In case any of you wonder what it's like spending 6+ weeks here, it can get very monotonous so one tries to vary things. I am usually up by 7:15, trying to take a shower with the impossible shower nozzle that spurts out either 1. very hot water or 2. boiling water. Then it's four flights downstairs to the in-house restaurant where I can either have dumplings or eggs and something like ham, or "bleeni" which are like crepes. I never get enough jam or butter for my liking so I've learned how to ask for more of each. The young waitress who's there each morning never smiles. What is it about this culture that is so dour? The way people push their way through doors, never say hello or indulge in even the smallest politnesses - it reminds me of the darkest days of the Soviets.
I've also learned how to ask for "tea with milk" which is "chai es molokom." Today I went back to my room and had this riotous conversation with the maid asking for a clean glass for my bathroom. Problem is, I could not figure out the word for "clean." So we all sat there and giggled until I could borrow a friend's dictionary down the hall. I have determined that, since I am in this country seemingly forever, I will do my best to learn as much Russian as possible. So I am forcing myself to say complete sentences and navigate about the city.
At 9 a.m. the driver picks us up in a freezing van for the 45-minute drive to Rudny, a city of 100,000. It's still dark out so I slide about in the snow, trying to get to the bus. My apres-ski boots are useless on the packed, icy snow all about this city, so I've taken to wearing my high-heeled boots, which are surprisingly stable. One uses the heel to position oneself in the snow and get some stability. Thus I make my way about the city, going by the park to feed the cluster of pigeons there with extra bread from breakfast (the whole city drops by there to feed the birds) or to visit the park. For fun, the folks here like to *sit* on the snowy park benches in freezing weather. But there's little or no cross-country skiing or outdoor ice skating so go figure.
Also...people REALLY know how to dress here for the cold. It's a PETA nightmare, this place, for everyone is decked in all manner of furs and maxi coats.
(Will continue tomorrow)