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I Am Solar Powered

31 May

Sunny Window

I was born and raised in Florida.  When the time came for me to leave there, I headed west to Southern California.  The sun was always just there.  In fact, it was there a little too much.  As someone who burns easily, I spent more timing hiding from the sun than I did seeking it out.

When you think about winter in Moscow, the cold and snow and probably the top things on your mind.  And, yes, it is cold and it is snowy, but now that the weather has changed I am reminded of how little sun there is during the winter-half of the year.  After six months of winter, I find myself simply accepting short, dark days as life.  Since spring hit, though, I have noticed that I am generally feeling more energetic and optimistic.  I even feel like my physical appearance has improved (by the end of winter I was feeling like Moscow had aged me a lot more than the year and a half that had passed).  The good news is that given our northern position, our days can be very long.  Right now, when I wake up in the morning I can see the sun streaming through the blinds in the living room and I feel a lot less pressure to rush through errands after work because the sun doesn’t set until around ten o’clock.

This past winter I started taking vitamin D supplements, something that I had not considered before my first year (once again, this is something that I took for granted given my previous locations).  I am now considering purchasing a SAD lamp for next year.  While I know that it will never be able to mimic the effect that I am feeling now, I feel like every little bit would have to help.  Because, man, you guys, those winters are rough.

до свидания!

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Spring!

16 Apr

Springtime in Moscow

It’s been just over two weeks since our last snowfall and it is FINALLY feeling like spring outside.  I am on spring break this week and it could not have come at a better time.  I am thoroughly enjoying the blue skies and sunshine and can already feel a difference in my overall attitude.  I cannot describe how amazing it feels to leave the house without having to put on boots and a puffy jacket.

This photo was taken this afternoon in a park a few blocks from home.  I had already run my errands for the day, but figured if I was going to spend some time reading I really should take advantage of the weather.  There were so many people out, some with baby strollers, others with friends or significant others, and a few out alone like me.  It really is incredible to see the difference in the neighborhood so quickly.

In case the weather was not enough, another reason to feel confident that it’s finally spring is that the city has started painting!  This morning I noticed the smell of paint coming in through the window and, sure enough, when I left home they had started repainting all of the gates and curbs outside my building.  This is an annual event in which bridges, gates, curbs, and statues citywide are given a fresh coat of paint.  It is a major contributor to how beautiful Moscow looks in the spring.  Click here for an example of the freshly painted gates outside my building.

I hope the weather is equally lovely where ever you happen to be reading this. 🙂

до свидания!

Winter is Coming

30 Nov

So, I began drafting this post a few days ago.  At that time, my “winter is coming” reference* was totally appropriate.  However, it appears that winter has now arrived.  This Washington Post article from yesterday details the snow storm that has left our city covered in snow and ice.  In one day, we had over half the snowfall of a typical November!

Needless to day, my puffy jacket and snow boots are back in the game.

Before all of this craziness began, we celebrated American Thanksgiving last week with some friends.  We have gone for fairly non-traditional meals the past two years.  Last year we went to a North Korean restaurant and this year we went to a Georgian restaurant.  If I’m not having stuffing and gravy, I might as well be having khachapuri.

Signs of the upcoming holiday season are all over now, too.  New Year’s trees and decorations are everywhere, which is always an amusing mix of Russian and western-influenced details.  We don’t have too many decorations with us, but the few that are here are up now, too.  I am extra excited about the holidays this year since we will get to spend them with two of my favorite people: my sister and brother-in-law!

X-mas Sock Monkey

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* As some of you may have gathered from the subject, Ben and I have been watching “Game of Thrones” and we just finished watching the second season last weekend.  SO. GOOD.  I sure hope that our version of winter does not include any White Walkers!

Not Ready

25 Oct

So, I drafted a post with a brief catch up since daily life has been so busy that I have not posted in awhile.  Before I had a chance to publish it, though, this happened:

Do you see that four-letter word between rain and wind?  Not only does it appear in tomorrow’s forecast, but Ben and a couple of friends have actually seen snowflakes in the past two days.  This was not supposed to happen yet!  It was another two weeks before I reported snow last year.

I have certainly learned that complaining does not change the weather, but I cannot help it.  Once it starts, we are talking six months of snow boots and layers and freezing faces.

The good news is that next week I get to take a vacation/conference trip to a place where the forecast for tomorrow is 13 degrees C (55.4 degrees F) and sunny.

If Moscow is bumping up its timeline, then so am I.  I am taking this as a sign that I should watch Love Actually while drinking tea, curled up on the couch this weekend.  It’s the little things that get us through the long Russian winter.

до свидания!

Catching Up

3 Apr

So, March came and went.  Since it was a busy month, I thought I would catch up on some noteworthy parts.

