Friday, December 31, 2010

Reflections, Resolutions, Renewal.

Brace yourselves, readers (you know, all three of you out there reading this!). As 2010 nears to a close, I've been struck by the rather maudlin but not unsurprising urge to reflect on the past year. It's about to get up close and personal!

2010 was not an easy year for me. I'm going to take a page out of Queen Elizabeth II's book and refer to 2010 as my own "annus horribilus." Maybe you've been there, or maybe you know someone who's been an unhealthy relationship, where you just completely lose any sense of who you are, because you're so wrapped up in this other person, you seek approval, you want to be...good enough for this person, instead of good enough for you.

This past year was all about relationships for me - I destroyed some through my own stubborn, blind refusal to let go, to admit I was wrong. I clung on to others that ended up hurting me very much. I learned to let go of ones that weren't healthy, no matter how much this hurt me. I strengthened and renewed old ones with people I realized had never stopped caring about me. And I forged new ones with people I had never even met just four months ago.

My mum told me at one point this past summer that people come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. The hard part is figuring out just what role certain people are meant to play in our lives.

Moving to Russia was one of the best decisions of my life, and the last four months of 2010 have helped restore a lot of my self-confidence that had been shattered. Yeah, I still get lost every now and then...and my Russian language abilities haven't drastically improved (one of my resolutions is to start diligently practicing grammar!), but I've realized that I can take care of myself, that I'm capable of a lot more than I thought.

I'm happy to see 2010 go, and I'm excited to see what 2011 has in store for me. I learned so much this year, through my own mistakes and through other people's actions. New year, new Katie? Not really. I don't want to be a new Katie, because the old Katie, the one before 2010, the one who smiled all the time, who believed in herself, who loved herself, who believed in true love, that's who I want to be again. And I think I'm on the way to reclaiming her.

I can raise a glass to that.

Happy New Year, and may 2011 bring us all happiness, joy, laughter, and love. Thank you to everyone who has put up with me this past year - I know it wasn't easy at times (ha, who am I kidding...most of the time) and I am so, so grateful that I've learned the meaning of "unconditional love" because of your support!

С Новым Годом!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Y'all ready for this?

Even though I live NEXT DOOR to the arena where the Mytishi Atlant play, I had yet to go to an actual KHL game until December 27th. My friend Hannah had hooked me up with a fellow LL teacher, a Brit named Adrian, who loves sports and makes it his mission to go to as many sporting events in foreign countries as possible (and he always buys a scarf in the home team's colours...a very cool idea because, as he explained, they're a great way to instantly bond with students on the first day of class. He decorates the classroom with all his scarves, which automatically prompts some hopefully good-natured discussion and debate over team rivalries!)

Bonus: One of Adrian's colleagues in Mitino gives private lessons to a major sponsor of the Mytishi team, so Adrian managed to score us free tickets!

What exactly is the KHL? For the best explanation for hardcore hockey enthusiasts, check out Nathan's blog - he does a MUCH better job than I ever could. For people whose knowledge of hockey comes from reading People magazine interviews with Carrie Underwood, well, all you need to know is that the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) is pretty much the Russian version of the NHL. With mullets.

Some American and Canadian players switch over to the KHL from the NHL, or get their start in the KHL, which is why I brought my Canadian flag - former Leafs and Canucks player Kyle Wellwood plays for the Mytishi Atlant, and since I've decided we need to be friends (Canadians need to stick together and all, plus I may have some Carrie Underwood aspirations myself...just sayin'), I thought I'd attract his attention by waving a big red Maple Leaf from the crowds. This, however, failed to work because I didn't see him at all! Maybe he wasn't playing that night. Regardless, I did manage to catch the eye of some Russian boys...

I'm not sure why, but so far the only Russian males I have managed to attract have been either very old (this is a story...or a blog post...for another time) or were babies while I was trying to sneak out of the house in eye shadow and listening to the Backstreet Boys' Black and Blue cd.

These two little boys and their friends were somewhat obsessed with me over the course of the game. It started when they saw my flag - the whispering and soft, shy smiles in my direction began. Then I noticed one of them clearly working up the courage to say something to me - in English nonetheless! I was impressed, and completely charmed by how cute they were. Adrian thought this was hilarious.

"You do realize that to them, you're the most exotic girl in the world?" he pointed out.

"Exotic???" I beamed. Being exotic has been one of my life goals since, oh pretty much when I first realized I was a boring Canadian.

"It's ironic though because you are literally the girl next door!" he laughed. It's true - I was supposed to meet Adrian and my friends Michael and Dina in front of the arena at 6:30. I left my flat at 6:29 and I was still early.

Anyways, the boys kept talking to me, asking me questions about Canada, what my favourite Canadian team was (I blanked and said Detroit...but that's because I honestly don't have a favourite Canadian team! I am vehemently - and traitoriously, I admit - anti-Leaf), and then they told me that number 17 on the opposing team (the Chekhov Vityaz, or Warriors) was Canadian. Sure enough, the last name on the back of #17's jersey was саймон = Simon (check out his wiki page...I'm not too impressed with his track record of violence and using racial slurs. He stayed out of trouble the night I saw him play though).

Anyways, the entire experience was amazing, and the night was so much fun! The crowd was very enthusiastic, and the energy was infectious. It reminded me a lot of going to OHL games back home, with the same music ("C'mon, feel the noise", ACDC, Billy Idol, "I Wanna be Sedated", and, inspiring the name for this post, the classic pump-up jam "Y'all ready for this?") and funny movie clips to get the audience laughing. Most of the movie clips here were in Russian, so I didn't really understand them, but one that was definitely impossible to misunderstand was of Ah-nold saying his classic, "Hasta la vista, baby." However, this being Russia, he was dubbed over a second later by a heavy Russian voice saying the exact same thing. It was hilarious!

The arena is very nice - huge and airy and bright. It was built in order to host the 2007 IIHF championships, and the arena is obviously very proud of that fact. There were a lot of pictures and commemorative plaques around the arena from the games, including some Canadian memorabilia:

Other things from the game that were interesting:

The zamboni getting the ice ready 15 minutes before the game

Just in case there were any doubts. Welcome to Russia.

Adrian, Michael, and Dina - it was Michael and Dina's
first hockey game EVER!

Me with the Atlant mascot - after debating whether it was a
wolf or a bear between us for a few minutes, Adrian and I asked the
experts - some Russians - and found out it is, in fact, a dog. Who knew?


The final score!! 3-0 for Mytishi Atlant!
We won!

(Weird how I'm now referring to the Atlant as "my" team, huh?)

It was 1-0 for the first two periods and 18 minutes of the third...which was ok, but kind of disappointing. You know you want a more exciting game than that. Especially when you consider that Mytishi is ranked #5 in the Western conference of the KHL, and the Vityaz are...last place. Plus, the Vityaz have a reputation for fighting a lot, so we were expecting a more action-packed game! However, bar one bizarre somersault/mid-air flip that a player did, the game was pretty tame (uh, just wait till I get to the exotic, cheerleaders though...) Finally, in the last two minutes of the game, the Atlant scored TWO amazing goals...and the crowds went WILD!!! That "woo hoo" song came on and everyone just started jumping up and down and screaming - it was so much fun!!

Ok, a note about the aforementioned cheer-strippers...sadly, or perhaps not too sadly, I do not have photographic proof of these girls. You'll just have to take my word for it. But seriously. There were two platforms high up in the stands where EXTREMELY scantily-clad girls danced with Russian flagpoles and did dubious "gymnastic moves." They changed their outfits (outfits? If that's what you call a bra and panties, sure) between periods. This was sooooo weird and creepy and just bizarre for me - there's no way something like this would fly back in North America. But oddly enough, the only people who were actually paying any attention to these girls were us foreigners - Adrian, Michael, and I...and Dina, who is Russian so it wasn't new to her, but she wasn't too happy about Michael looking at them, that's for sure. I was pretty scandalized, especially considering the little kids in the crowd, but for some reason, I was more exotic to those little boys in front of us than the dancers! They didn't look at them once! Maybe it's because they're used to it...I don't just seemed so strange. I've heard that North Americans and Brits are a LOT more prudish than Europeans in general - is that a good or bad thing?

