Archive for the 'Russia' Category

tuesday: good bye moscow, hello kiev!

November 15, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

All my love. By the way, for those who don’t know, Kiev is pronounced “keev!” My great grandmother pronounced it that way, and I didn’t know what the deal was, but turns out she was right. Very smart, Bubbia Lily.

The last day in Moscow was pretty productive, but it’s a good thing I left when I did because I was just about ready to punch everyone. I got hit in the face with the subway doors one too many times. Gosh, though, the subway system is so cool. Here’s something I found in there:

The flight from Moscow to Kiev was uneventful and during the flight I even slept a little bit! This is Very unlike me. It was a two hour flight and during the flight we went back in time, leaving at 1:00 P.M, and arriving at 12:35 PM in Kiev. Mind blowing.

I arrived in Kiev and it was overcast and cold. After a half hour taxi to the hotel, I unpacked and went out for a walk. My first impression of Ukrainians is that they are not so scowly. I have Ukrainian heritage, and I also noticed that facially I look like more people here.  I read that many (80 something percent of) Ukrainians do indeed have Ukrainian decent.

I ate lunch at a place called Buddha Bar. It’s a very hip and sexy club/restaurant at night. I had the lunch special that I thought was reasonable. It was more like a “linner” (lunch-dinner) because I ate around 4:30.The food was spectacular and interesting. For example, I had coconut milk chicken soup. Here’s a picture of the city from right outside the Buddha bar when I walked out. It was snowing at that point!

The city is very beautiful so I’ll take some more pictures tomorrow. In this one you can see Independence Square in the background. It gets dark here around 4ish.

Coming from Moscow to Kiev was a two hour time difference because Russia didn’t “fall back” this year!



sunday in moscow!

November 13, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Today I slept late and my headache finally went away. I started with a nice walk from the hotel towards the Kremlin. I went on a pedestrian only street that sells a lot of souvenirs and has a lot of cafes and other shops. Here’s a picture:  not bad! I found the best deal around for some shirts and got some for my brother and sister, I miss them very much. I went to eat breakfast at an international foods cafe, which was cool, except I didn’t have much appetite. The menu had different foods with flags indicating where the food was from.

After this walk, I went to the Kremlin with the intention of seeing the Diamond Fund. I think the diamond fund was closed or something by the time I got there, but I went in anyway and took some pictures and saw some other exhibits. Here I am at a funky church:

I feel really annoying asking people to take pictures of me, but I guess that’s one of the things you have to do when traveling alone.  After the Kremlin, I went back to the hotel and hung out and then went to dinner. I had homemade tagliatelle with meat sauce and it was really good. The people at the Italian restaurant are my friends here. During dinner I read a magazine that I found in English about Baku, Azerbaijan. I have a colleague that went there or is going there this quarter! She might even be there right now! Looks very interesting.

Here’s a picture of that fancy market in the bottom floor of the Tsum. I snuck it because I’m not sure pictures are allowed there, but no one gave me a hard time.

I’m getting a little sick of everyone here, seems like there is a little more rudeness than I’m used to. For example, on the street people  just smack into each other (sometimes really hard!) and don’t acknowledge it. And in the entrances and exits to the subway, there are these heavy swinging doors. No one (except tourists) holds them so when you follow someone thinking they may hold the door because they are very close in front of you, it smacks you in the face. 

Here’s one more picture from inside the Kremlin.

I’m excited that tomorrow is my last day and then on to Kiev.



saturday in moscow

November 12, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

I’m feeling a little sick and a little sad right now, but i’ll do my best. Here’s a picture of a synagogue in Moscow I visited today. I like this picture because you can see the star at the top and also the nice columns. 

I just learned that my Zadie passed away last night, and this is the reason i’m sad. Mostly sad not to be with my family on this day. Zadie was pretty old and also very sick with parkinson’s disease, but my mom told me he was at home and comfortable when he died. For those who don’t know Yiddish, Zadie means grandpa.

I’ll say a little bit about my Zadie before continuing. Not too much because it’s sad to think about this when i’m alone and can’t have any hugs. But he was extremely funny and loving and a great grandfather. He had a joke that I think about all the time when I’m eating. When he ate a lot he used to say that he was “eating like he had two assholes!!”.  HAHAH! Also, he taught me how to play the card game Gin, one of my favorite games. Not the rummy kind, but straight Gin. He would beat me and say “Whats the name of this game!!!???” and slap the card face down on the table. Also, seems like he was a great dad, because he has great kids!!

I’ll certainly miss him and remember him from when I was littler and he wasn’t so sick and he smiled huge and laughed a lot.

This morning, I slept as late as possible, which wasn’t that late, went to the Cosmonaut museum. A colleague said it was one of the cooler things he did in Moscow. It was definitely cool, but I didn’t learn much because all the explanations were in Russian. Here I am with something:

I was not supposed to take that picture. I think you have to pay extra to take pictures but oh well. After the museum, I was very hungry because I hadn’t eaten breakfast but was also feeling picky and didn’t want to eat just anywhere. Meals are very important.

I ended up at an Uzbek restaurant and it was well worth the wait. The server really liked me. He asked if I had ever had Uzbek food and I said no but I had Kazakh food as I just spent some weeks in Kazakhstan, and I really like “bursack” and Manty. I say it like a combination of “bursan” how someone spelled it for me and “ballsack” how it’s pronounced. My Zadie would have liked the name of this food. “Our special bread is ballsack” “Great, I’m so glad you have my favorite food!!”

Anyway the server said that he was from Kyrgyzstan and they have those foods there. I had soup, salad, and some pilaf all very delicious. After lunch, I visited that Synagogue. And I started to get a nasty, pounding headache really bad. I started walking to the Kremlin to go inside and to see the diamonds and jewels museum but my head started to hurt so badly and I was feeling too sick to think so I went back to the hotel.

Here’s another picture of a subway station.  I can’t get over the Subway.

It was about 5 pm when I got back to the hotel and i’ve been lying in bed watching South Park and Gossip Girl all evening. My head is still throbbing even with the Excedrin. I was too tired and hurty to get dressed and go downstairs for dinner so I ordered room service for the second time in my life. Now it’s time for a good sleep.


Moscow Day 2

November 10, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Yet Another great day in Moscow! This morning, I got on the subway again to visit a shopping mall outside of the town center. It was a much less glamorous area of Moscow, and interesting to see. To get there, I took one of the subway lines all the way to the end. I’m very impressed with the subway line. So far no problems, and even the station at the way end is very pretty, nice to look at and be inside and the trains come very quickly.

This picture is just a street I liked. After that excursion, I went to an Armenian restaurant back in the center of town. At the beginning they give you lavash with some homemade yogurt and herbs and radish to roll up. Then I had spicy soup with lamb and chickpeas and vegetables and a big hot pepper inside of it, and then for dessert the best Halva I’ve ever had. I tried to buy some for someone special at home but the staff told me sorry, it’s from Armenia. Damn! Well I hope to get there soon.

After that tasty lunch, work took me to an very glamorous shopping centre, the TSUM. Estee Lauder was having some kind of event there and they were doing something to some models’ faces. I tried to ask someone what was going on but no english. At the mall there were some robots in sexual positions that I found extremely amusing so I took some more pictures. Here’s one of my favorites.

I’m not sure what the robots were doing in the store, and tried to ask someone but that also didn’t go very well. There’s a very fancy supermarket at the bottom of the TSUM where I got an apple. It was Fabulous. They wouldn’t let me take pictures of it and I didn’t want to sneak for fear of getting kicked out. After the TSUM, it was dark out and before taking the subway home I went to see the red square at night.

Two thumbs up!



Moscow Day One

November 9, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Today was a great day in Moscow. I got up before the alarm (probably due to the time difference between here and Novosibirsk), got dressed, ate some breakfast, and got right on the subway. It would have taken me an hour to walk to my first destination! The subway system is extremely complex and it seems to work beautifully. This may be wrong but it worked well today and I think a lot of people take it as there is a lot of traffic here. I was taken by surprise because to get to the trains you have to go about a mile down on an escalator. I was also surprised at how beautiful the train stations are.

Here’s one example. It was a little bit difficult and overwhelming to nagavate the subway system because it’s all in Russian.

My first stop was the Gum shopping mall. Wow. It was also very beautiful and overwhelming. Since it was a snowy and gross day, it was hard not to spend more time in there, but I pushed on. Here’s a picture of inside the Gum.

This picture actually doesn’t really show you what it looks like, but i tried to capture it. After the Gum, I walked outside and Boom red square. I wasn’t going to visit the red square today because today was a working day (and it was not a good day to take happy pictures so I’ll have to go back) but I just happened to see…

 Pretty cool after a lifetime of pictures of this building. You can’t tell in the picture but it’s horrible outside. It’s snowing/raining, and cold. After a lot more walking and working, I had the best Tuna sandwich I’ve ever had for lunch.

I’m not sure what was special about it. I washed it down with some cider– Happy autumn.

I took the subway home. I took the Brown line, which is the line that goes in a circle and connects many of the other lines. Right before I got on the subway I saw this scene and thought it was an interesting view of the city.

That’s about it. I went back to the hotel and

worked more.  I’d like to mention that I think I saw a fancy hooker drop off / pick up from a business man staying at the Hotel. I’d also like to mention that tipping here is interesting. The servers get paid way more than their counterparts in the US (I read somewhere that they make slightly more than teachers, go figure) so tipping is really like an extra.

Also It’s my mom’s birthday tomorrow. I think she’s turning 35 or something. Happy Birthday Mom!!!!



Hello Moscow!!

November 8, 2011

Hi Family and Friends,

I’m safe in the hotel in Moscow. The flight was pretty uneventful, except that it was delayed a little bit because Putin was leaving the airport from Novosibirsk so our plane couldn’t take off until his went due to security reasons. I learned this from a girl that helped me out. I didn’t realise the plain was delayed and it changed gates and none of the airport staff spoke english.

I got to Moscow and it took about 50 minutes to get to the hotel. Colleagues said that it has taken them two hours to get from the airport to downtown so I considered myself lucky. There’s a lot of traffic in Moscow as with any big city but I don’t think I saw it in full effect. When I got to the hotel a girl tried to cut me in line (people don’t really respect the idea of a “line” in Russia it seems…) but i didn’t let her get away with it.

I got into the room and nearly cried with joy because it is really nice and the shampoos are fabulous. I washed my hands to clean them but also to try out the soap and it’s lemony ahhh. Same with all of the shampoos. They provide shampoo, conditioner, soap AND bath gel… wow. No more of the combination “hair and bath gel” i’ve been seeing.

I went down to the hotel restaurant, an Italian restaurant. It was very fancy, and extremely expensive (my most expensive dinner yet) even though I didn’t order very much.  One thing I did get was Mozzarella and Tomato and Basil salad. I almost cried with joy again because it tasted so good. The tomatos were big and not mealy at all, there were basil leaves, and the mozzarella cheese was soft and real mozzarella cheese. I’m not sure what i’ve been eating for the past three weeks…

I had a glass of sparkling wine to celebrate a safe arrival and the shampoos. It was a Russian sparkling wine and pretty dry and quite good. Although i think most wines are good…

Now I’m nine hours ahead of Boston. I’m looking forward to getting to work tomorrow and to seeing the city!!!



even more Novosibirsk

November 6, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Done with another two nice days in Novosibirsk. I’m really enjoying my time here. I think it has to do with the size of the city — I can walk nearly everywhere! Yesterday I was finished and about to get up when 30 huge guys with blue matching uniforms walked into the breakfast room… okay… maybe i’ll have another cup of coffee.

Turns out, it’s the Dynamo Hockey team here from Moscow! Nice. I wanted to say good luck but I didn’t know how. And I also didn’t want to be a bother. I snuck this picture though. Apparently they had a game that evening.

After that exciting breakfast, My work took me past the Novosibirsk train station, a stop on the Trans Siberian Railroad (Ferrocarril!). They let me walk through where you go to the platforms, without a ticket!

After walking around the train station for a little, I continued on with work. Not much else to note about the day. I had a great dinner in a restaurant called “Beerman,” and it was cool because the place was pretty crowded and the food was decent!

They have some crazy garlic bread here that i’m planning to make when I get home. They basically lightly fry some brown bread cut into sticks. So its crispy on the outside and bread on the inside. Then you have a spicy dipping sauce.

No pictures from today so here’s another of the train station.  Today was a Sunday so I slept late. Since there’s not that much to do here, I worked a little, but at a slow, leisurely pace that allowed me to see even more of the city.

For breakfast, I went to a little cafe that had Manti (my new favorite food) and some cabbage salad and some green tea. They didn’t speak English and I think thought it was a little weird that I walked in (the chef was looking at me really funny), but the food was delicious. It seems like usually the best places to eat, at least the most delicious, are the ones that are not speaking English. Of course it’s more difficult to order and sometimes it’ goes wrong, but usually worth the effort.


Novosibirsk Continued

November 4, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Today was a great day in Novosibirsk. I was very productive and got to see the city on a sunnier day.  Here is a picture from my hotel room. Pretty sweet view!

I think you would call these “soviet-style” buildings. While it was mostly cloudy, the sun peeked out a few times. Today was “Unity Day” in Russia. I was worried that stores would be closed forcing me to put off my work, but fortunately, they were not.

As I walked into Lenin Square this morning, I saw many flags and heard loud Music and Speeches.

Here is a picture of the events. I was not able to get any closer because of the security guards. There were Many security guards around the square.  I’m standing at one of the entrances to the subway and underground walkway systems. For pedestrian crossing of major roads, they have underground passages. Some have shops inside. Here’s a picture of the inside of a walkway-subway enterance. 

For lunch, I went to a little cafe with no english. One of the patrons noticed that I was having a lot of trouble ordering so she came over and helped me. I had a fabulous lunch of salad and fried eggs with lots of vegetables. Unlike yesterdays, this salad was great. Lettuce, pine nuts, grilled eggplant and tomatoes, and olive oil dressing. I’m noticing a lot of pine nuts here. Pine nuts and Dill.

After lunch, I went back to Lenin Square and saw these enormous statues close up. I took this picture with the little kid under the statues to show how big they are.

That’s about it. For dinner I ate at the hotel and had some more good salad and salmon and rice. I’m pretty impressed with the food at this hotel.

Hoping for good weather tomorrow! Hope everything is well with you.


Novosibirsk Numero Uno

November 3, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

This morning I left Kazakhstan and flew to Novosibirsk, Russia. Novosibirsk is the capital of Siberia. It’s also an 11 hour time difference from Boston and the furthest East I am going on this survey trip (also the furthest east I’ve ever been in my life!)

Here’s a picture of Atyrau, just because I can.  Atyrau was the first place I went and it feels like a long time ago.  It’s just a rainy street near a supermarket, I think on the Asia side of town. It’s just so you get a sense of what it looks like. I’ll put another one to give more of a sense. Here’s a cool looking mosque, also in Atyrau:

I was so happy to leave Kazakhstan, this morning I had definitely had enough. The “get me out of here” moment came on Tuesday when I was walking down the street. It was freezing and windy and my legs were already stinging from the freezing cold. All of a sudden a bus drove by very rapidly and flicked up the slush on the road Just so that I was hit with an awful icy mud shower in the worst way possible. I got icy mud in my socks, my eyes, my hair. It made me even that much colder and stingy. I’m surprised you didn’t hear me swear thousands of miles away. When I went into a restaurant to warm up and get some tea, I got some serious looks.  “Oh come on this is your stupid city” I tried to tell the people with my eyes and face because I don’t know Russian or Kazakh.  Here’s a picture of a building I thought was very cool. I got hit with the icy mud in that area, but on a much Much grosser day.

I had also gotten tired of the taxi situation. Most people in Kazakhstan essentially hitch hike where they want to go. It’s very common practice to just put out your hand and hail any car that comes by. As woman alone that doesn’t speak any Russian (Many women do use this method of transportation) I was very uncomfortable with this. So, I was limited to going to places in the evening where I knew I’d be able to get someone to call a taxi for me (pretty much hotels and touristy restaurants). While I would usually, have no problem walking, it was too cold and dark and far to go anywhere in the night by foot.

This picture is also from Astana, I’m drinking tea after an absolute FEAST at a Turkish restaurant I went to where no one spoke English. What a fun lunch.

Earlier today, after an uneventful flight and passport control experience, I was ready to find transport to the hotel. However, I needed some Rubles. I went to the ATM machine in the airport and had to try a few times because the ATMs didn’t have any English! So far, the ATMs I’ve used have all had an English option… not here in Novo. Haha! I found that notable. With money in hand, I successfully got a taxi to the hotel. I think Rubles are less cool looking than Kazakh Tenge, they’re a little more boring. Just saying.

We arrived in a cloudy day/ light snowstorm, so the taxi ride from the airport to the hotel didn’t display Novosibirsk and surroundings in the best light. From the taxi, I saw a lot of mud and snow and industrial looking buildings. It felt like what you might expect if you think of winter in a city in Siberia.

I was happy and pretty relieved to find the hotel really nice. After I put down my bags, I went for a little walk to find some lunch. Here’s a picture from the walk. It’s on one of the main streets, Lenin Street. For some reason I thought it would be warmer here than in Astana, but this was incorrect. It’s definitely winter.  Maybe it’s a little less windy, and there are definitely more people walking around. I should have brought my rubber boots. For lunch, I went to a cool downstairs bar that I bet is Awesome in the night. No one spoke English there, and the menu was entirely in Russian, but somehow I got a glass of wine, a Greek salad, and french fries. The wine was decent, the Greek salad was pretty crap, and the french fries were Awesome. I used my phone to show pictures of what I wanted. 🙂 I needed some wine… it was five o’clock in Tokyo. Here’s just another picture from the walk on Lenin Street. This one is looking the opposite direction.

After the walk, I went back to my hotel and had an absolutely Awesome shower. The pressure here is Fantastic and I’m feeling like a new woman. I’m just delighted. I think I’m going to do some work, and then have dinner in the hotel. Not in the strip club in the lobby, but in the restaurant on the second floor.

I forgot to say Happy Halloween, so Happy Belated Halloween.