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Friday, October 17, 2014

Moscow Oddities

I take photos of odd things I see when I'm out in my world. There's usually a story that accompanies each, but sometimes it's just the fact that the world we live in, wherever that happens to be, is a really weird place.

I don't always understand the oddities where I live, but they're cool to think about. And it's pretty fun to share.

A brand of baby lotion here, not sure if the baby becomes bad after you use the lotion, or if you're just supposed to use it on bad babies.  

The Y in Russian sounds like oy, like the word toy.  So it's a toyalet

I have never before owned so many identity cards that I have to have with me all the time.  There seems to be one for every little thing you do.

There's an obsession with mayonnaise and sour cream, it's sold in huge buckets.  

A few weeks ago we walked by a couple leaving our apartment building holding a bristly creature I initially thought might be a very strange cat. Then the guy placed it on the ground and I discovered it was a...

Yep, it was a raccoon.  

For some reason this advertisement is on the door of every public restroom I've been in so far.  And I'm really perplexed by the picture.  Why is there a dial? Why is everyone looking at him so strangely? I took the picture to show to a Russian friend and have them translate, but haven't gotten around to it yet.

Ahhh the oddities of this country.  Still not quite as strange as Cairo, but it's got some doozies already.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Walking Man

It's a whole different world at our house these days.

Frankenstein has moved in.

Q was 15 months old when he took his first steps, and started really walking just before he turned 16 months.  That's a looooooooooooooooong time. In toddler years it was starting to feel like an eternity. And I know that he was still well within the range of normal walking, yadda yadda every child is different... I was getting really tired of seeing people post about their 7 month olds walking on Facebook, and having people remark on how tall he is for a 10 month old. It was difficult to see him so frustrated too, because he wanted to walk desperately, but he's just a cautious boy, he doesn't do things till he's sure about them (no DNA test needed for paternity here!). But now that he's walking it's like a bubble popped and he's back to his usual joyful self.

A little less joyful when he loses his balance and face plants on the hard wood floors, but still it's an improvement.

We feel like life is starting to have a rhythm again. We're all settling into routines and though our schedule at the new school is much more frenetic than we're used to, I think there's an air of contentment in our home. And it's not that there wasn't contentment in Cairo, but it does feel like life is a little bit easier here, a lot more balanced, even if we get fewer hours to enjoy the day. We have great workout facilities at school and are both getting exercise. The opportunities for culture are wonderful, we already have tickets for La Traviata at the Bolshoi next month. And nature abounds with beautiful leaves turning golden, and parks everywhere around us.

At home things are really good as well. There aren't a lot of restaurants around us, and no food delivery, so we cook more out of necessity.

He's starting to feed himself and is very proud of the accomplishment.

Q and his nanny Valia go to a music and Montessori class each week, and she also takes him on outings in the forest behind our apartment to gather acorns and feed the ducks.

He's getting really good at animal sounds, and seems to understand Russian as well as English.

Right now they're offering a baby swim class at the school, so on Saturday mornings we get in the pool and learn to blow bubbles and get our faces wet without freaking out.

And most of all, we read.

Oh my word, this child is obsessed with books. (Not complaining at all, and again no need for DNA tests from both sides)

We spend hours reading.  He goes and picks out a "gook" as he calls them, crawls into our lap and then we read while he turns the pages. And when it's done, he chooses another and we do the same thing again, for hours.  

What's really interesting is that so many of his books are not in English.  So I make up stories about what we're seeing.

This one's in Russian, I call it The boy and his onion rings who wants to tell his scuba instructor everything is fine.  It's a working title.

This one is in Japanese and luckily it seems to just be about playing Peekaboo, so it's a little easier.

All in all, life is pretty damn fantastic.  We're working hard, exploring our new city, making friends and watching our beautiful boy develop into a remarkable person.

Life is good...

And yes, I know... winter is coming... (insert Game of Thrones music)  We will survive!  Though we'll see how many small appendages fall off.  I'm guessing the pinky toes will go first.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Things have been so busy ever since we arrived in Moscow. I feel as though I barely have the time to process each day before the next begins. Which makes it even harder to coalesce everything into some semblance of writing that others would want to read.

But I left for another trip last weekend to Turkey and am getting precariously close to missing the chance to tell about my expedition to Siberia.  So here goes... it'll be more condensed than I'd like because I can't share most of my photos since they have kids in them.

We left Moscow around 11pm and flew to a little town called Barnaul.  By the time we made it on the bus everyone crashed and slept most of the way to Altai. It was a six hour bus ride, so thankfully I was able to catch up on a little bit of missed sleep.

When we arrived, our campground was nestled in the middle of a cute little village on the banks of the Katun river.  We all had little cabins with a gorgeous view.

There was a lot of time spent around the camp, swimming in the river (or dipping in toes and screaming because the water was so cold).  And then we started the activities.  First a ropes course where I got the best shot of all time as one of my kids slipped and ended up doing the splits in mid air.  Then a ridiculously long hike through the rain and mud ending at a beautiful lake.

I'm still not sure how she got out of that.

It was a beautiful, cold, energizing, relaxing, exhausting and emotional trip. The first time I'd been away from Q for such a long stretch of time.  And quite an experience to jump into very different surroundings so soon after arriving in a very different country.

It was awesome, and I really hope I get to go back next year.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Leaving on a jet plane... to Siberia

No, really... I'm actually getting on a plane Sunday night and traveling to Siberia.

Did I mention I've only been in Russia for a month?

At first I thought it was a hazing ritual, until I heard about how much fun I'm going to be having. I am an adviser this year for a group of 8th grade students (who are so much fun and make my days awesome at school) and a part of being an adviser is going on a Discovery Week trip to Altai.

For those of you that are more geographically challenged, like me, take a look.  I've designed a map especially for you.

Moscow is in blue, Altai, the area we're traveling to is in red.  And just for shits and giggles, I've highlighted the three closest countries.  So, we're gonna be nestled in nice and tight with Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia.  Yes, Mongolia is still a country, not just a beef dish at P.F. Changs.

I'm so excited.

We'll be camping along a beautiful river in cute little cabins.

And the agenda of activities includes white water rafting, ropes courses and hiking.  Yes, please!

The temperatures can fluctuate quite a bit at this time of year, so we've been told to bring jackets, hats, gloves and our bathing suits and shorts.  Which we could wear on the same day for different types of weather.

A little sad to be leaving my men behind for an entire week though. In fact, this is the longest I'll have ever been apart from Q, and I'm trying not to think about it too much.  Luckily he's got a wonderful  daddy to take care of him, so they'll party it up in my absence. Just make sure all the loose women and beer bottles are cleaned up by the time I get home fellas!  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I lost my shoe at Kievskaya

Technically, it wasn't me that lost the shoe, but Q did.

We decided to be adventurous and have a day out in the city, no tour guides, no help from school colleagues, just us, Google Translate and a stroller.

First stop was the U.S. Embassy to check out the commissary and see if any new car ads had been posted. We haven't had luck finding anything yet, and our apartment complex is the furthest outside the city, which makes it a bit harder to do things.  Our commute to school is longer, and we don't have as many shops and restaurants close by. But on the plus side, there's an amazing forest behind our building.  We went to a duck pond with some new friends earlier in the weekend and fed the birds all of our crackers, which the boys thought was amazing!

So, we walked to the metro and traversed stairs and escalators. Q reached out for random strangers and they rushed past us and was occasionally rewarded with a smile. He also tried to share his pretzels with every person who looked at him.

When we arrived at our first stop, we were riding up this enormous escalator that was easily 100 yards long, and about 65 degrees vertical, and at the precise moment we reached the top, Ryan looked down and asked, "Where is his shoe?"

Sure enough, our beautiful boy was kicking his feet happily, sans one very brand new shoe.  We went over to the men that were in charge at the metro ticket counter and had a very strange conversation that involved a lot of me saying Spasiba (pretty much the only word of Russian I remember on a daily basis) in different tones to imply different meanings.

Something like, Spasiba (said like excuse me) point to remaining shoe, then point down the big ass escalator and shrug my shoulders Spasiba (said like pretty please sir?)

I received a very Russian shrug of the shoulders and Da in response as the man pointed me through a side entrance and back down the escalator.

It only hit me later that the one time it was appropriate to use Spasiba (thank you) was completely forgotten as I raced down the escalator.  And I really did race, not full blown boobs bouncing in my face, but I was jogging down those stair, zipping by people who were standing for the ride. I'm not really sure what my hurry was, but I think there must have been subconscious thoughts of the shoe being picked up and stolen in the few minutes it would take me to get back downstairs. I don't know, it was all very frantic.

By the time I got to the bottom and scoped the station out, I couldn't find the missing shoe, and had to ride upstairs empty handed. So, Q lost his shoe on the train from Kievskaya and we shall never see it again. On the plus side, this does give me a good excuse to go buy the kid another pair. Insert evil laugh here.

We then spent the next 45 minutes wandering around the city trying to find the U.S. Embassy.  We had a map, we had an address, Ryan had even been there once before. We stopped several people along the way who all pointed us in a very long/wrong/convoluted/circuitous route that did finally end up at the Embassy, but we're pretty sure it should have only take 15 minutes to get there.

Q did get to hang out with a statue of his "namesake" outside.

By the time we got inside I was super excited to see what the legendary Commissary had to offer.  And in truth it was pretty good.  Hint of lime tortilla chips, brown sugar, cheddar cheese, cans of chile peppers.  The place didn't have everything (Urggg, no French's mustard to be found) but it did feel good to know we can stock up on American staples when we need to.  Even if the import costs make a block of cheese $7.

I've learned in this life abroad you don't sweat the import costs, just buy the damn cheese and enjoy every last bite.

After the embassy, we walked down to Arbat street, which is this super quaint and cute walking street with fun shops, restaurants and vendors.  We had lunch at the Shake Shack, where I had the most amazing burger of my life. It had a fried portabello mushroom stuffed with cheese on top of it.  Enough said.

All in all, it was a great day.  We probably walked about 5 or 6 miles, and we were all exhausted by the time we got home. But it really felt good to get out into the city on our own, to start exploring and to get an idea of what life is like in Moscow.

So far, it's pretty damn good, just a little tiring; even for Superman.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Welcome to Russia

The time has come.  The big move happened, the big blog name change is now official.

I can now be found at A Cushman at the Kremlin.

After a whirlwind summer of travel, Alaskan cruise, family time, more family time, shopping and a few more days spent ill than I would have liked, we are in Moscow, Russia.  Our new home.

We've been here exactly twelve days and there have been some big highs and lows. Our school is awesome, but they throw you into the deep end from day one. Moscow is really beautiful, but it's freaking hot right now and they don't do air conditioner. That's how it goes right.

First of all, let me start with the fact that Moscow is so European.  It doesn't feel or look at all like I thought it would.  The closest comparison I can give to explain how it feels to me is to say that it's a lot like Langon, France where my grandmother is from.  A much bigger city and size than Langon, but the "feeling" is right on in comparison.

We were pleasantly surprised by our three bedroom spacious apartment.

It already looks a lot different than these pictures, I'll post more when our shipment comes in and we finish decorating.  Quincy has his own room and bathroom, and there's even an extra room for future Russian babies (don't worry, we're not planning on snatching them from the street).  So we're feeling very blessed in terms of housing.

In fact, the best part of where we lived was discovered yesterday when some colleagues took us on a long walk through the forest right behind our building.  It leads down to the river and about every 1/4 mile there's a new playground.  Q really enjoyed trying out the slide and swings.  I have so many pictures to take!

But here are the money shots... We went to Red Square last weekend for a new hire photo shoot in front of St. Basil's Cathedral.  It was so easy to get there on the metro and what a beautiful place to go spend the day.  Can't wait for the energy to tackle sight seeing!

The two biggest things on our list when we started looking for a new place to live, were nature and culture opportunities.

I think we're going to be in heaven.  The Bolshoi Theater is a 15 minute train ride from our apartment, so Ryan will be taking me to the ballet regularly, and we've got all the nature we could ask for out our back door.  It's really exciting and I'm feeling very grateful.

There are many more things to say, but our internet isn't that great and it took about 30 min already just to upload all these pictures.  So let me just end with a quick thought.

We're starting to settle into what life is going to be like, and realizing that sadly we're not going to be seeing Q all that much during the week.  The school schedule is pretty rigorous, they have very high expectations of our time. But our nanny has been wonderful so far and we're really happy that they seem to be doing well so far.

He's getting to be such a little person, a little boy. He's talking more and more and using sign language. It's a shock sometimes to look over and see him doing something a little kid would be doing. 

I keep waiting for that moment when I'm going to wake up and this is all a dream.  I spent the whole summer waiting for it to hit that we were moving to a new country and not headed back to Cairo in the fall. It still hasn't happened. Not sure why, but it's weird how long it can take the brain to let go of things.

It's also weird how your experiences change you. I'm loving Moscow, the school, our new apartment and all the wonderful amenities we have. But I'm still filling water bottles and keeping them under the sink just in case our water goes out. We've moved on, the blog name is different, but Cairo just won't let go of us yet.  :)