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Showing posts from 2010

Christmas at the Children's Home

This year our Humanitarian State University English club ventured to a children's home to share our Christmas celebration. We had a wonderful time there and we're already looking forward to our next opportunity to return. Here are some of the things we did:First, we prepared what you might consider a classic Christmas pageant, complete with Shepherds and Wise Men following the Christmas star to find the Christ child. A show of hands demonstrated that of the children in the audience, very few actually knew the original Christmas story - they'd never seen this kind of pageant before. Our student actors did an amazing job!

Then we played some games together. It's always a kick to see similar children's games no matter what country you're in at the time. This is a game very similar to our own hand clapping games like Miss Mary Black, Down by the Banks, Miss Suzie, etc.. As you may be able to guess, the game counts to a determined number (like 10) and if your hand …

Marvel of Nature

Life is full of questions, some much more compelling than others. Nonetheless, moving to a big city, Dan and I have been exposed to an inexplicable phenomenon of nature unobserved in suburban areas: the pigeon, a crowning jewel in the evolutionary process. These fine, feathered friends, who are neither fine nor friends, eat anything from tin cans to cigarette butts. They bathe lavishly in refuse water. They drink, it seems exclusively, from discarded beer bottles. Last night the Moscow temperature dropped from 32 F (0 C) to -4 F (-20 C); yet, there they were at sunrise, standing on our window sill, their beady little eyes staring into our warm apartment as if to say, "you'd best give us your bread if you knew what was good for you, spoiled little aristocrats."
Why won't the pigeons die? What is their secret? What biological purpose can they possibly be serving by continuing on in this manner?

The pigeon: one of the 7 greatest wonders of the world. I guess not all mir…

Children of the USSR

Do you remember the first time you saw a banana?Do you remember your first sip of Coca-Cola?How about the first time you held a slinky in your hands, watching in waver back and forth?"The slinky was like a miracle. Really, it was." The girls at English club explained to me. When the slinky first came to Russia, it was an unbelievable combination of metal and miracle, moving almost of its own whim. The girls' eyes lit up as they spoke about it: "Rachel, we are children of the Soviet Union, this thing was to us a miracle."Other students have told us stories of their parents' first encounters with Coca-Cola. One family, who resided in Azerbaijan during the time of the Soviet Union, told us how one of the uncles had traveled to Moscow and while there had somehow procured a bottle of Coca-Cola. He brought it back with him, nearly 75 hours by train, to show all of his friends, neighbors, and relatives. He then proceeded to pour out a tiny taste for all 20…

No Smoking.

Medical Exams - Russian Style

Right now we're in the process of transferring out visas over to official work permits. It's a lengthy and convoluted legal process that I have no hope of understanding. Praise God for Keith Beyar, Sergei Volkov and some of the others who are dealing with all this.
However, I do have a part to play. In order to get a work permit, I need to be medically certified as healthy and able to work by the Russian government. That makes sense. They don't want me spreading crazy diseases through their work force. The fun part comes in actually acquiring said medical permissions. Here's a little run down of what we've had to do (by “we” I mean everyone on the team except the wives who don't actually get permits but “accompanying spouse visas”):
Day 1: We came into the country (from Ukraine) on a pre-work permit visa and get it registered with our organization. Then go and start the medical stuff in the afternoon. We didn't realize that the part of the medical o…

Up in Smoke.

Hopefully the brunt of the national emergency has passed and life, as we knew it, has returned to normal. Yesterday, Dan and I watched perhaps the most spectacular downpour outside our windows for over 45 minutes. This thunderstorm was not particularly special, but simply came as a sign of relief from the intense smoke and heat plaguing the city this past week. Moscow's been affectionately titled "The Cauldron of Hell" by reporters sent to cover the record-setting summer here and we were affectionately beginning to agree. We've never seen rain with more grateful eyes.
Moscow has been shrouded in smoke from forest fires raging all over Russia due to combustible peat moss igniting during the hottest summer Russia's seen in hundreds of years. This smoke seeped into the city somewhat imperceptibly. I remember waking up early one morning a few weeks ago convinced something in the apartment had caught on fire. After a quick walk-through and closer examination of …

Top 10 Ways to Survive the Moscow Heat Wave!

Moscow hasn't seen the likes of temperatures like these is over 130 years! July 2010 has just become the hottest month on record for the city, EVER! So how do we beat the heat? In short, we don't. The heat is currently winning the battle, but we'd like to share some of our tactics in living in the midst of it!
10. Orange juice popsicles! Just like when we were young, we fill our ice cube tray with orange juice, yogurt, or any other tasty liquid we can get our hands on and just hours later enjoy a moment of cool, sweet, frozen goodness. It's a great treat to help pass the long afternoon hours.
9. An ice bath! Filling the bath tub with cold water and taking a dip for as long as I can bear has become a new favorite past-time. Usually I set up my computer to play an episode of the Cosby show and I'll simply settle into the cool waters for a few peaceful minutes of brisk refreshment. I've found it best to actually not dry off afterwards - this prolongs the…


Зарядки or “morning exercises” were a part of every good Soviet's morning routine. It's a tradition that continues to live on in most Russians' ideal schedule, particularly when traveling or vacationing in a new place. Hotels, camps, resorts all offer their vacationers morning exercise before breakfast each day. I decided that this would be a fun “optional” activity for our summer project, and apparently so did several other Summer Project participants - I was shocked when nearly 15 people showed up on our first morning! Every morning at 7:30, the brave fitness gurus and I would run together to the rocky shores of the sea for a 30 minute exercise routine I'd planned out the night before. We did just about every exercise I could think of, including, but not limited to the following: stretching, running, skipping, jumping, lunging, balancing, squating, push-ups, tricep raises, calf raises, holding a plank, leg extensions, wall sits, obstacle courses, and just about anyth…
Urban Cycling - Moscow Style
One Sunday, in celebration of Dave's birthday, a bunch of us got up and rode our bikes right into the heart of Moscow. It was so much fun to see the city from a bike and not have to deal with the crazy weekday traffic.

