29 April 2013

lately...











1. Sweet Ben loves to make breakfast. I woke up to this. 
2. Chocolate chip pancakes with strawberry sauce. 
3. Reading books in bed. 
4. Ben has been studying for the MCAT like a champ. Every chance he gets, his head is buried in a book. July is fast approaching, but I believe in him so much. 
5. After my Russian lesson, Ben and I thought it would be a good idea to label things in our home with Russian words that I had learned. It's been very helpful with training my brain to think more in this other language. 

Not pictured
1. Ben and I received our summer assignments and thankfully they are not at separate camps like we thought they might be. We will be working in the center of Moscow at our company's headquarters. I'm sad to be away from our current school (it will be closed for summer renovations which are much needed), but having a whole new crop of students will be a great experience. 
2. Ben and I walked 1.5 miles to get tubs of cream cheese (for an embarrassingly expensive price) and then spent our Sunday in the kitchen making bagels. 
3. Those bagels are now all gone.
4. Tuesday is our last day of work and then it's two blissful weeks of (paid) holiday! We decided to cancel our travel plans and stick around Moscow. We thought it would be best to keep saving for our Munich trip and explore this crazy city. We also have a few day hikes planned outside the city and I can't wait to smell the fresh air. 

28 April 2013

YOLO Wedding Style

Oh my gosh. I don't even know where to begin with this. Sometimes when exciting things happen, I spend a considerable amount of time memorizing the details so I can write about it later. I began diary-keeping as a way to retain my memories and I prided myself on how accurately I could recall events. But now as I get older and my mind is more clouded with other thoughts, remembering all the details from important moments becomes more difficult, sadly. 

But for this event, I will try to remember all that I can.
Yesterday I went to my first Russian lesson in the center and it was crazy. We began by reviewing the printed alphabet and the written alphabet (which is pretty different) and it was all just making my head spin. Unfortunately, cyrillic includes a lot of letters that look like English letters, but make completely different sounds (ex: P=R, X=H, etc.), so I have to retrain my mind to see new sounds in letters I have known my whole life. I've gotten somewhat used to it all since being here (just reading signs on the Metro and such, learning words and phrases here and there), but when my teacher introduced the written alphabet, it was like being slammed all over again (cursive M=T, err). 
But it was good. I was really excited to work on my accent and learn new words and phrases. I'm really grateful for the chance to learn a new language. 

Anyway, after my lesson, I met up with Ben and Grigor and Grigor invited us to his "sister" (cousin's) wedding which sounded both insane and totally fun. So after some intense Moscow traffic and even more intense car sickness (I am saying it here and now: for as long as I live in Moscow, I will never, ever get into a car again. Ever.), we arrived at a small banquet hall that reminded me of somewhere David Lynch might have filmed.  Heart-shaped ballons drifted around a disco-ball covered room with omniscient music playing softly from unseen speakers. I felt strange and out-of-place. I hated the dress I was wearing, though I'm not sure if even had I been given the opportunity to change, I would have been able to fit in with the Armenian crowd. 

But really, it was such an amazing experience and I'm so glad we went. Grigor's parents were so kind and welcoming and seeing another culture's wedding rituals was fascinating. There were so many different rituals, but then so many similarities. Toasts, love, friendship. Just different ways of expressing them. I loved being there so much and I was excited to practice my newly learned Russian out. 



The little farmer's market we wandered through as we decided if we should crash an Armenian wedding or not.



Different members of the family took turns dancing. There were also moments during dinner when a dance would occur and someone would bring the bride a gift (mostly diamond jewelry) and everyone would watch and applaud. 



This guy was the toast master and the reason I got so  t i p s y.


This little boy was the best thing that ever happened to me. He sang a song for the bride and someone grabbed this little girl and sat her in a chair and he sang a song to here. It was perfect.


The bride and groom only danced once together (while we were there). She held out her arms and wedding guests came and put 1000 (~$33) and 5000 (~$170) ruble notes in her hands.



