Sunday, February 22, 2009

How We Take Taxis in Russia

The whole "gypsy cab" process explained:

Here is what they are saying in English:

Putin: Good evening. Will you drop me off at the Kremlin?
Driver: Do you know the way?
Putin: Not very well. I'm from St. Petersburg.
Driver: How much?
Putin: Well, I don't know. 200? [About $6US these days]
Driver: Let's agree on 300 and go!
Putin: No, for 300 I will not go. Excuse me.
Driver: Okay, let's go.
Putin: Excuse me, may I? [These lights give civilian cars priority in traffic. Think Kojak. Except everyone in Russia has one.]
Driver: No need. I've got my own.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Snapshots of Moscow (Except I Didn't Have My Camera)

Argh! How often have I stumbled on something hilarious or horrible or incredible and not had my camera! That said, I think there are folks who would not appreciate having someone document them for an international audience (yeah, I'm taking some liberties with that definition).

Anyhow, in no particular order, since Friday I have seen the following:

1. While in line at the grocery store I find myself behind a woman in a powder blue fur coat. It's really fluffy fur (I have no idea what it could be). She looks like she is wearing a pale blue cloud of cotton candy. Her hair is bleached a very pale blond and pulled back tightly in a slicked down chignon. Her cart is full of party supplies: clear plastic cups, white paper plates, packages of sliced salami. She has about four baguettes.

As she leans over into the cart to retrieve her items, she can't help but raise one foot in an arabesque. Her shoe is practically in my face. This shoe. Note that on eBay, this shoe goes for $545.

I watch Sex in the City. I know shoes this expensive exist. But I have never had real designer shoes, Jimmy Choos no less, right under my nose.

How can anyone walk outside on the Moscow sidewalks in $545 shoes? How can anyone walk in these shoes at all.

They were gorgeous. The photo doesn't do them justice.


I'm completely green with envy.

2. Last night while waiting for a friend at the exit of the Lenin Library Metro (in the under-the-street-mall part . . . not where I saw the Pooping Guy. But close.) I saw what had to be a Person in Transition. How can you tell if someone is a transsexual? I've heard some people say the wrists are a dead give away. This person was extremely tall, wearing black high-heeled boots and an orange silky skirt under a black wool coat. She had on just a bit too much blue eye shadow. And she was perusing the kiosk that sells lingerie. (Yeah. You can buy lingerie in the Metro. Don't ask me how that works.)

I tried to get a photo of her with my mobile phone, but she decided to look at the purse vendor instead. I didn't want to stalk.

3. But while turning to see where she went, my eye caught a nicely-dressed woman . . . swivel. That's the only word for the movement. She swiveled. She looked to be about my age . . . maybe a little younger. She was wearing a sporty-looking pink, suede jacket with pink fur trim on the hood. She looked like someone's mom. And she was . . . weaving. She looked drunk.

I was wondering, "What if she's having a stroke?" (That's what Aeroflot said was responsible for their obviously drunk pilot a few months ago.) I know there are some simple questions you're suppose to ask someone you suspect is having a stroke.

NB: I had to google them. Turns out we should ask the person to
  1. Smile (look for one-sided facial weakness)
  2. Raise both arms (look for them to be raised at the same height)
  3. Speak a simple sentence (listen for slurring)
Now: how to do this in Russian?

But crisis averted. She ricochets over to the ticket kasse (there are ticket booths around town, often in or near the Metro, where you can buy tickets to all sorts of cultural events). Ticket Kasse Lady greets her like a sister. Hands her some tickets. Huh. She doesn't seem to think anything is wrong. Maybe the woman has already had a stroke and always walks a little funny? Ya think?

3a. (Because it wasn't weird at all) The Spouse took me and a friend to a totally cool little bar/restaurant not far from his office last night. Above an old theater, the joint used to be a restaurant for actors only. Now it has a charming ambiance, high ceilings with crown moldings, a bar you can actually belly up to, a pleasant menu (I had the pâté assortment and it was good), and very reasonable prices.

4. While walking home around 11:00, I saw two young women riding horses in the park in the middle of Tverskoy Bulvar. Actually, it is not that unusual to see people riding at odd hours because the traffic is less of an issue then.

