Friday, April 11, 2008

In Which I Celebrate Spring

Temperature: 20C (that’s 70sF, folks!)
Snow: Ha. I got a little sunburned yesterday and again today. The trees are ready to explode into leaf. Tulips are pushing up in the flowerbeds in the parks. I saw daffodils blooming today.
Now Reading: Dare I say it? My How-To Sex Manual is, well, boring. There's lots of discussion of adjusting one's chi, and breathing exercises that are, no doubt, good for anyone. I'm soldering on, but I have, in desperation, read a short story in The New Yorker and last night started Richard Russo's Empire Falls. Both more engaging than the to How-To guide.

I guess it’s spring in Moscow when they take off the double doors at the Metro entrances. I’m not sure why they need to come off. But we don’t need that extra buffer zone from the cold now, that’s for sure.

Wednesday, I was walking through Chistie Prudy park on the way to judo. The pond is no longer frozen in any way. The park was full of people, strolling, drinking beer, sitting on the benches, smoking and chatting, playing hacky-sack, making music, kissing. I passed a young couple that was standing in the middle of the walk, passionately and obliviously kissing.

Today, in the park near Tsventoy Bulvar, there was another couple, sitting under the clown statue (it’s across from the circus!) just PASSIONATELY going at it. They barely came up for air. The girls said, “WOW!”

A few meters farther on I saw two young guys sitting on a bench. One was wearing a black t-shirt that said, “It’s MILLER Time.” They were drinking Guiness.

The warmer weather seems to be making everyone friendlier. This week, I have had several of what might loosely be called “Russian Conversations.”

First, was when I ventured into a shoe repair shop. Well, “shop” is too generous a term. This place is the size of a doublewide Port-a-Potty. It’s right in front of my Metro, but it’s so small, I have been walking by it for months and never noticed it.

I stopped by the other day to ask about a shoe of Baboo’s. All the way there I practiced saying to myself “I don’t speak Russian.” When I stuck my head in the door and said, “Hello,” imagine my surprise to see TWO guys sitting in there, eating lunch.

“Hello,” I say in Russian. “I don’t speak Russian.”

“What do you speak,” says Shoe Repair Guy in Russian.

“English,” I say in Russian. “French. Spanish . . . ”

I show him the shoe.

“He no work,” I say in Russian.

Shoe Repair Guy looks at the shoe, and sets about repairing it.

“SOCHI!” says Shoe Repair Guy’s lunch buddy, nose-to-nose with me.

“Huh?” I say.

“The Russian Winter Olympics in 2014,” says Shoe Repair Guy in accentless English.

Huh? Where’d you learn to say that? And why is your friend shouting “SOCHI!” at me?

By now the shoe is fixed. Shoe Repair Guy refuses any money. I walk on.

Yesterday was Thursday, which means I have to lug a gym bag with Baboo’s fencing equipment over to school, as well as her sword (or “fleuret”) which I carry about town in a green fleuret carrying bag. It doesn’t look like a sword, but it does look odd.

As I pass a street cleaner, he starts to ask me what I’m carrying.

“Oh, I don’t speak Russian,” I say in Russian.

“Nevermind,” he says back in Russian. “Whatcha got there?” I’m only guessing at the exact translation because this part of the conversation was strictly contextual.

“I don’t know . . . how you say . . .,” I reply in Russian and mime a classic “En garde!” position.

“Oh! Fencing!” he says in Russian. I recognize the word when I hear him say it. “The sword. Is it yours?”

“No . . .” I know I will butcher the word for daughter, so I just say “Children.”

“Huh,” he says in Russian. “That’s interesting. Bye!”

As I walked into the Sedmoy (grocery store) near Baboo’s school this afternoon, I spotted a fluffy, brown street dog, standing in front of the doors, looking in like he was waiting for someone. People walked around him as they entered the store, but he stayed near his spot. Just waiting.

The street dogs make me sad. Now that the weather is warmer, they have moved out of the Metro and tend to sleep in the sun, on the grass, undisturbed, in the parks. They are not thin as a group, but often sort of dirty. Many of them have collars. They don’t bother anyone (except my expat friend . . . she is chased by marauding packs when she tries to walk her dog), and I never see anyone bothering them either.

Sometimes I buy envelopes of wet dog food and put them in my purse, in case I see a dog I think I can give it to.

Cat food is on my grocery list today, so while I’m buying two boxes of Poo-Stink Reducing Cat Food, I pick up an envelop of dog food. But I have to wait for a babushka wearing a black headscarf to get out of my way before I can approach the pet food display.

I make my purchases and walk back outside. The dog is nowhere to be seen. I look up and down the street. No dog.

I turn the corner to return to the French School. And there is the dog. And the babushka. She’s opening her own envelopes of dog food and putting it on the sidewalk where the dog is politely eating it. I approach, and set down my grocery bags. The babushka sees me and comes over with one of her envelopes.

“Would you help me open this, please?” she asks in Russian. She’s having trouble getting the package to tear. Her hands are somewhat arthritic looking.

“Of course,” I don’t even try to speak Russian. I hand her MY package of dog food and take hers. She smiles. I open her package, and she squeezes it out on the ground, where the dog gratefully eats it.

We’re in a pretty posh neighborhood, but this woman is not posh. She’s dressed all in black, with practical shoes and thick support stockings. She’s a pensioner. She probably shouldn’t be spending her limited rubles on food for street dogs.

But that dog and I are glad she did.


Anonymous said...

aaah.... on behalf of all street dogs out there thanks!

worthy said...

Wow, I wonder if you'll see that little dog again? I used to feed the stray cat in my neighborhood in Florence. They'd all hang around this empty lot between buildings across from the butcher. I'd go around to the gelateria after supper and( I know this is not accurate Italian as I have forgotten...) ask for "mukke latte per favor"and the guy would always say "per te?" and I'd answer, "Non, per le gatte" and he'd say "Brava!" and I'd take the open box and leave it there. Sometimes you'd see a piece of liver or something on a piece of butcher paper in the gutter outside the butcher shop. Somehow they managed. I always vowed if I ever became a rich old lady I'd have a cat ranch for strays...
Anyhow strays can break your heart. That's why I have my sensational former stray cats Orlando and Valentina who are snoring away beside me while it is outside raining to make more April flowers. I got a digital camera.( Now I have just got to learn how to use it...) I'll send you pix of my tulips and daffs and narcissus which are all fabulous and well the pansies...oh and kitty cats; it is really lovely here these days. Spring has sprung. All of those PDAs make you yearn for youth. Oh April is the cruelest month!" Sounds like all is well there! Miss you!
xo V

miamibob said...

We've just adopted a stray that my wife found five years ago as a kitten outside the Miami hospital where she works. Someone else at the hospital took it home, and then a couple of years ago to Chicago. Then a baby came along and it turns out the baby is alergic to cats. So Riggs (after Diana Rigg) was packed onto an airplane and has moved in with us. Seems to think she is more deserving of window sill space than my african violets. Also, she and Betty Boop (a very long haired tabby who has been with us for five years courtesy of my office) are still working out who owns what parts of the house.

I am loving hearing about your life in Moscow. Please keep it coming.

Anonymous said...

Louis Vuitton,LV Luggage,LV Wallets,LV Agendas,LV Belts,LV Shoes,LV Accessories,Gucci,Gucci Wallets,Gucci Shoes,Marc Jacobs handbags,Marni handbags,Miu Miu handbags,Mulberry handbags,Prada handbags,Thomaswylde handbags,TOD handbags,Bottega Veneta handbags,D&G handbags,Dior handbags,YSL handbags,Coach handbags