Saturday, January 29, 2011

Up on the roof tops...

All over town, workers are constantly feverishly knocking snow off roof tops.  This is happening outside our courtyard windows now:

The issue is that snow significantly accumulates on roof tops and when it warms up, the heavy snow starts to melt and slides off in huge chunks - presenting danger for anyone walking below.  Buildings often have rope cordoning off sidewalks close to the building to prevent accidents.  This requires you to then walk in the street...which poses another whole set of dangers....but we won't go there.

This is not from this year - we haven't seen anything close to this much snow...yet...

There are several theories as to why the iconic Russian "onion domes" are shaped the way they theory is the shape allows snow to easily slide off...   In any case, they are beautiful!

On the Kremlin grounds during our "Look See" in August...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Moving Day Part Deux!

Our household goods FINALLY arrived from the U.S. yesterday...angels are singing - and I’m hitting the high notes!  Our “camping” days are over. I started making dinner last night and realized I had a choice of pans to use, I didn’t have to “mince” cheese since I could use our grater and actually had a device to drain the pasta.  I realize our pioneer ancestors never had these implements.......but........since we do, I missed them more than I realized.   Actually, the truth is, Steve and I have both said many times that we can get along with a lot less - and perhaps that’s not a bad thing.
Boxes are everywhere but it brings a sense of comfort and memories of growing up.  I moved 15 times (with my military family) and there’s just something great about having moving boxes around - a sense of new beginnings and it’s kind of like opening up a ton of gifts  - although that lasts about 8.2 seconds once the realization of the volume of boxes to be torn through sets in.  All said, our house is beginning to feel more like a home.
We had temperature highs in the single digits this week.  It seems to be constantly snowing - although it’s never more than light flurries - it just accumulates because it’s “on” most of the time.  Steve and I are having a hard time adjusting to the constant bundling and unbundling of gear.  This includes heavy socks, long johns, a minimum of several layers to cover the torso, hat, gloves, sometimes glove liners, scarf and boots!  You pray you didn’t forget anything once the boots go on because you can’t walk back through the apartment as this will track muck through the house from the last time you ventured outdoors, (refer to blog dated Dec 8th). You also have to strip down the minute you walk back in the door, at least the boots...again, because you can’t “track” through the house. day long. Even going to the store for a few small items - full gear up!  

Yesterday, I geared up for the 4th time as I prepared to head to the gym at 6 p.m.  As I walked out the door I realized I had on my lightweight running tights but forgot to put my heavy jeans on overtop.  I paused....thought about it for a second...decided I could not take on the “unbooting” process yet again...“naaah, I’ll be fine!”.  It’s just a 15 minute walk, after all.      Critical mistake.     These lightweight running tights are perfect for, say, springtime Atlanta.   Without exaggeration, I could not feel my legs for the last 5 minutes of the jaunt - and I was practically running at that point, as best I could, traversing across patches of ice and snow dodging in and out of Muscovites in their heavy full length furs....what was I thinking??

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Flags at half staff...

Flags are at half staff today in Moscow.  Russia was attacked this week when a bomb was detonated at the Domodedovo Airport on the outskirts of town.  Lives were senselessly lost and many were injured.  This brought back fresh memories from 10 years ago when our great nation was also under terror attack on September 11th.  We are guests in Moscow and as such, our hearts go out to the great Russians who live among us, work with us and have extended a hand in helping us get established in this special city.  As stated in an earlier blog, human emotions transcend international boundaries.  May peace prevail for us all...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Moscow airport news...

You may have heard the sad news that one of Moscow's 3 airports was bombed today.  Neither Steve or I are traveling, so we are both fine.  Prayers go out to the families of those who senselessly lost their lives.


Learned about fascinating Russian superstitions today at my Understanding Russia class!  Superstitions are a way of staying out of harm’s way as many Russians don't have health care:
Salt - clearly very expensive during war was scarce and, of course, the primary source of preservative. Bad luck to spill on the table today - three shakes over the left shoulder will thwart away evil spirits.  Know why it’s the left shoulder?  The Angel Gabriel sits on the right shoulder.

Face time - too much time in front of the mirror is considered bad luck (the Angel Gabriel doesn’t know who to protect - you or your image).
Back inside?  Bad luck to leave something in the house when you leave for a trip.  Most people won’t go back in to get it unless it’s essential - passport, glasses, etc.  If you must go back inside...look in the mirror for protection (in the really old days, they used to also stick out their tongue to show evil spirits they were not afraid).

Moment of silence - most Russians will also sit down as a group for a moment of silence before leaving for a trip.  This allows each person to think through anything they may not have packed.  Particularly important when leaving the hospital - anything left behind means you will be back!
Whistling - not if you want to save your money.  Whistling means you will whistle your money away....generally bad form in Russia...not even at a hockey game!

Threshold - never shake hands or, say, hand over papers to be signed over a threshold...the crack between the floors is bad luck.  Invite the person in or walk out to meet them.
Corner - sitting in the corner of a table or room means you won’t be married for 7 years.  Women are particularly cautious of this one!
We talked about American superstitions and only one seemed to cross over - the black cat (actually any cat crossing your path in Russia is considered bad luck).  None of the other U.S. traditions applied (walking under a ladder, opening an umbrella inside, the number 13 or Friday the 13th)...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


The days of the large capacity washing machine and dryer are yet a distant memory.  And the stacking washer/dyer?  Nyet.  But we are now proud users of the ever popular European “combo” model.  Our machine has two starring roles...washer by day...dryer by night.  The same machine does both theory.

Here's the little Russian, of course.
It actually does a fairly good job in the washing department.  It hasn’t turned any of our “whites” completely gray although it’s capacity amounts to a pair of boxers, a pair of socks and maaaybe a t-shirt.  Any more than that - an error message pops up and I start taking items out.  And so clothes washing is in process pretty much 24/7. 
When the wash cycle is done, turn the knob to the dry cycle....and...well, you have what might be described as more of a “dehumidifying” process.  No hot air - just tumbling which often causes the clothes to become more damp than when you started.  The drying rack has become king in our household.  We can get one single sheet to dry if we put that puppy through the “dehumidifier” about 5 times.  Yahtzee!
Check out the nap on a towel we ran through the process (this is a typical bath towel): 

Does this whisper silky softness?  How about Brillo Pad along with sand blasting exfoliation and complete skin removal??  Ah, but our skin is so dry, the wire brush-like action actually does us some good!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Stove Victory and other "one month" thoughts...

We just hit our one month and a few days (minus 3 weeks in U.S./Aruba) anniversary in Moscow!  I thought it particularly appropriate to stop and reflect on what we’ve learned in this wonderful city so far (and it truly is wonderful):
  • I’ve learned that while trying out my Russian vocab, I’ve been introducing Steve as “my man” when I thought I was saying “my husband”....that explains the occasional snicker.  But then again, he IS my man!  I think I'll keep it up.
  • I’ve learned that mustard, lasagna and green tea are not always what they appear to be....turned out they were wasabi paste (of a yellowish tinge), some sort of ham casserole and an unfamiliar Madori green licorice-tasting carbonated beverage.  Our learning curve is straight up 90 degrees! 
  • I’ve learned you can line up most service related requests up until midnight any day, i.e. the Internet guy came to our rescue at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night (at no additional fee) and IKEA is making a delivery tonight between 6 p.m. and midnight!!  We’ll leave the light on...
  • I’ve learned you can find just about anything in Moscow....for a small (high) price.  Well, maybe not Moe’s “Joey Bag of Doughnuts” burrito - but practically everything else!
  • I’ve learned very few people speak English in Russia (although most do in the business community).  When acting out charades fails - DRAW!  My stick figures have improved dramatically, although recently I drew a stick figure in a shower - I was looking for a shower caddy to hold shampoo bottles, etc. I followed the employee through the store, up and down aisles and finally arrived at.....the umbrella rack!  I smiled and nodded and bought an umbrella...maybe I’ll use it in the shower. 
  • And...I’ve learned when your stove is not working for 30 straight days, call your German neighbor to come over and read the German directions...viola!  We have electric burners again!  Apparently we were overlooking some obscure button on the back of the stove that when pressed and held for 20 seconds, releases the child lock....but of course!  Ugh - the insanity!!
I’ve also learned:
  • getting out of your comfort zone really won’t kill you...really
  • you can take on a lot more than you think 
  • people are people - if you need help, someone will come
  • human emotions transcend international boundaries
  • creativity can be manifested during times of independence and frustration

  • if you smile at someone long enough....they might just smile back

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Eurosports Channel...

