And Then I Try Not to Cry…

20 Jun

While I really do have tons of fun living here in Russia, it’s not all international travel and exciting adventures. There are days like today, days when I am completely exhausted and only want to sleep for a week, but, instead, I find myself sitting outside of a bank on the verge of tears in the middle of Moscow.

A few weeks ago, while I was back in the States for a long weekend, a news story hit that the bank in which Ben’s pay is deposited (and has been for almost three years) would begin phasing out service to clients who are U.S. citizens. Despite multiple inquiries and expressions of concerns from American employees, his employer has insisted that this will not be a problem for us in the immediate future.

We decided not to risk it and to get as much of our savings out of there now, allowing us the peace of mind to enter July with our money secure either way. After successfully transferring a small amount back to the States, we learned that in order to transfer more we had to sign a form. (Note: we only learned this because we have friends who went through the process, there was no indication on the website about it.) We went to the bank today to sign this form only to be turned away because Ben does not have a notarized translation of his passport. He has had multiple interactions with this bank without needing one, so this was a big surprise. We were annoyed, but there was absolutely nothing that could be done, so we gave up for the day.

On our way out, we stopped by the ATM to get cash. The first ATM said the operation could not be completed, but a man in front of us also had trouble, so we switched lines to another machine. The next two ATM’s gave the same message and spit out the card.

This is the point when we began to get really nervous.

Ben went back inside to find our friend (who speaks Russian) to follow up with him, while I sat down outside and put every bit of energy I had left into not crying.

The end result is that a block was put on our account in response to resent charges. We never would have been able to figure this out on our own. This could not even be taken care of in the branch, Ben was sent away to call and take care of it over the phone.

So. Freaking. Frustrating.

We are so lucky to have awesome friends willing to translate notes and show up in person to translate for us. Navigating this system would be impossible without them. I understand that we do not speak the language of the country, but we were brought here knowing that this is the case. We never expected to have so much trouble with things that we consider to be so simple.

I often think about sharing my frustrations like this one, but usually never end up posting them. The reality is that life here is both amazing and so, so hard. It’s not all sunshine and roses; sometimes, it’s grey skies and smelly metro cars.

So, I cry. I process. Then, we figure out how to deal with whatever it is that is happening. At the end of the day, living here is worth dealing with situations like the one today. As long as we feel this way, that the positives outweigh the negatives, we will continue to support each other and get through the frustrations.

до свидания!

Advertisements

Our Next Adventure

31 May

I recently mentioned that Ben and I were waiting for confirmation of plans for next year as our visas will be expiring at the end of August. Well, we now know what we’re doing and it’s not what we expected a few weeks ago.

An opportunity arose and after much discussion, we decided to go for it. I am happy to say that we are moving, but our Russian lessons will not be wasted since we’re heading to St. Petersburg!

STP_07_1_scaled

In some ways this decision required more discussion and consideration than when we decided to move to Russia three years ago. I was offered a promotion that required the transfer and it’s an amazing opportunity, but since we’ve both been pretty happy with life here in Moscow we had to consider how much would change. Ultimately, I accepted the offer and we are moving our home to St. Petersburg. Ben will keep his affiliation with the Moscow campus of his employer, making regular trips back down here throughout the year. We are fortunate that his job allows this flexibility so that we can still spend the majority of our time together. This also means that I will come back to Moscow throughout the year to visit friends (and favorite restaurants).

SPB-Pt3_07We’ve both spent a good amount of time in St. Petersburg as tourists and Ben has been there many times for work. It’s a beautiful city and I’m looking forward to exploring it more. I’m super excited about my job and can’t wait to get in there in a couple months to get started.

We’ll be moving up in August, which I know is going to be here sooner than we expect given how busy the next couple of months will be. It will be a much easier move this time around as we do not have a townhouse full of furniture and eight years of stuff hanging around.

For those concerned about Nebbie, she is, of course, coming with us and will be adding a train to her list of transportation used, even though she would probably rather not.

We’ve definitely learned over the years that things do not always happen the way we want or expect them to, but sometimes we can take a chance and be really happy as a result. I truly hope that this is one of those chances and I’m looking forward to finding out.

до свидания!

Checking In

13 Apr

Hi there. It’s been awhile, huh? Despite my desire to use this blog as a way to stop and appreciate the amazing city that I am living in, I continue to find myself so caught up in just living that I don’t bother to post often. Also, I felt like every thing that I wanted to post about was related to travel and this is not exclusively a travel blog. The fact that I have been able to see amazing places is certainly one of the perks of living over here, but I felt like it had become all there was to share. I will try again to commit myself to noticing and sharing the experience of living in Moscow. With any luck, I will bring myself to post more, even if it is just about my travel adventures.

