Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The great thaw...

Russians believe spring starts March 1st.  Tell that to the thermometer.  Actually, we had our warmest day since we arrived yesterday - 41 degrees!  Complete heaven.  (Wow - has our perspective changed).  Went without gloves for the first time since our landing on November 30th. I wanted to break out my flip-flop sundress combo.  Steve and I were amazed at how the city came alive - tons of people walking in the parks, sitting on benches....doing a full-on Vitamin D soak!  Perhaps spring really is on the way - although we’re realistically bracing for at least one more cold snap before the city truly blossoms into fantastic.
This is a mild version of the “black ice” we’ve been traversing across all winter - glob 5 more thick, uneven layers on top of this - and that will about do it.  Fun times right there. 

Quite amazing...
  • We have a rotary phone in our apartment. When was the last time you heard the “click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click” after you dialed “9”?  Those under the age of 30 are wondering what I’m talking about...  
  • Our radiator heat is either “on” or “off” in our apartment - centrally controlled for the entire building.  If it gets too hot...we regulate the temp by opening a window...and letting in some snow.
  • We pay our electric bill by reading the meter outside our apartment and walking down to the bank and paying in Rubles each month.  We also stand in line at the metro station to buy a ticket from a woman behind the glass counter (very gruff and somewhat lite in the sense of humor department).  “Nyet, Rubles only!”  .....Yes m’am.
Can you tell we live in a Stalin era building?

  • No voice mail to speak of in Moscow.  If it’s important enough - track the person down and have a live conversation.  A touch light on the efficiency ratio.
  • Most Russians know very little English.  After a few minutes of trying to communicate - when we realize we’re going to stay lost in translation and it’s time to move on - we often get the only English words they know “good luck!” - which cracks us up each time.  They know, that we know, that they know we need it!  
  • 350 degrees on our oven here does not equal the same 350 degrees on our U.S. oven.  It took 2 charred frozen pizzas to figure that one out.  180 degrees C is 350 F.  And so the learning continues...
  • Renting an apartment requires a sign off on all, and I mean all, that comes with the apartment.  We thought that meant a short rental agreement addendum that mentioned the wardrobe closet that came with the apartment. They account for everything from the toilet paper holder, to the soap tray to the “bra light in the hall”... just realized we had one of those...who knew?

    “Made my day”...
    • Gave one of my hand warmer packets (winter sports fans use these ditties to keep the digits warm) to our interpreter on what was a freeeeeezing cold day in Tver.  He was amazed - had never seen one - an hour later he pulled me aside with astonishment and said “it’s STILL warm!”  It was if he had discovered electricity - he was thrilled....so was I.

    • Trying to find the XC ski park I asked an older babushka if I was taking the tram in the right direction - we were both lost in translation for a few minutes - charades was getting me nowhere.  She finally noticed I had a ski bag on my back, lit up and knew exactly where I was headed - arm and arm she walked me on to the tram and held on to me until my stop then walked me off the tram and pointed me in the right direction....she had become my babushka for the 10 minute tram trip.  A complete angel.

    • One of my XC ski poles broke and I ventured out to buy a new pair.  On my way home, a very old dadushka (yes....grandpa) stopped me and was so curious about my poles - not sure if he was asking where I bought them, what they were for, could he join me....?  I tired to charade it out for him and when we finally parted ways - I looked back over my shoulder and noticed he was wearing a Dallas Cowboys ski jacket!  It brought a huge smile as it is very rare to see any U.S. sportswear over here not to mention on someone who had been around for a long time and probably had some amazing Soviet and Cold War stories...


    1. Yo Annsky,

      I noticed my last name (albeit misspelled) appears all over your rental agreement. What's up with that?? I would have charged you double for that bra light had I known!

      Take care.............Brentsky

    2. Hilarious! I was thinking the same thing...