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 :)

Tuesday, June 24

School Year in Review

Now that the school year is over, I thought I would recap it for myself and you in a list of pros and cons.

  • Actually teaching math
  • All the students who came to see me outside of school
  • All the students who felt comfortable enough to call me
  • My wonderful, warm, homey apartment
  • Attending 3 balls
  • Discovering who I am when I'm on my own in a foreign city and who I want to be
  • Traveling across Russia and bits of Europe I've never seen
  • Meeting up with my sister in Tenerife, Spain
  • Hosting Thanksgiving with Americans and Russians
  • Saving money so that if I want to move back to the states, I might actually be able to afford a house down payment (note, this definitely means not going back to the Bay Area)
  • Becoming a swimmer
  • Having a job that let me leave for a week for my grandmother's funeral
  • Walking through the forest to work
  • Air Pollution
  • Noise Pollution
  • Litter
  • Lack of the sense of community I had in SF
  • Far away from my friends and family which meant missing 2 weddings of very important people
  • All the delicious baked goods and dumplings (con because my hips have increased in girth)
  • There is a very limited market for single, foreign women here
  • Long, dark winter
  • Having to ride the loud, smelly metro to get to the forest
Other Events
  • Also this year, William and I broke up which could go onto both lists. It was really hard ending a relationship of almost 2 years over the phone. Dealing with the sadness and loneliness alone in a foreign city. It was a relationship of laughter and fun through 2 very stressful job years, but in the end didn't grip my heart and one where I never had that feeling of "you just know." I still feel right in the decision.

  • I struggled with the teaching in having to learn how to actually teach math, not just do crowd control. I'm still working on that. I also had to deal with having my trust broken repeatedly with students cheating. Learning how to forgive but not forget.

Sunday, June 22

Boy with Beer

Originally uploaded by Traveling Em

When I was a kid my parents let me try sips of their beer. I hated it. I wish I could say that this boy had just been handed this beer to try, but he hadn't. It was his. And obviously he didn't hate it. Worse part, he wasn't the only "Boy with Beer" I saw that day. I live in a place that is going to take along time to heal.

My New Art!

74/365 (self-portrait)
Originally uploaded by Traveling Em

I wrote about this a few posts ago. I did a terrible job describing it. Here's a photo though :) I really should have included the frame, it's light blue with gold. It's so good. Yay, art!

Wednesday, June 18

Extra Responsibilities

As of today I am the Grade Level Leader for the 2008-2009 junior class. This past school year I taught 3 class of grade 10 students, the majority of them. The grade level leader plans the advisory activities, but mostly tracks the students who are in danger of slipping through the cracks. I'm really looking forward to the added leadership role as well as more of a chance to work with the students.

Also, I've been having some great discussions with my department head about my career, both here and in the future. I've gotten some really great advice from him and even though I may complain about life here a lot, this has really been a great move for me career wise.

Today was the last day of school for students. We had 10 minute classes to review finals and such, but most my kids had already come to see me for that, so instead, we chatted and I had them help me clean the room. Elementary teachers get gifts, but not high school teachers. At least I didn't think so, until I got a hug from a student :) It was awesome because he's really shy and it was a bit awkward (just like the spelling of the word) but it was great. Then two more students decided they had to hug me too :) What a day.

Monday, June 16

Is that weird?

Last week I stopped using my almost empty tube of toothpaste and started in on a new one so I could take the mostly empty one on vacation thinking that it

a) would take up less space in the suitcase
b) would run out during vacation, thus freeing up more space in said suitcase.

But honestly, how much room does a tube of toothpaste consume???

Sunday, June 15

Almost done!

Well, one easy week of school to go for the 2007-2008 school year. All my students have taken their finals, none failed (though one came really close). I have to write their report cards and clean my room next week. I think I'll spend a few more days working on preparing for next year, but will likely do that from home.

I had a busy Saturday. I bought some art - a really lovely etching of 4 samovars with a scene of knights on horseback and domed churches in the background. I know it sounds strange, but it's great. Then I went to a rynok for smoked meats, off to the newly discovered fast food Japanese place for lunch, met up with Nat to tour Novedivechy Convent then to see her teeny, tiny Soviet apartment, then met up with some embassy folks for Indian dinner and then finally to Bree's to watch Russia beat Greece in last night's Euro Cup soccer match. Phew. I actually managed to stay awake until 1 a.m. Shocking, I know.

I had to spend today recovering. The most exciting event of today was potting the rosemary cutting taken from Istanbul. I got it to sprout roots, hopefully it will take to being in soil. The excitement never ends here.

Monday, June 9


I've been delinquent in my postings. A lot has been going on and also I'm still really struggling with life here. I'm lonely for the friends and social life I used to have. I'm not sure what needs to happen for me to enjoy living here. Getting laid would probably help, in a few short weeks it'll have been a year. Does that mean I'm a virgin again?

On Friday one of my cousins is getting married. He's probably my closest cousin and I'm crushed that I can't make the wedding. Sigh.

However, this weekend was great. Linus, a friend I've had for 7 years now!!, came from Sweden to visit along with his friend John, who I get to call my friend too. They arrived on Thursday afternoon and stayed until Sunday early evening. We ate, drank, went to a party and a strange warehouse dance club, we walked around the Kremlin and watched lots and lots of Family Guy. It was really nice.

Here's Linus at the Kremlin:
Linus with a big gun

Now they're gone and it's cold. Hrmph.

In other news of things that have me not in my normal headspace, if I ever have a normal head space is that the ex-boyfriend and I apparently have been unintentionally torturing each other. In April, he sent me thoughtful dvd's for my birthday, but didn't respond to the "thank you" email. Early in May I sent him a link to a picture of the Sanrio store in Moscow as he's still the only boy I've met obsessed with Hello, Kitty. I've been reading his blog once every two weeks or so - not to stalk per se, but because my life here is so isolated it's nice to see what people I know are doing. He took a job teaching in Tokyo next year, after telling me that he was only going to stay one year and head back to SoCal and now, I'm the one thinking of moving back to the states. Several of life's many ironies. He's the first ex I haven't been able to stay friends with. It's weird to me. But even though I'm lonely here and I miss his friendship, I still know it was the right decision for us to split up. Anyway, I hope he'll be happy in Tokyo.

However, things at school are winding down and I know soon I'll be off for the summer rejuvenating myself. Before that though the Thai Challenge club that I started at school is having a fundraiser Thursday. For 100 rubles (roughly $4) you can smear whipped cream on a teacher's face. We'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, June 4

Graduation! And my first movie!

It's official, I no longer have any seniors. They have all graduated. Yes, all of them. Graduation was lovely, really lovely. A great slide show of baby pictures morphing into graduation photos - you know the ones in caps and gowns with roses. Then there was a PTO hosted after party at the Hard Rock Cafe. Cold food (not even luke warm, literally cold) and drinks. It started at 6:30 and around 8:30 parents were encouraged to leave. Only seniors and their teachers and busy bartenders. It's very strange drinking with your students - but it's old hat for them and so no one was horribly drunk. I danced a bunch and went home way past my Sunday bedtime. Monday was slow, but it was a great weekend.

Earlier in the weekend, I went to the movies for my first time since moving here. I went to see the new Indiana Jones flick. It was supposed to be in English, but apparently isn't being released to Russia in English because Speilberg is afraid of piracy - um, it's already available on various torrent sites, but don't tell him. So instead we watched it in Russian with simultaneous translation via headsets. Actually, the movie was so bad, I think this made it good.