August 13, 2011

[following several pages of music] The preceding pages show why it’s great to stay with a teacher when you travel. The matches got dewed on, so after I destroyed half the box trying to light them anyway, Olga decided to just make bread with peaches, preserves, and cheese for breakfast. Then ARG and I went on a walk in the forest, she washed her feet, and we did laundry. Olga taught me how to peel potatoes. Potato soup with spam, kasha, abread, and cukes for lunch. Oh, and Olga taught us the songs that I wrote down. We didn’t have lunch until about 2:30, so then the nap lasted from 3ish until about 5. Not long after that, Tatjana and Jacqueline returned from town with groceries. Jacqueline made a German recipe for supper, and while it turned out very well, it took forever  (we ate by moonlight), and, well, let’s just say she learned a valuable lesson about what kinds of meals are good to cook for a crowd when you don’t know how to cook, i.e. not stuffed cabbage leaves. Supper was immediately followed by tea, after which Maksim told more jokes, and we sang songs from our respective countries. Also, Olga’s husband came. In the afternoon, we bathed in the river, then Tatjana taught us some songs. The water, I discovered later, is 65 degrees at the surface. We’ve had a running joke about the devil, since once of the kids swears he saw him in the bathroom. When we went down to the river, Olga said, “The devil is waiting for you at the river. He likes to date beautiful women.” Which is funnier in her accent. When we got to the river and saw Jonathan the evil goat tied up nearby, we were suitably concerned. Unfortuantely we won’t get to see the magnificent night sky we keep hearing about—cloudy again.

“The cuckoo sings outside the village. You are to blame, father, for ….”

August 14, 2011

Postela and Apora got loose again. Saw them as I returned from fetching water with Ruslan. Ruslan said my Russian has improved—hooray! Breakfast consisted of butter and peach bread, since the kasha was milk-heavy. I dropped my toast in the fire while toasting it, which was great for Buran and Bob. Then we packed our things, except that I can’t find my knitting. I don’t exactly want to leave, but it will be nice to stop worrying about the flight, registration, our passports, etc. We’re thinking of going out early early on the 16th to Red Square, hopefully before it’s full of tourists, cops, and pickpockets. Now Jacqueline is cooking the soup made of last night’s leftovers, rice, vegetables, and grilled chicken. I can’t contain my excitement for food other than kasha and meat-in-a-can. ARG and I went wading in the river again. It was cold, which was a welcome respite from the hit sun.

Lunch was delicious, but if any meal makes me ill it will be the meatballs that sat overnight and the first straight unboiled water I’ve drunk. Oh well—it’s tasty. After lunch we went to find Nikolaj to see about getting back to Kaluga. He said it was fine for us to come back, and we had a lovely conversation about Russian customs (he has a friend in the business, which may or may not help our visa situation), why ARG isn’t a true student (because she’s not lazy), and Masha the Friendly Goat. Then we interrupted Olga on her way home in her big VW van and went  on a walk. With sticks for beating away wild dogs.

Helped Tatjana move the horses, then helped Natasha make—you guessed it—kasha for supper. Turns out it’s not awful if you put bouillion—or anything other than water, really—in it. Tatjana played games with us and the kids, which was fun. Then tea, singing with Tatjana, and Pilot being ridden by almost everyone. Then it was time to go. When Russians are ready to go, they go Right. Now. So Tatjana and Nikolaj sat in the car while I gathered our things and ARG looked for a lost handkerchief. Sang “My Heart Will Go On” (at Tatjana’s request), “Jolene”, and “Which Side Are You On” in the car.

ARG just opened the closet we were scared to open and discovered a beautiful accordion on the floor. She was very excited because on the cover of one of the books that Tatjana gave us is a babushka and a horned goat playing the accordion. We’ve seen lots of babushki and goats, but hadn’t yet seen an accordion.

Also, the circuit just blew, and we ran out of toilet paper (correlation≠causation). So we went on a terrifying journey across the courtyard to—oh, the circuit just broke again—find Nikolaj. Fortunately, he heard us as we tried to convince Alpha not to eat us.

(as music plays loudly in the field where the boys are) ARG: What are they doing?
Olga: They’re having a dance party.
ARG: With the trees?
Olga: With the goats!

Xleb! Xleb!

August 15, 2011

There was a baby riding a minihorse around the sidewalks at the market in Kaluga. Also, when ARG got hiccups, Tatjana said that hiccups are when your voice wants to sing, and you won’t let it.

Woke up at 7 today, attempted to snooze, and slept til 8:15. Said goodbye to the funny toilet, one-winged taxidermy pheasant, and the puppies and went to find NIkolaj. He let us use the computer until Tatjana found us to tell us breakfast was ready. Glorious corn kasha, bread with farmer cheese, and some mocha-like drink. Then back to hotel-searching. Tatjana talked music with ARG while I booked a room. Then we discovered that the train left a bit earlier than expected, so we took off with Tatjana. She kindly bought our tickets for us, and told us that the track was being repaired, so the train was delayed about 45 min. She decided our time would be better spent in the park than the train station, so we trekked back across town and walked down to the river. Then, as at the hosue, kind words were exchanged by all, and we departed.

 Anna Rose was just falling asleep sitting up, so I stuck the tent in her lap for her to lean on. Now she’s out cold. The woman sitting across from us is carrying a canvas bag that says “I ❤ Bags.” Also, there are trees that, rather than having been properly pruned, have just had all the branches cut off in one swoop. so the tree is shaped like a Y. When they branch out again, they look like hilarious oompa loompa trees.

We found our hotel with only minor difficulty. Unfortunately, Moscow—at least, the suburb where we are—seems not to have heard of street signs. So having only eaten a small ice cream to celebrate our first successful street crossing in Moscow, we wandered around for about 45 minutes as I grew more and more irritable. Finally we got to our room, showered, got Internet, and set off for supper. Then vertigo set in, and we decided to just eat at the hotel restaurant. Meager but delicious borscht, “Athens” salad, and strawberry cheesecake. Then we took off for Red Square, because we couldn’t stand to stay in Moscow without seeing any of it. Red Square is very bright because of GUM, which is lined with Christmas lights. We gawked at St Basil’s, although you can’t get close enough for it to be worth the effort, wandered into a garden, bought delicious kvass, and wandered around a hokey tourist shop before going home. A shower with a white towel revealed the filth that had accumulated. Then, finally, sleep.

“Stop singing.”

“Does it go like this [clockwise] or like this [countercc]?” “No, like this [in a line].”

August 16, 2011

Woke up bright and early and rushed to get ready so I could go back to bed while ARG packed. Took off at 6, registered our visas (totally unnecessary), and got our bag lunch from the reception. The metro was pleasantly calm all the way to Belorusskaja, so we ahd lots of spare time to have lunch-for-breakfast at the train station. Then we went wandering in search of icons, chocolate, and vodka. We found a church but no icons (said a prayer for safe travels) and a very kind, helpful grocer who had no horseradish vodka, but sold us lots of chocolates. Then it was back to the train station, where I was briefly followed by a scary police dog who was very thin (it seems Russia experienced a shortage of dog food after feeding it all to the army [CITE]). Sheremetevo is what I always expect air travel to be: confusing, big, and late. We arrived at 9, having napped on the train, to discover that our flight wa delayed, so we were now 7 hours early. We shared kvass (not as good from a bottle as from a cart) and a Caprese sandwich as the seats around us slowly filled with obnoxious Americans. But only after a ridiculously long wait to check in, during which a very kind Delta employee set up my connection and winked at me. We boarded at the same time that the plane had originally been scheduled to take off, but I don’t think we’re too far behind schedule. My seatmate is talkative with a tendency toward unnecessary cattines, but since it’s not directed at me, I can’t complain too much. She’s a fashion designer living in San Diego, coming back from visiting her family in Novosibirsk. The flight attendants take the Russian approach to customer service, although they’re noticeably friendlier if you speak Russian. They think I’m Russian and my seatmate is American, which amuses me to no end. Oh hey, we’re over Canada!

“Left, lalala, ask.”

“Through here, please. To the airplane.”