up for half an hour ordering everything on the menu!

We finally got our check, got our coats from the coat rack behind them (pretending to be not speak English) and then left without talking to them because we weren't sure who they were!

We're not positive exactly who it was, but from some of the pictures we found on the Internet, it appears to have been some former members of Deep Purple. We also saw a poster for a concert, but I don't remember the names, just the "ex-Deep Purple" that was all over them.

There you have it...out brush with Rock and Roll fame. We have some pictures that we took, pretending to just take pictures of each other, but they are on Molly's camera: I will try to get them up soon!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Have a Nice Trip!

Our trip to Moscow turned out great. It was very relaxing. I hate to admit it, but every time I visit Moscow I like it more. The first few times, I was not a fan, but it's now becoming more familiar, if still a little overwhelming. We got in on Thursday morning and spent the day hanging out and walking around the city. We went and found our hostel, which was in a cool like neighborhood and close to a good Metro stop. (The Metro is the only way to get around Moscow.) We went through some of the regular tourist places around Red Square, went to a cool little book store, and had some sandwiches in a little shop. We also took advantage Moscow's many coffee shops to stop and warm up with coffee, tea, or cappuchino...a lot. [Pictured]

Friday we went to the Tretiyakov Gallery which has Russian art. It's a pretty cool place. We spent several hours there and then met up with Joanna and Eric for some dinner at a place that ostensibly served Arabic/Middle Eastern cuisine, so we ordered up some tabouli and hummus. After dinner we went to the Spleen concert which was pretty cool. Spleen is a Russian rock group that we like, so we were excited when we saw that they were playing in Moscow during our break. The venue was not that great, but the show was good and they played for close to three hours.

On Friday we hung out on the Arbat and spent plenty of time warming in coffee shops before catching a train back to Vladimir in the evening. At the train station we had a conversation that could only happen in Russia.

As we go through the turnstyles:
Train Station Lady, Angrily: Not that way, this way!
Us: Okay...
Train Station Lady, Still angry, but not quite so angrily: Have a nice trip!

Today we are catching up on some reading and doing a little bit of work (not too much!) We've got exams to give this week, another teachers seminar Monday and Tuesday, and a further Wednesday-Sunday vacation in two weeks that we have no hard plan for yet!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Maslenitsa! It's a Party!

Sunday was Maslenitsa, a Russian equivalent of Mardi Gras, complete with lots of blinni. We traveled to the nearby town of Suzdal to enjoy its well known celebration. It was a big festival in the town square where we danced, played games, and spent time with some Russian friends. I'll admit that it was cold, but also a lot of fun! Some of the most interesting games were pillow-fights and a Russian version of "Red Rover." There was also a large log standing and men took turns trying to climb it...most of them removing various articles of clothing to aid them and climbing to cheers of "Davai!" (Let's go!) There was also a lot of good food and drink and lots of people just out enjoying the festivities. In all it was a great time.

We also ended up walking around the town, hoping that movement would keep us warm. Instead, Ira, Sara's hostess, set off a chain reaction by pulling me into a snow bank. The result you can see for yourself!

As you can tell from all of this stuff in the last couple of posts, we have been very busy. In addition to all of this, we of course have to do our real jobs too! This week we have class Monday and Tuesday and some work on Wednesday. Then, Thursday and Friday we have a short vacation. Joanna, Eric, Molly, and I are going to Moscow. The main aim is to go to a concert on Friday night. It's a Russian group called "Spleen" which we like a lot. It should be a great chance to relax and enjoy a few days of something out of the routine, which has been crazy lately, as you can tell.

Also, thank you to Joanna and Nicole's student Larissa for the pics!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Of Holidays, Hectic Life, and Puppy Love (Ours, for Said Puppy)

First off, the puppy has a new home. I forgot to write about it, but the Thursday of the week we had him, an acquaintance of Galya and Alexei agreed to take the puppy. They apparently have a 12 year old son, so I'm sure that little Bashi has plenty of attention these days. While he was with us, we did our best to potty train him and educate him in the ways of the world. Here we have a picture of Eric doing a reading of Rudyard Kipling's "If."

"...Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!"

Otherwise, I haven't written much lately because we have been so busy. Wednesday last week was our "American Lunch" where we fixed dinner for the Russian staff and ourselves. We went with Italian food (spaghetti and meatballs) and had some fun with appropriate Valentine's Day poems.

We also found some appropriate Valentine's cards, with "I love you" and "Be mine," which was a bit surprising because Valentine's Day is a bit of a new phenomenon here.

Our students are also pretty awesome because they give us gifts at different opportunities, one of which was Valentine's Day. Molly got these flowers from a student...pretty sweet, huh!

Thursday was Joanna's birthday which was accomanied by blinni and a trip to our favorite Caucasus style restaurant. Friday was more Joanna's birthday celebration with a group trip to steam in the sauna. We passed the time relaxing, singing kereoke, and wondering why everyone in America hasn't figured out that this is an awesome tradition! Saturday was the American Home Mardi Gras Party for students, which turned out pretty well. We had food, games, music, contests, and a whole lot more.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Glorious Day of Nothing But Relaxation!

Yesterday, I did nothing! At least work-related. I read at home. Then, I went to the coffee shop...and read. I went for a little inadvertent walk when I picked the wrong trollybus by mistake...that 1 looked like a 7 from a distance! Finally, I went back home...and read (and studied Czech and Russian). Somewhere in there I found time to eat. I also got about 10 or 11 hours of sleep. In all, it was everything I hoped a cold winter's day away from work could be!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Avast Ye' Survey Dogs...

...Turn Loose the Prisoners or Prepare to Walk the Plank.

So, I was sitting at there kitchen table the other day grading homework, when someone (you know who you are) decided to give me a temporary tattoo: you can see the results for yourself.

This week flew by very quickly, with lots of work and craziness. Today has not been a lot better; I did sleep in a little, but I've also spent the day working and helping prepare for the Mardi Gras party that we are having next Saturday. Tomorrow, there will be no coming to the American Home at all! Instead, I'm going to read in the coffee shop, play some chess, maybe go ice-skating or skiing. Who knows what tomorrow brings, but it is a day off!

I leave you with a self-picture of Nicole, Molly, and I during our foiled attempt to go skiing at Park Druzhba last weekend. We were freezing!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Weekend Extravaganza

The has been quite a weekend so far! Friday night after class we went sledding on the steep hill that stands next to the Golden Gates down the block. (It's apparently an embankment that is one of the remains of the western city wall.) Then Saturday morning we got up and gathered at one of the city parks in an attempt to go cross-country skiing. Unfortunately that was the day of the Avtopribor(a car parts factory) company ski day. so we couldn't rent skis.

We left Joanna (who has her own skis) and ventured to the new mall that just opened in the center of town. It is new, clean, and best of all hosts a cafe called "Coffee Bean." This is nothing less than a little slice of paradise. Usual Russian cafes, as I have mentioned before, are notoriously lacking from our perspective: they often won't serve items on the menu, getting a seat is often dependant more on weather the person at the door likes the look of you and less on weather or not they have a seat. This place, on the other hand is nothing short of miraculous. It's run by an American, has great big cups of whatever you want and a plethora of big tables, couches, and chairs. In short, it's an real coffee shop! We sat for over an hour, had coffee, and the people who worked there were super friendly and helpful! It was awesome!

We followed this up with an American Home chess tournament. I acquitted myself pretty well, even though I haven't played in a while. In fact, I have a feeling I'll end up spending some free time in the future playing some more. We also had, thanks to Nicole, a delicious dinner of Middle Eastern cuisine. It was amazing too!

Finally - Sunday: not just any Sunday, Super Bowl Sunday. Now as you might know, I'm a huge fan of the Colts. I haven't missed a Super Bowl since before I was old enough to know what the Super Bowl was. Of course, now that I can't watch it, the only team that matters to me miraculously reaches the Big One. My plan is to camp out here at the American home and follow the game through Internet play by play and commentary from the family. I can't be there with them, so this is the next best thing.

The other interesting event showed up on Amanda's door this morning: a puppy, somewhere around 2 months old. It doesn't belong to anyone in her building. It's healthy but attention starved. It's some sort of Rottweiler or something related. Its tail has been clipped, so it belonged to someone at some point. I have no clue what we can do with it, but hopefully we can find someone with the space and time for a dog like that.

Things are not getting any less busy here. We have a Mardi Gras party to throw together, a vacation to plan and take, midterms to give and grade, and then another vacation. Somewhere we have to find time to work! I leave you with pictures of Nicole, Amanda, and Molly doing just that!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Cherry Orchard

On Tuesday we bought tickets to go to the theater on Wednesday. Even thought it is right outside the window (I can see it now as I type) and I walk past it every day, I had not partaken in a trip to a performance yet. Sooo...Sara, Joanna, Sara's hostess and I bought tickets and went. Two of Molly's students had invited her to go, giving us the idea. In all there was a pretty strong contingent of AH teachers (all of us who didn't have conversation classes).

The performance was, you might guess from the title of this post, Chekhov's classic The Cherry Orchard. It's the story of a mother returning to her childhood home and finding that she and her brother cannot save the estate and its renowned cherry orchard from encroaching modernity, the rise of the middle class, and the fading of the old Russian gentry. It has its comedic and absurd moments. I really enjoyed it and found that for the most part, like most Chekhov, the language was not hard to follow. I hope we get to go back to the theater again soon.