Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mom's First Impressions

I thought it would only be fair to get the story from mom's point-of-view (you know how DeGroff/Evans are with their story telling), so I'm handing the computer over to her (plus, I really need to go jump in the shower and get packed--our train leaves tonight, and I have a lot of cleaning to do). Here are her thoughts on the experience so far, five days in, Wednesday morning:

First off, I love Moscow! It is a beautiful, romantic city and really much different than I had imagined! I think I expected the Russia of Soviet days and have been surprised at how safe I feel here-except for seeing the path home from the Metro which Kim would take most nights alone through dark parks etc. There are some things mothers are best not knowing! And then there's the man who eyed us up and down on the metro last night at 1 a.m. while Kim had her tired eyes closed and then followed us up the escalater to our next exchange and got in the car behind us. We finally gave him the slip and made it home safely our last night in Moscow! I love the beautiful centuries-old buildings and huge parks alongside the breathtaking rivers. Coming in on the plane I was amazed at how wooded it is and how many rivers there are! Most of all I have been impressed at how happy the people appear and how "normal" their lives seem-couples smiling and talking to each other and people just living life. That said, I have never seen so many people smoking and drinking openly until so late with blood shot eyes on the metro! That perhaps is what I expected to see in Russia. I have been impressed by the friendliness of the people-true most of them don't talk on the metro but occasionally we have had some great responses-for instance....the other night Kim and I were sitting by each other and Tyler was across from us sitting by two men. Kim proceeded to wink at him, roll her tongue and touch her nose with her tongue and tried to get him to do the same. These two guys were busting up because they did didn't realize they knew each other and nudged Tyler on shoulder to point out this girl who was "hitting" on him! A description of my first impression would not be complete without mentioning how great the food is! Tyler introduced us to a certain little street vender that sells magnificent -shwarmas! We went back a second time yesterday and I wouldn't be surprised if we go there again today for lunch. We've had delicious Ukranian food, great soups-yes they even eat soups in the summer here and best of all the street foods and of course, Kim and Acia's famous tomato salad! I loved going to church and seeing that yes the gospel is the same all over the world-in fact this branch sang the hymns with much more gusto than our ward! The talks were so good by the youth and main speaker and I even got to hear Elder Marchenko, a Russian seventy, speak. Of course the song with Kim, Tyler, Ryan and two other study abroad students was beautiful and I can see where the branch will really miss their musical talents! I loved meeting the members, especially the darling little young women who seem to adore Kim! I've loved getting to be around Kim and Tyler's landlords' Irina and Sergei, and Svetlana and just wish I could speak a little Russian or that they could use sign language-my default foreign language which I try whenever someone is speaking anything other than English! At this point I am a little sad to leave Moscow-probably because Kim and Tyler know their way around so well and know the best places to see and eat at and I almost think I could have been satisfied just coming to Russia!

Laughing all the way

After the delicious Ukrainian dinner, we decided to go to Red Square so my mom could really feel like she'd been a tourist in Russia. We took lots of pictures and decided to head towards the bridge where some of my favorite views of the city are--Red Square, one of the seven sisters, Moskva river, Cathedral of Christ the Savior, and the Kremlin. After this we headed down for a boat ride on the Moskva River.

On the way there, walking on the banks of the river, my mom decided she needed a few more pictures of the view, and Tyler and I thinking we needed a new pose decided a piggy-back ride would be the best way to go about doing this. So I jumped on his back, we took the picture, and then he took off skipping with me. My mom tried to get this recorded, but only caught the dismount from an awkward angle. I said something like, "Oh, good job! You did it!" to Tyler, to which my mom replied, "What, did you fail kindergarten because you couldn't skip?" He looked at me with eyes that said, "You told her about that?" And I said, "I swear I didn't say anything!" He insisted that I must have--there was no way she would have just randomly said that. I was laughing and I said, "Mom--tell him. Did I say anything about skipping?" She looked confused and said, "No, lots of little boys can't skip." So he finally believed that I hadn't said anything, and we all had a good laugh over it. This was only the beginning of him realizing how alike my mom and I really are. I tried to warn him ahead of time!

After we stopped laughing about this, my mom decided to comment about me being a world-traveller. This unfortunately came out as, "Tyler, Kim is quite a tramp..." My eyes got really big, my mouth dropped open, and I was like, "What?!" as she finished with, "...she has tramped around many countries. Wait, travelled? Trapsed? What am I trying to say? I'm sorry--I haven't slept since I got off the plane!" I figured the best reply I could give at this point was just to say, "Oh my gosh--you just called me a tramp! I'm so blogging about this!"

The next good laugh came about 3.7 seconds later, when Tyler was telling me about something he was going to get to do, and I said, sighingly, "You're so lucky." My mom then said, somewhat offended, "Well I'm sorry I'm ruining your good time--you wish you were off kissing?" By this point I was way confused, then she pointed out that a couple had just walked past us, and they were making out, so she thought that I had seen them kissing and said, "You're so lucky." Apparently she hadn't been paying attention to what Tyler had just said. I'm going to chalk this one up to jet lag. Needless to say, I laughed a good long while about this.

As we were walking along this same river bank, this guy yelled up to us to come on a boat ride. I laughed, we went and bought tickets, and got on the boat. I think he didn't know what to do after we got on the boat--he probably didn't realize we had already planned to do this. The best part came as we pulled away from the dock. It seemed that almost immediately after my mom got in the boat, the engine died. My mom was sure she had brought the Lake Powell luck with her, and said, "True to form, the boat broke." We're pretty sure it was her fault. Luckily, the boat started up again, and Tyler was spared taking on the role of oarsman.

The boat ride was really fun, including when my mom decided to throw herself in between a couple so she could take pictures of us. Her comment was: "Here, 43 years after a gondola ride in Italy with a study abroad group of mostly girls where I swore I would never again be on a boat ride with out my "honey" in a romantic European city, I found myself as the 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th wheel, as the boat was exclusively filled with couples." She enjoyed the boat ride anyway, but missed having dad here with her.

We headed past the Tretyakov Gallery, grabli, and the Adam and Eve fountain as we made our way towards the Novokuznetskaya metro. We had been telling my mom about some of the random guys I had met, and the crazy situation I have found myself in here in Moscow. Suddenly, I got a call on my phone--it was this random guy I had met by the metro about a month earlier. "That's Aleksei," Tyler told my mom as I picked up the phone. He said he had just seen us walking by, so we went and met up with him. I introduced him to my mom and Tyler, and we chatted with him for a minute before heading home. I thought this was a perfect example of how random my life has been in Moscow.

We told Tyler goodbye at the metro and laughed about all of the funny things that had happened and had been said that day--and this was only mom's first! We knew right then that this was going to be an amazing trip. My mom was scared to see how dark it was where I walk home every night and decided some things are just best left unkown.

The Arrival

I got to the airport about an hour early just to be safe--I didn't want my mom sitting in some foreign terminal freaking out because she couldn't find me and everyone around her was speaking English. I'd heard she was kind of scared right before she came, so I was very proud of her when she said she hadn't been scared at all, but instead was bright-eyed and ready to go!

When she finally came out, she looked happy and laid back--you'd never know she had just flown for 15 hours!! So we grabbed her bags and headed out to catch a marshrutka (public transport that looks kind of like a van) to get home. We got off at rechnoj voksal and went straight to my office so she could meet everyone and give people the stuff she had picked up from the States for them--chocolate chips for the Halls, lotions and maple syrup for Acia. We went down to the rinok (market with a bunch of different shops--one shop for vegetables, another for meets, yet another for cosmetics, etc). Acia came with us, and we decided to make our "Office Salad," which is really a Greek Salad--tomatoes, brinza (a really yummy French cheese that is kind of like feta), greens, peppers, and olives. We checked email and then rushed off to drop our stuff at home so we could be on time to meet Tyler and Ryan at the Izmailovsky Rinok (a market where you can buy souvenirs, clothes, etc). From here on, Moscow would prove to be a crazy marathon where we raced around as fast as we could to get everything in during the short time that we had!

To get home from work, I decided to show my mom the shortcut I had found. She was kind of freaked out to think I'd been walking home by myself through the "forest." We made the exciting little trek, wound past the construction site, and ended up in my apartment, where she had a chance to look around at where I live. We unfortunately didn't have time to let her stop and rest, or even take a shower after her long plane ride, but I don't think she was missing out on much, as our hot water was still shut off.

We took the metro down to meet Tyler and Ryan, which consisted of buying a 10-ride metro pass for my mom and getting her used to swiping the pass and going through the check-point. We may have accidentally used 2 of our 10, and we drew quite a bit of attention as I tried to tell her how to get through from the other side of the turnstyles--I had already gone through the gates--but we chalked this up to a learning experience and headed down to our train. I had apparently forgotten what it was like the first time on the metro and how it takes a little bit of practice to keep your balance while walking when it's moving, so as we pulled up to our stop, I told my mom this was ours, and put my hand on her back to help her stand up. Well, instead of helping, this turned into shoving her as the train screeched to a halt, and she tumbled sideways into the woman and child next to her. Luckily, not too much damage was done, and we made it out alive (which was much better than the experience she had the next day...but we'll leave that for July 25th's blog...)

We bought some great souvenirs and talked to a lot of Russians that knew English words like, "I give you great price," "500 rubles," "for you, big discount," and oddly--"Brigham Young." My mom saw some stacking dolls with last years football team and the rest of the time we were at the market, this guy selling them kept dropping the price and saying, "I give you for 500 rubles. You take now." The trip to the rinok revealed how stingy I am, not to mention how picky and indecisive I can be! While this was probably was annoying, it proved to be to everyone's benefit in the end--upon getting home, we realized it would cost an extra $200 to have Tyler check a 3rd bag, Everyone suddenly seemed okay with me passing up the Russian book of fairy tales and the other nativity scene.

After the rinok, Ryan decided to run home and meet up with Nastya. He was nice enough to take our bags with him. It was all going to end up at their house anyway--we decided it would be easier to have them take the fragile stuff on a direct flight to the states, and I will be toting around a bag full of other random stuff in Europe. Tyler has been so good to help us out with this!

Tyler, my mom, and I headed off to Taras Bulba, a great Ukrainian restaraunt, so that my mom could try some authentic Russian/Ukrainian dishes. We ordered up a bowl of borscht, chicken po Kievsky (Kiev chicken), mors--a traditional drink made from cranberries, and some vereniki (pasta shaped like half-moons filled with fruit). Everything was so delicious, even if I was a little over-zealous and ordered way too much food!! Then it was off to the rest of the (mostly-unplanned) evening!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Exhausted, Alive, Laughing

We made a whole list of what to blog about tonight on the metro ride home. I'll write it up and post it tomorrow--so many adventures already!

Friday, July 24, 2009

She made it!

Running like crazy to get everything in. My mom made it to Moscow safe and sound, and she wasn't even nervous!!! I arrived at the airport around 9 am, her flight was supposed to come in at 10:10 (I had planned for traffic and didn't run into any), but when I checked the schedule it said they were planning on a 10:40 arrival due to delays in New York. Around 11:00 am she finally got in and we took off for the office. We had our traditional office salad (it's really just a greek salad) with Acia at the office and chatted with the Halls and Andrey. Now we are RUNNING off to meet up with Tyler and Ryan at Izmailovsky rinok, because I still have somehow never quite made it out there. I just realized how little time we really have and how much we want to get in! I'll try and keep the updates coming as we go along! Miss you all!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Last day

Last day at work today. Acia and I went on quite the shopping spree at the rinok today--in addition to our pelmeni, salad, and bread, we decided to buy cashews, chocolate covered almonds, dried apricots, and these yummy cookies shaped like mushrooms, filled with carmel condensed milk and covered with green coconut shavings, with the tops covered in chocolate. What a day--it just wouldn't be right any other way!

Andrey came in and gave me a beautiful decorative plate from Turkey. I love it! I have had so much fun working with him--he has been great to give me projects to work on and help me out when I have questions. I will miss laughing with him over random things in the office. Luckily, he makes a trip out to Utah about once/year, so I will hopefully be running into him again.

I can't believe how fast the time has gone! I have really enjoyed this internship and the different things I've been able to learn from it. I have met so many wonderful people here and will miss them so much!! I am going to be stopping into the office while my mom is here so that she can meet everyone, so that has at least put off the goodbyes for a few more days.

I jotted down a list a couple of weeks back on what I feel I've come to know in Moscow. I thought I'd share a couple of them here:

  • What seems terrifying might just turn out to be one of the best things you have ever done
  • Laughing all day, every day is definitely possible and a whole lot of fun
  • People do CRAZY things in foreign countries
  • A concert from a street band can be more exciting than one you'd pay for
  • Doing country-dance lifts to a street band is better than at a club--plus you get the added benefit of an applause
  • I really enjoy Russian food
  • I often get cravings for tomatoes and could eat them every day, even though I probably never would have sought one out three months ago
  • I don't like caviar
  • Sometimes a smile is only as far away as listing off "Vareniki, yabloki, vafly, borscht!"
  • Naked+honey+coffee grinds=a really great story
  • American food is more than American food--it's culture. And it tastes even better when you haven't seen America for three months
  • Mormon-American food in a park in Russia almost makes you feel like you are on your own back porch
  • Sometimes you have to wait out the rain and cold showers before you'll see the sun. But it makes it that much sweeter when it comes.
  • Strangers can make the best friends
  • Nothing beats a good chat with mom on the phone
  • You shouldn't give out your phone number to people you don't want to hear from hahaha
  • If you wear flip flops on a rainy day, you WILL be covered in mud
  • Change can be hard, but that doesn't mean it is bad
  • If you are anything less than true to yourself, you cheat not only you, but those with whom you associate
  • Sometimes it takes changing--but not lowering--your expectations to be happy
  • I really, really, really love where I come from--meaning my family background, cousins, Orem, Southern Utah, etc.
  • I love and miss Los Angeles
  • I really, really, really like country dancing and country music
  • I not only want to, but am justified in going to law school
  • Borscht at Grabli's is the best
  • I am really interested in studying freedom of thought, conscience, and religion at law school
  • LA is really not that far away from Moscow, thanks to skype
  • I lose my grip on what is normal after being here too long: like when I think one of the coolest things I've ever seen is the rope/pully system where I hang my clothes to dry and make a mental note to buy one when I get home, only to remember later that I have a dryer. This goes hand-in-hand with being dumb-founded when I found out that the people Eli was staying with owned a dryer.
  • I like to cook! A lot!
  • Devouring books like they are going out of style is one of my favorite past times
  • For the first couple of months immersing myself in Russian, my ability to spell English words decreases significantly--I'd say my abilities are cut in half

I realize this is a way random list, and it is far from complete, but when I look back at my time here, these are a few things that come to mind. I wish I had been making a list of lessons learned all along (I made little mental notes in my head, but you can only store up so many in a three-month period!), but this will have to do. I will hopefully add more to it as they come along.

Added the next day: Some of Eli's comment, which you can read in full below. He had so many of my favorite memories, and I know people don't always read comments, so I thought I'd add them here:

"I cannot tell you how nostalgic reading that list just made me. The borscht at Grably. The banya. The street bands. The dancing in the streets and not caring. Feeling like a celebrity. Going to the "beach" and dressing "differently" than we would in the states. Dropping everything to get soaked in rain in a city 8 hours away for no other reason than just to go. Visiting Russian Orthodox Churches with more regularity and respect than even the most faithful followers. Wondering how we're going to get home every night after the transport stops running around 1:00AM. Shopping in the thousand degree stores downstairs for lunch every day, absolutely determined to not go back to Crap Cafeteria. Worrying more about getting tan than getting our jobs done. Missing the metro stop because we're too busy laughing hysterically at something only we would find even remotely funny. Impromptu dance parties after hours in GA's offices. Overeating on stuff that we probably wouldn't touch if it came with a nutrition facts label. Comparing our styles and looks with everyone we see. Trying desperately to blend in with the narod. Saying words like "narod" and "tisyach" like they're common English. Eating stuff off the street with our bare hands without washing them first and not thinking anything of it. IMing all day with promises of leaving the second our bosses take off to go out and do all the stuff listed above.

And I'm so happy that I was pretty much a part of everything on your list. Sorry, this is a novel now. Miss you!!! Can't wait to meet up with you at some point when you get back to catch up and laugh until we cry:_"

So, there you have it, from Eli's view and mine. It only seems right to end it with his comments, as we often stole info/photos from each other's blogs to make sure we got it all in!

And Ethan's comment is the perfect bridge from my mission to my time in Moscow:

Hey, loved reading your blog (as you know) while you've been in Moscow. Reading about your time in Russia has made me extremely nostalgic for P-Days with my favorite zone in Orenburg, and other times on my mission! I'm going to miss the blog, my mission just feels farther and farther away every day. Thanks to your writing, I got to remember some of the feelings I used to experience daily. I loved the feeling I had when reading your adventures, have a safe trip home!

One more time!

Made another trip to Starry Arbat and Hard Rock Cafe last night. More pina coladas and fajitas! And Nastya made it out this time, too, which was great! I again confused the waiter by not letting him take my empty pina colada glass--I wanted to chew on the ice, but I think he just thinks I'm crazy. Then again, he probably thinks we're all a little crazy--between arm wrestling and hitting each other's hands as hard as we could, I can kind of see why...

Afterwards, we went to a mall on Kievskaya. I bought a really cute orange jacket! I can walk away from a lot of potential purchases, but jackets just aren't one of them. I love a good jacket :) I'm not sure that Ryan and Nastya ended up buying anything, but Tyler had a fairly successful trip as well. He found shorts, pants, and a shirt. Not too bad, all in all.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Vafly Vensday

In honor of my last Wednesday in the office, we decided to reinstate the tradition formerly known as Vafly Vensday! We of course bought the vanilla vafly from the woman on the corner of the rinok. Not as fresh as usual--my theory is that they don't rotate through their stock as much because Eli isn't here to buy them all up...

Hard Rock Cafe

God bless America! And Hard Rock Cafe because it reminds me of some of my favorite American things! Tyler, Ryan, and I met up on Starry Arbat yesterday to stroll (gulyat). We decided to stop into Hard Rock Cafe to grab some souvenirs for Ryan's sister. On the way out, he said, "I would have grabbed some food if you guys would have." "I would get something," I said. "Really? Let's go!" So we ordered up a table for three on the second floor and sat down to look at the menu. I was originally planning on only getting a milkshake, but then the boys started looking at mojitos (virgin, of course), so of course I thought I should get a fun non-alcoholic usually alcoholic drink. I opted for a pina colada,Tyler got a strawberry pina colada, and Ryan went with a mojito. I'm not going to lie--I originally started liking pina colada because of the song "Escape (the Pina Colada song)," you know the one that goes, "If you like pina coladas, and getting caught in the rain..." Great song. But between my pina colada in Cancun and the one last night at Hard Rock, I've decided pina coladas can stand on their own. They don't even need the song to be my favorite. It was so yummy!!! And it had a pineapple wedge in it. Going back for more tonight :)

As I said, I only planned on getting a shake or drink, but then as the guys were looking at desserts, I thought, really, can I walk away from a real American dessert after having been in Russia for almost three whole months?! That sounds absurd! So I tried to decide between a brownie ice cream sundae, milkshake, and an apple cobbler. Before I could even decide on this, the guys were looking at hamburgers. What really pushed me over into getting food, however, was when Tyler found fajitas on the menu!!! So I ordered a hickory bacon cheese burger on the condition that Tyler would split his fajitas with me. Ryan also got a burger, and we had an amazing evening remembering some of the really fantastic things about America. The incredible play list of rock music that Hard Rock served up only added to our happy reminiscings!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Phone calls

I ended up staying late in the office so I got to talk to my grandpa a little earlier than expected! So good to "see" him! I also was able to talk to my mom about trains to Petersburg, and whether or not she thinks she could crawl up into one of those little beds on the train. She said she wasn't sure if she had time to prepare for that kind of a gymnatic manuever, reminding me of her age. Which is a young 35 of course. Perhaps a bottom row coupe? Only time and the ticket office will tell...

DeGroff/Evans vacations

Monday morning I got the run down on what happened at Lake Powell. Sounded like a crazy good time--or maybe just crazy! In my mom's words: "It was fun but so typical of our trips! Murphy's law was certainly in effect!" She then went on to write that they lost 2 gas cans that almost hit my brother's car (he was following them down). Somehow they didn't notice the absence of the gas cans for 4 miles. Craig obviously did and went to snag them because he was afraid of setting the desert on fire lol Add to this one engine not working on the houseboat, the generator only working a couple of the days they were there, a broken prop (my dad was watching my nephew Payton surf on the tube and hit some rocks), my uncle's boat breaking down (they had decided to launch from wahweep and make the 90 mile trip to bullfrog but broke down), my cousins who were with him getting picked up by a ranger and sending back help for my uncle, only to have him towed in and almost crash into the rocks, canyon walls, etc., and then my uncle fixing his boat and coming down a couple days later only to break down again!!! Really, we have some great vacation stories--tipping houseboats, losing tires off of camping trailers, getting thrown from horses (this has definitely happened more than once--and actually more than once to me!), getting kicked by a horse (also me), and a host of others! Always a party when the DeGroff/Evans clans get together!

I had mostly come to terms with missing out on Lake Powell until I found out that all the girls went skinny dipping without me! Now that's just sad! And then they got harassed for it the next day as everyone in probably a 3 mile radius heard them out on the boat as they were stripping down. Probably totally inappropriate, but you have to admit--that's hilarious!!! Even more so cuz Bryan casually waltzed in the next morning and in the middle of the conversation threw in "1, 2, 3 take off your tops"!! I come from good stock...

Food and Compliments

Sang with Ashley and Lindsey in church Sunday and Tyler played the piano for us. We will be singing again this next week because it is my last. It'll be fun cuz my mom will be here! She comes Friday, and I can't wait to see her! We have all of our hostels/hotels booked, and I'm booking our last train to Petersburg today. Now I just have to figure out how we're going to fit everything in while she's here!

After church Sunday, I went with a bunch of the study abroad students to Justin and Ann Marie's place for spaghetti. It was fun to get together with everyone, and it was extra convenient cuz I was out of food at my own house haha Tyler and I ended up taking off before the movie, but I'm glad we went.

Speaking of food, Acia and I had the best borscht today. Her sister made it last night, and Acia brought it in for the two of us. So good!!! Probably the best I've had! We rounded out the afternoon with a trip down to the fruit stand at the rinok and bought some grapes that Acia described as "Like those ones that grow on people's front porches in New York--the wild, sour ones" and some apricots. Then we decided it just wouldn't be right if we let our vafli vednesday tradition go un-upheld, so we are reinstating it tomorrow! It will be in special memory of Eli, so of course there has to be ice cream and maybe, just maybe, an office dance party.

Grandpa is being recognized tomorrow for keeping the old west alive and for contributing to the cowboy culture at the Days of 47 tomorrow! I am so excited to talk to him tomorrow over skype!

Tyler and I talked a lot about school and how to figure out what to do with our lives. It actually got me really excited about law school again. I am going to have to hit the books pretty hard to prepare for the LSAT when I get home. Also, I just found out that one of my favorite professors--Wiseman--is teaching a class on theories of diplomacy this fall, so I might enroll in that. Now I have to narrow my class schedule down again. I had just gone from 5 classes to 3, and now I have to go from 4 back to 3. We'll see--but whatever I decide, I am going to have amazing classes this fall! So far it's down to Theories of Diplomacy, News Media and the Foreign Policy Process, International Law, and Religion and Conflict. This last cut is going to be a tough one! I already dropped Conflict Management and Campaign Strategies. Just glad I have one more semester after this to pick up a few more classes!!

Gave the spiritual thought this morning at devotional with legal and public affairs. That was fun and Brother Neiron gave me the best compliment I think I have ever received in my life! He told me I have poise and that if I marry a man worthy of me, I'll end up as a mission mom (Mission President's wife). Hopefully in Russia ;) He then said, "You know, some people don't like being called a lady, but let me tell you the difference between a woman and a lady--a lady knows how to carry herself, and she knows what to say and how to say it. And that's what you are--a lady--you command respect when you walk into a room. Your level of education and ability to think about things sets you apart." That may have been the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.

Elder Manzhos left for Vladivostok today. It has been really great working with him--he is such a good man! I have been really blessed to meet so many amazing people here in Moscow.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

My typical day

Gave myself the pep talk of the century yesterday so I could get in the shower and wash my hair. I don't know about this kick I'm on where I refuse to use buckets of hot water, but man is it cold!!! Luckily I was the only one home, so the yelling, pumping myself up, etc was kept on the hush-hush.

Went to a service project with the youth today. We painted playground equipment at an orphanage 25 minutes outside of Moscow. Turned out really well and was a lot of fun! I definitely got some sun and paint, so I guess I'm not so white anymore.

I've recently become addicted (again) to 24. That Kiefer Sutherland--he's so hot right now. How can you not love Jack Bauer? I've watched 13 episodes of season 3 in about the last 3 days. I think I need help...

On the way back from service, I ended up sitting down in an open seat on the metro on the green line (I had just started a new episode of 24--season 3, episode 14) when this man next to me asked if he had gotten on the right metro to get to Voikovskaya stop. I told him yes, that we were on tverskaya, and that voikovskaya was third from the end. He thanked me and pointed to his cane and said that he was an invalid of the second type and had bad vision. He then proceeded to tell me about I'm not sure what for the next 20 minutes. I caught astronaut, he was born in Moscow--as were a host of other people he thought he should bring to my attention, and something about "youth today." I also caught something about people making food out of dogs. At first I thought this was just part of the dialogue I made up in my head while he was talking, and I even thought--wow, this is a weird one, even for me--only to realize that WAS what he was talking about. Yuck.

As he spoke about these various subjects, I sat and nodded my head and wondered what repsonse I could give that would be appropriate as I didn't understand exactly what he was saying (he didn't have any teeth, which made it difficult to pick out words--the woman across from me gave me an encouraging smile, like just go with it), and I tried to make faces like I was listening. I think he appreciated having someone to talk to, even if I couldn't add much to the conversation besides, "Oh, that's too bad," "uh huh," and, "really?" As Vokovskaya came up, I told him he'd reached his stop and helped him up out of his chair, and tried to put my hand on the door so they wouldn't close on him.

Then on my walk from the metro to my house, I saw this bigger dog start chasing this little dog, and I thought, oh no, he's going to eat that little dog. Gross, but I still watched to see what would happen. I heard a woman yell after him to stop, then she joked about how he was off chasing girls. The bigger dog did NOT eat the other one, it just followed her back to the owner. She said to him, "You naughty dog. I should hang you up in that tree." She was obviously joking and said it in a loving tone. And then the woman she was talking to good naturedly said, "You should be ashamed of yourself," to the dog, and then they kept on chatting.

So there is another typical day here off the Rechnoj Voksal stop at the top of the green line in Moscow.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Defensive Persuasion

Well, it's back to persuasion lessons for Andrey! We decided to reinstate them for my last couple of days in the office. We had a great one today on "Playing Defense" about excuses, justification, apologies, and refusals. It was hilarious and so much fun! Let's just say my Rostov scenario came in handy for this lesson!

Soaking up Moscow

Today has been such a great day! I came into work so happy, and everything since then has been really good. Marina and I decided to make our ever-fashionable Greek salad, even though it was just the two of us at lunch. We had a really great chat. I will miss her so much! I just found out she is leaving Saturday for Cyprus and Israel with her family, so tomorrow is the last day that I will get to see her. She has a trip in mind for Utah next spring, however, so I am hoping to see her again! She thinks I should just come back here for another internship or to work :) It's been great working with her on translating and other aspects of the Liahona (an LDS magazine that has to be translated and geared to all of the different languages in the Europe East Area), and I am glad that she let me be a part of the process. We sat and talked about books and Russian authors that we both like as we finished up our lunch today. I am just sad that my mom won't get to meet her when she comes.

I also finished the Russia country profile ahead of schedule, thanks to some helpful advice from Andrey, so that project is done! Just in the winding down stages of work, and I can't believe I've been here for almost three months already. The time has really gone so quickly!

The day only promises to get better, as I will be heading over to Tyler and Ryan's to make pumpkin pies with Nastya for Svetlana (their landlady).

Met up with Tyler, Chandler, and McKenzie last night to go to a lecture on US-Russian relations. We were to meet the Stanford people at 6:00 pm at the stop Universitet. We were there 15 minutes early, but somehow never saw them. So we decided to go for a walk around the area. I'm sure the lecture would have been great, but I think I preferred the alternative. We ended up hanging out down by the university, listening to a street band, and then sitting by the river talking. Such a beautiful view!! I love the "sun fades," as I call them, because it isn't quite a sunset, as you never see the sun go beyond the horizon. It is more like the sun is no longer visible, and then the day starts to stretch into night, with hints of pink and red in the sky. The closest to a sunset is when the sun is sinking away, and you catch a glimpse of the retreating firey globe through a grove of trees. I tried to take a picture, but it just doesn't quite do it justice. I do love a good Moscow evening.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Disjointed updates

I was walking home from work last night, when I realized there was a huge geyser shooting up in the middle of the street. I'd say it would have reached a second-story window. So crazy! It looked like a pipe had burst, and the asphalt crumbled away and hot water came streaming out. I felt really bad for whoever owned that silver cross-over SUV parked right by it. I'm sure steaming hot water and flying chunks of asphalt can not be good for a paint job. This morning, that section of the road was taped off, and there was a construction crew patching things up. I took a picture of it I'll have to add tomorrow.

Found out a couple of things about myself today, thanks to BBC personality tests. I am attracted to masculine faces and introverts. Huh. I also realized, thanks to Andrey, that cottage cheese is pretty good with sour cream and sugar.

Also, I forgot to mention that Monday night I came home and Irina had been making...let's call it stew. When she asked me if I would like to take some to work the next day, I said, "The soup?" "It's not soup!" she indignantly replied. "Oh, I'm sorry, what is it called?" "Well, well, it's..." and then she proceeded to name all of the things in it, like chicken, vegetables, broth. I don't know how I mistook this for soup. We finally settled on calling it a Bulgarian dish, not a Bulgarian soup, mind you, but a Bulgarian dish.

Spent the morning cursing the lack of hot water. I gave in and washed my hair, though I stubbornly refused to pour a bucket of water over me and opted for the cold water flowing from the shower head. Sometimes stubbornness only hurts yourself.

Last night, Sergey came in and asked if I was sick. "Nope, I was tired so I took a nap." "Well, are you bored? You've been home all evening." I was watching a movie on my iPod at the time. "Not really, just decided to rest a little." "Oh, okay." I'm taking this as an indicator that I have really lived Moscow up to the fullest extent--my nights chilling at home are few and far between.

My family has gone to Lake Powell without me, but I'm sure it cannot compare to the joy of translating names and positions of participants on the program for the upcoming St. Petersburg conference. I for one am not missing tubing, cliff jumping, all of my cousins, brothers, sisters, nephews, and nieces playing without me. Not one bit...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Who is John Galt?

It's official! I have read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I thoroughly enjoyed the read! Her philosophy gave me a lot to think about. Often, I found myself agreeing with what she was saying, at other times I agreed with aspects of what she said, with exclusions and additions of my own, and at some other few points saying, "hmmm...not exactly, but I see where she's going with this." All in all, a great read, and I do recommend it! The hours spent reading on my couch-bed, in the fading hours of day on a bench near my apartment, on the metro, at Kolomenskii, and in my office on lunch break were well worth the effort.

Got a good-sized piece of it read at Kolomenskii park yesterday (Tyler was good enough to let me talk him into reading at the park), after a rigorous test of skills in flexibility and struggling to keep a solid hold on blades of grass. I threw in some cream puffs and had a lovely afternoon!

Back at the Beginning

Every once in a while, life just comes full circle. Like this morning when I pulled a pot of hot water off of the stove to take a bucket shower. I couldn't help but think of those fun May days when this was my routine. I put my hair up in defiance, as my silent revolt against the lack of hot water. Only in Russia. At least as far as I know. There may be another country where the government plans to shut off the hot water for two to three week periods every summer, but I haven't heard of it.

Then there was my trip back to crap cafeteria (given this name by Eli after the golubtsi incident) at lunch today. Andrey asked if I'd like to go eat up there with him. I told him that I had made a solemn oath never to return, but sure, why not, I'd check it out with him. We walked up to the counter, I smelled the familiar scent of not-so-yummy food. That was when the name crap cafeteria came back to me. "I think I'm just going to buy some bread to go with my tomatoes," I said as I turned and walked out, "See you in the office."

Even the tomato sandwiches took me back. Every time someone toasts bread and eats it with tomoatoes, we all think of President Gibbons. I am pretty sure he ate the same meal for lunch every day--for good reason, it's delicious! So whenever anyone has tomato sandwiches, we ask if they are eating po-Gibbonsu, which means in the style of Gibbons.

Then there was that conversation with Elder VanDyke in Ukraine. I used to be in touch with him a lot as we planned for President Uchtdorf's visit. Today I was calling to confirm some particulars on the organization of public affairs in Ukraine. When I told him it was me calling, he said, "Where have you been? It's been too long!"

Then, as I sat staring out the window of the kitchen around lunch time, I thought to myself, where did those days go when I'd hope that Rick would be out of the office so that Eli could get off early, and we could skip out to go to some new Orthodox Church? What made this even better was returning to my desk and finding an email from Eli saying he had just told Uncle Will he missed waiting til 3:00 when Rick left so he could "go get Kimberly and she would sneak out and we would spend the rest of the day laying on the beach, eating borsch and vafly, and being hysterical groupies for mediocre street bands."

I guess that's what it means to come full circle.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Lowdown

Hmm...not sure how that's written. Anyway, update for the last little while:

Thursday: Walked miles and miles around Moscow, just looking for something new to see. Ended up at a random mall that was constructed to look like a building in the capital of Armenia. The evening ended with a pretty cool boat tour of Moscow.

Friday: Off to Novidevichy Convent in the rain, back to the Ukrainian restaraunt Taras Bulba for some borscht and meat pelmeni, off to Tyler's apartment where we hung our heads upside down at the window of his 9th story apartment building, country dance moves, and Meet Joe Black. Oh, and did I mention a hilariously awkward conversation with my parents over gmail? Or those really awkward, completely transparent genie pants Svetlana somehow talked me into wearing? I wouldn't suggest standing really close to a sunny, open window in those. Wrap up in a blanket instead!

Saturday: Finally find the right stop to meet up with the study abroad students to go to Victory Park (how I confused park culturi with park pobedi, I'm not sure--but let me say, had I gone to the right stop the first time I would have been 10 minutes early instead of 30 minutes late. Thank goodness I ran into Eric on his way to meet up with everyone). Took a tour around the museum, where there were lots of great paintings depicting WWII, or The Great Patriotic War as they say here. Then we wandered the grounds, stuck our feet in a fountain, and skipped around on our way to McDonalds where I got a MacFresh and an ice cream with chocolate sauce. Then we all took off for the mall, but after about two stores, Tyler and I decided we were done shopping and would be better off taking a nap or reading. So I cuddled up with some Atlas Shrugged before heading off to check email at my office, as I somehow hadn't made it to work Friday.

Sunday: I'm sitting in sacramaent meeting when I hear someone say, "Kim DeGroff!" I turn around, and there is Andrey Rybin, one of my friends from BYU! I tell you, Moscow is the crossroads of the world! I went up to sing before the meeting started, and he held up his hand and pointed to his wedding ring. I know, I mouthed to him, congratulations! I couldn't decide if he was just excited to tell me, or felt like he needed to clue me in on this before I got any ideas. He and I had gone on a date about two years ago--he was actually the first Russian I ever went out with. haha Turns out he and his wife, who I was also able to meet, were married two weeks ago. They left for their honeymoon today and will be apart for 5 months as she will be in Lithuania finishing up school while he finishes up at LDS Business College. Then I sang in Relief Society with Ashley and Lindsey, and Tyler played for us. We sang Lead Kindly Light. I had the alto part. It actually went really well and we've been asked to sing in sacrament meeting next week. Also saw my favorite Russian girls. Additionally, I got my leg groped by an old man at church. That was startling. Then off to Tyler's where we took a personality test that pegged both of us. Him as a realist, me as a provider apparently. It even told me I like to tell people stories from my life, which made both of us laugh, cuz I pretty much do that all the time. Then we helped Svetlana make Vereniki, and I was so proud of myself--I learned how to do this cute braided design in the edge of the dough. I might just be a homemaker yet! haha I have decided I would really like cooking if I did it more often and am looking to take classes this fall when I return to the states.
That's all for now. I'm sure there will be much more to come.

Online Dating and Getting Caught

One of my friends recently joined on online networking site. She asked me to check out her profile and told me I could look around the site to see if anyone interesting had posted profiles. Well, as I was searching through her profile, a request to chat came on. I totally panicked! I had not anticipated this. I didn't want to pretend I was my friend and chat, but I didn't want to reject the chat in case it was someone who my friend would possibly be interested in. "Oh, no. What do I do? What do I do?" I kept saying. Finally I accepted the chat and decided to be up front about who I was.

The conversation went something like this:
mysteryguy: Hi!
me: Hi. Sorry. This is Kim. I hacked this account.
mysteryguy: haha nice. Are you on facebook?

I went on to explain that my friend had subscribed, but told me I could look around. I told him we how we knew each other, that I was in Moscow and not expecting any one to catch me.

So then he says: oh, Jewish Russian?
me: no. Mormon American lol

Pretty sure I surprised him with that one. We are now friends on facebook, and should I ever get bored in LA, I guess I'll have someone to chat with hahaha

When a second chat request came up, I decided it was time to bail. I quickly described again how I had hacked in, then explained it wasn't so much hacking as just checking out a profile. I left him with a promise to abandon my life of crime, where men, women, and children were obviously my victims.

This whole experience did make me think: dang, I'd be really good at this online dating thing! and then I went back to my real life in Moscow.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Grandpa Alma

I talked to my mom this morning, and she reminded me again that my Grandpa is being recognized as oldest cowboy of Iron County! I am so proud of him! He has done a lot for the community there, and everyone loves him! On July 22, two days before Pioneer Day, he will attend the Days of 47 rodeo in Ogden, where the pictures of all of the cowboys chosen from the different counties will be shown. I really wish that I could be there to see him! I am so grateful to have him for a grandpa--he is always loving and kind. Even when he teases us, we know he loves us! I always get to stop in and say hi when I'm passing through Parowan on my drove home from Los Angeles and am grateful for the talks we've been able to have. I remember leaving this last time and crying when I told him goodbye. I can't wait to see him again, tell him I love him, and give him a big hug and a kiss on the cheek!

Monday, July 6, 2009


I love Sundays here--and this last one was great! I decided to go to the Arbatsky branch, which starts at 2:00 pm, and I'm so glad I did! I got to see some of my favorite people in Russia--Masha, Vasya, and these two adorable sisters who were just baptized last weekend (I missed seeing Masha's sister, Sonya, who I adore, as she had already left for home). I was sad to have missed the baptism of Zardis and Tomaris, as I was in Rostov, but it was great to talk with them. They are so strong! Both bore their testimonies. We had some great ones on prayer this week, for which I was very grateful. It was obvious that the girls (Zardis and Tomaris) had had some pretty tough trials this last week, but their faith pulled them through. They are amazing examples to me! I talked with them for a bit after sacrament meeting--about how their week had been, and that I was glad that despite their trials they were here and happy! We talked about random things, about how they loved that my name was written in gold lettering on the front of my scriptures and about my journal where I take notes in church. I let them thumb through both of them, and explained that my parents had bought me this set of scriptures specifically for my mission to Russia. Loved catching up with them!! Not to mention Tomaris said she loves talking with me and hearing me speak Russian because I have a beautiful accent. She is truly a sweetheart if she can put up with my Russian!! I've written about this before, but there are times when I am very self-conscious about my Russian, and other times that it just flows. Well, I feel it has been kind of shaky lately, but all of the sudden Sunday I felt comfortable again. I think it has to do with whom I talk to. It is so much easier to speak with the young women of the Church--they are so sweet and put me at ease. I feel like we are able to strengthen one another with our testimonies. I will miss them very much!!

July 4th in Russia

I finally saw the inside of the Kremlin! Little did I know it was like a little town, with streets, buildings, and churches. I went with the study abroad group Saturday on their tour. The churches were beautiful, and we even caught a "parade." We took quite a few pictures, standing on our tip toes so that we could see over the crowd. Despite a chilly wind, it was fun to see everyone and go on the excursion.

Then it was off to Nastya's for a movie and some "pie" we had bought at a local store. We watched Serendipity in Russian and had tea--my favorite here--Turkish apple. So yummy! We had originally planned to make the American festivities, but after sitting down to a movie, we realized the last thing we wanted to do was go pay 500 rubles to stand in the cold and wait a couple of hours for fireworks.

We decided instead on going to a gathering that two of the study abroad students were hosting. It amounted to an ice cream social with a variety of toppings and cookies to eat with it. This meant I would shortly be having flashbacks of the vafli/ice cream/Die Hard/dance party Eli, Acia, and I had held in the office a couple of months ago! Nope, I didn't learn my lesson--I had vafli and ice cream together again! At least this time it was only one vafli, and not 1/2 a kilo. Even this small amount was enough to make my body remember that I should never eat vafli and ice cream at the same time--I felt like the sugar was literally surging through my veins, right up to my brain! The effect it had on me was short-lasting, luckily and had worn off in minutes.

Lots of good conversations, card games (hearts, etc), and I even heard some fireworks :)

Happy Independence Day!

I was on the metro on my way to meet up with the study abroad students to tour the Kremlin. One stop before I was to get off, a couple walked in. The man said, in the most American English I have heard in a while, "They said it was just one stop. I don't really know, but I think we just get off at the next one." With this, they walked over the the metro map posted on the wall and tried to make sense of it. Then the woman turned around, and I smiled. She gave a little start as she smiled back. She then smiled even bigger with a questioning look in her eyes.

"Hi," I said in MY very American English and smiled again. "Do you need help with anything?" She looked relieved as she answered that they would love help. Her husband was walking around with a metro map and cash in his hand--I figured they were toursits. Turns out they were going to the Kremlin as well, so I told them they could get off at the next stop with me. Then I turned to them and said, "Happy 4th of July!" She smiled and said, "Oh yah, they don't celebrate that here do they? Happy 4th of July!"

I told them of a 4th of July celebration that was taking place in the city that night--complete with baseball, concerts, American food, a speech from an ambassador, and fireworks. They seemed pretty excited about it.

It was so fun to run into them! What better day than independence day to run into a couple of really nice Americans from San Diego who sometimes do some skiing in Park City? I guess I got my American 4th of July after all.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Swan Lake

Tyler and I went to Swan Lake last night here in Moscow. He met me on Tverskaya with a single yellow rose--it is beautiful and I thought that was so sweet of him. Then it was off to the ballet! I loved it! The interior of the theater is decorated in dark blue and white, with beautiful chandeliers. The stage scenery was stunning, the dancers fantastic, and the costumes gorgeous, not to mention the music was incredible!!! I am always amazed watching ballet--by the coordination, precision, and hours of training the performers put in. All in all, the evening was wonderful!

Detained in the airport...

I was just reading an article my friend Leah posted a link to from the New York Times. I glanced at one of the side bars, and it said, "Have airport screenings gone too far?" To which I answer: yes. After you hear this story, you will know why. I'm taking this as a sign that I needed to finally write about my little adventure trying to get on a plane back to Moscow from Rostov.

So, it all started out really nice--the Sargsyans drove me to the airport, waited as I got my boarding pass, and then sat and chatted with me so I wouldn't have to wait alone so long before my plane left.

The plane was scheduled to leave at 7:00 pm exactly. It was about 5:40 pm when we decided we should say our goodbyes so I could go through security before most of the other passengers showed up. We said our goodbyes, gave out hugs all around, and I made my way to the desk where they take passports/tickets just before heading through security. The Sargsyans were standing there, watching on to make sure that I was really off on my way.

I handed my passport and ticket to the officer, who glanced at it and gave it to the next man. He looked at me, then back at my passport. "Where are your other documents?" he asked in Russian. I answered him in Russian that he had all my documents. He asked for my registration in Ulyanovsk, and I said that I live in Moscow. "Well, where is your registration," he asked again. This was going to be difficult. "You have ALL of my documents. That is all that I have." "Where are you studying?" "I am here on an internship--it counts as study." He stood up and led me over to airport security. I put my bags through and walked through the metal detector. As I went to pick up my bags, one of the women working there picked up my Bible and started leafing through it. "Bible?" she asked. Hoping there was not going to be a problem over this, I answered that it was (I had worried that it would be difficult to obtain a visa to Russia as I had served here as a missionary three years ago). She looked at me, and then set it back down.

“You must have registration,” the officer said again. “That is all I have.” “Who came with you?” I pointed to Ani’s family, who were all anxiously looking on to see what the problem was. He went over to them, and I could tell Ani was upset as she was talking to him. I heard her say, “She doesn’t know all of the laws. This isn’t fair. She hasn’t done anything.” Then she turned to me and asked where my registration was, and if they had asked for it at the airport in Moscow. I told her they hadn’t, and she turned to the officer and said that they should have said something there before I left if there was going to be a problem.

He came back over to me and said we would need to go and talk to someone—the director. Ani and I followed behind me as he left this building and headed for one next to it. “Do I need to call a lawyer?” I asked him. “We’re just going to talk to someone. It will be fine. If you want to call someone you can, but we just need to talk.” So I called one of the members of the presidency to get the number of our lawyer. He was so nice, and gave it to me, telling me to call him and tell him how it all turned out. His concern almost brought me to tears, but then I got control of myself as I hung up, turned to Ani, and told her I had the number.

Ani’s mom had caught up to us as we entered the second building, went up a flight of stairs, and were ushered into a room where the “director” sat. The officer started in on how I didn’t have my documents, Ani tried to explain that they hadn’t told me I needed them in Moscow.

I calmly explained to the officer that I did not have the documents with me, I wasn’t told that I would need my Moscow registration to go, and that had I known it was the law, I wouldn’t have left them.

I was fairly calm and cooperative until he brought up how much I could be fined. Just the day before I had been talking with someone who brought missionaries in and out of the city, and he explained that they were often stopped and that the officers wanted a bribe. He even told me how he had been pulled over several times for ridiculous things. He had been pulled over so many times, he was sure he had all the documents he needed. Then the last time, after seeming disappointed that he had all the documents he needed, they asked where his first aid kit was. This threw him, but then he remembered seeing one, so he produced it from under the seat. The officer looked really confused and at a loss for what to say. Then he pulled himself together and said, okay, so you have a first aid kit—but where are the blocks you would put behind your wheels if you were to park on a hill? At this, my friend, deciding he was fed up, pointed to some rocks by the side of the road and said that they were right there. Well, needless to say, he was fined.