I spent my first nights alone in Moscow last month.  Ben had a conference that brought him back to Southern California, so Nebbie and I held down the fort here.  It was definitely lonely, but between work, school, and friends we kept busy and made it through.  Unfortunately, it won’t be the last time.  We’ve both taken work and family trips alone since we’ve been married, but now that we are “international” they seem to be a bit longer.

While he was in California, I was invited to join a group from the school on an excursion to Sergiyev Posad, which is located outside Moscow, about an hour and a half trip from where I live.  I previously traveled to Sergiyev Posad to visit Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, the spiritual center of the Russian Orthodox church, but this trip was quite different.  Once we arrived we had a blini breakfast before heading out for a troika (horse drawn sleigh) ride into the forest.  There, we were greeted with a bonfire, snacks, drinks, and sledding.  This was a big day for me: I went sledding for the first time.  It was awesome.  The photos below capture both my first and second sledding experiences (sledding photos courtesy of Jacqulyn).  After a lovely afternoon outdoors, we went to a small banya which consisted of alternating between a ridiculously hot sauna and either rolling around in the snow in only a bathing suit or taking a dip in the freezing cold pool.  I have to admit, after the heat of the sauna, it felt pretty nice to roll around in that snow, but couldn’t bring myself to go any further than waist-deep into the pool.  We ate a delicious home-cooked Russian dinner and headed back to Moscow.  I’m looking forward to going again next year and bringing Ben along.

      

We ended the month by gathering a few friends and going bowling last Saturday.  Last summer we looked into the bowling scene in Moscow and read that there was a surge in interest after “The Big Lebowski” was released.  Having lived here for a little while now this does not surprise me.  The bowling alley looked exactly like night-bowling at any American bowling alley with black lights and neon colors.  All of the balls were American (weight in lbs) and they used Brunswick software and fixtures.  Add the mostly-American-pop-music soundtrack and for an hour it was easy to forget where we were.  Interestingly, “where we were” was on the third floor of the Metropolis shopping center across from a 13 screen movie theater.  We will be figuring out movie-going this summer: “The Dark Knight Rises” demands it.

    

And since I always end up discussing the weather, I will conclude with a brief update.  “Spring” officially began here March 1st, but has not really shown itself in the weather.  The past week has brought more sun and a general thawing of the snow build up.  It is unreliable, though (today was quite cold!), but we are headed in the right direction.  The good news is that we aren’t going to see -37 degrees C (-34.6 degrees F) again this season, so we survived our first Russian winter!

And now, on with April…

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I Triple Dog Dare You!

24 Jan

I recommend that you watch this scene from “A Christmas Story” before reading this post.

Today, four of our grade four students stuck their tongues to a set of metal bleachers.

Since November I have wondered about this. I asked one of the other Teaching Assistants about it after I saw a kid standing next to a light pole without any real reason for being there. She assured me that it wasn’t nearly cold enough yet for that to be a problem, but went on to share a story of when her sister tried it and got stuck during a Canadian winter. Luckily, these kids all made it through the experience without too much trouble, just a trip to the nurse and some sore tongues.

I’m not sure if there were any triple dog dares involved.

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside

23 Jan

“So, how cold is it today?”

“Right now: -18… But that’s if you’re in a corner, away from the wind. With the wind, who knows?”

That was part of a conversation that took place this afternoon after I spent 25 minutes outside supervising recess. For those of you keeping track in Fahrenheit, that would be -0.4 degrees. We have yet to reach the too-cold-for-outside-time temperature, though.

I am pretty surprised how quickly I have adjusted to the snow, though. It is EVERYWHERE and most of the time I don’t even stop to think about it now. Fortunately, I still can appreciate how beautiful it is when it is falling in big, fluffy snowflakes. I have managed to stay on my feet after my first fall, but have had a few little slides making me extra cautious.

I can also now truly appreciate warm-clothing. In addition to the standard items (down jacket, gloves/mittens, scarves, and hats), I have discovered the need for tights, leggings,  legwarmers, and boot socks. These are no longer simply fun parts of my wardrobe, they are worn daily since I cannot wear jeans to work and end up wearing a lot of skirts and dresses. Even with jeans or pants something must be worn under them and sometimes long johns won’t fit. A couple layers of tights and leggings, combined with boot socks really helps. Do I sometimes look silly walking around with socks pulled up over my knees? Yes. However, if my knees are a little warmer then it is worth the silliness.

I am trying not to over-post about the cold, but there are some days when it really is a major factor in our everyday life here and I think it’s worth mentioning. The good news is that this post was typed in our warm apartment, so at the end of the day we have a great place to relax and thaw out.

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