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The problem with Facebook

You can never really post anything.

Someone's just posted about a devastating cancer diagnosis.

It seems inappropriate to post about a funny encounter with a pigeon on the way to the store.

It seems shallow to read the next item in the newsfeed about the madhouse at Linens 'N Things.

What a strange way to communicate about ourselves and our lives.

Yet, all the same, I'm so thankful for any glimpse into my friends' and families' lives.


From Peter to Petunia

Петр, or Pyotr, has multiple nicknames in Russian, some of which we knew when we choose Peter's name, some of which we didn't.

"Petya"

"Petinka"

"Petushka"

"Petunochka"

"Petunchik"

"Petunia"  Really?  Petunia?  No, no Petunia.  Niet spaseebo (no thank you.)

Interestingly enough, new nicknames for Peter have developed by creating American style nicknames from these Russian style nicknames:  nicknames of nicknames, so to speak.

"Petunies"

"Tunies"

"Tuney"

"Tune"

"Tuninator"

At some point, it's difficult to remember that we actually began with "Peter."

A wealth of nicknames for a well-loved, and well-received little boy, both home and abroad.



Trick or Treat, TCK!

Our Third Culture Kids, while Americans, don't share in the traditional American experience.  They're not really Russian either.  Just ask them a simple question in Russian and you'll see that as displaced as they are from American culture, they are somehow even further removed from Russian.  They are some kind of mix, a breed of their own, I guess.  And as they get older, so do the tensions between cultures intensify and the lack of a sense of belonging increases.  
For example, our TCKs don't really celebrate Halloween.  I know a lot of kids who don't celebrate Halloween, so this isn't particularly remarkable; but our kids don't celebrate out of principle, they don't celebrate because nobody really does here either, they don't even know what it is.  Besides, where could I get costume supplies?  What would I do with a pile of Russian candies that nobody in our home really likes?  How many years in a row can I wear my Starbucks apron and go to partie…

The Days are Just Packed

It's true what they say, the days are long, the years are short.  
Nearly a month has gone by since my last blog entry and I find myself in the same predicament I always seem to be in:  what do I write about?
On one hand, it seems like nothing has changed, nothing has happened.
On the other, each day is so full of the delightful little things that make one special moment overlap with the next until you look back and realize one week has flown by.
Like Anna mimicking our stinters' slang, "tasty taste, Mommy, hashtag super delicious!"  
Like Peter waving "hi" and exploding into giggles when we wave "hi" back.
Like Anna doing a little dance which makes us think, "well at least I now know what I look like when I dance."
We're so thankful for the little things.  Day to day, week to week, month to month, our lives are just packed with everything and nothing, all at the same time.

Man Shot in Philosophical Dispute

Recently the Moscow Times reported a shooting down in Southern Russia as the result of a disagreement over Kantian philosophy.  You can read the whole story right here.
Nobody was seriously injured as the bullets were rubber rather than real - however one could dispute the alleged moral high ground of such an answer in debate...
The final line of the article made me smile:  "Many Russians like to discuss philosophy and history, often over a drink, but such discussions rarely end in shootings."
Dan's response:  "This is why I love Russians.  This stuff is important.  And they talk about it with the seriousness it deserves."
Now to leave you with a taste of Kant and a challenge to our philosophical sharp-shooter: "Live your life as though your every act were to become a universal law."  -Kant

The Dostoevsky Cool Club - More Summer Fun

One interesting commonality among ex-pats living in Russia?  A love for good Russian literature!  Although this characteristic is not true for everybody living here, we have found a fun pocket of fellow literary Russo-philes here in Moscow.  We even have a common joke amongst our fascinating [read: nerdy] group of friends that the first person to quote, allude, or even mention "Dostoevsky" during conversation wins a special prize.  And as much fun as this is for Rachel, it turns out that these avid readers also enjoy cycling, making them shockingly good company for Dan as well!
Last summer, our little group began a book club as an opportunity to do a little more intentional reading, discuss interesting and pertinent ideas, and just have an excuse for more frequent meetings.  We also tried a new hot sandwich recipe each week, the most popular being a homemade meatball sub.  We read Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry.  Even Dan, much to his chagrin, enjoyed it and recommends it to …

Swing and a Miss

Playground:  FAIL.



Note to self:  when installing new flooring around playground equipment, be sure that you put the flooring around said playground equipment rather than next-to.
The best part was watching the workmen putting in the fence stand around this corner for a good 2 hours deliberating how to fence in the wild side of the teeter-toter (as if it could be done.)
Moscow playgrounds: 1 Culbertsons: 0


The Taste of Russian Summer

Summer is a wonderful time to be in Moscow. The pace of life slows down, everyone is a little happier, and the city is far less busy as everyone spends the weekends at their “dachas” or summer cottages. The other advantage of summer in Moscow is getting to drink kvas. Kvas is a lightly fermented, carbonated drink made from black bread. It's very very slightly alcoholic because of the fermenting sugars, but not much. In the summer you can often see stands set up around the city offering the refreshing drink to anyone who has 30 rubles in their pocket. Although Rachel proclaims kvas “the worst thing I've ever put in my mouth” and descibes it as tasting like “a glass of bread,” I happen to think it's a refreshing and unique drink. And so I decided I would learn how to brew my own.

