I got a group of Russian Soldiers to take this picture with me at the Kremlin(don’t ask me how).
Я пишу это на вечером, и поетому я сказал “добрый вечер.”
What I wrote above says, “I am writing this in the evening, so that is why I said good evening.”
…I know, very basic. That is just what I could think of off the top of my head to write in Russian. Also, if you can’t tell by the title already, I’ve played some scrabble in Russian with my babushka. (It’s a word in the nominative case that means “interesting places”).
Disclaimer: I just read through this and it’s a tad bit on the long side, but a month of my life living & studying abroad so to be expected. I’ve added pictures to break up the monotony). Also some of the photos from Berlin I have to give Tay the photo cred for because we only took one camera.
Just outside the Red Square in Moscow, Russia.
It’s been a few weeks here since I’ve last blogged. My apologies, a lot has been happening. I’m not quite sure where to start since there is over a month of events to account for. I don’t have a video of my commute to and from school each day like I said because I have stopped walking to school. Originally I was either taking Uber to and from school, or a combination of the metro and walking. After Tay urging me to use other forms of public transport, I started riding the bus and маршрутка (marshrutka) to and from school everyday. I get unlimited large bus rides with my student metro card, and marshrutkas are smaller buses that cost 40 rubles per ride. Marshrutkas are notorious for having erratic drivers who you have to tell to stop or they just keep driving. As soon as you get on you pay the driver and off they go without waiting for you to sit, jerking the vehicle around. I have learned to say “Остановите здесь, пожалуйста.” (Stop here, please.) in Russian though as a result, which is good. Now that it is snowing (“снег” means snow) in Russia, taking public transport means I only have to endure a short walk from the stop to the academic building.
Unfortunately I forgot who this statute is of…
For the first half of fall break the other Americans and I went to Moscow. We rode the Sapsan high-speed train that connects to the Московский Вокзал (Moscow Railway Station) from Плошадь Восстания (Ploschad Vostaniya), off the St. Petersburg metro’s red-line. When we got off the train in Moscow and were on the tour bus on the way to the hotel, we saw a nuclear power plant with some green smoke coming out of it. We initially thought this was the city light illuminating the smoke, but came realize that the smoke was glowing green…
Industrial Moscow, to the left Moscow’s new burgeoning business center.
We went to the Kremlin which was quite a sight and somewhere I had always wanted to visit. In the same area right in Красная площадь (Red Square), we went into Lenin’s mausoleum and saw Vladimir Lenin’s preserved body. We also saw St. Basil’s cathedral, an iconic image of Russia for sure. One of the days in Moscow Tay and I met up with two of her friends from KU studying at the Moscow School of Economics: Eric and Abby. They were both really fun to be around and graciously showed us a bit of Moscow we would not have otherwise seen. We met up with them at a Krispy Kreme doughnuts, which was вкусно (delicious). Then we all went to the Tretyakov Gallery which was amazing. Tay wanted to see a Malevich painting, Black Square, but we found out it was at the new Tretyakov Gallery, so we decided to go there after. We waited over two hours in close to freezing weather, and just our luck they decided to limit the number of people allowed in for the remainder of the day. I’m sure we’ll make it back to Moscow soon though so I’m not worried. Then they showed us this cool Serbian burger place that you would never have found unless you knew it was there.
Me at the Kremlin with a candid shot of some guards.
Incredible cathedrals inside the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia.
Cathedrals inside the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia.
Inside the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, yes this photo has a filter but man…
Cathedrals inside the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia Part II (yes there is a filter).
In Moscow we also got to go to the цирк (circus), which was a lot of fun. They had a bunch of adorable dogs and cats who were trained extremely well, and I saw an elephant twirl hula-hoops on its trunk and another hoof while spinning in a circle on a rotating platform, standing on one hoof…crazy! We also went to a cemetery with a lot of notable military and cultural figures buried there. Some of the graves were extremely elaborate as you can see in the pictures. The last day we were in Moscow we went to Arbot Street, which is apparently famous for Souvenir shopping. I went with Tay, Jolene, and Lilia to an Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant. The place was really well done with all the decoration and put you right in the story.
Famous graveyard in Moscow, Russia where Khrushchev is buried.
Columbus the Great
Peter the Great head with Christopher Columbus’ body, message me for the story.
Fairly early one of the mornings in Moscow I went to go get a bottle of water from a corner store because you can’t drink the tap water in Russia. I already knew to ask for “вода без газа” (water without gas, flat water). Take in mind this was before we got more into question words in our Russian language classes. Anyway, the guy asked me, “Откуда?” (Where from?). I figured out what it meant eventually, after some pantomiming and listening to him sing part of California Girls by The Beach Boys when I told him I was from California. Now I won’t forget what that word means. This is just an example of what it is like to learn Russian, or any foreign language for that matter, from a survival or practical perspective. Think about what it would be like to be dropped in a foreign country with no classes backing up your language, you’d have to do this all day every day.
