Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy April 1st

In honor of April Fool's day, here is a little video from 1957, where the BBC team featured "Swiss Spaghetti Harvest" report:

Happy laughing to all :)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Artisan Well

Last few days I had some nice opportunities to get out of the apartment. I already wrote about the trip to Sergiev Posad, and on Monday a friend of mine invited to take a half hour trip to an artisan well just outside of Alexandrov. He goes there few times a month to stock up on the water he drinks - not that the city water is bad, just this is his preference.

We drove about 10 minutes outside of town and took a 5 minute walk (mind you, it is still freezing outside!). The well is in the field and was blessed a few years ago. So you can't get to the actual well, it has a little church-like construction around it for protection from the weather elements and litter.

Then the water is transferred from the well via an underground pipe. I must say it is a bit disturbing to see someone's bathtub and drinking water in the same place! :) But I guess, that provides a cheap and easy way to fill your water bottles.

The last shot is what the area round the well looks like. I am starting to like these frosty, sunny, winter days away from the city.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sergiev Posad

Last weekend my sister, my niece and myself went to Sergiev Posad - one of the historic towns close by (about 50 km / 32 mi). My sister, who is a chemical engineer by education, is an excellent seamstress and wanted to check out some of the fabric stores in that town (I can just see Adam rolling his eyes at the mentioning of a fabric store... ha ha). And I lost a button from a coat last fall and hasn't been able to replace it out of what's available in our town (seriously?)... so we made a go of it. It was a sunny day, but boy was it cold! I think this was karma paying me back for laughing at everyone freezing in Wisconsin :)

It was a day trip, the ride on the train took only about 45 minutes, then few hours browsing outside, stopped at a new mall. Turned out that my sister never been to a mall before and never really understood the idea of "going shopping". Guess what, she loved it and wants to go shopping some time to visit stores, get some coffee, try out some clothing. I think we won't be using fabric and buttons as an excuse the next time :)

The town itself is a major Russian Orthodox church destination. Besides some really old buildings, the town hosts one of the major monasteries in Russia called Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra (The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius). The monastery territory is huge (you can see an areal photo of the landmark here), has lots of churches, buildings with frescos, etc. - very beautiful! My advice is to visit in the summer though.

Feel free to check out my picasa web album for more pictures.
Cold and pretty outside
Marina (niece) and me
Fresos inside the monastery entrance (had to watch out for surprizes from the sky because of the pigeons)
The Assumption Cathedral inside the monastery

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy Holidays!

I haven't stopped by the blog in a while, but wanted to wish everyone a very happy New 2009 Year! Although Christmas for my U.S. family has already passed, I am still wishing them a blessed holiday season. Since Russian Orthodox Christmas is still ahead (January 7th), I'm wishing those who observe it a very merry Christmas. It is kind of nice to have the holiday season be stretched for so long ;)

Looking back at 2008, I immediately think of all the "not so nice" things that happened - making hard decisions, feeling disappointed and remarkably distracted, wishing others not going through painful moments of their lives, and so much more. On the other hand, I can't say good bye to 2008 without thanking it for "good" moments, those that taught us so much and that are so easy to overlook among all of the unpleasant memories. I am grateful for realizing how many people love and care, for the family that surrounds me with support and keeps me mentally afloat. I am grateful for my coworkers that enabled me to make the best out of the worst. I am grateful for friends that have been making me smile on a daily basis; albeit it is now a bit more "virtual". And I am grateful for everything not going as badly wrong as it could have.

So here is a toast to the 2009 and my heartfelt hope that in about 12 months we'll be toasting only to the warmest memories of the year.

Happy Holidays!!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I was planning to make this posting sometime in September in honor of my friend's wedding. Well, it is already December, Jess and Al are already back from their honey moon and are just about to buy their first house... LOL! Nevertheless, a post about what a Russian wedding *looks like* may still be interesting to some of you. The wedding topic can be its own blog, there are a lot of traditions associated with the weddings and there is definitely a lot going on during the celebration. This post is merely an outsider's view on a wedding and a few tid bits about the actual process.

