Tag Archives: misc

Providing Amusement

23 May

While at the grocery store this afternoon, I managed to greatly amuse an older Russian man.

Unlike most people here, he seemed fairly chatty.  Our first encounter was when we both tried to pass through the same space and he cleared the path for me.  I thanked him and heard him say something, but could not make out more than “девушка” (young woman), so I continued on my way.

We later met at the checkout counter.  I was there first, but there was some confusion and we ended up in a similar position of heading for the same spot.  He gestured for me to go ahead and then said something I could not understand, but seemed fairly jovial.  The dialog that followed was:

Me (in Russian): I do not understand. I do not speak Russian.

Him (in German): German?  (in English):  English?

Me: English.

Him: Ah. Okay! Good!

His English wasn’t very good, but he was kind enough to translate when the cashier told me the line was cash only.  He also very slowly, yet very emphatically, indicated how I should count out my 100 ruble notes when I was paying.  While I appreciate the sentiment, it did make me feel a little frustrated when I was trying to find a one ruble coin in my change pocket.  I wanted to shout, “But I know how to do this part!!!”  When he saw that I was able to give her exact change he said, “молодец!” (well done/good job*).

Normally I would appreciate a Russian cheer-leading my small victories, but the exchange then took a weird turn.  As I grabbed my basket, he started excitedly saying something in Russian and laughing.  When I said I didn’t understand, he started using his hand to indicate pulling a trigger and kept on laughing.  I don’t think that is EVER a good sign.

до свидания!

* I learned this one from bowling!

Moscow Moviegoing

10 Jul

Sunday was an exciting day: we went to the movies.

This has been on the “To Figure Out” list for awhile, but apparently all we needed was for Wes Anderson to release a new movie.

The Moscow Times lists current showings along with the language format on their website. While big Hollywood blockbusters tend to be dubbed in Russian only, some movies can be found in their original language with Russian subtitles or, as in the case of one theater, dubbed in Russian through special headsets. Moonrise Kingdom fell into the original-language-with-subtitles category. Admittedly, there was still a concerned whisper of, “Ben, what do we do if it is in Russian?” right before the movie began. Fortunately, it all worked out since Ben’s response was a sighed, “I don’t know.”

The movie was FANTASTIC and the overall experience was great. We went to the Novokuznetskaya location of пять звезд (Five Stars) theater. We found it with little difficulty and managed to buy tickets and figure out the seating/theater arrangement easily enough. I don’t expect it to be an every day activity, but it was certainly a nice way to spend the afternoon.

до свидания!

Spirit Day

27 Apr

Two of the things that I love about working at an international school are the familiarity and the diversity. These may seem inconsistent, but today’s Spirit Day in the elementary school provides a great example of how they work together.

It was Sports Jersey Day which allowed the kids to get a break from their uniforms (and staff from the no-jeans policy!) by wearing clothing supporting their favorite sports teams. If I was still in SoCal, I would expect to see about half of the kids wearing Lakers jerseys (most with BRYANT written across the back), the baseball fans would be wearing Angels red with a few in Dodgers blues, some Ducks hockey thrown in, and a handful of of other teams from around the States.

Today, though, there were Moscow teams supported, in addition to Qatar, Latvia, England, Ireland, Germany, and many, many more. There were so many different sports and teams represented that it reminded me how many places these kids have either lived in or have family. They all have such unique stories and histories already in their short lives. It is such a different perspective than what I had at that age.

In the middle of all of that, though, was a fifth grader wearing a Florida Gators t-shirt. When I complimented it and told her that was where I went to school she said, “Oh yeah, the Gators are awesome!’ as if Gainesville wasn’t on the other side of the world. I could turn around and see those Lakers jerseys alongside Red Sox, Bears, Redskins, Yankees, and Patriots shirts.

I love working somewhere that allows me to share my own American experiences with others while learning so much about the world. It is a great balance of familiarity and diversity.

All this, though, and no one seemed to recognize my Ducks tee. 😦

до свидания!


20 Apr

Yesterday, I was carded.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate since we do not have ID cards, but this was the first time I had to show proof of age in Russia. I pretty much thought that if you were old enough to make your way to the grocery store and had money you were welcome to buy whatever you wanted.

As the cashier finished with the customer in front of me and put her hand on the embarrassingly large, cheap bottle of beer at the front of my groceries, I could tell she was about to say something to me and it wasn’t to ask if I needed a bag. My mind immediately started to run through all of the possible scenarios:

  • Is she going to tell me the lane is now closed?
  • Did the computer suddenly break?
  • Is she going to tell me they do not sell beer on April 19th when it happens to fall on a Thursday?

I would not have been able to understand her if this was the case, but any of these would have been less surprising than “паспорт,” which sounds the same in Russian and English: passport. I’m not convinced that she actually bothered to figure out what my age was when I pulled out a U.S. passport, but we went through the motions anyway.

I was extremely relieved that it was something simple enough to take care of without too many hand gestures and confused looks. The grocery store is one of my “safe places.” It is a Russian environment that I can navigate well without speaking the language. It is very unsettling when there is a change to the routine such as when a register has a broken display, so I don’t know how much the total is, or the time when the cashier insisted that I pay for half my groceries before he would ring up the second half.

On the positive side, I have reached the age where it make me feel good when someone thinks I am younger than I actually am, so that was nice.

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…

до свидания!

Six Months!

27 Feb

Dear Moscow,

Happy Anniversary!

Six months ago today, we met.  I remember looking out the window of the airplane and thinking, “Oh. My. God. I am in RUSSIA.”  And now, half a year has past and I still find myself thinking, “Oh. My. God. I am in RUSSIA.”

Over the past six months you have provided a home, great friends, an amazing job, incredible public transportation, tasty food, and random bits of culture and history around every corner.

It hasn’t always been perfect, I know. We have fought and you have made me cry. You can be confusing, overwhelming, and frustrating. It is more than fair to say that most days it feels like we don’t speak the same language and you have literally left me out in the cold on more than one occasion.

We always seem to make it through these tough times, though, and I am looking forward to what the next six months have in store for us.

And while you didn’t have to get me anything, I definitely appreciate the delivery slip from Почта России alerting me that the package my parents sent almost two months ago finally arrived. That was a great gift and I’m so glad that you didn’t go overboard and also deliver the package that my friend sent over two months ago. That would have been too much.

With Love,  Jessica.