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

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