5. Today, while walking through the under-the-street underpass by Triumfalnaya Ploshad/Square, I heard music. Often young guys with guitars hang out there. Some of them play while their buddies hit up the pedestrians for money. They are never interesting enough to make me want to give them anything. Plus, I resent being pressured.

But today there was an older woman wearing the most incredibly thick and woolly sort of fur coat I have ever seen. With the hood up, she looked like Mama Bear. She was sitting at an electronic keyboard, playing classical music, while wearing gloves. That's gotta be tough, no?

I met The Spouse and the children for lunch at Starlite Diner (I love Starlite Diner. They always have the best music playing.) and when we walked back, she was still there. I made The Spouse give me some money for her. Baboo put it in her tip jar.

New Topic: Monday, the girls and I go to Bratislava until March 6. So things might be a bit quiet here Chez Beet. If you remember, stop by and vote for the blog. Here's the link again. There's not much in it for the winner, but I have a real competitive streak. Then, next month, go back and vote for the woman with the DogCents blog. Seems like a real worthy cause.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thoughts on Sex Ed

The talks with the kids recently have made me think about my own education on the topic and some of the more amusing (I hope) aspects of that. If it isn't too mortifying, post your own in the comments section. Oh, heck: the more mortifying, the better, right?

One of my earliest memories of being aware of even understanding all of this was going to camp and having to get a check up at the doctor's and fill out a form. I must have been in about fifth grade, which would make me roughly the age Baboo is now. There was a question on the form about menstruation, and I remember explaining what that meant to a girlfriend who was also going to camp. I'll have to ask her if she remembers that conversation (it was on the sidewalk in front of my house) and if what I said had any basis in reality.

As for the mechanics of reproduction, I thought it was all involuntary. Like ovulation. You can't control it. It just happens. Women have this small window of time in which they can conceive, and most of the time it sort of just sneaks up on you.

I thought it was the same for men. No one explained the concepts of lust or, heaven forbid, just plain friction. So I thought erections were spontaneous (I guess in teenage boys they sort of are) and had this hysterical image in my head of the executive, hurriedly leaving a meeting in the middle of the workday because "Oh, no! Here it comes!" and running home to his wife. I never did work out how husband and wife both explained that they had to leave work RIGHT NOW! At least, junior feminist that I was, I had it in my head that they both worked outside the home.

The image still cracks me up.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The (Dreaded) F-Word


What does it always have to be flossing? First the kegels. Now this. The endless Middle Age Maintenance. When does it end? The grave?

It's been painful to chew on my left side for ages now. I already had one filling replaced, but the problem didn't go away. Last night my tooth felt . . . sensitive. At lunch, too. Honestly, I always thought people who complained about sensitive teeth were wimps.

At my medical center across the street they scheduled me with a new guy. French and oh, so fragrant. I love having my head tucked into a B.O. armpit. Almost as much as I like hearing, "I'm going to give you some anesthesia here so I can clean under the gums." Indeed, I didn't feel a thing. I also can't breathe on the left side of my nose right now.

Continuing in the F-word vein, Baboo has been having sex education at school these days. They are supposed to understand how the opposite sex is set up and "human reproduction." So it has been a hot topic Chez Beet.

They both understand conception, but what about contraception? I tried the Woody Allen line about oral contraception ("I want to tell you a terrific story about oral contraception. I asked this girl to sleep with me, and she said 'No.' ").

C'mon. It's funny.

They just blinked at me in a "Oh, Mo-ther!" way. Maybe they don't see the humor. Or maybe they think teaching abstinence is futile.

The topic came up again at lunch today.

"We do it, you know," I pointed out.

"Yeah, well, we wish you wouldn't," came the reply.


The moaning. The groaning. It's off-putting. We don't need anymore children, do we? They think we should just wait. Until they've moved out.

I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, they should be glad their parents have more than "hallway sex" (where we say "fuck you" when we pass each other in the hall). On the other hand, if they find the idea horrific, maybe it will delay their interest in doing it themselves. I want them to have healthy attitudes about sex. The woman in me thinks sex a very good thing. But the parent in me reacts on a visceral level to my children being sexual beings just yet. Ask me again when they are young women, I suppose.

I've given up on what we used to euphemistically refer to as "naps." There was a time and a floor plan that enabled us to put them in front of a movie on a weekend afternoon and scamper upstairs for an uninterrupted hour. In this apartment, however, our bedroom is across the hall from the living room. Without us ever discussing it, "naps" have become real naps in Moscow.

Now that we had The Talk at lunch, I'm going to feel self-conscious even at night with all appropriate bedroom doors closed.

I guess after my cold shower I can always floss, right?

Monday, February 16, 2009

I'm Not Lovin' It

A gray and slushy February day is not going to make anyone fall in love with any city. Even Paris would be charm-free today, I'm sure. But sheesh. Moscow.

I was walking to the Metro today to collect the children from school and thinking about how, before I moved here, everyone I spoke to who had previously lived in Moscow positively gushed about the place. "Oh, you're going to love it!" "Oh, we had such fun there."

Um. I'm waiting. It's been over a year. Where's the fun?

I don't hate it. But my life here is rather routine.

Wake up. Fix breakfast. Arrange lunches. Send family out the door. Clean the house. Do some laundry. Provision. Play on the Internet. Read a little. Talk to The Spouse on the phone. Collect children from school. Supervise homework. Prepare dinner. Greet The Spouse. Put children to bed. Watch some TV. Talk about our day. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Not unpleasant. But not memorable.

When I gently grumbled to The Spouse, he suggested the reason I'm not having more fun is that there is limited fun to have inside our apartment with two children.

"We never go out without the kids!" he said. And he's right.

Finding a perfect babysitter here has well and truly stumped me.

I have a lovely young woman, a college student. She's great. But she lives a million miles away in a university dorm that locks its doors around midnight. I have to keep a close eye on the time so she can take the Metro back. She has spent the night on our couch a few times, but our apartment is small . . . It's a good solution now and then, but I wouldn't want to do it every week. And I think neither would she, especially during the week.

I talked to my Russian neighbor about her 14-year-old daughter. She's willing, but has activities of her own. And, truthfully, I would feel guilty keeping a 14-year-old up even as late as 11:00 on a school night. I might have to try her on a Saturday. But a lot of regular expat activities take place Tuesday through Thursday.

When I post ads on the expat forums, I either get Filipinas who want to be full time nannies, people who expect that my driver will take them home, or, forgive me, African students. I feel bad about sending a young woman of color home on the Metro late at night. Yeah, they are adults and can make up their own minds. But I would worry every single time that they might run into trouble. I feel bad enough sending my white sitter home by herself at night.

What about high school kids from my kids' school? Lots of them live near the school, which is a 30-minute walk from our door. But I can't send a high school kid to walk home alone in the dark. And I don't want to walk someone home at that hour either.

Am I over-analyzing this? Making it harder than it needs to be? Just plain whiny?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Like a Seinfeld Episode: It's About Nothing

Both kids had sleepovers last night. Baboo was invited to a friend's house, so Skittles took that opportunity to invite a classmate to stay with us.

Other peoples' kids are always a mystery. I only saw this child for about 30 seconds at school on Friday with whom I thought was her mother. Mom wasn't being very chatty, so I nodded "Hello" and told Skittles to have her friend's parents call one of us to arrange Saturday night.

Friday night about 10:00, my phone rings. It's the kid. I hand the phone to The Spouse since I am not equipped to discuss Russian street names with a French-speaker. (What is the French version of "anglicizing" something? They transliterate the Cyrillic differently than we do. Sometimes I have a tough time figuring out addresses on birthday party invitations.)

The Spouse has a conversation in French with the child who keeps covering the phone and addressing her mother. Just as he begins to wonder "Why don't you just let me talk to your mom?" he realizes the mom doesn't speak French.

Eureka! He tells the child to give the phone to Mom, and they work out the details. In Russian.

Saturday comes. I deliver Baboo to her host's. Around 6:00, as arranged, Skittles' guest arrives. She and I go down to the street to meet her (it's easier than explaining which door and how to work our temperamental "dom-o-fon").

Impeccably Dressed Guest Child and even more Impeccably Dressed Mom appear. This is not the woman from school, I realize. That was clearly Grandma (who, to be honest, is closer to my age than Mom is). Mom, as we learned on the phone, doesn't speak English or French, but she's got a GIANT cake for us. She's lovely and charming, and we establish that she will collect Guest Child on Sunday at 11:00.

Guest Child is adorable and polite. She's a bit overwhelmed by The Spouse and resists all his attempts to joke with and charm her. He lobs something at her. She just blinks. But alone with Skittles, I hear her laughing and playing.

I go to the grocery store for emergency breakfast bacon. While there, I turn around suddenly and just miss crashing into a very elegant woman with bleached blond hair pulled in a chignon. She's wearing a full-length mink coat. And carrying a nervous, brown Chihuahua that is exactly the same color as her coat.

The Chihuahua's nose is wet.

It takes all my self-control not to touch it.

Mink Lady is oblivious, but Chihuahua and I bond over near the nuts and bottled waters.

My phone rings as I approach yogurt.

It's Impeccably Dressed Mom.

"This is Guest Child's Mom," she says in Russian. I panic. I cannot hand the phone to The Spouse because I am in the grocery store. Alone. "Is everything fine?" she asks me.

Whew. I understand what she's saying. "Yes, yes. Everything good," I reply. She's apparently satisfied with that and the conversation ends.

Chihuahua ends up in the checkout line in front of me. Again, I resist touching his nose. But it is a struggle for me. (And here I must confess that sometimes I surreptitiously touch other peoples' fur coats in the Metro. Yeah. That sounds creepy, I know. But they are so soft . . . and it's right there in front of you on the escalator. And the owner will never know . . .) I do manage to make cooing sounds and earn a nice smile from Mink Lady. But she does not invite me to pet her boy, and Chihuahua looks just nervous enough that I can envision losing a finger. THAT would be good blog material.

In spite of all the snow we received yesterday afternoon the night is relatively warm, and the sidewalks are practically clear.

The little street that leads to the store is quiet, but suddenly two cars come racing towards one another. They reach each other at a point where cars are parked on both sides, forcing them into a Mexican standoff. As I approach the street, neither one gives to let the other through.

I cross the street, watching to see who will back down.

They are still sitting there, nose-to-nose.

I get to the trash dumpsters at the end of our "driveway." They are still sitting there, staring each other down.

This is one of the many reasons I do not drive in Moscow.

Arriving home, I find the girls watching a DVD. When it finishes, I announce it is time for pajamas. They must retire to the bedroom (we've set up the inflatable double bed), but they can chat as long as they want.

Guest Child announces that she would like to take a shower.

Okay. My kids are not enamored of hygiene. But it would not be unheard of for a child to have the habit of bathing daily. Mine do so only under duress. Especially Skittles. But hey: maybe this will be a good influence. Peer pressure and all.

I realize then that Guest Child has brought her own towels.

Is that weird? I think it's weird.

The Spouse suggests later that Guest Child has been going around our place with a bottle of disinfectant in hand, but, when I press him further, he confesses merely that she has brought and is actually wearing her house slippers.

That's not weird. The fact my kids refuse to wear theirs is weird. But her own towels?

As expected, she had never seen American style pancakes before. Or maple syrup. She ate hers this morning, but it was clearly new and different for her. That's okay: this is the point of visiting other people. See how they live.

Baboo, for example, was introduced last night to the concept of raclette. She loved it, but what's not to love? Melted cheese, slices of ham or sausage, boiled potatoes . . . it's a very good thing. And if I had pressed her to try it, it is likely she would have looked at me as if I were nuts.

There is no point or moral to my post today. Just a snapshot of our day. And some real snapshots thrown in for good measure.

Below is a picture that illustrates how close my grocery store is. I am standing at our trash dumpsters, which is perhaps halfway between my front door and the store. The store is the blue spot on the ground floor of the tall apartment building.

Here is a photo of today's snow. It's hard to capture it in a photo, but the fogginess is the snow. This is around noon.

And because he asked nicely, this is for Loyal Beet-nik, A.M. A little Crooky action.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Snowy Saturday

Uncharacteristically, we were out and about today. It was snowing cats and dogs.

Here is Baboo, pretty in pink.

Our "backyard."

On the Garden Ring near Prospekt Mira, we saw this wedding entourage-mobile.

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks. Near Lubyanka. Typically, part of the sidewalk is blocked to protect pedestrians from ice and snow that might fall off the building.

In Chistye Prudy Park. The man near the statue is removing snow.

Everyone is out for a stroll.

This photo is a bit blurry because I was trying to be discreet. The woman on the left is a typically dressed young Muscovite. Her friend is uncharacteristically Goth. They were taking turns posing and snapping each other's photos against the backdrop of the snowy park.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hat Trick of Horror?

Okay, not really. But I was on the Metro today, musing about how I lead such a boring, uneventful life . . . how Friday the 13th means nothing to me . . . and then the following three things happened.

1. There is always a potential for a scrum of people at the bottom of any Metro escalator. I don't understand the algorithms that go into determining when we get to have both escalators working. But usually we just get one in each direction. So we scrum, rugby style, pushing forward into one another's personal space.

Infringement of personal space is not uncommon, and I have grown immune to these intrusions. Yet, today, at the transfer between Sretenskiy Bulvar and Chistye Prudy Metro stops, I felt unusually assaulted from behind.

I was bumpedbumpedbumped by what I initially assumed was a woman. It happens. There is a demographic consisting of older women, those who grew up under communism, who have morphed into Old Bats. They are aggressive and nasty. They drop Metro doors on your face without for a minute considering that someone else may be right behind them. They shove you aside in order to exit a car when you are also, obviously, planning to exit.

This is what I assumed was behind me. So I paid it no never mind at first.

Until, on the escalator, I realized it was still RIGHT BEHIND ME. The escalator is everyone's chance to spread out a little. I can leave a step between me and my fellow passenger.

Whatever was behind me did not.

The geometry of the escalator steps resulted in a nose RIGHT IN MY LEFT EAR.

I assumed my best Big City Vision . . . that ability to don virtual blinders and ignore whatever social transgression is occurring beside me.

I was succeeding, too.

Until it made a loud KISS noise in my ear.

That's it, ladies and gentlemen: EVERYBODY OUT OF THE POOL!

I decided to climb the stairs, rather than riding along, laughing about the creep behind me.

Ugh. Although I had a shower before leaving the house, I now desperately need another.

2. I change trains. Exiting at Lubyanka involves two, short escalators. As I step off the first, I hear a BELLOW!

Hmm. This should be interesting. Clearly, there is a very angry, very drunk man ahead.

I go around the corner and step onto the second escalator.

The bellowing continues. This is going to be good, whatever it is.

As I ascend, I scan the faces of the people descending into the Metro. They all have that incredulous, Jesus-Christ-On-A-Popsicle-Stick look in their eyes.

Disappointingly, I never get to see the Angry Man. But I can hear him, always slightly ahead of me, as I ride up the escalator, pass through the doors, and emerge in the underpass mall.

This is one mad dude. His voice echos through the passage. But I never get to see who he is, nor speculate about what has caused him to vent his frustration so loudly.

Maybe he got a wet, juicy, uninvited kiss in his ear, too?

3. The finale is a bit of a let down after items 1 and 2. As I walk up the steps that lead me to the street, I hear a crash and turn in time to see a woman fall, face first, down the steps, landing on her knees.

Actually, what I see are the soles of her black, high-heeled boots. She has tripped.

What I feel, karma be damned, is schadenfreude.

Okay, I am not really that cruel. Call it relief then. Relief that even the Russians get thrown for a loop by high-heeled boots in the winter.

I'm in the Lead!

At least for the moment. Thanks to everyone who has been voting for me. Here's the link again.

New Cat Update: While Crooky is cute, she has hygiene issues. I've had to clean klingons off her little behind twice in two days now. I'm sure it is a common issue with longer-haired cats (and I have never owned a long-haired cat before). Possibly it is a result of not having time with Mama for sufficient training. Whatever the case, she is less welcome on beds and furniture than she once was. Not without Butt Inspection anyhow.

Original Cat Update: I offered Cat-O Sheba brand cat fud yesterday. This is cat fud that looks so nice, I would even consider eating it. Again, he did his burying-something-foul gesture and walked away. This is a cat who once hooked a slice of hot dog I had put in his dish and flipped it out in disdain. He just wants his crunchies. And a little plain yogurt now and then. Thank you.

Book Recommendation: Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana by Stephanie Elizondo Griest. I've only read the part about Moscow so far. And while it is slightly dated, it is also a very good description of life in Russia. Here is a link to the author's site with a description of this book.

Ice Update: Coincidentally, the Moscow News had this story about slippery streets last week. Apparently, City authorities had recommended elderly citizens "refrain from going out alone." I guess the buddy system isn't just for sharing a bottle of vodka.

Smut Update: While I hate to give this woman any more publicity, she is sort of like a bloody car crash: you can't help looking. I would also like to take this opportunity to deny rumors that I am her/she is me. I write much better sex scenes than she does. Unfortunately for you, I must wait until The Spouse and my mother are painlessly beamed up by aliens before I can share those writing samples with you here.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Bigger They Are . . .

I keep forgetting to take my camera with me when I go out so I can document for you the state of the entrance to our building. Today, I finally remembered.

On the Plaintiff's Steps, the individual steps are obscured by the ice that wraps itself over the edges. One false move, and you will slide off and land in The Lake of Doom.

Today is much better: the Lake of Doom has shrunk a bit, and you can see that the building maintenance crew has sprinkled some grit on the steps.

Yesterday, I encountered an old lady with a shopping schlepper standing, helplessly, on the far side of the Lake. The only way to continue on what I loosely call "the sidewalk," was by walking on the lowest step: the Lake covered the entire sidewalk. I saw her there, dithering about how to navigate the journey. Abandoning my own groceries and any attempt to speak Russian, I just started saying, "WAIT! WAIT! I will help you!" I took her by the arm and led her across.

If I understood her properly, she said, "WHAT a winter!" And, given her age, I'll bet she's seen a few.

Skittles fell down on the way to school yesterday. Baboo has Wednesdays off, so it was just Skittles and The Spouse. They had barely reached the corner, when Skittles went down in spite of the fact The Spouse was holding her hand.

As she got back up, muttering, "Well, THAT was fun," The Spouse went down. Feet-over-his-head-cartoon-style down.

It was to be his first fall of the day.

The second came last night as he walked home from the local expat hangout/bar. He was talking to me on the phone about who he had met there when suddenly I heard a crash and a curse.

It is a very helpless feeling to shout, "ARE YOU OKAY!" into a phone when you can only imagine your words, spilling out on the other end into the dark Moscow night.

Thankfully, only his pride was wounded.

I cannot begin to imagine navigating Moscow's winter streets while on crutches.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Humor the Proud New Owner

So the blog has (temporarily) turned into Grandma's Brag Book. I'm very sorry. Bear with me just a little longer. A vigilant Beet-nik specially requested more cat pix, and who was I to refuse?

Here is the little angel with Cat-O. Look! They're sleeping together in the Cat Chair! Awww. So cute!

Here's a pretty good shot of The Tail. It's a riot, this tail.

Today, I opened a pouch of that smelly Cat Fud. I divided it between two bowls and offered each cat its own bowl.

Crooky ate hers.

Cat-O smelled his. Then he began to paw at the floor near the bowl. As if he were in the cat box. Burying.

He's done this before when he has inadvertently tracked poo from the box to some other part of the house. He realizes something smells BAD, and makes as if he were burying it. It's a dead give away for me that I need to look carefully and see what needs to be cleaned up.

So when he did it next to his bowl of Cat Fud in a Pouch, well, I guess it really does taste as good as it smells.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Meet Crooky

Because of the crooked tail.

My uncle said the words "Siberian Forest Cat." The national cat of Russia. Sounds good to me.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

In Which We Let the Cat Out of the Bag

The Cat arrived.

