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This morning was just remarkable. It’s a holiday today — Constitution Day — and so most people have the day off, but we still had Russian lessons. So I left the house at 8:40 as usual, and there was hardly anyone on the street. The sky was just beginning to get light in the east, there wasn’t a single cloud, and the air was clear and frosty.

There was hardly anyone on the Metro either, so there was little pushing and shoving, and I was able to get on the first train that arrived and got a seat.

When I got off the Metro, well, I went to McDonalds. But only for coffee! Much as I hate to admit it, I do have a lot of America ingrained in me, and I find walking to my morning destination with a large cup of coffee in hand to be one of life’s simpler pleasures. Even though St. Petersburg is teeming with coffee shops, the cups are tiny, and carry-out doesn’t tend to be an option. (Terry and I experienced the same problem in France.) And while I resent Starbucks’ global takeover and am glad it hasn’t reached Russia yet, there are times when an evil paper cup full of coffee is most welcome. So it had occurred to me while Aunt Kelly and I were sitting in the food court of the mall on Saturday, that McDonalds might just be the place to obtain the occasional cup, particularly since there’s one right across from my Metro exit.

So I went in, and ordered a latte, and it came in a nice paper cup the size of a Starbucks “tall”, which is actually a small, but who really needs a venti’s worth of coffee anyway? The cashier got out a tray, and I said, no, I’m taking it away, and so she got out a bag, and I said, no, I don’t need a bag either, and she said “But the sugar’s in there,” and put the cup in the bag. Well, I didn’t need the sugar either, I just wanted her to put it in my mittened hand, that lovely cup of coffee, but I didn’t have the presence of mind to explain that in Russian at that moment, so I took the bag and removed my coffee from it outside.

I walked the 10-minute walk from the Metro to school, in the cold crisp morning, coffee in hand, watching the sun rise. Non-morning people like me don’t often get to see a sunrise in the lower latitudes, and it’s been so cloudy most days since I got to St. Petersburg that I haven’t often been able to see one here, either. But this morning was just perfect.

The only unfortunate thing is that I am suffering from my very first Russian head cold and am feeling kind of miserable — otherwise I’d be out walking in the last minutes of sunshine right now.

This story is especially for Hugh, because I know he likes this sort of thing.

I recently learned the Russian word for “flammable”, which is “ogneopasno”, a perfectly logical compound word from “ogon” — fire, and “opasno” — dangerous.

The building where I have my Russian lessons is right on the Neva river, and so I get to see lots of commercial ships. Recently there has been a ship docked there that has “ogneopasno” written on the side in big letters. Only, the word is divided in a weird way across four sections of the ship: OG NE OPA SNO. The first time I saw this, I puzzled over it, and then read it as “Og ne opasno.” I thought to myself, “What the hell is ‘Og’, and why is this ship telling us that it’s not dangerous?”

About This Blog

I'm an American who started blogging when I moved to Russia in 2004. Eventually I moved to Sweden, where life is pleasant but uneventful, and stopped blogging for lack of interesting things to say. And then I joined Facebook, which further destroyed any motivation for blogging. Maybe someday I'll start blogging again, but for now, this blog is dormant, an archive of The Russia Years: 2004-2008.

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December 2004
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