In my defense as it pertains to the title, it's hard to give just one name to a blog when so much is going on. There's language and culture study, as the above photo from my lesson notebook shows, a trip to the banya, small group meetings at our place, Valentine's Day, and the list goes on. But, I'm getting ahead of myself a bit. Oh, and sorry the photo is from a few weeks back; I've made it to lesson 52 now, but I figured none of you would know the difference and/or care. And now, to the business at hand, by which I mean our lives.
Some of you may recall that a few months back, I wrangled an invite to our family group's "Men's Day Out" in which we went to a banya for the afternoon. It proved to be such a success that there was demand for a repeat trip, which took place last Saturday. This time I had the foresight to take my camera in before all the sweaty naked guys took over, and was able to bring back a few pictures of what it looks like inside.
This first picture (taken very quickly after opening the door, and the lens already started to fog) is of the actual room you sit in to bake. Basically, you lay your towel down on the planks, throw some water on the rocks just out of the picture to the right, and wait until you're thoroughly sweaty. They keep it quite warm, :) so it doesn't take long! This time I spotted the thermometer outside, so I can happily report to our readers that the temperature inside (which last time I described as "really hot") really is just that: HOT! As in, 110° Celsius (that'd be 230° F)!! I especially appreciated the nice touch on the thermometer where there was a red "Danger" tab at 112° C, as if to say, "Yeah, 110° is no biggie, but don't go pushing it!"
Anyway, once you've baked yourself to a proper degree of sweatiness, someone (and I was determined for it not to be me) surrenders his machoness, admits that he's had enough, and the group gets up to head for the pool. Last time, they had actually chilled the pool to just above freezing, but this time we had the relief of finding out it was just water from the cold spigot. Not much warmer, but believe me, every little bit helps. What you do is as soon as possible after leaving the steam room, you plunge into the pool in a transparent effort to induce a heart attack from temperature shock.
It actually feels a lot better than it sounds, but you feel like a limp noodle afterwards and for some reason it makes me ravenously hungry. Fortunately, we brought along enough food to feed an army and we all enjoyed the various temperature cycles broken up by good conversation and good Russian food.
Next up in the picture department: a small group meeting at our place. It seems that our small group was hunting for a place to meet, and we happened to know just the place: our living room! I'm not sure if they'll be here every week or not, as we're still organizing some of those details, but it looks like we'll be hosting it regularly at least. We always have a great time when we get together on Wed. nights, and having it at our apartment gives Bobbie a chance to make some of the really delicious desserts she's rapidly becoming known for.
Of course, since we last posted, St. Valentine has visited, so I thought I'd drop in a quick picture of our date. This is further proof, as if anyone actually needed it, that I married the absolute best wife in the universe. How many of you could say that you took your wife to McDonald's for your "special Valentine's treat" and she was thrilled? I know, none - only B is fantastic enough to be satisfied with such a cheap date.
The truth is restaurants in Moscow cost a fortune, and we're not exactly loaded, so for now, this will have to do. However, there is a TGIFriday's in town, and one of B's sisters gave us a special present to go there, which we're planning to do this or next week sometime.
This is how romantic our lunch really was - Steven even fell asleep so we had some real "alone time." And the ambience! Can you say "Marvin who?"
The Russians have a good word for Steven's overall behavior these days: хитрый. It means something like "clever," or "sly," or maybe "resourceful." At any rate, he seems to be escalating the rate at which he can do damage. We generally keep all the things that he shouldn't get into in drawers that he can't reach. As an example, all of our tea things like sugar, etc, are in our top drawer in the cabinet in the living room.
This was all well and good until last week, when he discovered that he can pull out the bottom drawer, then stand on it, and it allows him to reach the top drawer. Xитрый indeed. He ended up with a faceful of sugar to show for it, and now we're trying to figure out somewhere else to store that stuff.
OK, so I'm about to wrap it up, I promise. The following is a video that is more for the grandparents and people like that to admire Steven as he enjoys (?) a ride on the swing on a nice day outside.
Oh, and I almost forgot to post the results of last week's What Is It?™ The gesture, which can be a bit harsh but isn't considered inappropriate among friends, basically means something between "Screw you!" and "No way!" Usually, it's kind of a joke, and you might do it to a friend who asked you for something (maybe while saying something like "шиш тебе" - I would have accepted either "шиш" (pronounced "sheesh") or "фиг" (pronounced "feeg") as correct answers for the words associated with the gestures. Lydia gets the point for being the closest with her guess of "You're in a tough spot."
I leave you with the following amusing graffiti I captured on a wall near our place last week. How many times have you seen the illustrious Mr. Squarepants featured in your neighborhood graffiti? I thought not. The gangs here are, well, truly hardcore. Because what says "don't mess with me" more than Spongebob? They even almost managed to spell it right, despite the obvious handicap of trying to write it in it's original Roman script rather than Cyrillic.