Sunday, May 31, 2009

In-laws

So, it's admittedly been too long. But, we say that just about every post, so I won't belabor the point.

We have been enjoying ourselves lately, though. B's parents are in town for a two week visit, which we have thoroughly enjoyed. I think they've enjoyed it as well, but I suppose if they were honest they'd say they are mostly enjoying the time with their grandsons. ;) Anyway, of course most of the pictures are of the adventures we've enjoyed together. We've had some further adventures even since these pictures, but I'll save some for next week.

A boy has to learn to shave sometime, I suppose. "Poppa" decided to take it upon himself to teach him.

Loot! Sweet, glorious, loot, all the way from the US of A. Parmesan cheese, Ranch dressing, muffin mix, and assorted other goodies awaited us as we attacked their suitcases when we finally tracked them down.

Actually, remind me sometime to tell you the story of getting their suitcases out of customs. It was, well, bureaucratic even by Russian standards. The short version is that it took almost 5 hours and a return trip to the airport just to get their baggage, all due to the airline losing their bags. Yikes.

B's Mom had heard a lot about the famous Moscow Ballet, so I went out and bought some tickets for Swan Lake for them. The girls got all dressed up to go out and watch it.

They even got there early (it was in the famous Bolshoi Theater) and took some pictures of themselves pretending to be tsarinas from a couple of centuries ago.

I don't go in much for the ballet (I have a strict quota on how much time I'm willing to spend watching men in tights) ;), but they definitely enjoyed it.

We also managed a trip down to Red Square and the surrounding attractions, and here B's Mom is doing the traditional "throw a coin over your shoulder at the center of Moscow." The circle she's standing on is the spot from which all the roads in Russia are measured (i.e., if someone tells you they live on "kilometer 185," it's from this point).

I have been to Red Square a bunch of times now, and Lenin's Mausoleum has always been closed for one reason or another. However, this time we finally got to go in! A totally surreal experience - you walk down the stairs, and it's pretty dark, and the guards are shushing everyone to maintain "the atmosphere." Then, you come to Lenin, who looks much more wax than actual person, laying there staring at the roof, walk past him (you're not allowed to stand and look), and move back outside.

Of course, then we meandered over to St. Basil's for the traditional photo op, and got this nice one of the Williams'. It was a spectacular day for it, it must be said.

Since it was such a nice day, we decided to make a photo session of it. Here is the lovely B, the attractiveness of the picture only diminished by the guy standing on the right in her arms.

Christ our Savior Cathedral. It's really pretty when the sun is shining, no?

I forget the name of this one, but it's right on Red Square, and designed to look like a wedding cake.

video
I think I forgot to say that Matthew started walking a couple of weeks ago, right around his first birthday. Here's a video as proof of that fact, as he walks to his babushka and then back to Mommy.

I'll leave you with our new family portrait. It was actually taken right underneath St. Basil's, even though you can't see it in the picture. It's so hard to get all of us looking in the right direction that you have to take what you can get!

Monday, May 18, 2009

"Shashlikando"

The number of people who will understand the title of this post is probably zero, as you'd have to understand Russian and Spanish to get it (I turned shashlik into a verb with a Spanish ending and then conjugated it ... never mind. It's not really worth explaining.). I'll summarize what we're up to for you, but you'll have to scroll down to the bottom for that (hint: there's some very good news included, so it's worth it).

Anyway, spring has arrived in Moscow. It's cold again at the moment, but for a couple of weeks we've actually had pretty decent weather. One of the best-kept secrets of some places famous for their awful winter weather is how nice the weather can be the rest of the year. Take Portland, OR for example. We lived there for a few years, and the winters and springs are justly famous for being gray and rainy all the time. However, the summers? 3 months of the most glorious weather you could possibly imagine, without the sticky heat that you get in the South.

Moscow is a bit the same, only it's the springs and falls that are nice. The summer is a bit warm (if you had air conditioning, it would be pretty decent as well), but this time of year is wonderful! And, as a result, people get outside. A lot.

So, when in Rome ...

Last weekend we went out to our local park to make shashlik. Shashlik is sort of a Russian version of barbecue, except instead of shredding the pork or just putting sauce on ribs, you make it into shishkebabs. The meat, which you can buy pre-cut and marinated, gets put on little skewers and cooked over the coals, and then you eat it with bread, potato salad, chips, and some grilled veggies. Mmmmmm!

