I <3 hooliganism (Taken with Instagram)
Moscow Diary Entry 1:
So it’s been one month since I arrived, and I have been a bit remiss about committing my thoughts and experiences to paper, or at least to this digital equivalent. I will attempt to keep some sort of a record of my time here, and how it evolves, or how I evolve, or most likely just a mess of random ramblings.
Before I came to Moscow many people asked me about the cold conditions, and if I was crazy. Well the answer to the second question was clearly yes, but I felt that had been settled years ago. As to the first question I consistently replied that while the temperature was slightly lower and it was further north in latitude, it didn’t differ that greatly in climate from New England. Of course I was terribly wrong.
I left the unusually warm New England winter flying out of JFK in 50+ degree weather. I landed in Moscow 9 or so hours later, plus another 9 for the time difference, and stepped into a -10 degree ice box with biting humidity, causing my first breath of Russian air to freeze instantly in my lungs. Over the past moth I have come to redefine what the words frigid and colder than a well digger’s ass actually mean to me.
My job here is to teach English to Russian business people. Like the world around me it is a complete departure from anything I have done before. I admit at the start I felt a little intimidated and unprepared. I had completed a course certifying me as a bona fide TESOL instructor, and I had been speaking, or incoherently mumbling in some people’s opinion, English for most of 38 years. So I had that going for me.
My employer in Moscow did not seem the least bit worried about my lack of experience. Their clients on the other hand may have had other ideas though, so my CV was slightly amended to make it more palatable to the prospective clients. Merely a slight tweak here and there, and apparently I had been teaching in Moscow since 2010. “Welcome to Russia” I was told. A phrase I would here over and over again. The closest English translations being either, “don’t count on anything to work as you might expect”, or “you’re not in Kansas anymore Dorothy”.
The language barrier just added to the adventure. I can understand and use many of the most important Russian words, and I can ask for what I need and get around. I am also blessed with a lovely guide/translator/girlfriend. Anything beyond the basics though just sails right over my head, which makes it much easier to ignore people in the subway. The subway is whole other topic which I will focus on in more detail later. For now I will say that while it seems that Moscow is generally a chaotic and confusing mess, the Moscow Metro may be the most reliable system I have ever encountered, and the stations are lovely, but more on that later.
Yesterday was International Women’s Day, which apparently is only celebrated in Russia and the former Soviet republics. If however members of the flower and chocolate lobbies got wind of it I’m sure they would join hands with NOW and Hallmark and jam it though congress in no time flat. I have never seen so many flowers in my life. Valentines day in the US doesn’t even come close, and it’s a full two day national holiday. The same amount of time most people get off work for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but in reality it is probably a much more worthy cause celebrating then either of those boondoggles.
The true brilliance of Women’s Day is it’s placement two weeks after Men’s Day. Formerly know as Protectors of the Motherland Day, it was a day to thank all the men who served in the military protecting the motherland, which for the first half of the 20th century was all the men. Now though with the lack of large wars and the tendency to avoid military service, but no desire to give up a perfectly good holiday, it has morphed into Men’s Day. A national one day holiday, which by the smell of the subway starts at some point early on during the day prior. It involves thanking or congratulating men and drinking slightly more than usual. My point being that any misbehavior perpetrated on Men’s day is fresh in the “memory” when Women’s Day rolls around, and hence ups the ante in the flowers and chocolate showering.
Oh and one more thing, apparently they believe that spring starts on the first of March here. Why? I don’t know. It is not as if the trees are budding, or the birds are singing, or that there are any other signs of a seasonal change except that it is getting lighter later, so now I can now see my breath until almost 20:00 (8 PM). Ok so I can see my breath in the dark as well, but I can’t come up with any better rationalisation as of yet. There is much more to talk about, but all in good time. Check back later for updates on subways, vodka, fraudulent elections, non-vodka based culture,bears, etc… just kidding I haven’t seen any bears yet, unfortunately.