The Kremlin in all it’s glory.
The “New One”
At the end of the trip some of the Americans stayed in Moscow, some flew out from Moscow Airport, and others took the train back to St. Petersburg. Back at the end of August Tay and I decided to go to Berlin, Germany for the second part of fall break. We took the train back to St. Petersburg and had a one day layover before we left for Berlin. On that one day back in St. Petersburg I had reservations booked at Restaurant Tempo, a place right outside the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood. I’m sure Tay would agree it’s one of our favorite places to frequent in the city. There is a bridge over one of the many canals in the city that we cross each time to get to this restaurant, and I thought it would be the right place, and the right time to propose to her. Unfortunately I think she had an idea something was up. Maybe I was acting a little weird, or maybe because I’m apparently not very sneaky, but either way she said yes. No wedding date set yet, but we’re going to be together for a while.
Tay & I in Red Square outside St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, Russia.
We booked an airBnB for the first two days in Germany, and stayed with her friend Jakob for the remaining time. The airBnB was so-so, but worked for our purposes. Tay had the awesome idea of getting on one of the bright yellow city tour buses, which turned out really well because we got to pretty much see the entire city without having to walk very far! On foot we went to Checkpoint Charlie and saw the museum there, which was quite eyeopening. They had all these name registry binders in the museum, where if you find a relative’s name who was a casualty or missing during that time period, you can submit a claim. We also went to a Salvador Dali exhibition that happened to be in Berlin while we were there. I have always liked Dali’s artwork, and it was an incredible opportunity to be able to see some of it in person. We hoped to find a Chipotle Mexican Grill in Berlin since they don’t exist in Russia. No luck, but we did find a similar place called Dolores Burritos. It was pretty good, but of course nothing beats a Chipotle burrito bowl. One of the things I am really looking forward to when I am back in America for a couple weeks during the winter break is some Chipotle!!
The Berlin Wall.
Berlin Wall art, I swear it wasn’t us who vandalized it.
Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, Germany.
A building in Berlin, Germany where someone painted an interesting message.
Soviet WWII memorial in Berlin, Germany.
We definitively had much more fun with her friend Jakob showing us the city. He took us to a hidden rooftop bar on top of a shopping mall with an incredible view of the entire city that is only known to the locals. We went to a German grocery store to buy food to make taco salad (again, pretty much no Mexican food in Russia). It was incredible to see cheese, fresh shiny fruits, and crisp vegetables again in a grocery store; something not quite as common in Russia. We tried this weird orange looking fruit called “Kaki” in Germany; really good. It was like eating a mini cantaloupe. Jakob also took us to see remains of the Berlin Wall where local artists have painted over sections of the wall that is left. Last time I was in Germany I didn’t get to make it to see the remains of the Berlin Wall, and was happy I made it back and got to see it in person. We also went to this insane Soviet monument in Berlin honoring all those Russians who stood up and fought against the Nazi regime in WWII; very Soviet, very eerie and stolid.
Jakob, Tay, and I at the secret rooftop bar in Berlin, Germany.
My Russian language class is going well. I got a “пять” (five) on my grammar midterm which was great. Grading is a little different in Russia. You get a grade of 5 through 1, which is equivalent to A through F in America. My professor Inga says I am doing well and thinks I can make it to intermediate 200 level next semester! We are learning about the dreaded Russian motion verbs right now. There are all sorts of subtle nuances you have to pay attention to that completely change the meaning and context of what you speak, read, and write: prefixes, pronunciations, etc. For example, the two verbs “Идти” and “Ходить” both mean to go by foot. Now, the first verb Идти would be used if you do not walk to this place regularly or it is a one way journey. The second verb Ходить would be used if, as I’m sure you guessed, you do walk to the place regularly or it is a round trip. With prefixes as an added challenge, say you added “При-” to Ходить. This would change the meaning to more specifically arrive on foot. Anyway, just a tiny glimpse into Russian grammar (kinda cool, but difficult)
Russian lit is also going well, we just finished Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and are currently reading Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. We just finished a comparative paper on medieval and contemporary Russian literature, so take that how you will :P, I enjoyed it… Contemporary Russian life is an interesting class. Our professor is really funny and offers some very candid opinions about Russia. I’m glad I decided to take this class. I just wrote a paper comparing the United States and Russian Federation’s constitutions. It was really eye opening to research and find out just how much Russia emulates the United States with regard to governmental structure and policy. Luckily I took the Never Never Land connections core this summer at UPS, which was partially a constitutional morals and ethics class. Having taken this class I definitely was at a good knowledge base to write this paper. Also, taking Business Law and Ethics at UPS really helped me when researching and writing this paper.
Anyway, a lot of writing, a lot has happened. I’m sure I left out a couple things here and there, but I think I captured most of what has happened. As per usual if you want to know anything else, have any questions or requests, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org