This is the crew that came with us (minus one, who avoided the camera for this one). Yes, I know, they're all girls. It seems like most of my life these days is spent with ladies. For whatever reason, most of our closer Russian friends are all female, so I'm frequently the only guy when we hang out. Fortunately, next week our next coworker arrives, a single guy, which will be nice.

So, here's how it works. I bought this grill (only $8!) at the store; it's basically just four flimsy metal walls that slide into grooves on four chintzy legs, and a plate to hold the charcoal in the middle. Then, you light the charcoal and let it burn until it's all coals, and then you throw the shashlik on, turning and basting constantly.

Mmmmmm. You have to grill the veggies separately, of course, as they get done way faster than the meat, but they're worth doing. Grilled mushroom is one of the best foods ever!

Our friend Delia enjoying a bit of her shashlik.

Of course, by the time everything was cooked and we were eating, the boys were well past naptime, so they were a bit out of it. Still, they love being outside, of course, so it was a good experience overall.

Matthew finally succumbed to the tiredness and fell asleep in his stroller.


I wasn't thinking very clearly about the fact that this video was going on the blog, so I'm speaking Russian, but you get the idea, anyway.

In other news the past couple of weeks, we had to say goodbye for the summer to our friend Vanya. He came over for lunch before he left, and B made some tasty enchiladas to "celebrate" his leaving.

And I'll leave you with this shot of Steven playing on the slide in the middle of the shopping center walkway. When we went to pick up the grill, he was a bit bored, so I walked him over here to get some play out of his system. This is mostly for the grandparents, so enjoy Mom and Dad.

That should about do it. This week we'll be busy again, as B's parents arrive on Friday from the US for a visit. Saturday, as I mentioned, our new coworker gets into town finally, and we're also excited about that. As for our day-to-day lives, language learning is still the order of the day. It's weird what order you learn words in - every once in a while I'll discover a word that I don't know that I really should. Just today I finally learned the word источник (istochnik), which means "source, spring" and I'm not really sure how I missed that one before.

As for our good news, it's really outstanding! All of you (hopefully - if you haven't, shame on you!) have been lifting up our situation regarding our residency application. Well, just this week we received word from our coworkers in T-land that they heard that our application will be approved! Yes, that's right, will be approved!! Now, before you get too excited, it's not done yet, and we won't "count our chickens" until the stamp is in our passports, but it sounds like the important part is done. Hopefully, in June we'll get the word that everything is in order for us to move, which will allow us to move in early July, which was our original hope. Hurray for the one who is in charge of all of that (and no, I don't mean the immigration official)! ;-)

See you next week, probably with lots of pictures of B's parents and all the adventures we have with them.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Happy Birthday, Matthew!

OK, so we don't have a lot going on. Our teacher has gone on her vacation, meaning we have a week-long break from our regular studies. The only disadvantage to this is the lack of things to blog about. Without our regular updates from the world of Russian study (I finally remembered the word for "sidewalk" yesterday in an actual conversation, if that counts), we're left with just cutesy pictures of the boys.

And speaking of which, it was Matthew's birthday last week, so we did have at least one blog-worthy event. I have a theory about 1st birthdays (not a very controversial one, honestly, as it's probably obvious to just about everyone) that the purpose of the celebration is for the mother and not the child.

Since it was a day to celebrate all the hard work the lovely B has put in over the past year, we rewarded her by inviting guests over and forcing her to prepare food. I know, you're thinking that doesn't sound like a "reward" to you, but you're not B. Nothing makes her happier than making food for other people, particularly if it involves chocolate. Hence, Matthew celebrated with a chocolate cupcake. His reaction was, well, "nonplussed" would be putting it generously.

You can also see his reaction in full via the video below. I think it's safe to say that he's our "health-food child."

video

All was not lost, however; he did get some presents to turn his frown upside down. But mostly not, since he kept his thumb firmly in his mouth the entire evening, thus not permitting a frown to form in the first place.

And just because I have absolutely nothing else to say, here's a photo of Steven, modeling the "punk" look for his mother. I think his facial expression conveys everything he needs to say about the fact that he's being paraded around for her amusement:

And that's about it. Sorry this is a post devoid of our regular witticisms and news. We really are doing fine, just continuing to plug along with our language study. The end of our time in Moscow is in sight, though, with only two or so months left here before we pack up and head east. We've even started to sell some of our furniture and other things that aren't going with us, in an effort to help fund the move. Please be thinking about all our moving details as we try to work all that out.

Since it's a bit of a sparse post, I'll leave you with this photo from the ever-funny Fail Blog, for your amusement: