molly mccleery in moscow

March 31, 2013

In August 2005, Molly McCleery and I attended Truman State’s “Truman Week,” which was basically a week of “get-to-know-you” type games, club intro meetings, and lectures/presentations; it was sorta like church camp minus God.

Molly and I were both enrolled in Dr. Tornatore’s intermediate Spanish class for Truman Week, and we both giggled when he politely asked the class, “Ladies, may I remove my jacket?” Molly was cool and alternative and so over Truman Week. So was I. Allegedly, I wore a brown-gypsy-like skirt that Molly found cool. Molly had a Fall Out Boy t-shirt, so I knew she was cool.  We would both like to forget these wardrobe choices.

Since August 2005, we have taken classes together (some semesters the number of classes we chose to take together was just embarrassing), lived together, completed grad school 4 hours apart (together), and had many adventures, most of them involving road trips across America’s beautiful Midwest, tallboys, animal crackers, bands that play harmonica, and/or snow.

We had never been to Moscow, though. After 7.5 years, we can finally check that one off the list.

Molly has promised to write a guest blog entry about her visit, so I won’t say much, but I have to at least say a few things:

1. Having someone here to tour guide around made me realize that I know a lot more about Moscow than I thought. Like, I know where things are. And I know how to navigate metro stops. And I know hip restaurants/cafes/coffee shops. Even when we got “lost,” we were never really lost because I knew where we were and where we needed to go.

I also know way more Russian than I thought. I realized this when we were trying to have syrniki, coffee, and reading time near Red Square and Maxim (a forty-ish year old Russian dude who was five vodkas in) wouldn’t stop hitting on us. When he said (in Russian), that I was beautiful and then that Molly was beautiful, I knew reading time was over. And we left.

2. While we visited some of my favorite spots, having Molly here encouraged me to see some new sight-seeing things.

We went inside the Kremlin…

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I tried to sneak into the Kremlin Palace.

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There were many cathedrals and even more icons.

We also went to the Fallen Monument Park, which houses Soviet sculptures. This place is incredibly cool.

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USSR. SONY DSC

Molly founds this cage of Stalin heads. Only heads. SONY DSC

Out of the numerous Stalin statues, I was drawn to this one. No one seems to notice that his face is partly gone. Also, someone had recently left flowers there. Which was…well…surprising to us.

Also, because Molly was here, I had the courage to talk to the Vladimir Putin look-alike at Red Square. When he wanted to charge 1000 rubles (and then quickly 700 and then 500) for a photo with him and his fake Russian flags, I was like “Dude, you cray cray.”

3. It was so nice to just do normal, best friend things. Like making brunch and dinner together. And watching really intense, thought provoking historical dramas like Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. And having a breakdown when Russia dumped more snow on us (on March 24th) and not having to have that breakdown alone. And laughing, so much laughing. Molly was quite taken with the Russian children who can’t put their arms down because of their snowsuits.

Molly said she would only buy a matryoshka if it was the size of a thimble. Naturally, when I found a thimble-sized matryoshka, I insisted she buy it. We then began taking photos for an art installment called “Baby Matryoshka.”

I call this one, “Baby Matryoshka or Really Big Chair?”

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Winter Sports 2013

March 4, 2013

Cabin fever is real. Before I came back to the States for Christmas, I was dumb. Despite ice on the sidewalks and temperatures around zero (windchill around negative fifteen), I still ran outside when I didn’t go to the pool. One sunny Saturday, I ran outside for only ten minutes before my hands started stinging, despite wearing winter running gloves. By the time I got back to my apartment (another ten minutes), they were numb. I laid on top of them in my bed for an hour crying, hoping they would come back to normal in time for the party I was attending that night. They did, but they were bright red.

Now that I’ve stopped being dumb–as this post will attest to–I fully expect to avoid any lectures this opening story might incite from well meaning parents, grandparents, aunts, and Joys, Mollys or Svetlanas. Deal?

MeI’m not sporty, but I am a pretty active human being. I missed running and walking and biking and gardening and the active life Lawrence let me have. I returned to Russia in January knowing I didn’t want to almost lose my hands again. Nor did I want to break something slipping on the ice. Enter winter sports.