Anyways, cheer-strippers aside, the game was amazing and I definitely can't wait to go to another one! On the way home, I made a detour to the perekrestok and met up with a huge crowd of Atlant fans (mostly teenage boys around my brother's age), who stormed into the shop waving huge Atlant flags and chanting, "AT-LANT, AT-LANT!" while they bought up some celebratory beers. Everyone was so excited and giddy, it was awesome!

I really loved getting to see another side to my fellow Mytishi citizens, and I want to keep going to more sporting events not just while I'm here in Russia, but anywhere else I'm lucky enough to travel to. It's such a fun way to get a feel for the country, or the city. And now I am proud to declare myself an Atlant fan for life...I just need to get a scarf for myself now!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Is there anything cooler...

Than reading a thriller set in Moscow, where the hero is running down Tverskaya Ulitsa pursued by the bad guys (who, yes, are Russian...shocker), while you're racing underneath Tverskaya on the metro?

I love my life.

Holiday Plans

Tomorrow I'll blog about my fantastic time last night cheering on Mytishi's hometown team, the Atlant, but tonight I'm just going to make a list of the things I'm hoping to do while on my break (cuz you know, people always say that writing down your goals is the first step towards making them happen):

- See Lenin's embalmed body at Red Square (Note: only open from 10am-1pm Tuesdays, Thursdays, and on the weekends. I think I will go this Thursday, the 30th)

- Tretyakov Gallery, for the best collection of Russian art

- the Russian Winter Festival in Izmailovo Park (on from December 25th through January 9th)

- Go somewhere in the Golden Ring (Sergiev Posad, Suzdal, or Vladimir maybe?)

- VDNKh (All Russia Exhibition Centre)

- Biblio Globus for a treat (I've been reading English-language thrillers that I've spirited away from the school for the past month and a half...I need something more...or just more Ludlum...I'm hooked)

Any more suggestions?

*Note: just found out there's a Musuem of Vodka in Moscow...I'm thinking I might have to take my parents to this one while they're here in May...

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Doesn't this picture look cool? I discovered this "1960s"
tool online that makes your photos look old-timey and vintage!

When I worked at L.A. Frank's this past summer (seriously, go to Cambridge, find this place down by the river, and order something - anything - off the's awesome!), we used shorthand for writing down orders on our notepads. For example, dog FO meant a hot dog with fried onions, m smoky ff meant medium french fries with smoky hickory sauce and cheese, etc.

When it came to ice cream flavours, CCCD meant one thing - chocolate chip cookie dough. Drool.

So, what, you may ask, does CCCDD stand for? That extra D, dear readers, is for dip. The drooling should now turn to salivating. Because CCCDD is that good!

I found the recipe on my new favourite website and knew that I had finally found something to use the chocolate chips my mum sent me in the mail on. Being as how this is Russia, the recipe required some ingenuity in terms of ingredients, but hey, necessity is the mother of invention, right?

Instead of brown sugar, I used granulated cane sugar; in lieu of powdered sugar, I blended flour and white sugar together in Iain and Rhea's broken blender; and I substituted some kind of soft cheese mixture for cream cheese. You'd think that Russians, with their love of all things dairy, would have some Philly available, but sadly this is not so. So random cheese it was.

Going for a festive look here

But luckily, everything turned out okay and the dip was a success. I paired it with apple slices, but if strawberries wouldn't have cost me my first unborn child, I would have added those as well. And if it wasn't a dessert I was sharing with a group, I might consider ditching the fruit and just digging in with a spoon :)

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!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

All I want for Christmas...