Oh, and then this was the best part. At the end, some very traditional Armenian dances were performed. Basically a man would begin dancing around a woman, moving his feet in a quick pattern (a little like an Irish gig) and the woman would do the same, but twirling. The music would speed up, then so would they. In the end, they would be moving so fast, it was dizzying to watch. I loved it!


I didn't catch the bouquet, but I caught a single rose. Does that count for anything?


I tried to post this video to Vine, but it was being sassy. So here's just a little, teeny video from the night!

Words don't even describe how grateful I am that Ben and I have had this chance to live abroad. I just don't think we could have ever experienced another culture exactly like this without actually living within it. There is just so much to be taken in, so many components of life that are unspoken and unavailable to tourists. I'm glad we are able to live in this other world because it helps make sense of ours. My appreciation for Russia, for America, for people all over the world just continues to grow. 

I feel like my eyes have been bulging for four months now and I wouldn't change a thing. 

22 April 2013

Roses




1. Ben brought me home flowers because we'd gotten into a silly tiff before he'd gone to work. 
2. I cut the stems carefully and Ben cleaned out a dusty vase from the back of a cabinet. I love them on the table.
3. We watched the sun set quietly behind our apartment and marveled at all it's colors. 

Not Pictured
1. My sweet, younger brother sent me this song that I can't stop listening to.
2. We tried to decide where we wanted to go for our week and a half long holiday coming up. We had been thinking about St. Petersburg-which would be great-but my roommate from college who has been living up there is going home to Hungary and I lost my momentum. Perhaps we will journey down to the Black Sea for some warm, salty air.
3. I signed up for Russian lessons and start next Saturday at 2 o'clock. I'm excited to start learning this language around me. I'm a little unsure as to how I'll do, but I'm glad I'm moving forward with it. 

19 April 2013

Tea, Colds, Bread












Kind of an up-tight week. Last Sunday, I started feeling a little ill, and by Monday morning I was as sick as I was a month ago with the flu/cold? Not sure. It was particularly bad timing because I was starting an extra three hour class (beginning at the dreaded 9 a.m.) teaching business English to a group of auditors for the Russian Railways company. It was awful. I really wanted to do well, which I think I still did, but I definitely had to press myself harder than usual to get through the lessons. And then by the time I made it to my normal lessons, I was totally beat and exhausted. By Wednesday I was really hurting, so my Russian mother/my boss insisted I take the rest of the week off. 

I feel really guilty taking time off because it's a lot of money for us to lose. Unfortunately, previous employees of our company have abused the sick days so we only get paid sick days on the fourth day you take off. How much does that suck? So unpaid are my days and I just sit at home, watching TV in bed, and drinking tea. Needless to say that by the time Ben gets home, I practically rip him apart with my desperate need for conversation. 

Last night was nice though. Ben made dinner and we watched one of my favorite movies, Wristcutters: A Love Story. Not the best title, but such a great film. We talked a lot about the Boston Marathon bombing and we both have been hurting a lot for America in these past few days. It's hard looking at your country hurting from the outside; to catch headlines of newspapers written in cyrillic and know that they're talking about where you're from. 
Террор в Бостоне
I've been crying about it a lot. The acts of human kindness that have bubbled over this tragedy are really inspiring and comforting. Times like this remind you of all the goodness in people and how much strength we are really capable of. 
The weather has changed though, and it is good and sweet and warm. I forgot how much I needed the sun and I'm so grateful to look out my window and see clear blue skies. This winter was darker than any tourist guide could have prepared me for. The Russian people are tough, my friends. I don't think I could live my whole life with the kind of winter I experienced this year. I'm sad I'm sick for this weekend because it looks so good outside. Oh well. There are always movies to be watched and goods to be baked. 

