Sunday, December 21

Still here...

Alternate titles:

Why does this keep happening to me?
I'm never flying with a buddy pass again?
5 H-O-U-R-S, 4 Security Checks, 3 bag openings, 2 trips to the airport and a frustrated Eh-mah-leee (sung)

I tried going home to Atlanta today. Here's what it's like flying out of Sheremeytevo:

Arrive, maybe have to run your bag through an x-ray. Look at the screen. Find what counter to check in at.

Go through the "nothing to declare" channel. Definitely have your bags x-rayed. All of them, even your purse.

Then have your passport looked at. Answer the questions "who packed your bag? where? when?"

Then have someone open all your bags and look through them.

Then, and only then, do you stand in line to actually get your boarding pass. Or in my case, stand-by ticket. Then passport control... more waiting.

After passport control, wait in line to go through security - shoes off, coat off, stand in a human x-ray with your arms in the air. Not kidding.

Finally get into the area full of duty free shops and people smoking. Again, not kidding.

Go to the bathroom where the water in all the toilets is 5 day old pee yellow. Nope, still not kidding.

Get to the gate to be patted down, then have your carry-on bags looked through. Finally sit and wait to board. And wait, and wait. "We're fixing the a/c on the plane. We'll begin boarding in another 20 minutes." 20 minutes later. "We're still waiting for clearance. We'll board in 20 mintes." 20 minutes later. "The flight plan has changed and we need more fuel. We estimate boarding in 20 minutes."

However, I'd been told I was getting on the plane, so I didn't care. I sat and knit... and knit.

Finally, on the plane, business class. I've checked in my coat, ordered the sole for dinner. Wait, why is the gate attendant on the plane? Why is he telling people to get off? Why is he coming towards me?

Dammit! The plane is too heavy... TOO HEAVY! And removing the 7 buddy pass fliers will make it light enough to fly apparently.

So, now I'm home again. I'll head out with Natasha on Tuesday. In the meantime, I have more time to knit. And go to business lunch. Maybe I'll get to see Za German one more time.

But truth be told, I wish I were still on that plane.

X-Mas Present

X-Mas Present Version2
Originally uploaded by Traveling Em

Here's what I made for Marco. We're so cute it's sick.

Our last day together

Marco - the photographer
Originally uploaded by Traveling Em

this year anyway. Za German and I went around and had a day in the city. We went to the Tretchikov Gallery (great!) and then walked across the river to Red Square. We ate a hot dog then came back to my place so I could give him his gift - a photo mosaic, see above.

Saturday, December 6


I proctored the SATs this morning. Boy have they changed since I was taking them! There are 10, TEN, sections and the test taking lasts 4 hours. That means I was there 6 hours, on a Saturday people. Sucks ass. And unfortunately, no Mickey, I couldn't bring a book with me because as a diligent proctor I have to watch the kids for 4, FOUR!, hours to make sure they aren't cheating. Easily the most boring 4 hours of my life thus far, and as you know if you read this blog, my life isn't that exciting.

It's been especially not exciting this week as Za German has had visitors of the male persuasion the past week and thus I haven't seen him as his been out with his buddies playing host, read staying out until 7 taking them to different clubs.

So I've had a dull week, except for tonight, when I learned a new game, Bunko! I've heard of people having bunko parties, but I think that was mostly on sit-coms. Tonight I actually attended a party and it was like Yahtzee! and musical chairs all in one. Add in a bunch of snack foods, gin and tonic and you've got a recipe for great fun.

Friday, December 5


238/365 (self-portrait)
Originally uploaded by Traveling Em

This photo, which I only recently added to my 365 days of photos set, has been viewed 69 times! Does that seem weird to anyone else? Most of those photos have only been viewed 3 times, 5 for an especially good one... And I don't see anything especially interesting about this one. Can someone help me out?

Ok, I just went back to flickr and researched more. Seems people came upon it by searching for "boots" and/or "rain boots." 'Tis the season, I guess.

And speaking of the season, I've spent my Friday night baking cookies for a cookie swap I'm hosting Sunday! I'm making snowballs (aka Russian tea cakes, aka Mexican wedding cookies) and thumb prints (aka thimble cookies, the ones with an indentation filled with jam or candied fruit).

Tomorrow I have the excitement of proctoring the SATs. Yep, that's right, it's a never ending party in my world.

Wednesday, December 3

Dolled Up

Originally uploaded by Traveling Em

I spent an hour watching You Tube videos on "smokey eyes". In the end I think the make up turned out well. And of course, I was happy to be all decked out mit meinem mann. We went to the annual AAS holiday party. Last year was incredible, this year, eh, it was ok. Had a much better time coming home with the man, if you know what I mean.

Saturday, November 22

Just when I was beginning to have faith...

Remember how last year my group of Higher Level students stole tests from my room, made copies and distributed them, causing me to have to do a TON more work??? Well, this year, our relationship was evolving. I had regained trust in them and was enjoying them.

Then, I get very sick. I stay home, trusting that they'll take their test with the sub. Then I get this email from my department head:

I understood from your substitute that a group of students, seeing that you are not there, just left the room. This is the reason you will find less tests to mark.

I have just 4 out of 10 to mark. FOUR! Of those missing 6, only 2 have gotten in touch with me. One told me she skipped the morning knowing she wasn't prepared. Another was "stuck in traffic because his car still doesn't have the snow tires on it."

Oh, so angry. Apparently they've all already been rounded up and put on Saturday school. Then they'll be coming in to see me after school to take the test. Now the question is, and I think it must be, that they get a different version, which I must write. Two versions never end up being equal in difficulty, want to guess which version will end up harder...

Mean, a bit, but have I mentioned I'm angry.

Left Overs

I love left overs... for about one day. But this morning, my throat has only a twinge of pain left in it and I surveyed my refrigerator. I made some congee, inspired by Kayaksoup from when she was home sick. Mine was good, but needed more salt. That's not what I wanted for breakfast, albeit, it is a traditional breakfast food. No, instead I spied the left over spaghetti from two nights ago that Za German made.

I have a microwave. I use it fairly frequently to heat left overs, one dish clean up after dinner and all. But in my opinion, the only way to heat left over spaghetti, is on the stove top. I love how it dries the sauce out just a bit, but the noodles are still tender.

Eating spaghetti for breakfast, yet another thing I love about living along...

Friday, November 21

Fresh Air

No, I'm not going to write about Terry Gross today, though I did use to love hearing her voice over my radio. Instead, Za German (thanks Amanda) said, "Now don't worry, when you open the door what you'll experience is fresh air. Don't be scared." I think he was probably more ready for the fresh air than me. He arrived yesterday with instant chicken noodle (alphabet!) soup - exactly what I'd been craving. He made it while I laid on the couch. Then we watch Lord of War in English with German subtitles - those crazy Germans seem to capitalize every 3rd word! Took a 2 hour nap before he made me spaghetti - still soft, but with a bit more substance. We watched another film - Zoolander, always funny, but I think Za German missed my favorite joke about the eulogy - and ten hours of sleep. By this morning, he suggested we get out.

So, yes, I ventured out of the apartment today. I had hoped to make it to business lunch at Goodman's steak house for a kick-ass burger, but my energy and appetite weren't up to it yet. Instead, we walked to the grocery store. But I did get hungry along the way so we stopped off for sandwiches. It was $12 worth of deliciousness. I could only eat half though. Za German was kind enough to finish it off for me. I hope it doesn't make him sick.

But I have been on antibiotics a full 2.5 days now, along with anti-inflammatories (last morning for those things) as well as pain medicine. It seems to have killed everything in my body, along with all the friendly bacteria I should have. Which leads me to have at least one more conversation topic with the doctor tomorrow at my follow-up appointment (do they have 1 day yeast infection treatments here in Moscow, they must right??? perhaps TMI, but it seems the more personal I get the more readership I have...)

I was supposed to go to some Scottish party tomorrow night at the US Embassy Dacha which is to include poetry readings, dancing and singing. I don't know that I'll make it. Tonight there's a chili cook-off at the Canadian embassy that I'm missing as well. Stupid tonisilitis.

Thursday, November 20

Hurts so Bad

No, don't get worried, the Hunky German and I are doing fine. Several of you have asked for details, but I'm not one to kiss, or do hours of kissing, and tell. But I will tell you we met at the Oktoberfest Party at the German Embassy, where he works, on Saturday, September 27th. Here we are dancing the night we met:

We had our first "date" the following Tuesday after my sister left and then Sha arrived. We talked on the phone a bit, Sha got to meet him a few times. We trounced him at Noochi (high speed group solitaire) and he handled it quite well. We see each other a few times a week. Unfortunately he leaves Moscow at the end of February :( Who knows what will happen then...

So no, that's not why I hurt. I am home sooooo sick. I was crying at the doctors office yesterday because it hurt just to say my name when I first got there and no one understood me and finally a nurse said "Oh, Emily S..." and I nodded yes and pointed. They said sit down. My appointment time came and went and all these other people went by. Finally I went back to the desk and pointed to my watch. They asked my name, this time I just wrote it down. And they said "Did you tell us you were here?!" And then rushed me back to see a very nice French doctor. Who took one look at my incredibly swollen tonsils and said "oh, I bet that hurts a lot." But it's not strep. "That's a good thing, step is very bad bacteria," he said. "But yours is also really bad." And they don't know what it is. So he gave me an anti-inflammatory shot in my butt and then a prescription with 5 different things on it! Everything having to be swallowed of course. By last night I could finally eat a bowl of soup. I was lucky that all the medicine on an empty stomach didn't make me nauseous!