24 hours in Canada is my DREAM Christmas present right now.

I miss my family SO MUCH.

I miss Christmas baking with my mum...I miss hearing her sing "The Little Drummer Boy" and giggling to herself when she gets to the "rooty-toot-toot" part...even though none of us are eight years old anymore and we're all too mature to laugh uproariously at the word "toot"...(haha riiiight...who am I kidding? We still laugh)

I miss being the only Starr child who ACTUALLY does any shovelling, while my sister takes up her usual semi-prone position on the couch and my brother somehow gets my mum or dad to make him a bowl of cereal (did I mention he's 16?!? Although I've been hearing that lately he's gotten more adept at making himself basic meals...I'm impressed Mike)

I can't believe I'm going to miss the Goad family Christmas Eve and all the craziness that will be going on at 416 Blue Heron. And that I'm going to be missing the first Christmas for Anna and Adelaide!

Just a typical Goad family Christmas: 14 (or is it 15 now?) grandchildren, 7 sisters and brothers and their spouses, numerous refrains of "don't mind the box!", lots of laughter,
a keg...and a partridge in a pear tree.

The kids and their "chocolate frog" drinks

I miss my Nanny and Poppa and Gramma and Grampa. I miss Nanny's amazing shortbread with the chocolate on top that's been in the freezer and Gramma's lemon meringue pie!

My dad and my three aunts

I miss seeing ten billion stockings hanging up at my Nanny and Poppa's.

I miss going through old photos of us sitting on Santa's lap and laughing at our 90s-era clothing, our terrified faces, my bizarre grin-grimace that I used to do as a kid in pictures, and of course at our bunny rabbit, Jack, who resembles nothing more than an angry squirrel squirming in Santa's arms.

I miss the smell of gingerbread, my sister eating literally a ton of cheese on Christmas Eve in her attempt to fall asleep sooner (she believes cheese makes you sleepy), and all of us scarfing down shrimp after shrimp!

My adorable goddaughter, Beth, opening up part
of her Christmas present from me

I miss my early morning Christmas run around my neighbourhood, when I usually see this one other guy, a fellow crazy runner, and we smile and wish each other Merry Christmas. Everything else is SO quiet and peaceful and white and is usually my favourite run of the year.

My sister and Dad on Christmas morning last year; Dad with
his Rolos

I miss the late night walk my mum and I do on Christmas night, after coming back from our relatives.

Ok this is a HORRIBLE picture of me (I blame it on me not
getting my required ten hours of beauty sleep). But getting
tickets to "The Sound of Music" made the early morning wake-up
definitely worth it! :)

I am so, so homesick. I miss you - Mum, Dad, Jacqueline, Michael, and all my amazing family members - so much and even though I can't be with you in person, know that I'm thinking about you and loving you and hoping you are all having a joyous and happy Christmas. Eat a few shrimp for me, sing along loudly to Celine Dion's "The Magic of Christmas," and God Bless and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Double, double, toil and trouble

Something wicked this way comes...

I think I'm living next door to Baba Yaga.

Let me backtrack a bit. Baba Yaga is a witch-like character in Slavic fairytales. She flies around on a broomstick, kidnaps (and presumably eats) small children, and lives in a house that stands on chicken legs. Quite understandably, she terrifies me.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a stack of books on the landing outside of my flat. This is what the landing looks like:

My flat is the first door you see on the left; Baba Yaga's is the far one. Right next to the little coffee table you see in the righthand corner was the stack of books. I didn't pay much attention to them at first, noting briefly that the top book had some random symbols on the cover. But then on Saturday Stu made some comment about the "witch book."

"What witch book?" I asked.

"The ones out on the landing," he said. "You know, the ones with all the witch symbols on the cover." Hmm...clearly I do not recognize my witch symbols when I see them. I ran out to the landing to see for myself. We opened the book and inside were more symbols, as well as some VERY creepy drawings of cloven hooves (Satan's?) and diagrams of devil tails and random weaponry. I dropped the book as fast as I could, because it just gave me the creeps. I don't totally believe in witchcraft, but you never want to fool around with stuff like that, right?

