Friday, October 4, 2013

Back in the (former) USSR

The nicest part about getting back to my room was that my subletter, Ira, had washed all of the linens so that I didn't have to do it.  The day after arriving in Moscow, I had to go into EF for training and then the rest of the week for oral placement testing (OPT), demo lessons, and more training.  It was a rough week, as I was still jetlagged for all of it.  Classes officially started on September 3rd this year, and I have some comments about year two of teaching.  

This year has already been going a lot more smoothly than the last in terms of the classroom, and this is even with my new class of 4 year olds.  It was really nice to walk into a classroom of familiar faces, and even nicer when they were happy to see me as well and said they'd been waiting all summer to practice their English with me.  Even with classes completely filled with new faces, I still felt much more at ease because I know exactly how the courses work, what the exam schedules are, and generally how to be at the head of the classroom. 

Work aside, it's also really nice to be back in Moscow.  My Russian was a train wreck when I first returned (still better than September 2012, but...not good) but has already returned to its previous level, I'm already settled in with my apartment, I already have friends, and now I get to focus on seeing the people I love and discovering new things about the city.  People have asked me how I feel about Russia after going back to America, and while I loved being home, I also really enjoy being here.  A lot of stuff doesn't make sense to anyone (example: I went to the shop for apple juice.  A 2 liter box of the same brand with the same expiration date was cheaper than a 1 liter box.  Just because), but that's part of its charm in my opinion.  So, I'm going to keep on keeping on with my Russian adventure and continue my semi-regular updates in the meantime.  

Adventures in...America?

I know it's been a while, so I'm going to break the rest of my summer and my return to Russia into two posts.

I flew out of Sheremetevo airport (missed Snowden again!) on July 25, 2013 on a direct, round-trip flight into JFK, where I was met by angry parents (seriously, the attitude was unnecessary and unappreciated, please don't let it happen again next year).  Then we got to sit in traffic, and then I got the fresh lobster dinner I had long awaited (thanks, dad).  The month flew by, but I managed to cram a lot of activities into it.  I went to Manhattan to see some friends (shout outs to Chris and Lea for hosting, and to Brendan for coming up from DC); to Long Island to see more friends and learn to sail ( to come about, anyway), taste wine, and cook an awesome vegetarian meal with more-awesome accompanying cocktails (shout out to Julia and her mom and sister); to read a lot of books; to meet my cousin's beautiful baby girl; to see how my other babies have grown (and started talking? Too soon!); to get my first smartphone (which subsequently ate my life); to eat fresh oysters and clams at the Milford Oyster Fest; to drink PUMPKIN BEER, MY FAVORITE BEVERAGE OF ALL TIME; to buy stuff for normal-people prices; to drive!; to eat...everything; to spend time with family and friends (and be fed by them); to ride my bike to the beach where I sunned and swam; and, perhaps most importantly, to welcome my cousin home from his tour of duty in Afghanistan (shout out to Anthony for protecting us all).

People often asked me what the weirdest part of being home was.  The truth is, the weirdest part was that it wasn't weird at all.  For the most part, everything was the same.  All of the same people are around, the landscape is the same, I95 still sucks from 4pm-8pm, I am still a beach bum, and Whole Foods is still my mecca.  I wasn't exactly itching for Moscow in particular, but I did understand that it would be really hard for me to live there again right now.  There's not enough going on, and I can't deal with the complete and total lack of comprehensive public transportation.  While I did catch the train into Manhattan and up to Milford a few times, that's about the most useful it gets.  On August 25, 2013 I went to JFK and missed my already pushed-back flight because some people thought the time I wanted to leave was way too early, but it most certainly was not.  After re-booking and chilling in the worst terminal ever (Terminal 1, if you were wondering), I boarded my plane to Moscow, came home, and crashed.  Next up: work, which I started the next day.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Istanbul, not Constantinople!