There are two ways to brew kvas, the completely homemade method and the store-bought extract method. So first I tried the real way. First I boiled slices of stale black bread, then I strained the b…

Not in Kansas Anymore...

There are moments when it strikes me just how different our life is here in Moscow than in Colorado.  Anna's ever increasing vocabulary has recently aided me in understanding the transition we've made from suburbia, Colorado to high-rise city living.
As we walked home from the store just minutes from our apartment, the jarring sound of a pavement cutter finally ceased for approximately 10 minutes as road pavers took a quick break from their labor to argue over the Steamroller's alignment right outside our apartment entrance.  The pause in noise was quickly met with Anna's sweet voice saying, "All done mowing lawn."
In a sense, yes.  Pavement : Moscow as lawn : Colorado.  Anna very appropriately used the words she had available from one context and inserted them into another.  It's just the lawn here is so black, so hard, and so difficult to enjoy a picnic upon.
Just like that, it hit me:  we're back in the city.
And in this case, I do believe the…

Baby Culby Revealed

Please join us in joyfully welcoming Peter "Petya" Maraman Culbertson.  

He arrived March 14th, 2013 at 5:45 in the evening after a rather "uneventful" (seemed pretty eventful for mom and baby) labor and delivery.
He crashed the scales at 8 lbs 9 oz and measured an impressive 21".  He certainly gets most of his lengthy features from his father, but the verdict is still out on hair color.


Anna, at first thrilled with the new addition, welcomed him into our family with a laugh and a friendly pat on the tummy, and reassured him that he is indeed a "baby."  She loves his little coos and squeaks, often exclaiming, "noisy baby!" at the end of one of his bursts.  However, after helping Dad push him around the hospital hallway in his rolling bassinet, she did let us know that she was "all done Peter," a sentiment that may linger for quite some time into their youth together.

We chose the name Peter primarily after the figure of Peter in the G…

Bad Day in the Hundred Acre Woods

The Moscow Times recently came across this children's canned meat product offered by the label "Winnie the Pooh," featuring both donkey and pig meat.  Sources say Eeyore saw it coming all along, but Piglet was very much taken by surprise.  Not a happy day in the Hundred Acre Woods.
On a related note, MT reports "Separately, IKEA has stopped selling sausages in Russia after finding horse meat in sausages from its local supplier."
Christopher Robin declined to comment at this time on either story.

Culture Shock

Every time we come "home," things here seem just a little different.  It's hard to tell if we're changing or if this American life we remember so fondly is changing... probably a little of both.  This return, though, I thought I'd write out some of my first impressions of life in Boulder to glance back upon after we've been here a few weeks to see if they still stir even a small amount of culture shock. Exercise Mania!  Every trail seems crowded with runners.  Cyclists swarm every road, snow covered or not.  Hikers, walkers, and rec centers seem to amass on every street corner, showing off not only their athletic prowess, but their triple digit (minimum) gear.  It's strange to be back in an exercise culture, realizing just how different life seems in Russia.  Exercise in Russia does not feel like a lifestyle, but rather something built into daily life or a luxury for a day off.  Already, this moment from Back to the Future has popped into my head multiple…

Conference Life

These past few days at our Winter Bible Conference just outside Moscow caused me to reflect on the very similar conferences I experienced as a college student in Denver, Colorado an indeterminate number of years ago.  Although conference goals, spiritual atmosphere, fellowship, outcome, etc. of such conferences across the world remain very similar, I was struck this year (and perhaps every year to some degree) by just how differently these conferences feel culturally.  To provide a short glimpse into some of those cultural (or perhaps lifestyle) differences, here are some of the comparisons which come to mind.
Food
Hungry college students remain hungry college students every year at the Denver Christmas Conference.  There are no meals provided, however, the Adamsmark Hotel right on the 16th St. Mall in downtown Denver provides even the most particular foodie several delicious options for satisfying one's hunger.  I remember stocking up on some non-perishables for breakfasts and lu…

Won't You Be My Neighbor (whether you'd like to or not.)

“People are almost always better than their neighbors think they are.”  ― George EliotMiddlemarch
The first 10 days of the New Year in Russia are 10 days of vacation for all Russians.  And just like every other day of the year, one celebrates within earshot of one's upstairs, downstairs, and next-door neighbors.
Surprisingly, concrete walls insulate very little - there is not much that is not heard or overheard within the close confines of city life here.  Neighbors know each other here well, despite any formal introductions or intentional time spent together.  Every celebration, every argument, every bark, bawl, and cry takes place under the assumption that someone's listening.  I remember the accordion music, drums, dancing, and yelps commemorating the marriage of our upstairs neighbors' daughter when we first moved in.  About nine months later, many of the same sounds were repeated, accompanied by a recurring newborn's cry about every three hours all night long fo…