Monday, December 31

Huevos Rancheros

I've made it to California. And it's so nice to see my friends. It has amplified the things I miss about living here: being able to buy local, organic produce. Being able to walk around small neighborhoods. Dark skies at night. However, I do not feel the need to move back, even though I miss my friends, it's not compelling enough a reason.

I've had a great two days. The first spent with Nate and Vero in my old neighborhood. We managed to go to my two favorite restaurants in one day - Sahn Maru, Korean and Pizziaola, Italian. Sigh. So good. Not cheap, but definitely not Moscow prices. The next morning I tagged along to SFO where Nate was dropping Vero off for a trip to Spain with her mom. Together we're planning a trip through Russia at the end of July. Hopefully I'll be able to convince Vero to come out earlier and travel Europe with me.

Now I'm at Max and Sha's. Max made us huevos rancheros yesterday, I agree with Vero's statement that "huevos rancheros are my favorite American breakfast." Although it's a close tie with a toasted buttered bagel. Which reminds me to go to Bagelicious when I get back to my parents. Anyway, yesterday I was exposed to the video game "Rock Band." I played the bass and it was a lot more fun then I thought it'd be. I also saw the Golden Compass which I thought was great! It wasn't quite as dark as the book, but they managed to get most of the book into a 2 hour movie.

Wow, yet another boring post. Sorry 'bout that. I'll try to find something exciting to write about next time.

Thursday, December 27

'Tis the Season

Somebody told me I should update my blog more, so here goes. It might be boring and mundane, but I haven't updated since the acapella Christmas carols, so here you go. I"ll start off with my arrival into Atlanta which was on Dec. 21st. I don't know if I've ever flown internationally into Atlanta. It's hell. You arrive and go through immigration. Then you wait for your bag - the bags from my flight were arriving on two different belts, so I felt like I was watching a tennis match looking back and forth at the two belts. Finally, after about 45 minutes, my bag arrives. Then, I head towards the exit. At least I thought it was the exit. But no, you have to put your bag on another belt to be sent to domestic baggage claim, you have to go through security, TO EXIT, and then you have to get on the inter-terminal train to head 5 stops to domestic baggage claim. If you were to walk, it is 1.5 km! Finally I arrive to domestic baggage claim and then have to wait another 20 minutes for my bag. And all this after a 10 hour flight. However, I can't really complain about the flight because I got bumped up to business class where I had goose for dinner and a seat that reclined completely so that I was laying flat. This happened because the flight was over sold and I have status on the Star Alliance. Unfortunately, I haven't flown enough this year to qualify for status next year. Sigh, it's back to traveling like the "normal folk" (said very tongue in cheek.)

Anyways, so I finally get to Atlana and my mom has a bad cold. We had our annual dinner with the O's, our parents have been friends with this couple for almost 20 years. Their daughters are about the same age as my sister and I, so we all grew up together. It's a great tradition.

Then the next day, I spent the entire day catching up with the friend I mentioned a few posts ago, Mickey. Mickey and I were really good friends growing up, all through middle school, if I'm remembering correctly. But we lost touch after I left Atlanta. He found me through a Google search. Apparently the first hit is actually for me. It was great. We spent almost 12 hours together and I could have spent another 12 hours with him easily. We talked about our past and present and future. We went to Waffle House. We went and saw Walk Hard with my sister and her not boyfriend.

See this post, isn't really all that exciting at all. What can I write about that's exciting. Hmm, yep, nothing really. Oh, in a very impulsive decision (which follows along with all my decision making) I used the rest of my frequent flier miles to get myself a ticket to San Francisco for New Year's. I figured that if I'm not coming back to the states this summer, I might as well see as many friends as I can. And speaking of doing that I'm going out with 5 girls I went to high school tonight to play trivia.

Ok, guess that's it for now.

Sunday, December 16

Acapella Christmas Carol Mashups!

So good. And so festive!

Choosing to Take Action

My science teacher friend Carole sent this to me. I think it's worth sharing. Another global warming action argument.

X-Mas Poll

Courtesy (that is a hard word to spell!) of zombiegrrrl:

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Whatever is laying around as I think of it at the last minute. But I prefer wrapping gifts.
2. Real tree or artificial? N/A, however, Joy and I used to go cut our own tree when I lived with her at 418. However, it doesn't kill the tree - or at least that's what the tree farmer told us. You cut it roughly at waist level and then a new tree grows out another knot.
3. When do you put up the tree? Again, N/A, however, I put up decorations 1st week of December.
4. When do you take the tree down? This year it will be when I get back, the 2nd week of January.
5. Do you like eggnog? Only if heavily spiked with rum and cinnamon.
6.Favorite gift received as a child? In retrospect, the dog house my dad built for my pound puppy though at the time I was mad they hadn't bought me the plastic one. Damn, I was a spoiled brat.
7. Do you have a nativity scene? Noooo. But my mom has one.
8. Hardest person to buy for? My parents!
9. Easiest person to buy for? My sister (she sends detailed lists)
10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? ?? Artificially scented soaps.
11. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail, though I only do it every 5 or so years.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Christmas Vacation
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas ? Whenever the first "oh, they would love that" item catches my eye.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Probably
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Cookies!
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear
17. Favorite Christmas song? Baby, It's Cold Outside (is that x-mas song??)
18. Travel for Christmas or stay at home? Travel
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers? Yes
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Hrm, I don' t remember what we had at 418 house. Probably a star...
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? When I was growing up, it was one x-mas eve and then the rest x-mas morning. Now-a-days we've been doing them all x-mas eve and having a very relaxed x-mas day.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Crowds.
23. What I love most about Christmas? The lights. (I didn't even bother to edit zombiegrrrl's response.
24. Favorite Christmas Cookie? Any of my mom's. I love the peppermint ones shaped like candy canes. She makes a great mini-pecan tassie or snowballs. I can't wait to go home for the cookies!

Saturday, December 15

In which the sun reappears!

There is this startling brightness in the sky. I'd actually forgotten what it was like to have blue skies and sun. I went out a bit, walked the 20 minutes or so it takes, to get to the US Embassy for a cookie exchange. One of the parents, who's also a substitute at our school, hosted. There were about 8 or so women who showed up, all of us bearing 2 dozen cookies each. We snacked, chatted and all left with a variety of cookies. It was lovely.

But, damn, do those army/navy/marine families procreate! Dear lord, just what we need, more babies on this planet. The women hosting us has 6, the oldest 35, youngest 13. There was another mom who has 2 in the high school, 2 in middle, and 2 in elementary. The tuition at our school is four times what my former car was worth (a 2000 Toyota Echo, I miss that car!) and my guess is that Uncle Sam is footing the tuition cost for her 6 children...

Friday, December 14


I've gone and gotten myself a good strong head cold. It sucks. My sinuses are so full it makes me feel as if my skull is trying to crack open. I am so glad, that I can feel confident leaving my classroom not having to worry about whether it will be destroyed. I took 3 days off and returned today, though now that I'm here, staying home would have been a better option.

In talking with Russian's about being sick two language quirks have popped out of me. Russian's are far more likely to negate something than use the opposite. For example my masseuse said "Today, not hard massage." Rather than, "Today, easy massage." And "Nose is not working." Also, there are no articles in Russian, so when they speak English, "You got cold." And things like that. I love learning new things about the way people think and speak.

Anyhoo, I'm glad I'm sick now since I go back to the states in a week and quite honestly I'd rather be sick now then on vacation!

Also, a friend from high school just commented on my blog. I don't think I've spoken with him since I was in college. And it's great to see him, so, "Hi, Mickey!"

Saturday, December 8


There are times that I feel like my life here is hard, that I'm at times lonely and feel very isolated. I think a big part of it is that I'm struggling with being single. I feel like I'm ready to be sharing my life with someone, but I just haven't found that someone yet. And I'm not willing to settle. I don't know that I'll be able to meet that someone here. And then there's the air, which really, really bothers me. I feel like I can constantly smell the air, whether from pollution or cigarette smoke. When I go out, people are constantly pushing you or crowding you. They never hold the door and at all metro entrances the doors swing back like you would not believe.

But then I was on the metro last night with 3 friends, heading out to Daikon (my favorite restaurant here so far), and there was a homeless man on the metro. By the smell, it was fairly obvious that he had defecated recently. People would step into the car and either crowd to the opposite side or just get out and literally run to a new car. And I had the realization that, unless I suddenly develop a shattering mental illness, that will never be me. I have the ability to move from country to country, seeing new places, meeting new people. I will most likely, always have my own housing, sharing it only if I chose to. I won't be sleeping on the metro as it is the only warm place I can sit down. I complain that I can't get the wide range of Asian foods that I used to, poor me. At least I know that I will never spend a night hungry, nor have I ever.

Pho the love of pho!

I love pho. Really, I love all Asian food. I think I could eat it happily every day for all meals. In fact, I'm sitting here eating left over pad thai that I made earlier this week for breakfast. This is one thing I really loved about living in SF. William and I ate Korean food at least one a week and had pho probably once every two weeks. I keep trying in Moscow, but it's just not the same and it's significantly more expensive. I've yet to see pho, so I resolved to make it myself.

I took inspiration from Barbra at Tigers and Strawberries as well as this Washington Post article she refers too. And in the end, I've come to the conclusion that make pho is a big pain in the rear. But for the love of pho, here's what I did.

Inspired by the Pioneer Woman Cooks, I began taking photos about 15 hours into the process, yes, 15 hours in. Here's what you missed in the first 15 hours. I took 2 kg of beef bones, that's roughly 5 pounds, and I put half in my large stock pot and half in my large crock pot. I covered both with cold water and let it sit. Then I walked away. In fact I went out, but now I don't remember where, probably for Asian food at Daikon. Oh, wait, no, I remember, that's the day I went to the Lotte Plaza (the link is to a post below). Anyway, back to the pho, When I got home, I
rinsed the bones. This time I forced them all into the stock pot, covered again with water and brought to a boil. I let it boil for 10 minutes and you would not believe the gross grey scum that rises to the top. If only I'd begun taking photos!! Anyway, all that went down the drain. The pot was cleaned, the bones were rinsed and then shoved back inside. Only to be covered with water again. I put them on the stove, got it back to a simmer and left again - this time to the holiday party. Seven hours later I returned and turned the heat off.

In all honesty, it was midnight, the pot was hot, so I just left it sitting on the stove. The next morning, I removed all the bones, saved the meat that was falling off, and put the pot outside in the snow. Then I went out for dim sum - yes! Yummy Chinese dumplings do exist in Moscow! I returned and scraped off the thick layer of golden yellow fat. And here's your first picture. The fat was already in the trash by the time I remembered, but still:

Remove layer of fat (aren't my socks great!)

Here's the pan post fat removal - doesn't it look gross!
Make a beef stock

Next you take two onions and a big ol' piece of ginger and char them in a pan, then add them to the stock (note I've wiped the pan):

Char Onions and GingerAdd charred onions and ginger to stock

Simmer for another hour or two, then strain the liquid:
Strain stock
Be sure to press on the solids with a spoon, liquid likes to hide in the onion layers. And be sure to strain into a pan, not down the drain. My large crock pot insert is actually blending in with the sink...

Now it's time to get spicy. Toast peppercorns, star anise and cinnamon sticks in a dry skillet. You should also include whole cardamom pods, but I didn't have any. So I just used about a tsp of ground in my tea bag:
Toast spicesIf you don't have the whole podsAdd toasted spices

Another 10 minutes of simmering (note the plan has actually been cleaned now) with 2 tablespoons of fish sauce. I actually prefer the squid brand to the cock, but haven't been able to find it here:
Simmer another 10 minutesAdd 2 tablespoons fish sauce

Oh, you're so close to being ready to finally eat this stuff. Just soak some rice noodles and prepare a plate of garnish - bean sprouts, purple basil, mint, lime. What's missing is hot pepper rings and cilantro, which I rarely see. However, I had the siriacha to make up for the lack of hot pepper.
Finally, enjoy!
You may notice some mushrooms floating in there. Well, I had them and I like mushrooms. It was very traditional up until that point, I promise!

And the verdict. Well, let's just say it wasn't really worth the 30 hours that went into it. However, since I can't just run out and get a $6 bowl of pho, it sufficed. But the broth wasn't as rich and complex as it is when I get it at a pho restaurant. However, when I'm again over whelmed with the craving, I've got 6 cups (3 servings) of stock left in the freezer.

Monday, December 3

Here's one

Me and Kate, the intern, at the holiday party. Thanks to Lynn for the photo!

Sunday, December 2

Party Girl

I was out past midnight two nights in a row. That's both weekend nights. This is a huge rarity for me. Friday night found me at the Australian Embassy. The last Friday of every month they have a happy hour. I started off with a glass of wine and then a glass of champagne at Carole's before heading to the embassy; oh, we had some pringles too. Once at the embassy I proceeded to have another 4 glasses of wine (though I didn't finish the last one). No dinner. Yeah, I was a bit tipsy. But managed to make it without slipping on the ice to another bar. Yes, that's right, rather than heading home (as we all know I'm prone to do), I followed the crowd to a bar. Here I had 2 bottles of water. I know myself well enough to know that any more booze would have ended badly. It was fun. It was nice to hang out with other ex-pats who don't work at our school. It was nice that it was easy. Being here, having to translate in your head all the time gets difficult. At the embassy when someone bumped into you, which would happen as the small little room turned bar was packed, they would say "excuse me." It's the little things.

Then last night was our holiday party. I don't actually have any pictures of me, though many were taken, so I hope to return here with some. However, in the meantime, here's a shot of the festivities.

There's a band

There was a lot of food, a lot of booze - wine, champagne and at the end of the evening vodka and whiskey. I danced all night, drank in moderation and looked fine, if I do say so myself, in my favorite red corset and ball gown type skirt.

Saturday, December 1

Little Korea

Tyler and ventured out into the cold today in search of Korean yumminess at the Lotte Plaza. Lotte is a Korean department store. I went to a few when I was there, they are very big - usually 5+ stories. This one was 7. We headed first to the food court. On this cold (-6) day, I was really hoping for some chi-gae, spicy bean soup, but no. I did get to have some chop chae (sweet potato noodles) and kim chi (spicy, but not quite right) and bean sprouts. Tyler got an ok ramen and a pretty good stir fried beef thing. Then we wandered the floors of the mall looking at the crazy expensive goods - Dolce and Gabana, Juicy, JLo. I looked at a pair of 13,500 ruble ($550) boots. The grocery store part was just fancy grocery store not a Korean market like I'd been hoping for. Oh, well, the quest continues.

Sunday, November 25


Originally uploaded by Traveling Em

More turkey day photos are up!

Saturday, November 24

Thanksgiving - Russian American Style

I had to work on Thanksgiving and the day after. Boo. Almost all the new hires, plus several other school veterans will be gathering today (Saturday) to have a large Thanksgiving potluck. There will be turkey, ham, pork roast, stuffing, all the "usual" suspects.

However, Bryn (a fellow American, also the HS college councilor) and I still wanted to celebrate on the day. So I volunteered my apartment and she and I put together a menu and invited 6 others to share with us - her boy Dima, their friend Kran, my friend Nat, Tyler, and a Russian/American couple, Dan and Arina. So all together 4 American's and 4 Russians. It was so wonderful to be able to share this holiday. I made 4.5 kilograms of Roast Pork Loin with Apple Cider Gravy (this was delicious and super easy! Well, super easy once I was able to convey to the lady behind the meat counter that I didn't want the pork sliced into pork chops and once Kran was able to find hard apple cider for me, much more difficult that I imagined). I also made corn muffins and mashed potatoes the night before and reheated (the potatoes) in the crock pot. What a time saver! Bryn went way beyond the call of duty making green beans with pine nuts, roasted sweet potatoes, an amazing pumpkin burbon cheesecake as well as an apple pie.

During dinner we all went around the table discussing what we were thankful for. And since I'm still feeling thankful I'll repeat mine here:
This year last time I was in Ohio with my family and grandparents for Thanksgiving. I'm so thankful that I had 28 years with them. I'm also thankful to myself for finally having the courage to go off and live abroad. That I'm came to a country where I knew no one and didn't speak the language. And now I'm meeting these wonderful people, making new friends and learning a new language.

Here I am with the table in the awesome apron that Sharon sent me:
Me with the Table

And a close up of the table:
Pre-Dinner Carnage
I love my napkin rings!

I'll have more photos in a while, but I let Bryn have my camera battery as hers was dead and she seemed more gungho to take the photos. So once I get her memory card, I'll add more photos :)

Sunday, November 18

Arch Angel Park

I got out of Moscow yesterday. A quick 30 minute bus ride brought Nat, Danielle and I to Arch Angel Park. It's a large open park with a small church,
Yet another chapel,
many trees Snow, Steeple
and fields which are host to many concerts in the summer time Jazz Concerts here in Summer.

It over looks the (now frozen) Moscow River where people were ice fishing Ice Fishing on the Moscow River.

And of course, being a Saturday and a park with nice architecture, there were brides!

Monday, November 12

Stinky Cheese

One of the things I like about where I live is that it is very communal. People host parties pretty often. On Wednesday I was able to have an impromptu dinner party by sending out an email at 2 in the afternoon:

I'm making stuffed cabbages (includes meaty bits) this evening (wednesday, nov 7). It makes a ton and I'm out of space in my freezer. So I'd love to have people come eat it with me. It'll be done around 7:30. The first 5 people to RSVP will earn a seat. If you want to bring a guest, no problem, just include them in your RSVP.

So, sure enough I got 4 RSVPs and a friend who just randomly popped by (lucky them!). It was delicious and I think I may make it a weekly event.

Then on Saturday night a couple who spent their October break in France hosted a "Stinky Cheese" party. They brought back at least 15 cheeses, everyone brought wine, it was great.

Sunday I came into school to finish my report cards - here we have to write narratives for each student, so they take quite a while. Then on Thursday we sit in the gym for 4 hours while parents line up to meet with us. Scary!

Thursday, November 8

Snow, Germany and Sweden Pictures

... have been added to flickr. Click on the photos to be taken to their sets.

October 13, 2007
It doesn't actually look like that now. It's colder, but not snowing. That was October 13th!

Aachen Dom
Aachen, Germany

Sun Set
Goteborg, Sweden

me and Linus
Me and Linus

Take Me Home, Country Road

The start of my latest sweater. It's mostly finished now, I just need to sew the seams, tonight's goal.

Tuesday, November 6

Baby, it's cold outside

Sorry I haven't posted much. After grandma's funeral, I worked for a week and then immediately headed off for October break :-) This was a real vacation with lots of lounging, eating, drinking, reading and knitting. I got to meet two new children both less than a year old and adorable.

I spent 3 days with Alfred, Julia and their son Philipp in Aachen, Germany. Alfred was the professor I did my senior research with at Rice. He has me reinspired to go out and get my masters in math, possibly a PhD. He took me to 3 countries in 30 minutes, as Aachen borders the Netherlands and Belgium.

Then in Sweden, I was again visiting Linus, Magnus and Petter. I cooked a lot of Mexican food, ironically. Mexican is becoming very popular in Sweden, so ingredients are fairly easy to find. For Linus and I, I made citrus fish tacos with a chipotle cream and then the next night we had a mini-dinner party with Petter, his fiance, Magnus and Hans joining us. Together Linus and I made a feast that included more fish, spicy ground beef, grilled chicken, sauteed peppers and onions, beans and rice, mango salsa, sour cream and cheese. I introduced them to quesadilla making and it was a great night.

But now I'm back in Mosco and I know this is just the beginning of winter, but it was -5 C for my walk to school today and the high today, and for the rest of the week, will be -1 C. That's cold.

Tuesday, October 23

I'm back

And as the plane was landing in Moscow, it felt like I was returning home, which was really nice. I seem to be having a much better time with my jet lag on this side of the pond, which has always been the case for me. However, each time I return to the states it takes me 2-3 days to recover.

My classroom was in the same state I left it in, however, my teach timer which Ram (former department head) gave me as a going away gift has gone missing :( I'm hoping it'll show up. But as William reminded me, "The room wasn't destroyed, you weren't left a jar of pussy juice on your desk - you should be throwing pizza parties!" Once again, I'm reminded of how different it is teaching here. My expectations are so high that I'm giving all my classes pop quizzes on what was covered with the sub and they're doing quite well on them.

Alright, time for Russian lessons.

Wednesday, October 17

Love You More

I'm not quite sure what to title this post or how it will go. On Sunday afternoon while Tyler and I were baking cookies I got a phone call from my mom telling me my paternal grandmother had passed away. I knew this was coming, as I've mentioned she was old and very ill for the last several years.

I come from a very big family, we're all spread out over the US, well world now with me living in Moscow, but we're close. I knew right away that I wanted, needed, to be at the funeral. So two hours later (in which Tyler finished the cookies all on his own!), I had a ticket on BMI to London Heathrow and then a United flight (I knew all those miles would come in handy) to Cleveland via Chicago. It took me 26 hours of travel, but I made it to Ohio at midnight the night before the funeral.

I slept 6 hours and spent the morning chatting with my mom and maternal grandma. We all left for the funeral home at 9. It's so interesting how they can make the dead still look so alive. My grandmother looked really nice and peaceful.

I don't know how long my grandfather will last without her. They were married 61 years and together for 8 before that. He was comforted by having all 5 of his children with their spouses, all 15 of his grandchildren there, 4 with their spouses and 2 of those couples with their children. Then there was all the other family members. The church was packed. All the grandchildren played a part in the funeral, 4 of us doing readings (I had all the requests for prayers), 3 bringing the offerings (body and blood of chr!st), and then all of the older male cousins acted as pall bearers. I can't believe how tall my cousins are - all well above 6 feet. We're all growing up. And have gotten really good at being adults, comforting each other showing our love, just as grandma raised us to. My cousin Donavan gave a great eulogy talking about how much our grandmother encouraged us to go out see the world, get an education, raise a family, communicate, be in love. Without fail, conversations would end with us saying, "I love you grandma," and her saying "love you more." I'll miss her, but I'm so glad I got to have her for 28 years.

Sunday, October 14


It's snowing. Full on, big fluffy white flakes. I've discovered it's very hard to take pictures of snow in the air. It's not sticking to the ground yet, but it sure is beautiful from inside the warmth of my apartment.

Better yet, with the cold windy air, I was able to sleep with my window open without the air being stinky!

Saturday, October 13

You say ball, I say gala

Well, I've now been to my second ball in as many months. I love getting dressed up and going to these events, thus far, for free! Last night's ball was a fundraiser for ARC (Action for Russia's Children) which is a foundation that supports 7 organizations which in turn support disadvantaged and disabled children in Russia.

Here is how the two ball's I've been to thus far work:

You show up at 7 for champagne and passed appetizers (though at the PTO ball, it was Kir Royal's, wine or any mixed drink you may have wanted). At 8 everyone heads into the ball room and finds your assigned table. Both times, I've been at the freebie teacher table, which works just fine for me. Then dinner - 3 courses where the meal starts with the salad already on the table at your seat.

PTO Gala: Burrata (delicious, fresh mozerella but even fancier type cheese) with dried tomatoes and tapanade, fillet mignon with risotto and asparagus, trio of chocolate desserts.

ARC Ball: Smoked Sturgeon with caeser (yumm-o!), duck breast with roasted potatoes and red wine poached pear (eh) and a dessert that resembled disassembled Twix.

Obviously, I favored the PTO food.

Then there's an auction. PTO was raising money for the PTO, ARC for the children. Overall people were far more generous at the PTO event which was disappointing. At the PTO event the cheapest thing to go was a custom made dress for $8,000. Last night there was a chair massage for the company that went for $300. A painting that barely got sold for $200. A large house in Tuscany that can sleep up to 16 (but comfortably would sleep more like 6-8) that I even bid on because the price was so low. In fact another teacher ended up taking the bid for $3,200. Even if you put 6 people in there that's only $500 for a weeks lodging in a house in Tuscany! And the fact that teachers felt like they could bid and afford it was a bit embarrassing, IMO.

After the auction comes the live band and dancing. Last night's band was a British cover band, complete with David Bowie impersonator who's main fortee seemed to be clearing the dance floor every time he came on. I stayed until 11:45 - late for me - and ended the night dancing to Beattles covers. It was a lovely evening.

I brought my camera, but then never actually took any pictures. Others did though, so I'll be back with them eventually :)

Friday, October 12

Hot, hot, hot!

They finally turned the heat on in our apartments. Good thing too as it snowed for the first time yesterday! Just a very little bit while I was out playing frisbee - made for very cold frisbee playing.

And it's already getting very dark. Sun is down by about 6:30, doesn't rise until almost 8. But today's sunrise was beautiful, the one thing the air pollution is good for.

Tonight I get to go another (free) ball! Woo hoo! Apparently a teacher knows a parent organizer who had a table back out, so we get to reap the rewards. Hopefully I'll be able to get more photos this time!

Sunday, October 7

I want a normal life

One where I stop questioning every decision I've made, stop trying to plan my future which always ends up different from what I envision anyway.

I accidently went on a date Friday night with one of the security guards from school. I thought we'd be getting together to chat (see my earlier post about making friends and language exchange), but then he brought me flowers. Then William and I talked for almost 2 hours today catching up. We both still miss each other like crazy and both still love each other. It's so hard to determine if breaking up is really the right thing for us. I don't know if we should just stop talking, we only talk once a week as is. I haven't made travel plans for winter break yet. I think my heart still thinks I'll be spending those 3 weeks in Japan. But I need to just make it final, make plans to go somewhere else and get it over with. Part of this is really ironic. I've never had any trouble planning trips before!

Then of course, there is the issue of how do i communicate everything that's going on to Andrei (the accidental date) that I'm sooo not ready to date anyone at all between his limited English and my limited Russian.

Blah. I just want a normal life, whatever the hell that is.

Thursday, October 4

Friends outside the Bubble

So, I'm starting to make Russian friends which I'm really excited about. I knew in coming here that there would be a tendency to only hang out with the other expats and I also knew that wasn't for me. But how do you make friends with people who speak another language? Well, thus far I'd say I have 1.5 non-teacher Russian friends.

The full friend I met at the ball. She is a special friend of one the male teachers. I ended up sitting next to her at the Gala and she is awesome. She's my age and a lawyer here. We went out Tuesday night for hot chocolate that was so thick you have to eat it with a spoon. Her parents live in Sergiev Posad which is a well known town to visit with a monestary. Nat will be visiting her parents this weekend and has offered to show me around. So I'll be heading there Saturday morning.

Then there are the half friends who may be come friends. Right now it's just sort of a start of language exchanges. As I've mentioned, I take the earliest shuttle into school and it's just me and the security guards. So one of the guards speaks some English and after 6 weeks of riding the shuttle together we have begun to have a bit of conversation. We've decided that we'll try doing a language exchange.

Also, there is another guy who runs our copy room. Since I seem to always need my copies at the last minute I see him a lot. Last week we ended up riding the metro together as he was on his way to English classes. So I think eventually he and I will have language exchanges also.

Hopefully, my Russian experience will be even fuller by knowing actual Russians and getting to go out with them. I haven't even had an vodka since I've been here, certainly that will change!

Sunday, September 30

Busy, busy, busy

I don't have time to post. It's Sunday at 7 and I still need to finish grading papers. However, I had an awesome weekend which included going to the director's apartment for a TGIF, great company and an awesome view of our school and looking out over Moscow from a 23rd floor (he only lives on 10, geez!)


Saturday morning I was up early to go mushroom foraging! I came home with 3 pounds of mushrooms. Stroganoff here I come!!!

Mushroom Harvest

There are some especially great photos in that set. Please go look at them all! And then come tell me that you love them ;)

Finally, last night was the big Gala that I won those tickets for.

On the way to the Gala

I really need to come back and write details so that I don't forget. But at the auction, the lowest item to go was a custom designed cocktail or evening gown for $8500 (yes, dollars, not rubles!) and the highest bid was an all expense paid trip for two to Beijing for the Olympics next summer for $28,500!

Tuesday, September 25


I'm in a vicious cycle of not sleeping well for a few nights and then sleeping for a long time the next. I think last night's sleep was aided by the g&t at Cyp. But last night's sleep was full of dreams. I don't remember much about the first one, other than I was in Atlanta running away from something. And then in a car, trying to get drive away from all these houses that were on fire. Then suddenly I was in the desert outside of Las Vegas with my family. There were huge cranes everywhere as they were removing tons of natural resources for construction. As we're running along, there were pieces of rock and big clumps of dirt falling on us. Then we turn a corner where people have parked and their cars have sunk into the ground, including my sister's jetta. Then she fell into a sink hole, but I was able to pull her out (must be all that swimming I've been doing).

Yes, the symbolism is not lost on me, but at least I slept.

Monday, September 24


That's "Soup" to all you non-Cyrillic readers ;) Tonight two other teachers and I went to this restaurant, Cyп. You guessed it they specialize in soup. For around $6, though that could be off due to the rapidly plummeting dollar you can get a trio of 3 different soups from an offering of around 20 choices and that's just the hot soups. They have around another 10 cold soups. M and I each tried 3 types while B just got 1 plus the quesadilla. M and I both preferred the Russian soups over the attempts at others. The quesadilla was actually quite good! And even with a gin and tonic - the first mixed drink I've had since being here, I walked out only $20 lighter.

Saturday, September 22


I've added lots of new photos from the past few days. Today several of us went to Moscow's honey festival. I never knew there were ~so~ many kinds of honey. Russians are very much into there honey and this festival goes on all month - every day! There were at least 100 stalls most with around 8 honeys to sample. I bought 2 varieties as well as some honey wine.

Honey, Bees are Dying for It.

I've also finally begun to sneak photos of women's shoes:


Also, it's full on fall here! We took a beautiful walk through Tsaryina Park on our way to the honey festival. It's tradition to get married on a Saturday early in the day and then spend most of the afternoon roaming the city with your wedding party having photos taken at all the land marks. The brides range from skanky to traditional to poufy. And I've got a few photos to share!

Mosckva Bride
Rainbow out my Window


create your own visited country map

I've visited only 8% of the world's countries. So many more to see! I wonder what percent of the area that is though, seeing as the USA, Russia and Canada take up so much of the map... And of course, I've only visited small parts of Russia and Canada.

Thursday, September 20

Written Therapy

I think writing last night's post helped. I finally slept through the night for the first time in two weeks. I even woke up 1 minute before the alarm. I was a bit sweaty as the weather has really warmed up, so under my down, even with the window open I was roasting. Yesterday it was 70! says it's currently 55 and the high will be 55??? However, it still feels nice and warm-ish.

Ok, off to Russian class. And then after school ultimate frisbee :)

Wednesday, September 19

Help me turn off my brain

Alternate Title: "Stupid head shut up and let me sleep, enjoy massages, watch Die Hard, teach my students without yelling at them and other every day tasks."

I'm feeling very much at a loss. I can't stop thinking about our break up; I still can't believe it really happened. He says he doesn't want to talk as it "just confuses us," which to me means it's confusing him because even though it took me two years, I finally made my mind up that he is the one I want. It just took breaking up for me to realize that. Clearly I'm not one who commits to things easily and the commitment I'm thinking about with him is the "death do us part" one.

And now I don't know quite what to do I: wait him out (in which case depending on how long it takes for him to decide to start talking to me I really might change my mind, ahem, again), continue to email and/or call him to try to change his mind (stalker). Clearly patience is not one of my virtues. I just wish I knew what was going on in his head, besides the fact that he still loves me but doesn't trust me not to change my mind again. Is he even thinking about me? It's these questions that keep me from concentrating on anything else.

This morning at 2 a.m. it was how would I get from Tokyo to the little village he's in. And when I got there, would he be happy to see me? Would he have another girlfriend?


And I don't know how to stop thinking about it. Any ideas? Maybe I should start producing Russian porn in my apartment.

Monday, September 17

Dance Class (and of course, a bit of food)

Alright, I've gone from no posts to 3 in one day

Our school has a kick ass wellness program. It seems like every day of the week there is some sort of activity. The swimming I've been doing (MWF mornings) is part of it as was last week's meditation. Today I took the dance class. The teacher was a Bolshoi ballerina. He's really good (looking) and a great dancer, in that very cocky way that only straight male ballerina's can be. I was hoping for ballet class, but instead we started with a belly dancing warm up and then did salsa, meringue, swing, the charleston, oh I forget the name, the one where you move your toes pointing in and out like in the 50s. We ended with a waltz. So peaceful and a bit of a work out. Yay!

Tonight I'm headed out to try an Ethiopian restaurant. And I got my order from the Mexican delivery. Unfortunately my cheese dip looks like a Velveta dip, but my corn tortillas look great!

I won?!

The PTO is hosting a Gala black-tie event on the 29th of September. We got an email indicating they would be raffling off a pair of tickets, so I entered, knowing I would never win. But then today in my inbox is this message:

Congratulation you won two tickets for the Gala the 29th of september!!!
I'll deliver the tickets during this week.
Please inform me of your guests full name asap!!
Thank you xxx xxxxx

Guest's full name? You mean like a date? I just broke up with my boyfriend, although even if we were still together, he wouldn't have been able to be my guest. But I don't know who I should ask...

Editting to Add: Ok, got it figured out. One of the lovely 3rd grade teachers, a British girl who spent the last 2 years in China and was just asking about whether she could wear a white ball gown to our x-mas party, will be joining me. I know I asked the perfect person, just read her response:

You won!!! are lucky. I would love to go! Fun!!!! Yipeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee..... you have made my morning!

The Girl who Cried Wolf

It's been a while since I posted as I haven't really been in the mood. I've been very in my own head. As I mentioned previously, I forced the boy into a corner. Throughout our whole relationship, I always had doubts as to whether he was "the one." And I always wondered how he could be so sure I was "the one" since I was his first love. I'd make comments out of my own insecurity about him needing to date other people, each comment hurting him :( But I still feel like you need to try everything before you decide.

However, this seems to long be my problem, that I love trying everything and even when I settle on an entree, I still think, "oh, yours looks better." Even when mine is better. (You knew it'd come to a food analogy, come on!)

However, in us actually breaking up, I have come to the realization that he is the one that I wanted. Of course, it's too late for that. All my indecision has led him to be unable to trust me. I don't blame him, I do change my mind ~a lot~. I mean this is my third career in 6 years and the, well, I've lost count, of city that I've lived in. However, I consider myself to be a trustworthy person. I've never cheated on him or any other boyfriend, never had an inclination too. However, I did emotionally cheat on him by never fully trusting "us" and never really getting to know the real him. And now he doesn't believe that I can committ. And I'm not sure if he wants me to prove that I can (I've got a plane ticket to Tokyo on hold right now) or if he wants me to just leave him alone with his own head and own life for a while.

Who knows, maybe he's right. Or maybe all the nagging in the back of my head telling me that he wasn't "the one" was right.

All I know is that it's really painful right now. And I can't spend the day crying (again). I'm going to the pool to swim off some nervous/anxious/mad at myself energy.

Thursday, September 13

Skype Rant

Skype has enabled me to talk with my mother for $0.02/minute and to the Boy, who's in Japan, for free. I like that, I like it a lot. Plus, the call quality is really good.

However, today, Skype is really pissing me off. Are my friends calling me off the hook? Noooo, it's berk353530 and ousous.said. They ask me to be their contact, they call me. I feel like I’m back on my parents AOL. Oh great! Andrew Sexy Man (for girls only) just asked me to be his contact.

So, friends, should you want to Skype me, make sure you notify me of what your user name is if it's something obscure, unlike my original firstname.lastname, otherwise I'm going to Deny&Block you. Oh, and if it appears that I'm "Unavailable" really I'm just avoiding the shparadises of the world.

"Skype - Take a Deep Breath" yeah, with which I will complain loudly to the whole world about you with.

Tuesday, September 11

My long term impact

A few days ago I wrote about the student who called me with homework questions and minnie commented:

its sort of sad and horrible to think about the reasons why your other school had such problems and the long term impact of that on everyone...

In addition to that the boy and I have been having long talks about our future. I can see myself doing this for a long time, traveling the globe going from international school to international school. However, the students at these schools are either rich and/or from parents with an education. They could (and do) have daily tutors to help them succeed. And if all else fails, their parents will just buy them a business - I have a student who already has her own line of clothing and another who is already a millionaire due to the unfortunate passing of his father.

The boy wants to go back to the states and public school, help the to fix the system. Contribute in a meaningful way. I've had nightmares the past few nights about being back in the system. Last night I was trying to protect my students from a gang shooting. My stress level was so high there, the teaching wasn't really teaching. But I definitely have the feeling of having sold out here. I'm certainly not experiencing the "real" Russia either.

Be the change you want to see in the world right...

Sunday, September 9


I've never been much into meditating. But a woman at school who has spent 17 years in India and will retire there is leading this meditation class on Monday's. I think I'm going to do it:

Kundalini Meditation Instructions

Stage 1: 15 minutes with music
Be loose and let you whole body shake, feeling the energies moving up from your feet . Let go everywhere and become the shaking. Your eyes may be open or closed.
|"Allow the shaking; don't do it. Stand silently, feel it coming and when you body starts trembling, help it but don't do it. Enjoy it, feel blissful about it, allow it, receive it, welcome it, but don't will it. If you force it will become an exercise, a bodily, physical exercise. Then the shaking will be there but just on the surface; it will not penetrate you. You will remain solid, stone-like, rock-like within. You will remain the manipulator, the doer, and the body will just be following. The body is not the question - you are the question."
"When I say shake, I mean your solidity, your rock-like being should shake to the very foundations so that it becomes liquid, fluid, melts, flows. And when the rock-like being becomes liquid, your body will follow. Then there is no shake, only shaking. Then nobody is doing it; it is simply happening. The the doer is not." Osho

Stage 2: 15 minutes with music
Dance...any way you feel, and the let the whole body move as it wishes.

Stage 3: 15 minutes with music
Close your eyes and be still, sitting or standing...witnessing whatever is happening inside and out.

Stage 4: 15 minutes in silence
Lay down, close your eyes and be whatsoever is happening, inside and out and beyond.

A Search for Asian Ingredients

Two teachers had told me about 2 Asian markets, so a group of 5 of us set out this morning to check them out. It was cold and rainy, ~ 8 C (46 F), but we still went on with it. I was wearing my rain coat, coupled with a sweater, scarf and hat and was fine, if a bit damp by my return. We found a fair number of Japanese ingredients, but these stores were nothing like the Asian markets of SF I'm used to. Where's my chili garlic sauce??? And why the hell does rice wine vinegar cost $12?!? And sesame oil was $8. Rice noodles, incredibly cheap back home and cheap to make I might add, $4 here. Holy shit! What am I going to do???

Looks like the cold and rain will be with us for tomorrow too. I might actually wear my snow pants for the walk to the shuttle since they're mostly water resistant and then I can change into dry clothes at school after my morning swim.

Thursday, September 6

Ring, ring


"Hi, Ms. S, it's me Margo. I just had a few question about the natural logarithm problems... I was doing fine until I got to those."

"Ok, I'm on the phone with my mom, let me cal you back."

Ten minutes later.

Ring, ring.


"Hi Margo, it's me Emily. Err, I mean Ms. S"

"Oh, hi. Ok, so on number 10..."

And we proceed to discuss her math homework for 10 minutes. Yes, I gave out my phone number to students, but only to my higher level class with strict instructions not to call past 9. But I love it, I'm so happy to have students who care enough to ask about problems that they don't understand. It's such a joy. And actually Margo and Ichi are both heading off on visa runs and have asked me for the assingments they'll be missing so maybe I should figure that out...

Monday, September 3

Pirates did not work!

Grumble. The other fake DVD I bought a few weeks ago is terrible. The quality is incredibly grainy and looks like it was made by a person holding a video camera in a theater. I guess that's what you get for $4. But I'm going to go through some serious movie watching withdraw if that's the best I get. I've seen other people's dvd's that have come out great. I guess I have to just keep trying.

Sigh. It'll be better once Wil is here with his laptop. Then we can just try before we buy. Then we won't know if it skips at the end, but at least we'll know quality.

You want a chicken?

On the walk from the metro station to my apartment building there are roughly 10 stalls that sell rotisserie chicken. Mind you, this is a walk that takes 5 minutes. Yes, that's right, I pass 2 a minute. So knowing I had left over taboulli to eat and wanting a fast dinner, I finally bought one. I went to the stand that had people at it and in my broken Russian said "I want that" while pointing. The guy says back to me in great English, "You want a chicken?" Ha. Yeah. So, I get a chicken and a piece of bread with cheese inside it. The chicken was moist and delicious and will feed me at least 4 times (same dinner tomorrow night, tortilla soup Wednesday night, hrm, but without tortillas...) The bread itself was good, but the cheese inside quite salty, so I think next time I'll just get the plain bread he offered me. All that for 160 r ~ $6.

Sunday, September 2

My First Borscht

I cooked a big pot of borscht tonight. So far, it's ok. I forgot to add yogurt (in place of sour cream) at the end. But it's healthy, full of veggies and made enough for lunch for the next two days, plus four more servings for the freezer, as well as a serving for my office mate.

I also made some tabouli. I shipped bulgar with me and there are loads of tomatoes at the rynoks (farmer's markets, of a sort, but they're there everyday and some are actually in buildings). I got 6 roma tomatoes for 9 rubles - roughly 40 cents - Friday! However, no mint to be seen. It was still delicous.

Yesterday, was "City Day." Basically the anniversary of the city. We were taken on a boat ride by the school and at the turn around point, near Red Square, some of us got off and walked home rather than enduring the traffic to be bussed back. Traffic was so horrendous because many streets were closed to auto traffic. We walked down the middle of Tveraskaya - a huge 9 lane street that leads to Red Square - on the way home. Tragically, I forgot my camera. Hopefully, I'll be able to get a few from one of the guys with us who was playing with his new camera. Here's a shot I took two weekends ago though:
Red Square from Tveraskaya

Thursday, August 30

Back in English!

My shipment arrived yesterday. It's so nice to have my stuff, it makes it feel more like home. And now I have pictures of my boy too so I can show him off. And I have internet at home! Of course, this means my productivity at home is likely to go down. And I think the arrival of my stuff has led to my nose, which has been behaving so well to suddenly revolt. My right nostril won't stop running! Boo!

Tuesday, August 28

My stuff

Arrives tomorrow. I can't believe it. They told us that it'd arrive mid-September, but here it is, end of August. I can't wait to unpack my kitchen gear, then this place will really feel like home.

The shoes!

I can't believe the shoes some of the students wear. They're what I'd refer to as "Hooker Heels" back home. 4-5 inch heels, thick platforms, straight out of porn. It's insane to me but the norm here.

First Week of School

Well, the first week of school has come and gone. Tonight is "Back to School Night." My department head told me to expect 70% of my parents - last year at JO'C I think I had 3 show up.

The teaching is such a contrast. Very little behavior mangement and lots of teaching. Students approach me in the hall to ask me questions. They seek me out in my cave of an office (since I have no room of my own) with their questions. Yay math!

I'm teaching 5 classes, 3 of GR 10 Higher Level, 1 GR 11 Higher Level IB and 1 GR 12 Math Studies, which is a lower level, but even all those kids do their homework and come ask questions. We're on a rotating block schedule, so I teach 2 classes day and then 3 the next. On the third day, it's back to the same 2, but in reverse order and the 4th day I see the 3 classes again in reverse order.

My bug appears to be mostly gone, but I'm still not operating at 100%. I managed to work my oven last night (you have to light the pilot yourself) and bake brownies for my advisory class. Which also means I found cocoa, flour and sugar at the store :)

Oh and at 28 years old, I finally bought my first tv. It's a small widescreen LCD, about 17" or maybe 15". I also got a Russian brand DVD player that plays dvd's from all regions. I tested out the Die Hard 4 I bought at Ismaylava a few weeks ago and it skips towards the end! Grrr. Hopefully Pirates 3 will work better, I'll let you know.

Alright, really time to get back to planning for that day I teach 3 classes!

Friday, August 24

And it lingers

Well, it appears my bug is viral and about 2/3rds of the school has it. It's getting a bit annoying. But because of it I've discovered that soup does not come in cans here but instead in foil packages. Also the bakery section of my local grocer sells hot mini-garlic bread loaves perfect to share between two people. Also you can get a cream filled wafer covered in chocolate type candy bar called темпо (Tempo) that you can get for 6 rubles, roughly 20 cents.

And even inspite of the bug, I came in early today and swam a bit and two nights ago a few of us went to our local Georgian restaurant for dinner. It was delicious and relatively inexpensive. Of couse we mostly ordered and shared appetizers, but even so I was satissfied with my meal and I got a big German wheat beer for $16.

And now it's happy hour, so I'm off!

Monday, August 20

Moscow Thus Far

I just wrote this in an email and thought others might enjoy:

Thus far, Moscow has been then antithesis of the American stereo type. There are billboards for Rolex everywhere. Red Square is flanked by a high price fashion mall. It is very clean. There are roaming herds of wild dogs - apparently the govn't couldn't afford to keep the shelters open so they just let all the dogs go without neutering them! So that can be occassionally scary. Fashion is bizarre here, most young people are well dressed and the girls wear insanely high heels all the time - even on cobblestones. Everyone wears jeans, they're sold everywhere, no more black market for that! Most of them are very friendly once you talk to them, but if you just smile at strangers they look at you like you're crazy.


I seem to have developed some sort of stomach bug. Thus, yesterday was my hardest day here. I felt like crap and since my shipment has yet to arrive I had nothing to entertain me. Normally I'd lay around watching Robin Hood or When Harry Met Sally, but without I could only lay around mimicking Harry by moaning: "mmmehhh, ..., mmmmeehhhh."

I did manage to do some work prepping for the first day of school. I guess today is technically the first day, but it's only an open house. So I met a few new kids and some returning ones. I don't think I'm prepared to teach seniors - they're so big! Apparently I've got a few notorious names, but I'm wondering if they'll be anything like my "darlings" at J'OC.

Tomorrow's the first day they go to all their classes, but since we have a rotating block schedule, it will also be the only day they go to all their classes and only 25 minutes each at that. I don't think my "procedures/expectations" worksheets will have returned from the copy center yet, so I'll just be handing out text books. But then Wednesday finally begins the math! I'm excited and maybe a bit nervous.

Friday, August 17

Google maps only sort of work for Moscow

So we went on an adventure to have Indian last night. One of the guys who works in the catering department here also works at an Indian restaurant. He's Indian as well. So 5 of us went.

I was able to map the restaurant using google maps and mapped it from the nearest metro station. However, then consulting the metro map, it was only 1 stop away from us. So, it appeared to be a decent, but doable, walk direct from our apartment, forgoing the metro. Another reason to avoid the metro was that it wasn't really 1 stop, as we'd have to change lines. Moscow's streets and subway is formed by ring roads - concentric circles - with spokes going from the center out. (Is this where b-man got it's inspiration for city design???) I'd estimated that it'd be a roughly 35 minutes the way that I walk, however we s-t-r-o-l-l-e-d, so it took us more like an hour and fifteen mintues. It probably would have only taken an hour five, but the google map I printed made us walk 3 blocks too far.

Nevertheless we arrive. We each ordered an entree and a beer. We got 3 breads. It arrived and the portions were small - ie enough for one meal only, not American portions. So they were reasonable except that at the end of the night we paid 900 rr each. That's $35! No appetizers, no dessert, just a meal. Indian food at that.

Bye, bye eating out. I hope my spices and cookware arrives soon. I can't afford to be eating out. Sad!

Apartment Photos

Living Room
Originally uploaded by Traveling Em

Apartment photos are up. But I just realized I forgot to include photos of my bedroom. Monday...

Thursday, August 16

St. Basils

St. Basils
Originally uploaded by Traveling Em

I've got photos of Moscow up now. As well as a few from Portland. I've got more to put up, but really need to be working. Have a look around the different collections and photo sets.

Tuesday, August 14

Speedo Culture

Yes, that's right, I've moved to a place where the Speedo reigns supreme. Yesterday we had the "Directors Dinner." I dressed nicely and then had to tromp around in my fancy shoes through a forrest to a lake where we picniced.

Back to the point. Surrounding the lake were many teenageers as well as older Russians all either in speedos, bikinis or simply their underwear swimming and sunbathing. Boys in the underwear, women in bras, no signs of embarassment or need for modesty. In fact they were all looking at us, being fully dressed, as if we were crazy. I think I'll fit right in.

Rubicon Atlas

We received a 2 hour training this morning in Rubicon Atlas which is an internet based cirriculum mapping tool. Being internet based, I will be able to access it anywhere. I'm able to see other teacher's lesson plans and the general overview mapped out by the department heads.

Obviously, this is a great resource for an international school to build as the faculty turn over is so high. I managed to talk the training leader to giving me access immediately and all he did was switch in my name for the teacher I replaced. Of course, she and I are teaching different classes, so he just added additional course access to my account.

Now rather than leaving behind tons of binders with information like I did at J'OC, I'll be able to leave it all electronically. Genius!

Monday, August 13

First Impressions

Ok, my meeting is over and now I'm back in one of the classrooms I'll be using. Yes, that's right, I'm now one of those teachers who has to travel between rooms, however, that's only until mid-September or so when they'll be finishing the new construction of 5th floor classrooms where I'll have my own room. Hopefully it'll be cooler by then!

Anyway, this classroom is a fair size, about the size of my old room, but there's a bit more wall space and still only 1 white board. I really should be starting to plan the first week, but instead I want to write up a few of my first impressions of Moscow.

First off, it's pronounced "Mos-co" with a long "o" on the end, not Mos-cow - no farm animals in the name. Second, it's really well developed. On TV and in the movies, the potrayals are so bleak full of people waiting in lines for bread. Well, certainly that was the history, but I'm in a city overrun with commercialism. There are stores everywhere selling everything. Some things are really expensive - $4 for dental floss, I just paid $8.50 for a tiny bottle of face lotion with SPF. But then some things are really cheap like wine. The conversions is roughly 25 roubles to a $1. So every 100 roubles is $4, 1000 is $40.

My Russian is coming along. I've got my numbers pretty well and on Saturday evening I went to the farmer's market in my neighborhood where I was able to buy some nectarines (delicious!), plums shaped like torpedos (awful), home made hot sauce (in Russian it's called chili sauce, very easy to remember and it was also delicious), basil (it was good but wilted immediately), raisins. All the potatos are still covered in dirt. They were also selling huge sunflower heads. It's grand.

Back to impressions. Number 3 - traffic isn't so bad yet, but apparently that's because everyone is still away at their dacha - Russian summer home. When out walking cars speed up and try to hit you. Even though there are cross walks, only every 10th car will actually stop for them. This is not so good for me as in the states I would give cars that "I dare you to hit me as I'm crossing look." Here I think they'd take me up on it.

Number 4 - Most of the women are really well dressed but not ~all~ of them. However, yesterday at Victory Park I did notice several women in very high heels. Victory Park is cobblestones, so this seemed like a very poor footware choice, in my opinion.

Fifth - Many of my new colleagues seem to be overwhelmed by the school and the new hire orientation. I'm not. I feel like I was really well informed and maybe my expectations were really high. My expectations have been fulfilled - the facility and the orientation are great. The school is beautiful and orientation has been very well thought out. When we stepped into our apartments, there was a shower cutrain, two towels and soap set out in the bathroom. The bed was made including pillows. And then my favorit room, the kitchen. They included a tea kettle, skillet, small pot and strainer. The cuppard was stocked with tea bags, instant coffee, a small can of Pringles, a box of cookies, sugar cubes and Cornflakes (Kellogg's even). In the fridge there was carrots, onions, tomatoes (which I immediately removed from the fridge), red wine (same note as tomatoes), Swiss cheese, delicious plain yogurt, apple and orange juices, grapes, tortellini, tomato sauce, mayonaise, eggs, milk and chicken thighs. On the counter, a bag of potatoes. They have provided transportation not only to school but for all the shopping trips I've mentioned.

Sixth - Colleagues/friends. I see how it's easy to just live inside the school bubble. I can see several of my new colleagues becoming friends and a few that will remain distant colleagues. My apartment building really has the feel of a neighborhood. It's a large building with 9 different "doors" or entrances. Each door has 9 floors with 2 apartments on each floor. Actually, it's 4 apartments on each floor, but most of them have been combined to form larger apartments. So my apartment number is 61/62, the combination of the two, which is why it's so huge. There is such a wide variety of people here. There is a couple who lived in Japan for the past 10 years, a Scottish girl who is a riot. She's traveled quite a bit as a soccer coach and is now the middle school (MS) PE teacher. The high school swim coach is Australian, but has lived in Jakarta for the past 5 years. Then there are several retired teachers who have come out of retirement to do this. However, what I noticed today is that we're all white people, with the exception of one Taiwanese/Chinese American girl from Houston. Where are all the people of color in education? There must be some somewhere right? Even at my school in San Francisco, we only had one African American teacher and a handful of Latinos. How can we hope for racial integration when our work forces don't present it.

As for Russia, it is very xenophobic here. "Russia is for Russians." However, on the streets you see many immigrants. Many people look east Asian and then it's suprising to hear them speaking Russian. At the farmer's market, the majority of vendors are from Kazikstan. I don't know where I'm going with this so I'll stop now. I hope the 5 of you who read this enjoyed it.

Frequency Concerns

I promised myself and my friends that I would begin posting regularly once I moved to Russia and I'm still going to try to, but my computer is being shipped and my shipment won't arrive for another 3 weeks. In the meantime, I'm stuck waiting for free time at school, of which there is very little, or imposing on my new friend's who were smart enough to bring laptops. However, my new Skype phone is all set up, so Skype me! I'm dying to know how well it will work but no one has "called" yet .

I've been keeping very busy and the school has been keeping me busy as well. I painted one wall in my apartment a dark, golden yellow (California Sands) by hand with a 4" brush as my roller wand seems to have been left at OBI (the Russian Home Despot). Tonight I'm going to paint the accents with a dark orange (Mexican Mossaic).

We've gone on two big shopping trips - one to Ikea/OBI/MegaMall and then yesterday to the Auchon - which is a large grocery store. It appears that I'll be able to find everything I want with the exception maybe of some spices, which thankfully I shipped. Yesterday we also toured the city going to Victory Park, University Hill and Red Square. St. Basil's Cathedral is straight out of a cartoon book. It was amazing.

The most surprising thing thus far is how warm it is and how big the mosquitos are! I'm covered in bites. Ok, off to another meeting.

Wednesday, August 8

Hrm, it's all in Cyrillic

My blogger is now all in Russian. I'm going to have to figure that out. I'm very sleepy, at a welcome dinner, obviously not being very social. But wanted to post my first impressions.

Traffic is as bad as everyone says and the cars/trucks/vans emit nasty black clouds. My neighborhood is super cute at first glance and the apartment is HUGE! 1 large bedroom, one smaller room that will become the office though it has a sofa bed, a long galley kitchen with gas stove and tons of cabinet space. 2 balconies, many many windows and walls with indentions which will make it fun to paint. Although there's a $25/wall repainting fee at the end.

So sleepy. We begin orientation at 8:15 tomorrow morning.

Thursday, July 26

Get me a pecan

As promised, I spent 3 weeks of my summer visiting with my family before my departure to Moscow. This included a 5 day stay in Amherst, Ohio. Amherst is a small town west of Cleveland. My paternal grandparents are old, both in their 90s both with failing bodies. They both use walkers and talk a lot about their ailments. However, they are still very lucid, loving and caring grandparents.

As always, grandma tried to ply me with food. So, obligingly I ate some of the pecans that were sitting in a bowl. A note on pecans - there are two ways to pronounce this word, I prefer pe-chan with a short "e", but you also hear pea-can with a long "e" and a "k" noise for the "c". Say it outloud a few times for yourself, it will make the story funnier. Trust me.

Ok, so back to the story. "These are good pechans, grandma." "Oh thanks, your parents sent those to us." Me, in my head, "Dear g-d, when was that?!" Turns out it was Christmas time, hopefully of this year. Grandpa: "I can't eat those anymore. Something, something, ailment..." Everything on grandpa seems to be failing now-adays, his kidneys most recently. Seems like if your kidneys don't work, then it's time to start wearing the adult diapers. However, grandpa is way too proud for this. He and grandma fully believe that they had 5 children so that they would have someone to take care of them when they got older.

So there I am for breakfast. Grandma is already awake and has been for hours. She and I are talking in the kitchen while my Uncle Vince is helping grandpa get dressed. Grandpa comes in forcefully on his walker. "Get me a cup of coffee and a glass of water." I do so happily and then grandma tells me to get his oatmeal from the stove. Apparently, grandma makes his oatmeal when she first wakes up so there it is all congealed on the stove. I plop it into a bowl. Grandpa: "Put some honey on it." He has me stop when there are equal amounts of honey to oatmeal and then has me float the concoction in milk. He yells out, "Vince, get me a peacan." I stand up and grab the bowl of pechans. I turn to give them to grandpa as my uncle walks in with a plastic jug that he hooks to grandpa's walker. Apparently that's grandpa's pee can! I blush furiously as grandma starts hooting with laughter.

Thursday, July 5

Let's do this every year...

I'm in Ohio visiting my extended family and today my 90-something year old grandmother asked me if this thing with my boyfriend was "serious." I said, "Well, if we survive the separation between Moscow and Japan, then yes it will be." I asked her how she knew that grandpa was the "one." She told me that she had never wanted to get married, in fact she announced it as often as she could. Early on, when she was 20, apparently she and grandpa had shared a dance and he'd asked her to a formal dance. Well, she borrowed her sister Betsy's formal dress as grandma didn't own one and her own mother came home and refused to let her go out as "no decent girl goes out on a date after dark!" But apparently grandpa persisted and 7 - yes SEVEN - years later he had gone with her to get a christmas tree. Apparently this tree was missing a branch in the middle, so grandpa cut one off the bottom and arranged it to fit into the middle. He helped her decorate the whole tree and said to her, "Let's do this every year." She agreed and a few months later they were married. She gave up her job in the city and moved out to the country with him. That was 61 years ago. They're getting very old now, but neither of them regret any of the years.

Friday, June 29

Ooops, she did it again

I can't wait to post pictures of this...

I arrived in Atlanta the day after my sister's birthday. She pulls in my parents driveway - radio blasting - about 30 minutes before we're supposed to leave for dinner. Mom and I were still in the middle of a Scrabble game and we all needed to shower. So we head upstairs. Two showers are running, two showers end and then I jump in. Meanwhile the phone rings, it's the neighbor, "Did you hear that crash? We think Sarah's car rolled down the driveway... again." Yes, my sister left her standard transmission car in neutral without the brake set. My parents' driveway is mostly flat with a small hill that curves down toward the garage past the pool. The first time it was minor, it rolled and got stopped by a huge shrub. Mind you that time still cost $2,500 to repair her Jetta.

This time though it missed the big shrub and instead took out the concrete lion (about 1.5' tall) and rolled onto hit the wrought iron fence. Oil pan is dragged off and a terrified toad is covered in oil. My dad and I rescued the toad and the neighbor used his HUGE truck to pull the car out. My sister is hoping its totalled. I thanked her for an amusing start to my visit :) I know, I'm so cruel.

Three Kinds of Love

The boy and I were talking about our futures, whether they are aligned or not. I've been a huge ball of stress thinking about a long distance relationship between Moscow and Japan. He's just applied for a master's program where next summer he'll be taking lab courses in Maryland while I invision myself travelling through Eastern Europe or China.

Regardless of all this, he says that if our love is a love of the soul, we'll come back together. See, he believes in three kinds of love: love of the body, love of the mind and love of the soul. Love of the body is superficial, the first wrinkle, sign of weight gain, grey hair you're out - obviously not our kind of love. Then there's love of the mind, where you have conversation, intellectual match, fun. Even if you separate you can still be friends and possibly come back together. I believe this is the love we share. However, I think we both desire love of the soul - the kind that even if you're separated for ten years you ~have~ to come back together there is no one else for you.

So where does that leave us? I have no idea - but I'm feeling better about just seeing what happens.

Thursday, June 21

Good-bye, Serafina!

I sold my car yesterday, woo hoo! But now I have to say good-bye. She is a great little car, incredible gas mileage, I never once had a flat or any other problem really. Of course saying good-bye to her also means saying good-bye to my St. Mary's debt, WOO HOO! Thanks, Serafina!


Ok, now that I've written about my stresses, I can write about my first, but certainly not my last!, Izakaya experience. Wil and I met up with two other couples down at Yume-Ya in Sunnyvale for dinner. One of those dinners that I love that lasts almost 2 hours and includes the waitresses coming with multiple dishes and taking aways multiple dishes, several bottles of cloudy Japanese liquor that comes in a pink bottle.

So Izakaya is a type of Japanese dining that involves eating small plates of food whilst consuming sake. I'm fairly certain what we were drinking was not sake, but we did eat many small plates of food:

  • We arrived to spicy fish balls waiting at our seats

  • Spinach with sesame sauce

  • Lotus root stuffed with shrimp

  • Shrimp stuffed mushrooms

  • Cuttlefish (squid) in butter sauce

  • Some sort of incredible pork stew

  • Bitter melon (it is not named so in jest) with (sweet succulent) pork belly

  • Pumpkin Croquettes

  • Snail skewers (the only really disappointment of the evening)

  • Pickled Vegetables (far different from the kim chi type of Korean cuisine, these were mild and delicate, but had enough unique vegetables that I was still intrigued, until that last unidenified horrible green)

  • Chicken Cutlet with Ponz sauce

  • Halibut sashimi with ponzu sauce - this was awesome. Paper thin slices for you to roll around two types of radish bits

  • Dessert - panne cotta, yes, I know bizarre, but wonderfully creamy with a strongly flavored caramel topping

Thank you to my friends for introducing me to this place and this type of dining!

Stress Managment

I don't manage stress very well. I can't sleep or when I do sleep I grind my teeth. I get knots in my shoulders and mostly take it out on William, the calmest of calm. And this shouldn't even be stressful. I mean, damn, someone is coming to my house to pack for me!

Oh, but wait, the packing in and of itself means I'm moving to MOSCOW. Where I know no one, where it will be FREEZING for an average of 5 months out of the year. I've been very lucky in the bay area, hell, in my whole life really, and I'm confident that Moscow will be no exception. I've always said I wanted to move abroad and in actuality, will probably end up staying abroad for many years.

