Saturday, September 25, 2010

What an Ugly Baby-- continued...

Last Monday, Beth and I attended a discussion group held by our friend Andrea.  Before the group met we all had dinner together and was joined by Andrea's roommate, Lena.

Somehow we got to the subject of our recent blog post detailing various Russian superstitions when it came to infants, and Lena had a personal example.  She has a niece who is a few years old now.  Years ago when her niece was born and Lena was finally able to see her in person, she was beyond excited.  The whole time Lena was with the child she was complimenting her -- "She's so beautiful, she's adorable!"

A couple days later she met again with her family to see her niece, but Lena's relatives told her that she would not be able to see her niece for at least another year.  After seeing Lena, the child could not sleep that night, and according to the family it was because Lena complimented her so much.

Needless to say Lena was heartbroken.

What an Ugly Baby

Russia is a land of many traditions and superstitions.  Living here we hear about different superstitions on a regular basis.  There are many, many superstitions about being pregnant and having a baby.  These are just a few of the superstitions we have been warned about or that friends have informed us about.

-Things bought for a newborn baby (such as clothes, toys, furniture, etc.) should only be purchased after the baby is born. To buy them before the baby's birth many believe is very bad counting your chickens before they are hatched.  Baby showers are unheard of.  People also don't really mention a pregnancy or give congratulations.  We did have a baby shower here in Moscow and many of our Russian friends came...they were very curious about it.  While talking to them about this tradition, many recognized the practicality of baby showers and had a lot of fun...but when I asked if they wanted one they said no...they don't want to tempt fate.

-Mothers typically do not show their baby to anyone except the father of that child and the midwife for 40 days after the baby is born.  There is some fear of germs and disease...but they also believe it is just bad luck.  Many mothers will not allow photographs of their baby's face until after the first 40 days.  One of our friend's sisters had a baby a few weeks ago...but she has not been allowed to see the baby up close, or see any pictures.  So she doesn't even know what her niece looks like.

-A stranger should not look at a newborn baby before it is a certain age (between two months and one year). If one looks at the baby it is considered bad luck to compliment it. Instead, one could say, "Oh, what an ugly child!".   Thankfully, many people do not still hold to this...Liam has not been called ugly yet!

-Russians also believe that babies are always cold and must be kept warm at all times.  You will see infants in snowsuits in warm weather...and when it gets can't even see the baby!  We get scolded on a regular basis for not putting a hat/gloves/boots or anything else someone thinks Liam might need on him.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Return of English Movie Night

One of our favorite parts of the Fall and Spring semester last year was being able to meet with friends once a week for English Movie Night.  As you probably know, every Friday we invite friends over, have snacks, watch a movie, and practice English.  As well, it was (selfishly) an opportunity to keep up with old friends and meet new ones.

This inaugural night was a blast.  Between the movies Wall-E, Slumdog Millionaire, and Casablanca, the winning vote went with Casablanca.

Our friends Andrew and Ira (you've met them before)

Newcomers to movie night, Sophia, Zhenya, and Ksenya

Vika, Nadya, and Vasya (Vika always manages to turn and strike a pose at the perfect time)

Liam also enjoyed Casablanca, but not nearly as much as he enjoyed sucking on his fist.

Natasha and Gleb;  this conversation was much more civil than it looks!

Viktor!  He was able to visit the U.S. during the summer.  I think he saw more of America than I have.

The friend with the infectious laughter, Vasya

Our friend Olga

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dacha Days

Just this past week Beth and I were invited to join friends of ours at their family's dacha.  Andrew and Ira is a couple that we have known for a long time now (especially Andrew), and we were more than excited to join them for a little break from city life.  Although Beth and I were very excited to be leaving Moscow with great friends, we still had a twinge of nervousness-- mostly of just the unknown.  We had never met Ira's parents, we didn't know anything about where we were going, or if Liam would be a disturbance to the family and so on.  But at the same time we knew we couldn't pass up on this adventure.  But we were still nervous.

Their dacha's village.

Dacha sweet dacha!

Cooking mushroom soup!


The best shashlik I've ever eaten.

Their dacha is located outside of Dmitrov, a city near Sergev Posad.  Typically like most dachas they had a banya, and land with several fruit trees and vegetable gardens.  Most available space is used in some way-- the fences in the backyard were also used for different berry vines.

At the dacha we met Ira's parents, her mother Valentina and her step-father Oleg.  Both were incredibly warm and gracious hosts.  Valentina was always offering to hold Liam during meals or when he would cry.  Oleg was incredibly smart and opinionated, always asking us random questions (like if the Panama Canal is freshwater or seawater).  We'd always be wrong.  He'd look down and start shaking his head every time.  Even softball questions, like "Who's your favorite president."  We thought that was a pretty easy question, he'd always inform us that we are incorrect.

Part of the time at the dacha was spent walking-- to villages nearby, to Orthodox churches in the area, and so on.  Because Ira spent most of her summers here has a child, she would take us to particular areas that she was fond of as a child-- maybe a lake where they swam, or a silage where they would play in hay.  Every place she took us carried so many memories for her, and that made things all the more special.

Ira looking over a nearby swamp.

Friends in a neighboring house were digging a new well.

We took a shortcut through this field to get to a church on the other side.

Cemetery near the church.

Day two-- more hiking.

The Saturday before leaving, Oleg offered to drive us around to different sights that we might be interested in.  He took us by a lake as well as other Orthodox churches near their village.

The awesome Andrew and Ira.