Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wildlife refuge


Ok, so I shouldn't have said it snowed the other week, because this last week it really snowed. Don't laugh, you guys, but we got a whole 1-3 inches of snow in this area. People abandoned their cars. Buses were chained up to drive on the ice. School was canceled for the next two days. And, like always, the tweets summed it all up.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Cat matryoshka

Best gift ever: a matryoshka doll with 4 little cats and a mouse! Thank you, Joyce!

Here's the core of the doll: a teeny tiny mouse, a (yellow?) persian cat, and a tuxedo cat.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Snowfall + Tea Haul!

Well, that post about the snow in Kharkiv must have worked some magic... there is actually snow in Portland! For most cities, it's a tiny bit of snow. For this city, it's ARCTIC BLAST SNOWPOCALYPSE 2016.

School is canceled. People are staying home from work. The library is closed. The buses have chains on. There are only two kinds of creatures you'll find outside (here's the other kind.)

Monday, December 5, 2016

Kharkiv in the snow

This is what it looks like in Kharkiv right now. 

A traveling friend just sent along these pictures after a day of walking the city's snowy streets. It's so pretty- take a look!

The church on the hill above Sarzhine Yar...

Two guys who aren't afraid of the cold...

Friday, December 2, 2016

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Adios, Nica!

The trip is over. It's back to constant rain (good), hot tea every day (better), and studying Russian (best). Here is the last of Nicaragua...

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Cooking class

Beans are not very popular in Ukraine. Why is this? Black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, pinto beans- doesn't matter. No one is eating them.

In Nicaragua, it's no problem to eat them every day. Breakfast is (happily) always this:

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The hotel with the secret ruins

Nicaragua is having their presidential elections tomorrow, and you can't buy a single drop of booze all weekend long. As of 6 PM yesterday, all alcohol sales were suspended.

I'm staying at my favorite place- the hotel across from the airport- and since everyone has been cut off, I've been walking around the hotel grounds instead. There's actually a group of Russians staying here too. (They planned ahead and bought drinks before sales ended.)

Here are three cool things about this hotel... and one secret.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016


There's a famous museum here called OMSI, or the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.
Have you heard of it?

Cheery stuff!

They actually have a famous submarine parked outside- the USS Blueback, which starred as a Soviet sub in the 90s movie The Hunt for Red October.

Back in the day, 85 men would be packed on the submarine for months at a time. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Stolovaya: the student cafeteria

This post is either going to make you ravenous or revolted, because today we're going back to the столовая, cafeteria. The stolovaya seems to be a love-or-hate affair for most people. Which side are you on?

Stolovaya at Lobachevsky University in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.

I'm a lover.

Sure, occasionally comes a day when there's just nothing good out- you're picking at some wilted cabbage and overcooked cutlets- but most of the time, the stolovaya is the best place to eat well + cheap. We never ever said no to a stolovaya in Ukraine (especially the overlooked ones!) and so I was psyched to be eating once a day at Lobachevsky State University's stolovaya in July.

Here's an example of a typical meal in the student cafeteria.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Three fall scenes in Portland

It's disgustingly beautiful around town already. Everywhere! Ugh!

South Park Blocks.

(Also, disgustingly beautiful in autumn but not nearby-
the streets of Kharkiv and this national park near Arkhangelsk.)

If you need a Portland fall adventure list, here are three spots to get you started...

Friday, October 7, 2016

Nizhny Novgorod cable cars

Of all the cable car rides in the world, Kharkiv's cable cars were just named one of the world's ten best cable car rides! I knew you could do it, Kharkiv!! :D

And so, today, let's look at a cable car ride that didn't make the cut...

... the 13-minute ride between the city of Nizhny Novgorod and the suburb of Bor, Russia.

This was another afternoon excursion in our summer language program. I loooooove cable cars solely based on a dozen rides in Kharkiv and one ride on a line in Odessa. The cable car in Nizhny Novgorod looked like a much bigger deal from the get-go. Just take a look at the platforms-

Monday, October 3, 2016

Volga (not Volga) Cruise

Of all the afternoon excursions in the Russian summer school program, the most anticipated one was the 'Boat Trip on the Volga River'. Doesn't that just sound cool? Who wouldn't want to go on a boat trip, and one that might actually be a booze cruise at that? And maybe a little bit educational too, if someone were to point out certain sights?

Well, spoiler alert: I slept through most of the cruise. And there was no drinking on the boat!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Matryoshka Haul

I'm always trying to get closer and closer to minimalism. In our eleven years together, the question I ask my husband the most is probably, Do you think we have more stuff or less stuff than we used to have? But there are two "weaknesses" that often accompany an interest in the Russian language- a love of teas and matryoshka dolls- that make me forget all about minimalism. And so...

Welcome to this summer's matryoshka haul :)

These little (or not so little) dolls were everywhere in Russia!

The bill was tucked away inside this doll.

Despite seeing them everywhere, people were quick to say that only tourists would buy the souvenir dolls. The university gave us basic matryoshkas on the first day of classes and then had us paint our own dolls on the last day. Those are the only traditional matryoshkas I brought back. The souvenir I gave to my uncle, the handpainted mess I hid on D's desk. As much as I love matryoshkas, they don't... do anything. The minimalist in me thinks they're dust collectors. But if it's a "useful" object with a matryoshka on it- in that case, all bets are off. Let's shop!

#1. Matryoshka apron. I love this thing. It came from a gift shop in Kazan and it fits cafeteria-style, so I can pretend to be slaving away in a stolovaya when cooking in my own kitchen. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

September Snapshots

This month D has gone back to making borsch, and we've been hitting up the farmers market on the weekends.

Monday, September 19, 2016

How to spend 3 days in Kharkiv?

Kharkiv friends- your suggestions are needed! This intrepid traveler is headed to Ukraine and has a little bit of time to explore Kharkiv. Megan Starr is no newbie to Ukraine. She wrote a fantastic intro to Dnipro earlier this year, a craft beer guide to Kyiv this July, and... well, you should just check out all her Ukraine posts here ;) I'm psyched that soon she'll be experiencing Kharkiv, since it is (of course) the coolest city in Ukraine!

But now, how to prove it? What's the best way to be blown away by Kharkiv in just a few days? Below is how I remember my favorite city walking route, split into two days. What else would you recommend?

Спасибо, дякую, and thank you!!! :D

Day 1:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Farm

I bet autumn is just barely beginning to touch down in Kharkiv. Perhaps it's even the beginning of a beautiful Бабье лето, Indian summer. I loved fall in Ukraine!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Speaking Russian in Portland

Russian food store in SE Portland

The other day I got a letter from the doctor's office with a multi-language insert. These are the languages that were included on the insert.

English. Spanish. Mandarin. Cantonese. Tagalog. French. Vietnamese. German. Korean. Russian. Arabic. Hindi. Italian. Portuguese. French Creole. Polish. Japanese.

Can you guess which are the most common languages in Oregon?

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Japanese Garden

A few months ago- just as spring had turned into real summer- my friend Sarah and I visited Portland's Japanese Garden. Even though ремонт, construction had taken over certain parts of the garden, it was still a beautiful place to walk through.

Over the summer I've become quite interested in meditation. Doesn't this garden look like the perfect spot for it? Maybe I can convince D to go there with me and give it a try.

Lately I've been reading from a little book called "Springs of Roman Wisdom". It used to sit on my desk at my last office job. (Emergency stress relief, haha.) Now it's at home, lined up next to my new Russian books. Sometimes I'll pick a random page to read. Here's something from Marcus Aurelius that I really

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Dorm life in Russia

Welcome to dorm life in Russia :)

I spent a month living in общежитие #4, dorm #4. Want to come in for a tour?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Afternoons of art (or not)

There were a few handicraft lessons in our Russian summer school. Everyone agreed that the worst one was the valenki lesson.

Valenki, not to be confused with delicious vereniki, are boots made out of wool felt. We made tiny little valenki, perfect for shoving in a drawer and forgetting about.

Yes, exciting.

A more interesting workshop was the DIY matryoshka doll event. Inspired after a bottle of lemonade-flavored beer, Allison and I did our best to paint nesting dolls that didn't terrify at first glance. I'm not going to include a photo here, because we failed. Horrendously. Others, though, left with pretty amazing matryoshkas.

The best arts & craft workshop was a visit to a local glass ornament factory. We started with a guided tour, saw at artists at work, and then decorated our own Christmas ornaments.

Here's what it's like to visit the Ariel Factory of Glass Christmas Ornaments in Nizhny Novgorod...

Monday, August 22, 2016

Best of a Russian July

Sveta in front of Nizhny Novgorod's city sign.

It's the season of air conditioning in Portland. (100F, what madness is this??!!) We've already been to the movie theater twice this week to cool off. Now I'm hanging out near the air conditioner at home and starting to look through all last month's pictures from Russia. Here are my favorites... what do you think of these places?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Of songs and stadiums in Kharkiv

Kharkiv could have become one of next year's go-to destinations, and it's all because of the stadium you see in the photo above.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Coastal weekend

Last weekend we caught this beautiful sunset at the Oregon coast. It was over 90F/32C in Portland (I know that's cool weather compared to other places right now!) so all trains were running behind because of the heat. D left work early that day, and we waited with a crowd of people at the MAX stop. The first train to arrive was so packed with people that I thought I was back in Ukraine for a minute :p

We met up with my parents in the suburbs and drove west, reaching the beach just as the sun was sinking below the sea.