Hanging out at the top of the Eiffel tower

Hanging out at the top of the Eiffel tower

The past few months have included some great times. I saw my sister and brother-in-law in Paris. I attended an amazing conference in Boston that happened to be run in part by one of my besties. We have spent time with friends eating, drinking, and enjoying the community that we are building for ourselves here in Moscow. And, recently, the snow defrosted and spring is finally settling in. 

The past few months have also been a little stressful, though, and, in truth, this may be one of the major reasons I haven’t posted much.

I am a planner. More specifically, I am an ADVANCED planner. I like to plan vacations the moment we decide to take them. I like to put dinners and parties on my calendar as soon as possible. And, most of all, I like to know for sure where we will be living next year.

Unfortunately, Ben’s employer (our visa sponsor) does not take my desire to plan into account. So, we are still waiting for confirmation that his contract renewal has been approved. We are hopeful and have reason to be confident, but the fact that our visas expire in just over four months makes me a little twitchy.

The good news is that I have an amazing partner in Ben who I have been able to talk to about all of this since August when we began our final year on the current contract. Shortly before we moved to Moscow, I had a bit of a break down and admitted how terrified I was about what we were about to do. I never would have made it through the last few weeks in California without Ben. Knowing that he is here with me is what reminds me that no matter what happens, we will get through it.

In case you were wondering, we are both really, really happy here. We are working in jobs that are in the specific fields in which we pursued graduate degrees, we have made amazing friends that we would be happy to know regardless of where we lived, and we have been having  a lot of fun experiencing something that neither of us ever dreamed of. And we do have a safety net, just in case, so don’t worry about us!

After two and a half years, there is no doubt that Moscow is our home. It will take some work to step back and figure out which parts of our daily life are worth sharing, but I will try. I apologize if this at times seems like it is simply a place for me to share travel stories, but 2014 does seem to be a year of travel, so…

до свидания!

Budapest

10 Jan

Ben and I snuck in a quick trip to Budapest before we both head back to work after the holidays.  We were supposed to have two and a half days, but a frustratingly long delay in departure on Tuesday left us without the extra half day.  We still managed to get in three museums, two activities, and a trip to the thermal baths.

Budapest_02Our hotel, the Bohem Art Hotel, was fantastic.  From the moment that we booked the room, the staff was attentive and helpful.  They coordinated a ride from the airport to the hotel and were very responsive to my e-mails notifying them of the multiple delays we experienced leaving Moscow.  It is in a great location, close to the Danube on the Pest side.  The decor was great, with art displayed throughout the hotel.  Each room has a unique artwork: that is my photo of the one in our room to the right (Classic Double, Room 110).  The other rooms’ art can be previewed on the website here.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone planning a trip to Budapest.

Budapest_06We started with the Hungarian National Museum.  We try to hit a history museum early on when we visit a new location because it helps make sense of everything we see during our trip.  This provided a decent overview of Hungary’s history from about the 12th-13th century until the 1990’s (the earlier exhibits were either closed when we were there or not very impressive).  There was also a small exhibit of Hungarians scholars “who made the 20th century.”

Next up, we checked out the Museum of Ethnography, which proved to be fairly disappointing.  It is located next to Parliament, though, so it was worth the walk to see that building.  There was a lot of construction, so we did not get any good photos of the building, but a Google images search has many.

We finished up Wednesday’s activities with a trek up the very steep hill of Castle Hill.  We intended to visit the Labyrinth of Buda Castle, but ended up at a different labyrinth exhibit (I have now learned that the other was closed down in 2011).  It was fun to see some of the caves, but the displays were very strange and very cheesy.  This did not stop up from having fun and taking advantage of photo ops, like Ben posing with a gargoyle by Dracula’s “grave” and doing his best King Joffrey impression.

On Thursday, we spent an hour trying the puzzle room game Claustrophilia.  It caught my eye on TripAdvisor as the #1 attraction for Budapest and seemed like something new and fun.  The idea is to find hidden items and solve puzzles in order to figure out the overall game.  We had a lot of fun and I think we worked well together, but I don’t think that we got too far at all.  I love puzzles, though, so it was a great way to spend an hour and I would love to find more games like this.