So later today, the German is coming to take care of me. I've already taken off Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week. Maybe I'll actually be able to enjoy a bit of tomorrow. But at this point, Thursday morning, it still hurts to swallow.

Tuesday, November 11

It's fun, right?

I've started a knitting group here. My idea was to have a Stitch 'N' B!tch type club where I could sit around knitting and being social. Thus far only 2 people have been coming regularly and mostly they come for advice on how to knit. This is fine, I'm happy to help, but last night over the 2 hours, I didn't get to knit a single stitch. Argh. I'll never get holiday gifts done at this rate!


And now a funny story that some of you may enjoy about my recent trip home. After missing the flight the first day, I got on the second day, in business class. Like a flying fancy restaurant, they come for your order. Menu options were filet mignon, seared cod, stuffed chicken breast or pasta with mushrooms and arugula.

"And what would you like ma'am?"

"Filet, please."

"Oooh, we're pretty full tonight and since you're the lowest priority of business class (my ticket was only $400), I don't think I can accommodate you. What's your second choice?"

"The fish."

Winces. "I don't think I have enough of that either... But the pasta looks really good tonight..."

Sigh. "Ok, that's fine."

We take off. I get to talking with my neighbor. A blond, big breasted Russian woman in her late 40s or so. She's telling me about how she's on her 4th husband, this one a rich (we're talking, he lost 20 million in his last divorce, rich) American guy who lives in Florida while she's still in Moscow. Our meals arrive. I've got an oily pasta, she gets the filet. Of course.

She proceeds to use her fork to brush off all the sauce. Then she cuts off a piece and rolls it around in her napkin (at least she used the paper one from under her drink rather than the cloth one) to further remove all the sauce. Then she proceeds to shred it. Yes, by now I'm also thinking she's crazy. Then she grabs the shreds and ...


feeds them to the cat at her feet. Thankfully I'd had enough wine to find this incredibly amusing rather than shouting "Dammit Fluffy, that's my steak you're eating."

Sunday, November 9

Not even a week

Yep, I didn't even make it a week. I just can't be bothered to blog everyday. My life isn't that exciting. And sure I have all these thoughts running around in my head, things I would like to provide my own editorial on, but when I get home I don't want to head to my computer. Regardless, I'm no longer committing myself to NaBloPoMo

Or yesterday, which was a rather perfect day of sleeping in, snuggled in warm arms in a cold room, heading off to the Gorbushka market for a very Russian morning, coming home to watch a terrible movie (Deception, oh, Hugh Jackman, how could you??), supervising the making of some delicious dark chocolate, white chocolate, pecan, pinenut cookies (what a role reversal, I washed, he cooked - it's so much easier to cook with two!), knitting a bit and then heading to a wine and cheese party. Why would I want to interrupt any of that by sitting alone at my computer??

However, I will try to post more often this month. Which compared to October will be a snap ;) Oh look I've already more than doubled October's posts!

Thursday, November 6

Back in the Saddle

When I got back, I made a comment that I didn't want to go back to work. But arriving yesterday, seeing my students, feeling like I was going 50 mph all day, who am I kidding? I love it. Besides, I would get so bored staying home.

I got my form to notify the school if I'm "Definitely Staying" or "Definitely Leaving" Those are our only two options. We have until Nov. 28th. Even though at this point, I feel as though I'm definitely staying, I'm going to hold on to the form a bit longer. We all know how I tend to change my mind... Although I can't imagine leaving my Grade 11s. I really want to stay with them and watch them graduate.

Wednesday, November 5

Dude, I suck

Man, it's only the 5th day and already I've blown it. Oh wait, back in the states it's still the 5th...

Tuesday, November 4

Last Minute

I'm not so good at this posting everyday thing. I didn't even want to turn on the computer. But I'm back. It was a lovely return home - business class flight, German boy waiting to spend the afternoon with me. Yes, I'm glad to be back.

Monday, November 3

Off again

With one extra suitcase, I return to Moscow today. Hopefully business class again, but as long as I make it there I don't care.

Sunday, November 2


I had lunch and dinner with people I've known for well over 10 years, one I've known for over 20. It's amazing to have friendships that seem to be timeless.

Saturday, November 1

Anything you can do, I can do better

Ok, that's not really what I was thinking when I signed up for NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month, or something of the sort. But The Prettiest Denny's Waitress somehow manages to do it. So I thought I'd give it a whirl. I mean hell, it's Nov. 1st and I've already posted 3 messages. I'll just add it to my picture-a-day mentality.

Reading his post yesterday about Halloween and how he was going to start again, inspired me. That and I wanted to talk more about Halloween costumes.

Last night, I sat on the front porch of my grandmother's house - a house I love, over 100 years old, big, but not too big; just this past year she had a shower installed in the upstairs bathroom - before the only shower had been in the unfinished basement; and she raised her 10 children here. My job was to give 1 piece of candy to every trick-or-treater. The town had agreed that 6-7:30 would be the time. So I sat, on a relatively warm night, reading and handing out candy to a small yoda, a dalmation, a few princesses, etc. And you know what, only a handful, small handful, of costumes were homemade! Almost everyone was store bought.

I remember being a ballerina, a hobo, a witch all from items we had around the house. One year I made myself a pumpkin wearing an orange sweatshirt and green tights. But somehow all these adults have bought into the idea that the costume must be purchased. If your kid is under 4, they don't care. Besides, they shouldn't have an opinion.

I was talking with my great-aunt yesterday about how it seems like American's are forgetting how to survive within their own means. I grew up with my mom cooking, but we were not necessarily frugal. It was only when I moved out that I taught myself to can food, to knit. And I'm not going to pretend like I do those things because I have to (hell, look at my last post to know that I am certainly still with the rest of America at Tar-geh), I choose to. I don't wish that I was born in the late 1800s, but I do want to live a simple life. And I want people, especially in small town Ohio or even more so in American suburbia, to remember it can still be done.

Consumerism gone mad

I'm not a shopper. I still have clothes from college and I graduated 7.5 years ago. However, this trip, I have gone crazy. I've bought 5 pairs of shoes, 2 jeans and countless tops. Oh and don't forget the 2 ball gowns. Yesterday at the Bullseye I couldn't restrain myself from buying DVDs. Yes, I'd intended to get Arrested Development, but then I also saw Burn Notice and Bring It On and I don't even remember whatelse. I'm going to have to buy another suitcase. It's sick, really. And worse yet, I haven't even purchased the items on my list of things to buy - cornstarch, baking powder and Worschteshire (or however it's spelled). At least those things are small. Someone help me.

November 1

Ohio is beautiful this time of year. All the trees are covered with gold and red, but the best part is that the lawns are equally split with Obama and McCain posters. My grandparents/family live in a small town that normally is very conservative. But it seems things are swinging the other way here.

Praise Jebus.

Friday, October 31

Take me home, country roads

Remember how I was mugged this summer, which resulted in me no longer having a driver's license or ATM card. Well, in an amazingly painfree process, I got a new driver's license from the state of Georgia. And it's valid for 10 years! I still haven't bothered with BoA to try and get a new ATM card. I'm still mad at them for not sending me a new one after I was mugged - geeze, obviously I hold grudges.

Anyway, it was vital to get the new license as in my on-going traveler insanity, I decided to add a quick trip up to Ohio to see my relatives. To make it easier to see everyone, I rented a car - which necessitates having a license. I'd forgotten how fun it is to drive! And it's so beautiful here right now. All the leaves are gold and red. It's crisp but not freezing (though apparently they had snow 2 days before my arrival). In the drive to Cousin Mark's house, I discovered that a few wineries have opened near by! I'm going to check those out today.

Last night my dad's siblings gathered for dinner so I could see everyone. It was really nice. My Aunt Rose brought some photos of my family she'd discovered in my grandmother's files. It was a great night.

I spent 2 hours chatting with my lone remaining grandparent, my mother's mother. She's still very with it, fiercely independent and well traveled. We talked about her trips to Poland and the UK, about politics (this conversation far less painful than discussions that occur on my father's side) and my favorite topic, food. Tonight, I'll return to her house to help hand out Halloween candy.

Wednesday, October 29

Sweet Home right-next-to-Alabama

So I made it on Monday's flight. My sister picked me up and we headed straight to Lohemann's. After spending a fair bit of money, we met up with my parents for sushi at Nagoya, our local sushi place in the suburbs. It was great as always.

Yesterday, I got up at 4:30, this after sleeping only a few hours on the plane and forcing myself to stay awake until 10:30! Stupid jet lag. Watched the South Park movie which was a huge mistake, because the rest of the day I was singing "Kyle's Mom's a ..." well, you know. Finally the rest of the family was awake and I could hang out with them. My sister came to get me around noon and we headed off for yet more shopping. I think I've now bought enough to fill my suitcase.

I helped her out by babysitting for one of her "families" - my sister is a nanny. So she could go to her other job. The yard was littered with cut out black cats and witches. But the scariest part of all was the McCain/Palin sign in the front yard. It was hard for me to even go into the house. But then it got scarier still. There was a "sexual intimacy" phamplet sitting out on a side table that has 6 bible lessons to be used in conjunction with a dvd on how to be sexually intimate with your heterosexual marriage partner. My dad picked me up and I realized to my horror that even after 8 years of the shrub as president, my family is still... don't hate me... republican . Oh the horror.

Somehow I'll survive. I mean I survived sharing my sister's bed with her (fine) and her 80 pound bulldog who farts and snores in his sleep (less fine). Today's plan is... no, not more shopping, but instead to get my haircut and other beauty treatments. Tonight we're going out for steak, yummy, yummy steak.

Tomorrow I head to Ohio to see the relatives. Ooh, that reminds me to go priceline a rental car.

It's nice being home.

Sunday, October 26

When luck runs out

Normally, I have insanely good traveler luck. So, back when my sister was visiting and her friend offered me buddy passes, I canceled the ticket I had bought for October break and took her up on the offer - business class here I come. The catch was that the flight was crowded on Saturday, so it was best to wait until Sunday. Sure, extra day in Moscow, no worries. So today, I went to the airport today optimistic that I would get on the oversold flight to Atlanta even though I was flying stand-by. Really, I should have just used my common sense and not gone out to Sheremyetevo at all - by all that is holy do I hate that airport. However, I went. And then I found out yesterday's flight was canceled (the one I was originally booked on!) I was told to wait until the flight boarded to see if there were seats. So I sat and knit. And tried to restrain myself from kicking the screaming children running laps in front of me.

Finally at departure time, they tell the 7 of us waiting to get on the flight, that we're not getting on, but tomorrow looks good. Let's hope so, I'm only giving it one more shot.

However, I learned that taking the public bus from the airport to the metro, while it only costs a dollar takes an HOUR and 45 MINUTES! Sheer, painful, cold (I didn't bring a jacket since I have one in Atlanta that I want to remember to bring back, however, it's only 6 today) hell.

So here I sit, grading papers, updating my blog on the second day of October break.

I must have more interesting things to say, it's been so long since I've posted. Well, in sheer insanity, even though I hate this city, I love my job so much that I think I'll be staying a third (and final) year. So those of you who thought you couldn't make it out while I'm here, still have a chance. Start looking for tickets now... they're cheap. Bree just got a direct flight to NYC for only $675 round trip!

Oh, that reminds me of more exciting news. Natasha is coming to the states with me for x-mas holidays. We're spending a week in the south then heading to Vegas for New Year's and then to California for a few days. Woo hoo.

Oh, and did I mention the unintentional reclaimed viriginity has been taken care of... probably not. But I was tempted to call a future post "Sexing it up" just for The Prettiest Denny's Waitress.

Tuesday, October 14

Hostess with the Mostest

Nate, Vero and Petter arrived September 12th. The day after they left, my sister, her friend Schera, Schera's two sons, Dawson and Garrett, arrived. A full day and a half after they left, Mama Pajama arrived. She left today, October 14th, a full 4 and a half weeks later.

Revolving door. You betcha. Am I burnt out, well, yes, I'm a bit crispy around the edges. Those edges have been snapping off rather easily when my students annoy me. However, I was getting really used to having people to come home to. I already miss Mama P.

Obviously, I did no blogging while people were here. I turned my office into a guest bedroom by putting the mattress from the pull out sofa in here. I was only coming in to get to the laundry room.

It's always interesting to look at Moscow through a visitor's eyes. Here's a story from 8 year-old Dawson about their first night, the one I called "Music or Noise":

And here's a great post from Mama P about our banya experience entitled "I just Picked Dried Cottage Cheese off of my Face": (I hope she doesn't mind me reposting it here...)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I Just Picked Dry Cottage Cheese off of my Face

Even better, I'd put it here on purpose AND I paid good money to do it. :)

Em, her friend Natasha and I were Russians today. Well, Natalie *is* actually Russian, but Em and I got to be honorary Russians. Naked honorary Russians. We went to something called a banya, or a traditional sauna. Or as it kind of seemed at times, a kind of group, DIY day spa.

My first impression of this particular place was of a lobby-like room, with long, high-backed leather benches, high ceilings, wood wainscoting, and brass fixtures. For a moment, it apeared as though we'd stepped back in time to a 19th century hotel. Except that, unlike most hotel lobbies I've been in, this one was hosting nearly a dozen women draped in only towels or birthday suits, having, you know, tea.

Having all of my preconceptions of the day pretty much squelched immediately upon this sight, I knew I was going to spend the rest of the morning following the lead of Em and Norma. Turns outhe lobby was vack where we paid and dropped of our coats. But even with that knowledge and having the lockers hiding in the wainscotting pointed out to me - and keep in mind, not 5 feet from us a woman in only a thong was applying her makeup in a mirror - my brain had decided that this was a hotel lobby and I could barely take off my clothes. As I slowly peeled off my pants, I expected people to start screaming and the police to storm in and haul me away for indecent exposure. I wrapped myself up in my sheet as quicky as I could. So much for my career as a stripper.

Once undressed, we passed through the frosted glass door into a large, high-ceilinged, white tiled room. Naked women of all shapes and sizes were scattered about; some taking showers in open stalls, some clustered around low benches scrubbing themselves vigorously, and some pouring buckets of water over their heads. We hung up our towels, and aimed for the wooden door leading to the sauna. I got to practice my eye contact as we walked in; a woman bobbed vigorously in a barrel-like cold plunge next to the door, making her breasts piston up and down. Even having breasts myself and knowing what silly things they can be at times, I had to bite the inside of my mouth to keep from bursting into laughter. That had not been a particular sight I'd been planning to take in in Moscow.

The sauna room was pretty impressive structurally. I'm used to small-ish enclosures at spas, maybe holding 4-6 people max. Now, I laugh at their puny saunas with derision. Ha! Ha! Ha! Or at least I would, had my lungs not been burned off and sizzled into pork rinds inside my chest. FUCK was that thing hot! Seriously, I walked in, climbed the steps to the sitting area, stood there for about two seconds before I had to cover my face with a towel so I could breathe, and then marched back to the bottom of the steps where the temperature was only on broil, and not char. I'm sure that 20' square floor-to-ceiling oven had nothing to do with it. I had a brief moment of panic; it was too hot and there was no way I was going to be able to do this. Em - who was calmly sitting there, y'know, breathing - assured me it did take some getting used to, and to just ease myself into it.

And after only a handful of minutes, most women came out and back into the main tiled room, where cold water was applied to the body in one of several fashions. Never before had I been so eager to douse myself with icy water and I jumped into the cold plunge pool (never fear; no pistoning breasts.) And really, once your body is numb, its easier to stand the heat of the sauna, so back and forth we went. (I never could go in without breathing through the towel, though.) The icy cold and the screaming hot eventually start to balance each other out. I joked with Em that it was like vodka and pickles.**

Then comes the DIY part. After you've been sweating yourself clean in the sauna (and possibly beaating yourself with branches of oak leaves at the same time,) its time to scrub down your body with some sort of cleansing agent that you've brought. And by cleansing agent, I of course mean food product. Homemade body scrubs aren't just the thing; they're the norm. Some people use straight coffee grounds, while others mix together paste-like substances. We were a little poor with our preparing; we simply had sea salt and oatmeal, which we just grabbed with our bare hands and started rubbing on our bodies. I think the last time I probably did something like that I was younger than Mags, and I'm betting I probably got a scolding for it. But once you (ok, I) struggled through the fact that the oatmeal was starting to get kind of creamy on your body and is-anyone-else-reminded-of-eating-instant-cereal-on-cold-winter-school-mornings-in-Wisconsin?, it *was* rather pleasant. Then a good rinse***, and back for another round of sauna-ing.

After every 20-30 minutes of spa-ing, we'd head back to the not-lobby. It was during one of these breaks that I was introduced to the cottage cheese (thought I'd forgotten about that, eh?) Nancy had it mixed in with several other ingredients she'd included in her home made facial. We took turns going over to the Thong Mirror and painted the mess onto our faces, and then sat back down and had tea. Obviously cameras were not really something to take to a public spa, but really, the three of us sitting around a marble-topped table having tea and cookies, with egg literally on our faces and sporting a bad case of cottage cheese acne to boot -- damn. Quite a sight to behold, although I'm sure there's some German fetishist group out there somewhere that would've paid good money for those pix.

I got limper and limper every time we took a break. And not surprising; we were there for 3 hours. So. Incredibly. Relaxing. After a while, I didn't really care that lying down on the long leather benches was maybe a bit passe. With every pore in our bodies rinsed out, we all willed our muscles back into life, lotioned up, and struggled back into our clothes.

Good lord. I'm getting relaxed just thinking about it.

Like several new things I've experienced on this trip, I wish I had time to give it a second try. I was lucky in my experience with the St. Petersburg train; it was awkward and uncomfortable not knowing what to do or where to go or how things worked in getting there, but I got to pair that up with a good memory of knowing what to do (and not looking like an idiot) on the ride home. It'd be great to re-do the banya experience, not only to have another drool-inducing morning of relaxation, but again to be able to pair it up with an experience where I felt more like I knew what I was doing. Guess I'll just have to come back then, won't I?

Oh, and appologies to Em's friend Nadine, who's name I could never quite remember and therefore never addressed unless she was looking right at me.

** Vodka consumption in Russia: Shots of vodka are (apparently) often served with a plate of pickled vegetables. After a picked weapon of choice is selected and in hand, a toast is made with the vodka. The you take a sip, raise the pickled [vegertable] to your nose, take a sniff of it, swallow the vodka, and then pop the vegetable into your mouth. Chew. Just sniffing the pickled-ness of the veggie starts to calm down the alcohol in your mouth, and mixed together in your throat, the booze cuts the pickle-ness of the food and the pickle cuts the burn of the booze. They basically completely neutralize each other so that all you are left with is a tasty, tender vegetable. Sounds fairly disgusting at first, but one of my favorite things that I've learned while here. Its like a magic trick with food. :)

*** Note to self: for furture reference, 'a good rinse' includes remembering that all of the oatmeal rubbed onto your body washes down and tends to gather in -ta da! - your pubic hair. For future reference, locking the bathroom stall door before sitting on the toilet and batting at said oatmeal with spread legs is also a good idea. That poor woman.

Thursday, September 25

Music or Noise?

Last night I went to a music performance near my house at one of the churches. It was billed as "Jazz with a big organ and saxophone - negro and other spirituals and improvisations." Sounds cool, right? Well, the first part, this black woman with dreads, playing the organ with barefeet was very cool. Especially when she sang. However, for some reason the organ was really quiet.

Then the next part, a saxophonist with a different organist. It sounded as though they couldn't hear each other and after their "experimentation" I felt like I couldn't hear - or never wanted to hear again - after that. It easily could have been entitled "Improvisational Anarchy" or "Chaos Theory Explored." Definitely not spiritual. And ironically the organ was incredibly loud!

So, that was my sister's first night. "Welcome to Moscow!"

Nate and Vero left Tuesday :( Go read Nate's write up about his trip to Moscow.

Wednesday, September 17


Originally uploaded by Traveling Em

I know it doesn't happen very often, but when I go out, I go all out. This photo was taken at 4 in the morning after we returned from a night of vodka drinking at Art Garbage. It was super fun, but I think I'm still recovering. Or maybe I'm recovering from being at work until 9 last night!

Wednesday, September 10

Where's She Been?

Let me 'splain. No, that'd take too long, let me sum up.

Since my hair cut, I:
  • took 4 people out to the Gorbushka Rynok to buy tasty smoked meats
  • went and picked up my newly framed art
  • got incredibly sick - another sinus infection and it was only September 1st!
  • went to a birthday party
  • went to Stockholm for a math conference
  • ate a lot of INCREDIBLE food
  • returned Sunday night at 10:30 pm - realized I'd left behind dirty dishes from being so sick before I left
  • cleaned frantically so my apartment no longer smelled disgusting
  • had a pedicure by two Russian women who came to our apartments for $32!
  • got my new camera!!
  • went out to dinner with friends
  • hosted a Grade 11 assembly
  • organized my Thai Challenge group so we'd have a bake sale Friday (for which I agreed to make banana bread) and a movie night next Friday
  • am organizing travel plans for the 3 friends arriving Friday
  • will meet with a potential new house cleaner tomorrow after mine suddenly quit - after I'd paid her for the summer and August even though she only cleaned twice in that period.
  • updated this blog for the first and probably only time in September

Saturday, August 30

New 'Do

I went and had a hair cut in Moscow today. I paid about what I would pay in the States for a good haircut and thankfully this was also a good haircut. I was a bit concerned when the stylist told me he had come from the (night) club to the salon without sleeping and then even more when he told me he was only 22, but no need to fear, I got a great haircut. ... Now if only my eyebrows would grow back in ;-)

Actually, as you can see from this photo (pre-haircut) taken at dinner with some of my "old lady" friends my eyebrows aren't ~that~ terrible.

Wednesday, August 27

The Omnivore's 100

Taken from my friend Kayaksoup, though it appears to have begun over at Very Good Taste

Here’s what to do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

Note: I'm adding 4) and 5)
4) Star anything you'd like to try
5) Double Star anything you'd never heard of but after looking up would like to try

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart

16. Epoisses **
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans

25. Brawn or Head Cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam Chowder in Soudough Bowl
33. Salted Lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac
37. Clotted Cream Tea
38. Vodka Jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail *
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects *
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth $120 or more

46. Fugu (AKA pufferfish)*
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer

55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal Note: I am such a food snob...
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores

62. Sweetbreads *
63. kaolin Note: All I could discover about this is it's a type of clay??
64. Currywurst **
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost or brunost **
I had to look this up, I've actually had it but I know it as "wimp cheese" I love it!!
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu **
77. Hostess Fruit Pie Phew, I'm not that much of a food snob ;)
78. Snail
79. Lapsang Souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom Yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky

84. 3 Michelin Star Tasting Menu *
85. Kobe beef *
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate **
91. Spam I'm loathe to admit this one, but you find it often in Korean fried rice.
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose Harissa **
94. Catfish
95. Mole Poblano
96. Bagel and Lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee

100. Snake *

Wow, out of 100, there are only 17 I haven't tried. I tried to eat bugs, but turns out they don't travel well. You have to eat them fresh. Maybe the next time I'm in Thailand...

So much to say

So little energy to write it up with. First week of school over, check. Like my kids, well most of them, check. Can put faces to names when they're outside of class, err, half check.

Last weekend I went camping and canoeing. It was full of ups and downs, but now writing about it 3 days later, I can say it was great. I had the best night sleep out in the chilly night air all snuggly in my sleeping bag. And I can forget about the SWARMS of mosquitoes and the fact that our "guide" led us about a kilometer past the pick up point which meant about a kilometer of paddling upstream.

We had parent/teacher conferences last night. Last year I had LOADS of parents I think all anxious to meet the new math teacher. Last night I had 16 of about 70 parents show up. It was raining and many of them had been in in the morning for parent coffee, but still, having only 16 makes staying at school for 14 hours that much more painful.

In other news, I had 11 students hand in essays about why they want to travel to Thailand to do community service over February break. I spent all day on the phone confirming that their parents knew about their intentions. Part of the conversation went like this:

Me: "The trip costs $1850..."

All but two parents: "Oh, no problem"...

Me: "Your child is supposed to fund raise a minimum of $850 but we'd like a deposit of $1000 by Friday"

Parents, all but two again, "No problem."

In some ways it's nice, in others, well it feels like I've sold out. But here's a photo from last years "Pie in the Face" fundraiser:


Tuesday, August 19

First Day of 08/09 School Year

And I am super-pooper. One of the Russian teachers says that, though I think when she says it she means super-duper, but I am pooped! We saw all of our classes for 25 minutes each. Normally students go to half of their classes one day, the other half the next for 90 minute blocks.

25 minutes was too short for a lesson, too long for chit chat, but I didn't feel like doing any "get to know you" stuff. So we muddled along. I heard a few times today "I've heard you're really nice" and "My son is so excited to have you; he's heard nothing but good things." I hope I can live up to everyone's expectations.

Also, already as grade level leader for the 11th grade class I've had 2 students approach me for help.

Yep, all in all, it was a good first day.

Bring on the math tomorrow!

Sunday, August 17

So hot!

I am such a heat wuss! It was 31 C here today (roughly 88 F) and I'm roasting. There's no a/c, no breeze, my fan is just blowing around hot air. I'm such a wuss. No way I'm moving to SE Asia or back to Houston or Atlanta. Ugh.

I've had a great weekend. Went to a Russian (as opposed to Georgian) farmers market and bought loads of cheap, in-season produce. Today I made a plum/sour cherry sauce in my crockpot out of the goodies. Last night I went to an expat party of people I'd never met and we got to know each other over vodka and fresh caviar - fresh caviar is sooo good, by the way. Today I had my art from Thailand framed. I payed more than I wanted to, but that's because I picked the most expensive frame... of course. But it was no more than I would have payed in the states.

And then I've worked a bit too. But really it's too hot to do anything but take another shower. Meh.

When will I learn

not to wax my own eyebrows??? Seriously. I did the under part just fine and then decided to take "just a little" off the top. That never works. Now I have airplane landing strips for eyebrows. I hope they grow back fast...

Friday, August 15

I hope this isn't real

Go watch this horrible online dating videa/plea for an ex-girlfriend to return:

Randy's Message

I think my favorite line is "I'm living with Corey and Janice and it f*ckin' sucks. Will you please bring my truck and our house back?" Or when he offers that they use her sister as a surrogate so that she doesn't get any fatter. Whoa.

Thursday, August 14

Not going to keep me down

I decided to try and keep up the photo of the day project. Hopefully a friend from Laos will be sending me photos which will account for a few missing days. Friday night when I returned to Moscow Tyler took a photo of me with my new art:

However, I wasn't in any (that I know of) from Saturday - Wednesday of this week. So I can go back and find some images depicting what I did those days:

Saturday 129/365 Took the new hires to Mega Mall
Sunday 130/365 Went to the rynok, cooked a ton
Monday 131/365 Went into school with many of my library books (didn't need to be there)
Tuesday 132/365 Business Lunch at Goodman's
Wednesday 133/365 First day of work, dinner with vodka and pickles with bree and deem

I decided to pick up the project again today. I shouldn't let the mugger ruin my year of photos. So Carol took one of me this evening:


The t-shirt makes me look like I've added 20 pounds since Friday's picture, but that's not true (thank goodness!), it's just the shirt. Though I should move away from Carol's delicious cookies ASAP!

Tuesday, August 12

In which Lonely Planet responds

I sent an email to Lonely Planet about all the crime in Vang Vieng. They mention pickpocketing in their guides as an "annoyance happening by other tourists." So I wrote that it has escalated to way more than an annoyance and that I was definitely mugged by a Laos man, not another tourist. The response amused me, especially the part I put in bold:

Hi Emily

Thanks for taking the time to contact us and I'm sorry to ehar of your experience in Vang Vieng. It certainly sounds like it's changed since I was last there around five years ago.

I've forwarded your comments on to the commissioning editor of the guidebook so that they can be taken on board when it's next updated. They'll also ensure that your email is forwarded to the authors before they begin their research and between them they'll try and work out how better to highlight this issue in the next edition.

Readers' feedback is a great help to us in keeping our books relevant and up-to-date, which in turn helps out other travellers [sic] who use our guidebooks.

Thanks again Andrea.



I totally appreciate that they wrote back and hope that they do warn people not to go to Vang Vieng with anything valuable. And maybe I shouldn't point out that the guy called me Andrea and misspelled travelers, but I wouldn't be TravelingEm if I didn't support the correct spelling!

And speaking of the name Andrea, that's one of my cousins names. She pronounces it "Ann-dree-ah." However, when she got married in the church she's been attending since childhood in small town Ohio, you know the kind of place where everyone knows your name, the priest called her "Ahn-dray-ah" throughout the whole wedding. Does this mean she's not actually married?

Monday, August 11

Back in my Kitchen

I've returned to 20 degree (C) temperatures in Moscow. It's cool and perfect, except it's already gray rather than sunny. But I've been super inspired to cook since it's been so long. I busted out the crockpot and made a yummy mixed bean chili. Yes, I had success with beans! I just threw all these various types of beans - kidney, baby lima, green lentils, garbonzos, black-eyed - all dried, into the crockpot and let it go. After a few hours on high I added a chopped onion, some garlic, fajita seasoning, oregano, smoked paprika, salt and soy sauce. It's so good!

I was also in the mood to stuff peppers, so I tried that this morning in the crock pot as well. However, that didn't work so well. They ended up way too mushy. And even though I'd added loads of spices, fresh and dried, they just had very little flavor. Oh well, live and learn. They're not bad enough to throw away, just not necessarily good enough to look forward to.

Saturday, August 9

Back and Busy

I made it back ok last night with 100 baht (~$3) to spare. And just in time! Claire reported to me that she interuppted someone ransacking our room. A new arrival to the farm lost almost $1,000!!

Also, I got word from my insurance company that the travel insurance covers costs regarding bodily injury, or so it seems. Looks like I'll be forking out the dough for a new camera. Le sigh.

In other news, I'm 61% Texan:

You are 61% REAL Texan!!

You're mostly texan. You know your Mexican food, state heritage and are probably slightly politically aware. You can probably pronounce Kukendall, Manchaca and Boerne correctly. Go you.

How Texan Are You?

Wednesday, August 6

On the way home

I leave tomorrow morning for Nong Khai in Thailand. From there I'll catch the overnight train to Bangkok and then I fly out of there at 11 a.m. back to Moscow via Helsinki.

I'm in a better mood today aided by the fact that I slept for 10 hours having not been able to sleep at all the night of the mugging. I've bicycled into town and saw the police. It appeared that they have done nothing but watched TV since the last time I saw them. They gave me a copy of the report I filled out which I will try to file with the insurance company when I return.

So last update until I make it back to Moscow.

You know what sucks the most, I think this pretty much ruined my picture of the day until I'm 30 project.


Tuesday, August 5

Laos Tourist Police

This morning Mr. T, the owner of the organic farm took me on a drive. I was hoping that maybe the theifs had thrown out my math books and I would find them on the side of the road. Slim chance I know, but worth looking I thought.

So we drove all the way down to town and then he took me to the tourist police office. There were about 3 police officers sitting on the couch watching HBO, 1 was behind a desk. He motioned me to sit down on a chair designed for a 5 year old, so that I was lower then he was - good thing I'm taller than most Laos people.

He hardly asked what happened, mostly wanted to know what was taken. Finally I was given a form to fill out, name, DOB, passport number and then on the second page a list of what was taken. It was then that I started crying, just barely. And he asks "Where are you from?" I'm choked up so I don't respond, so he repeats the question slower, "Where ... are ... you ... from?"

"America, but I live in Russia."

Once I've listed everything that was taken and convince him that I actually was mugged, he then asks me, "What do you want us to do?"

"Umm, catch the robber. Get me back my math books. I'd really like my memory cards from my cameras, oh and the cameras would be nice too."

I hear from him, "There are 5 witnesses."


Mr. T translates, "They would like to FIND witnesses."

Then he goes to talk to his boss to determine if my story is worth investigating. Then I get to talk to the boss. Mr. T who was with me and had been translating a bit, didn't get to come. Small room, very smoky. Man behind the desk and another sitting on a platform made of wood, seems to be where they'd nap. But this man actually asks me details about what happened.

Then he tells me they're going to call the heads of the villages to see if they know who took my things. I'm supposed to go back tomorrow morning, where they'll either give me my stuff or give me a report for the insurance. Maybe this will teach me to start getting travel insurance... Off to check to see if my credit card company does provide insurance for travel purchased as I'd assumed before I left. Finger's crossed.

Monday, August 4

What it feels like to get mugged

Riding home on our bikes in the rain was bad enough. It was dark and I had my flashlight. Claire had on her headlamp. We're about 10 minutes away from the farm. I say, "Person walking on the right." Then the person turns and lifts his rain poncho and moves towards me. Then I realize he's grabbing my bag from my basket. I scream at him. "NO!!!" Claire has dropped her bike. I've thrown mine down and kicked off my shoes. I'm chasing him - obviously not thinking. Then a motor bike comes out of no where. I think "Oh, good, help." But no, he jumps on the back and I watch him ride away with both of my cameras - this is the first night that I've brought out my digital SLR because we were going to teach the monks - something we didn't even do because of the rain. Also in the bag my wallet, the 600,000 kip I'd withdrawn for the rest of my journey, and my fucking math that I've been working on for 4 weeks. All the pictures that I haven't downloaded yet.

Oh and as to how I feel.

Pissed Off
Really bloody pissed off because it seems to be very planned. As if they passed us, saw us cycling, then turned around and set it up because the motor bike came out of no where and we didn't see anyone else out or walking in the rain.


More Monday Adventures

It's Monday again. I just wrote about how I went caving last Monday. Today we choose another adventure, this time, it was kayaking. We see people do it from our river side bar location and I've heard people talk about how many times their kayak tipped, but I didn't really think it would happen to me. Until it did.

The river is moving pretty quick (rainy season strikes again), but my life jacket was strapped on tight. What I didn't anticipate was getting stuck under the kayak as we rushed past bushes. The whole reason we tipped over was because of the freaking bushes. Claire and I had ended up heading towards them and we were frantially pedaling trying to get away from them and then as we headed into them, we leaned to avoid being hit in the face by them, but we leaned too far and then we were in the water. Under the kayak. When I got out and my head was above water I was terrified because I still couldn't breath as I was choking on the water I'd inhaled. Claire and I were holding on to the boat, trying to keep our feet up to avoid hitting them on buried bolders and we made it to one of the guides. He helped us flip our boat over and we managed to climb back in. We even caught up to our water bottle and rescued that. It was terrifying. But that was just one small part of the 2 hour journey. The rest was gorgeous and we managed to stay in the rest of the time even through the "rapids."

Another of our 5 boats flipped and that one was even scarier. They were also near a huge rock and bushes - stripped bushes, lots of sharp painful sticks. They were trying to hold onto their boat but they were being rushed by the current into the bushes. The guides were screaming "Swim! Swim! Let go of the boat!" Finally they heard and did. They swam to one of the guide's boats and hung on. The other guide had pulled over and "parked" his boat on a small bank. I'm not sure how he got there, but he made it to their boat and swam it back. Meanwhile, Claire and I and two of the other guys, unable to paddle upstream had "parked" ourselves in a slower part of the river by holding on to more of the aforementioned stripped bushes.

Did I mention it was fun? Because really it was, it wasn't scary the whole time. We had moments where we were all splashing each other and laughing at Hoon and Min because they both lost their shoes in their escapade.

The craziness will continue in a different form. Tonight we're heading to the local wat to teach the novice monks' English class. Must remember not to touch the monks. (Um, last week I tried to shake one's hand before I remembered... embarassing!)

Sunday, August 3

Those vs These

I went back to English class on Thursday and worked on "What are these/those?" It was when I was holding up my Chako's (sandals) to say "What are these?" that I had to improvise on the lesson. The students responded "They are shoes." And I added, "These shoes smell!!!" Have I mentioned rainy season yet? It rained for almost 48 hours non-stop and hence my shoes never really get a chance to dry out. I gave them a shampoo soak and brought them into my room to dry out under the ceiling fan.

Now, we've finally had about 30 dry hours and my shoes don't smell as bad... I'm sure you're all relieved.

Speaking of bugs...

I'm not taking any anti-malarials. I decided relatively last minute to come to Laos. Then I was just too busy in Bangkok to be bothered going to a travel clinic. So I figured I'd just use bug spray, even though I hate it. However, even with teh spray it turns out I'm pretty tasty to bugs and my legs and ankles are getting bit to hell. So I've stopped poisoning myself and the environment and am just hoping that it's true when everyone says there's only malaria up in the jungle of Laos...

A Tropical Bug's Life

I have encountered some of the biggest bugs I have ever seen staying out on the farm.

The farm has housing scattered all around and I'm staying in the "Mulberry Tree House," the furthest lodging point from the cafe/office hub of the farm. You get there by following the main path past the dorm, then the bamboo house, then the "Fruit House," over a bridge, past the goats, then the geese and finally you arrive. However, once you pass the bridge you're in the dark with the moon providing the only light - and in rainy season, that means you've got no light to guide you.

So those first few nights, I was walking trying desperately not to hear Claire's voice repeating the story of how when she first arrived and was being given a tour, they came across a cobra in the path. Yes, you read right a COBRA! Here's an excerpt of the conversation going on in my head...

Mind: "Stop worrying. Cobras are tucked away under a rock at night."

Self: "How do you know that?! We don't know that..."

Mind: "It doesn't matter anymore. See we've made it back to the tree house light. Now we should collect everything we need for our shower so we only have to make one trip."

The toilet block is about 10 meters away from the rooms, which is fine, except when it's raining. Have I mentioned it's rainy season?? So I gather my stuff and head off and decide maybe I'll shake things up and use the other shower, just for kicks.

Outloud: "Holy shit!"

Mind & Self, in unison: "That's the biggest spider I've ever seen!"

Outloud: "Fucking hell."

Mind: "I wish I had my camera."

Self: "It's not something we normally bring to the shower..."

After staring in admiration for a bit, I headed to the shower - my original shower. The entire toilet block has an open ceiling, so when my new friend, the Unruly Redhead appears I say, "URH, do you see that?" "See what?... Oh my god!" "I know! Crazy right?" "Ayuuuuck..." "What's happening? Is it on you?" "No, it's eating one of those huge grass hoppers alive!"

Now, I'm rushing through my shower, this I have to see. Then I hear from the URH "Oh no..." "What?" "I can't see it anymore. I don't know where it went?" "Is it on you?," I ask again. "I don't think so..." I emerge and give her a quick scan. She's spider free as far as I can tell. Knowing me and my pea sized bladder, I open the door to the WC before I head back to my room. "URH, I think I may have found the missing spider," I say jumping back out. But on closer inspection we determine that this is a different, skinnier, but same diameter spider.

I use the other toilet and return to my room for my camera. When I get back the URH and I search for teh spider. In the meantime, I scare a praying mantis (at least 4 inches long) into its web.

When my insect voyerism session has ended I head back to my room only to find another huge spider right next to my door.

Mind: "What is up with the gigantic spiders here?"

Self: "So I'm not the only one freaked out?"

Mind: "No, but I'm still sure we'll be fine..."

And sure enough after a week I've yet to find myself attacked by anything bigger than a mosquito.

Friday, August 1


Monday's are generally the volunteer's "day off." Even though the mojito bar is still open there are no evening activities with the students, such as English class or dance class. So five of us set off an our rented bicycles to explore some of the caves in the area. Within 100 meters my bike broke, or I should say my second bike broke as I had already exchanged my first bike because only the back break worked and just barely at that. But with the second bike it would make noises like it was trying to change gears - but it's a fixed gear bike - and then the chain would stop moving all together. So I took it back and got my first bike back.

It was an easy 7 km cycle on the "highway." We were passed by only a few cars and motor bikes and the cows kept to the sides of the road, mostly. Then we reached the turnoff for the caves. This was tougher cycling down a rocky, muddy road, but beautiful, past rice fields. It led us to the river where the bridge only had 2 half-missing boards. We continued along an irrigation ditch, throughout which children were frolicking in a way universal to 5 year olds.

Finally we reached the first cave. You pay 10,000 kip (roughly $1.50) and they lend you a flashlight. There are no signs, no guid, just a path to follow. We made it inside and the cave went really deep. It was dark, full of stalagtites and bats and was everything a cave should be.

Next we headed back along the irrigation ditch to a second cave. This time only 3 of us went in - the other 2 decided caves weren't really their thing. Same thing, 10,000 kip, torch, and a longer walk to the cave. More climbing to get in and immediately we hear the rushing water. We go in maybe 150 meters before we hit the rushing stream. I wade into my knees and we decide it'd be too dangerous to try to cross and the water is flowing so fast, so we return. There the guy who took our money says that if we'd crossed there would have been a small shelf we could have climbed on. The water would have reached somewhere between our hips and breasts. Did I mention how fast it was flowing? But apparently in dry season you can go back about a kilometer!

Wednesday, July 30

Volunteering on the Farm


There are many ways to volunteer on the farm. One of them is to work at the Mulberry Mojito Bar. I love meeting the people as the start their journeys. The comments "Wow, it's really fast..." or "Maybe we should have gotten the life jackets..." Um, yeah. But my favorite thing is just chatting the people up, see where they've come from, how they ended up in Laos. It's been fun. Except for yesterday when it rained all day and we didn't have any customers. Or today when it's been really humid and slow all morning. But even then, I get to sit and read or work on math, so all in all, I've got a good life here.

Friday, July 25


And now I've made it to the last destination of my trip, Vang Vieng, Laos. I'm staying on an organic mulberry farm. It looks like in the evenings I'll be helping to teach English classes and during the day I can either hang out in the town or I could help out on the farm. I'll probably do a bit of both. Hot and humid here too even though I'm at a higher elevation. It's really beautiful here surrounded by green, green mountains and the Mekong River is running right past the farm.

The town is a bit of a tourist hang out, many, many girls walking around town in bikinis like they were in Panama City or something. I'm becoming an old, modest fuddy-duddy; I just want to yell at them all to put some clothes on! But the farm is about 4 km outside of town and feels very isolated and very Laotian. I arrived around 5 last night and then after a quick shower I immediately went off to the first class of the night. It was full of young children, and we all know how much I love teaching young children. But it was actually fun and then the following class was full of teenagers, much more my speed and the class seemed to fly by.

I walked from one class to the other with one of the Laotian teachers. As we walked by little "restaurants" - open air huts with tables really - I was asking what each served. The first was a noodle soup place, a meal I recognize and love. The second had grills set up and I asked what they made. "Dog," she replied. I thought maybe I misunderstood and she'd really said duck, but no, upon reconfirming it was a dog restaurant. I've tried many, many meats in my life ostrich, deer, elk, reindeer, horse, eel, alligator, raw beef, raw oysters, all without blinking an eye. But confronted with the option to eat dog, this might actually be one restaurant I pass on.

Thursday, July 24

Tuk-tuk, bus, tuk-tuk, bus, tuk-tuk, arrived

It was a long day of travel today. I went from my quiet stay in the Mut Mee Guesthouse on the banks of the Mekong River in Nong Khai, Thailand and crossed the border into Laos. I had changed money back into US dollars to pay the $35 visa fee. I'd had 4 visa sized photos made and had read how to best do the visa process in several guide books.

In theory it was easy enough, take a tuk-tuk to the Friendship Bride which crosses the Mekong and takes you into Laos. The first stop you get your passport stamped saying that you left Thailand. Then you catch a bus that actually takes you across the bridge into Laos. There you fill out a form, hand over your passport, photos and money and get your visa. What they don't tell you about is the very long line of foreigners cutting in front of you (especially the older men who are just there on a visa run so they can stay in Thailand with their girlfriends), a problem exacerbated with each new bus arriving, and then there's the fact that there's only one window to go to, but in the end, I got it taken care of and finally got to enter Laos with my new visa filling yet another page in my passport. And then you had to wait for another tuk-tuk to actually bring you into Vientiane, the biggest city in Laos. I shared it with a kiwi girl and two very nice (looking) French guys. I was the last to get dropped off at the bus station and there I caught the public bus to Vang Viang.

First though I had some noodle soup. And it was then I noticed there was something wrong with my left arm. It was shaking, so much that it was hard to use the chopsticks. Was I afraid of being on my own? I didn't think so, but perhaps. Had I pinched a nerve carrying all my bags, getting heavier by the day as I pick up more and more stuff, that seems more likely. So I decide not to worry. I catch the bus and have to laugh each time my window slams shut. Finally the bus "steward" takes pity on me and shoves a piece of paper in the window to help keep it open. And it works and is great, until it starts to pour rain. Overall though, the 4 hour trip was pleasant and the scenery kept getting better and better as we wound further into the hills. Finally we arrive at a teeny bus station and the foreigners exclaiming "this is really it?" I'm so excited that I jump off with my bags... leaving my damned metal water bottle sitting on the seat. Why am I always losing it?

Um, Nate, can you bring me another one when you come out in September?

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Tuesday, July 22

Present Moment

I am actually writing this post real time. Yesterday I left Ao Nang where I spent 4 rainy days with my friend Carol and her family after her daughter Leah's wedding to a Thai man, Tok. I have an entry to eventually post date about the wedding.

But in the short, I didn't like Ao Nang very much, but that could just be because I'm not much of a beach girl and the weather was shit. We tried going out to the Phi Phi islands but had to turn back because the weather was so bad it was creating 3 meter swells. And of course, in the rain, we wouldn't have been able to see anything snorkeling.

As I left yesterday, it was blue skies and sunny, of course. But I flew to Bangkok and killed time, luggage in tow, by heading to the nice air-conditioned movies. I saw the disturbing Dark Knight - the new batman movie with Heath Ledger as the joker. Creepy. But good.

After the movie it was off to the train station for my over-nighter to Nong Khai, where I'm writing this now. I had heard/read mixed reviews of Nong Khai. But so far I'm enjoying it. A laid back town along the banks of the Mekong River.

Friday I'll head up to Laos where I'm spending 2 weeks volunteering at an organic Mulberry farm. I think they'll have me teaching English rather than pulling weeds, but it'll be nice to be settled.

Post Dating - Even More

I've been transferring from my journal back to my blog in fits and starts. So if you're a regular reader, I'm talking to you Mickey, you may want to go back to the beginning of July.

Updated July 22nd, 5 or so more post-dated posts added.

Saturday, July 19

Time for the Truth

My traveling companion for the last 2 weeks left for Hong Kong today. I've been traveling with Ashish, my college boyfriend. I didn't want to write about it because I was afraid we'd get back together and it would hurt William's feelings*. However, in the first few hours, it was clear to us that we aren't what the other wants and the reasons we broke up 7 years ago are still valid. So instead of hot sex**, it has been comfortable companionship. And in the end it has helped me become clearer in my mind as to what I want in a relationship. Now, if someone could just tell me where to find it, that'd be great... Though I'm beginning to think that if I just go to where I want to live, I can find all the happiness I seek...

*I'm also trying to let go of the responsibility for his feelings. I certainly don't want to hurt him intentionally but this is still my blog for my ramblings, right???

**Maybe being in Thailand I'll find the life of a monk most appropriate, except I don't think they let girls be monks.

Friday, July 18

(Historical) Fiction

I've been reading a ton, as usual. I started off in Bali with "The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn." I just finished "The Other Boleyn Girl" (no, I haven't seen the movie yet). Both were really good, though they portrayed Anne in completely different ways. And I've become a bit obsessed with Tudor history. I traded "The Other..." for "The Constant Princess," both written by Phillipa Gregory, but this one presents the life of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife; the one Anne Boleyn convinced him to divorce so that he could marry her. The stories are so fascinating. I think when I get back to Moscow, I'll need to look for some non-fiction of Henry VIII's wives because if half of what's these stories say is true, then I no longer need to ready trashy romance for my fix.

Also, very randomly in Bali I borrowed "Code Noir" from the pension which was a sequel to I don't know what, but it was a bizarre sci-fi. And this is a reminder to try and find the first and subsequent volumes at my school library.

I also read "The Alchamist" on this trip, brought along from my book shelf along with "The Secret Diary" for the reason it was small and light and while not historical fiction, was also really good and a very quick read. It has me on the look out for omens.

Also, I've got "The Omnivores Dilema" with me which is not at all fiction, but also very good and relavent. And always makes me think of the great friends who gave it to me :)

Wednesday, July 16

Dr. Horrible

Thank you, again, Joss Wheadon. A musical about an aspiring bad guy, played by Neil Patrick Harris with an arch nemisis, read good guy, Nathon Fillion (remember Mal from Firefly!). Did I mention musical? Did I mention funny? Yes! A musical in 3 acts aired this week. Don't miss it!

Dr. Horrible!

Saturday, July 12

Bali and KL financially considered

My six days in Bali were spent in the hilly, rice padi town of Ubud, an "artists community." I arrived after dark so I couldn't see much, all I knew was the my room occupied the top floor of a bungalow and had a 4 poster bed covered in mosquito netting. I awoke to very loud birds chirping saying to my tired self, "looook, I'm tired." The surroundings ended up being stunning. I really was in paradise, all for $32/night. 3 course meals plus alcohol all seemed a bargain at around $15, massage for only $8-$10 then include taxi rides to/from the airport and the day out to the wedding in Seminyak and it all adds up, rather quickly.

KL (Kuala Lumpur) in contrast is a huge city, though not nearly as crowded as Moscow. She's full of tourists and immigrants. People of all different colors and languages. Almost everyone we encountered spoke English, same in Bali. We stayed in the fancy pants, Hotel Maya, which was a luxurious treat. Street food was abundant, we ate several meals for 10-20 ringit, that's $3.5 - $7 for two people! No alcohol, but it was too hot to drink. And granted I spent much of the time having stomach cramps, but it was yummy. Even our most expensive Korean restaurant meal was only $20 for 2! KL bills itself as a shopping town, but I'm not convinced the quality and prices are much different from Bangkok, but it was fun.

Thursday, July 10

Next Stop...

101/365 (self-portrait)
Originally uploaded by Traveling Em

Well, the first part of my vacation had ended and it was almost a week in paradise. I've left all that behind and headed to a big city. Lots of hustle and bustle here. We ventured out for street food last night and I've been paying for that since 6 this morning, missing out on the hotel's insanely huge buffet breakfast. Hopefully tomorrw I'll be feeling better. But now it's off to China Town for some shopping and then to a piano concert tonight. I'm assuming you can figure out where I am from the photo, yes?

Photo from Paradise

Originally uploaded by Traveling Em

If you ever need a week of sheer bliss, I highly, highly recommend Bali. Highly.

Dress courtesy of Minnie :-)

Tuesday, July 8

So far

I'm in paradise. It is gorgeous. And thus far I've had 7 hours of massage in a week. Not so bad. More later, I'm off for a reflexology session, but just thought I'd "pop" in.

Monday, July 7


I met many friends in Bali, old and new. We decided to take a day trip to the NE coastal town of Amed to go snorkeling. The first spot we attempted to snorkel had really rough, choppy water breaking hard on a rocky (big grapefruit sized rocks) beach. After about 10 minutes in murky, scary water seeing no fish, though the boys think they saw a 4 foot shark, we gave up. As I struggled to get on shore fighting the crashing waves, trying to find a solid footing and my balance, my mom's first wedding band* that I've worn every day for the past 10 years slipped off my finger made skinnier in the water something I know happens to me from my swimming, but I've always managed to push it back up my finger... in a pool. Fighting the waves I couldn't keep track of it and now it's forever lost to Davy Jones's locker. I still rub my thumb against my ringer finger for it, unable to believe I really lost it.

*I ended up with the ring as one day my senior year in HS my mom was bit by a spider. She woke my dad up in the middle of the night and made him cut the ring off as her finger was swelling around it. It was a very thin, simple band of white gold. After it was cut, she upgraded to bigger and shinier, but had the ring fixed and gave it to me when I graduated HS.

Big huge sigh.

Friday, July 4

Heaven in a Hand Basket

My "essential question" for my 5 week vacation was originally "How much massage can a person have in 5 weeks?" After today, I think it may be "How much massage can a person have in 1 day?" For 70 USD over a span of 4 hours, this was my day:
  1. A driver picked me up from my pension and drove me to Verona Spa
  2. 2 girls waxed my legs simultaneously, making for the fastest full leg/bikini wax I've ever had
  3. A full body oil massage (just 1 masseuse)
  4. A body salt scrub
  5. A soak in a tub full of flower petals and essential oils enjoyed with a cup of ginger tea and fresh fruit.
  6. A facial
  7. Mani/pedi
  8. Shampoo
  9. Conditioning treatment with 20 minute scalp massage
  10. Blow Dry (optional)
It was only as I was blissfully enjoying my walk home that I realized my room key was no longer in my pocket. Even as I had put it into my pocket this morning I thought "this pocket is too shallow for this big key," but did I move it??? Those of you who know me, know this is very typical of me, the losing things.

Not to fret, as I was in Bali, I continued on my walk to an organic juice cafe where I had a lovely unsweetened lassi and a seared tofu salad. Then I returned to Verona and they didn't have it. The people at Nick's Pension got me a new one and two days later Verona called to say they had the key.

I love it when things work out in the end.

Thursday, July 3

July 3rd, several plane flights later

It's dark out. I can't really see my surroundings at Nick's Pension in Ubud, Bali, but I have the feeling of that I've made the right decision. There are stars here, lightening bugs, frogs and crickets. It's wonderful.

Early Morning

Smoke alarm went off at 5:19 this morning. Naked, I sniffed for smoke, smelling none I took the time to put on some clothes, grab my camera and passport before heading into the empty, smoke-free hallway. I heard a man down in the lobby explaining there was a "beep, beep, beep" noise. He came back up with only a towel around his waist explaining the guard down stairs was only a downstairs guard and wouldn't come up to check it out. Several more people had emerged from their rooms, most barely clad. I'd wake up at 5 every morning to see some of the tall, lanky men who emerged in boxer briefs ;) The toweled man joined a toweled Thai woman as one of the other men finally took apart the smoke detector and we all went back to bed... only for another one to go off 10 minutes later.

Wednesday, July 2

How to fly Business Class

I have flown business class far more often than is right for a person under 30. I have never paid for business class and only a few of those times did I use my miles. I thought I'd share what I've learned.

When I check in I always ask if a flight is over sold. If it is and I can afford to miss the flight, I ask if they are looking for volunteers. An airline would much rather upgrade people than have to give away free flight vouchers and if you're on the volunteer list, they may upgrade you instead as a "thank you" for volunteering. If at all possible, earn status with an airlines frequent flier program. For several years I had "Premier" status with United's Milage Plus program. This meant on two occassions when I flight was over sold, they upgraded me without my asking on over sold flights.