This past weekend, I went to Istanbul on a whim.  My friend Evan is there for 2 weeks on a language program before heading back to Petersburg, and I've wanted to go to Turkey for a while, so at the last minute I decided to go for it.  It also helped that I didn't work after Wednesday and that tickets were super cheap.  On Tuesday I sent out a few urgent couch surfing requests, on Wednesday I found out where I was staying and bought a ticket, and on Thursday I was in Turkey.

My first impressions of the city were "Wow, this is beautiful," followed by "So it turns out I don't understand Turkish at all.  Like...I can't read any of these signs. This should be interesting." This was the first time in my life I've been to a country where I don't speak the language, which was really strange for me.  In the US and Canada I can use English, in Puerto Rico I used Spanish, and in Russia...well, you get the idea.  Very few people speak English in Istanbul, to the point where even asking for directions was difficult. Luckily, the Turks are incredibly warm and friendly people, so more than once when I pointed to a name on the list of things to do my host gave me, someone walked me directly to my destination.  There was also a lot of gesturing to communicate, which most people take for granted in these situations. By the second day I could read the alphabet and started to notice some similarities with Russian, though that helped very little. I felt so much more comfortable when I got on that Aeroflot plane and could understand everyone, and completely at home in Sheremetevo where I could ask for help.

The city was absolutely gorgeous, the food was amazing, and my host was really nice, though really busy.  I saw most of the major attractions (Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Basilicas Cistern, Grand Bazaar, and Topkapi palace just to name a few), ate a lot of new things (like a pudding that's actually made out of chicken breast.  It was delicious.  Evan only told me what I ate after the fact, which was perhaps wise).  It was refreshing to be somewhere by the sea that was also warm and beautiful with friendly people.  I took a ferry to and from my host's apartment each day.  I apparently look Turkish, which I never knew before.  Istanbul is really cheap when compared to Moscow prices...why do I live here again? I may need to move to Turkey someday.  I got back to Moscow at 6am Sunday morning after sleeping through the entire flight, and was greeted by thunderstorms.  In another 1.5 weeks I'll be landing in JFK.  So it goes.  To summarize: go to Istanbul!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave?

Happy 4th of July, everyone! I've begun celebrating by lazing around the house and eating.  Like a true American.  Well, and meeting a courier to sign some paperwork, because I'm important ;) While I am bummed to be missing fireworks and jello molds, I take joy in the fact that my friends and family will eat double for me.

And I leave you, dutifully, with this:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Summah Summah time

I started my day by petting and shaking hands with a monkey outside of my metro, where I met Steve to go to GUM because they were handing out free ice cream to celebrate their 120th anniversary.  There were also a lot of cool photo displays on the first floor, so we walked around looking at them and getting seconds on ice cream.  I also bought something for one of you, but I won't say who.  I like to keep you in suspense.

After we were done with GUM and Steve had to go to work (I didn't.  I win.), I had my own mini adventure wandering the streets of Moscow.  First I stopped in the Alexandrovskii Sad and laid on the grass reading some of my book (On the Road, if you must know) before heading off in no particular direction.  I passed by the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and the Pushkin Museum before landing on a bus stop for a little while - I figure if I'm paying all this extra money for an all-forms-of-transport metro card (not by choice), I might as well get some tram action.  And it was nice out.  So a tram FINALLY comes, takes me down to Oktyabrskaya near Gorky Park, and I get off not wanting to go any further south.  Then I get on another tram going in the opposite direction, taking me exactly where I had come from.  Almost.  It stopped while saying "This is the end of the line," but as I got off I heard it announce the next stop as other passengers boarded.  I don't know.  I walked and walked in some weird artsyish hipstery place by the Bolotnaya Embankment and enjoyed the view before once again passing the Cathedral, buying a cream soda, sitting by lion statues, and looking at the entrance to an exhibition of sand sculptures depicting ancient Russia before deciding to head home.  So that was my day.

