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Cristina’s travels TAC 2015 Team Pushkin

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Serpent
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Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
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Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
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 Message 89 of 297
02 October 2014 at 10:42pm | IP Logged 
Cristina, thank you for the wonderful time I spent with you! Thanks to espejismo and Mark too, it was great to meet you guys :)

I've noticed that you still list Russian as a beginner language, and based on our communication I'd say it's high time to change that ;) Especially your speaking seems like a solid intermediate level to me, and even if the comprehension lags behind sometimes, that's perfectly normal at this stage. I'm impressed with the progress you've made over a half a year or so. You aren't even that far from what this forum calls basic fluency, I'd say you "just" need to understand and use more vocabulary. Which isn't as trivial as it may sound, of course, but also not as intimidating as you possibly think. You're well on your way, keep up the fantastic work! ♥
5 persons have voted this message useful



Solfrid Cristin
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Winner TAC 2011 & 2012
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4143 posts - 8863 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, Spanish, Swedish, French, English, German, Italian
Studies: Russian

 
 Message 90 of 297
02 October 2014 at 11:34pm | IP Logged 
Thank you Serpent, you made this trip really special, and getting a positive evaluation from you means a lot
to me :-) Thank you for all your help!
2 persons have voted this message useful



Solfrid Cristin
Heptaglot
Winner TAC 2011 & 2012
Senior Member
Norway
Joined 3702 days ago

4143 posts - 8863 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, Spanish, Swedish, French, English, German, Italian
Studies: Russian

 
 Message 91 of 297
03 October 2014 at 12:39am | IP Logged 
MOSCOW IN THE FALL PART TWO

Tuesday

Right now I see one major flaw with Moscow. The days are about 10 hours too short :-)

I had another busy day on Tuesday. I first went out to Kolomenskoe (I do not give up that easily) and had a
wonderful stroll in the woods there. It was sunny and warm, and the air was fresh and clean. I visited Peter
the Great's house, and was struck by the architectural similarities between Russian and Norwegian wooden
houses from that period. With the exception of a few ornaments it might just as well have been in the
Norwegian folk museum. They were using a technique which we in Norwegian call 'lafting' and which
basically is one huge log on top of another, but cut in a particular way at the end so they will be sturdy (and I
would so have flunked my guide exam if I had written like that, but you get my drift:-). I talked with the women
at the museum about how striking the similarities were, and they meant that Northern culture is basically the
same. The house had the same really low doors, that you find in Norwegian houses from that period, and I
finally got the explanation - it was to avoid too much of the heat to escape. In those climates, keeping warm
was paramount. Good thing I do not live in that period, because I love fresh air and open doors and windows
even in 20 degrees below zero. My best friend says that when he comes to my house, he takes off his shoes,
but he keeps his coat on, in order not to freeze. Of course I have usually been running around preparing
things for the party, and do not even notice the cold. Anyhow, I became quite chummy with the ladies working
there, and it turned out that one of them had been to Norway, on a cruise up the coast. She assured me that
she loved it, and added that she did not say to just to please me, she really meant it. The one thing that
puzzled me in the house was that the sign said that beds were not common in Russia until the 18th century,
and I wondered what on earth they slept on before that. The obvious answer was the floor, but they assured
me that they had lots of cushions and blankets (and probably some sort of mattresses).

I then visited the beekeeper's house which was adorable - I could have moved right in and been totally
happy. In the garden I saw some roses, and was delighted to recognize them. They were of a type called
'Ritausma', a little gem of a rose from Estonia, that I happen to grow in my own garden :-) It is the only rose I
have from Eastern Europe, so that was quite a coincidence.

I then went to see an exhibition of dresses from St. Petersburg from around the turn of the last century. Again
I was struck by the similarities between them and dresses I have seen from England from roughly the same
period. It was also striking how incredibly unpractical and uncomfortable they were, and how covered up you
were. They were not only down to the shoes, they actually also had a dress trailing, much like some modern
wedding dresses. Thinking what they must have looked like when you came in from the streets - which were
a lot worse than today, defies imagination.

When I went into the exhibition it was so warm, I had to take off my coat, when I came out again, it was really
chilly and raining cats and dogs, so I got absolutely drenched within seconds. I wanted to to see the rest of
the sights in the park,but the sign said it was a 2 km walk to the Palace, so I decided to make a tactical
retreat and come back another time. I preferred to keep the happy memory of a wonderful stroll in the
beautiful park, with the sun shining and the birds singing, rather than thinking of it as the place I walked 4 km
soaking wet and caught a cold which made me cough for the next six months.

I took the metro into town, and one thing I absolutely love here, is that I never have to run to catch the metro.   
At home you may have 15 minutes, 30 minutes or even up to an hours's wait if you are unlucky and it is
running on Summer or Sunday schedules and you just missed it. Here you rarely have to wait more than a
minute or two.    I also love that they have passages from one station to another, or one line to another. It
makes for a very efficient system.

My next stop was the Tretyakov gallery. On my way there I noticed that there are still some McDonalds' which
are open, as there was a long queue of customers waiting patiently. outside one of them, while they were
busy serving the first ones in line. I first thought I came across my first unhelpful Russian that day, because I
asked about the way to the museum, and the woman just said no, and walked passed me, but then evidently
she thought better of it, and actually came after me and explained in great detail where it was.

At the museum I found the first actual grumpy Russian, but in all fairness she had reasonable grounds. I had
forgotten to bring more money, and had to make a cash withdrawal in a cash point at the museum, so I
handed over a 5000 ruble note, which made her very unhappy. She protested and tried to give it back to me,
and I decided it was the perfect moment to play the stupid blonde, and play the "Я не понимаю"-card, so she
threw her hands up in the air and gave me my change. I do not think they would have been very happy with
me at home if I had given them such a large banknote either, so I do not blame her. And of course it was
instantly forgotten, when the guard turned out to be of the most galant sort. I asked him in Russian if the
small brochures with the floor plans were free, and when I took an English one, he looked surprised at me,
and pointed to the Russian one so I said I also spoke English. He then gave me the most beautiful of smiles,
and said that it was a pleasure to give a small souvenir to such a beautiful girl, and gave me no less than
three compliments for my Russian. When you get compliments when you have a bad hair day and feel like a
cross between a drowned rat, and your grandmother's ghost, and your outfit stands to 10 in comfort and 0 in
style, that turns that day into a really great day:-)

I have also used a fake ID for the first time in my life. That is, it was not fake, but it was not an ID either. The
thing is that in Russia, like in France, you are required to carry your passport with you at all times, in case
the police asks you to identify yourself. However, the advice given by the tour operator is that you take a copy
of your passport and visa, leave the actual passport at the hotel, and just bring a regular ID card. Since we do
not have official ID- cards in Norway, like they do in most other European countries, I had brought my driver's
license. So when I saw that in order to rent an audio guide, you needed an ID card, I opened my wallet to
take out my driver's license - which I then remembered was in the bag which was still at the hotel... Since I
had already asked for the audio guide, I had to think fast, so I pulled out the only card I had with a picture on,
which was my train card (which lets me use almost all trains in Norway for free), and smiled my broadest
smile and handed the card over to the lady with a royal gesture, praying that she would not ask any
questions, since I did not want to actually lie to her. Fortunately there were two guys who started talking to
her at that moment, so she just took the card and the money, and handed me the audio guide, and I scooted
in before she had time to say anything else. It was as important to me as an ID-card, and I obviously had no
intention of running away with the audio guide, so it was just a technical matter.

We had a conversation on Tuesday about French versus Russian, where we discussed which one was worse
due to high expectations, and I can say with 100% certainty that French is worse. I received such terrible
treatment from Frenchmen before I was fluent in French ( even way after I started getting pretty good)
whereas Russians have showered me in compliments from day one. I actually have to keep reminding myself
that they are just being kind, because their compliments are nowhere near accurate. I am afraid I'll get too full
of myself with all this praise. They are a terrific confidence booster though :-) Unfortunately I fear that if I try to
speak it with any of my Russian colleagues when I meet them in Paris I will go into total panic mode and start
conjugating the negated form of понимать as my only contribution to the conversation.

And the gallery. Oh boy. I LOVED the gallery, I just did not have time enough. I had set aside three hours
which by normal standards is way more than I need, but after three hours I was not even half through the
museum. I had actually forgotten how much I love art. And paintings in particular. Before I started a family I
used to go to every museum I could, but I had hardly been to one for the last 20 years, and it was lovely to be
able to dive into it again. Also I started at zero when it came to Russian painters. I knew Marc Chagall pretty
well, and had an inkling about Kandinsky, but otherwise it was a big white space.

So I got the audio guide, which was really good, and read everything I could from the information sheets I
found in each room, but it is hard when you start from scratch, and difficult to remember all the new names.
Before I knew it the time was out and I had to run. But on my way home I couldn't help thinking that when
you are cold, wet, hungry (because I forgot to eat since breakfast) you have blisters on your feet and every
joint below your hips hurts from all the walking and you still have a big, happy smile plastered across your
face, then you know that you are having a really good holiday.

In the afternoon I met Serpent and went shopping in a bookstore with her. Need I say that I made a sizable
contribution to keeping Russian economy on its feet :-) I had intended to buy audiobooks only, but I ended
up with a couple of DVDs and books as well:


DVDs
Kuchnia (first two seasons) - strangely enough I have met no Russian who has seen this series, but since we
have transcripts for a number of episodes, I decided to go for it

Books
A Norwegian course (for my Russian speaking Ukrainian friend)
A Norwegian mini-grammar ( for me to use for teaching her Norwegian)
A Norwegian phrase book (have not quite decided if that will be for me or her yet)

Audiobooks: (and this is where it started to get hard core)

Tolstoi: War and Peace and Anna Karenina
Dostoyevsky: The Idiot
Gogol: A number of works, included 'Dead Souls'
Maxim Gorkij: A number of works
Chekhov: Humorous stories

War and Peace is about 75 hours, so that alone should keep me busy for a year or two :-)

My Russian teacher keeps reminding me that my Russian will not get better by me buying more material
alone, I have to actually find time to go through it as well, and with the time available now and all the Russian
material I have bought already, I should be set for approximately the next 26 years :-)

And then of course I got two DVDs about the Tretyakov gallery and two books from the Tretyakov gallery - I
sort of developed a serious hang up on that museum. I have been there twice now and spent almost 6 hours
there, without even being through it all, because I loved it so much. I think every time I come to Moscow from
now on, I'll start with a day there. Some of the paintings were interesting and some were absolutely fantastic.
I think my favorite painters among the classics must be Vasnetsov and Petrov, with 'Troika' as a disturbing
favorite, but the most haunting ones were Princess Tarkanova, by Konstantin Flavitsky and Ilya Repin's ' Ivan
the Terrible and his son Ivan. 16th November'.   

My overall favorite painting, the one I would have put on my wall, if I could, is not in any of the books, but it is
of a nymph- like young woman sitting by the water. I'll have to find out more about it next time I come.


The one thing I could not find, was a moderate sized History of Russian Art ( specifically for paintings) in
English, but I'll keep looking. The Tretyakov Gallery has a lot, but obviously some major paintings are to be
found in other museums, like Karl Bruyllov's ' The Last days of Pompei', which I believe is in the Russian
museum in St. Petersburg. It would have been nice to have a comprehensive book on that. I may have to
wait until I can read a Russian one though, but just in case I'll look when I am in foreign countries from now
on. They have a pretty good selection of Russian related books in Gibert Jeune, in Paris, and they have half
a floor with Russian literature in the Russian bookstore in London.

I have also bought a book on history and art of Moscow (mainly focusing on architecture) which I bought in
both Russian and Italian. In Russian to build my vocabulary in this field, in Italian to actually understand what
it says:-)

When Serpent and I had finished with our shopping we met espejismo, and I spoke some Russian with them
both, but between all the noise in the magazine and the stress of people running around in all directions it
was a bit hard. Espejismo came straight from an English class, and spoke slowly so it was easy to
understand, but as you know Serpent takes no prisoners, so there I was really struggling to keep up. :-) We
then went to a vegan Indian place, of all unlikely places to go in Moscow, but it was really nice, and we
laughed and talked for the rest of the evening.

And espejismo had brought a book called 'Russian idioms in drawings' with translations to all three
Scandinavian languages which I was lucky enough to get :-)

Wednesday

Since I was nowhere near through the Tretjakov Gallery I went back for another three hours and a half in the
morning. I was a bit surprised that I was asked to pay 100 rubles less than the day before, but didn't think
more of it until I was half through the exhibition, when it suddenly dawned on me that they had charged me
the prize for Russian citizens. Now middle aged bureaucrats are not supposed to start dancing around art
galleries for pure joy, so I refrained from doing so. The thought that they had taken me for a Russian really
put a big smile on my face, though, but I guess it just proves my theory that you can fool anyone for a few
seconds.

Next I took off towards The Tretjakov Gallery on Krimski Val, where they keep the 20th Century paintings,
and where they have the Muzeon which Mark and I had agreed to see together.

I was on time at the metro station, but misunderstood some directions I got, and I was at the level of the
humongous statue of Peter the great, before I realized that I was at the right level, but at the wrong side of
the river. So I started running back, and was out of breath and 25 minutes late by the time I found Mark.
Unfortunately the Moscow weather tends to turn my plans up sides down, because it was so cold that we
went to a cafe called Shokoladnitsa instead of seeing the park. Serpent came too, and we had a lot of laughs
and I got to try banana hot chocolate, which was a first for me. (Think liquid banana split in a glass).

On my way home I noted that they read out messages on the metro asking people to give up their seats for
the elderly, the handicapped, people traveling with small children, and pregnant women. That is something
we could really have needed back home. When I was pregnant, the only one who ever stood up to give me
her place, was an 82 year old woman. One thing I never quite figure out on the metro, though, is which side
to go up and down stairs. In Norway we are simple minded people, so we always walk on the right. Here it
seems to be mostly on the left, but sometimes it is on the right, just to keep you on your toes.

I was walking through the metro, feeling very smug about mastering it so well, when I suddenly realized I had
made a wrong turn somewhere, and was lost. I asked a guard for help, and he allowed me to crawl through
the fence. I did so with as much grace and dignity I could muster, which was not a lot, considering I was
wearing a coat, a scarf, a really heavy handbag and a plastic bag. At least I was thanking my lucky star that I
was not wearing a big hat with a feather, or a back pack. There is no way you can climb gracefully through a
fence with a back pack, believe me, I have tried.


Then it was off to the theatre, to see a play by Nabokov, and since generally Russian women dress to kill
most off the time, I put on a dress and high heels, and went on my merry way. Not realizing that the theater
was a lot further away than I thought.

I got to the metro station two minutes before the show was supposed to start, praying that Russian theaters
were less strict than the Norwegian ones (who simply close the doors on the dot, and if you are late you have
to wait for the break). I had to ask five different people for directions, it was getting dark and I didn't see
much, and in the end I was running for dear life, really regretting the choice of high heels, and got in right
before the doors closed.   At this point I was starting to feel like the heroine in the German film 'Run, Lola,
run'. Well at least I am getting fit here.

As performances go, I could hardly have chosen a play which was more different from the film I saw on
Monday. The book it was based on, 'The Gift' is called Nabokov's most difficult one, and espejismo said
Nabokov's Russian was difficult to read, even for him. And it was supposed to last for 4 hours... I figured that
if it was really boring, I could always take a nap, but even though I probably only understood about 5 % of the
dialogue, I still had a good time. The scene was decorated with rails, and "trains" (or actually single wagons)
came running over the scene with frequent intervals. Perfect for a railway man like me. I caught the first
laugh, but did not understand the next 15, but it was still great, and I did not fall asleep, which is a miracle
since I have been operating on very little sleep while I have been here. Too busy planning and reading :-)
And actually it did have a few similarities with the film, as they both used slap stick humor.

Thursday

After too few hours of sleep I was up again at dawn to do my last sight seeing and shopping. It was just two
degrees, and freezing cold, so my idea of doing Muzeon, which is a park with statues outside the
Tretyakovsky on Val museum, before the museum opened at 10.00, suddenly seemed considerably less
inspired than the night before when I had planned it. Deciding, however, to live by the old Norwegian saying
that 'there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes', I put on several layers of clothes, and by the
time I got to the Krimsky Most it was still cool, but the sun was out, and it actually felt good to fill my lungs
with cold air. The view over the river was magnificent, and the Museon turned out to be a little pearl of a park,
which contained not just the 'graveyard of Communist statues' which I was expecting, but a lot of other
statues too, many of whom were absolutely beautiful. Because of the cold, I was practically alone in the park,
with just a couple of gardeners there, so I could walk around and enjoy the tranquility and the bird song. A
perfect start to a morning. I so have to come back here in the summertime. I think my daughters would love it
too.

At 10 I got to the museum, but to my huge disappointment, the artist which was my main reason for going
there, had no paintings there at the moment. I found a Russian, contemporary painter a few months ago, who
is called Alexander Averin, who paints the most delightful paintings, with themes of children on the beach and
beautiful ladies in turn of the century dresses in rose gardens, but for all their best efforts they could not find
any trace of his paintings. And the lady at the information desk really tried, she called 4 or 5 people, and the
last person was evidently someone high up in their system, because she excused herself four times for
having disturbed him.

Since I had already payed the ticket, I took a stroll around the museum, but my art tastes are squarely placed
in the 18th and 19th century, so there was not much for me there. I saw the Chagall pictures they had (I
practically grew up with Chagall's paintings, and had a poster in my room for years of one of his pictures) I
also took a look at Kandinsky. I know he is supposed to be a genius, and goes for millions, but I still think his
works look like they are painted by a 4 year old in a steroid induced fit of rage.

In the end they had an exposition where there were paintings from the 18th and 19th century, as well as
modern works, and I was half into the modern part before I suddenly understood why they were at this
museum, and not at the regular gallery where they belonged. They were all nudes or partial nudes.
Puritanism turns up in the most unexpected places :-)

When I was through with the museum I went to Dom Knigi on Novy Arbat to see if there were any more
audiobooks or CDs I could not live without. Now putting me in a book store is like putting an alcoholic in a
free bar, but I managed to restrain myself from going absolutely berserk , and only got - ahem - a few items.
A collection of four CDs with Chekhov's work, (Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, stories and children's stories). I
had hoped to find a filmed version of the plays, but they did not have that. I also got a CD with Machina
Vremenij and some other group which is supposed to be super famous in Russia plus some Russian pop
music, and I managed to find a book in English with 50 Russian painters. It was not quite the 'Russian
History of Art' that I was looking for, but it was close enough. I also found Anna Karenina and Dr. Zhivago. I
am a bit ashamed to have chosen American versions - The Anna Karenina with Keira Nightly, and the original
American Dr Zhivago with Omar Sharif. In my defense my Russian teacher says that the Keira Nightly
version is really good, and the Dr. Zhivago, well like I said, it is with Omar Sharif :-) Plus the Russian version,
of which I have seen two episodes, almost put me off Russian culture for life. I also tried to get hold of
Asterix in Russian, as I collect Asterix albums in different languages, but unfortunately they only had it in
English. Another thing that I could not get was season four and five of Vampire diaries - they had the first two
seasons, but I already have those in at least four languages. Oh well. I have to have something to look
forward to the next time I come :-)


After the shopping I took a stroll down the original Arbat street, and I was told it is a tourist trap, but it was still
very nice. Street painters, souvenirs, cafes - a very pleasant place to spend some time.

On my way back to the hotel I decided to stop by the Gulag museum, which I had passed every day, as I had
another hour to kill before I would get picked up for the airport. Considering that I start crying if I see a dog on
TV which gets it's paw hurt, that was a terrible idea. The worst idea ever.

The entrance looked just like the entrance to a concentration camp (which of course it was) and between the
memories which came back from my visit to a concentration camp in Poland, that I started thinking about the
Russian concentration camp prisoners who were kept in Norway, and whom Norwegians risked their own life
to help because they were treated so horribly, and who in stead of a warm welcome back home were either
killed or sent to Gulags, and the fact that I half through the exposition was reading about a man who got 15
years in a Gulag because he happened to speak to a foreign diplomat on a train, I just broke down in tears.
The female museum guard asked me what was wrong, and I explained, sobbing that because my father
spent 18 months in a concentration camp, I had a very emotional reaction to it, and that one thing which
seemed to be universal across time, countries and continents, were the willingness of humans to hurt other
human beings. Turned out that her father had passed away in a Gulag, and we had a long conversation in
Russian, at the end of which I managed to pull myself together. I am happy that I saw it even so. It is good to
remember the horrors in the past, so they do not get repeated in the future.

When my driver came to pick me up I discovered that he was of my favorite kind. Willing to talk, but with no
knowledge of English beyond the basics. I was a bit surprised, because he was a young man, I doubt he had
turned 30, and he told me that almost all his friends spoke English, but apparently he was not interested.
Well, all the better for me :-) I told him everything I had done while I had been in Moscow, and he was
particularly impressed that I had been twice to the Tretyakov Gallery in just a few days, as he had lived in
Moscow almost all his life, and not been there ever. After that we moved on to politics, which also was a very
bad idea, because I simply do not have the vocabulary for that. It is extremely difficult to sound convincing in
a political discussion, when your arguments do not stretch beyond 'Это плохо -это хорошо' (that's bad -
that's good). Fortunately we agreed on most topics (at least the ones I understood :-) so I could basically nod,
and try to look intelligent. We discussed visas ( my current hate theme) and he did not even know that
Norway and Russia were neighbors, let alone that we have an agreement between Norway and Russia which
allows citizens which live less than 30 km from the border to travel visa free between the two countries. I
actually at a time considered to "move" to Northern Norway, just to be able to do that, until I realized that that
permit was also limited to the same 30 km zone. And I am sure Murmansk is lovely, but that is not first on my
list of places I'd like to go in Russia.

Anyhow, by the time we got to the airport I realized that we had spoken for a full hour, and that is the longest I
have ever spoken Russian outside a classroom. Most Russians I meet speak English so well, and it is so
difficult to speak Russian with them knowing that you can simply switch to a language in which you do not
sound like a mentally challenged 4-year old. At the airport I got more compliments for my Russian at the
check in counter (I swear I will be getting withdrawal symptoms when I get home, and don't get showered in
unmerited praise several times a day. )

On the airport, duties from home already started appearing in the shape of an SMS reminding me that I have
a lecture to give on Tuesday, on tulips, and a request for a lecture on roses next year. I love doing them, but
it sort of drew me out of my Moscow bubble.

So what did I not get to do? Heaps!
I did not get to
- see a Chekhov play (wrong timing)
- go to the Bolshoi theatre (had not opened for the season)
- go to the cat circus (idem)
- visit the Museum of History
- see the Ostankino tower and palace
- see some of the "writers' museums" that I wanted to see
- visit the parks I wanted to see (too cold, too short time)
- drink pink Russian (or Georgian?) champagne. Not that I normally drink much alcohol, but the first time I
was in Moscow we were offered pink Russian champagne. It looked delicious, but I had been sick right
before I left, and was still on antibiotics, and could not touch it. It would have felt utterly wrong to order
champagne on my own now, it is something you drink in good company, so I did not do that, but sometime
with the right occasion, I hope I'll be able to taste it.


As I was waiting for the plain, at my gate, with my nose deeply in one of the books from the gallery, my brain
suddenly registered a voice which sounded like it was saying what Russians say when they try to pronounce
my name (which is totally unpronounceable in most languages, and particularly in Russian) and I realized
with horror that I was 20 minutes past my boarding time, and alone at the gate. They had of course changed
the gate without me noticing it, and in keeping with my 'Run, Lola, run' motif in Moscow I ended my stay here
with a sprint, and arrived at the correct gate just as they were announcing 'gate closed'. Admittedly I did not
feel like going home, but with my daughters coming home tomorrow, my cats having been alone since this
morning and my boss wanting me to prepare a power point presentation for him to present to our Board of
Directors on Monday at 12.00, getting stranded in Moscow would have been extremely bad timing.

One of the ways I saw how completely relaxed I am, compared to earlier visits, was when I got to the
passport control, instead of feeling nervous, like you usually do when faced with a policeman, even though
you know that you have done absolutely nothing wrong, this time I felt completely relaxed. When he started
his " looking sternly at you - checking every page of your passport - looking at the computer - looking sternly
at you again" -routine, I just gave him my broadest smile, and it was not until I saw how perplexed he
became, that I remembered that my broadest smile is sometimes interpreted as flirting, and being perceived
as flirting with a border control officer is generally a bad idea in any country, so I turned it down a few
notches.

I have now come home, and like always after flying in from somewhere else, I feel like my soul has not quite
caught up with me. I am usually brought quickly into home mode, by my daughters who give me a big hug,
but this time I came home to an empty house, since they are still in London, and I was only greeted by my
two cats. It feels really weird, it is well past midnight here, it is well past two o clock in the morning Moscow
time, which my body still operates on, and I have been awake for 20 hours. And in 6 hours I have to get up to
get to work. I suspect that will make me get back into home mode:-) It felt weird to hear Norwegian around
me, which is a feeling I sometimes get when I have been abroad for a long time. 5 days does not count as a
long time, but I guess between little sleep and lots of activities, it feels like I have been away for a very long
time.

I want to thank both Serpent, Mark, espejismo and vonPeterhof for helping me make this such a lovely visit. I
have absolutely fallen in love with Moscow, and will go back at the first opportunity. I think this has been one
of the best vacations I have had in a very long time,

I am going to Serbia next week for the polyglot conference Richard Simcott and Emanuele Marini are
organizing. Will any of you go? And if you have an address to a cozy hotel in Beograd, please let me know,
because I will stay on for a couple of extra days, and have not ordered my hotel room yet.

On the plane home, I saw a few lines by Pushkin in the Moscow Times, which I instantly fell in love with.

It made me think of my grandparents who I for some reason have been thinking of a lot the past few days
while I have been in Moscow. They had a very unusual love story. My grandfather came from a terribly poor
family, he became an orphan as his widowed mother died in the poor house when he was just 8-9 years old.
My grandmother came from a very wealthy family, and when she and my grandfather first met, she was
married to an equally wealthy but abusive man. She did the unthinkable in those times, she divorced her
husband, got cut off from her family, which felt that she had disgraced them and she married my grandfather,
who earned less in a year than her first husband payed in taxes. They went through terrible hardships, but my
grandfather, who was the kindest soul I have ever known, never stopped loving her. He kept loving her when
she got Alzheimer and started talking about killing her own grandchildren, when she confiscated his pajama
sets for her personal use only, so that he had to wear her night gowns, and when she did not know who he
was anymore. We had to put her in a home towards the end, fearing for her safety and ours, but he kept
loving her until the day she died, she still not remembering who he was, not remembering who her daughter
was, not remembering who she herself was.

She is one of the reasons I learn languages. They say that for each language you learn, you push Alzheimer
five years ahead, and with all my languages I am counting on having a clear head until the day I fall quietly
asleep and never wake up again. Like she did.

Anyhow, the poem of Pushkin first reminded me of a poem of Ernesto Cardinal which I have often quoted to
friends of mine who have been in despair over a bad break up: (And bear with me on any inaccuracies, I
have not seen the actual poem in Spanish for many years, so I am quoting from memory:

When I lost you, we both lost
You, because I was the one who loved you the most
I, because you were the one I loved the most
But you lost more than me
Because I may love again, the way I loved you,
But no one will ever love you again, the way I loved you.

However I like the lines by Pushkin a lot better, as they are not rooted in arrogance, but in genuine selfless
love. I am half wondering if these lines are a translation of the beginning of the poem 'Я вас любил' which is
already a favorite of mine. If it is not, and one of you know what the Russian translation is, then please send
me a link.


So tenderly I loved you,
So sincerely,
I pray God grant another love you so.

                                    - Alexander Pushkin

And on that note, I end my Moscow tales.





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Serpent
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 Message 92 of 297
03 October 2014 at 1:57am | IP Logged 
Awww, so great to read in detail about your trip! ♥

Solfrid Cristin wrote:
On my way there I noticed that there are still some McDonalds' which are open

Less than a handful are closed, actually.

Quote:
At the museum I found the first actual grumpy Russian, but in all fairness she had reasonable grounds. I had forgotten to bring more money, and had to make a cash withdrawal in a cash point at the museum, so I handed over a 5000 ruble note, which made her very unhappy. She protested and tried to give it back to me, and I decided it was the perfect moment to play the stupid blonde, and play the "Я не понимаю"-card, so she threw her hands up in the air and gave me my change. I do not think they would have been very happy with me at home if I had given them such a large banknote either, so I do not blame her.

Finally someone who understands!!! I've heard some complaining about this, but really, it's the same in Europe. In Paris we actually had to go to a bank to change a 500 € banknote for smaller ones.

Quote:
I actually have to keep reminding myself that they are just being kind, because their compliments are nowhere near accurate. I am afraid I'll get too full
of myself with all this praise. They are a terrific confidence booster though :-)

We may lack objectivity but we're honest about our impressions :P

Quote:
My overall favorite painting, the one I would have put on my wall, if I could, is not in any of the books, but it is of a nymph- like young woman sitting by the water. I'll have to find out more about it next time I come.

Maybe Alenushka? Or something more obscure?

Quote:
the noise in the magazine

you're becoming Russian!

Quote:
Espejismo came straight from an English class, and spoke slowly so it was easy to understand, but as you know Serpent takes no prisoners, so there I was really struggling to keep up. :-)

Oops. I guess the biggest problem was that I had met espejismo before, so when I spoke to him I went into the вазширвзашри mode (that's a keymash, don't worry :D). It was better before that, I hope?

Quote:
I am half wondering if these lines are a translation of the beginning of the poem 'Я вас любил' which is already a favorite of mine.

Correct :)
1 person has voted this message useful



chokofingrz
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England
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 Message 93 of 297
03 October 2014 at 2:10am | IP Logged 
Боже мой, you are a busy woman! I don't think I've been so many places or met so many people in 10 years of holidays!
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Serpent
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 Message 94 of 297
03 October 2014 at 2:18am | IP Logged 
And I've spoken and walked more in 2 days than in several weeks before that :D And the strangest part is that I loved it!
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vonPeterhof
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Studies: Kazakh, Korean, Norwegian, Turkish

 
 Message 95 of 297
03 October 2014 at 6:43am | IP Logged 
Thank you for the meeting, Cristina! Too bad I couldn't have gone to meet you at a place more interesting than the food court of a department store though. Stupid work.. Now I really wish I had taken two weeks off rather than just the next one. I also wish I could have been of more assistance in suggesting places to see, but it looks like you had a good time anyway. Really hope to see you again some time!

Oh, also thank you for the chocolate, everyone at my office really loved it!
1 person has voted this message useful



Solfrid Cristin
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 Message 96 of 297
03 October 2014 at 7:06am | IP Logged 
@Serpent: Getting grumpy over large bills is a farly universal thing, even here at the bus for instance, they
would not accept bills beyond the equivalence of 1000 rubles, so a 5000 ruble bill would have been a no go
here too.

And I trust you that you are being honest with your impressions, but you have no idea how many
compliments I have been getting, two thirds of the people I have spoken to have literally showered me in
compliments. It is lovely, of course, but if I had spoken English or French at that level people would have just
frowned at the clutz who actually thought she could speak the language. I was not joking about the
withdrawal symptoms :-)

As for the painting, I loved Alenushka too, but it was something more obscure. And yes, I could more or less
follow you as long as we were on our own, but when the two of you came together you lost me :-)


2 persons have voted this message useful



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