Then we took a closer look at the other books, and they all had the words магия (Magia = Magic) or гипноз (Giipnoz = Hypnosis) in the titles. By this point, I was sufficiently freaked out, although Stu seemed to think it was all mildly funny. Maybe its because he's Scottish - don't they have a lot of Druids and pagans there?

Anyways, that's when we started wondering whose books these belonged to. And the most logical suspect is Baba Yaga, the little old lady who lives next door to us. She is approximately four feet tall, hunched over, wears a kerchief around her head, and mutters in angry Russian every time she sees us. I can only ever make out "pa-roosky," which means Russian, but I'm assuming she's most likely cursing us for not being Russian.

Oh, and did I mention she also has a, cat who skulks around the landing and glares malevolently at me?

I thought that I would LOVE having the flat to myself for two weeks while Colleen and Stu are back in Scotland. But I'm finding myself getting just a wee bit scared alone at night...

Monday, December 20, 2010

First and last words

I found this little literary quiz in the New English File Advanced textbook at the school (I have to teach Colleen's advanced adults class this week while she's back in Scotland). Take a look and see how you do! (Answers will be in the comment section)

Famous First and Last Lines from Novels:

1) All children, except one, grow up.
2) It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortunate must be in want of a wife.
3) "Oh, my girls, however long you may live, I never can wish you a greater happiness than this!"
4) James Bond, with two double bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami Airport and thought about life and death.
5) Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
6) "Tomorrow, I'll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day."
7) Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
8) Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.
9) Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
10) Renowned curator Jacques Sauniere staggered through the vaulted archway of the musuem's grand gallery.

Which line is your favourite? Which one captures your attention right from the beginning and makes you want to read the rest of the book? And which one perfectly sums up the book and leaves you satisfied? (I, for one, HATED the way number 6 ended!)

And now this bookworm must hurry off to the Wasteland for another fun day of teaching! xoxo

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Doin' the salsa

I loooooooooove salsa. I put it on everything, from eggs to baked potatoes to tuna to mixing it in with yogurt or sour cream for a dip. The chunkier and the spicier, the better.

Sadly, there is a serious lack of salsas here in Russia. Russians as a whole just don't seem to like the spice. They love their ketchup though. I have found a Heinz make of salsa here, but it's 135 roubles and based on the way I go through salsa, it just isn't the most economical choice. I also am not too crazy about all the sodium that is in packaged foods.

So I decided to make my own salsa tonight. I went out and bought 5 juicy, ripe tomatoes, some red onion, some orange and yellow peppers, some garlic, and some chili powder. I added in the last remaining tablespoon or so of my Heinz salsa, stirred it all together and got this:

I mixed it in with some smetana (sour cream) and used it as a dip for some veggies. Such a great snack!

A rose by any other name

There's something about the name "Yakatoria" that just sounds unappetizing. I think it's that first syllable. Anyways, there are two popular sushi chains in Russia, Yakatoria and Tanuki, and these two chains happen to both be located in Mytishi...20 seconds away from each other (and only 5 minutes away from my is it that I've only JUST gone for sushi 3.5 months into living here?!)

For Rhea's birthday, we were going to go to Tanuki, but it was packed so we ended up at Yakatoria. Then, on Thursday, because my sushi fix just hadn't been satiated, I went to Tanuki with Colleen and Stu for a goodbye dinner (they flew back to Scotland today for two know what that I can walk around my flat in my underwear! woo hoo!)

I ordered the exact same thing at both restaurants, so I could appropriately judge which one was better, but to be honest my sushi-discerning taste buds aren't that sophisticated. I thought my tuna sashimi and spicy tuna roll tasted the same at both places. As in, DELICIOUS. But for some reason, I still like Tanuki more. The name is cuter. And their mascot is this cute little...rodent-like animal called Tanuki...whatever that is.