The summer has been sort of a blur since it's going by so quickly.  I finished working at Mayakovskaya on June 1st and switched to Marino June 3rd (which equals 3 day weekends, yesssss).  I had some friends here for about a week, then I took off to Petersburg again (White Nights + Jackie was heading back to the US soon), then I had a friend visiting for a few days, and now I'm toying with a trip to Turkey next weekend.  Almost forgot to mention, it's been sweltering here.  We're talking +30C/86F and humid pretty consistently.  The kinds of days where you're glad to work from 1230-1010 because at least it's air conditioned there.  Oh also, random aside, the airport where Snowden is currently hiding out is the one nearest my apartment.  We're talking like 30 mins away at most.  I'll send him your best.

Stateside in less than a month! Now that is crazy.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


This isn't a full-blown post, but I thought that today's fire in the Moscow metro deserved mention.  76 people were injured in a fire that started at the Okhotniy Ryad metro station during rush hour this morning. 

Before you worry,  I was not in the fire, though I did happen to be taking the metro to work as I do every morning.  Luckily, I don't pass by that station, or even ride on that line.  In fact, I hadn't even heard about the fire until I logged onto Facebook at around 1130pm and found that everyone here was talking about it.  Strangely enough, it didn't come up at work at all (though I was busy, like, teaching and stuff).  I'm glad to report that I (and everyone I know) am completely unharmed.  And (perhaps inappropriately) now listening to this:

Too soon?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Spring has sprung

Spring has sprung in Moscow, and kept on springing into summer.  Moscow was -8C when I left for Siberia, +8C when I returned, and briefly floated around a comfortable +15C for a couple of weeks. It was nice springtime weather until the temps reached +29C/85F a few weeks ago, bringing us summer. I'm sitting here writing this at 930PM, and the sky is still light.  It's been consistently WAY HOTTER here than back home.  That's crazy.

Also crazy were the May holidays we recently had.  May 1st was International Workers' Day, and it was combined with the holidays we didn't get this January (or was it February?), giving us Wednesday the 1st-Friday the 4th off from work (you guessed it, I had to go in on Saturday.  All good things must end).  Then we had a few days off around May 9th, which some of you know as Victory Day.  For this, the Russians have a huge military parade throughout the city, displaying all sorts of planes in the air and tanks rolling down the streets, followed by an evening firework salute in several locations.  Not bad, not bad.

There have been a few other crazy things going on as well, and I'm struggling to remember everything I've been up to.  One is that my new roomie arrived on the 15th.  He's from England, so I only understand what he says some of the time.  Another thing is that my last week of the academic year at Mayakovskaya begins tomorrow! After that I'll be at Marino school, way in the south of Moscow.  Not looking forward to the commute.  For those of you not in the know, I've re-signed my EF contract and will be sitting tight (with all of the knowledge I've gained so far) for another academic year.  I can't believe this one will be over in 2 weeks.

What else? Random tidbits.  I've now been to Tsaritsyno and Sokolniki parks, in addition to Vorobyovy Gory (no Wiki link for this one, but it's a huge parky, nature preservey place in the southwest of the city, on the river bank) during the holidays.  I officially booked my vacation home for the summer (inquire within for additional details).  I've replaced my first light bulb in this apartment (the exciting life of a sort-of-adult).  I've been branching out and trying new cute/quirky cafes with friends (no disappointments so far).  And, I've played hostess to Jackie's sister, who was stranded at Vnukovo airport when her layover en route to Petersburg changed from a few hours to overnight, with the airline only providing hotel rooms to Russian citizens.  She took it all in stride, even as she, Eggert, and I were drenched with rain on the way to my place.  This is Russia.

What more could a girl want? I'm going to get back to my lazy Sunday, courtesy of the rain.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

End of an Era

Well, the day has finally come.  My partner in crime/best roommate in the whole entire world has moved out and is currently sitting in Sheremetevo waiting for his flight to take off.  The new guy doesn't move in for another couple of weeks, so I'll try not to just mope around the apartment until then.

 After spending the entire day eating (cake and spaghetti for bfast after unsuccessfully trying to get McDonald's, then Vietnamese pho, then more cake...and all before 4pm), watching videos, and hanging out together, Uliana and I walked Chien to the bus stop with his luggage and saw him off.  Then we tried not to cry but failed as I walked Uliana to the metro. 

And here's where I'd like to take a moment to describe the incredibly warm and caring nature I see in the Russian people on a daily basis.  Not quite ready to head back to my now empty apartment, and also not able to pull it together, I sat on a bench on the way home and cried.  I didn't want anything, and I didn't know what to do, so that was my temporary way of dealing with it.  Luckily, no one paid me any mind and just kept on their ways - until a guy stopped, turned to me, and asked why my eyes were red, and what I was crying for.  He asked me what was wrong, who had offended me, and how he could help before sitting down, lighting a cigarette, and introducing himself.  His name was Denis, and he said that he's a local hooligan and doesn't like to see girls crying, so he wants to help if he can.  After I explained why I was crying and assured him that no one needed a talking to, he told me that if I didn't cry everything would be ok.  And also that its simply no good, my eyes were all red and my mascara was running.  Which was true. He told me that Russians are good people, but also not to trust anyone, and taught me the phrase не верь, не бойся, не проси (which I'm assuming is from this song).  Once I was satisfactorily calmed down and he'd finished his cigarette, he got up, reminded me not to cry, and left. 

Well, after that I just laughed, took a few deep breaths, and headed back home.  One of the many reasons I love Russia/Russians is that little things like this happen all the time.  Maybe it's partially because I'm young and a girl, but complete strangers are constantly helping or comforting me in some way, even before they realize I'm foreign.  It's so difficult to describe, but it's what has made me fall deeper in love with Russia. 

PS I know I still need to recount my Siberian adventures, but today is just not the day. But it will happen.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Crazytown, Russian Federation

Since my last post, not only have things refused to calm down, but they have also gotten more chaotic! This hasn't been all bad though, and I'll tell you all about it presently.

To keep up a continuous narrative, I'll fill you in on the rest of my birthday weekend.  Thanks to amazing, caring friends lending me money, I was able to get tickets to St Petersburg! I left Thursday night on the overnight train after Lydia (my coteacher) and our wonderful students gave me a very sweet gift - Russian books, a Narcissus plant, and chocolate.  I was sad not to be able to see their Art festival (talent show) performance while I was away, but they won 2nd place and will perform again in April! After arriving in Piter Friday morning I spent the weekend seeing my friends and meeting new ones, as well as attempting to play tour guide for Nathan, who visited all the way from England.  It was the best way I could think of to spend my birthday, and I'm really grateful to everyone who helped me celebrate (especially Jackie, Emmy, Nathan, Evan, and Justin).

I got back on Sunday evening, and over the course of the week discovered that I would be sent on a business trip.  To Siberia.  Crazy cool! From April 2-13, I will be in Muravlenko, which is in Noyabrsk - the largest city in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug.  Here I will help on a special project to rapidly increase the English level of several Gazprom teams by July.  They've been studying with a Russian teacher and now want the experience of learning from a native speaker.  I'll be working 10hr days and living in a hotel, but I'm very excited. Though I will miss my students back at Mayakovskaya, who will be taught by a different Sarah while I am away.  I told each of my classes that they're not allowed to like her more than they like me, just in case.

Unfortunately, my computer also decided to cease functioning less than a week before my trip, which caused me to freak out.  Luckily, my friend Sheila has a student who also works as an IT engineer and had him come fix everything for me - basically saving my life.  Sheila and I also went with some other friends to see Sergey Lazarev, a Russian pop singer who I happen to love and who also happened to study at our EF years ago (resulting in discounted tickets, yay us!). Most of my Russian friends have been making fun of me for this, but it was an awesome concert.  Sorry not sorry. 

