Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Grocery Shopping Moscow Style...

Ventured into our grocery store today - the fact that it is in our apartment building is a huge bonus as it is minus all rational temperatures outside at the moment.
Here’s what I found...Eva Longoria (U.S. actress) greeted me as I walked in.  She was standing as a life-sized cut out and did not look at all Russian.  She’s apparently a spokesperson for a hair color line....purple seemed to be sold out. 
Skittles - they must have 30 different varieties of Skittles combinations (tropical, sour, passion fruit, arctic blast...).  This nation is crazy about the rainbow of bite sized candy - who knew? 
Other brands I recognized - Johnson & Johnson, Nestle, Garnier for hair, several US toothpaste brands, Nivea.  Lots of flavors and sizes of baguettes, pastries, the chocolate aisle was endless.  Lots of salmon, chicken and many items hard to make out but appear to be in the pate family.  Frozen food was somewhat limited but pre-made perogies and puff pastry seem to be a hit. Yogurt went on and on - drinkable, thick, custard style, etc.  I was thrilled many products had a picture of what was inside or was in a see-through bag, like pasta.  Otherwise, we’ll be hoping to win the lottery each time...although that could get fun.  Perhaps we’ll buy a surprise item each week just to roll the bones!  The other challenge - even if we know what’s inside, we can’t read the preparation directions.   But who needs those any way?  Cooking directions are overrated...

Found this under our kitchen sink...any idea what this is for?  My guess - to keep the pipes unclogged...but who knew our pipes were coated with candy-colored sprinkles? How fantastic!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Arrival...

On terra firma in Moscow!  But I seem to be missing something....ah yes...my husband!  I arrived...Steve did not.  
Here’s the scenario:  We’re at the Atlanta airport on Saturday checking in with Delta and I just happened to open our freshly delivered visas/passports (they arrived first thing Saturday morning for our afternoon flight).  While I was comparing our approved entry and exit dates, (side note:  Russia is very specific about which day you can enter and exit the country, wrong date = no entry), I notice my entry date was 11/28, Steve’s was 11/29.  There was no way he was going to get into the country yesterday.
So...Steve flew to Kiev, Ukraine, (he was going to fly there this morning for a meeting any way) and I went solo to Moscow.  I hope to meet up with him around 2 a.m. when he arrives at the hotel.  What would travel be without a little drama?
I flew with a total of 6 huge bags!!! Delta cast pity on us and allowed me to take a few of Steve’s due to our drama.  I must have looked ridiculous at baggage claim as I somehow, single-handedly, hoisted all 6 bags on top of each other on a baggage  cart “leaning tower of Pisa style”.  A Russian porter did offer to help...for $40 US dollars!  I thought he said $14 and when I confirmed, I dug deep and found my inner Helga and hoisted those puppies one on top of another.  I knew there was no other choice as I needed to get through customs and security.  Unbelievable.
I stopped by the apartment which is truly fantastic.  This is the photo I took of the Kremlin this morning from our living room window...

and while it was a beautiful sunshiney day, this is the photo I took outside our kitchen window...and yes, that is snow on the ground, (whimper)...

I also just noticed my computer has turned Russian.  My Google headings and side bar items  are now all in Russian.  Well, thank goodness I know Russian...oh wait...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

And so the adventure begins...

Today is the day!  Steve and I depart Atlanta at 4 p.m. to take the 11 hour non-stop flight to Moscow to arrive at 11 a.m. Moscow time.  That is, if his visa arrives today by noon, (but that’s another story for another time). To say the least, we are very excited for what lies ahead.
During the last few months of packing and preparing, I’ve thought about the things I will miss most about Atlanta. So as we bid farewell, here is the “Top 10” (and thanks to Paul Kindzia for the idea):
# 10  The Atlanta Triathlon Community...While some believe the triathlon community in Atlanta is relatively small, the triathlon community in Moscow will include a party of two.  Me and Steve.  At least I know I’ll make the podium at every race! Small numbers do have their privileges.
#9  Warm Winters...Moscow forecast this week:  High of 4 degrees, low of -1 and snow.  ‘Nuf said.
#8  Our Fave “go to” Restaurants...Holeman and Finch (which we erroneously called Abercrombie and Fitch for months), Pietra di Cucina, 4th and Swift, La Tavola, Baronda, One MidTown Kitchen.  I sometimes dream about the Steak Frites at One MidTown.  Looking forward to hopping on over to Paris for the real deal.
#7 Jalapeno Cheddar Grits and Fried Pickles...but if you think about it, Russian beet soup and potato perogies are really the same thing...am I wrong?
#6 Putting up the Christmas Tree...every year, on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we have installed the Riddle family Christmas tree.  Will be curious to see if Christmas trees can be found in Moscow...
#5  Our Beloved Atlanta Falcons...we have enjoyed sharing season tickets with our good friends, Jim and Theresa Scandle, for the last 4 years.  Our birds currently have the best record in the NFC at 8-2.  This is truly our year to “rise up”.
#4 Our Brand Spanking New Wine Cellar....we put the last rack in the cellar the day we learned we were moving to Moscow.  The Scandles have been incredibly gracious to store our wine collection while we are away...looking after our bottles, making sure they age gracefully.  Wait a minute, what did we do with the wine inventory?  Ut oh...  The truth is, we hope our good friends will generously help themselves to the stash as they are helping us out tremendously!
#3  Buckhead Church...it is truly an amazing experience every Sunday!  Thank you to my dear friend, Jacquelin LaScala, for the introduction.
#2 Ian at our Starbucks, Stacey at our UPS Store and “Happy” at our Moe’s....without realizing it, these three guys deliver the most amazing experiences day in and day out.  “Happy”, who doesn’t speak much English, and appears to be 80+ years old, makes a mean beef burrito and always makes me feel like one hot mamacita!
And the #1  thing I will most miss...Our amazing friends and family!  We have, without a doubt, the most incredible group of fun-loving  family and friends you could ask for.  The outpouring of love and support for our big move east has been overwhelming.  What would we ever do without you?  Thank you, thank you.
So I will sign off for now and will start blogging in earnest when we reach the motherland.  
And so the adventure begins...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Moving Day!

Whew!  Yesterday was moving day, the first of 3 days.  The movers will be back on Monday and Tuesday....not because our house is ginormous but because shipping household goods overseas and/or storing them in a warehouse for years on end takes special packaging.  Who knew?  Shrink wrapping, thermal paper, special coddling and gentle handling - bring it on!   We want our stuff to look even better when we see it again years from now.  (We are only taking about 5% of what we own - and practically no furniture, although the wine fridge made the list!).  I’ve had a tear in my eye saying farewell to favorite books, memorabilia, etc. knowing that our paths won’t cross for a long time.  But...many more new things to take in overseas.  We’ve been told IKEA will become our best friend.  Moscow, by the way, is so large, it is home to 3 IKEAs!
The movers arrived right on time. I was hoping they would arrive a bit late to allow for the last minute once over, but not a chance.  Not only did they arrive on the dot, they were a team of SIX!!!  Now, I have moved 17 times in my life (that is the Army Brat truth).  Never have I seen movers show up with SIX people.  If you’ve ever moved, you know the success of moving day depends on your ability to stay 10 steps ahead of the movers....and in our case, this is particularly important as we had to constantly point out, “this goes by air”, “this goes into storage”, “no, wait, let’s throw that out”, “do we need 30 training towels or 40”, (we seriously had this discussion - five would probably suffice).  We are, after all, moving into a small, two bedroom, cozy apartment in downtown Moscow a third the size of our Atlanta home.  

The movers moved through our house like a tsunami and were done in what felt like 20 minutes.  At the onset of the morning I asked them to leave the kitchen for last as we were still picking out which “pot” (not “pots”) and which pan (not “pans”) to take with us.  Ten minutes after this discussion I walked into the kitchen to realize the pots and pans were all packed....then the “unpacking” began...

                                                           Our "pot" and "pan" were in this mix early in the day

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The infamous COLD...

How do you prepare for the unknown?  
Steve and I, being big fans of mild winters, have always said we wouldn’t want to live north of the Carolinas.  Steve has gone so far as to say he wouldn’t want to live any where where he’d need to take a dog sled to work.  Well, you know the rest of that story...

                                          (Steve and I dogsledding in Colorado...an omen!)

It’s not that cold climates are foreign to us....we make an annual pilgrimage to Colorado to snowboard with the family and Steve lived in New Hampshire for 5 years.  No strangers to the cold - we just didn’t know we’d be relocating to the world’s frozen tundra!
Have you ever watched Dr. Zhivago?  Remember the scene where Omar Sharif is exiled to Siberia and is walking through the arctic wasteland with his eyes frozen shut and ice crystals in his beard?  Kind of makes a girl feel all warm and fuzzy inside...
I think this video just about sums it up...

So, we’re stocking up on silk underwear, fleece, down puffy coats, hand warmers, scarfs, mittens, bomber hats, etc.  Will it be enough??  More to come...

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Russian ABC's

                                 The first Russian language textbook

While crashing around preparing for our big move, I’ve spent some time working on my “survival Russian”. A girl can’t move to Moscow without the critical: “where’s the ladies room?”, “which way to the mall?”, and the ever popular “more root vegetables and potatoes, please”.  Learning to speak and read all over again has taken me back to my kindergarten days...a new alphabet, sounding out the words, flashcards - the whole bit!
We’re learning why Russian is one of the hardest languages to learn - it has 6 cases, (basically changes that occur to nouns and their endings).  For example, the word for “book” is one word if we’re talking about “my” book, a different word if we’re talking about “your” book and yet a completely different word if we’re talking about the book “over there”.  
Russian is written using the Cyrillic (кириллица) alphabet consisting of 33 letters.  We share thirteen of the letters in the English alphabet but more than half of these are pronounced differently.  For example, “C” is pronounced as “S” and “P” is pronounced as “R”...you get the picture - throw out everything we learned as youngsters, we’re not in Kansas any more.  
Here is the alphabet...note the number “3” is pronounced “z”...?


Russians are big into sayings and proverbs:
Когда рак (на горе) свистнет. (Kogdá rak (na goré) svístnet.)
"When a crayfish whistles (on the mountain)", English translation:
"when pigs fly", meaning "never."
Делать из мухи слона. (Délat' iz múkhi sloná.)
"To make an elephant out of a fly.",  English translation:
"to make a mountain out of a mole-hill."
Палить из пушки по воробьям. (Palít' iz púshki po vorob'yám.)
"To shoot sparrows with a cannon", 
English translation: "crack a nut with a sledgehammer."
Ernst & Young will provide 50 hours of Russian lessons when we arrive. I recently read intermediate fluency takes about 780 hours of immersion lessons...so, Steve and I are planning to adopt what is officially called “Runglish” - a mixture of Russian and English.  Apparently this became popular aboard the NASA International Space Station in 2000 among the Russian and English cosmonauts.  Heck, we’ll throw in what little Spanish and French we know as well.  Gracias, Merci beau coup, das va dan ya...

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Beginning...

My inaugural blog posting!  So much to share as Steve and I prepare for our big move east…waaay east…to Moscow.  We're 3 weeks away from our official launch date (Nov. 27th) and preparation is in full swing.

First off, today is my last day with Deluxe.  After recently celebrating 20 years, putting down the check box and loyalty solutions wasn't as easy as I thought.  I've had to say farewell to incredible co-workers and clients - many of whom have become great friends.  On the horizon, I'm looking into a possible U.S. Olympic Committee position as Russia will host the 2014 winter Olympics, (a bit of a dream job).

Steve is in Moscow for the next 2.5 weeks launching into his new role and preparing our new apartment for our move-in, (we're across from the Kremlin and Red Square).   As I hold down the fort stateside, my list includes turning in company car, completing inventory of all our household goods, determining what will go into storage, what will ship via air and what will ship via sea, making the 99th trip to Goodwill, determining how we're going to pipe in U.S. television in Moscow, listening to Russian language tapes and buying fleece, Gortex, a big down puffy jacket and fur!!!!  It's already snowing in the motherland.

We keep pinching ourselves asking "is this really happening"? It is happening and we can't wait for what lies ahead. 

P.S.  Priority #1 when we land in Russia:  Buy big furry Russian hat!  More to come...

      (Photo above taken from our hotel room in Moscow several months ago.)