A friend recommended that we try the thermal baths while in Budapest, so that afternoon we headed up to the Szechenyi Baths.  This particular location seemed to be highly rated online and the whole facility was coed, so Ben and I could spend our time together.  We enjoyed the time we spent and suspect that we could have easily spent a whole day there if we had more time (there are eighteen baths!), especially if we signed up for any of the spa services.

Our last stop of the trip was to the House of Terror, a museum dedicated to the history and impact of the Nazi and Communist regimes in Hungary.  The museum is housed in the building that served as the headquarters for the secret police of both governments.  The building was renovated to house the museum and is mostly exhibits based on artifacts and video, but replicates some details such as the offices, cells, and gallows that were located there.

Ben and I both agreed that we would have liked to have had another day in the city, but, overall, really enjoyed our stay.  While January may not have been the most beautiful time to visit, we were able to do everything that we wanted without any crowds or lines.  Maybe we’ll make it back there sometime in better weather and get some more photos.

до свидания!

Hello, 2014!

1 Jan

С Новым Годом! Happy New Year!

NYE Shoes

See those sneakers? And the lack of snow on the ground? That was NYE day in Moscow this year. Very strange.

Without a doubt, 2013 was an amazing year.  I am giving in and posting a little round up of some of the highlights shared here on the blog.

I didn’t keep up my blog-related resolution for 2013 to post more frequently and regularly, but that isn’t going to stop me from trying again this year.  If all goes according to plan, 2014 should bring many more posts here on Ivanna the Terriblog.  It’s too easy to get caught up in life and forget that I am living in an incredible city with unbelievably beautiful sites and amazing things happening every day.  The more I post the more I take the time to appreciate these moments.

I hope you all had a wonderful New Year’s Eve and that 2014 is great year.  Thanks for reading and sharing this adventure.

до свидания!

El Ten Eleven in Moscow

12 Nov

Music is pretty important to Ben and me, both individually and as a couple.  It even played a big role in how we first met many years ago.  We still listen to music at home all of the time, but we don’t go out to see live shows like we used to.

When I found out that El Ten Eleven were going to be finishing up their European tour in Moscow, I knew that we had to be there.  We saw them play many, many times in California, but never expected to see them over here.  Their music is fantastic recorded, but it is beyond amazing to see it created live.

2013-11-09 23.09.25

The venue, Masterskaya, was a very small bar/cafe/club that was located on the second floor of a building very close to Red Square.  The building contains quite the collection of establishments: first floor has a cafe that apparently turns into a dance club late at night, third floor has a hotel, and fourth floor yet another club.

2013-11-09 23.11.05

It was so nice to get out there and enjoy something that used to be such a big part of our lives.  I don’t know how often we’ll go see live music while we are here, but I do hope that it can be at least an occasional occurrence.

See below for a mini-gallery of El Ten Eleven rocking out and then go check out their music.

до свидания!

California Adventure

4 Nov

When we realized that the wedding of a very close friend happened to be the first day of my Autumn Break at work, Ben and I made plans to head back to Southern California for a week.  It was the first time that I had been there in over two years, when we returned for another wedding shortly after our move to Moscow.  I cannot explain how amazing it was to be back there.  I feel so lucky to have lived in such an unbelievably beautiful place for seven years.

2013-10-26 17.27.50 (2)

The wedding took place at a retreat in Escondido, California.  We only went to Escondido once when we lived in California, to visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, so we really didn’t know what to expect.  We arrived very late on Friday night, after dark, so it wasn’t until we woke up the next morning and drove back down the mountain into town that we realized how incredibly gorgeous it was.  We spent the few hours before the wedding catching up with old friends, meeting new people, and walking the grounds.  The wedding was beautiful and perfect.  I am so happy that we were invited to be part of such a special occasion.

2013-10-26 10.33.40

We drove up to Orange County Saturday night, after the wedding.  Two of our best friends were kind enough to let us crash in their guestroom for the rest of our stay.  We spent the next four days enjoying amazing food and good company.  In particular, we ate lots of Mexican food and drank good beer, two of the things that we miss the most.  We also tried a doissant, which is the non-trademarked name of a croissant-doughnut hybrid pastry.  We checked out Muzeo’s exhibit on the leather jacket, visited our storage unit, did some shopping, and caught up with friends.  Overall, it was an amazing trip.

California is somewhere that I think I will always consider to be one of my homes.  I moved there after graduating from college and getting married, joining Ben a year after he moved.  It is where we built our adult lives together and I have so many fond memories from our time there.  I am looking forward to the next time that we have the chance to visit.

до свидания!