As if none of this had been quite hectic enough, my soon-to-be new flatmate emailed saying that he had been offered an affordable flat in the center and asking how bad a situation I'd be in if he didn't take Chien's room.  I decided that the situation wouldn't be too desperate, and I couldn't even get mad at him due to the fact that I would've done the exact same thing.  So the hunt is back on for a new roomie, although this time I'll be in Siberia for part of it.  

Speaking of hunts, I've also gotten some really good Easter egg hunts in during the last 2 weeks as we celebrated Easter in school.  On that note, I wish a wonderful Easter to everyone who celebrates today! Wish me luck as I journey to the unknown.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Butterflies and holidays and birthdays, oh my!

Lots to discuss! First of all, I did a Life Club to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Eric Carle's The Hungry Caterpillar last month.  It was adorable, and it also led me to the realization that I am a hungry caterpillar, because I am always hungry (bet you couldn't have guessed that one).  Moving on.

I also went on a trip to Yaroslavl in February! My friend Nina is from there and invited me to go back with her one weekend.  We left work on a Saturday night and got back into Moscow on Monday morning before work.  Yaroslavl was amazing; the air was fresh, the streets were less crowded, there were beautiful churches everywhere, and I got fed a whole lot by Nina's parents.  I also got sent home with a few kilos of homegrown potatoes and onions from their dacha, as well as some homemade pickles.  Yaroslavl is a fairly large city, with around 700K citizens, so I didn't get to see nearly all of it.  What I did get to see were the aforementioned churches, the Volga and Kotorosl rivers, and every monument featured on the 1000ruble note.  It was a really relaxing/refreshing trip, and we both came back recharged (and with fresh haircuts, courtesy of Nina's friend Misha). 

On February 23 we celebrated (but were not given a day off for) Defenders of the Fatherland Day (aka Men's Day) by giving our men cookies and chocolates and things (the holiday fell on a Saturday, but none of the boys in my Saturday group showed up so the girls and I were left to eat all of the sweets on our own. Tough life).  Then, on March 8th, we celebrated International Women's Day, which resulted in a Friday off and flowers and chocolates at school from some of our students.  I took the day as an opportunity to walk through Gorky Park (which I am falling deeper in love with after every visit) and relax.  And eat cake (duh). 

This week is the beginning of another holiday: Maslenitsa.  I've never experienced Maslenitsa in Russia, but it's centered around eating pancakes and playing outside and burning an effigy at the end of it all, so needless to say I'm quite excited. 

In addition to Maslenitsa's culmination on Sunday is my most favorite holiday of all: St. Patrick's Day! I'm not Irish, but for those of you who don't know: THIS IS MY BIRTHDAY.  And my dad's birthday.  But more importantly, my birthday (hi dad).  I don't yet know how I'm going to celebrate...the initial idea was to visit Jackie and all of my other St. Petersburgers, but the universe is trying to prevent that from happening. First there was a problem with purchasing train tickets where the booking site took my money but gave me no ticket.  Then, Raiffeisen decided that my 356rub purchase at the grocery store was suspicious, cut off my card, and when I visited the branch yesterday cut up said card and told me they would have a new one in SEVEN DAYS. And there's a tariff for withdrawing cash from a teller.  So I am for all intents and purposes moneyless despite just having gotten paid, and it is tragic and will probably result in a delayed Petersburg visit.  But I shall prevail. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Thoughts I sometimes think

Ironic that New England is a snowed-in, unmanageable mess right now due to blizzards while Moscow is a toasty 0C/32F and our snow has been cleared. Although that's not because it hasn't been snowing.  In fact, this has been the snowiest winter in 100 years, and we were racked with heavy snowfall just last week.  The difference is that even while traffic was temporarily disrupted, the city still functioned.  Work drummed on, classes happened, and no one was snowed in.  It already looks as if there were no blizzard thanks to the speedy sidewalk clearing that happens every time.