I've been falling asleep listening to this lately. I keep it on the Chicago station mostly, but the Montreal one is interesting as well. I don't know why it's comforting, but it is. Makes me feel like I'm a part of something in a spying sort of way. The beginning of my sophomore year in college, I met a guy named Kyle who was from the deep cornfields of Illinois. He and his roommate Kyle had turned their shared dorm room into a sky-high recording studio, filled with amps and persian carpets. He made this terrific ambient music and always gave the best titles to his dreamy, cloud-like songs. I used to sit in their room late at night smoking cigarettes and playing with the loop pedals while they strummed guitars and whistled lightly into recording devices. It was a good time in my life and this radio station reminds me of that peacefulness. 

17 April 2013

Watch: Real Beauty


Have you seen Dove's Real Beauty Sketches? 
I've been at home with the flu (again) and surfing around the internet and I just stumbled on this. It brought so many tears to my eyes. 

Only 4% of the women in the world think they are beautiful which is a staggering statistic if you really think about it. I tried to imagine the things I would have told the artist about myself, but wasn't really sure which direction I would go. I guess I have good days and bad days (or, as my mom and I call them, "fat days"). I think it would have had to depend on my mood.

I've always been someone who was very concerned with how I looked and for years of my life, I obsessed over certain flaws about myself. It is silly when I take a moment to think of myself from the outside and how what I have is good and pretty and I shouldn't spend so much time in the mirror wishing my pores were smaller or that my hair was thicker (etc). I know these are universal feelings, but sometimes they can just be overwhelming. 

When I was younger, my dad brought home a video called "Gapped-Toothed Women" and we watched it together on the couch. I sucked my thumb for way longer than I should have and as a result, had some gnarly looking teeth, including a large gap between my two front teeth. My dad was always a great encourager and motivator in terms of natural beauty, but it took a long time for me to see it for myself. I envied other girl's teeth and kept my lips pressed tightly when opportunities to smile arose. Years after my expensive dental work, I look back at my awkward times and realize that there was really not all that much to dislike about myself. I wasted so many years being embarrassed of crooked teeth and that's unfortunate, but not something I can't correct in my future. 

I've been reading a lot about this Dove Real Beauty campaign and a lot of people think it's just baloney to get people to buy Dove shampoo, and maybe it is. I'm probably not going to, but I'm glad I saw the video. 

*There is a longer version of this video here as well as interviews with women about beauty on their channel, if you're interested. 

16 April 2013

Patti Smith & Boston

First and foremost, my heart breaks for Boston and for America. Ben and I were getting ready for bed when the news first hit and it was a terrible thing to wonder about in bed. Ben has family from Boston and his mom had run the marathon in previous years. He spent a long time reading the news today. All of our friends in the area are okay, but just heartbroken over it all. I am just so saddened for everyone who lost someone, and for everyone who was made frightened. This just shouldn't be happening anywhere.

I wrote the bottom part of this post two days ago, but it means more now. Patti's words mean more now.


Patti Smith is my hero, always. Her life has inspired mine. These are beautiful and comforting and real words about being young.

I showed Ben this video after he called me into the living room (which is more of his study room) and he told me about the results of his first MCAT practice exam. He got a 27 out of 45, which he was content with for a first attempt. We talked a little bit about it, and I gave him some encouragement and praise. Then, as I was about to leave to wash my face, he grabbed me around the waist and hugged my stomach tight.

"I'm doing something scary because I think it will be good for us one day."

I feel odd gushing about our love on this blog because that is not my way. My way is to save my memories for us, for myself, and just tell you that Ben is the best person I know and I am grateful everyday for his friendship and love.

After, we sat in bed reading until I remembered I'd seen this video earlier in the day. We watched it together and we both felt so encouraged and understood. It was good. It was just a good moment. 

15 April 2013

First Day of Spring: Arbat Street

So after our afternoon at Gorky Park, Ben and I found ourselves with only a little money and a lot of time to kill before we met some friends for dinner. We walked to the train station before we had even decided where to go, but since it was nice out I thought we should check out the equally as famous, Arbat Street

Arbat street is great. It's one of the most historic roads in Moscow and it looks like it. When the Russians set Moscow on fire to prevent Napoleon from taking over (I know, so badass) the street had to be rebuilt, which is unfortunate. But it's still amazing to walk down a street that millions have walked down before you, over dozens of lifetimes. 



