Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Vegetarian with Winter Boots Living with Sneg

So it's been almost two weeks since my last blog- apologies. I got a terrible case of food poisioning the weekend before last - ugh. I was so sick for like FOUR days!!!! I have since sworn off meat. I am now a vegetarian while I live in Russia. I always rolled my eyes when someone said they were a vegetarian, thinking that nothing in the world could stop me from eating meat. Well, that's because I hadn't lived in Russia before. Yeah. After unknowingly eating cat/dog, constantly getting stick and now food posioning, I will no longer eat meat in Russia. Nope. No can do. Perhaps I may change my mind once I get my own apartment and can clean the apartment, kitchen and meat to my standard of clean. Until then, no.

What else is new? Hmmm.... my apartment quest continues. It's not fun like it would be stateside- well, it wasn't fun in CT either so I will rephrase. It's not like looking for an apartment in Dallas, that would be fun!

I FINALLY brought a pair of winter boots JUST IN TIME!!!! It started sneg-ing on Tuesday. It stopped briefly for a few hours that night hasn't let up. It's not the pounding we normally got in CT but it definitely is a steady stream of tiny flakes that is quickly building up. Back to my new word sneg-ing. One of the American teachers, SashAlex made it up. Sneg is Russian for snow and ing is the gerund ending. So pretty funny. We all died laughing when she said it too. SashAlex is part homage to Beyonce's new ridiculous name "Sasha Fierce". Sasha's real name is Alexandra but all the Russians call her Sasha and she started hating it about the same time she started hating Russia and teaching. We try to call her Alex, which is her usual name, but then we heard about Beyonce's ridiculous name and viola! We are a hilarious bunch! I am so serious. I haven't had this many laughs at work before in ages! If we had a live webstream of video from our teacher's office, MTV or CBS or Comedy Central would TOTALLY pick us up as a new reality show!!! We'd be funny, rich AND famous =)

Update on permission for visiting Kameshkovo orphanage... I am now waiting for Tatiana, the orphanage director, to contact the Ministry of Education via phone or letter and express her approval of my visiting. Then the ME will decide whether or not to grant me permission. Well Tatiana is on vacation until NEXT Friday. So at the earliest, she could call the ME would be December 1st. UGH! I was doing fine with waiting and just dealing with the run around of all the bureaucracy. But the last few days, it's been very difficult.

What else? OH!!!! How could I forget??? I got tickets to see Yevgeny Onegin- my absolute FAVORITE Russian story. Four of us are going Sunday night and we got front row seats! I love the theatre! Plus, here it's only $7!!!!

On Saturday we are having a Thanksgiving Dinner here at the school for the staff and our host families. Ugh, I am not really looking forward to this. I wish that I could say that I was but that wouldn't be true. I am just really, really tired. And I feel like I am always here at the school and I need a break. The other teachers feel the same but somehow we all feel like we got "guilted" into preparing this dinner. One more weird thing, they don't sell whole turkey birds here, we are buying it in hunks. HAHAAH! At least it will cook faster.

I will post photos of my snowland, new boots and the Thanksgiving Dinner over the weekend!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Moscow Holiday Photos

From my fantastic one-day trip to Moscow on Monday with Reece & Becca. They are American students that I met at church and are totally fun & cool.

Here we are at Starbucks on Old Arbat Street. I paid $9.89 for a tall white chocolate mocha that was so not tasty. Fortunately, the $4 that I spent on a white chocolate-cranberry cookie partially redeemed the mocha. UNTIL! I found out that I got cheated out of my free drink that I was supposed to get after buying a coffee mug. BOO STARBUCKS IN RUSSIA!!!! I will not go to Starbucks again until I am stateside =)

Before hitting the Bucks, we hit Ismailovo Market and froze to death. But we did feast on tasty lamb shaslik. Here I am trying to warm up by wearing the Soviet fur hat that Reece purchased.

On Tuesday, I met up with Amanda and we hit Globus. We brought all the ingredients to make pizza. It was a fantastic meal!!!!! Of course, it was gigantic and pan-style. One piece was like eating 2.5 slices. No matter, it was delicious!!!!!! Behold...

A Good Week with Kameshkovo News

Today I got some good news- not the best news, but hopeful news =) The Department of Education has read my request for permission to visit Kameshkovo orphanage. They are now only asking to speak with our orphanage director, Tatiana. Then they will make their decision.
Just this past Tuesday (on our holiday), I saw Tatiana at Globus (my favorite store)!!!! She came right up to my ear and said "hello". I turned to see her with THE CUTEST little boy! I was so happy to see her!!!! The little boy is named Sasha, he's one of our new kids at Kameshkovo. He will be living with Tatiana, her husband and their foster son, Vanya. OH! Vanya is GIGANTIC!!! He is at least 3 inches taller than me! And he continues to study English at school and refuse to practice with me. Though he did manage to say he was impressed with my Russian =)

When I talked to her at Globus, she said that she would call the DE and tell them that she wants me to be able to visit. So I hope she won't forget or get too busy =) Please keep this situation in prayer! I wish that I would have taken a photo of all of us at Globus, I am sad that I didn't. I remembered when they were walking away but hesitated. I never should have! Oh well.

In more Kameshkovo news, on Wednesday I visited the Graduate Ministry Center like I do every Wednesday. I got to spend time talking with a girl named Masha. She is really sweet and eager to learn English. She is so very patient with my Russian which I really appreciated because I need to practice. The MC is the only place I can really practice speaking Russian =) I told her about my sad pirozhki story. She offered to teach me to make them!!! YAHOO!!! That way I can insure that I eat quality meat in them! We are planning to meet up so.

Masha & I.

While she and I talked, another girl walked in. I was struck by how beautiful she was and how fashionable she was dressed. She came over to where Masha and I were sitting and stared at me, as if she was waiting for me to say something. About 20 seconds later, I jumped off the couch and hugged her- it was Olya Bizyukova. I didn’t recognize her at first. She is a woman! Gosh, it’s exciting to see how beautiful she has become. She was always a pretty girl but to see her mature is cool. Everytime I see one of the orphan grads grown up, it never ceases to amaze me. I can't believe fast it has been. I remember when she was a shy little girl. She's still pretty shy. She was at the MC working on a report. I didn't want to distract her so I gave her my cell number and told her I'd like to see her sometime. She agreed. Later that night, I received the sweetest text message from her- in fluent English!!!! I hope to see her soon.

Olya & I.

Tatiana & I. She is on the CHC staff at the ministry center. She speaks great English and often, actually each time I visit, translates for me =) She's great!

Halloween Party at the AH

As promised, here are some photos from the Halloween party at our school. I didn't dress up- surprise. Surprisingly, it was a fun party.
This is my friend Elena... she is a pirate. She's a beginning ESL student. We have fun together. I speak to her in my beginner Russian and she speaks to me in English =)
This is Natasha. She is one of my favorite students. She was my only student to attend our party. We had fun together. She's very smart; speaks very good English and wants to be a fashion designer. Her mom is also one of my students =)
This is Sara having fun with two students.
Alexei, Sara and Marisa dressed up and ready for the par-tay!
Afterwards, we celebrated Lorik's birthday by going to see a dance show called Men & Women. It was entertaining. I shared a couple guffaw-laugh-out-loud moments with Alex. I don't think the show itself was meant to be funny but it was the atmosphere. The things that made it funny are numerous.

Some of us shared cocktails during the Halloween party- namely strawberries and champagne. Before you are impressed, I should tell you that they sell it in a can for $1. If you've been keeping up with my blog then you know that we are klassy here, with a k. So of course we brought the canned drinks.

At the theatre, our group got yelled at by the usher for not checking our coats- this is expected in Russia at the theatre, restaurants, etc... The usher didn't notice that I still had my coat. I sat and waited for our group.

As soon as the show started, Alex and I broke out our drinks and chips. I really liked the show but somehow in the middle of the show, I got a visual of she and I sitting there eating chips and our own drinks at the theatre. That would never be excepted at home but out here no one flinched. It was hilarious!
The good times continue in Russia...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Something Strange to Share

So I hesitate sharing this information since so many of my friends are dog and cat lovers but I wouldn't be sharing all my experiences as Irina if I didn't blog about this.

I had been sick for like 9 days, no clue why. I thought it was the greasy food at Nina's or the fact that she doesn't really wash the dishes. She merely rinses them in the water that we aren't supposed to drink and the dries them off with the same towel that the cats sit on when they are in the kitchen. Yeah, disgusting I know. But how the heck am I supposed to tell an 79-year-old Soviet woman that she's not exactly clean. I tried explaining this to my director here at the school who says that I just have a "different definition of clean". For the sake of my faith in humanity, I'd like to think my definition of clean is universal. By the way, my definition of clean is dirt and clutter free.

Marisa (one of the teachers here) and I were talking and she says, "Wow you're still sick. I thought if it was just a bug it would go away by now. But it must be something that you are repeatedly eating." I thought about it and realized that pirozhkis are the only thing I had been repeatedly eating after swearing off my chocolate and beer diet a few days before.

But I had always eaten pirozhkis and never been sick. Hmmm...

Wednesday before our teachers meeting, Marisa and I went winter boot shopping and stopped to pick up a couple pirozhkis for lunch. I order per normal but since we were there early enough in the day, I could choose from several different types of meat pirozhkis. So you're thinking chicken, pork or beef. A likely thought, it was my own thought but I am sad to say that I was terribly mistaken.

I pointed to my new favorite, one shaped like a football. The lady working at the counter asked, "Cheburshk?" I froze in horror. That's the word that all my students (both adults and kids) warned me about- it is cat or dog meat or a blend of both. That's the same pirozhki I had been eating for the last 9 days. I should have known something was highly suspect about my finding a tasty $4 meal.

In case you didn't read between the lines, I'll spell it out for you. I had been eating pirozhkis made of either dog or cat or both for the last week or so. No wonder I've had stomach problems. The next day I double checked with several of my Russian students who all confirmed that my fears were true. However, I was told (and I quote) that "if I had eaten quality cheburshk that I would not be sick". OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can't remember exactly how to spell that word but if you come to Russia, don't eat it. I'm not saying it will make you physically ill. I did get ill and somehow felt better as soon as I ceased eating the questionable meat. I will admit it was tasty- so much so that I ate it more than once, heck more than 3 times! But now there is just this disconnect in my mind that I can't fathom eating it again.

Some of my friends have told me that it's an urban legend but I am willing to bet that it's not. Some of my friends and students have also said that if you prepare the said meat yourself, then it's delicious and safe. Ironically, the same folks who told me it was not cat or dog told could not identify from what animal the meat came. Yeah, highly suspect. I shall never again eat that type of pirozhk.

On a happier note, I met two American students at church last Sunday- Reece & Becca. We have become fast friends and are heading to Moscow together tomorrow in celebration of the Russian holiday "National Unity Day". We hope to eat Mexican food at "Hemingway's" and I am dying for a White Chocolate Mocha from Starbucks. So hopefully I'll have both and it will cleanse me (literally and mentally) from my previously mentioned dining woes.

Until then, POKA!!!!


Good News

I got to see Natasha Volkova on Wednesday at the Ministry Center!!! YAY!!! She is as gorgeous as ever and we even got to talk with each other in Russian. Not for too long without my needing a translator but still it was great to see her =)

Here's a photo of us: