Sunday, September 09, 2007

More Moscow Madness

To my loyal readers I deeply apologize for my long absence. I'm back in crazy Moscow and life is... well, crazy. I haven't finished reporting on my summer vacation, but I'll get back to that when things slow down a bit.

Let me start with my return to the Ruskie land in mid-August. It was unbearably hot... I can honestly say that I perspired less in the banya than I did my first week back, particularly in the metro. Just imagine the smell… some people here have yet to pick up on the marketing of hygiene products. But no real complaints since I was finally getting some good weather after trying to hide from the rain all summer long.

I was optimistic about an easier stint this time round since I'm much older… I mean wiser and had learned so much last year. I mean I can even order water without being asked to repeat... 'vuda bez gaza' which means 'water without gas'... no need for please and thank you in this country.

At the airport I was once again picked up by a non-English-speaking guy, who I didn’t recognize. He did have my name ‘Liza Hux’ written on a piece of cardboard. The old beater we drove off in, also with no recognizable features which might have confirmed his authority, stalled twice on the 2-hour journey to my new flat.

I had absolutely no idea where I was. Thank God the last occupant had left a map inside so I could finally verify that I was still indeed in Moscow, and find my way to the centre.

It was a great first week. I had only a two classes in a nice air-conditioned office building and spent the rest of the time hanging out with friends. I was optimistic that this year was going to be great and easy and fun.

I was also very excited about hosting my first Moscow visitor. Jocelyn, who has graciously given me free reign at her home in the Netherlands several times, was coming to town. I was a wee bit apprehensive, though. Would she feel the same culture shock I first felt. Could I make her comfortable enough so that she wouldn't remember how horrible the streets are between the metro stop and my home?
But then I became distracted by the strange, tiny bumps all over my face and neck. I thought surely it must be a serious bacteria infection of some kind. The doctor assured me it was only an allergic reaction to something which came out in this unique way due to my profuse perspiration on the metro. To my horror, I found the cause a couple of days later... bed bugs... the kind that suck your blood while you sleep. The school sent someone to 'spray' the apartment, but none-the-less, I took Jocelyn straight to a hotel upon her arrival. Besides making her more comfortable, it would give me time to psych myself up for dealing with it after the weekend. Despite this, we had a fun and action-filled weekend.
We helped Moscow celebrate it's 860th birthday. I love it when they close the streets to cars.

My good friends, Vladimir and Elmira, gave us a driving tour of Moscow, pointing out important architecture and facts such as the bridge where 'people go to jump off and be dead'. Later we ate and drank our fill of delicious, authentic 'Russian' cuisine in a Ukrainian restaurant.

We paid our respects to Yeltsin, along with Rostropovich, the world-famous cellist and conductor who recently passed (and negated my conservatory tickets last May), Gorky, along with many other famous Russians buried in the Novodevichy cemetery. You really have to be someone special to get a grave marker here.

We happened by the Grand Opening of Lotte Plaza, yet another hi-end shopping centre where the Moscovites can pay top dollar for designer goods such as Dolce & Gabbana or Dior. The Las Vegas style show, with a guy lip-syncing Frank Sinatra, was cheesier than Holland.

Mmmm 'Shashlik'... tastes the best when the chef drops his cigarette ashes on them.

Because I had to work the day Jocelyn left, I sent her to the airport in a Marshukta. It's like a bus, but you get to tell the driver where exactly you want to be dropped off. I never take them in Moscow without a Russian-speaking friend. I'm far too afraid of the strict procedure and close proximity to the aggressive driver. But this one was going to end up at the airport. I prayed it would be the correct airport.
Visiting me in Moscow? Ilsa recommends!