If you can't afford to miss the flight, pay attention to what's happening. This happened to me most recently in Helsinki. I knew economy was over sold, I was told as much when I tried to get out of seat 47J - middle in the back. (I tried the getting on the list trick, but they'd already requested volunteers.) So I sat near the check-in desk and watched. Sure enough, one of the women from behind the desk approached a couple sitting near me. She asked if they were sitting together and then said, "Let me see if I can get you some better seats." She returned with two business class tickets. I then approached the desk and said, "If you're still looking for seats, I'd be happy to give up mine." She brushed me off. So I kept watching and then one of the men (very handsome) came from behind the desk and again approached a couple who also ended up in business class. When he came out again, I approached him and said "Are you only looking for couples? Because I'd really like to move up. I promise to fly Finnair from here on out." And sure enough he took my ticket and after several tense minutes he came back to me and my 47J had turned into 2C. Here I am enjoying my preflight champagne:


I'll tell you, there is nothing better than being able to lay down and sleep on a long flight.

Tuesday, July 1

Where Do I Want?

(Again, back dated)

The title of this post started "What Do I Want?" but as I created the list, I realized it was a list of geography, not my own wants. So here goes:

  • Good public radio (I was listening to "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" while writing the list)
  • Access to local, organic produce
  • Be able to walk out of my house and to my local neighborhood non-chain cafe, yarn store, movie store, ...
  • Local access to hiking in hills
  • A like minded community
  • Micro-Breweries!
  • My own garden, compost pile and worm bin
  • Diverse population
  • Access to ethnic ingredients including chipotle chilis, rice noodles, green curry paste and rooster sauce

Who do I want to be?

  • Teacher
  • Department Head
  • Gardner
  • Wife
  • Mother??

What else?

  • A masters in math
  • phD in mathematics education??

Am I Crazy?

(Written in my journal and post dated here for the internet world)

Here I am on my way to many places I've never been and I left all the guide books at home, intentionally. The more I travel the less necessary they seem. Better to just wing it, no? Maybe not, we'll see. I certainly read many chapters out of the guide books before I left and hundreds of Trip Advisor reviews and in the end, as always, I wnet with my instincts. I'm starting with 1 night in Bangkok, a city I liked in 2005. I wrote down how to get from BKK to Suk 11 Hostel, also where I stayed in 2005, via the airport bus and that's it. I'm excited.

Is this really my life?

Also written July 1st in my journal and back dated here.

A driver picked me up from my 2 bedroom apartment in Moscow. As we sat for an hour in traffic I looked around at a mostly non-descript city. The roads are crowded with dusty trucks who cough out black clouds each time they move. I see skyscrapers and concrete apartment blocks, old and new. There's Ikea, Auchon, I could be anywhere in the world. If that's the case why am I in Moscow? I have a job that I love, students to actually teach, but can't I have this elsewhere?

Monday, June 30

Tidying Up

I just did some tidying up of my 365 days of pictures and have realized that I don't have photos for 2 days and have no recollection of those days either. One is Wednesday, May 21st and the other was Tuesday June 3rd. Phooey. I've got 6 photos that I'm waiting for other people to send me, only 1 of which is a long shot. Tomorrow marks day 90 and then I'm off for 5 weeks which will mean 35 days of photos to add when I get home. I guess I could take my transfer cord with me and see if I can't upload while I'm gone.

Have I mentioned where I'm off to yet? No, well, then you'll be even more surprised when I return, my 2 readers.

Sunday, June 29

James are you out there?

This message is soley to get in touch with my buddy from my high school years, James. You left me a comment a few weeks ago and I wanted to respond. I was home over x-mas and tried emailing you, but the message bounced back, so I googled you to no avail, then I tried calling information, using the phone book, they all failed. So you send me an email so I can write to you :)

Oh, and I'll be back over x-mas vacation, around Atlanta probably the last week of December into the first few days of January.

Making a Difference

I don't know how old I was when I first learned about recycling, maybe 5th grade, but I know I drove my mother crazy collecting paper to be recycled and then how hurt and angry I was when she just threw it away.

I know that when I lived outside of the dorm life (where we had a separate recycling can in our room), that I still recycled, even though it meant driving to the recycling center. And how thrilled I was every time I saw someone else there. I'd walk to the Whole Paycheck to buy my organic produce. I kept searching, in vain, for a farmer's market, though I've heard there's one now.

When I moved to California, it was all so easy. I was composting, both in my yard or by using the city compost. Recycling was a given and we used to complain over the pain that we couldn't recycle our yogurt containers. Our milk came in reusable glass bottles, we shopped weekly at the farmers' market knowing our food was both local and organic. I grew my own lettuces, picked fruit from neighbors' trees.

And then I moved to Moscow. Where recycling is done on a very small scale. We had recycling pick up at our school, but the company just dropped us as we don't have enough volume. We would have more if everyone recycled, but students and teachers alike throw there half full bottles and cans away along with their paper scraps.

I save all my one-sided copies so that I can print on the other side. Sasha, who works in the copy center, once asked me if I wanted a ream of paper, since he noticed I was reusing it. And I explained that I was trying to reduce waste. At my local rynok, I bring my own plastic bags and have had an on going "discussion" with the people who work there about how I do not need new plastic bags and I hate the plastic bags. I bring my own backpack or canvas bag to the grocery store and get looked at funny every time.

I still can't bring myself to throw away bottles or cans (not that I generate them that often because I don't consume that many bottled products), but when I'm done with a bottle of wine, I save the bottle and set it out for the homeless people to recycle. I'm the only teacher who does this, that I've noticed. I would never let my students throw bottles away in my room and they'd always say, "Ms. S, there's nothing you can do, this is Russia." But I still believe it's all about small change. I influence one of them, they influence someone else and so on.

Even my parents, 20 years later, are now recycling. However, I still want to be able to do more and it's some of those thoughts that have me thinking about moving back to the states. It's being inspired by blogs like Crunchy Chicken and Take Back the [Britta] Filter reminding me that I can live in a more sustainable way even from and within Russia. I could also do more than I was in California.

Saturday, June 28


As I'm about to head off for 5 weeks, I've been looking at different packing tips found in the blog world. I already feel like I do a pretty good job of packing, but I found even more good reminders on what to bring Dress-A-Day and loads of good stuff, tips, recommendations, lists at One Bag. I had been considering packing cubes which I've never used, but rather than buying something (which I doubt I could find here anyway) instead I'm going to use "bundle packing" method instead, packing all my clothes around a "cube" of my swimsuit and other small miscellaneous items packed into a large ziplock. Click to see the large version of this method and read the explanation here.

So crafty, so cool!

Make your own paper out of your junk mail and paper scraps. So very cool!!

I totally want to do this.
Photo and DIY link taken from Crafty Daisies.

Wednesday, June 25

Puskin Cafe and the Ballet

It was a big toursity day and thus, I need to blog it, lest I forget it. Adam is visiting from SF. Once again, so nice to have someone from "home" visiting. Today we went to Pushkin Cafe for lunch. One of the places you "must" go to in Moscow. After today's visit, I disagree with that statement, but it was an experience.

I already knew Pushkin was expensive. In finding the address, I read a few reviews online almost all saying that it was good though expensive and a few mentions of it only being for tourists and business men and they rip you off.

The restaurant is like a big mansion. They have a terraced roof in summer where you can have lunch, this was our goal. However, shortly before we arrived it rained. However, by the time we arrived the rain had ended, so I still requested it. Well, they sent us upstairs where we were seated in the library - not on the roof. The library section operates only with the most expensive dinner menu. After being seated, ordering water, looking at the menu, we requested to go downstairs to the less expensive dining room - same menu, exactly, but cheaper - slightly. From the reviews, I also knew they offered a business lunch, a set 3 course menu for cheaper, however, no business lunch on the menu. Adam and I resign ourselves to spending money and decide what to get; me saurkraut soup and stroganoff and Adam borsch and pelmeni, roughly 1100 rubles EACH. When the waiter comes back with our $12 bottle of water, I happen to ask before we order, "Do you have business lunch?" He walks away and comes back with the business lunch menus. Good thing I kept asking. On business lunch we get what we wanted along with a salad for 750 rubles.

So this has already made me a bit put out and add in the table of Russian and Chinese business men who smoke like chimneys and are well into their first bottle of vodka. However, the salads arrive and along with them wonderful bread. Adam went with the caviar and blini and I got a smoked fish with pickled vegetables. Both were great, in my opinion, Adam however, has decided he finds caviar revolting so we traded. After our waiter dropped two rolls on the ground, he loosened up around us and even began to smile. Soup arrived well timed after the salads and were great. My stroganoff came out cold, but really tasty nonetheless. So, all in all, I'm glad I went, but I never need to go again.

Tonight, we went to see the ballet Sleeping Beauty. I love going to the ballet. This one was in the Novaya Opera House, it was shiny and newer looking. The seats were incredibly uncomfortable, but the ballet was good. It was a mix of classical and modern in costuming and dance. The only thing I don't enjoy about going to the ballet in Moscow are the applause pauses. After any sort of pas de deux or solo there is a very long pause for a minimum of 2 bows. Completely unnecessary and it disrupts the flow, in my opinion. Tonight's show was being filmed for tv, so at the end the curtain call lasted a solid 10 minutes. Every perform had 2 bows and Sleeping Beauty and Her Prince 4! Outrageous. But the dancing was good :)