Food always restores my good mood! I'm in my intern training at Language Link's Central School in Moscow, but we're on our lunch now so I'm diving into an ochen fkoosna (very delicious) sandwich: soft, freshly baked rye bread with honey and smetana (kind of like sour cream; Russians put it in everything here!). For dessert I've got an apple and a slice of the zucchini bread that Rhea and I baked yesterday. So, despite current roommate woes, all feels right with the world!
I still have quite a bit of "catching up" to do on this blog, so I'm going to go back to where I left off, my first morning in Mytishchi. Rhea was told by the administrators to bring me to the Central School for 10am, so we woke up around 8 and boarded a marshrutka (bus) that would take us to the metro station. Although some suburbs of Moscow have their own metro stations, Mytishchi does not so in order to get into the city, you need to take a bus ride that can be anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour and a half, depending on the traffic. Generally, it's pretty fast in the morning, although friday afternoons are deadly!! After getting off at Medvedkovo station, Rhea helped me buy a metro pass and then down the escalator we went. The metro is an amazing deal here - 1,000 roubles buys you a 60 pass card. Once you swipe your pass, you can ride the metro for as long as you want, because everything is connected underground. Its also very fast - trains come approximately every minute. And it is every bit as beautiful as legend has it. When I get internet back in my flat, I'll post some of the hastily snapped photos I took (supposedly, it is illegal to take pictures in the subway, but I did it anyways, just discreetly so the militsiya wouldn't notice). The first time Rhea took me on the metro, I couldn't stop staring around me in amazement. Every station has a different theme and feel to it. Some glorify soldiers and victory, others the distinct nationalities of the Soviet Union (Uzbek, Turkmenistani, Georgian, etc), and they all have delightful, fun-to-pronounce names: Babushkinskaya (grandmother), Botaniicheskii sad (Botanical Garden), Sveevlovo, and Novoslobodskaya are just a few of the stations I whiz past on my way to work each morning. It's usually REALLY crowded in there, and nobody smiles. It can actually get a little depressing, looking around at all those somber, stoic Slavic faces (ooh, how's that alliteration?)
I have to admit that a part of me still gets a little apprehensive when I'm on the metro. The terrorist attack that took place on the Moscow metro was only a few months ago, and sometimes when I'm standing in a train built on Stalin's orders, hurtling through the belly of the earth, I can't help worrying that another bombing might happen. But then again, you could worry about stuff like that your whole life, and never actually enjoy living, so I just try to stay in the moment and appreciate the history and architecture around me. I have to change trains twice in my commute, and both times there's an escalator that is SEVEN stories high! The first time I took it, Rhea told me not to look down - which I did immediately, naturally - and had the worst case of vertigo! It stretches upwards forever, never seeming to end, and then finally you get to the top and look down and you can't even see the beginning. Some mornings (when I'm in a rush or feeling ambitious) I try to walk up the whole thing, but I usually end up panting rather unattractively and so I just stop. Plus they keep the metro VERY hot down there! This will be nice in the winter for sure, but it's not exactly conducive to exercising, so I mostly just stand there and let the escalator do the work!
After getting off at Novoslobodskaya (where the first thing that greets us is, ironically, a huge "Mak Donalds"!) Rhea showed me how to get to the Central School. It's just down a block or two from the station. The walk is very interesting: there are lots of vendors selling everything from flowers to pirated dvds to bras; there is a "Coffee House", a chain of Starbucks-esque cafes; a sushi restaurant (sushi is very popular here, and you can find "Yakatoria"'s, a popular sushi brand restuarant, everywhere!); an amazing and unfairly placed shoe store that I have to walk past every day (but I guess that's a good exercise in self-control :); a few banks and businesses; and a perfume shop, Bon Joli, that my friend Vic and I duck into every so often on lunch for a spritz of Burberry Brit (very school-girlish of us, I realize!) The whole walk (if you don't stop to buy some local veggies or stare longingly at the perfect pair of slouchy leather boots) takes about 5 minutes, and then you go through security and you're at the Central School.
The first day of intern training was relatively easy and informal, as everyone was mostly still jet-lagged and getting used to being here. I met the other interns and immediately felt such a rapport with them - they are all so fantastic, funny, and easy to get along with that this whole intern training has been a blast! There are twelve of us: three Brits, seven Americans, one German, and one Canuck - me! There's a LOT of friendly teasing, and everyone's kind of pinpointed me as the scapegoat for a lot of the jokes, I think because Canadians are kind of half American, half British...so we don't really belong to either group! Sometimes Zach, who's from Minnesota, will stick up for me because he says Minnesota is like the "second Canada", as will Vic who is British and loyally supports a Commonwealth nation! :) Just about all the interns love Russia and Russian culture, language and history, so it's been amazing being with people who share the same love for Mother Russia that I do!
Four of us interns went out for lunch that day to the Coffee House down the street, where I had a caprese salad (spinach, boccocini, tomatoes, and an olive oil/balsamic vinegar dressing) and a cup of tea. I really wanted to get a picture of us there, so we asked a man sitting near us, and he was so friendly and effusive we ended up talking to him for another 10 minutes. He asked me where I was from, and when I said Canada, he perked up immediately: "Ahhh, Ca-NAHD-ka!! Home of hockey, hmm?" I smiled and nodded enthusiastically. "You like Aleksandr Ovechkin, da?" he asked next. "Uhh..." I stammered, now feeling slightly awkward. How do I tell this kind old man that most Canadians actually think Ovechkin is an arrogant jerk who disrespected Don Cherry and that, no matter how good Ovechkin is, Crosby is generally considered more of a gentleman? Hmm...some things are better left lost in translation, I think. So pulling the diplomatic, ambassador to Canada role, I smiled brightly and said, "Oh yes, we like Ovechkin! Very good hockey player!" and just left it at that. Forgive me, Michael?
Coming home from the first day of intern training, I got very lost (again...this theme will repeat itself for the next few blog entries, I'm afraid!) but I eventually found my way home and although it was raining at this point, my spirits were in no way as dampened as my feet and the bottom of my trousers. I was just SO excited to be in Russia and to have met such awesome people so far that nothing could bring me down. And so I changed into cozy warm clothes, made some hot tea, and just sat down and relaxed in my little kitchen, feeling like it had been a great first day in Russia.