Just like in the U.S., the prime time for the weddings is late spring through early fall. The typical "wedding" day is Saturday and the celebration lasts for at least two days. It is considered to be bad luck to see the bride the night before the wedding, so if the couple already lives together they usually spend the night apart. On the wedding day the groom and his party come to the bride's residence and have to "bribe" or "ransom" groom's way in. Everyone does it differently, but the idea is to present the groom with games and obsticles, where he either has to pay money to get through, give gifts (flowers, candy, wine, etc), or do silly things. Some of the fun games are: groom having to guess which lipstick imprinted kiss on a board belongs to his bride or having to guess your future mother-in-law's opinions on peculiar topics (anything to get the relationship with the mother-in-law off to a good start!). Eventually, after the formal greetings between the families, the entire party heads to ZAGS (civil registry of the weddings).

In order for the marriage to be recognized, it has to be registered at ZAGS first, a blessing in church can follow if the couple chooses to do so. I think more and more couples now prefer to do a church ceremony too. Immediately after the marriage and then throughout the entire celebration, the crowd chants "Gorko" ("bitter"), which is a signal for the couple to kiss. In my humble opinion, "sour" would make more sense because of puckering up for a kiss :)

Here is a picture from last summer of a random couple heading to ZAGS (behind them are their "witnesses" or their best man and maid of honor):

After ZAGS, the couple and the party drive around town visiting landmarks and friends/relatives who couldn't come to the wedding. This is a chance to show off the couple and pay respect to people who matter the most in the bride and groom's lives. Our apartment building is next to a memorial to the fallen WWII soldiers and just about all of the wedding couples in town come there to take pictures. So on Saturdays you can sit on our little balcony and observe one wedding after another for hours. Usually the party and the newlyweds take several decorated cars (the longest I've seen so far is 15 cars in a row), ride in-line and constantly signal the horn to announce their celebration.

So here are a few pictures for your amusement. Decorated cars (notice the two wedding rings at the top of the car):

A picture of some random lady that made into the shot (do you think the shirt is a bit too short?):

View from our paratment of a wedding car caravan parked by the roadside. I think it is the same wedding couple as pictured above (what a coinsidence, considering pictures were taken hours apart):

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Does it really snow in Russia?

Have to admit, that for as long as I lived in Wisconsin, I always said "I hate cold!". This year would be the same story - my WI family, friends, and co-workers are burried in who-knows-how-many feet of snow at the moment, my husband has been spending half of his work day on clearing out the cars at his dealership, and I hear endless stories of cars getting stuck in their driveways. So the logical question is how is the snow situation where I am?

Compared to WI, our weather has been much cooler since at least September. However, we still have no snow on the ground! Below is the picture of our first snow on November 19th. It stuck around for about 3-4 days and was all washed away with rain. The temperatures were in the upper 20s - low 30s today, which is the coldest they've been in a few weeks. Frankly, cold temperatures are a blessing, because then the mudd on the streets will freeze and I'll be able to tell the color of my boots when I get home from running errands. And judging by the stories of people here, the winter is likely to continue in the 15-20F range with few days with *really* cold weather. Who would've thought that I'll find warmer climate IN RUSSIA?

First snow: view from our apartment balcony (notice mom's blooming flowers in the window!).

First snow: view from my bedroom window.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Most of you would agree that my signature hairdo is a ponytail :) So I decided to change it up and got a haircut last Friday. This is much shorter than I am used to and bangs require some constant work, uggg... but in my opinion, the stylist did a nice job. Honestly, I was a bit nervous getting a haircut over here - there are so many women whose hair is of odd shape and some bright color, and you just never know if they did it to themselves or if some stylist had a bad day. The salon was nice and quiet, a lot simpler than most U.S. salons. So after about an hour, roughly 6 inches of hair on the floor, there I was...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Trip is post-poned

As you may have guessed from the title of this post - Adam's trip to Russia is now officially cancelled. The letter was exported from Russia on October 24th and that's where the trail ends. It is probably on a row boat somewhere in the middle of Atlatic.... ehhh. Even if the invitation arrives today, there will be no time for the visa to get processed and mailed back to WI by December 6th. We are a bit bummed out. Maybe it is "year 2008" thing? I don't know. We'll get another invitation in the works after the Christmas holidays.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Invitation for Adam

Guess what? We finally got Adam's invitation to Russia approved! I got it in my hands on Saturday, October 18th, and dropped it off in the mail on Monday, the 20th. The invitation is only good through December 16th.