So then what else is there, hrmmm, oh right, there's that whole I've been living very happily with William for the past 8 months and in all likely hood that too will end as he moves to Japan. The current plan is that he'll join me next school year in Russia, but we both acknowledge that it's just a plan and is subject to change. Beyond that he has his whole life planned out, Japan, then law school, then working on making this world of public education a better place. My plan is that I have no plan - yes, I am incredibly anal about planning the present, but the future, well that is the one area of my life I just sort of fly by the seat of my pants. I can see myself hopping from international school, country to country. I don't want to come back to the states just to follow the boy to law school - though at some point I do want to get my masters in mathematics, but whose to say that has to be at a US university???

So, there you have it. The thoughts that have me awake 5 hours after I laid down. Now the curtains have to come off the wall and the sheets off the bed to be packed.

Wednesday, June 20

I hate moving

And this time it isn't even so bad. We had a highly successful yard sale Sunday where we ended up selling almost all the furniture we've acquired over the past year, including our beautiful table and six chairs. We ended up getting almost two-thirds of what we paid for it even! The couch, bookcase, kitchen island, kitchen shelves, dressers are all gone. Meaning all the stuff that lived in those places is now just sitting around the house. It's driving me crazy, but then it will all be gone tomorrow with the movers. And then we'll be in a house that has only a bed and our suitcases of clothes for 5 days.

The reality of the whole situation hasn't really set in yet. I still have not begun studying my Russian in earnest nor have I bought a statistics book to brush up on. Instead, Wil and I went and saw Mr. Brooks. Shockingly, Kevin Costner has made a movie that didn't suck, excluding Robin Hood Prince of Theives, of course! It was dark, a bit scary and fascinating.

And now tonight, we're off to try Izakaya which is akin to Japanese tapas. I'll post how that goes later (assuming I remember ;))

Thursday, June 7

End of Year

Finals started today, thank god. I've been mean recently to my students. It's so frustrating watching so many of them fail. Our principal has been telling us we need to figure out ways to make students pass. Ooh, I've got one, make them come to school - counting up total absences for the semester the highest was 76. Now that was extreme, but many were in the teens, low twenties and that doesn't include tardies.

But then, I still have several students who come every day and are still failing. They do no homework and maybe half of all the class work, thus, failing most tests. I just don't understand how you can come to school every day and actively do nothing. Then there are the ones who I told "You have to get a "B" on the final to pass." And then these past 4 days when I've given them review problems and time to ask me questions. They'd sit there chatting. When I'd remind them of the needed B, they'd say, don't worry you'll get it. As if it were a contest.

Don't they know I've already passed algebra!

After I finish grading finals tomorrow, I'll come back with statistics.

In the mean time, I found out that I'll have 3 preps next year in Moscow, meaning of my 5 classes, 3 of them will be different. I've got 3 9th/10th grade, 1 upper level IB juniors and 1 12th grade Math Studies, which I'm assuming is equivalent to "Math for music majors" or something. Grumble. I wanted all higher level math. Or at the very least a maximum of 2 preps. There go my visions of me walking around Moscow in the evenings.

Friday, June 1

CSA week of 5/30

Our box has been brimming with great stuff these past few weeks and I've been making great stuff with it. We got some wild arugula and basil last week which became a spicy pesto. After a visit in the country with Amy, we turned some of her fresh milk (omg so good!) into ricotta, which got layered with the pesto, sliced potatoes, artichoke sausage and homemade tomato sauce into a "lasagna."

This weeks fresh basil got turned into Basil Beer Bread which was incredibly fast. I got the recipe from my CSA news letter, which they inturn got from Eating Well magazine:

Preheat oven to 400. Coat a baking sheet with evoo.

3.25 cups all purpose flour
1 package yeast
1.5 tsp kosher salt
.5 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup parmesan

Stir in just until mixed:
1 12 oz bottle of ale

Turn onto a counter and knead just until incorporated:
1 cup chopped or torn fresh basil

Form bread into a round. Bake until golden brown, 40-45 minutes. I did 40, but should have gone at least 45 (yes, it was still doughy in the middle, d'oh)

Let rest on a wire rack 10 minutes before slicing.

It's very yeasty tasting, toasts up great and would be great for sandwhiches. I put a fried egg on it for breakfast this morning. Delicious!

I also made a basil vinagrette for the fresh spinach and salad greens. I haven't decided how to cook the kale yet and of course the strawberries got devoured on the ride home.


I get movers. The kind who will come to my house pack everything up for me and ship it off. Then a few weeks after I get to Moscow, my stuff will arrive and presumably be unpacked for me. I have a shipping allowance of 6 cubic meters, roughly 1200 pounds! Return trip is 8 cubic meters. Hoo boy!

Also, I just received a letter from the girl vacating my soon to be apartment. It's 2 bedrooms - so visitors you'll actually have a guest room! Aparently very roomy with a gas stove in the kitchen with tons of storage space - did I mention I'll have movers to pack up all my kitchen gear!! - a large living/dining room and a laundry room. I haven't known this decadence since living my corporate life in Denver.

Oh, and I also signed up to have a once a week house cleaner come. I promised William I would try to live neater in Moscow and I think this will be a great help. Spoiled, yes. But I'll have more time to learn Russian and cook this way. That's what I'll keep telling myself...

Friday, May 11

On days when it's good

Also yesterday, I had one of the best days in terms of student learning, thinking and application. We've been learning how to solve systems of equations. Two days ago I gave my honors students the following problems:

ax + b = y
x + c = y


ax + by + c = 0
ax + cy + b = 0

They were to solve both problems for x and y in terms of a, b and c. This is very abstract. Higher level thinking and application of what I've been teaching them. It blew their minds. They hated me for a solid 10 minutes until the bell rang. The next day, I let them know they weren't off the hook. We talked about how ax - x = (a -1)x. And then I gave them back their papers, mostly blank still. I told them to work with their groups to solve these and that they counted as today's quiz grade. Several of them ROCKED it! Many of them got off to a good start. There was lots of talking about math and solving math. Sigh. I'm so proud!

On days when it's bad

Well, yesterday in our common planning time (CPT) - a period that all the math teacher have off so we can work together - another teacher mentioned he's had great success with his incessant chatters by tellling them to go in the hall and talk to the tree out in the courtyard. My room doesn't have a tree in front of it but does have a trash can. So I have this student, Larry, who rarely comes to class. When he does he's always disruptive. Earlier this year I met with his mother who told me she's raised him never to appologize and that he has to talk back in order to be heard. Anyway he was a constant stream of inappropriate, unnecessary comments. "Larry please stop talking". More talking, "Larry please stop talking." More talking, "Larry I don't want to hear another word". More of the same, "Larry, if you can't stop talking go in the hall and talk to the trash can." Boy, was that the wrong thing to say. What insued was about 10 minutes of the student cursing at me, telling me to get out of his face before he started something, two security gaurds entering, student refusing to leave and finally me telling the rest of the class to take their things. I barged in on a teacher who had his prep period and begged him to use his class where I continued the lesson (thank god for co-workers who you like and who you know will let you do this!) But of course me having to do that was ridiculous. And awful. I do not get paid enough to have people yell profanities at me. I was actually hoping he would hit me so that I can press charges beyond just him threatening me.

Monday, May 7

Sidebar - WTF?!

Alright, so I've finally gotten around to updating a few links in the sidebar. However, all I can make it read for a title successfully is "Links" if I try "Knitting Links" it goes all direct text. Here's the code:

That works and it reads "LINKS"

as does :

So, I tried

And what shows up on screen:


My first Quinceanero

I'd never been to a quinceanero (a young woman's 15th birthday party celebrated in many Latin American cultures). When I was invited this year I jumped on the chance. William came along as my translator and it was crazy.

We pull up to this reception hall and I get comments like, "Whoa, Ms. S. You're ... pretty!?" And there is my student, the birthday girl, standing in a wedding like dress...

There are damas and chambelanes, the birthday equivalent of bride's maids and groom's men, except their all for the quinceanera, the birthday girl. There's food and beer and a lot of waiting. Turns out we're waiting for the dance. Part of the quinceanera's introduction into society is a dance presentation. Apparently there can be up to 3 dances, but this quince had just one, a waltz.

Apparently, they take their practice lessons as seriously as their homework. Because after the first minute of so, the birthday girl goes up to the DJ stand and has him turn of the music, she leaves the room in a huff. Now, having never been to one I had to have my translator explain what happened. According to William, they were all messing up the steps and not doing what they were supposed to. So there's more waiting while the birthday girl is outside crying and yelling, I'm guessing.

I took that time to examine the cake, 4 levels, 5 different cakes with a fountain in the middle.

Half an hour or so passes with no music, just people sitting around and the presentation begins again. The damas and chambelones are introduced. The birthday girl is presented and they dance again. No one is smiling, but they've all got their turns synchronized.

1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3

After this, William and I choose to head off for some sushi. The quinceanera gives me a bit of her poutiness, "But you just got here!" However, we'd been there two hours and my camera was out of batteries. To see more photos go to my Flickr Quinceanero Set