The Balitka Challenge

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thursday after class a few of us went to the Russian Art Museum. I felt that, with only two weeks, I should really go at least once. I am not a big art aficionado however I could appreciate the amount of beautiful work that has come out of this country. After that we went over to the market behind Church on Spilled Blood which has some very nice souvenirs. When we arrived here in the summer everything was extremely expensive however now that it is cold and dark all the time they are much more willing to give discounts. We had over an hour before dinner so we went to an amazing donut shop where we all had our pre-dinner desert.

Our Thanksgiving dinner was amazing. It was at a restaurant called The Other Side, owned and operated by an ex-pat from New York. None of us really knew what to expect, not having celebrated Thanksgiving outside of the US before. It was very funny to see how those not from the US viewed it. Our two RDs are both from Great Britain and Misha is from Russia. They all said “Happy Thanksgiving” as if it was a religious holiday or something. Even the waitresses were wishing us a happy thanksgiving. It was really cute. The food was amazing. There was turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy, potatoes, stuffing, corn, sweet potatoes, and brussels sprouts. Knowing that the people making our food have never celebrated Thanksgiving, we were afraid that they would miss one of the most important factors in Thanksgiving: if you are not stuffed to the point of explosion, you didn’t do it right. Luckily, that one plate of food had us all stuffed (but of course with room for dessert!). I’ve never liked pumpkin pie but I think that one meal has made me love it. There were, of course, no leftovers to take home but we did stop at the store on the way home to get some ice cream.

Friday night we decided to dye my hair. Word of advice; if the instructions on the package are not in a language you understand, don’t do it. Lets just say it took a few tries to get my hair back to a normal (human) color.

Yesterday we went to the Baltika Brewery. That was very interesting. I didn’t realize there were so many awards for beer.

Yesterday evening a few of us decided to go to mass at one of the two Catholic churches in the entire city. There is an English mass at 9:30 on Sunday mornings but it’s really hard to make it to the center at that time. Because of this we decided to go to the Russian mass. Little did we know that this was the first time the church was in full function since before the Soviets had taken it over. It was apparently the official “opening” mass of the church (even though they’ve been having masses for five years). There was about 40 priests and the Bishops there. The mass was over 2 hours long. They blessed all the wall of the church with water, asked for a blessing from every saint in the Catholic religion, and had to give communion to hundreds of Russians. I guess if you don’t know Russians too well that may not have significance. Usually at a church giving communion takes a bit of time but if there are a lot of people they usually break it up and have several people giving communion. Not here. There were two. Not only that, but Russians do not know how to form lines. It was literally a mob of people squishing towards the front of the church. Of course it narrowed out as we got closer to the priest, but it was still the most unorganized church line I had ever been in. Oh and I forgot to mention… we were standing the whole time… near the open door. They must have spent all of their money on repairing the church over the past 10 years and now they can’t afford to turn on the heat. While it was insanely long, cold, tiring, and in a language I could only slightly understand it was still good. I think I may suck it up and just go to the early Sunday mass next week.

After mass Jess and I returned home to find out roommates halfway through what we call “The Baltika Challenge.” Baltika makes 9 different types of beer and they decided to try each one to see which they liked the most. They even took notes. It was a very educational experience.
The Baltika Family

Explosion in the City

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Yesterday a little before 9 in the morning there was an explosion in a taxi just outside of a metro station in St. Petersburg. Three people (a man, woman, and their child) were killed. The man driving the taxi somehow survived. According to the Russian authorities it was not a terrorist attack and (according to them) one of the three passengers “accidentally” set off a hand grenade that they just happened to be carrying.

I hate when my spare hand grenades accidentally explode.

WHAT?!? Who carries hand grenades??

Apparently there are a surprising number of Russians who do. All men are required to serve in the armed forces and I guess it is quite easy to get grenades and when they are released from service they just hold on to them. Many of them end up being sold on the black market. I don’t know why this man would have been carrying one at 9 in the morning while out with his wife and child but that seems to be the reason for the explosion. This happens less than a year after a bomb went off in a McDonald’s down on Nevsky… that of course was just some teenage “hooliganism”. I don’t know. In this country I just don’t see how it can just be an accident.

It may be because I just finished reading A Dirty War that my cynicism of this country is at an all time high. I was doing some reading about Anna Politkovskaya after finishing the book. She was not the first journalist to be “contract” style assassinated after writing something that made the government look bad. She wasn’t the second or third or fourth either. She was the 13th. Three men are currently on trial for “taking part” in her assassination. First of all, none are charged with ordering or carrying out the murder but they are the main focus for some reason. Secondly, the men are all Chechen, which are the people she spent her time (and life) trying to protect and defend. The judge seems to be completely fixed, too. He made a big point to tell the press and other journalists that they could watch the trial however reneged the offer because he said that the juror did not feel safe. After talking to the jurors it became clear that none of them ever complained about have the journalists and press. I think he just made a show of that so people felt they were going about this trial fairly. Now the defense lawyers are calling for that judge to be dismissed. There is also evidence now that points to a Russian Politician at the top of all this. It’s all so sketchy. I will definitely be following this story at home.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving!
Happy День Благодарениа!
Enjoy your индейка!

Oh the weather outside is frightful...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I woke up early today to the wind blowing and howling so loudly that I thought it was going to knock in my window (which wouldn’t be too hard to do). Along with the wind has come snow, sleet, and rain. I think it may have turned back to snow in the past hour however I do not plan on stepping outside at any point in time tonight.

Thursday our teacher came into class and seemed very frustrated. Apparently she had spent the morning translating for the dean of the school and some deans from some Chinese schools. Her dean doesn’t speak any Chinese or English but the other deans at least knew English. She was just annoyed with the amount of time they spent talking about the sites of the city when they had a lot of work to do. Someone in my class suggested we just didn’t have class but she decided that we should just go on a field trip instead. Our field trip was to the McDonald’s down the street. Anything other than class on a Thursday sounds good to me.

Friday I got my midterm back from my Kievan Russ class. I managed a 5 even though I left out some important details. I guess I made up for it by throwing in a bunch of only mildly related subjects into it.

Friday night a few of us went to see Twilight (сумерки) down on Nevsky. Now, to say that I have read these books geared towards 15 years olds is a little embarrassing, however I really enjoyed them so I wouldn’t hide that fact if someone asked me. The movie, on the other hand, I am just going to pretend I never heard of. There are some people who enjoyed it but I still haven’t figured out what it was that they actually liked. The directing, acting, makeup, cinematography, and special effects were all terrible. I don’t know what else there is to a movie after you take out all of that? While the screenplay was cheesy I guess it did a good job of sticking to the book so it had that going for it. That, however, did not make up for all the other aspects of the movie that were truly terrible. I would like to think that it had something to do with the fact that I was watching it in Russian and it didn’t have any subtitles but from what I remember of some of the lines in the previews I’m kind of glad I didn’t see it in English. I did really like the baseball scene though. That was about it.

Saturday we had an excursion to the Pushkin Apartment Museum. It was pretty similar to the Dostoevsky Apartment Museum only a different apartment and a different writer. “Here is where he wrote, this was his children’s room, this was his pen, this was his hat, this was where he died.” Pushkin’s apartment was much bigger but that was the only big difference.

Today I woke up early to go to mass with a friend however she never came to get me and (considering the weather) I just figured she decided not to go. After that I went to bed, woke up late, watched a movie, and read for a bit. Right now I’m reading A Dirty War by Anna Politkovskaya, the Russian journalist who was murdered about two years ago after publishing some bad stuff about Putin and other bigwigs in the Russian government. It is some pretty interesting stuff and she had no fear of giving out the names of those who were to blame for atrocities in Chechnya. After this book was published she had to flee Russia because of some serious death threats that she received from the Russian military. They clearly weren’t all just threats.

We have less than three weeks here. Crazy.

снег! (snow in Russian... not 'Cher' the singer)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

We have snow in St. Petersburg! Yesterday there was a small amount of snow in the morning but none of it stuck. Today it snowed continuously from the time I woke up until right now (and I think it is still snowing). I'm so happy it is finally here. St. Petersburg in winter without snow is just miserable. More than 200 days out of the year the city will have have either snow or rain. When the sun is only in the sky for three hours a day it is terrible when that three hours is filled with rain clouds. At least with snow everything seems bright from the reflection of the snow. Jess, Kori, and I met Jess' friend Ryan and her friend Meg at the Greek restaurant (I should really learn the name of this place) for lunch. Even though it was slippery out and the snow was blowing in my face I loved it. Everything was white and even the more soviet buildings along Grahzdansky looked pretty. Forecast for the next 7 days… snow.

Back in the USSR... I mean Russia

Monday, November 17, 2008

After living in St. Petersburg for 3 months where almost everything is open 24 hours a day, we were very surprised to get up and out early only to find out that nothing opens until noon. We ended up walking a bit to a café called Ekberg. This café has apparently existed since the time of the Tzars and they use the recipes that they used in that time. It was great food and a good time waster. All I did was go back to H&M. We met around 2 and then headed back to the train station. While the ride there was only 6 hours, the ride home was 9. Luckily we all made it one piece.
I needed to get food today because I’m almost down to nothing however Nahodka was closed again!?! There was apparently almost a riot outside when people found out it was closed. Nahodka is one of many places that is open 24 hours a day and no one knows what to do with themselves when it is closed.

Oh! It also snowed today! Nothing stuck but there is a chance of snow every day for the next 10 days at least!


Saturday, November 15, 2008

 On Saturday we had to wake up at 4:30 to get on a bus and drive (10 minutes) to the other side of the city. From there we caught the ferry to Tallinn, Estonia. The ferry was basically a small cruise ship. It was, unfortunately, a little difficult to fall asleep on. It rained this entire day. We had to walk 20 minutes from the port to the Old Town. The Old Town was the only part of the city that was protected from Russian when they controlled them during the times of the USSR. (Finland had been granted freedom by Lenin in 1917 and has almost no communist influence like the countries of the former USSR). After our tour of Old Town we sat down in a small café with some great hot chocolate. Around 2 we met up with my roommate’s friend who lives in Tallinn. I felt bad because I know she wanted to show us around the city but we were all tired and hungry so we ended up stopping to eat. After eating she did show us around and we later parted ways. A few of us went to another café while she and my roommate walked around more. It was a beautiful city but when you are drenched, cold, and tired it is hard to keep walking when you know there are warm cafes all around you. After that we had to walk back to the Port. The ferry ride home was amazing. We sat in a restaurant/pub place and watched a lot of crazy people dance to man playing the guitar who sang a lot of English songs. There was a drunk man dancing with a broom, a man dressed up like Elvis, and a woman that began making out with a 17 year old boy on the dance floor while her husband went out on the deck to smoke. (The man later came back in a sat down to watch and all three mysteriously disappeared as the boat was docking!)

The Shire

Friday, November 14, 2008

We had breakfast at the hostel and had the rest of the day to explore the city. I honestly think that we could walk from one end of Helsinki to the other in under ½ and hour. The city was tiny but had a great tram system. There are only 500,000 people living in the city versus the 6 million in St. Petersburg so everything seem much less claustrophobic. There were also much less traffic and more bike riders in the city. Down by the docks was a small market. During the summer it is probably huge however it’s getting colder now and there were only a few stands set up.

After looking around there for a while we decided to hop on a ferry and take a trip out to the Sea Fortress Island off the coast. I have to say that this was, by far, my favorite part of this trip. The fortress was set up on two islands and it was a completely self guided tour. There were a few signs to let you know which direction was the ferry dock, however that was the only guidance we had. We could wander around all the old caves that were used as the fortress. Everything was pitch black and just like it would have been at the time the fort was used. A flashlight would have been helpful but we ended up using the flashes on our cameras to light up the tunnels so we didn’t trip on the rocks and winding passages. It was amazing. I felt like I was in the Goonies, traveling through all these crazy tunnels. I’m glad we went in the fall because I feel like in the summer it probably gets very crowded and it would have really ruined the fun of it if there were people all over the place. There were very few other people there at the same time as us. After the tunnels we came to a place that we like to call the Shire. It really looked like we stumbled into a Lord of the Rings book. From the top of the “hobbit houses” you could get a beautiful view of the Baltic Sea. There was no one there to yell at us for doing anything and we were having as much fun as a bunch of 7 year olds without adult supervision. We ended up jumping out one of the windows of the fort to reach a lighthouse on the rocks (Forbidden in Finnish is something like Forbiidden but we just pretended to not understand). 

It’s amazing how trusting the Finnish people are. They are a socialist country and pay 22% tax on almost everything so they very rarely checked tickets on the tram ride and, after spending 10 minutes trying to figure out how to get a ticket for the ferry, they didn’t even collect that. It is very different from Russia where they distrust everyone even when you can prove you are doing everything by the rules.

After returning from the island we ate at a small café and later when to dinner at Chico’s which is an American style restaurant. We only went there because we read somewhere that they had a peanut butter chicken dish and pepperoni quesadillas that we all agreed we needed to try. Unfortunately they did not. I did have a barbecue cheeseburger however. It was awesome. After that we did some shopping at H&M where we ran into basically everyone else from our trip. This weekend was not so much a trip to experience a new culture… it was more a weekend to regain our sanity and see civilization again to get us through this last month in Russia.

Welcome to Finland

Thursday, November 13, 2008

 I woke up around 5 a.m. Thursday morning. We had a 7:17 train ride to catch. The ride was very uneventful but I was very tired and could not get comfortable enough to get any sleep. We spent a long time waiting in Vyborg where we got our passports and visas checked by the Russians and then had to wait again a little later while the Finns checked our passports. We got to Helsinki, Finland around 12:35 after turning our clocks back and hour. We met our tour guide and hopped on a very nice and clean bus (the polar opposite of our bus from Moscow) to take a tour of the city. We stopped at a Lutheran Church that was built into a huge rock, a monument to a famous Finnish composer, the Senate Square, and the only Orthodox Church in the city. After our bus tour we were able to check into our Hostel. This was the first time I’ve ever stayed in a hostel but it was pretty nice. The bed sadly made me miss my IMOP bed however it wasn’t bad. My shower was amazing even though you had to hit a button every 10 seconds to turn the water back on. It was the first time in 3 months that I felt like the water had actually cleaned me and my hair didn’t feel like straw after! After checking in my suitemates and I headed out for a walk in the city to find some food. Since we’ve eaten food from every other country in the world we decided to try to Thai food (hard to find in Russia). It was great. The best part was when two men walked in, turned to us, and said “hello” with a smile. Not only did they smile and say hi to us just to be nice, but they spoke in English! Amazing. We had had a long day so we didn’t feel like doing anything that involved too much walking so we continued on into the city until we found a movie theater. We had been planning for a while to see James Bond in Finland simply because it would be in English. Not only was the ticket lady polite and helpful but she offered to let us pay separately! (unheard of in Russia) After the movie we headed back to get some sleep.

Off for the weekend...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Only two things for today:

A man was standing outside my dorm today with a broadsword strapped across his back.


Our water is extremely hot. While washing the dishes it feels more like someone has just boiled a pot of water and is pouring it over your hands than actual warm water coming out of a faucet. I think the nerve endings in my hand have been destroyed. Today I actually did spill some boiling water over my hand and I was more annoyed that I had spilled water all over the place than the fact that I burned myself.

I’m going to bed early to rest up for a very busy weekend!

Various Russian Things

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Nutcracker was good. It certainly wasn’t the ballet but it was entertaining. I took some pictures but none of them came out clear enough to bother putting them up here. Tomorrow is our last day of class before heading off to Finland and Estonia for four days. Since I haven’t done anything interesting since Sunday I figured I would talk a little more about Russia.

Today I took a trip to the post office (surprisingly easier than in the States). As I was leaving my dorm I passed by and old brown and orange van. Standing outside the van were three men with bullet proof vests on, in the process of arming themselves with guns. There were three more people sitting in the idling van. After securing their weapons they proceeded to head into my dorm. The best part of the story is that this didn’t phase me at all. I just kept walking. I’ve actually seen these guys coming into the dorm once before and at the time I thought that I should probably be worried or something but seeing things like that in Russia are not as exciting as they would be at home.

I guess I should talk now about the almighty force of the Russian Police. The Russian police here basically have power to do anything they want. Those people entering my dorm weren’t the police and I think that was why I was less nervous than I would have been if it were. It’s strange living everyday in fear of the police but I have gotten used to it. You can be stopped for any reason and you must show your ID immediately. Many people in our group have been stopped and luckily no one has had a problem but I have heard that many times you need to bribe the officers to let you go. One day we looking for some building and my roommate realized she forgot her Spravka (id) while we were walking through one of the city’s military academies. It was probably the scariest days I’ve had here. We don’t really know what could have happened if we were stopped and she didn’t have it. When you see them you immediately divert your eyes otherwise there is a good chance you will get stopped. It is also confusing because anyone serving in the military (which is required by all men at one point in their life) is required to wear uniform. There are so many in St. Petersburg that I feel like I am constantly slinking around avoided people everywhere. I’m sure most of the people serving in the military are good men and don’t take advantage of their power, however it is common knowledge that there are many who do.

And now some more boring stuff....

They have been “renovating” the first floor of our dorm and it amazing what they are doing. Instead of redoing the walls that are falling apart they are putting up very cheap, bright orange, fake walls. They reminded me of the type of walls you would put up in a basement when you know there is a good chance they will be damaged by water or general basementness as soon as you put them up. At one spot in the hallway they cut a chunk of the older brick wall out and what did I see under neither the top two layers? A third layer of wall. This is apparently not the first time this building has needed “work”. I don’t really have a problem with the new walls they are putting up. Sure, they look a little tacky and make the hallway smaller, however that is not my main problem with the walls. I noticed one day while turning the corner to go up the stairs, that the corner had been chiseled away. I’m guessing this was done so that the top layer of wall would be able to meet at the corner with out any interference from the wall under neither, however I know this can’t be good for the stability of the building. I’ve never taken any architecture classes but I really didn’t get a good feeling when I saw that all the corners in the hallway had large gaping chunks taken out of them. They are working on putting up a new ceiling up now. I just hope they don’t decide to dig through the existing one to get that job done.

Oh, their tiling is great, too. They obviously hired a terrible tiler when this building was built and since then, whenever one tile gets lose they either have someone come in and fix it with a tile of a completely different color and/or design or just leave it and let it jingle every time some steps on it. Our laundry room has about 5 out of 300 tiles still secured to the ground. ( For my LCers think of the Berlin Museum with the floor of clanking faces…. It’s exactly like that.)

Yusupov Palace

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The other day my friends and I went to look for the Harley Davidson store. We weren't sure if they were going to have any clothes or souvenirs but we figured we might as well check it out while we had some free time. Little did we know that it was a 20 minute walk along a highway to get there. Of course once we did get there, and after a minute of my awkward Russian-speak, we learned that they were just a dealership. Oh well. It was cold but it wasn't a bad walk and we got to see some new parts of the city.

Friday I took my midterm for Early Russian History. I also got back my test for my Communist Phase class which I got a 5 (A) on! I don't think I did as good on the second test as I did on the first.

Today we had an excursion to Yusupov Palace. This was also a 20 minute walk from the metro however it was a nice walk along one of the smaller rivers, where the streets are line on both sides by old palaces. Yusupov Palace is the place where Prince Felix Yusupov tried (multiple times) to assassinate Rasputin. The tour started with path that the assassins took on their way to kill him. They poisoned him, shot him multiple times, and after he managed to escape, they wrapped him up in a curtain and threw him into the Neva River. When they found his body a few days later they found that he had escaped from the curtain but eventually drowned. I thought that was going to be the main part of the tour but we actually got to tour the entire palace. The Yusupov family was the richest in Russia. The Imperial family actually had to borrow money from them on occasion. The palace was huge, with something crazy like 6 drawing rooms, several dining rooms, a ballroom, a home theater, bedrooms with secret doors, and a library with a hidden nook in the wall full of Pushkin letters. I thought it was prettier than the Winter Palace which was where the Tzars lived.

After that we ate at a small basement Chinese restaurant which looked sketchy from the outside but was really nice inside and the food was great and pretty cheap. We also went to St. Isaac's Cathedral. We went there at the very beginning of the trip but we never went in and we tried going last week but the line was too long. We just got a pass to go on the Colonnade and not into the actually church itself. There was a lot of stairs but the view was worth it. You could see most of the city unfortunately most of the city in under construction in one way or another. My favorite picture is the sunset with all the cranes in the distance. It kind of reminds me of Jurassic Park with all the dinosaurs on the horizon.

Tomorrow were going to see the Nutcracker! We tried to buy tickets to the show at the Mariinsky Theatre but the were 1800 roubles ($80). We asked if it was showing it at any other theaters. The woman said a ton of stuff in Russian that we didn't understand but we ended up buying tickets for 300 roubles instead. We came back here and looked it up online and it turns out its the Nutcracker on ice! I think it's going to be awesome. Or I at least hope it is going to be awesome. We'll find out tomorrow!

Russian Construction and more food

Friday, November 7, 2008

It’s Friday! We only had three days of classes this week but for some reason I’m very happy it's Friday. Next week we also only have three days of classes because we’re leaving for Finland and Estonia Thursday morning.

Tuesday we had our opera at Mihailsky Theatre. It was Eugene Onegin, a book written by Pushkin and turned into and opera by Tchaikovsky. The people that were taking the lit class had to read this book but I knew very little about the story. My roommate filled me in but it is hard enough understanding Russians when they are talking… when they are singing opera in Russian it is almost impossible. It was a fun time though. My suitemates and I got a private box that needed a key to get into.

We also ate at an amazing Greek restaurant earlier that day. I think we have tried food from almost every country on the planet. We’ve had Japanese, Italian, Chinese, Greek, American, Azerbaijani, Russian, Mexican, and Irish food since we’ve gotten here. This Greek place was one of my favorites (right behind Shamrock’s food). The best part about this restaurant was trying to get in. In the United States when there is construction going on there are strict laws in place to protect both the workers and pedestrians. While building the new Science building at Stonehill I know that they completely blocked off a road even though it was like 200 feet from the actual construction and everything was totally fenced off. In Russia those laws don’t exist. The road to get to this restaurant was completely under construction and the sidewalk in front of the building was non-existent.

 It was just a big hole in the ground with some board placed over it as a walkway to the entrance. There were a ton of men working right outside this place to and we had to step around them and all of their drills and sledgehammers to get to our restaurant. When we left and continued on down the street there were sections where you had to climb through sheet metal balanced on strips of wood to get to the next part of the sidewalk. I would like to think that these things were put there on purpose and built sturdily however it is more likely that when the men finished working for the day they just threw their extra materials on the sidewalk, not worrying about what happens to the people that need to walk through that space.

In other news, we had no hot water today. Now it’s not like it happened before, when you turn on the hot water and cold water comes out. No. There was just no water at all. You turn the nob and nothing happens at all. The cold worked fine of course but how often do we actually use that here? Never. It is working now however it is coming out brown again. It’s Russia.

I have a very overdue midterm to take in about an hour. After that were going to the Pizza Bar to get a late lunch/ early dinner. We haven’t gone in like 2 weeks or something crazy like that.

New President

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Well we have a new president. I can’t really say it makes me happy or upset. I didn’t vote, mainly because I don’t like either candidate and I didn’t think either of them would really help America. I couldn’t bring myself to voting for the lesser of two evils.

During one of my history lessons my professor began listing the reasons why the 1917 Revolution was a success. One of the biggest reasons was that, at the time, the Russian people felt that they needed a drastic change from the monarchy that they had been living under for hundreds of years. The communist party was the “change” that was needed. My professor stated after that, “I don’t know where you people got the idea that change was always for the better. The Russian people have learned since then that change is very rarely a positive thing.” I agree that America needs change, I just don’t know if the American people truly know what changes are needed and how to get those changes done. I personally feel that Obama got lucky and had a very smart marketing team when they chose that slogan.

For the short term I think Obama is what the country needed. No so much because I think he will help our country drastically, but more because, by his winning, he has put some faith back into the American people. People came out in record numbers to vote and they’ve seen that they actually can get things done when they make a strong effort and fight for what they want. I feel like if Obama had lost there were be a lot of disgruntled young Americans that would be extremely turned off by the entire governmental process and share that with the generations to come. While I’m not sure the majority of the American youth really know what they are rallying about, I’m glad that they are least being passionate about something. At least if things do not work out in the future they will know that they can change it again… hopefully.

As for the long term I honestly can’t say where I think this country is going. I hope it’s going to get better.

It is very interesting to see how people in the states are reacting to Obama’s election. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been in Russia for the past two and a half months or if I’m just too pessimistic to believe everything I hear but I feel as though some people think we just elected a God to the presidency. I’m worried that people are expecting too much from one man. He is human. And he is a politician. Let’s keep that in mind before we start building any monuments. I’m just worried that there are a lot of people that simply got swept up in the emotion and excitement that came with his campaign and haven’t really taken the time to look at what he stands for and what he would like to do with the country. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think McCain would have been any better for our country at this point in time, but I just hope people know what they have elected.

I know I’m a pessimist but I will try to hope for the best in the next four years. Yes we have a new president. No, America will not be magically healed of all it’s wounds. And hopefully the change we will get with this new administration will be change for the better… not the Russian kind of change.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween was a lot of fun. Shamrocks was all decked out for Halloween. It was packed because, while there are few Russians who celebrate it, there are plenty of expats and visitors that do. We also got to meet Tom the owner who is originally from Virgina. I remember seeing him sitting at the bar when we went there for my birthday. Now he looks exactly like Santa Claus, and assuming he was Russian, I said that to my friends. He was sitting close enough to hear but I am really hoping that he didn't… and if he did I hope he didn't remember us.

Sunday we had a tour of Dostoevsky's apartment which was very interesting and short. After that we went to a food market and then the crazy outdoor market where I bought a scarf. Sunday night we had our Halloween party. I wasn't feeling good so I didn't stay long but I did meet a lot of people from China, Turkey, and other random countries. It's really funny how obsessed the Chinese were with Americans. They all wanted to get pictures which each of us as if we were celebrities or something. It was pretty cool. I spent most of today sitting in bed and drinking multiple cups of green tea. I still need to find a hat and I am waiting on my boots to get here in the mail. Tomorrow is Russian Unity Day and there is supposed to be some type of celebration going on at Palace Square so we are going to check that out at some point. We also have the opera tomorrow night!