This brings me to another observation, though: owning a car in Moscow seems like a huge pain.  I had a car in the US for all of one winter, only drove it a few times a week, and was still fed up with clearing the snow off of it.  I vowed that whenever the time came for me to buy a home/condo/whatever, I would 100% have a garage (and then use it for my car, not for storage like most of you crazies out there).  Cut back to Moscow, where it snows from October to April and regularly reaches subzero about inconvenient.  There's also the massive amount of traffic in Moscow, where a 15min commute by metro can easily become a 1hr commute by car.  This seems absolutely crazy to me, but all of the Muscovites I've talked to insist that the comfort one gets out of driving one's own car is invaluable...agree to disagree.  And let's not forget about parking, which is a nightmare in big cities (this summer was parking ticket city for me...whoops).  This is offset by the fact that people just park on sidewalks here, and I'm pretty sure there are no (or only mild) repercussions for doing so.

What else have I noticed about living here? It sort of resembles 1950's America at times.  Our flats (I say 'flat' instead of 'apartment' now because that's what happens when you move abroad...your English mutates) have 50s-esque wallpaper, furniture, and decorations (except for some of the remodeled ones, which look like an Ikea catalog).  I can get a loaf of bread for 30 cents.  It's still acceptable to go up to strangers and yell at them for not wearing a hat, or to yell at someone else's kid for misbehaving and then tell the kid's parent, who will also yell at him.  It just feels as though the fabric of society is more intact, despite the creeping effects of living in such a huge city...maybe this is just me, but that's what I think.  However, the 50s weren't all apple pie and Beaver Cleaver.  The downside is that there's still a lot of blatant racism in Russia.  I've seen Asians get slapped in the face on the metro for not being Russian.  I've led classes where, in response to "Who works outside?" (answer that followed the worksheet about after-school jobs: car washer and newspaper boy), my 8 year olds answered "Tajiks" while laughing.  To the question "What are some problems in Russian society?" the answer "Too many Tajiks are moving here" is not uncommon.  People complain that no one speaks Russian in Moscow anymore.  Actually, this can be compared not only with American racism of the 50s, but of today as well (a la "Too many Mexicans are moving here to steal our jobs, and none of them speak English").

Speaking of problems in America...what the hell is going on over there? Maybe this seems amplified from abroad, but it looks as though things have gone from bad to worse.  I've read about more school shootings in  2 months than in the past 10 years combined.  Hilary Clinton and David Petraeus are no longer in government.  Politics look particularly gridlock-y.  Most of you were more concerned with Beyonce's performance than Obama's speech (don't pretend you weren't, I saw your Facebook statuses).  The weather has been downright apocalyptic.  What has become of my home??  Does it look this bad from within? Someone explain this to me.  For now, I'm going to go continue reading my book (The Scarlet Letter, in case you were wondering) about simpler times. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013


I don't really have anything to say, but people have been questioning whether I'm alive so I guess it's time to write something.  First, YES I AM ALIVE.  And still in Moscow.  And still in love with Moscow, which is quite toasty at -4C.  And not in love with figuring out loan repayments from across the world.  I've been working quite a bit more lately (actually working, not just being lazy) since a bunch of new students have gotten added to my schedule, but that just means that I'm no longer ridiculously under hours (though it was nice while it lasted since we have a set salary).  Oh and one of my kids won our grant project, which means she gets 6 free months of study and I get a cool placard thingy.  Like a boss. 

Russian winter isn't freezing right now, but it has managed to destroy my less-than-2-month-old boots (from the salt) and provide amazing sledding and impromptu snowball fights (best snow usages, obvi).  There also hasn't been a day without snow on the ground since it started...whenever it started.  So long ago that I can't remember, but I'm not tired of it yet. 

