Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ready, Get Set ...

The countdown is definitely on! Things are starting to find their way into boxes, we're having all those "I've been meaning to have them over" dinners, and we've even bought our tickets. That's right, Wandering Family fans, we're on the home stretch of our time in Moscow, and we're approaching the finish line.

For those of you who were thinking of us during our language exam last week, a HUGE thank you to you! The lovely B was rated at Intermediate Low, and I got an Advanced High grade! OK, without context that would sound like the highest possible grade, but in fact there's Superior above Advanced, but still I'm at what's called "teaching" level, so that's a huge answer to your (and our) thoughts.

We're still pressing on with our language studies, though. I wanted to finish the entire course, and it looks like I have a shot at it if we don't dally on any of the lessons. So, every day we go to class, come home and pack some more, and get up the next day to do it again.

It's getting tiring, especially for B who has the kids on top of all that. Be thinking of her; she's starting to get worn out and we still have a couple weeks to go.
I've been on the hunt for those last few items, and yesterday bought our new kitchen chairs. Now I have just the stove to go, and I think I've found a classified ad that will fit the bill. Maybe tomorrow?

So, I mentioned earlier that we've been trying to get together with all of our friends for one last visit. Here my old language helper Andrei and his family came over for blini (like Russian crepes). It was so good to see them again, not to mention having an excuse to have blini again!

I also decided to invite our small group over, though only about half of them actually came. I said goodbye to most of them at our last meeting on Friday, but some of the guys came over for lunch Sunday. We enjoyed the afternoon just sitting around chatting and singing, followed by them being blown away by B's apple crisp dessert. Here's one of the songs we sang (they're actually very good singers; I don't know why my camera makes the sound so funny, like it's off somehow).

And that's about it. For the grandparents/those who care about the boys, they're doing well. Matthew is walking everywhere now, and is almost starting to talk. I'm starting to wonder if he might start talking before his big brother does, even!

Steven just had a haircut and is enjoying the summer a lot more that way. He does keep rubbing his head, just for the new texture, but looking at this picture, who doesn't want to reach out and rub that fuzzy head?

And that's about it. Please be remembering us as we continue to pack up to move. We're hopefully having the container arrive to ship our stuff out to Siberia next Monday, and then we'll hang around for another few days to take the kids to the Dr. for a checkup, etc. As soon as we get there, we'll be looking for a place to live, as well as finding language helpers, etc, and starting on the new adventure of T study!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Getting Ready

So, we actually have quite a bit going on these days, but we've been neglecting our camera a bit so I can't show you most of it. It's OK; most of it involves getting ready to move! I know, I know, I'm a bit excited about it, and most of you already got the email about our imminent move, but it's still pretty exciting for us.

After so long studying Russian, we get to move on to ... well, studying T, I guess, but still, it's progress! As you probably know, we've heard word that our residency is approved and all that remains are some paperwork and some formalities. This means that in the next few weeks we're planning to pack up everything and head East.

Most of what we've been doing is geared toward that end: buying some of the furniture we'll be taking with us (all we lack now is a stove and kitchen chairs!), meeting with friends for one last meal with everyone, and getting our language and culture levels checked. That last one is a big "thought request," if you're reading this in the next few hours. We are both scheduled to have a full language and culture interview tomorrow, to see where we're at (the scale ranges from "Beginner" up to "Proficient"). It's pretty nerve-wracking, so if you think about it, lift us up!

Other than the move, we don't have a whole lot to show you. We have been enjoying our new coworkers a lot. It's a shame they came so late in our sojourn here, but it was good to have their fellowship for the time that we did. Here we are cleaning shrimp for some shrimp fried rice. B found somewhere the recipe for that white sauce you get at Japanese steak houses, so we decided to make shrimp fried rice. Unfortunately, cleaning shrimp is not a simple (or clean) thing to do, but we just dove in and had fun regardless.

The boys are getting huge! Well, I suppose they're growing at a normal rate, but it just seems to go by so quickly. Matthew has decided he's done with crawling and has been walking everywhere lately, and Steven might be getting over the "Terrible Two" phase. He's been a very sweet and obedient boy lately; makes me wonder what's happened to him!