So with this mind set, I was a little upset that I was being jerked around so that someone could get a bribe. As the officer started throwing out amounts, I turned to him and said, “Whatever! There is no way.” He was a little taken aback at my reaction. I’m not sure if he was thinking I would jump to just pay the fine, but he definitely wasn’t expecting me to not buy into it (I also don’t think that he anticipated that I would be able to speak more than introductory Russian). What was even worse was that the two officers couldn’t agree on what I had done wrong. One was saying one thing, the other something else. So the first officer said, “What do you mean, whatever? That’s how much they could fine you in Moscow!” To which I thought, what do you care how much I would get fined in Moscow? Let them deal with it, but I decided I should cool it and act rationally.

I asked what was required of me, and he said that I should have someone fax the documents. I told him no one had access to them, there was no fax machine. He told me to have the people who registered me get it to me, after all, I hadn’t gone and registered myself, right? As a matter of fact, I had, I told him. I was given the documents I needed and went and did it myself my first three days in Moscow, according to law. “Well, have someone send the documents.” “I am holding the key to my apartment. The documents are in my room with the number of the bureau written on them where I registered. Who do you think is going to get those documents for you? I have my keys. The documents are not going to be sent to you. What do you need me to do? I would give you the document if I had it, but I don’t. What do we you need from me? The documents are not an option.”

He apparently gave up on getting anywhere in all this with me and decided to leave. This left me to deal with the director. At this point, I was worrying that I was going to miss my flight. It was already 6:30. I called a lawyer, told him in Russian that they wouldn’t let me get on the plane, and handed the director the phone. The director said, “No, no, we’ll let her get on—she didn’t understand. We’re just trying to warn her she could get a fine in Moscow.” “Wait, I can leave?” I said after he got off the phone. “Then we’re done here. I will get the documents when I am in Moscow. Thank you for the information. I will make sure to have that document with me when I travel in the future.” And I turned and walked out.

It was about 6:40 at this point, so we hustled off to get me through security. I told Ani and her mom goodbye, the officer who had originally pulled me aside waved me on through, and I was off to my terminal. I handed my ticket to the woman working there, and she said, “Oh, you need to hurry! Go on!” So I ran down the stairs, jumped on the shuttle that would take me to my plane, and within 60 seconds, it pulled away from the curb. I had made it!

As I settled into my seat, I went to call President Gibbons to tell him I was okay. And then I realized my phone was out of money. So I tried a text instead, hoping I would have a ruble or two left—just enough to send it. Nothing. So I leaned forward and tapped the man’s arm in front of me. When he turned around, I saw that he was about my age. In Russian I asked, “Is there any way I can use your phone? Even just to send a text. They wouldn’t let me on the plane, and I have to let someone know I got on.” So we started chatting as he turned his phone back on so I could make my call. I got a hold of President and told him everything was fine and that I was on my way back.

The flight back was really nice, but as we neared the Moscow airport, I began to worry. Ani and her mom had warned me that the officers may have called ahead to make sure someone checked my documents (after all, this was the reason they said they were making me stay). Ani said they would have called ahead and given my race, hair color, etc, so that someone could stop me. I was so not wanting to deal with this. So, I thought about what I should do. Now this may be completely silly and over the top, but hey, I’d had enough of sitting in little rooms having officers get angry with me. Plus, it was kind of fun and James Bond-esque, or maybe more Alias. Either way, here’s what I did:

My hair had been down at the Rostov airport, so I threw it back in a tight bun. I also decided a little change in clothing was needed—I had been wearing two shirts, so I took off the first one—I was now wearing black instead of brown. For an extra touch (and knowing that I look more American with my glasses off than on), I put my sunglasses on. To round it all off, the Russian guy whose phone I had used conveniently struck up a conversation with me on the way out, so we walked into the airport and through it together. As we parted ways, I headed for the door and down the sidewalk. I had made it!!!

Just then, I got a call from Ani—I told her everything I’d done and we laughed. At least it had all worked out okay and I was on my way home! I jumped on the bus that was headed for Rechnoj Voksal, which is the metro stop closest to me. When I stepped in the bus, a man that had been sitting in my row on the plane recognized me and said hello and pointed to the last spot on the bus, which was right beside him, and said he’d saved me a good spot (of course he was anticipating that I would come on this bus, we just laughed that twice we would end up by one another).

It was a very pleasant ride home, besides the girl on the bus who refused to pay until she sat down. I tried to give her my seat, but she wouldn’t take it. The man next to me told me not to pay any attention to her, and we chatted a bit. He’s decided he’ll approve of me becoming an ambassador or at least a diplomat to Russia when the time comes J Very nice man. We parted our ways at the metro stop with a smile and a best to you.

When I got home I told Sergei and Irina my story. They seemed to enjoy it! Sergei especially said that I had done just right in calling a lawyer and not giving into them wanting money. He said, “Oh that must have been great! Can you imagine? Not only did they not expect you to be confident in talking back because they would’ve expected you to be scared, but there is no way they would have expected you to speak Russian!” So we laughed a bit about it, then I headed off to the shower and promptly to bed.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


I'm hoping to make tomorrow a good blog day, but til then, here are some random events from the week:

I was mistaken for an "Arabka" (Arab) on the market the other day. Maya introduced me to her sister, and she said, "Oh, you're an arabka?" I couldn't decide if it was the blond hair, blue eyes, or pasty white skin that gave me away. In the end, I'm chalking it up to Ani's accent rubbing off on me. Not that she's an "Arabka," but still. It seems slightly plausible.

I was also asked if I am Polish coming back from the airport, and then mistaken for a Russian yesterday. A little bit of everything it turns out! I do love most things international!

Watched Interview with a Vampire yesterday with Tyler. I definitely owe him something after recommending that movie. Not to mention we missed Eugene Onegin. What can you do?

In better news, Tyler and I are going to Swan Lake tonight!!!! So excited to see it! I've really been wanting to go to the ballet since I got here, especially Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty. And we officially have tickets!

Ummm, also have to write about the craziness in getting detained at the airport. sheesh. I also made peach cobbler for Ani's family, slightly burned but still good haha

Tuesday went to a couple of bookstores looking for LSAT prep books--no go. But I did buy a great book of short stories from Mark Twain--in English and Russian. Should be good practice. The English version is on the left, with the Russian on the right.

Conference called with some old friends from So much fun!! And caught up with my cousins and Naomi, too!

That mostly covers the craziness. Until tomorrow!