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Cristina’s travels TAC 2015 Team Pushkin

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Super Polyglot
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 Message 153 of 297
13 November 2014 at 9:55pm | IP Logged 
Solfrid Cristin wrote:
tarvos wrote:
А ты что, почему нас не преудпреждила, что
приехала в Москву? :D

Why, would you have come :-)

Если бы( Нет, просто крутые новости)
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 Message 154 of 297
13 November 2014 at 10:06pm | IP Logged 
Ohhh to be in a glorious winter in Moscow. Don't get me wrong, I live in the Caribbean for a reason, but if I were going to experience winter, I can't imagine a more wondrous locale than Russia. From your descriptions, it seems that the warmth of The Russian people more than compensates for the cold weather. Thanks for sharing your journey with us, Cristina. This is what I love about how language-learning can enrich our lives. Knowing a country's language really opens up a people and their culture in a way that those who can't speak that language will never know. This is the payoff for the long hours of frustrations and struggling with pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary.

Your wonderful post also points out how truly fortunate European language learners are in being so much more closer to a smorgasbord of languages with centuries of cultural richness only a few hours away. Enjoy!
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Solfrid Cristin
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 Message 155 of 297
13 November 2014 at 10:14pm | IP Logged 
Thanks, iguanamon, yes, we are lucky indeed :-)
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 Message 156 of 297
14 November 2014 at 1:33am | IP Logged 
Haha but the current weather is more like autumn or a really crappy summer :P
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Solfrid Cristin
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 Message 157 of 297
14 November 2014 at 9:56am | IP Logged 
Serpent wrote:
Haha but the current weather is more like autumn or a really crappy summer :P

Ha,ha, even the Russians can't have 4 degrees, even in the crappiest of summers :-)



Today Lenin's mausoleum was on my program. I had been tipped that going there around 11 would be a
good idea to avoid queues, and it turned out to be an amazing idea, as there was no queue whatsoever, and
I got straight in. The first time I was here the queues were interminable, but I guess in November there are so
few tourists that it is ok. I saw both my parents the day they had passed away, and compared to them he
looked amazing. He could almost have been asleep. A Chinese couple bowed their heads deeply in respect
to him. I do not know whether they still consider him to be a great Communist leader, or whether this is simply
a sign of respect in their culture, but I did not see any Russians do this. I got lost in thought over what the
fate of the Russian people would have been without him. Would it have been better, worse? Would the
Romanoffs have had a similar development as the other royal families of Europe, and led the Russian people
into a democracy around the time of WW2? After a couple of minutes the guard evidently felt that I had been
there long enough, so he waived me on. Outside there were statues of all the Communist leaders with
flowers in front of them, and I was sad to see that the one with the most flowers was Stalin. In my opinion
there is no one who has done as much to hurt the Russian people as Josef Stalin.

Next point on my itinerary was St. Basil's cathedral. I do not know many people in Moscow, but going into the
church I met no less than 4 people from the guided group from the day before. It felt like meeting old friends:-
) I asked the Australian girl who came out of the church whether she liked it, but she was not all together
convinced, which surprised me, churches are usually a very positive experience. I was soon to find out why,
though. The guide had said that it was a maze, something I should have listened to more carefully, since
mazes and claustrophobics are a really bad combination. I had struggled a little bit at the monastery, but
since most of the time we were in big open rooms, and only on a few short occasions in steep narrow stair
cases or confined spaces, and since I felt very relaxed and comfortable around my Russian colleagues, I was
able to keep my claustrophobia under control. In St. Basil's I was alone and there was nothing but small
confined spaces, as it consists of ten minuscule chapels, so after a little while I started having breathing
problems, and just had to leave. I have had a couple of attempts at tunnel visits as a railway man, and I
usually end up hyperventilating or in tears. Stupid claustrophobia. Anyhow for all those who do not have that
problem, a visit to the church is recommended. It is something unlike anything I have ever seen before. Do
not bother with the audio guide though, it is just a source of frustration. Going in I spoke a little bit with the
old guard, and obviously hearing that I was a foreigner, he asked where I was from. I told him that I was
Norwegian, and he threw his arms up in the air and said: ' Salmon! We miss your salmon!' I smiled to him and
said that we would be most happy to give them all the salmon they wanted, but this was not our decision. He
smiled back and said ' I know, politics!' I know that in Northern Norway people are furious about the
sanctions, saying that the trust and cooperation with Russia which they have worked for 25 to build, is being
destroyed. I also saw in the Moscow times that a Russian importer of Norwegian salmon had sued the state,
claiming that the import ban was illegal, but there has just been a court ruling which had declared that it is
legal. They still must have some in stock though, the salmon at the hotel here is delicious.

Determined to see more churches, I continued to The Kazan Cathedral, also at the Red Square. Although
this was also a fairly small church, it was big enough for me to be comfortable, and it is a beautiful gem of a
church. Since I have taken an interest to the concept of iconostasis, I studied it carefully, but I need more
theory to understand them properly. I know the stories behind most of the images, obviously, but how the
icons are combined and the symbolism behind them is something I still need to learn more about.

My next item of the day, was going to a Russian sauna. I suspect that when I am a little old lady and sit in the
retirement home trying to remember what my life was all about, and minor details like my children and my
own name escape me, there are two things I will still remember: Going on the Trans Siberian, and taking a
Russian sauna. Now those of you who are uninterested in a sweat drop by sweat drop account from a
Russian sauna, or get squeamish about nudity, may want to skip this part :-)

Serpent had offered to take me, and bless her, because I really do not think I would have survived without
her. Saunas are a different concept in Russia than in Norway. Our saunas are uneventful. You go into it,
when you are too hot you go out and take a shower, and then you repeat until you are bored. Here it was like
a show. The first thing that struck me as different were the changing booths. In Norway you have an
individual booth where you change. It is small, you change, and then you hang your clothes in a closet. Here
you got a booth for four people with two beds in, to lie down and rest. I was a little surprised, because if all
four had been in there at the same time getting undressed, that would have been a very intimate experience
indeed, but later, having basically walked around naked for a couple of hours, my thoughts were that if the
booth bothered you, the Russian sauna probably was not your thing in the first place. And thankfully they
separated the genders here. If it had been mixed genders, I think I would have needed an unhealthy,
bordering on lethal, amount of vodka to go through with this. Another surprise was that we had to wait for
them to ventilate the sauna before we could get in. Ours are permanently on, but then again, as I was about
to discover, the concept is totally different. We all had to wear bonnets for the hair in the sauna. I could not
help but smile at the bell shaped felt hats the Russian women wore, they looked like something a Norwegian
gnome would wear. I was wearing just a regular swimming bonnet. I should of course have known that the
Russian women knew exactly what they were doing. When I removed my bonnet every time I left the sauna I
looked like a cross between a chicken and a troll, when they removed theirs they still looked fabulous:-)
Anyway, when they announced that we could go in, we sat down on our towels (or actually more like sheets -
they were so big I could wrap them three times around me, but very, very thin) and relaxed. My first thought
was that this was not so hot, it was about like home, and the fact that I sat right next to the oven did not worry
me. Yet... After a minute or so a woman came in, and ordered the ventilation peep hole to be closed, at which
point it got considerably hotter, and before Serpent had the time to warn me, she yelled out something and
threw a small bucket of water with aromatic oils at us. Thankfully I have good reflexes, so I ducked and did
not get it in my eyes, but it was a bit of a shock. The scent of the oils was wonderful, though, a combination of
mint, orange and tangerine, and I loved it. Then she opened the door to the oven next to me, and started to
throw water with aromatic oils into the oven, at which point it started to get really, really, really hot, and I
started regretting sitting next to it. In a Norwegian sauna, I hardly break a sweat, and if I do it is after having
been there for quite some time. Here, hardly more than 4-5 minutes had passed, and rivers of sweat were
running down my body. I kept thinking that if this is half as healthy as they say it is, I won't get sick ever
again! Then she grabbed a towel and started waiving it around in a circular energetic swirl which I was soon
to discover had as a goal to bring the hottest air under the roof down to us. And, boy, did it! It felt like I was
being burned with a blow torch, and I remember thinking that I have never ever believed I had a mustache
before, but right now it felt like I did, and that it was on fire. In fact it felt like every hair on my body was on
fire, I actually touched my eyebrows with my fingers just to make sure they were still there and had not been
burned right off my face. Now normally, this would have been the perfect moment for a hasty escape, but I
was determined not to be a quitter, and I saw that a couple of the others were covering up their faces with the
towels to protect them against the intense heat, so I figured I was not the only one to feel the heat. The
woman repeated the throwing aromatic water at us, at the oven, and swirling the towel several times, and
after what was probably about 20 minutes most of the others have left, so so did we. The next item on the
agenda was the pool. Now there were still no swim wear involved, and if I am swimming in God's free nature I
am perfectly fine with that even with mixed genders. There is nothing as liberating as swimming without a
bikini on a hot summer day, but swimming in a Norwegian lake where you have masses of space around you,
and the next person is far away, is one thing. To do the same in a tiny pool, with people within centimeters of
you is something else entirely, even though they are all women. However when we approached it, we were
just three people, Serpent, me and a third person, so I decided to just go with the flow, and I was fine. After
the sauna the water felt ice cold though, and I could not help thinking that my wish of one day swimming in
the lake Baykal might be more than I could chew off. That lake has really, really cold water. We then tried the
Finnish sauna, which was about as a Norwegian one, before I discovered that the pool was not the coldest
part. They had another tiny one man pool which was totally ice cold, I actually looked for ice cubes in there
and nano seconds after I had submerged myself in the water it felt like every cell in my body was exploding,
and even after coming up again (which happened with lightening speed, I can assure you!) it felt like my limbs
were paralyzed. I am still happy I went in, because I was determined to try it all. Or almost all. Having both
read and heard first hand experiences about being beaten with branches in a Russian sauna, that particular
part of Russian culture was something I was absolutely determined to stay away from, so we politely refused
offers of twigs of branches. A Polish colleague's tale from when he was 25 years old and at a business
meeting in Russia, after which 6 sturdy Russian colleagues took turns initiating him to what a Russian sauna
was like, had left that crystal clear in my mind. They can strip me down, tie me up, put me in a blistering hot
sauna and throw me into the snow, and I'll deal with it. But I do not do pain. At all. I do not care how healthy
they insist it is. After the cold pool, we decided that it was time for a little rest, and the good thing about the
changing booth, is that they served food and drinks there, so we sat down with a lovely cup of Russian black
tea and chatted until we were ready to go in for a second round. They actually had a very varied menu there,
but eating sushi at a sauna felt too strange, so we did not try it out. This time around we chose another place
in the sauna, and just lied down on our bellies on the top level, where it was very hot, but not as hot as next
to the oven. After a while Serpent proposed that we move down to where it was a little less hot, which was a
great idea, but of course standing up we got our heads close to the ceiling, which felt like the gates to hell
had been opened. I have been having some dizzy spells lately, so getting up to a standing position in that
heat, and down a staircase which I felt was dancing the Macarena under my feet - ugh. I was glad I got down
without braking any bones. The last thing to try was the bucket. You know what the ice cube challenge is?
Well this was pretty much it, though with no clothes on. There is a bucket next to the ceiling with a rope
hanging down from it, you pull at it and you get drenched in ice cold water. Actually after the cold pool, there
was not much which could scare me, but I guess you feel it particularly much when you get ice cold water
over your head. Then it was back to the ice pool again, and this time I did what I had seen another woman do
and submerged myself three times before I got up. I felt I was entitled to be named honorary Russian by the
time I was through:-) In between all the activities, we had frequent showers, so when we finished I thought
that I have probably never been as clean in my life. I felt convinced that every little pore I had must have been
opened and sterilized by the hot and cold changes. Another feature which was unknown to me from other
saunas was a big room with marble benches where the women were grooming themselves, putting on body
lotion, curling their hair, and it would probably have been possible to just lie down and rest. On our way out
we stopped to dry our hair, and in addition to the regular blow driers, they have one of those old fashioned
things they used to have at the hair dressers where you would sit down and put your whole head into it. I saw
a woman who had put big curling rolls in her hair, and who sat down to use it. Leave it to Russian women to
come out from a sauna looking like a million bucks:-)

I absolutely loved it, and would try a Russian sauna again in a heart beat, but I cannot help thinking that
although this experience explains to me why Russians are a tough lot, if being heated up almost to the point
of scalding, and being thrown ice cold water at and beaten with branches is what they do for fun, I am not
sure I would dare to hang around to see what they do for punishment!

After the sauna Serpent and I went to have something to eat, and I got to try both salad Olivier (which is
pretty much what the Spaniards call 'Russian salad') and an alcohol free strawberry mojito. And if you think
this last sounds totally crazy, you are absolutely right :-) They were both very tasty though. I topped it up with
a 'vitamin smoothie'. And went home feeling extremely happy with my day. And we talked a lot of Spanish,
which Serpent was actually very good at. She has always given me the impression of being more of a
Portuguese person, but of course this being Serpent, she could handle any language without any problems,
and with only a few minor corrections, she spoke Spanish perfectly.
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 Message 158 of 297
18 November 2014 at 7:58pm | IP Logged 
Solfrid Cristin wrote:
Then it was back to the ice pool again, and this time I did what I had seen another woman do and submerged myself three times before I got up. I felt I was entitled to be named honorary Russian by the time I was through:-)

You definitely are :-)))) After this trip you can have a checklist where most Russians are going to miss at least something, from Russian sauna to oxygen cocktails :-) I've not been to New Jerusalem for example, nor to the mausoleum.

Thanks for the nice words about me and my Spanish :))))))
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Solfrid Cristin
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 Message 159 of 297
19 November 2014 at 4:32pm | IP Logged 
@Serpent: Good to know :-)



Do you know when your interest for a language crosses over from nerdiness to obsession, bordering on
actual, clinical insanity? That is when you buy toothpaste, shower gel and deodorant with Russian writings on
them, just to have the pleasure of it being the first things you see in the morning. And you then get really mad
when you realize that the toothpaste, which had Russian on the outside box, have all the letters that are big
enough for you to be able to read, in English on the actual toothpaste. Two things surprised me by the
toothpaste. The first one being that the Colgate I always use, and which tastes the same in every country I
have tried it in so far, has a totally different taste in Russia. The other one is that they still have an old
fashioned cork, which I have not seen for 20 years. In Norway we joked that the cork of the tooth paste was
a major cause for marital problems, when one spouse got mad because the other one did not put the cork
back on. That presumably being why Norwegian toothpastes now has a cork that you can't take off
completely, you sort of just knock it to the side, and knock it back again. That and your spouse squeezing the
toothpaste from the middle of the tube were classics. I interpret the continued existence of a cork here, to
mean that Russians are too sensible to be bothered by trivialities :-)

I finally got to see Kolomenskoe today, and it really was a gem. I am so happy that my colleague drew my
attention to it. Since I had been there before, it was easy to find it, and going out there was heavenly bliss. It
was cold, but it was wonderful to walk around the grounds, and the view over the Moscow river was stunning.
Whenever I bring my daughters here, Kolomenskoe will be one of the first places I take them. There is a
beautiful church just a few minutes in, and I stopped to get in. Outside there was a big box on each side with
cloths in them. I immediately saw that one of them was to cover up your head with, but since I had brought
my own, I did not need that. I had to lift up one of the cloths from the other box, before I saw what it was: A
sort of a large apron to cover your pants or shorts skirts with. I will never understand why a skirt is considered
more appropriate than pants, as you see exactly 0% skin with pants on, but I have learned to just accept it, so
I tied one around my waist before going in. Inside there was beautiful song, and lovely decorations and I felt
so much at peace. Protestant churches and Russian Orthodox churches differ wildly. Most of our churches
are super simple, bordering on ugly, the idea being that nothing should distract your thoughts from God.
Here they are sumptuous, beautiful, and all the decor is made in a way to make you think of God.

I visited the museum out there, which had an exposition which ranged from the earliest of times to the 20th
Century. Kolomenskoe was the summer retreat for the Russian Tsars, and there were furniture and lots of
objects of interest. I loved the model of the wooden palace. I did not quite catch if they said it had been rebuilt
or not, but if they have, I am definitely going to see it next time I come here. I must also say that they have
some of the most bad ass staircases in Russia that I have seen in my entire life. I was really happy that I am
in considerably better shape than I was a few months ago, because the staircases in the museum, as well as
the staircases in St. Basil's cathedral were the steepest, toughest I have ever seen. Each stair was double as
high as regular stairs.   The audio guide in St. Basil's mentioned them specifically, saying: "If you think they
are bad, then be happy that you do not have to wear long, priestly ropes and wear a burning candle in your
hands while walking in them". In Kolomenskoe going up was fine, that was just physically challenging, but
going down was a nightmare, as my vertigo kicked in. I remember thinking that coming down those stairs
drunk, must have been a sure way to an early death.

It was a lovely morning, and going around the grounds at Kolomenskoe I felt perfectly happy. I have been
given a lot of thought to the concept of happiness over the last few days (Moscow seems to have that effect
on me, that I go into deep thoughts :-). I have always been very good at projecting happiness, even when I
was deeply unhappy, and this is the first time in my life that I can say that I am truly, deliriously happy to the
point where I some days feel like just twirling around like a little girl at the sight of a ray of sunshine or the
smell of earth after rain. I once saw happiness described as the absence of unhappiness, and I guess it is
that simple. After having dealt with a terminally ill mother for ten years, ups and downs at work and an
increasingly unhappy marriage, I now am at a point in life where everything clicks. I have two healthy, happy
daughters who I worship, and with whom I am really close, a great boss, two co workers who are super
competent and super nice, good friends who I love and who are there for me when I need them, very nice
colleagues both from Norway and abroad, I am healthy and in a better shape than I have been in a long time,
and after the tumultuous break up after which my financial situation changed drastically, I have adapted to
that and know that I will never, ever depend financially on a man again. Admittedly I will not be debt free until
I am 82, but hey, 82 is a good age:-) I love my little house, and we live in a quiet area which is near both to
the forest, the beach and the city, and where I can let my daughters take a midnight walk alone without
worrying. And I have been able to let go of all the hurt, and anger and bitterness, so that I can have a civil,
even friendly communication with my ex. If anything, I feel a certain sadness that after 20 years of marriage, I
do not even have enough love left for him to hate him. I just want him to be happy, so that he'll be nice to our
daughters. The up side of this is that everyone is giving me compliments about how impressed they are at
how we are handling the break up. So the next time I am asked "Which three things are you good at?' I can
answer: " I am good at languages, I am good at gardening and I am absolutely fantastic at divorcing".

After three horrible years in a row I feel I am entitled to some happiness. In 2011 both my parents passed
away, which meant that in 2012 I was still so filled with grief and loss that even though I was able to go to
work every day and smile and laugh, and not miss a single day of work, by the time I came home I felt like an
empty shell who had nothing more to give, and the only two things I focused on was being a good mother and
being active on this forum. The rest of the time I for long periods just sat huddled up in the corner of my
couch with a blanket wrapped around me for comfort, and did not even have the strength to go out to see my
friends. And then came 2013 when all my world was turned up side down because of the break up. You will
never know how much it meant to me to have so much support from so many of you through those times.
There were long periods where I was not even able to voice my pain, but people here on the forum
understood, and sent me songs to cheer me up, messages to say they were there for me if I needed them, or
long encouraging e-mails. You guys are the best:-)

After Kolomenskoe I went to the historical museum, but at this point I could feel that too little sleep and
irregular eating and too much walking was starting to get to me, because after 40 minutes I just had to go
home. My brain simply could not take in anything I saw. I'll have to come back some other time.

After a short rest it was off to the University where I had an appointment with Serpent, espejismo, Mark and
VonPeterhof. We met at a food court of a mall of all unlikely places, but that was actually great - because
then everyone could get what they wanted to eat. Italian, KFC, sushi - they had it all. I did of course go
straight for the only Russian outlet, and had a Cesar blini. If you wonder what that is, that is very simple. You
know what a Cesar salad is, and you know what a blini is - a Russian pancake. Well a Cesar blini, is a Cesar
salad inside a blini. Totally weird, but good :-) Serpent also recommended birch juice (березовый сок) which
I loved and oxygen cocktail (Кислородный коктейл) with apple favor, which I am really happy that I got to
taste. I do not think I have tried anything like it before. I also tried honey beer (медовуха) again, but as
Serpent had warned me, it was nowhere near as good as the one I got in Gum. I did not even finish it, partly
because I have this rule that if I am to drink alcohol it needs to taste really well, and partly because me sitting
with 5 sober Russians and getting tipsy would have been too ironic for words :-) It was absolutely lovely
seeing everyone again, I am so happy that you guys took the time to meet me, after English classes,
chemistry classes, Japanese meet ups and what not. I know you were all tired and it was a long way to go,
but I really appreciated you all coming. We had a great time where politics, spanking and Christmas traditions
were among the topics. And it was not quite as kinky as that sounded when I said it out loud :-) In the end a
security guard was starting to hover over us, so I started to worry that sitting and speaking on such a wide
range of topics in English might get someone in trouble, but it turned out that it was simply because they were
closing, and the poor soul probably wanted to go home to his family. So after a big hug for nearly everyone
(Mark, you will not get out of it next time, you are hereby warned :-) we all said goodbye, and I look forward to
seeing everyone on my next visit to Moscow, whenever that will be.

There is one thing about Russian culture that still has me totally baffled though, and that is what must be
some unconscious Russian tabu on speaking about men's age. In Norway when you get to know someone
you ask where they are from, where they live, what they have studied, what they work with, how old they are,
spouses, how many kids they have, how old the kids are,and if there is time - hobbies. The only thing I can
think of off the top of my hat which would be impolite to ask about is how much you earn. That is considered
private. (It is actually a matter of public records in Norway, so if for some reason you are interested you can
look it up on the internet within 20 seconds, but it would be considered too personal to actually ask about it.)
In that process I mentioned to one Russian that he and I were the same age, (he is 4 weeks older than me if
my googling results are anything to go by) and he looked distinctly uncomfortable when I mentioned that, and
hastily changed the subject, and when I asked another one how old he was, he answered, but he looked like I
had just made him eat a caterpillar. We have the rule that a man should not ask a woman her age, but he can
ask another man, and for women it is perfectly ok. to ask both men and women. Now obviously, the last thing
in the world I want is to go around and make people uncomfortable, so the only person I have asked that
afterwards was a girl, and I made a mental note to myself of avoiding this particular topic like the plague for
the future.


There is one thing I discovered Saturday, and that is that I totally lack Russian clothes shopping vocabulary.
That is, I can ask about sizes and colors and prices, but I do not even know the word for 'sale' and every time
a sales attendant gave me a welcoming speech I had absolutely no clue as to what they were saying. I am
also uncomfortable at the level of attention you get as a customer. In Norway they may ask you if they can
help you, but more often than not, you just walk around until you find something you like, try it on and go and
pay for it. Here there are a larger amount of smaller shops were the sales attendants are a lot more attentive,
which is great if you need help, but not so great when you just want to browse. I did not really want to get
much, because I have dropped four clothes sizes since July, and I am still in the process of losing another
one, so there is no point in getting a lot of clothes right now. I have mostly gotten by over the last couple of
weeks by raiding my 15 year old daughter's closet, (payback time, she has been raiding my closet for years:-)
since at this point in time we are the same size. However I do not do tangas, so I bought some nice
underwear. Nothing to give a girl some extra confidence like black lace:-)

This summer I was told a story by my Russian teacher. According to her sometime in the Soviet Union period
a French fashion expert, one of the big ones, came to Moscow and was horrified to see the underwear which
was on offer, and which had as its main characteristics that it was white, big and of cotton. He is said to have
exclaimed something in the vicinity of: But how come there are any babies born here? This story tells me two
things about him: He may have been a expert on fashion, but he was most certainly no expert on the average
male, heterosexual brain. And he was probably not in the position to appreciate the beauty of the average
Russian woman.

I bought a dress, so I can be Russian for an evening from the inside out, but otherwise I intend to go on the
mother of all shopping sprees in London when I get my pre marital body back. The sales attendants in both
the underwear store and the dress store were super helpful, and I appreciated their help - one even giving
useful input on colors, so I now have the confirmation that I can be the lady in red, but that dark green is so
not my color :)

I passed a stand with cell phone covers, and counted 11 different ones with Putin on it. Words fail me.

I also passed a stand with beautiful jewelry, among others an amethyst ring which brought my thoughts back
to Turkey three years ago. I was on a trip with some friends, and through an excursion we were on, we
passed by a gigantic jewelry factory. Out of curiosity (because I had absolutely no intention of getting any
jewelry) I asked for the price of an absolutely amazing set of amethysts, worthy of a queen, and was told that
it was really cheap. Only half a million rubles. Knowing fully well that my husband would have had me
committed to an asylum for the criminally insane if I had come home with that, even if I payed for it myself, I
declined, so he suggested that I'd get just the ring (an absolute bargain at 200 000 rubles) so I could bring it
home as a souvenir, and then my husband could get me the rest of the set. Knowing with absolute certainty
that my husband would rather have chewed off his own arm than gotten me that, I took my leave. Not that I
am complaining. I got a trip on the Trans Siberian for my 50th birthday two years ago. That was more worth
to me than jewelry :-)

For lunch I ordered a smoothie, and getting a Russian language menu only, I could chose one where I knew
two out of three ingredients, and one where I knew none of the ingredients. I chose the latter, obviously :-)
The main ingredient seemed to be black currant, but the texture was a surprise. At home smoothies usually
contain banana and milk or yoghurt, to give them some body, but here it was more like a half frozen sorbet.
Tasty though:-) I also ordered a blinchiki with ham, to see what the difference between that and a regular blini
was but I was unable to find any.

Saturday afternoon I had a new appointment with my polyglot friend Tania, and although it was quite cold, we
went on a long walk from Kuznetsky Most, via the Alexander gardens and the Church of Christ the Saviour to
Arbat Street where we had dinner. Kremlin and the Alexander gardens looked absolutely amazing in the
night, with spots showing off the best parts, and trees lit up here and there by thousands of minuscule blue
and silver bulbs. Truly beautiful. We went inside the Church of Christ the Saviour, which is absolutely
stunning. In fact I think it is the most beautiful church I have ever seen, and that says something in a country
filled to the brim with beautiful churches. I was there two years ago, when I went on the Trans Siberian but it
is two very different things to go there as part of a large, rowdy group of Norwegians, and to go there together
with someone for who it actually means something. There was a service there when we arrived, and the
whole ceremony, and the singing was wonderful. In Russian Orthodox churches you stand during the service,
there are only a few benches for the old and sick. We just stood for a while listening, then Tania came back
with two candles, handed one over to me, and we went over to light them. I have actually never lit a candle in
a church before, though I have always wanted to. It is not really part of the Protestant tradition, though you
can do it in some churches. It just felt so right doing it now, particularly after the explanation I had received in
the monastery about the onion cupolas representing the candle and our prayers going straight up to God. So
we lit our candles and said our prayers. I have not prayed in years, but I did now. For the continued health
and happiness of my children, of my friends and for myself. It was a truly magical moment.

We then continued to Arbat street for dinner. Nothing is as efficient at whipping up an appetite as a two and
a half hour walk below freezing point. I had some more fish cakes like the ones I had in the monastery (love
Russian fish cakes) and mors - which is a sort of cranberry juice. Tania had been christened as an adult, so
we had an even longer and more detailed discussion about the Russian Orthodox faith, before we went for
the typical girl bonding over boyfriends past. Their ears must still be ringing :-) I also got to talk Russian. I
admit I have been a real chicken this time, speaking a lot more English than Russian. The thing is that the
better I get to know people, the harder I find it to speak Russian with them. I do not mind making a fool of
myself for people I do not know, but when it is someone I know, I generally prefer them to think of me as half
way intelligent. And that is so far not how I come across in Russian. Tania is really, really good at gently
nudging me into speaking Russian though, and I am not embarrassed to ask when I do not understand. Plus
it is nice to be with someone who is just as crazy as yourself when it comes to languages.

Oh, and just as I am functioning as a mini ambassador for Russian language and culture in Norway, with my
Spanish daughter studying Russian, my eldest daughter considering to do it, and two of my colleagues
having been more or less voluntarily sent to a Russian course, here I try to function as an ambassador for
Norwegian language and culture. Norway is probably the least significant and known of Russia's neighbors,
but I'll do my best to change that, and there are already two of my Russian friends who are considering to
take up a bit of Norwegian.

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 Message 160 of 297
19 November 2014 at 5:11pm | IP Logged 
Another fascinating post. Have you considered taking up travel blogging? Or book writing?

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