Sunday, December 26, 2010

С Рождеством!

Merry Christmas! I am cozily ensconced in my flat right now, sipping tea and relaxing after the craziness that was this past week. Its been a good Boxing Day - precisely BECAUSE I didn't go out shopping! I know that Russians don't have "Boxing Day" here, so the mall might not have been that bad, but it is approaching New Year's - the BIG holiday here in Russia - so who knows. I've heard that big bulk stores like Ashan (a version of Costco or Sam's Club) have been absolutely packed since the beginning of December, full of people getting ready for New Year's Eve.

So I decided to clean my flat, download a tv show my friend Kasia has recommended that I've never seen before, and catch up on my blog and emails. Oh, and kick off what is going to be an AMAZING TWO WEEKS OFF WORK!!! :)

I am so excited to catch up on sleep, eat meals at regular times (ie. NOT at 9:30pm after teaching/starving all day), go on some good long runs, and explore Moscow!! Get some culture in, go to musuems, do a little travelling around the Golden Ring...I can't wait!

Don't get me wrong; I really do love teaching even if I'm not too crazy about the administrators. But two weeks off is such a welcome vacation right now. I do LOVE my students, however, and will miss them, and not just because on Christmas Eve I received some amazing and thoughtful gifts from them! (Although that helps...hee hee)

My intermediate teen class, minus Nastia who was
taking the pic and 2 other boys who were absent.
They gave me three cute Christmas ornaments and
some chocolate!

So, how did I spend my Christmas in Russia?

I had to teach on Christmas Eve, which wasn't awesome but I shouldn't complain because Rhea, Polly, Micah, and some of the other teachers had to work on Christmas :( Plus, I took advantage of it being Christmas Eve and watched "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and the "Glee" Christmas episode with one of my classes! We also listened to Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" and did a fun gap-fill activity with that. I tried to get my advanced teen class to watch a Christmas movie, but they all voted in favour of "The Vampire Diaries" I acquiesced, because secretly I love that show too.

If I had had more time, I would have watched more of the classic Christmas movies with my students - Frosty, Rudolph, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and of course my personal faves... A Christmas Story and Home Alone. Christmas is not Christmas without SOMEONE getting a bb gun!!

Then after teaching, I hopped on the bus and headed into Moscow to meet Iain and Ilya at Barrikadnaya metro station. From there, we walked the fifteen minutes to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. It's the Catholic church here in Moscow, which I've been to once before with Rhea (a memorable occasion, as we were expecting an English Mass so imagine our surprise when the priest started praying in Spanish!)

The Cathedral has several Masses in different languages at different times of the day, which is great but I have yet to actually make it to an English-language one! Christmas Eve Mass was in Polish! (Iain and I figured that if a group of people know how to do Catholic, it would be the Poles...and we were right...the church was packed! Who knew there were that many Polish expats in Moscow?)

It was very nice but we weren't too impressed with the priest. I think I've been spoiled by having such great priests back in Canada - Father Mike, my university priest, really knows how to talk to and relate with young people, and the same goes for Father Phil, my family priest. He is also a pro at the quick but meaningful homily :)

Anyways, I got back to my flat around midnight and stayed up for another two hours doing pretty much just felt too weird to go to bed on Christmas Eve alone. Waking up on Christmas morning was even worse - it just felt like any other ordinary day! However, that completely changed once I made it over to Iain and Rhea's flat. It was all decorated for Christmas, the turkey was already in the oven so the kitchen smelled AMAZING, and an Irish radio station was blasting Christmas music! Here are some pics from yesterday's festivities:

Just a typical day in Rhea and Iain's flat: Rhea at her "home gym"
and Iain in his new dressing gown, which he accessorized
with a pipe. Very distinguished...

Is it a dressing gown (Iain's word), a housecoat (mine), or
a robe (Rhea's)? Or is this another example of Irish vs.
Canadian vs. American English? We couldn't agree!

What would Mrs. Beaton do? The key question
of the night.

Sophie making her salads in the bathroom, on top
of the washing machine, because of serious lack of prep
space in the kitchen!

Iain and I

Loosey Goosey and Lurkey Turkey, as Iain nicknamed his masterpieces, both prepared the Mrs. Beaton 19th century way :)

So good!

Ilya and I, pre-wine spill all down his shirt!

Rhea, Polly and I opening up our gifts from Iain -
Christmas pudding scented bath bombs from

So excited! I love LUSH and the fact that there's
one here in Mytishi! Thank you Iain!! :)

Gone With the Wind (in Russian! A fantastic gift
from Micah!) and running socks (from my amazing family) -
clearly you guys know me too well! :)

This one's for you Dad - my new (mismatched, duh...its me we're talking
about!) running socks

Yesterday was a great time spent with my friends, who have definitely become my second family. The food was incredible, the company was fantastic...but the highlight of yesterday was definitely my Skype session with my family back in Canada. They were just sitting down to Christmas breakfast when I called them, and I got to see all their presents and open up the present they sent me! As already mentioned, I got some awesome new running socks from my faaaavourite store, lululemon, as well as a gorgeous argyle sweater (perfect fit!) and a skirt that will be great for work.

Jacqueline gave me an OPI nail polish in "An Affair in Red Square" so I fully plan on painting my nails with it and then going off to Red Square in the hopes of meeting some dashingly handsome Russian hockey player. Or, you know, just a Russian who doesn't have a mullet and an alcohol-dependecy problem. I'm not picky.

I WISH these were my nails...sadly, they are not. I googled
"OPI An Affair in Red Square" and this came up. New Year's
Resolution though - gorgeous nails!!

Anyways, despite the power going out a few times in the flat, the internet stayed strong and I had an amazing time talking to my family. I am seriously in awe of today's technology, and so, so thankful for it!

I think this actually may have been my favourite Christmas yet. You know how as you get older, Christmas starts to be less...magical? The Christmases of my childhood are unforgettable because of their very magic, but my Christmas this year is equally so, just for a different reason. I was thinking about this on the walk back to my flat last night. Perhaps the hot whisky with lemon and cloves I had been drinking with Iain and Micah in the kitchen helped prompt this sentimental reflection, but here goes anyways!

Just about every Christmas movie out there is dedicated to discovering the "true meaning of Christmas," and that phrase gets thrown around a lot, to epically cheesy proportions. But, at the risk of making this blog just as cheesy (meh, it probably already is!), I have to say that this year I discovered...yes, the true meaning of Christmas (I totally understand if you're rolling your eyes at this point, and I'll forgive you if you stop reading at this point! Although if you've made it this far, through all my pictures, I'm assuming you're a dedicated reader!).

The original Christmas story is centered on a family - Mary, Joseph, and Jesus - in circumstances that were definitely less than perfect, less than ideal, less than traditional. My Christmas this year was also not a traditional one for me, but it allowed me to see just how important and special my family is -both my family in Canada and my second family here in Russia. And it also made me realize, in a deeper sense, something I've believed in since I was around 15, when my family moved from Sarnia to Cambridge.

The word for home is family. Home isn't necessarily a building, a house, a specific, tangible thing. Home is where you're surrounded by the people you love, and that doesn't have to be in a physical way either.

Ok, I'll stop here because I'm afraid that I've gone into cheese-overdose haha...just know that I love you all!!


  1. Only the stuffing recipe was Mrs Beeton's! The turkey recipe came from, and the goose recipe was Gordon Ramsay's.

  2. Who is Mrs Beaton?!?!?!?!?!?!

    Also, I can't believe we didn't get a picture of my awesome new red Canadian mittens!! A huge thanks to Katie's family for those!!!!!

  3. You're welcome Rhea. I hope they keep you warm and you wear them with pride!