 I didn't even want to edit this photo so you could see more of the station. I like the lighting-that's what it's really like. Moody, dark, victorian. I always feel transported in the train stations.


Arbat Street is cool. Like, really cool. Lots of street art, lots of music, crazy breakdancing. It's a good time to just walk around and look.


I really should have taken more pictures, but it was quite crowded and I wasn't feeling the camera at that point. As much as it's important for me to document these times, Moscow is also my home and I want to feel it that way. Walking around with a camera in my hand takes away from the authenticity of the experience: just walking with my boyfriend down Arbat Street.

Ben and I stopped into an American themed restaurant for some drinks when the sun set and it grew cold. I feel kind of bad when we go to American restaurants because I didn't come to Russia to eat cheeseburgers and look at menus with pictures of Elvis Presley on the cover. 
But it's so fun.
The Russian interpretation of America makes it just the most bizarre thing ever. Ben and I were bar hopping the other night after work and had a hard time getting into any of the cool ones downtown because we hadn't made reservations, so we stopped in somewhere simply called Aloha. The bartenders wore Hawaiian shirts and pretty much stood around looking grumpy until we needed a drink and then they forced themselves to lean across the counter and ask what we wanted with the most forced jolliness I've ever seen. Is it terrible that we just died laughing? Really, go to another country and see their version of America-- it's both insulting and ridiculous all at once. 

ANYWAY, Ben and I met up with some people we had met at a seminar for work and ate at this really, really adorable Russian restaurant (which I guess made up for our poor American restaurant/bar choices) and had a nice time. 







I think people who come to teach English in Russia are a bit of a strange bird to begin with. I've met so many different people since we've been here, and while all of them are brave and cool, some of them demand a little more attention and praise for their worldliness than I'm comfortable giving. Like I get it: you love the Soviet Union and have the symbol tattooed all over you. 

But all and all, good weekend. I'm teaching an intensive in-company business course for the next two weeks, so that's hectic, but after that... May holiday! Ben and I are thinking about taking what we have saved up for Munich so far and heading up to St. Petersburg to see my sweet Hungarian college roommate and explore. Some finances need to be checked, but I'm sure it will all work out. Good things are ahead : )

14 April 2013

First day of Spring: Gorky Park

I feel like Ben and I have been trying to get to the famous Gorky Park since we moved here three (!!!) months ago. Yesterday was absolutely beautiful outside, so we ditched our heavy winter coats and walked around the park. 

Though the weather and conversation were awesome, I can't say the same for the park. During the winter, all the roads and pathways are covered with water and turned into an ice rink, and that appears to have been taken down like, a week ago. Mud, mud, mud. I guess I was expecting a little bit more whimsy, especially because it's so famous and Moscow had yet to let me down, but I guess Gorky was not exempt from the springtime slush. Oh well. Ben and I walked hand-in-hand around for hours as he told me the story of the novel, Gorky Park. We drank coffee and admired the abundance and difference of the people around us. It was so nice to soak up some of that good ol' Vitamin D, I tell ya.


These are my favorite part about living where I do. It's bread and cheese and it makes all my days the best days. 



I really hate feeling like a tourist. I tend to not take as many pictures as I'd like to because I feel so embarrassed doing it. Ben got my camera away from me and started taking pictures of me on this bridge and I thought I would just die. I finally smiled for him so he'd stop, but he's never holding my camera again. 

Anyway, here I am on a bridge...








tiny house!


Some Soviet Union monument.


There were many eerie small rides around the park, empty and spinning, playing soft music. Odd, odd. 


So that was Gorky Park. I could have taken more pictures, but I assure you, there was not much to see. We're going to come back in a month or so and I'm hoping we'll see more trees, grass... anything green really. There were tons of stands around the park that were boarded up for the winter, so I'm curious to see what they hold. 

After Gorky Park, we headed over to Arbat Street and explored until we met friends for dinner... but I'll post those pictures tomorrow ; ). 

Have a good Sunday, y'all. 

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