Thursday, August 30, 2007

The New Apartment!

OK, so we've been just a little slack on getting this up, seeing as we've been in our new place now since Wednesday and had a good internet connection the whole time. However, the obvious theme for our first post here was the apartment, thus meaning that we needed some photos of the place. This, in turn, means that we had to unpack everything and clean it all up, so thus the delay. It is true that we were sleeping here as of Wed., but that just means that the boxes were in the apartment. It's taken us a few days to get stuff unpacked and for B to get the decor on the walls, etc. Now, however, we're ready to reveal it.

In a word, the apartment is great! We've been really fortunate to find such a nice place, and at a price that was less than some of the other places we had thought about. We're so grateful for it. It's what they call here a "3-room" apartment, meaning that not counting the hall, the kitchen or the bathroom(s), it has three rooms. It would be called a 2 bedroom apartment back in the US, but we've got it set up with a living room, our bedroom, and a combination office/Steven's room. Honestly, I don't think we've ever lived anywhere this nice before. On to the pics:

OK, so I had to put one in here of Steven. He's now taken his first step, but doesn't show any interest in getting that second leg off and actually walking. Here he curled up in a pile of clothes that was ready to be put away and B got a cute shot.

"It wasn't me!!"

Here Steven celebrates our new apartment by unrolling the toilet paper. Of course, B let him do it long enough to get a picture before fixing it.

OK, so Russians do bathrooms a little differently. The toilet is in one little closet-sized room, and the shower and faucet are in another room. Really ingenious - that way someone can be in the shower and you can still use the bathroom if you need to. Which is good, since apartments with more than one bathroom (in the American sense) are quite rare here.

Here's just a couple of pictures of our new kitchen, which is B's pride and joy. She absolutely loves the decor that we inherited from the last tenants, so she's pretty much kept it as is.

Here's the view from our kitchen window. We're quite fortunate to be able to look out and see green in our little park, and there's another quite large park just a 10-minute walk away. We're also just a 12-minute walk from the metro or bus, so it's easy to get places. If we feel the urge to walk to school, it takes just under an hour, but usually we take a bus. I'm starting to get a sense for how cold it will be here in the winter, though. The other day, as I walked to class, I could see my breath. Meanwhile, for those of you back in NC enduring 100 degree weather (that's 35+ for those of you here), it's still mid-August. Here, however, it already feels like fall.

Here's our nice new living room. The door there on the right leads to a small balcony, which we haven't used much yet but maybe if it gets warm again we might.

OK, so now on to the What Is It For?™ for the week. Last week, we had a picture of a metal box in the metro, and Lydia gets all the points for recognizing it as a box for your bikes. Of course, you don't actually have a bike at each end, but the idea is that you ride your bike from your house to the metro, park it in the box, and then ride the metro to work. A good system, if it's not 10 below. Then, the concept of bike riding takes a big hit. Big bonus points go to an unexpected (at least to me) winner of the "Who Said That?" contest, Rich. I'm disappointed in you, Martha - as a well-advertised Andy Griffith fan you should have caught the line B put up ("His whole body is a weapon!").

Anyway, this weeks puzzle is from a street near where we were living. Parked next to the road there were two of these small metal boxes (which seem to be a theme in this section) with windows, this time. They're about 15 feet long, 5 feet wide, and 6 feet tall. Any guesses as to what happens with these? As always, your guesses are welcome in the comments section.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Last post before we move!

That's right, folks! In under a week, we'll be moving to our new apartment. We're excited, but a little sad since it will mean saying goodbye to our friends Dan and Nancy who are living there now. It will be nice to have our own place for B to turn into a home, though. We did finally get our hot water back last week, so the guest apartment hasn't been nearly so tough for a while.

Anyway, we've been quite busy lately. Though our language teacer is gone, we're still doing our independent study. Not having to go to the office every day for class has opened up some time for other culture study events. B has done her regular adventures with her language helper, traipsing around the city in an attempt to begin to understand the Russian culture. I've gotten a chance to do a bit of wandering myself, doing things like sitting in the train station taking notes on what we see to ask about later. Quite interesting.

Oh, and thanks to all of you who have been thinking about my need for a language helper. I was able to finally find someone who had the time and desire to help me learn about the language and culture here. His name is Andrey, and we meet 4 days a week now for 2 hours to chat, do some language drills, etc. I'm sure I'll be posting a lot about what we get up to in the future.

Anyway, on to the pics:
Actually, we have a lot better pictures of Steven, but I just think this one is funny. Do not mess with Sensei Steven - his whole body is a weapon. 3 points for whoever knows where that comes from, and a bonus point if you know who said it.

Last weekend we had some of our Russian friends over, Denis, Iulia, and B's language helper Dina. We had a great time with them (although our conversation was a little limited :) ). B made them some American-style food, which they seemed to enjoy. Their favorite was barbeque chicken, which B managed to make with some BBQ sauce from the Swedish grocery store in town.

B took a trip downtown to one of the many beautiful Orthodox churches, so here's a shot of that. Quite a pretty place, actually.

Today we had a jaunt out to the market and after that, the big mall where we can get some more Westerny-style goods. Baby formula is cheaper there, so we always get it in bulk. Here, though, we enjoy the rinok goods, which are a lot cheaper and fresher than we get in the supermarket. I love the colors, and it reminds me of the Saturday market on America St. in Bolivia where I grew up.

This store is like the Mega-Walmart from your nightmares. First time I've been there, and I don't think I've ever seen so many people "enjoying" the fruits of capitalism at one time. I think I'll avoid this place like the plague in the future.

OK, so on to the What Is It?™ for the week. Last week's question has, well, no real correct answer, since no one really knows what those things are really for. However, I do think that they were originally for wheelchairs, so Marie Bobbie, and Anne were all right, according to my theory. The problem is that I've never seen anyone with a wheelchair use one. In fact, I've never seen a disabled person in public here. Either the healthcare system is so good that noone ever gets disabled (which I would guess is quite unlikely), or they're just unable to get out much. Anyway, the problem is that they only fit one certain exact size of wheels, so I'm guessing that when things were more regulated here, they were required to only have one size of wheelchairs. They might also accomodate some strollers, but I've never seen anyone able to fit their strollers in the rails either. We can't fit either of our strollers into them (one is too wide, the other too narrow), so I can't say that that's what it's for either. B did see one daring bike rider use one, so maybe I should give the point to Joy and Lydia.

This week's photo shows something from the platform where you catch the metro. These metal boxes are there just waiting for you to use them for something, if only you can figure out what it is!

Monday, August 6, 2007

April showers may bring May flowers, but August showers are COLD!

OK, so I admit that I'm cheating a bit today. Our language teacher has gone on vacation, so we're supposed to be doing home study. However, I'm at the office, where we have an internet connection but don't normally get a chance to use it since we're in class. Of course, since there is no class today, officially, I snuck in to post a brief blog and check our email. Sue me.

However, it won't be long until we're in our new apartment (a few weeks!) and we'll have a regular internet connection, so maybe then we'll be able to post more regularly. For now, sneaking in to the office will have to suffice.

Aaanyway, I'd better get to this blog before I waste too much more time. Besides, you're probably wondering about the penguin cartoon above, and I should explain. It seems that one of the nicer things about Moscow is that all the apartments are heated by radiators, through which runs water that the city heats in big pumping stations and then pumps through the apartment blocks free of charge (or close). That way the poorer residents don't have to worry about not having heat in the winter. This also provides all the hot water for residences, so you don't have to have a hot water heater in each house, which would be inefficient. However, in case you're wondering why American cities don't jump on this idea, there is a disadvantage: the system has to be maintained at some point, which means turning it off. During the summer months, everyone's hot water is turned off at some point for about 2 and a half weeks. This means no hot showers, no hot water for dishes, etc. We don't exactly miss the heating power in the apartment, since it's pretty warm out, but I am ready for a non-icy shower. In theory, we get turned back on today or sometime soon, so we'll see.

In other news, Steven has started to stand on his own, and looks like he'll be walking very soon. Actually, he started standing about the time we posted last, and yesterday he almost managed a step (the lack of balance can be a little amusing). Here he practices the always-fun art of letting go of the basket, to wobble for a few seconds, only to grab it again.

Of course, we have to have at least one picture of him just looking cute. You'll have to ignore David's and my legs in the backgrounds, though - they tend to distract from the aesthetic appeal of the shot.

I just put this picture in since I find it funny how Steven can take a whole crib and just curl up into a little ball in the corner. I always like it when he wakes up and has mesh-marks on his face from sleeping against the walls.

For the past few weeks, our friends David and Erin have been staying with us in the guest house (with a week in Finland thrown in between). It's been fun having them there with us, and their kids are a blast. Here Huddy shows off his best GQ look.

... and here's the other two, Emma and Josiah. Quite a brother-sister bond, you'd have to say, except that upon a closer inspection of Josiah's expression I'm not quite sure he's as excited as she is.

And now, the answer to last week's What Is It™: see the above picture. The only person to correctly guess "Giraffes" was Anne, who shouldn't count since she lived here for a while and thus had a bit of an advantage (not that we don't want her to guess). Half a point for her, I guess!

As for this week, we have a slightly trickier one, since I'm not sure I even know the answer. You'll find this on every stairway to the Metro - maybe you can tell me What This Is For™?