And so, lacking further interesting pictures, I thought I'd post another one of those jungle pictures from my childhood. Here's me and my two brothers with a large yopero-jobobo (fer-de-lance in English) that one of our friends killed with a machete. That link says that they're normally only around 1 meter; obviously this one is a lot bigger, and I think is the biggest one I ever saw. I would guess that these kill more people than any other snake in Bolivia, but they make nifty skins and this one was full of babies. While you're admiring the snake, don't neglect to appreciate the fine jungle fashion sense we had.
And that's about it, I'm afraid. Since this is a short post, I thought I'd leave you with two of my favorite entries in a recent online Photoshop contest. The title was "Great Historical Moments Ruined by Modern Technology."

Which would have really changed a lot of things, but even worse might have been if Moses had an I-phone:

See you next week, and thanks for thinking of us!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Rest of the Visit

Well, all of our visitors have officially come and gone, now, and we're back to our regular life. It's been quite a whirlwind lately, with first B's sisters and then her parents. Add to that two new coworkers and some visitors of other workers here, and it seems like we've been doing a lot of runs to and from the airports and touristy spots here in Moscow in the past month or two.

However, now everyone's gone home and life has settled down some. Well, not completely, I guess, since we have a big language evaluation coming up to see how far we've progressed in the last almost two years. Then, we have to finish selling the furniture we're not taking east, and buying the few things we need to come with us. Finally, some time early next month, we have to pack everything into a train container for shipment and actually move! So I guess we're not quite finished with excitement for the summer.

As of our last post, B's parents were still here, though, so I thought we'd show you the rest of the things we did with them while they were here:

We certainly enjoyed the weather while B's parents were here. While it's been really hot for our coworkers out in T-land, here in Moscow May is almost the perfect month. The snow has melted off, and when the sun comes out it's usually wonderful. Here Grandma pushes Matthew on the swing.

Steven enjoyed the time with his grandparents in the park as well.

Since B's Mom's birthday fell during their time here, we decided to celebrate by having shashlik, a shish-kebab dish that we've mentioned several times on the blog. We invited a few friends and just had a good time in the park.

Steven managed to get his tent upside down.

Of course, the grandparents had to spoil the grandsons. Here, B's Mom offers Matthew a piece of fudge that I'm sure was very nutritious.

One of my favorite things we did: instead of going to a restaurant to celebrate their wedding anniversary, B's parents decided to have one of our Ossetian friends make them supper. We paid for the ingredients and she fixed a massive feast of several salads, lavashes stuffed with meat and potatoes, and myaso po frantsuski, which is a cheesy meat dish that's very tasty. It's hard to tell scale from this photo, but we all ate until we were stuffed and had only eaten about 30% of the total food. Needless to say, we enjoyed the leftovers for the next few days!

B and her Mom went to the Pushkin Art Museum also one morning while I was in class. They took lots of pictures of paintings and sculptures, but this lady was their favorites (sorry I have no idea who it's by or of).

Of course, we had to make some trips to the markets for the ladies to shop, as well. They seemed to enjoy themselves the most during those times.

Here's what we guys were doing while they enjoyed themselves haggling over souvenirs.

And that's about it. As I said at the opening, for now we're back to our regular language study, with an official evaluation of our status coming up soon. We're both nervous about that, as it's pretty intensive and will hopefully tell us accurately what we know and what we don't know about the Russian language and culture. Please be thinking of that (to come sometime in the next couple of weeks) - that we'll both do well, but more importantly that the evaluator will get an accurate picture of our current level of knowledge so that we can use that to improve in the future. I'm honestly not sure where I fall (some days I feel that I'm at teaching level, other days it seems like I'm still a beginner), so this will be helpful to have a professional opinion. Also be thinking about all the work we have to do to pack up and move our family out to our future home!

Thanks for reading, and especially thanks for remembering us in these days of transition for us. Hope to see you here again next week!