Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Goodbye Russia -with love

Again, the packing is almost complete and we are finishing up with last minute things prior to departure from Ufa.

What once seemed like "forever" passed very quickly toward the end. We have most of the clothes that we brought placed in bags for friends, and their friends.  After 3 months of wearing the same few things, we are sick of seeing them and will give someone else a chance. My bag is now filled with Russian trinkets that I hope don't get ripped off or lost on the trip home.  Ufa has not been the best place to purchase souvenirs-sorry friends and family, it is mostly known for it's honey and mares milk.  Not too transferable...

My last 30 minute walk in the dark (at 9:30 am) in 27 degree was this morning.  As much as I have complained, I have actually enjoyed it and will miss those interesting morning walks.
My "less than 10 minutes" of fame occurred this afternoon when I was interviewed on Bashkortostan TV.  It will air tonight and you can tune at 8:30 pm, Russia Channel 24, lol.

Hopefully, we will leave Ufa with a more positive view of Americans.  Often people have been curious and candid with questions.  "Do Americans hate us" or "how are we viewed by Americans"?

I can genuinely say that we have enjoyed the people of Bashkortostan and Ufa as a city.  It has been a more than interesting 3 months living in this part of Russia.  It is not what I expected, and have been surprised by things on almost a daily basis.  We are more like the Russian people than different.

For each of you that have followed Mr. John & I on this journey...thank you for your interest and support.  Your comments and emails have been especially appreciated and helped us through when we were missing our family and friends, and when days were long.  I hope that you have found our experience worthwhile to follow and have joined us for a laugh or two.

Da svi-dan-ya...for now and I hope you will join us again on our next journey.



Saturday, November 16, 2013

The end of this journey is nearing...

Well, we will be leaving Russia in less than a week.  We fly from Ufa-Moscow-New York(JFK)-Orlando on Friday.  All of a sudden we have a million things to do and our social/work calendar is full until then.

Next week I am lecturing at the university, presenting at a national Neurology conference, presenting at an international Oncology conference, and joining some of my colleagues in a TV interview. Due to the various subject matter, I am scrambling as usual this weekend.

The last few evenings have been jam packed.  We attended a Russian/Bashkir adult birthday party on Wednesday.  It was really fun.  The restaurant, like so many here in Ufa was underground and we had a terrible time locating it-even with specific directions.  The door at the surface level was located in a side parking lot of a bank!?!  The food, conversation (mostly Russian- but someone next to me spoke some English), music and evening was wonderful.  The main course was beef tongue and a few dishes of salmon.  John and I were lucky enough to snag the fish. The toasting routine was like many others we have experienced here.  The toasts can last 10 minutes or more, and almost always end with "to women & mothers".  Everyone is expected to give a toast and ours are always too short.

Last night we had some colleagues over for dinner.  As usual, we moved our table into the living room next to the bed for dinner. Believe it or not, we do this to "add" ambiance...

The couple brought the food as they wanted us to experience a traditional family type Bashkir meal.  Upon arriving and realizing we that we didn't have an oven, we had to improvise alittle.  We nuked the handmade pastry pockets filled with meat (beef, I asked) and potatoes. They were so good and I'm sure would have even been better if slowly heated in a conventional oven.  Next were pastries filled with dried raisins, dried apricots and brown (yes, they said brown) cottage cheese.  Again, delicious.  We finished with pancakes smothered with fresh Bashkir honey and small pastries filled with apples & berries.

No utensils were recommended and double-dipping was obviously acceptable.

Today concludes our last wash day here in Ufa-thank goodness.  I can't believe how nice it will be to use a washer & dryer in the near future.

This morning, we also cut each others hair.  We have only one small mounted mirror in the apartment and it is in the dark entry hallway(none in the bathroom).  We were both getting very shaggy.

Not too bad... but the results could look quite different once we get a good look at ourselves in a larger mirror and in full light.

Oh well...we that won't let that dampen our enthusiasm for our trip home. 

Hope you recognize us!?!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Russian Circus

We missed the circus in both September and October in Ufa.  I was hoping to see it as it came through town in November but thought we were going to miss it.  As it turned out, I misinterpreted the advertisement and found out it was on today!

We took the bus out to the circus building (an actual permanent structure for holding the circus) and purchased our tickets.  The place was buzzing with horses and ponies outside for kiddy-rides.  Inside, they were selling white cotton candy and popcorn, and there were several exhibits with animals for picture opportunities.

The building was small and intimate.  We were seated approximately 20 feet from the ring.  It smelled like a circus...

It all began with two beautiful horses and riders doing tricks.  They spurred the horses and made them prance and kick their legs high in the air and bow to the crowd.  I could have done without that part.
(I have pictures this far, and once again I was tapped on the shoulder "HET"- so much for circus pictures).

Next were the cats.  Yes...cats.  They had about 12 cats in these little cages that came out one at a time and did tricks-and they were good tricks!

The clowns were great and easy to follow as they didn't speak.

Now was time for the acrobatics. Unbelievable.  A man and woman who we both swore had to be former Olympians. They were fabulous. The performance was stunning and the Russian music beautiful. 

Next were the dogs.  Not just any dogs, they were basset hounds for goodness sake.  They jumped and rolled over and barked.  Not nearly as talented as the cats if you ask me.

The jugglers were the most impressive ever,  and the lady on the flying trapeze made our hearts skip a beat.

The chimpanzee dressed as Elvis was kind of creepy.  He was big and the trainer seemed alittle fearful of him.  They were selling photo ops where you could sit next to him too, in his glass box-no thanks.

The main attraction advertised for October were bears riding water buffalo. I was hoping for something as exotic this month.  Instead it was 7 white tigers! (Bengal, not Siberian I learned) 

We had a 20 minute intermission while they put up a cage around the ring and when we returned, the tigers entered the ring.  They were huge, surly, beautiful and threatening.  The one near us seemed uninterested in what was happening in the ring and kept staring out at the crowd and leaning on the wire fence.  John said he was "deciding on which kid to eat for dinner".  They had to poke him a few times from outside of the fence, and throw some meat at him in the cage to get him back in his game.

The building lost its intimacy at that point...       


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Heat wave, pigeons, and cats

The warmest night in history for Moscow last night!  Today in Ufa it was 10 C  (50 degrees) all day and the SUN came out in the afternoon! 

John was up and out early for his first class starting at 9:30.  Well, it seems early in that the days are getting shorter by the minute and it now doesn't get light until close to 10:00am.  As a result, we are staying up later and later-until around 1:00 - 2:00am) and then sleeping later in the morning.  He came rushing in at noon and said "We gotta go out, it is warm and the SUN is shining!" 

Unfortunately, I was working on presentations for classes tomorrow and the weekend.  Did I mention that university classes run Monday through Saturday???  Several hours later, and after I finished my last "master class" preparation for nursing faculty, not students...I got an email and was told my classes for Saturday would be cancelled. That did it, we're out of here!

We walked and walked looking for scenery we haven't seen before in Ufa.  It was a beautiful day and everyone was out and about.  I can't believe what blue skies (that we hadn't seen in more than a week) can do for the attitude.  We even saw a crescent moon tonight, the very first time we have seen a moon since arriving to Russia!

Before the warm front came through, we had started carrying stale bread with us when we walk.  It's a typical thing to do here, like other cities...feed the pigeons as you cross through the park.  In addition to this, we have started purchasing and carrying cat food with us.  We had noticed a full section of little packages of cat food in the markets.  I thought that this seemed like an extravagant way to purchase cat food, especially when things are often in such short supply.  Now I realize that people purchase the little ones to feed the strays.  We have two cats that we are feeding on a regular basis now that hang out in the park and a nearby alley. 