Ice Skating

There are a number of places to ice skate in Moscow. Two of the most popular rinks are at Red Square and in Gorky Park. I’m sure that the rink at Red Square is quaint and lovely and historical. You  might even catch Vladimir Putin there since it’s in his backyard and all. SONY DSC

But Gorky Park is awesome. At night, it is all aglow and they pump music and I’m sure that all the teenagers hang out there. It is the largest ice skating rink in Europe.

I went with some professors from NES on a Saturday. It was sunny, but cold cold cold. I didn’t know this until a few months ago, but the sunnier days are colder because the fog traps the warmth and keeps it in. I fight myself on what I want regarding this.SONY DSC

Luckily, the Russians knew it would be cold, so they stayed home. There was almost no line to get skates. Then we skated. That’s it.

Incredibly Expensive Gym Membership–World Class Gym 

Okay, this is not a winter sport. Not at all. I run on a treadmill and lift weights and I will likely start swimming soon. But, it’s a whole new cultural acclimation, mostly because it gives me access to Russian TV, Russian music videos (which are actually white Russian rappers mixed in with Jennifer Lopez and the occasional Will Smith “Men in Black”–yessssssssss!), and Russian radio (which I’ve found is mostly Rhianna and Lady Gaga).

America’s Next Top Model comes on in the mornings; in Russian of course, but fierce knows no language boundary. On weekend mornings I watch Soviet cartoons. And sometimes, the Russian version of Hidden Camera comes on. They don’t really talk, but just make exaggerated hand gestures.  They have about 10 pranks per 30 minute episode. At least two of the pranks involved the prankster having an object (cell phone, notebook, etc) stuck in their butt (I’m serious) and then asking the person being pranked if they’d seen said object. I feel like telling you of the other pranks is completely unnecessary.

And, up until today, I had made no major faux pas at this gym. Apparently I’ve been offending two twins in their mid-fifties by wearing my down coat into the locker room. Ever had a locker room full of Russian women lecture you? Good fun.

The gym is incredibly swanky and if I told you how much it cost, you would be surprised and maybe you would judge me. But, since it’s been blizzarding and hanging out around 15 degrees for the last four days, I’m quite happy.

Broomball

IMG_2770I’ve only played broomball once, so I certainly cannot speak as an authority. It’s basically hockey without skates and a ball instead of a puck. You wear padded pants, padded shorts, knee pads, and elbow pads. You wear an over-sized jersey and if you’re on team U.S.A, it says “Frozen Assets” with a dollar sign in the center. When you only fall five times throughout the course of a game, you will consider yourself incredibly lucky. You will fall on bones and muscles you didn’t know you had. Your neck might be sore from holding up your helmet.

The embassies play broomball every year. The Germans flood two of their tennis courts–and voila–ice. I met up with people outside of the US Embassy, which meant that I had to show my passport after 24 seconds of standing outside the Embassy on the sidewalk (you can’t just stand outside the US Embassy…). When we got to the German Embassy, though, they just let us right in. I didn’t even show my passport. IMG_2772

When I first started putting on my gear, the pair of shorts on load to me had “Bollinger” written inside. I took it as a sign. But they were way too big, so I traded them in.

After we finished getting dressed, we caught the last part of two of the men’s games–Canada versus Russia and Germany versus someone…France? The Canadians were not happy; neither were the Germans.

IMG_2776Then our game started. We played the Finns, who are,  not surprisingly, good at broomball, since it is running on ice and Finland is cold.  I did nothing notable, good or bad.  They kicked our butts.

I would like to go cross country skiing but I’m not sure this will happen. A few Muscovites have encouraged me to buy my own pair of skis. “They’re not expensive,” they insist. What they fail to realize is how small my small apartment really is, that buying a fan at Ашан a few weekends ago and the equipment I acquired this past weekend at broomball has almost put me over the limit of “items for which I have floorspace.” I work endlessly to not acquire things here, and somehow, despite my best efforts, I am acquiring.