Saturday, April 25, 2009

Free Parking...

There is ample supply of free parking in Moscow.  Sidewalks, when not being used as alternate routes for automotive traffic, can double as parking places.  Also... Dan and I, pretty early on, have been forced to shed our Boulder pedestrian mentality.  Cars will actually speed up to hit you here, I think it's a kind of local game they enjoy.  At any rate, we've gone almost overnight from not even looking before we cross a main thoroughfare while texting a friend on our cell phones, to dodging cars hurtling down the sidewalk.  


Off to the Races!

6:00 came early Thursday morning, as we took to the road headed to DIA for the first part of our journey to the Motherland.  Now, almost 40 hours later, we're happily situated in Moscow, Russia, with our teammates Chris and Liz, steadily adjusting to the time change (10 hours ahead of Colorado.)

Due to a logistical change, we will be staying with our gracious hosts during this initial jaunt to Russia and transitioning to life with a Russian family in the early fall.  We were so thankful for our new room, recently converted from Chris and Liz's office, and our full sized air matress, especially luxurious after 30 some hours of travel!

Bright and early this morning, I woke full of energy, ready for the big city!  Having the apartment primarily to myself - as nobody else seemed quite as energetic at 4:30 this morning, I collected some thoughts about our first day that I'd like to share with you now.

It's been a long time since Dan and I have been in Russia.  Our full half day in the city yesterday brought back so many memories.  On a quick trip to a corner market, smells and flavors bombarded me, reminding me of the foods I ate, the things I bought, some things I even missed, from almost four years ago.  Quite a walk down memory lane...

Boarding our flight from Chicago to Moscow, we heard Russian voices all around us.  After adjusting from the surprise and delight of so much Russian at once, I realized that Russian is no longer an interesting and unique hobby of mine, it's now a job requirement.

Landing in Moscow, we were greeted by two of our teammates waiting to drive us home.  What a wonderful surprise, warm friendly faces eager for our arrival!  It was so nice to see familiar people in the midst of so much change.  Even in the short time we've been in the US, Russia, Moscow in particular, has changed dramatically.

Constant noise.  Horns, car alarms, jackhammers (inside and out,) children playing, adults shouting, cell phone cocaphony, trams rumbling, busses pulling in and out of stops, pipes creaking as hot water flows thoughout the building, music blaring from the apartment below, an argument ensuing between neighbors... wow.

Last night we joined our team for a student meeting.  I eagerly (perhaps too eagerly) introduced myself to the Russian students who came.  They were not impressed.  They politely answered my questions about where they study, what they do here in Moscow, but all as if to say, "Don't take this the wrong way, but don't get attached.  I'll probably never see you again."  This is the big city, where it all happens, where Russia's future hangs in the balance.  People are busy:  Places to go, people to see (not me, aparently.)  No more small towns.  No more villages.  No more simple life.  Russia has lost some of its Russianess here.  Ironically the cultural, economic, political, entertainment, educational, etc., center of Russia, Moscow seems very different from the Russia I know and love.  "Просто нужно привыкнуть" (You simply need to adjust,) a student told me last night.  Let's hope she's right...


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

International Sensation - Susan Boyle

If you have yet to see this clip from Britain's Got Talent, (click here,) you may be one of the few remaining world citizens.  Susan Boyle, with over 3 million views (and still climbing) for her BGT debut, has stepped literally overnight from obscurity into fame.  And bravo.  From the thunderous explosion of applause after Susan's first line, to the audible gasp of surprise I emitted during my first viewing, we recognize that we have stumbled across a moment in our human experience that will stay with us for quite some time.  Unexpected, to say the least, Susan's vocal timbre instantly quells the rolling eyes, the smug whispers of audience members caught on tape during Susan's quirky answers to questions during the judges' initial interview.  It's not only the shock of these two very different selves emerging from this one person, but the delight in discovering something astoudingly beautiful in a very unexpected vessel.  In Susan's performance, perhaps even in Susan herself, we experience something so incredibly human - the hope of a happy ending, after years of what we can assume to be disappointing mediocrity.  Part of this illusion is created by her brilliant song choice, I Dreamed a Dream.  In Susan's persona, demeanor, appearance, we easily perceive a potential Fantine.  We enter into a bigger story.  In these three minutes of song, all of Fantine's sufferings, despair, and failings are thrust onto the person of Susan Boyle, and in the same three minutes, Susan's success can somehow, in some small way, redeem a part of Fantine's plight.  Every part of us that has ever known even a taste of the sufferings contained in Hugo's Fantine character, suddenly stand to applaud for Susan's victory, to overcome this tiger in the night, to live the dream, rather than curse ever dreaming something better at all.  This all seems a bit over the top, but that is part of the unique journey Susan offered to us in her audition.  This is the hope of humanity, bottled in a moment of time.  Somehow the success of this unemployed, never-been-kissed, taunted by neighboring children, 47 year-old woman with a cat named Pebbles matters to us all.  Good luck to you, Susan/Fantine, whoever you are.