"Primo" bides his time.

In other Moscow news . . .

While out today, we saw a Cinderella carriage drawn by two white horses. On the Garden Ring. That's a little like seeing a horse-drawn carriage in the middle of the Indy 500.

Then, while walking through one of those "Under the Street Underpasses," we saw a guy playing Mack the Knife.

On a saw.

And not particularly well.

Baboo said, "My day just keeps getting weirder and weirder."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

She's So Cold Like an Ice Cream Cone

Current Temperature: A very balmy -6C
Snow: Um, yeah. Non-stop since about 2:00 this afternoon.

I would be humming "We're havin' a heat wave . . . a tropical heat wave . . ." if it weren't for the snow that suddenly started this afternoon.

It was in the -20C range over the weekend. I, wisely, remained inside most of the weekend, except for an hour on Sunday when The Spouse and I dragged ourselves to the bank, the pet supply store (to buy what a dear friend refers to as "shitty-kitty"), and the grocery store. Everyone has been sick, and it was a good excuse to hibernate indoors. Not that we ever do much more on the weekends anyhow. Just this time there was not even a smidgen of guilt.

It's a fun bug, with a painful, unproductive cough that no drug, NO DRUG can lessen. Made all the more annoying by the fact I wet my pants every other time I cough. Worse than the unfortunate Trampoline Incident of 2002. I tell you, Midge, I am kegeling my brains out here. I ought to be able open a beer bottle by now. Why can't I cough with confidence? Why?

On to prettier thoughts. Below is a picture of the window in the door in our bedroom. This is the interior door (most Moscow doors and windows are double). The room was toasty warm . . . or I was in and out of fever/chill cycles all weekend and didn't attribute temperature changes to the environment. I was not so delirious that I couldn't see that the pattern in the frost was lovely.

Today the water guy arrived with our delivery of drinking water. It was early (between 8:00 and 9:00 . . . they start delivering at 8:00) and the bottles of water were partially frozen. A first for me, actually.

Can you see it in the photos?

Today was one of those odd Mercredi Liberés (Free Wednesdays). Both girls were home, and I had a mission: Clean Their Room.

I announced my plans yesterday. Since the girls had no school and The Spouse's workday does not technically begin until 10:00, we could have a more leisurely morning. He was fed and gone by the time the water guy arrived. I told the girls that we could relax until 10:30, but then we were going to be cleaning demons with lunch at the pizzeria across the street as our reward.

We commenced cleaning on schedule at 10:30. We stopped at 1:30 with 95% of the work done. We changed sheets, picked up clothes, straightened bookshelves, threw away junk, filed magazines, dusted every flat surface (including under the bed), vacuumed, and wiped up paint spills. It was dirty, sweaty work, but their room looks (and smells) right pleasant now.

We went to lunch.

Then we went to the grocery store.

As we left the grocery store with our purchases, I said to the girls, "This is pretty much what I do while you are at school, you know. Minus the nice lunch out."

Baboo says, "I hate your life."

Skittles says, "See . . . this is why I am going to GET A JOB."


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

In Other News . . .

A vigilant Beet-nik drew my attention to these three stories from today's Moscow Times.

First, Aeroflot passengers rejected their pilot, suspecting he was drunk. Turns out he was. My favorite quote:

"I don't think there's anyone in Russia who doesn't know what a drunk person looks like," said Katya Kushner, who, along with her husband, was one of the first to react when the pilot made his announcement. "At first, he was looking at us like we were crazy. Then, when we wouldn't back down, he said, 'I'll sit here quietly in a corner. We have three more pilots. I won't even touch the controls, I promise.'"

Then, it turns out that the pilot of the flight that crashed in Perm last September tested positive for alcohol.

Investigators said Medvedev [the pilot], who was due to land the jet, passed the wheel to another crew member, saying, "You see yourself that I can't," the report said.


Finally, a helicopter full of VIP's crashed in a remote part of Russia last month, killing everyone on board. Turns out the VIPs were senior government officials shooting endangered argali sheep from the air.

Oy. [smacks forehead]

Monday, February 2, 2009