And the best part is...the birds and cats understand our Russian!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Garderob (the coat check) and dinner

While in Russia you will notice a national custom.  When you enter a restaurant, theater, museum, movie, university, etc. etc. etc. you will need to check your coat. 
The garderob - or coat check room is attended by a matron and it is expected that EVERYONE check their coat.  I had difficulty with this at first...wonder if it's cold in there (it won't be), I have things in my pockets, it's not that big...then I realized that it probably appeared as "uncouth" to keep my coat while indoors. 
Russians actually view the practice of walking into an establishment wearing your coat (hat, gloves, scarf) as uncivilized.  Now we just hand it all over.
Frequently, the matrons will not accept a tip and you just hand her back the coat tag and watch her gather up all of your belongings and she gives them back.


It was a new restaurant tonight.  We tried it because they have a back-up English menu.  I went for the Devil's toast (black bread, peppers & cheese), John had the "Schnitel".  Passed on the poultry liver in cream, offal in a pot, Czech Krakovitsa (we asked...pork neck), horse meat in cream, and turkey breast with buckwheat noodles.  I'm holding out for my turkey with dressing on November 28th, in southwest Florida!  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Halloween, Teaching & Russian Unity Day

OK, so Halloween was a bust.  As usual, I tend to overestimate activities for Halloween.  In Ufa, it was basically a "non event".  I did notice though that a coffee shop in town had a few spiders and ghosts in their window so I suggested that we meet there after our classes.  I brought along a few of my Halloween things and gave them to the girl at the counter to use if they wanted. 
As we drank our coffees and talked about our day, the young girl from behind the counter brought us out some cookies.  My Halloween treat :)

I gave up on the candy distribution at the apartment.  It started to get dark, and was raining with no kids coming in or out.  If there had been, the parents would have probably thought it strange - me pushing candy on their kids.  Next year has to be better...

John's teaching is going well.  He has been asked to teach more and more.  He likes it and has been asked some very interesting questions. "Who is your favorite author?", What is the most significant event from your perspective in the USA?", "What do you see as the major differences between the USA and Russia?" "Do all Americans think we have bears in the streets here?"...and these questions are from 18-23 year students!

Monday is a national holiday in Russia.  It is Unification Day.  It is the newest of the Russian holidays and calls for tolerance between various ethnic and religious groups in the Russian Federation.  There are still some tensions associated with the day and we have been officially warned by our consulate to basically stay away from any area where there are protests or groups of people. 
I have plenty of prep work to do for lectures next week so it will likely be another day spent at our kitchen table with our computers.

Our time is winding down here in Ufa as we have entered our last month.  I must say as the time nears for our departure home to the USA, it is sounding awfully good.  By now, we are missing so many things especially our families, home, cat, seafood, washing machine (it never showed), clothes dryer, oven, dishwasher, TV in English, cars, sandals, and a suntan! 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Russian podiatry services, American obesity, and Halloween

I have to believe that Podiatry must be an excellent profession here in Russia.  I continue to be amazed at the number of women I see in high heels.  These women in shoes, boots, 3, 4, 5, 6 inches and higher walking everywhere.  The women 15-70 years of age priss along the sidewalks day and night in this incredibly beautiful footwear.  That's gotta hurt after a while though...right?  Well, they are sure "steppin out"!

Adding to the fact that many of the women are tall and thin also helps the image of a stylish Russian woman, often with long thin legs. They are obviously proud of their beauty with full right.  When we were in Moscow for the Fulbright meeting, the guys all debated one evening that their city had the best looking women.  John gave a big "shout out" for the well deserved Ufa contingent.

On the other hand...I have just given up on any shopping here in Ufa.  Almost all of the stylish shops (or magazins- as they are called) carry only sizes 0-4.  Now and then you might find a 6...but an 8...well forget it. No need for those around here.

In my classes, the subject of "American obesity" has come up on several occasions.  One of the faculty members that had been to America was appalled at our sizes and the amount of obese people.  She commented to the students that it was disgusting and "maybe your President should do something about it".  I skipped lunch that day...

Well as I write, Mr. John is lecturing on HALLOWEEN!  I brought along this and that for the holiday but he wasn't interested in taking any "props".  I plan to wear my sparkly Halloween shirt (right side out) later today out and about and take my trick or treat bag full of candy to give to some kids at the apartment.  John says to "forget it, the parents will all just think you are some kind of pervert" but the plan is on...

I will keep you posted!