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read my new blog, fools

Regarding my marriage post, you also have to consider the fact that while I'm a decent looking young lady...

My female students (and most Russian women in general) are stunningly gorgeous, like this...

Anyway, this post is really just to remind you all that my new blog is at http://www.latitudebylongitude.com. READ IT.

New Blog!

From now on, I'll be posting my adventures here:


Long and cumbersome name, but it's mine!

the art of superficiality...

As a response to those who joke about me finding gorgeous charming Russian men and getting married, I've decided to make a list of criteria for finding appropriate men and women to marry in this fantastic country I'm in.

Re: Russian Men
Does he look like most of the other men around? - If no, continue.
Is he even slightly attractive? - If yes, continue.
Legal? - If yes, continue.
Are his shoes pointy? - If no, continue.
Does he have a manpurse? - If no, continue.
Is he drunk? - If no, double check and then continue.
Obviously hungover? - If no, continue.
Smelly? - If no, continue.
Married? - If no, continue.
Does he get up for old women on the bus? - If yes, continue.

If the Russian man you meet matches these criteria, marry him immediately.

Re: Russian Women
Does she look like most of the other women around? - If yes, continue.
Legal? - Depending on your moral code/willingness to wait, continue.
Wedding ring? - If no, continue.
Are you drunk? - If no, continue.
Does she know that you're American? - If yes, continue.

If the Russian woman you've met matches these criteria, she's probably already found a way to make you marry her.

Disclaimer: This is not intended to be taken seriously in the slightest, keeping in mind i'm completely serious)
The Good:

I went to a party that Bob's neighbor Lena threw last night, mostly because her friends (the folks I went mushroom hunting with) are the most eternally happy and energetic people in the world. They're always ready for laughing, drinking, and dancing- it's pretty overwhelming, but uplifting at the same time. Here's a picture of two of them- Maxim and Misha. In this photo, Maxim is hitting Misha over the head with a bag of white wine. Yes, for those of us too classy to drink wine from a box, Russia introduces wine in a BAG.

Then today, I took a lovely walk in the alleys behind the main street of town because the weather was warm, though still semi-yucky in terms of muddiness. I walked back through Puskin Park and met up with Nicole at Cafe Montana for brownie batter hot chocolate and good hanging-out conversation. Good, relaxing weekend overall.

The Bad:

Midterms and oral exams this week. I'm worried about polishing up my tests and worried about how on earth my darling students (especially my hooligans) are going to pass. Доживём, увидим.

The Ugly:

I woke up this morning to a very grey and dull morning. At breakfast, Nina M. gave me a brief hello and then launched into a dramatic story about how our neighbor killed himself yesterday. Apparently he was this young guy who got divorced a month or so ago, he's got a daughter, but he's just a tragically unlucky guy who can't find a job and just couldn't take it anymore. Incredibly depressing start to the day, but so it goes.

До свидания, друг мой, до свидания
Не грусти и не печаль бровей,
В этой жизнь умирать не ново
Но и жить, конечно, не новей.
A. I had a pretty stellar weekend. Between conversation group (where we talk about various topics in English with Russians), pizza at Tashir, hookah, bowling, walking in the woods and hot chocolate that tastes like brownie batter, I'm a pretty happy girl.

Yuri and Alex at Vanil Cafe smokin' the hookah.

Mmm... hot brownie batter and misspelled words...

B. Russian grandmothers are the most amazing cooks in the world. One of the guys from conversation group, Yura, invited us over for a Russian meal. She made schi (cabbage soup) and a chicken dish with mushrooms and pineapples (?!) that was delicious.

If I look twenty pounds heavier now, blame the woman on my right.

C. Went walking with an AH student on Saturday in Park Druzhba (Friendship Park) o. Since Kate posted some fall-ish pictures, I figured I might as well post some too.

Fall came and went wayyy too fast this year.

Dark, but pretty view of the forest of Park Druzhba.

D. Nina M's granddaughter Olya visited last week and we spent hours watching cartoons. Good times. Also, here's a lovely fall picture of my building...

And an equally lovely picture of a syringe I found not too far from my door...

Yay Russia! (or maybe it's just my knack for finding syringes in foreign countries. see: beaches near Naples)

E. It's snowing. (Finally.) It's also FREEZING. Whenever I point this out to any Russian, they kindly inform me that it's only going to get worse. How helpful. They also inform me that my beautiful London-style coat will be completely inadequate for the upcoming months and I need to buy a new one. Which is fine by me (I like to buy new things), but a decent winter coat costs something around 4000 rubles, decent winter boots cost around 2000, and a hat/scarf combo is an obscene 1000. That's 7000 rubles for my winter wardrobe, folks (not including warm tights and more socks). Since that's roughly my monthly salary, thinking about the upcoming freeze is occasionally disheartening.

It's gonna be a cold one, folks.

happy birthday to me!

Like most 21 year olds, I spent a good majority of yesterday morning in that great limbo between nauseated and vomiting. Tragically, in my case, it wasn't a result of a night of celebratory tequila shots and fruity mixed drinks, but a nasty stomach virus of sorts. Despite my miserable state of health, the rest of the day progressed fairly well...

The AH staff gave me a pretty necklace/earring set made from enamel (which at first makes me think of teeth, oddly enough) and we drank white wine and enjoyed a fruit pastry pseudo cake that was quite tasty. Galya made a toast to my health (cue laughter), future, etc etc. and I had my one and only sip of alcohol on my 21st. Bob gave me a ridiculously cute Cheburaska doll (see my icon) that talks and giggles. For the non Russo-philes, Cheburashka is the epitome of Soviet cartoons and I've got a minor obsession with the half-monkey/half-bear creature, so it was an excellent gift.