If you’ve ever travelled, or lived, in Europe - you’ve probably taken in the Eurosports Channel. This is Europe’s version of ESPN with a few twists....actually quite fascinating (and sometimes not so much) with its volume of obscure sports.
Take for example...
Desert motorcross - where dirt bikes and mini trucks race across desert land up and down huge sand dunes...??
Darts....yes, Darts. (This really needs no explanation....took a championship nap watching this one).
Foosbol - this features grown men duking it out on a foosbol table complete with referees and cheerleaders.....?????  Another great sleep aid when all else fails.

“Expedition Freeride Spirit” - where the craziest of the crazy snowboard down untouched, no trail,  steep snow terrain at night with little head lamps lighting their way.... they catch massive air doing triple backflips, etc. and almost always have a near miss landing in the pine trees they’re bobbing and weaving through.  Do their mothers know they’re doing this?

And of course endless coverage of hockey and soccer (er.... futbol). You can also catch alpine sports pretty much 24/7 - the type we Americans typically only see every 4 years during the winter Olympics:  ski jumping, luge, snowboard cross, cross country skiing, Super G, downhill slalom.
I’m actually fairly intrigue by the biathlon (cross country skiing + shooting) and have started asking around about a club team...

I just flipped through the channels to see if I was missing something and caught the last 30 seconds of female arm wrestling...whoa.  It appears Russia wins this a lot.

(this is not me)

With all of these crazy sports....why is it that Europeans don’t understand our love for American football??  C’mon man!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bare Bottomed in Aruba...

Kite Boarding....our new fave sport.  We are hooked!!  If you have ever had the slightest interest in learning - do it!  It was more fun than we ever imagined.

Steve and I were planning to take one lesson in the morning the day before we left Aruba.  After the first lesson - we signed up for 2 more and exited the water after our last lesson an hour before we left for the airport our last day.  As we moved from "learning on land" and honing our kite management skills to "learning in the water" - our instructor asked if our bathing suits were on tightly - we laughed and didn't think much of it.  One of our "dragging" drills had Steve lying on his belly, managing the kite, with me holding on to the back of his harness (also on my belly) so he wouldn't fly 30 feet out of the water (strong wind day).  The instructor told me to hold on tight and not let problem, so I thought!

We really didn't know what to expect as this was our first release from "shore learning" to going off on our own - but as we started - the wind was so strong that it would pull both of us about 20 feet, basically whipping us through the water, then catapult us in the air about 15 feet, then smash us back into the water for another 20 foot drag...on and on.  This was a crazy ride and I was laughing the whole way, holding on to Steve, gulping bathing suit bottoms came off!

This continued for about a minute and a half - and when we finally came to a stop - we were about a mile off shore.  The instructor told me not to let go of Steve - so I held on until I was holding on to my suit bottoms with my big toe and finally had to let go.  I knew the instructor was coming after us in the rescue boat and I really didn't want to greet him sans britches!  The good news - we were so far off shore I only mooned a newbie wind surfer who had veered off course and didn't know how to get back to land and a few pelicans.  When we came to a stop - Steve said "thank goodness" - his swim trunks were around his knees!

Me - solo - on a dragging drill heading to the deep waters!
Steve - solo - at sunset!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ahhhh Aruba...

Aruba was just what the doctor ordered....I believe our core body temperatures are now hovering around a rationale number as the combo or Moscow and Colorado was keeping us at something far below 98.6.  Aruba is fantastic - we highly recommend it!   We're taking kite boarding lessons in the morning....more to come!

From out balcony...bliss!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Snowboarding in Colorado...

Had an absolutely amazing time with the Moellering clan in snowy Snowmass Colorado.  Steve and I held our own as the only 2 snowboarders out of the family of thirteen.  Not too much hissing and booing from the ski squad as we reeeeeally didn't shear too much snow off the mountain for everyone else.

Arrived back in the ATL for several days to ring in the new year and heading to Aruba in the morning to thaw out!!!

Happy New Year!