I heart Mr. Darcy

Today I saw a Russian girl wearing this t-shirt.  I so wish I had brought my camera with me so I could ask her to take a picture with me.  I wonder where she found the t-shirt.  I wonder if she even knows who Mr. Darcy is!  


I'll give you three guesses...No... it's not snow...It's not frost...
It's not even cold!

It's пух (pookh)!
I definitely did a double take walking by the window the other day.  If it hadn't been over 70 degrees, I might have believed it was an early June snowstorm.  The cotton pollen was falling so steadily, leaving banks of white fluff over the grass, cars, and curbs, I was tempted to grab the sled and try it out anyway.  This feathery, cottony pollen has been floating around town for weeks now.  The season of "пух" can last up to two months here and seems to grow more predominantly in the northern areas of Russia.  Thankfully no allergies have surfaced with it, even though it can quickly fill a room if you accidentally leave your window open.  By far the best trick we've discovered (dedicated to all of you pyromaniacs out there - you know who you are Louise, Bush, Justin, and Beffy) is to light one end of a пух trail with a match and in seconds, th…
Spring is in the air! It's difficult to decide what the best part actually could be. The grass is greener, emerging in places long covered by snow and ice. White and pink blossoms are budding on trees all over the city. Temperatures are on the rise! Dan's been steadily recovering from his winter hibernation, even braving the strange looks from venturing outside with flip-flops. The best part? People are happier. It's so much easier to see smiles from local vendors, women talking and laughing while walking together, and young people dancing and joking in groups together in the park. Spring is a wonderful time in Russia. After so much winter, life is returning in new colors, scents, even faces all over Moscow.

Quite Literally!

Recently, Dan and I have been thinking though literal translations of conversations we have with people we know here in Moscow. We thought we'd provide you with just that – a literal conversation. Of course, the Russian comes across much better, but a word for word translation can be quite entertaining:
Rachel: Hello!Dan: Hi!Rachel: How business of yours?Dan: Everything normally, saved God. And of yours?Rachel: Also normally. Today went you to study of Russian language?Dan: Went.Rachel: Interestingly?Dan: No very. Today we with Tamara Leonidovna busied ourselves with verbs of movement. On example: To go. To go. To go. To go. To go. To go. And to go.Rachel: Nothing to myself! Pitily to me that me no was!Dan: Also to me. Difficult to me to busy myself with Russian language one. But, on own business, to me need was to study, everything equal.Rachel: You I understand. Next one, come!Dan: Let's! Ok, I go store. To us needed something?Rachel: No. We …

Boulder Top 10

Dan and I had the recent privilege of traveling to Boulder for my brother's wedding.  As you can imagine, there are always small things we look forward to doing/seeing/eating while we're home and I thought you'd all like to know what made this trip's top 10!  It goes without saying that time with friends and family, for such a joyful celebration, trumps any kind of list like this one.  We were so grateful for the chance to be home and to share in a day celebrating two of the funniest, well-suited, and wonderful people I know!  Congratulations, Andy and Karyn!  But now... without further ado...  
10.  Mexican food is always a must when home in the States.  Hacienda Colorado, as well as Americanized giant burritos available at Q-doba and Chipotle, really hit the spot!  Viva la Mexican food!
9.  Chicken and a Biscuit by Chick-Fil-A is a little known delicacy.  They only serve it during their breakfast hours, but with a little honey on top, it tastes like one of the seven wo…

Flowers in the Metro

Russians have special traditions involving the buying and giving of flowers for friends and loved-ones. Students and friends here have explained to me multiple times that you one can only purchase and present odd numbers of flowers on special occasions like birthdays and holidays. Even flower shop owners will refuse to sell you an even number of flower stems in a bouquet - it's a very exact and delicate science here.  Even though I'd heard explanations and reasons before, they remained very nebulous and obtuse to me.  "You just don't do it."    
On Tuesday, the 30th of March, one day after the tragic metro explosions that shook the city, I finally grasped the full sense of those traditions.  As we boarded our metro wagon, I was alarmed to see passenger after passenger holding two flowers.  Young people had pairs of red carnations; older people had sets of two roses.  I have never in my experience in Russia thus far seen even numbers of flowers in the hands of Ru…

New Year's Run

This year, Dan and I took part in our team's tradition of running the Garden Ring around Moscow's center the morning of the 1st.  It's one of the only times a year this run is possible - due to lessened air pollution, little traffic, and few pedestrians out on the streets.  It was entertaining to see so many Moscovites just concluding their New Year's Eve celebrations as we were just beginning our morning run - we were certainly a shock for many!  For those of you who'd like a closer look, here's a link to our run on
Now, for your viewing pleasure, some footage from the run.  This was just as we popped out of the metro to begin.  It was still fairly dark - the sun wouldn't really rise until closer to our ending time, but we were excited none the less!
Our team consisted of two parts, the half-ringers and the full-ringers.  The half-ringers, already in full stride, Liz and Lola, show their…

Crazy Face Extravaganza