When mailing the invitation, I just assumed that they'll put it through Air Mail as always. Also, assuming that I probably should be able to track the letter's location, I should send it "registered" mail. After getting the receipt, I realized the letter was sent surface mail... you know, via Titanic. The post office clerk refused to do anything about it - kind of expected over here. Few days later, I asked the clerk if she can track the letter's location, since it was "registered." She said that the tracking number is only good for when the letter never arrives to its destination :) Fabulous! Finally, it dawned on me to see if the Russian mail system has a website (you just never know), they do! So, dear post office clerk, FYI - you can track the letter on that site.

We are really hoping for Adam to get the invitation early November, so he can process his Russian visitor's visa through the Seattle consulate and head over to Russia in December. Keep your fingers crossed!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Russia: In the Land

Thought some may be interested in a short multimedia feature from James Hill of The New York Times. This 4.5 minute narrated slide presentation talks about and shows how people live in the farming areas of the country. Great pictures, great narration, great content all around.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Chocolate butter

The other day I was in a grocery store and saw... chocolate butter! Little you know, the childhood memories just flooded my mind. Remember when you were a child you thought that the most delicious thing in the world was corn dogs or hotdogs and mac-n-cheese? Well, it's kind of like that. Butter is generally a high priced item in a grocery store. Well, add chocolate to it, and it nearly doubles in price! :) So my mom reserved to buying it to about once a year for special occasions. Chocolate butter is basically really good, creamy butter blended with dark cocoa powder and sugar. You serve it on a slice of bread or on a toast - I mind you, you don't just rub it into your toast, you SLATHER it on you toast! Now that I'm thinking of it, it's like having chocolate frosting... yum. I wonder if it still tastes just as good as during the childhood.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Department of State Decision

Drum roll... On monday, both Adam and I saw that the Department of State issued their recommendation not to approve the waiver of the 2-year home residency requirement. It is a very disappointing and unfair decision for a lot of people. At the same time, it is somewhat liberating to be done with the uncertainty of the "will they or will they not" decision. From now on, we are counting the 18 months until I am able to return to the U.S. (that is how much I have left from the 2 years). Adam had filed his paperwork and this should allow PLENTY of time for the USCIS (former INS) to process it. In other words, don't be sad and get busy planning a fun "welcome back" party for the Spring of 2010!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Online Article

First off, sorry for not posting. I have been slacking a little bit lately with the blog - there is a lot to write about, but there is also a lot of excuses why it doesn't happen.... Now to the topic.

One of the more regular online news sources about Russia that I read is The Moscow Times. They are one of the few independent newspapers, are rather objective and are published in English. The only drawback to their online editions is that you cannot access past articles unless there is a subscription. So in today's edition they featured an article about separation of wealth in the country... If you were here (in Russia), you would see examples of that every day and at some point you get so used to it, you stop paying attention (sad, isn't it?). So, just in case you are reading this post past the article's availability online through the newspaper, here is a link to the PDF file I created.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mirror, mirror on the wall...

The other day mom and I were walking through the shops and something caught my eye - envelopes for making wishes (about that a little later). I forgot how superstitious the Russians are. When I was growing up, we beleived in bad luck brought by black cats, broken or cracked mirrors, having to return home because you forgot something (retracing your steps), spilling salt, celebrating something ahead of its due date, sitting on a corner of a table, and many, many more.

So now I feel like people took it to a new level over the last 10 years - there are a lot of eastern cultures inspired items people buy and gift each other for good luck, such as special envelopes that make your wishes put inside of them come true, little ceramic statues of "7 gods of happiness" that bring you... happiness (see example one of them here), replica of chinese coins which guarantee you'll always have money in your wallet, miniature egyptian pyramids that reduce harmful energy of computer screens and television, etc. I asked mom if people really believe in all of that, which she answered by pulling out three chinese coins tied with a red string from her wallet - apparently the same coins that my sister carries in hers. It will be interesting to see what the next waive will bring.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I'm online!

I am finally hooked up to the internet! Expect to see more posts and updates in the next day or two. Let me tell you, there is plenty to write about and I'll try to post pictures when I can. Glad to be back online, that sure makes the world whole a lot smaller...