My first class (the hooligani) erupted in a Happy Birthday chorus when I entered the room. If you've ever been sung to by an enthusiastic group of 12-15 year olds, you know how simultaneously out-of-tune and endearing it is. They gave me pretty wildflowers and a small grey stuffed Russian dog that barks (which I swear is different from how American dogs bark). Combined with Bob's gift and the stuffed horse my family sent me in my package, I now have the veritable beginnings of a stuffed animal army. Take that, other 21-ers.

Two of the girls had taken photos with me earlier, and gave me copies with their names on the back. My hooligans are cute, sometimes. To the great excitement of the class, I brought not only candy, but also Harry Potter. I made the great mistake of showing them the case before class, in the hopes it would make them study harder, but suddenly all of their grammar examples ended with "and then we watch Garry Potter" (Russians don't have an H) and the focus was gone. In the end, I gave them copious amounts of homework for practice and we watched 20 minutes of Quidditch.

My second class had no idea it was my birthday (frankly, I don't know how the others did) and looked a little sheepish when I gave them their candy. They were, fortunately, very cooperative as a result, even my less enthusiastic students.

I was running late for my final class, and I walked in to find them all gathered at the whiteboard (which was decked in various balloons), saying 'Surprise!' They sang Happy Birthday and gave me a gorgeous bouquet of roses (see below) and a box of chocolate. Fortunately, they were able to contain their excitement about Harry Potter until the end.

Riding home on the bus with two giant bouquets and a bag of gifts is both incredibly cumbersome and uplifting (in that 'everyone stares at you' sort of way). I managed to survive until the end of the day and arrived home to freshly made borscht. (Honestly, if I had nothing but good borscht on birthdays, I'd be a damn happy girl) All in all, for an anticlimatic 21st, it was a pretty fantastic day.

Aaaand...since we don't have classes tomorrow, tonight I'm making home-made pizza for the group (hoping it turns out as successfully as the chocolate chip cookies and hamburgers) and then we're heading out to see The Departed at Kinomax to properly celebrate. Ура!

cereal killer

As I mentioned before, my previous Russian experience has saved me from the uncomfortable "culture shock" period that I experienced last fall. Granted, there are a few differences this time around and I'm still learning everyday. But there hasn't been an earth-shattering "what the hell?" moment in quite some time.

Until today.

Usually for breakfast, I get kasha (oatmeal), an egg with toast, or vareniki (sweet ravioli-type things). This morning, Nina M. decided to be adventurous and make me...cereal. Now, I love cereal, so I was pretty excited for this new development. She wouldn't let me come into the kitchen until it was ready. Ready, you ask?

Well, I was finally allowed in and Nina proudly presented me with a bag of corn flakes and a jar of milk (oh Russians). There was a cup for my tea, but no bowl yet, so I just started pouring the tea into the cup. Nina waved her hands frantically- "What are you doing? Eat your cereal first!" Since it's all the same to me, I stood up and got a bowl out of the cabinet and poured the cereal into the bowl. Nina looked confused, but I assumed she was wowed by my uber-independence. I began pouring the milk from the jar and successfully managed to spill it all over myself, at which point I discovered that the milk was HOT. Now we both looked confused. Explanations were in order.

Apparently, Nina had expected me to pour the hot milk into the tea cup and eat the cereal separately. The whole bowl concept was entirely alien to her and she was convinced that I didn't have enough milk. Since she was already in a state of confusion, I broke the tragic news that I (and most Americans) typically eat cereal with cold milk, and we put it in a bowl. She looked pretty crushed, so I decided against slicing up my banana to put on my cereal.

Okay, so maybe not earth-shattering. But the milk was HOT.

And just so you don't feel like you've wasted five minutes reading this, here's a picture of me with my hooligan class on the first day of class (notice how there are NO books on the table).


My students occasionally write journal entries as part of their homework- I collect them and correct random mistakes. Occasionally, I get some pretty prize entries. Okay, so I'll admit, my sense of humor while I'm in Russia is extremely lower than normal, but give me a break.

And so, without further adieu, here are some of this week's winners:

-Dima writes...

Hm... I broke my pencil.

*starts writing me questions in blue pen...*

Ok, I bought new! (in pencil)

-"Kristina" writes...

We are looking at this world in the same way and first of all estimate a person's mind and kindness. We don't understand meanness and treachery...

(this is entertaining because she's a second-level student and this is quite clearly not her work, as in the entry before, she included sentences like She am name Liza)

And I'm done, for now.

mushroom expedition

On Friday night, I met Bob's neighbor Lena, who proceeded to introduce us to nine or ten of her closest friends. We all walked and talked in Russian (while they drank copious amounts of trash beer) until about 2 am. They were pretty shocked to hear that most Americans have never been mushroom hunting (in Russian, there's a specific phrase for it- ходить за грибами- and it's incredibly popular) ,so they invited us to join them on Sunday. We drove about fifteen minutes outside the city and began the hunt...

Before heading out into the woods, we enjoyed some freshly-picked apples (probably the biggest I've ever seen)

Then, the woods awaited...with hundred of mushrooms to be picked...

I found one. Really. Just one.

I found a dozen that looked like this cool guy, but apparently they're poisonous or something.

Lena's friend, on the other hand, gathered an entire basket's worth of prize finds. I SUCK.

The whole group, post-hunt

Good times were had, and now the American Home has two full bags of mushrooms. Maybe I'll put my newly-acquired cooking skills to use and make something tasty.

Or maybe I'll finally do what I came here to do and finish my lesson plans and my mini-test for ZII instead of updating. Nah.