Friday, January 21, 2011

30 Things I'm Going to Miss About Moscow

  1. Public transportation
  2. Phones and phone plans (NO CONTRACTS!!).
  3. Being able to buy fruits/vegetables and flowers on our walk home.
  4. Fast and cheap internet.
  5. Being able to feel a sense of community in a city of 15 million people.
  6. Tea - lots and lots of hot tea.
  7. Shashlik - delicious shishkabobs but better.
  8. A lengthy and intensely interesting history.
  9. Unexpected parades and demonstrations.
  10. Dachas - those cottages outside of the city.
  11. The banya - a Russian variation of the sauna.  Heat and humidity followed by extreme cold.  And repeat
  12. White nights - in the summer the sun doesn't set until around midnight.
  13. Going out to places like Burger King or Starbucks is a special occasion.
  14. Honey is taken very seriously.
  15. Unlimited hot water (save for about two weeks during the summer)
  16. Balcony can double as a freezer for nearly half of the year
  17. Snow.  Lots and lots of snow (however, after three months or so this can also turn into a bad thing).
  18. The cultural tradition of taking off your shoes at the door.  It just makes so much sense!
  19. Juice boxes are not relegated only to toddlers.
  20. With milk, refrigeration is optional (most of the time at least).
  21. Marshrutkas (this could theoretically be relegated to public transportation, but they're just so cool and convenient-- like min-buses that get there faster and charge you less.  It's just a little bit cramped, but a small sacrifice to pay)
  22. Gypsy cabs (again, this could be relegated to public transportation I guess, but there's just something unique about being able to hail down anyone willing to give someone a ride.  The whole "never get in a stranger's car" stigma in the states is overrated.)
  23. Getting laughed at for not having a shoehorn every time we have people over.
  24. REALLY celebrating New Years, and the gorgeous and serious recognition of Easter.
  25. Not owning a car.  Even though there are occasions where we really want one (Russia just seems like the best country for a road trip), we've saved a ton of money and have actually enjoyed not having one.
  26. Banya scented shower gel.
  27. Feeling like we're in a spy movie.
  28. Being just minutes away from Red Square.
  29. Every day feels like a new adventure.
  30. Our friends.  I know this is a somewhat serious note that I'm ending on, but Beth and I are fortunate and beyond grateful for the friendships here in Moscow.  I don't know where we'd be without them.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

30 Things I'm looking Forward to in the States

With our departure being only 1 week away, I was thinking about things we're excited about that we can't really have or get here.  It's a totally vain list (sadly mostly food items are on it), but I hope it shows just some of the small differences between Russia and the US.  And don't worry-- next up will be 30 things I'm going to miss about Moscow.

So here it goes-- some things I can't wait to get back to in the US:

  1. Chick-Fil-A (this one is probably a no-brainer)
  2. Pumpkin Spice Lattes
  3. Free Refills
  4. Pedestrians having the right-of-way
  5. Free condiments at fast food joints
  6. Being able to hold random conversations with people in lines at grocery stores
  7. Cheez-its
  8. Being able to eavesdrop
  9. Mellow Mushroom
  10. Driving
  11. Reese's Pieces
  12. Coupons and bargain shopping
  13. Root Beer
  14. Ginger Ale
  15. Dr. Pepper (Although you can buy this here, it's just much much more expensive and rare)
  16. Peanut Butter (You can also buy this here, but it is also more expensive)
  17. Free plastic bags at grocery stores
  18. Cashiers not getting frustrated if you don't have the correct amount of change
  19. Zaxby's
  20. Being able to smile in public
  21. Thrift stores
  22. Air conditioning
  23. Triscuits
  24. Barbeque sauce (more specifically:  Sweet Baby Ray's Barbeque Sauce)
  25. Hulu
  26. Netflix
  27. Ordering things online
  28. Traffic laws (or the relative obedience of them)
  29. Urinating in public is frowned upon
  30. A lengthy Autumn (at least as far as Georgia is concerned)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ringing in the New Year

There is nothing quite like New Years celebrations in Russia.  It's probably the biggest holiday here-- it's a good week or so before you finally stop hearing fireworks.  It's a blast to be a part of, and a very special time of the year.

This time around we decided to take it easy and spend time at home with good friends.  Andrew and Ira (I'm sure you've seen on this blog before) came over to celebrate with us and brought more food than we could possibly imagine.   They prepared a plethora of traditional Russian dishes that are commonly eaten on New Year's Eve.  The idea of New Years here is how you celebrate it will reflect the coming year.  So naturally we had lots of food and were surrounded by incredible friends.

Just a small portion of the amazing spread.

Butter, dill, and caviar on white bread.

Hiding behind Liam is Ira.

Liam is a fan of Andrew!

Дед Мороз (Ded Moroz) -- or "Father Frost" greeted us with gifts.  He's Russia's Santa Claus.

He gave Liam a toy train.

I received a great sign that on one sign says "break" (or перерыв - pereriv), and the other side says "Boss, I am here" (or шеф, здес я! - Shef, zdyes ya!).

Monday, January 3, 2011

(Western) Christmas in Moscow

Christmas was busy this year for us.  It began early in the morning with a Christmas party for our English Kids Club.

I, naturally, played Santa Claus-- as you can tell by my festive Santa hat in the above picture.  For an hour and a half we played games, learned new words, and shared the customs that we practice in  the United States.

In the evening we met with our house church group and celebrated Christmas together with an incredible dinner and fellowship.  Sadly, we got probably 4 pictures from this.  We just set our camera on a table and left it there.

The next day we celebrated with the English Exchange and Open World.  We decorated ginger bread cookies and made houses, sang Christmas carols, and talked about the gift of giving: