New Name, New Purpose

As a few of you might have noticed, I’ve changed the name of the blog. I’ve changed its purpose, too, although that’s much less obvious. I’m back home in America now, have been for almost two weeks. Last week I was kept busy with my husband’s kidney stones, but this week I’ve been thinking about what to do about the blog. I didn’t get to write half of the things I wanted to about Russia because of time constraints, but I still want to record a lot of those thoughts. Today I had an epiphany about how to keep this blog going honestly (you know, without me writing while pretending I’m still in Russia).

Here’s the (long, convoluted, stream-of-conscious) story.

I went running today for the first time in a long time. I wanted to try out my new running shoes that I bought last week (lovely, by the way). After two months in Russia, my old running shoes were not worth the suitcase space I saved by chucking them. I almost started my run with McDonald’s as the end goal. You know, reward myself for my hard work. For obvious reasons, I was not quite happy with that and decided just to explore the city a little bit. Yes, explore Provo, Utah. Exploring cities is something that I learned to enjoy in Russia. Wandering wherever the colors call and reading signs and making observations felt like learning in a foreign country. So I thought, Why shouldn’t it feel the same way in America? I’ve lived in this city for over 4 years, but I have no idea what it really has in it. On my mere 25-minute run I found a beautiful Victorian-styled brick building (The Discovery Academy, I believe), wooden overhangs draped with tropical flowers, tacky dalmatian gnomes planted around a fire hydrant in the middle of a yard, and arched windows that I would have taken pictures of had they been in Russia (I wish I had brought my camera). While running/walking home, I started thinking how strange it was that things seemed to merit more attention just because they’re far from home. If those windows deserved a picture in Russia, they darn well deserved a picture in America.

And then I got really excited because I knew what to do. I trained myself to think about things differently while I was in Russia. I tried to take nothing for granted. I was always wondering about the backstory, the characters, the reasons and whys behind things and people. So I’m going to try and keep that up here. I’m going to try and keep up my running with the purpose of exploring Provo rather than run a certain distance or time each day. And I’ll still write about things that I never got to say about Russia.

So basically this blog will become an odd, philosophical, eclectic, mix of Russia and America, my days of traveling and my days of normality. Before, it was about an essayist living in Russia; now, it’s about the new and improved essayist that has come out of Russia.


Cemonov: Land of Spoons: Chainsaws and Modernity

Alright, Cemonov isn’t really famous for just its spoons; it’s also famous for dishes, Russian nesting dolls, and ducks as well. Actually, it’s the woodcarving and painting involved that makes them famous. (But really, I saw the factory workers making Sochi 2014 wooden spoons to sell for the Olympics, so spoons are at least kind of a big deal.) More specifically, the city is famous for its special Xoxlomckaya art style (Those X’s are pronounced as hard H’s (as in Bach). Sorry again for my terrible transliteration skills.). The style is swirly, red, black, gold, and really pretty. It also features berries a lot. Warning: this post will have a lot of pictures in it.

The teacups from my last post are also this style. The silver color you can see in the above picture actually turns gold once it’s been fired, so the final objects turn out looking more like this:

Everything’s hand painted. We got to walk through the workroom where dozens of women were hunched over platters, bowls, chess sets, even computer keyboards, painting swirls and berries on them.  I wonder how long it takes to train someone to work there.

We also got to see a Matroshka (Russian nesting doll) factory.

Looks a little scary doesn’t it? Like those pipes could suddenly fall from the ceiling onto the carving machines. Like it could fall apart at any second. A lot of Russia looks like that actually. I’m a little surprised it hasn’t all fallen apart already.

These are unpainted nesting dolls shaped. There are stacks of logs all over the factory with different radii (as seen in the background). There are workers who carve the logs into the doll shapes and also hollow them out. That’s what this slightly irritated-looking woman is doing, hollowing out a nesting doll.

I even got to paint my own little nesting doll! See, here it is in progress. (This picture is mostly to appease my mother, who probably wishes that more of these pictures had me in them)

And here is the finished product. I did everything except the dotted circles. Some Russian babushka came and did that part for me. And the face was done when I got it. The two large dolls in the back were there for inspiration or something. Maybe just to emphasize that I am, in fact, an American, and cannot paint the Russian style. (Although I can’t really paint in any style…)

Anyways, back to the factory. Besides visiting the main work rooms, we also took a trip to a separate room where two master artisans were working on more complicated things, mostly large serving bowls set in the body of a wooden swan. Absolutely gorgeous.

And I absolutely love this next picture. One of the artisans is carving a woman to stand next to the already carved boy, who it looks like is waiting quite patiently for his friend.

However, I was most interested in this room because it seemed so…out of place? Archaic? Old? In a factory full of electric machines and the mechanized, assembly-line process of creating thousands of dolls, what were these two men doing working with their hands and little tools on individual pieces? And as I stood there and watched, I realized something very important. I realized why Russia intrigues me so, why living here is interesting to me. I figured out the point of friction I keep seeing in Russian life that makes life what it is. (Warning: this post gets increasingly essayistic and philosophic from this point forward.)

The friction is the strength of tradition in the face of modernity. The weakness of tradition in the face of modernity. Either, for better or for worse. You see, if you didn’t already know, Russia is old. Like, ancient. Like a wise grandfather to the crying toddler of America. They’ve got churches and buildings still standing that were built 1,000 years ago. Cities were built around ancient fortresses which made for a circular city plan (if you can even call it that) with crooked, narrow streets and no space for enough traffic lanes and definitely no space for parking lots (I have a whole soapbox about driving and parking here, but this post is long enough without it). Russia wasn’t built to anticipate modernity. It was built so long ago that no one could have possibly anticipated that things would change.

But things are changing. People have cars now and need somewhere to park. Old buildings need to be re-wired for electricity and air-conditioning. Every apartment building I’ve seen here is a giant rectangular block of cement that looks ancient and unwelcoming and dangerous (standards of fire safety and cleanliness and all that). But these buildings will still be here 50 years from now. 100 years from now. An eternal testament to the strict efficiency of communist architecture.

There’s a conflict because new technology and greater “civilization” are creeping across the globe, but there’s no easy way to implement it properly in the existing grid of every society. It’s like cramming a round peg into a square whole.

But still, people try, and the points of friction that trying creates are fascinating to me. Like this picture from the master artisans’ room:

Rickety wooden chair? Check. Giant block of wood? Check. Chain saw? Check. What’s a chain saw doing in the room? What did the carvers from three generations ago use? Why has this part of the process become modernized, but not the detail work? Why are there hand-carvers chipping away next to a chainsaw. It’s so anachronistic. Russia is anachronistic. It’s a manifestation to the back-and-forth between the past and the present, between how things were done then and how they should be done now. You know, the more I think about it, the more I think it’s all about that word should. Maybe part of the friction I’m feeling here is because I feel that modern things  should be a certain way. That certain advances, like chain saws or cars for example, should be accepted completely and entirely into every possible part of society instead of haphazardly sewn into its fabric in whatever ways are possible. I suppose it’s just strange to live in a place that was built to function hundreds of years ago. The world functions differently now.

And to end, here is another picture from Cemonov. It is a statue of an artist holding a paintbrush and a duck.

Your argument is invalid.

Russian Drinks (and no, it’s probably not what you think)

Disclaimer required by the title: Aside from this disclaimer, this post contains no reference to alcohol, drunkards, or vodka. I’ve only actually met one drunk person here in Russia (we asked her for directions at about 11:00 one night before we realized she wasn’t quite sober. I still can’t believe she didn’t trip on the several curbs she navigated. Points for Russian balance), and I’ve seen about a dozen fliers for the Russian equivalent of an Alcoholics Anonymous group. And, on the nation’s biggest holiday, May 9th, Victory Day, stores in Moscow weren’t selling alcohol. That day was about more than just getting drunk, and so is all of Russia, contrary to almost every Russian ethnic joke out there.

On to the actual post.

Did you know that last Friday (I’m pretty sure…some time last week) I had a half hour discussion with Anna about Russian water? Just drinking water, not even the ocean or lake kind. Actually, that’s a ridiculous question. Of course you didn’t know. I think what I meant to ask was this: Did you know it is in fact possible to have a half an hour discussion in broken Russian about the different options available to thirsty Russians? Me either. And did you know that doctors here in Russia prescribe different waters (identified by numbers) with different chemicals like potassium or calcium to patients? (That chemistry course from years ago was finally useful. Boy am I glad that Mendeleev’s chart and it’s abbreviations are universal. (Small side note: when I asked her, Anna said that Mendeleev was the dead person from history she would most like to meet. It actually made me feel uncultured.)) Also, did you know that in Russia, like most of Europe I’m told, it is actually easier to buy carbonated water than non-carbonated water? And (you probably already knew this one) the Russian government tells everyone that the tap water is safe to drink, but my host family still filters it then boils it then filters it again before drinking it (alright, you probably didn’t know that last part). I’d been advised before I’d even left the States not to drink the water here, so every other day here (at least) I buy a 1.5 liter water bottle (I seriously drink way more water than anyone I know). The best thing is that these water bottles, besides being stretchy-backpack-side-pouch compatible, are under a dollar each. Closer to 50 cents on sale, and at least one of the seven popularly stocked brands always is (there are probably not actually seven brands, but there are a lot). Here’s my collection thus far, minus two or three that I’ve thrown away. The propel bottle on the left is supposed to work as a scale–it’s one of the larger 24 oz. ones:

I’d like to bring one or two home (stuffed with chocolate eggs so as not to waste space in the suitcase of course) to use at home, but we’ll see if that actually happens (read: I maybe over-packed and also bought souvenirs, so suitcase space will be at a premium when I leave for home).

And on the subject of Russian beverages, tea is wonderful. (See how nice that transition was?) Coming here, I underestimated just how much tea Russians drink. For my first few weeks, after hearing that I don’t drink “chai,” Irina, my host mother, would get me a glass of juice after every meal while she and Anna had tea. After having many, many glasses of grapefruit (as sour as ever), apple (pretty much the same as American), orange (different than American, but I can’t quite put my finger on how), and pumpkin juice (surprisingly unpleasant, but I’ve never been one for pumpkin pie either), I decided to try some herbal tea. Camomile to be precise. Jessica recommended it to me, and I find that I quite enjoy it. I tried mint tea a while back, and found that I like that too. I’m not sure if it’s that I really like tea or am just craving something that doesn’t taste so…Russian. No mayonnaise or oil or kolbasa or cabbage (although I love me some cooked cabbage). Last week I bought some Rosehip tea at the closet thing I’ve seen to a Walmart in the city. I was mostly curious about the name (it’s so romantic sounding), but it didn’t quite live up to it’s ethereal moniker. I’ve been told the problem may be that I bought Lipton, which, apparently, is not really all the commercials crack it up to be (what really is, though?).

Today (which was actually Monday, but was “today” when I first drafted this post) was a very tea-full day.

First Tea: Today, I visited a little tea shop with Kylie, Jessica, and Chiarra. It sold mostly loose leaf tea (which sounds altogether much too complicated for me) and had very adorable (and Japanese) tea cups and sets. (Update: Irina actually went to the store later and bought me some loose leaf hisbiscus tea. How nice of her! It’s a touch bitter but still delicious and much easier to prepare than I thought…and maybe more fun.)

Second Tea: After the tea shop, I went to a Spar grocery store and bought six different types of Greenfield herbals teas. Testing time! I’m going to give a few of each to the other girls in the program who love tea, so we can can all try as many as possible. I’m excited to try them all!

Third Tea: I made my very own cup of tea today. Which means that I lit the gas stove with a match for the first time (only took me two matches) and put the kettle on (wow…that phrase has never actually been useful to me before…who’d have thought) and poured hot water into a cup without burning or spilling anything and then swilled a tea bag around in the cup for five minutes. I tried a tea called “Festive Grape,” which is worth having again. Then I gave in and had a second cup, this one of “Creamy Rooibos,” which is a tea made from an African bush as Irina was telling me.

Tip for new tea drinkers: the best part is when you first put the tea bag in the steaming hot water and watch the colors leech out of the bag and into the water. This is most satisfying with darker red or purple teas, but a nice burnt orange is also fun to watch. (Wow, that sentence sounded much more experience than I meant it to. I’ve only had about 7 types of tea in my life; I promise.)

I shall definitely be bringing this tea tradition back with me to the states, along with these charming teacups and spoons I bought in Cemonov last week.

James likes camomile tea too! Or at least he did in Peru. Hence the second cup. In addition to these cups and the tea tradition, I shall also bring home between 50 and 500 individual tea bags of Greenfield tea that you can only buy in England, Russia, or online. They won’t take up much suitcase room, especially in vacuum-sealed bags.

The City in the Wilderness

Cutting to the chase in this post. This is a picture of me about 50 feet away from the geographical center of the city of Nizhny Novgorod, the fifth most populated city in the Russian Federation.

Yes, that is what looks like a thousand miles of wilderness behind me. In front of me is a beautiful street with museums and other historic buildings with lovely Greekish stone carvings, but across the river, there’s…just…nothing. We talked about the concept of простор in one of our Russian Concepts class. простор translates as wilderness or open/free space. No people, no civilization, nothing. The closest thing to this that we have in America that I can think of is the middle part of the drive between Utah and Arizona (although maybe I only remember so much nothing there because I make the trip several times a year) or perhaps the northern part of states near the Canada border. (Actually Canada probably has this concept down pretty well, too.) But the idea, as far as I can tell, is that there’s still a ton of uncivilized wilderness (thousands and thousands of square miles) right alongside all the modernized, bustling cities. It’s really a strange concept, but this city illustrates it perfectly. This picture was taken pretty close to the Kremlin, the ancient fortress the city was built around, and I guess everyone only built in one direction (across another river, so crossing water wasn’t that big of a deterrent). I don’t know exactly what to make of this part of Russia. It’s almost a testament to the futility of civilization or the power of nature. No matter how old a people or a civilization, they still are intruders on the barren and dangerous wilderness that rules the land. But civilization is expanding every day, for better or for worse. Maybe one day, all of Russia will be either bustling city or geometrically roped off and carefully preserved State Parks. What then? What will be lost along with this concept of простор?

Death of a Babushka

Last week, I almost ran into a coffin walking into the building. I opened the iron outer door quickly because it was dark outside and ran past the dark landing, where it stood. It’s funny that I even recognized it; there must be something about that slant of wood, narrowing as it reaches the floor, ingrained into the subconscious after too many vampire movies. I caught a quick glimpse of the telling slant and shivered. I wished that I were brave enough to go back and see if it was really a coffin, but I admit, I totally chickened out. No worry though, because I saw it the next day leaning up against the outside of the building under the ramada. A real coffin, alright.

When I saw it, I was even more surprised that I had recognized it. Pick patterned fabric, white frills, a golden cross, a tinsel wreath, and a photo. And I immediately had several questions:

1. Why was the coffin pink? Did the woman pictured on the front pick it out before she died or did one of her grandchildren or something? It seemed to match the design of apartments in Ukraine I saw. I’ve never thought much of the design taste of Russian babushkas; their homes make me feel a little claustrophobic and anxious.

2. Did she have somebody when she died? Children? Grandchildren? Probably not a husband. There are so many babushkas here because so many men died in the world war. (Some scholars estimate that 50 million people died in the Soviet Union between 1905 and 1945.) There are a lot of widows in this country. Who found her?

3. Why was her coffin on the front porch? Was there a funeral parlor who came by and checked porches every week? Why was she out there all by herself? And where was she destined to end up? Did the neighbors think this was strange or was it just the way things were done?

The coffin was gone when I left for school the next day. Must have been a scheduled pick up. Maybe I’ll ask Irina and see if she knows anything. Because I’m very curious about it all.

My Peanut Butter and Finding Russian Chocolates

My peanut butter is chocolate.

Explanation: our professor told us before we came to decide what our “peanut butter” was, meaning what item we would really want and would remind us of home in Russia but we wouldn’t be able to buy there. For a lot of people, it’s peanut butter. For me, it’s not. (If anyone reading this does not know, I’m allergic to peanuts and all tree nuts, which I’ve been told is generally tragic, but only makes me sad because I can’t have hazelnut chocolate on a regular basis which is really delicious.) When I came to Russia, I packed a small bags of Rolos, two milk chocolate Dove bars, and two bags of Dove Bliss chocolates (which really are as good as they sound) to act as my peanut butter (and a giant ziploc baggy of glodfish crackers, but that is not important to this post). I’ve learned from experience that it can be difficult to find European chocolate without any traces of nuts (especially hazelnuts). Really, that Dove chocolate helped a lot in the…adjusting phase…of the first two weeks. But I also have this goal to find delicious European/Russian chocolate to bring home. Cue story 1:

Last week, my host mother Irina told me about this little local candy store in the city. It’s across the street from the grocery store where we usually buy lunch (another story about that store in a minute), and I’ve been there three times in the past week. The first time I asked the candy counter lady for their most delicious chocolate candy without nuts. I got a handful of little dark chocolate eggs with colored, flavored (I always want to spell this word like the British…) centers. One of the three flavors is strawberry (I think), and I have no idea about the others. One might be lilac, but that might just be a placebo flavor granted by the light purple color. The other one is green, so I don’t even know what to think about it. Regardless of the official flavors, they are delicious, and I plan to buy a kilogram (which sounds like a good amount, even though I don’t know exactly how much chocolate this is) of them to bring home and pop them into the water bottles that I also want to pack home to save space. (I have a collection of about a dozen 1.5 liter water bottles which are rather thin and tall and convenient. The chocolates just barely fit inside them. What a way to save space!) Yesterday, I asked the candy counter lady to try a handful of nutless chocolates, which took more explaining than I thought it would. I ended up with 5 different sorts and tried them with varying results:

1. I expected the first one I tried to be aerated chocolate (based on the bouncy hand motions the candy counter lady made), but it was actually thinly coated marshmallow (which makes a lot more sense thinking back on the hand motions). That is, I think it was marshmallow, still not entirely sure. It may have been some sort of cheese; one never can tell with Russian cheese. It wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great either.

2. The second one I tried was creme brule flavored. The chocolate tasted a little too cooked for me, but it’s Becky’s favorite chocolate, so it must just be me.

3. The third one I tried had a white “soft iris” center and was generally confusing.

4. This one was very rich, cocoa-dusted chocolate that Kaye loved but, alas, that I turned out to be allergic to. I think it was the whey powder.

5. This was a cognac truffle, which I’m pretty sure means it had a small amount of alcohol in it, which is a shame because it was actually my favorite taste (very filling, sophisticated, rich, and a little bitter), which is also a shame because I was allergic to this one too. Also probably the whey powder. It was almost worth it, since it was a very slight reaction. Actually, it might be a good diet plan: one truffle around lunch time every day, which will make me effectively lose my appetite until dinnertime! (Totally joking; I could never actually skip lunch intentionally.)

I’ll probably go back to the store late this week and ask for another round of trial chocolates (I’m a glutton for punishment I guess). I hope the candy counter people aren’t annoyed with me yet for only buying a few of many kinds of chocolates.

And now for the promised grocery store story, also dealing with chocolate, which is a nice segue, don’t you think? I found this absolutely divine brand of dark-chocolate glazed dried fruits. I’ve tried cherry and mango, and they make my previous chocolate quest failures worth it. I’ll be bringing a bunch of these back to the states too. Also, at this store today I tried buckwheat, macaroni, and salad for lunch, being rather tired of cheese and bread. I have also decided that Russian mayonnaise is better than whatever I’ve been eating in the states. And I successfully asked a store manager today (in Russian) if the store had small packets of mayonnaise, and I didn’t even have to repeat myself. Really, it’s all about the small victories. Like my own, hard-earned mayonnaise for my salad at lunch.

Tomorrow we’re taking a trip to a little village call Cemonov (or something like that; my Russian-English transliteration skills are somewhat confused). We spent our culture class today discussing the artisans that live there and their special artistic styles. Especially their beautiful dishware. Especially their spoons. I’m super excited! You probably gathered from my first post (sub-titled “Salmon and Spoons”) that spoons are kind of a big deal. In fact, I just bought a wooden spoon for my husband’s birthday on Sunday that he can cook with. I hope to find a set of beautiful, Russian decorated spoons. Pictures to come soon! Until then, here’s a hilarious random picture of a t-shirt James found while second-hand shopping with Kaye and I.

In case you can’t read it, the bottom says “I can see Russia from my igloo.” And that’s Sarah Palin. In Russia. Isn’t that just the greatest?

Also, here’s me with an owl.

Robbed in Russia: Case No. 370708

“On the 5th of May, an unknown third party stole broke into the apartment I was staying at and stole valuables.” That’s the first sentence of a statement I had to sign at a police station today. Well, a translation of the first sentence, which was, of course, written in Russian. I had to go to the station today to verify my statement with a translator because I have the “right to give evidence in my native language.” Or something like that. Really, the story isn’t as exciting as it sounds. My basic statement went something like this:

  • I left for a class field trip to the museum at about 10:00. I thought about taking my money belt, but it was uncomfortable and awkward. I knew I wouldn’t be buying anything and I wouldn’t be gone for very long, so I decided to leave it home. I threw it on my bed as I ran out the door because, like usual, I was running a little late. This becomes important, and slightly ironic, later.
  • I returned home at 2:30. It was the first time that I was able to easily unlock the door with my key (the doors are really different over here, okay?), so I distinctly remember hearing the two clicks as the deadbolts slid back. No one else was home, and I went to my room and got on my computer.
  • At about 2:40, Irina got home, and Anna got home a little after her. Irina came into my room and asked me if I’d been looking through the bookcase in the living room. There was a mess on the floor around it, magazines and random boxes strewn around. I told them it wasn’t me, they said it wasn’t them either, and Irina went to check the valuables and realized that their gold jewelry had been stolen.
  • Irina asked me if they’d taken anything from me, and I went to check my money belt. It was still on the bed where I’d left it, but all the cash was gone: 2,000 rubles and about 100 US dollars. They’d left my credit card, which had been right next to the money, and didn’t take my laptop either, which I had left on the desk. Really, I consider myself lucky that the thief was only looking for untraceable things; it could have been so much worse.

Okay, my actual statement had none of the personal commentary, but that’s the story. It’s rather ironic that we got robbed the one day I left my money belt at home, where I figured it would be safe. After realizing we were robbed, Irina called the police. Over the next few hours, about 8 officers showed up. One dusted the apartment with a black powder looking for fingerprints. One dressed in blue and grey camouflage brought in a German Shepherd to sniff around (I have no idea why). A blonde officer, who I later learned was a Senior Lieutenant, asked the neighbors what had happened. The (somewhat hairy and very pot-bellied) man in apartment 35 answered their persistent knocking in just boxer shorts and said, “Can I have a minute?,” which seems like it’s something that should be (and probably is) in a TV detective/crime show. She asked Irina and Anna several questions while I waited outside on the cement landing and the dusting officer took my fingerprints.

Funny side story: after I’d been fingerprinted and was sitting out on a bench on the stair landing, this crazy old babushka came upstairs. She was wearing a neon yellow headband and a red shirt with cats on it that said “Fun!” She ambled all the way to the top landing and started banging at an apartment and yelling at someone named Svet to open the door. After a few moments of silence, she walked back downstairs, only to return about five minutes later to do the same thing. This happened three or four times, and on the last trip that I saw she sat down beside me and started talking to me. I have absolutely no idea what she was saying (she was a mumbler…but I think I heard the phrase “50 years,” so maybe she was talking about whoever lived in the apartment), so I just sat and smiled and nodded until Irina called me inside.

I had to give my statement to the blonde officer, who didn’t speak English. No one did in fact, which was a problem, since the first person at the scene of the crime most definitely did not speak Russian. With Anna and a dictionary we managed to get a statement out, but the police wanted me to come in today and verify it with a professional translator. (Everything, in fact, was accurate, except that they had assumed that I was single. When I told the blonde officer today that I was married she looked really surprised and said, “Really?! Good job.” Umm, thanks?

Some of my classmates were super excited to hear that I got to go to a Russian police station as a purely innocent person and wanted to know all about it (especially if the translator spoke with an American or British accent [And I just realized that Anna asked me the same question today…curious. Anyway, the accent was definitely American, but our Phonetics professor has a British accent when she speaks English, which is endlessly amusing]). The building was super old, but that’s to be expected. I sat in two chairs while I was there: 1) a hair-covered-blanket-covered chair (I have no idea how to punctuate that. The chair was covered with a blanket that was covered in hair. Make sense?). You could see the wood through the moth-eaten cloth covering the arms, and 2) a folding chair with the back punched out, just a nice metal bar across the top. The walls were painted nicely though, a bright turquoise on the first floor and a light gold on floors 2-4. The officer who questioned me was the same blonde officer from the first day. The translator was a young-looking woman named Kate. She had a dark bob and really lovely amber eyes (which is odd because I almost never notice eye color unless I’m specifically looking for it.

Altogether, I was impressed with the Russian police. They’d already ran comparisons on the fingerprints and identified some that weren’t mine, Anna’a, or Irina’s. They also had cut the lock out of the old door once we got a new one (apparently the whole door was the problem and had to be replaced, not just the lock) to find out how the thief broke in and entered (this was a fun conversation, mostly because the words for “lock” and “castle” are only differentiated by an accent, so I spent a few sentences wondering why we were suddenly talking about castles. [I also accidentally told Anna today that I was glad it was cold because that meant all the squids were dead. But there will be time for amusing Russian language mishaps later; I digress]). I had to sign about twenty things saying that I had been told about the investigation and my rights to remain silent and not testify against myself or my husband and waive the right of a translator and receive about 5,000 rubles if they found the thief and other things. I have no illusions that I will ever see my money again, but I appreciated the effort. I imagine that it’s very similar to the way American police stations are run.

Three interesting/random things I noticed at the police station:

  1. The most Russian thing about the place was a poster on the wall with a picture of Putin. Under it were the words “Putin also wasn’t always the president.” Not a great translation, but basically saying that everyone has to start somewhere; we can’t all be presidents at once. I’m still confused at how the general population sees Putin, but I thought it was interesting.
  2. Opposite the picture of Putin was a picture of a raccoon standing on its hind legs holding a kitten. The caption underneath read “And you’ve lost your little cat!” I think. I’m so confused about this picture. Especially because the kitten may or may not have had a raccoon tail; I couldn’t tell. I wish I had asked about it.
  3. There was a collection of Nesquick bunny stickers on the filing cabinet. A bunch were duplicates. I couldn’t help but notice that three poses had only 1 sticker, one pose had 2  stickers, one pose had 3 stickers, one pose had 4 stickers, and one pose had 5 stickers. 17 stickers all together. I don’t even know what to think about those

Here’s a terrible picture of me outside the police station. Yep, impressive building, I know.