Sunday, July 31, 2011

How legal does it need to be?

This weekend I stumbled into some kind of spacial distortion centered around my computer monitor....even though only 48 hours have passed by Earth standards, I have spent approximately 9.5 billion hours doing "research" online.

What is this "research", you may ask? Well, it's mainly me scrambling madly about trying to find ways to make our life in Ukraine slightly more legal.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Packing, Part 1

How much stuff do you really need to travel with?

My favorite quote- Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard:
"As far as gear goes, you don't need any of that shit. Nobody needs that stuff. If it makes people feel better to have a garage full of the very best gear available, great- I'll sell it to them. We're going to keep making the stuff, make it as good as we can, as functional as we can, but I don't have any illusions that it's very necessary. If you want real adventure, you leave all that at home and encourage the birds to shit on your head. That's when you start having adventure."

Pictures from the Trans-Siberian, 2007

The road out of Yakutsk
Good bathroom! (despite the -30 F weather)
Bad bathroom!
 (Although, come to think of it, this one is rather clean. I'm gonna change my mind and call it a good bathroom. Years ago D's mom told me the secret: just pull your coat over your head, it's what all women do when there's not a door.)
An elementary school offered us work as these two characters- Дед мороз and Снегуречка.
The city of Nerengre.
Talk about close quarters!

In Irkutsk for Christmas.
Happy New Year!
Just chillin' with my crew, yo
Moscow- January
Red Square- January
I love this picture....later got it framed.
This was taken in September, before going to Yakutsk. Спасибо большое, Дима!

Yakutsk (Siberian) Blog, 2006

A typical house in the village
"Main Street"
Lena River
a very young me! : )

In the spirit of things, here's a link to my old blog about life in Yakutsk (Siberia) and traveling the Trans-Siberian with a colorful cast of characters.

The first entry is September 9th, 2006: "I got a pretty good vibe of what this would be like when we picked up a 16 year old sobbing crackhead at the ferry terminal"

The final entry is January 10th, 2007: "I've just posted all the sordid (or not) secrets of the Trans-Siberian trip"

Haha, looking back, I always wondered why everyone in Russia was obsessed with going to clubs and "dance pole".... I was always looking around for a stripper pole- why else would they keep mentioning a pole? It wasn't until later I found out that "поль" (pole) = floor, so people were actually saying "dance floor".

A couple of pictures from the old days....
Watching the traffic on this road was an endless source of amusement!
Early September
View from my window in September
One month later....view from my window in October
The old part of town. Very pretty and a very expensive shopping district. It's probably, uh, about 2 PM in the afternoon in this photo. Note the 2 women in fur coats in the distance!
2 weeks of hard work! See my comment re: winter activities- drive around, drink or visit a museum. Also, Odin, Odin, Odin :p
Yeah! The Permafrost Institute! That brings our total of winter activities up to 4!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Sometimes totally unexpected things happen. Like you're swimming and get attacked by a shark, or you're eating a hamburger and you bite into a piece of plastic. Something that's not totally unreasonable to expect but it shocks you because these things happen so rarely. Until it happens to you, that is.

I just sent out this mayday email to my boyfriend.




So, I've been reading a ton of ESL-teacher blogs in the past year, trying to get insights on how to be more successful with living abroad. Thank you to everyone who has posted about their experiences living in Russia and Ukraine! It's really nice to read the opinions and stories of others. In fact, I want to list the blogs but I'm a little shy. It is good or is it creepy if somebody else writes about your blog?

I feel like I fall outside the normal parameters of the Russia / Ukraine blogger just a little bit. (Haha, I bet everyone thinks this!) But I have my reasons:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Russia cannot be understood with the must simply stand in line.

"Умом Россию не понятьВ Россию можно только верить."
"Russia cannot be understood with the mind... One must simply believe in Russia."
  -Fyodor Tyutchev


Here's another example of why I love Russia:

Getting a visa has always been difficult. If you are able to get an invitation (to study or work or visit) there's still a million hoops to go through. That's part of why I choose Ukraine. Anyways, the Russian president Medvedev is a huge fan of technology and modernity, and he's trying to get Russia up to speed. So, what sounds more 21st century then being able to file your visa application online? That's right, straight from the embassy's website, "Pursuant to the directive from the Russian Foreign Ministry, effective July 1, 2011, the Russian Embassy and all Russian Consulates General in the U.S.A. will require that all applications for Russian visas submitted in the United States be prepared using the Electronic Visa Application Form."

Pretty good, right?

But that's not the whole story.

Because then, "After filling the Electronic Visa Application form online, applicants will have to print a copy of their application form, sign and date it, glue the requred size photo to it and submit this printed original form, along with other necessary documentation, to the Russian Consulate personally or through their representative or a visa agency." (Underlining done by me.)

Hahaha! What's the point of filing online if you still have to print out the same form and hand it over in person? Why not just give people a confirmation number?

I love you, Russia, because sometimes you don't make any sense.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Forced socialization

Last night an out-of-town friend called me at 9 PM. She was nearby and wanted to drop in. Of course, I was lounging in an armchair in front of the tv, no make-up, nursing my broken toe, feeling apathetic, and I started to explain all the reasons why it wouldn't be a good idea. Then I thought "This is stupid. I'm always going on about how it's okay in Russia to just drop by and visit versus the American system of calling to set up a day and time." It's okay to do in college, just knock and start hanging out, but then it becomes a complicated system of "let's hang out sometime" when you don't really mean it. So I said yes. And I didn't regret it.

That's Part 1 of my "re-Becoming More Social" weekend.

Today was Part 2: The Russian Experience.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

First Thoughts

Last night I found an old journal entry scribbled in the back of a book. I must have intended to post it in an earlier blog, but it was forgotten and waited on the bookshelf for years. The first sentence is-

Your journey begins in the railway station, where a sign on the cashier window informs you: Cashier does not give answers.

As unpleasant as those words sound, if you love Russia and Ukraine then there's something about them that intrigues you. You think- what? why? no answers? why not? what's up with that?

If you don't love Russia and Ukraine, then you probably think- what the hell? Forget it, I'm going to Cancun! (And I think you're probably not going to be interested in this blog :p )

But back to those who will... no matter how many times you get frustrated or don't get any answers, there's still some beauty that keeps bringing you back. It's like dating someone who usually treats you like dirt but you keep thinking the relationship can be saved because of the occasional "perfect" moments. Tell me now, readers- is it okay that I'm moving to Ukraine with those expectations? Or is it simply natural? I'd like to think that this is normal whenever anyone studies a foreign culture or language. I'd like to think it's not a bad relationship that I should turn away from to avoid heartbreak!