Ahhh...I just wiki'd turns out a tanuki is a Japanese raccoon dog. Ew. (Speaking of raccoons, I have to share a hilarious and classic Jacqueline-ism - one day last spring there was a rabid, enormous raccoon guarding my front door and keeping my sister and I from leaving the house. I suggested killing it somehow, to which a horrified Jacqueline indignantly gasped, "Katie! You can't KILL a raccoon! That's a human being!" Oh, Jacqueline...)

Anyways, Tanuki also had the bonus of English language menus and waiters dressed up like samurais. YAKatoria had the disadvantage of placing us in the "family room", where children ran around our table, screeching in excitement, and a big screen (loudly) broadcasted Tom&Jerry cartoons as well as this uber-creepy Gogol-inspired fairytale cartoon that was absolutely terrifying. But the company, as always, was amazing, and it was a great way to celebrate the birthday of an incredible girl and terrific friend - Rhea!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Early Christmas present

Santa came early this year and brought me...HOT WATER!!!

A new heater was installed in our bathroom so now we finally have hot water. I had a hot shower today and...well, words cannot describe how amazing it was. I had to document this momentuous event (hey, it's been almost THREE WEEKS of icy sponge-baths and 200 rouble trips to the pool showers, so this is kind of a big deal!) so here I am after my glorious hot shower this afternoon:

(I also discovered how to photoshop pics so I went a little overboard on these ones. But the special effects are so cool! And this way I can get rid of my ever-present red-eye, which has caused people in the past to think that I'm possessed by a demon or something, because my eyes ALWAYS go red...this could become an addiction...)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Racial riots in Moscow

This is just going to be a quick post, as I have to run out the door in a few minutes to teach, but this is just so shocking and horrible!! Yesterday race riots broke out in Moscow, and it seems like the atmosphere is just getting worse. Over 800 people have been detained by the riot police. Neo-Nazis are storming popular places like the Evropeisky Mall and Kievskaya metro station, waiting for anybody who "looks" like an immigrant (ie. from the Caucasus and the "stans" - Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, etc) to come out so they can beat them up...or worse. This is so terrifying and disgusting. But am I surprised?

Sadly, no. I have had to overhear too many of my own students - all, for the most part, well-educated, well-off, and well-traveled - make racial slurs and comments in regards to Muslim and Jewish minorities. This is not to say that all Russians are racist!! Far from it. But there is a pervasive attitude here towards racial and religious minorities that is very, very terrifying to witness. As these rioters gather and scream out epithets such as "Russia for the (ethnic) Russians! Moscow for the Muscovites!" I can only go about my day here, a few kilometres from Moscow, and pray that the people who are the targets of such hatred and ignorance remain safe. As a foreigner myself in this country, I was told today that I should avoid speaking English or badly-accented Russian when I'm out on the street in case I set myself up as a target, but that I should be "okay" because I "don't look like I'm from the Caucasus." Oh wow. So just because I have white skin I'll be left alone by these insane people??? What kind of world do we live in?

One of my best friends is Jewish; I also have Muslim friends. I have Catholic friends, atheist/agnostic friends, people I care about deeply from all walks of life, from all religions, and from all countries. I was just never raised to differentiate between religions, between skin colour, between races, like this. It absolutely overwhelms me that there are people who have such hate in their lives.

Please keep the people who are the targets of these riots in your prayers.

Monday, December 13, 2010

This is kinda hilarious

Putin: he hunts. He horseback rides through Siberia. He fights corruption. He's a blackbelt in judo. He...sings?

Check it out...Putin singing awkwardly in St Petersburg over the weekend, in front of Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, and Kevin Costner to name a few.

In other camera is back up and running!! YAY! To celebrate its return, I went out for a hike after dinner yesterday and took a few photos:

A war memorial in the park

The Christmas tree across the street from my flat,
in the arena parking lot