Thursday, June 26, 2008

Oh Mathew!

This never fails to make me cry!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lost In Translation

It's my lovely lady lumps... Ok?

Maybe not in Russia. It's ok. It's ok. Don't look so confused. Try again. Sing something else.

Nice. Nice. Good Choice. I like your repertoire so far, "My Humps" and "There's something in my tummy, Oh Yeah". You must be really popular in kindergarten.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I Think About You When I Eat

I pout when you aren't online.

My Pupils ARE Different Sizes

Look! Look! Look! Look!

I think I like the eye lashes on my right eye the best. Yes yes. My right eye is my favorite. If I become a one eyed pirate that is def the eye I would display. It's decided. Whew, one important decision, out of my way. Hooray!

Susliks Birthday

His name is Leisha. I know I KNOW! It's just. This is the kid that used to have a really big head and would dress up to play soccer! The kid that I used to make up stupid bicycle games with and who would walk me home. Who I would sometimes make fun of because I was a whole year older and thus much much wiser. It's really inappropriate to keep calling him "Suslik" which basically means gopher. Now he's twenty and we're toasting his health and happiness and goodness gracious I forgot that it's customary to drink after every toast. Wow. Thankfully the table was well set. Vodka, Champagne, Wine, and then moving away from alcohol, there was every kind of cold salad imaginable, little sandwiches with caviar, fresh vegetables, and that was just the first course. Well the alcohol was for every course. Then for the second course there was this amazing chicken and then cake... his mother is amazing. Not only did she set this amazing table TWICE, having done so the day before in Moscow, but also she sat around and drank with us, telling us tales of whats important in life.

You know how grownups lecture you on that you are like "I KNOW, I KNOW, god shut up!" but you don't say that because you have to respect your elders? Well it wasn't like that. Natasha was so just such a nice, happy woman and she told such heartwarming tales and she prized friendship over all. How loyal friends were the best thing anyone could have and things like that and told stories about how when Leisha was born everyone arrived to the hospital to wish her well... I don't know it just sort of struck a chord in me. I guess it's because my family moves around a lot, and it just works out that most of the support and love I receive comes from my friends, but well, she sort of reaffirmed the fact that friends are very important. I mean well duh, of course they are, but I often get shit from my family because they think I'm overly loyal to my friends and they keep repeating "Friends aren't forever". Yeah well, I mean they kinda are.

Here are these kids who I don't see in forever, who I see maybe several times a summer every few years and they still accept me back with open arms. They've all grown up, and I know that there is no way I'll ever get back those golden days of childhood that were spent adventuring out around Karmanovo, but they are still around. They still remember. God our summers were fucking golden. Our parents would all send us here to live with our grandparents and we would have such adventures. Tom and Huck style. It makes me sad to think of this as in the past. To think of these kids as grown ups. It fucking sucks. At the birthday I teared up at one point, after learning my friends were getting married, and I thought it was the alcohol but it wasn't. I have to end this post before I end up bawling my eyes out which will result in my mother coming in and mocking me.

And though the shadow of a sigh
May tremble through the story,
For "Happy summer days" gone by,
And vanish'd summer glory-
It shall not tough with breath of bale
The pleasance of our fairy-tale.
Lewis Carroll

Rules of Karmanovo

These are The Rules of Karmanovo established in 1995 by my Grandmother Valya with whom I lived with during the summers there.

#1. Do not sit on the benches in front of the store. Only Alcoholics, Bums and Men sit on those benches. Nice young ladies do not. If you sit there EVER I will know because I have friends and they all go to the store and they will tell me. OHHHhhhhhh how you will get it then!

-> At first this rule was easy to comply with because I had no money to spend at the store, and also because the benches were terribly dirty. Then. New benches were built. My friends started sitting on them. I started standing near by, oh so casually leaning against the side of the store. Then I got bolder. I started crouching near the benches, anxiously searching the faces of any elderly woman that passed by, looking for a spark of recognition, because all of my grandmothers friends look the same to me. Finally, when I was about 16 I would fearlessly sit at the benches daring anyone to say anything... and if I saw my grandfather or grandmother biking up to the store... I would either jump up and run into the store or hide. It depended on how far away they were.

#2. Be home in time for meals. Otherwise you will not eat.

-> I would have never ever EVER broken this rule if I knew when meals were supposed to be. But see my Grandma was sneaky, she'd SAY 5, but what she really meant was "I want you to be home at 5 because you need to peel a pound of potatoes and weed the entire garden and then tame that wild stallion". Then she would say it was to give me an appetite. Meanwhile I had already gotten an appetite from running around breaking all her rules, so really this was unnecessary. Which I demonstrated by never showing up on time for meals. I always ate. Except now there are so many people at my house that if I don't arrive in time, I actually don't eat and no one feels any pity for me and I am forced to chew on bread while people putter around me mocking/judging/making bets on how much weight I'll gain this summer. I hate them all. GIVE ME BACK MY CONDENSED MILK IMMEDIATELY!

#3. Do not swim in the Canal, it is dirty and far away. If you drown I will not help you.

-> Well, technically jumping off the pier into the Canal isn't swimming. It's more like falling and then getting out. So rea
lly I don't think I broke that rule. Oh. Oh never mind I did, I forgot about that time we went skinny dipping. Also since the getting out of the water required swimming I guess I did break that rule after all. Honestly, my grandmother clearly underestimated the power of peer pressure and the fact that I'm a dumb ass. So once again, not my fault.

#4. Do not climb or go on the Metal Bridge. You will die. If I ever see you on there I will find that whip I SWEAR TO GOD!

-> Oh. Well. Haha. I had to find out why that rule merited the threat of whipping. Well hmm, its a metal bridge, meant for only trains, that's built across a river. Where coincidentally an old wooden bridge used to be so if you fall off into the river, you can actually impale yourself on some old wooden posts. If your name happens to be Vlad, oh well wouldn't that be ironic.

Not only did I break this rule, I positively demolished it. Hide and Seek or "Priatki" was a favorite game on the bridge, with "Salki" or Tag, not far behind. We would literally risk our stupid little oblivious necks running at break neck speeds over the top of the bridge, or sliding down underneath it to hide in the beams. Then when an elektrichka (train) would come we'd scream shrilly and either stay on and hold on or run off the side of the tracks while the bridge shook and the sound of the train whistle and screeching metal filled the air, almost deafening us. Then after it passed we'd get out from our hiding places with shining eyes exchange thrilled/scared/excited glances, while our hearts pounded with adrenaline.

I love the bridge. I love climbing it, I love the views from the top and I absolutely love that while the pier has been fenced in and is no longer jump-able, the benches have once again fallen into disrepair, and I don't get those same kinds of home cooked Russian meals... the bridge has stayed the same. I'm still forbidden to climb it, I still do and my Grandmother still scolds when she sees the photos.

You could have fallen off!

What? I was climbing a ladder and then I was standing on rather wide pieces of metal! How could I have fallen off?

You could have lost your balance!

But I wasn't balancing! The beams aren't narrow! (Though honestly this is a valid point, I often lose my balance just
standing and such)

There could have been a strong wind!

There was no wind!

Here my mother oh so helpfully chipped in:

A bird could have knocked you over!

What? Wait... what?

Are you serious? A bird? Could have... flown into me? What kind of birds do YOU deal with on a daily basis?! What are you talking about!?! Are you seriously suggesting the scenario that I would be standing on top of the bridge, and some deadly kind of swallow my kamikaze into me and knock me over?! First of all I haven't even seen any birds bigger that swallows around, especially not in the day time. Second of all, that deadly bird of yours is required to not only pick up enough speed to actually knock me over, but to specifically AIM for me. Do you really think that that is even a possibility?

My Mother: You never know what fate has in store for you.

That night a bat flew into my coat. Honestly.


I'm serious about the sky being closer here than it was in America. The weather almost seems to confirm the closeness of the sky, it changes so momentarily that sometime I feel like I can influence it. Russian thunderstorms are perfect weather when reading The Master and Margarita by the way. Next lazy day I have, I'm taking the Russian version of it to Sparrow Hills, and when I come across the chapter where the Master says his goodbye to the city, I am going to wander around and try to find the exact spot where that bizarre company stood on their magic horses. It exists. I know it does.

Everyone was in Karmanovo this weekend. It was some Russian holiday, so it was a four day weekend, starting Thursday. Sasha was there, with Anya and basically everyone else. Well not everyone. But a large chunk of everyone. We went exploring. We drank (of course). We climbed bridges. Got sunburned. I got a new camera! Basically stuff happened. Good stuff. There needs to be some kind of order, and I need to eat. SO I think I'm going to run down to the store, get some food, then while I'm cooking it, I'll break things up into posts and will fill you guys in on what went down. I'll give you a teaser: Gang signs were thrown, and there are a few more photos in which I look Asian. GET EXCITED. Hopefully this wont be like the last time I planned on breaking things up into several posts and I just ended up... well... I didn't do that. Haha. I will this time I will!

Aren't my friends pretty?

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Bears Got Me

I cried.

Just imagine this scenario. You are peacefully lying in a loft bed, innocently reading out loud from Dr. Seuss's The Cat In The Hat, when out of nowhere, a Bear punches you in your left eyebrow. You do not expect this. In fact, my reaction was to scream "WHATTHEFUCK?!" and almost fall out of the bed. That's until the pain hit and stunned me into being immobile for a few minutes. Then a few seconds after the first wave of mind numbing pain subsided a bit, I was able to curl into the fetal position with my hand over my eye and commence the sobbing/hysterical laughter.

No seriously, first of all I think my eyebrow is fractured or something because it's VERY sensitive to the touch. Also I am terrified of sleeping in the lofted bed since clearly being 2 feet from the ceiling will not have any affect on flying bear attacks.

Reasons why I am afraid of the loft bed:
1. I can fall out of it
2. The ladder can break loose from the bed and I can fall
3. It was constructed by some random male my mother captured in the building and thus I do not trust that it is well built. I am going to say it has NO structural integrity. I'm not quite sure what that means. But I am sure the bed doesn't have it.
4. Loose screws fall onto the mattress and then I get scratched
5. Rape By the Lego-Men
6. Bear Attack

... really the list can go on and on and on.

The Bear:

Oh Oh! Do NOT be fooled by the cuteness. Or the plastic. This is one mean/deadly son of a bitch. It is not just a random plastic bear, who you'd imagine weighs nothing and just sits around brining happiness and light into lives.

Well. He brings light. When he has batteries. That's right. This is a bear FLASHLIGHT! Oh how useful and adorable, you might exclaim. Well shut the fuck up. That makes him heavy and classifies him under things you could be bludgeoned with. You wont think he's so fucking adorable when he's flying at you going 50 mph.


I want to mention that the reaction of my mother was to laugh. While her daughter was sobbing and in obvious pain, did she yell at George? No. Did she ask if I was ok? It doesn't count if it's done while laughing. Actually she asked me to be careful and not break it. It BROKE my FACE!!

WHAT THE HELL!?!?!?!?!

I Am Going To Get Fat

This is what I eat for breakfast almost every day. Or a version of this. I learned how to cook Blini the other day, though honestly since we only have Kefir (I think it's sour milk) and not milk, they come out a bit odd. It doesn't matter though since I drown them in condensed milk anyways. Mmmmm, liquid sugar. How I love you. I have no qualms about feeding it to children either. It makes George shut up for longer than five minutes, which everyone thought was impossible till now. I think it's because his teeth are stuck together, but hey if it works it works.

Cooking my odd shaped Blini. They look more like Sirniki.

George really helps the cooking process.

We actually eat so much condensed milk that I needed to buy a new can yesterday. By we I mean George and I. Think about it, have you ever had a can of condensed milk run out? It wasn't old either, it ran out in a week. A WEEK. You Americans probably have no idea what I'm talking about.

Actually, condensed milk doesn't only come in cans now. Yeah, it comes in plastic packets too, that's what that is in the first photo. A little condensed milk trivia for you there.
Mmmmmm. When I come back I can cook some for you if you like. I can recreate this magical magical experience. You know you want it.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Masha you broke the camera!

What?! No I didn't! Just turn the knob so that the setting isn't video but normal. The KNOB. Woman, woman, WOMAN, just the knob... the knob, yes yes... no. No. THE KNOB.

Yet she still managed to take two videos of nothing. Great.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Taste of Russian Culture

Masha, My Mother says to me... let's go out today. It is such a nice day, let's go enjoy the weather and the sights. Alright. Well that doesn't sound bad at all, let me cancel my plans.

"What exactly are we going to do, Mom?"

"Oh I don't know, let's see where the day takes us... I sort of want to visit the furniture museum."

"The furniture museum?"

"Well it's more like modern art. There are gardens there. Ice skating too!"

"Oh, weird. Sounds cool. I'm down."

So we leave our little house, and it is quite a nice day out. I'm convinced that the clouds in Russia are much closer to the ground. I feel like I can touch them if I jump high enough.

"Masha, Masha, here stand here, this is a great photo opportunity! You can show your friends!"

"Well.... ok. I'm pretty sure it's just a street sign and a beer truck... but ok. Sure"

Then we went the Metro. It's actually against the law to take photos inside, I have no idea why but it is true.

"Masha, Masha, watch out for policemen, I am going to take photos!"

"Ok. Wait Mom, aren't those policemen over there?!"

"NO! HAHA. You are stupid, those are students training to be policemen, see they are wearing greenish gray? Well policemen wear just gray! Honestly, Masha!"

Yes yes of course. Just gray. How amazingly STUPID of me. All those years of college, gone to waste, honestly. Meanwhile she takes about four photos, two of which are of the lamps. No no Mom, they ARE really cool lamps. Honestly. The coolest.

We arrive at the Modern Furniture Art Museum.

Otherwise known as Ikea.

"What the fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck?! What the fuck is this?! Where are the gardens?! The Ice Skating?! This is NOT a Museum of Modern Art!"

"Ikea is very modern Masha. Also it sells art! I'm not a liar there are gardens! There is ice skating!"

"You said we were going to enjoy the weather!!! See some sights!!! You have taken me to a GIANT SHOPPING CENTER!!!"

"Masha, do you think we should get these matte plates in brown or the gray? And look at those cute little cactus's!"

"Gray... God DAMMIT! I hate you"

The Gardens. Inside the Giant Shopping Center. Otherwise known as Capitalist Hell.

She didn't lie about the Ice Skating Rink. I guess. I mean she didn't exactly mention it was in a Mall... but ok. You know what, I'm trying to be positive here.

I've been bamboozled. By my very own mother. For SHAME.

She just walked by and hit me for not reminding her to buy hangers. I live with the DEVIL.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Кавказская пленница

Or "How A Lack of Sour Cream Nearly Led to My Kidnapping". Alternate street title of: "What The Fuck?! I Am Definitely Worth More Than Two Chickens and A Goat You Asshole!"

Why the fuck does this keep happening to me? Do I look buy-able? First in
Casablanca, now here. It's always for livestock too, never anything really awesome. Woohoo a camel. Ooooh great a goat. Why not some gold? A piece of land somewhere? What the fuck is anyone going to do with a goat?

I was just going to the village store for some sour cream that the children could put on their cottage cheese... No I'm serious, I don't get it either but that's what my grandma told me! I WASN'T ASKING FOR IT OK?! Russian kids eat weird shit. Anyways. So here I am, all innocent, listening to Paper Planes on my ipod and maybe slightly getting jiggy wit it (nah nah NAH nah nah NAH NAH), when I realize that this guy has been walking slightly behind me, and talking to me.

(On a side note: How much do you hate it when people talk to you when you have your headphones in? I always feel mad guilty but at the same time I'm like, dude they are lime green headphones, how do you not see them? Do you not know what they mean? I'm hardly wearing them as a fashion statement, you now? Unless the statement is "I'm fucking listening to some sweet jams right now because I don't want to hear the surrounding bullshit")

Anyways. So I take the headphones out and he comes up to me, and the minute he starts speaking I realize that ethnically he's not Russian. I speak in a slightly accented Russian, but this kid sounded like Borat on crack. Maybe that's his game: he spouts ridiculous shit and the ladies don't run away screaming because they aren't sure if they heard him correctly. Then before they know it they are lovers in his apartment, with her parents the confused owners of some useless livestock. Very naice! Basically this is the conversation:

Him: Young lady! Young lady... hello?!
Me: Um. Hello

Him: Young lady, may I make your acquaintance?
Me: (awkward pause) Well. Sure, alright

Him: My name is Alec
Me: My name is Masha
Alec: Masha?

(Yes only the most common Russian girls name ever. Dude you are in Russia. Why the fuck are you repeating my name like you are trying to get the pronunciation right? There is no fucking way you have made it across the border, and this far into the country without encountering another Masha. No. Fucking. Way. So basically you are a moron. )

Me: Yes. (Moron)

Alec: Masha, when I saw you pass my gate, I thought "This girl is very not bad. Very pretty".

(What a great shitty compliment. At least he had an ok follow up. I bet he hit on me because I still had the dandelion wreath still on my head like an idiot. Oh an in the language of flowers, Dandelions mean coquetry. So not only do they steal the light and other nutrient from REAL flowers but they also RUIN LIVES. Yeah I said it. Dandelions aren't real flowers. Bring it, dandelions. BRING IT.)

(On another side not, Dandelion wreathes are pretty easy to make -> I can teach you. If you aren't a total idiot.)

Me: (Pause) Oh. Well. Thank you. I think.
Alec: Masha, may I make your acquaintance as a lover?
Me: (Long confused pause) Wait... what?
Alec: I wish for us to become lovers. Us! Lovers!

(Very long pause during which I stare at him open mouthed and very confused, still trying to figure out whether maybe
somehow I misinterpreted him. Alec meanwhile is nodding his head enthusiastically, smiling but completely fucking serious. I only wonder if this has ever worked for him. Clearly not if he's accosting strange women he sees on the road to be his bride)

Me: No... no thank you.

(I pride myself on being polite)

Alec: Oh well can I have your number?
Me: I don't have a number. I'm not from around here.
Alec: (Suspicious look) You don't have a number? Where are you from?
Me: America. Boston. (In response to his confused look I elaborate further, trying to enunciate more clearly) U S A! America!
Alec: Is that near Dubna? (The neighboring town)

(What the fuck is wrong with some Russian people? This is even worse than that time this Russian girl, after learning I was American, asked me whether I lived in L.A. or New York. Ummmm New York I guess? I didn't even really bother trying to answer Boston. The girl was clearly an idiot)

Me: (incredulous look) Um... no. Not exactly. At all. It's a different country
Alec: Oh. Ok. Sure. So what is your number? Give it to me.

(I hate it when people don't believe logic)

Me: I. DO. NOT. HAVE. ONE. I am visiting my Grandmother.
Alec: Fine. (pause) So do you want to be my lover?
Me: No!
Alec: We can get married. I have an apartment.

(Oh what sweet words! Truly a great and wonderful word smith. My knees tremble at the romance of it all. This is basically his version of "So cutie, wanna fuck?")

Me: So do I! I have an apartment too!
Alec: I have a goat.

(Bastard got me there)

Me: (Pause) Oh. Well I don't have a goat. Still no.
Alec: You have a man?
Me: YES!! Yes. Yes. I have a man.

(Realizing my stupidity for not trying this tack before, and praising Nick for his existence since sometimes I suck at lying, I grab on to the idea rather enthusiastically. To the point where I almost shout yes. Inside... I was dancing. I'm not ashamed to admit it)

Alec: (seems upset) oh. (silent for a bit)
Me: ...sorry.
Alec: Well do you want to be my lover sometimes? When your man is not around?
Me: No.
No. No. One man is more than enough for me thanks.

(Foolishly I try to reason with him, yeah because clearly he is very logical)

Me: Listen, you don't even know me. What if these aren't my teeth? What is I am horribly ugly and snore very loudly?
Alec: Haha. You are funny. I can buy you from your man.

(This actually freaked me the fuck out, because for one horrible moment I thought that he actually had the power to buy me, and everyone knows that Nick loves a good deal. Also since he no longer has kitten, he might be looking for a new pet. Ok this actually has the power to frighten me still)

Me: Um. What? No...
Alec: I have two chickens and a goat.

Me: Well... as FINE of an offer as that is, the answer is still no.

(Important Lesson learned: Sarcasm is NOT universally understood)

Alec: You tell him. He'll trade. Here is my number. You may call me. Any time.
Me: I don't want this, I have no phone.
Alec: You know, in my country, I could take you and you could just be my wife. (Pause) (Bright Smile) Call me!

(HOLY SHIT! Did he just threaten to kidnap me?)

Me: (Absolutely fucking terrified) Yes. OK. bye.

What. The. Fuck. No seriously. I need to eat a yogurt and thank god for my close escape. WHAT THE FUCK.

This is a great old Soviet Movie about Bride Kidnapping. It has the Russian three stooges and the dance that my mother is still trying to convince me is sexy. I believe her.