I also have a question for America: when is the last time you were in a hotel without internet? Not a hostel, not a motel, but a hotel? Jackie and the other Petersburgers visited for a few days this week to attend their midyear Fulbright conference, so I went to stay in the hotel with them in order to maximize hangout time.  The downside was that not only were we without wifi, but internet all together.  And they didn't understand the concept of amenities like extra shampoo or...anything.  Not letting this get us down, we spent most of our free time either traveling to food or eating food as any good vacationer does/as Jackie and I do.

As far as returning to the US, I don't know when that's happening or for how long.  I might live here during the summer and just visit home for a few weeks, or I might resign a contract but have the entire summer off (and no idea what to do with the apartment), or I might go somewhere entirely different for the summer; everything is up in the air and will be for at least the next couple of months.  That just means you guys will have to get your acts together and visit Russia, I promise it will not disappoint!

Friday, January 11, 2013


You know you're slacking too much when several people (including but not limited to my mom) call you out on your lack of blog posts.  Anyway, a lot has been going on around here:  -28C weather jumping up to +2C and then back down again to -17C; Christmas stuff; New Year's stuff; VACATION in St. Petersburg; realizing I have to be a real person and return to working for a living. At least I've got all of this youthful energy or whatever it's called to help me handle all of it.

The cold finally got to me, and after walking around for almost an hr in -28 weather which caused me to get a little sick, I broke down and bought a coat.  A real, puffy, long, behooded, Russian winter coat.  My life improved immediately and I can't believe I was that stubborn for that long.  Actually, I can believe it.    

So, Christmas holidays have come and gone...I'm going to give you the Reader's Digest version because I'm still busy (again, read:lazy).  I like Christmas a whole lot, and since I was away from home I decided to go with the flow by celebrating it 3 times.  Once at the EF Christmas party on the 22nd, which was catered with Georgian food and included way too much wine/vodka...yes, still in Russia.  Once on Christmas Eve, when I went to a potluck that some friends were hosting (this is where the walking around in the cold came from...I struggle with directions pretty hard & therefore couldn't find the apt to save my life) to eat, drink, be merry, and get home on the last metro because I still had work the next day. And once more on Christmas day, which I spent working (by "working" I mean "doing Christmas worksheets and watching movies), going to (and being disappointed by) the Strausburg Christmas fair on Manege Square with Uliana and Vanessa, eating Chinese food like a Jew, and meeting some friends for a drink at the bar.  There was snow EVERYWHERE and I hadn't bought the coat yet, so that 

Our holidays from EF started on December 29th, so there was a fair amount of chillaxing before the New Year celebrations began.  I planned to go to Red Square (like a crazy person. Every single Russian I know said DON'T DO IT and I was like BUT I WANT TO DO IT) and then go somewhere else, but I ended up staying at Nick's place with him, Lyuba, and Martin to celebrate and be comfy. This is the Russian tradition: watch the Irony of Fate (we did), cook olivier salad, eat way too much of everything (olivier, caviar sandwiches, potatoes, chicken, regular sandwiches, pickles, tangerines, chocolate...I feel like I'm forgetting something), drink champagne, and watch fireworks.  Not a bad way to bring in 2013!

On Jan. 2nd, I threw some things into a suitcase & boarded the Sapsan (fast train) to St. Petersburg to see my other half, Jackie.  Our vacation together basically consisted of eating, sleeping, and partying, as any proper holiday should.  Especially when it's the two of us, and especially about the eating part.  I parted from Piter on Jan. 5th at 645am (we didn't sleep that night.  Life is hard sometimes) and got back home around 1130am to be united with the roomie since he & Uliana had been in Riga for a few days before I left.  We started work again on the 9th, and I got a surprise day off today (1 student is on holiday in Malaysia, the other called and cancelled.  Happy late new year gift). I think that's everything important, so I hope this keeps you busy for now.