bloom and grow forever

I'm sure the Baroness will be able to make things fine for you. If not, a year in Russia sure will.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Kremlin in Winter

Sunday was one of those mornings. I woke up late, found a hole in my long underwear, saw we were out of juice, and waited forever at the bus stop. But when I finally got on the bus, I received a lucky ticket (the sum of the first 3 numbers equals the sum of the last 3 numbers) and knew my luck was about to change. I made it to Ploschad' Pobedy and onto the bus to Moscow with a minute to spare. I conked out for the duration of the 3-hour trip and awoke just as the Kremlin was coming into view. It's absolutely majestic in winter.

With my lucky ticket in hand, I joined the line for Lenin's Mausoleum, which was forming on the outskirts of Red Square. After about 15 minutes, I was allowed to pass into the square towards security (metal detectors, bag checks.) From Red Square, you walk through a very austere, guarded doorway. You turn left, pass another silent guard, and head down a flight of very dark stairs. Just as it's gotten almost pitch black, you turn right and there is Vladimir Ilyich himself (or whatever small percentage of his actual biological matter remains in his embalmed corpse.) The crowd files past on three sides; the room glows red; Lenin himself is under glass and well-lit. Although his torso seems to have collapsed somewhat, his waxy hands and face have been well maintained. I was glad to have seen him, and to have paid my recently-acquired respects.

The real business of the afternoon was a ballet - Esmeralda - at the Kremlin theater (another round of security and serious queueing.) The place is absolutely massive. Although I think the story is better suited to enormous, dusty tomes of French literature than to ballet, I enjoyed it thoroughly, especially the creepy priest, the unnamed man in navy blue, and the scene design with innumerable flying buttresses. After the ballet, Kremlin guards shooed us homeward, and we were all content with our day in the big city.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

winter wonderland

Winter finally arrived this week, with fresh snow and frosty air. Now our life in Russia feels a little more legit. In honor of this, my former students Yuri and Sasha took me skiing in Park Druzhby (Friendship) on Monday morning. Now, I can hold my own in downhill skiing, but cross-country is another matter. It was my third time ever, the first being an experimental trek around the Williams soccer fields three years ago, and the second being last winter with Dan at Turtle Pond in Vermont (where I spent most of the time tangled in branches, my limbs splayed at odd angles.) I can say this: I am a consistent skiier. Every time I pick up any speed at all, I fall over. I doubt this is just because I'm uncoordinated. It's a mental thing. These skis seem so thin and insubstantial - especially with my heels unattached and sliding off left and right - that rather than risk slamming helplessly into a tree, I bail out. Nevertheless, my interest is piqued, and I will try again. Plus, the park is postcard-lovely, and I haven't exactly been doing anything but sitting around inside lately. In the course of our loop we were passed by many serious skiiers, and we ourselves passed several ambling babushkas and a few moms with strollers. Sasha's a really good skiier and helped me get the hang of it; Yuri made me feel a little better by stumbling magnificently in the final stretch. Thick snow started falling just about the time when we reckonned we could make it to Moscow if we kept on for a few days, but instead we returned to our thermos of hot, sugary tea. I examined my new bruises and decided they were quite worth it.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

merry christmas!

day 30 (we made it)

The last week of fall semster was pretty hectic, what with grading exams, writing re-takes, and trying to get out of here by midnight on the 23rd of December. (Yeah, I'm a little behind.) The last class at the A.H. is always a something of a party, with food and drinks, sharing photos, giving gifts, and even indulging the students by speaking Russian for a little bit. In honor of the most amazing students ever, I wanted to post pictures of my classes. Thanks, guys, it's been awesome. Also, check out the presents they got me. Notice the bow and arrow set. THE BOW AND ARROW SET.