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Kostia and I spent Christmas Eve shopping for fixins for the upcoming New Year’s party, buying a very tall ёлочка (we’ll just call it a holiday tree in English ’cause I keep inadvertently saying Christmas tree and he shouts back, “New Year tree, Megancase!”) drinking several liters of gloggi (mulled wine) that we got in Finland, watching “Elf” ’cause it was the only Christmassy movie around, and arguing over Scrabble rules.

Despite this nauseating wholesomeness, it was nearly as nice as the Christmas I spent with my sister and my friend Klaas, getting drunk, opening presents laid under the ficus plant, watching South Park videos and listening to Queen albums.

It’s not a holiday today in Russia, not at all, but I agreed to host my friend Elya’s birthday party, so there will be festivities later.

I like these sorts of not-quite-Christmas Christmasses.

Last chance to guess the name of the bear

I finally made it to somewhere in Finland other than Helsinki. Kostia and I went to Tampere to visit his friends Sergei and Olga. Sergei works for a certain Finnish mobile phone company, and has been in Finland for four years. It was fascinating to see how this couple have become all Finnified. I couldn’t reconcile their glowing Scandinavian complexions and sporty casual clothing with their unmistakably Russian countenances. Anyway, they were super nice and Tampere is also super nice. It was really cold while we were there but the Finnish environment is so pristine that the wintriness was inspiring rather than grim. There was snow stuck to all the branches of all the trees and it was a complete fairy wonderland. Sergei took a bunch of photos and is supposed to be mailing them to us; I’ll post.

Scandinavia’s great ’cause they never ever dub foreign films, so you can watch cheesy Hollywood flicks without cheesier voice-overs. So I saw the latest Harry Potter and, under great duress, King Kong.

And of course the highlight of Tampere is the Moomin Museum. Kostia remarked that it’s the most peaceful place on earth. I said yeah, it’s the Temple of Moominism.

Living in Russia is weird. One day you’re like “This country’s a disaster! I want out, or at least a trip to Finland!” and the next you’re proud of how Russified you’ve become because the sleazy souvenir pusher from whom you were buying some Christmas gifts from didn’t switch into English upon hearing you speak Russian, and because you bought ice cream from a street vendor and ate it outdoors when the temperature was below freezing.

It’s almost midnight. I’m going to hate myself in the morning for being up this late. Actually, how would that be different from other work mornings? I always feel like crap when I get up at 6 and it’s dark out, no matter how early I go to bed.

I’ve been like, busy and stuff this evening, preparing signs and things for the kindergarten’s charity event on Wednesday. That was after working all day and teaching Vanya this evening. Vanya’s mom tried to sucker me in to teaching Vanya twice a week again. We’ve been doing three times in two weeks, and that’s as much as I can stand for a one-hour lesson that requires 45 minutes on a crowded metro and a fifteen-minute walk on a dark icy path each way.

Oh, I cannot wait until the New Year holidays, when I can spend 9 days sleeping in. Til then, it’s just going to be insanity.

So one of the things I’m organizing for the charity event is a “Guess the name of the teddy bear” fundraiser. There’ll be a list of 30 Russian and Anglo names, and you pay 50 rubles to make a bet on one of the names, and if you’re right you get the bear. I just picked out the names. You readers can play along, though if you win I can’t offer you anything but honor, and maybe a special post linking to your website if you’re into that sort of thing.

The choices are:
Nikita
Harry
Slava
Chris
Alyosha
Patrick
Andrusha
Curtis
Mitya
Johannes
Grisha
James
Pasha
Marcus
Zhenya
Edgar
Sasha
Daniel
Tyoma
John
Vanya
Paul
Timosha
Ringo
Kolya
Bill
Boris
George
Tony
Volodya

The rules: one name per commenter. You can’t guess a name that’s already been guessed. Bonus points for pointing out the hidden jokes. Oh, and Kostia is disqualified from play since I already told him the name.

I feel like I should update if only to make it so the booger story isn’t the first thing you see.

Oh, OK, I’ll actually write something. Yesterday Kostia and I went with our friends Vadik and Elya to see the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Marble Palace. I experienced a small bit of (not unpleasant) cognitive dissonance looking at Warhol’s very American work in this Russian museum with Russian friends. It did make me a little homesick for New York, and I’m never homesick. Then again, I’ve never actually lived in New York (City), so really these feelings were all just some kind of fantasy on my part.

After that we went to a relatively new eatery called Frikadelki, which is Russian for meatballs, but only meatballs that are in soup. I’ll give it a thumbs-up. It’s nicer than the usual cafeteria-style restaurant, lives up to its claim to have Russian and European cuisine, and is cheap. It’s not a spot for a romantic dinner, but its brightness and cheery informality were just right for a few friends on a gloomy afternoon.

I entered a prize drawing to win a card worth 3000 rubles at Frikadelki, which would amount to about 25-plus meals. The entry form requested all kinds of demographic information, including income bracket. The question was posed in a really funny way:

Check one of the following:
-I have only enough money for food
-I have enough money for food and clothing
-I have enough money for food, clothing, and household appliances
-I have enough money to buy a car
-I have enough money to buy an apartment or house

I’m not sure how the box I checked might affect my chances of winning the prize.

Oh yeah, so I remembered the story I wanted to tell yesterday.

One day I was in Russian music class with the kindergarteners (they have Russian music class and English music class) and we were practicing the holiday performance. So we’re in a circle around the new year’s tree and I notice that the kid next to me is distracted by something in his hand. They often sneak small toys or bits of paper or god knows what to lessons and then get distracted by them. So I ask Lyova what’s in his hand and he gives me this enormous, smooshy booger.

The kindergarten is basically one big snot factory so I try to have tissues on me at all times, but at this moment I didn’t have any. So what can I do? I try to flick the booger on to the floor, but it won’t flick off, and by this time we’re supposed to be holding hands and circling round the tree, and the music teacher’s yelling at me to get with the program and I can’t very well tell her to hang on a minute while I flick snot onto her classroom floor.

So I wiped the booger on Lyova’s shirt. I mean, the kids’ shirts are all covered in their own snot anyway. What else could I do?

…or maybe they aren’t. But Weebl and Bob are my favourite flash animation series ever. If you’ve studiously been ignoring the links in my sidebar, this is the time to stop, ’cause everything there is freakin’ priceless.

Well, I can’t say I’m 100% healthy, but I’m a lot better, and riding the metro during rush hour from the kindergarten to my student Vanya’s house didn’t make me want to collapse, even though I didn’t get a seat for any portion of the journey, which is really saying something even in the best of times.

I wish Vanya didn’t live all the way in the northernmost part of the city, a 15-minute walk from a metro station on the busiest line. Because he is one super cool nine-year-old and I really like teaching him. But getting to and from his place is such a tremendous pain in the zhopa. Especially now that it’s cold and really dark. Oh, and I won’t be. Using complete sentences anymore. Just kidding.

Kindergarten is getting more and more exhausting. At the beginning of the year, we had on average seven kids stay after lunch for nap. Today we had 12. It’s a lot of work getting 12 kids to sleep, and then to wake up, change out of their pajamas, eat a snack, and put on snowsuits to go home.

Damn, today I was thinking of a funny story from last week and thought, “I need to put that on the blog.” And now I’ve completely forgotten what it was. The more stressed out I am, the more I forget things. Hmph.

My day off was great. I can’t really tell if it’s gotten me over my cold, but I’ll tell you what, it’s really nice not to drag your ass out of bed three-plus hours before sunrise. That’s right folks, the sun is rising around 9:30 these days. I don’t believe in getting up before sunrise. Homo Sapiens wasn’t meant to live at these latitudes. Except that lots of them do.

A very accurate description of the Russian Post Office Experience here.

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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