Since the Russian Fulbright director is unexpectedly out of town, Oksana met us this morning with the welcome news that she’d cancelled our morning class tomorrow (a 2-hour Q&A with Fulbright staff). “So now you have a few extra hours to, I don’t know, make sure Lenin is still there or something.” Which, as it happens, is exactly what Nathan and I will be doing.

You see, we have so far been prevented from visiting the most beloved and repulsive of Russian memorials by the several strict rules that must be followed in order to see Djadja Lenin in person. First of all, Lenin is only open from 10-1, four days a week. But because so many Russians (and foreigners) want to pay their respects, you have to get there by 9 in order to ensure a spot. Once in the mausoleum, there is no photography, talking, or smoking, and you must not put your hands in your pockets (a sign of disrespect in Russia that’s causing me great inconvenience as the weather remains too cold for bare hands, but too warm for gloves). Each small group that enters the heavily-guarded mausoleum is given just 5 minutes before being shuffled back out the door.

Here’s a quote from an article in AtlasObscura about Lenin’s remains: “The sarcophagus is kept at a constant temperature of 16° C (61° F) and humidity of 80 – 90 percent. Weekly, a mild bleach is used to fight discoloring fungus and mold on Lenin’s skin, and every eighteen months the corpse undergoes a chemical bath of glycerol and potassium for thirty days while the mausoleum is closed. During this time, Lenin’s clothes are washed and carefully ironed. And every three years, Lenin receives a new suit.

Sadly, due to the recent economic crisis, the charity that funds Lenin’s upkeep has fallen on hard times and can’t afford to buy Lenin a new silk suit. But then, Lenin would probably cherish the knowledge of capitalism’s global meltdown more then a new suit, anyway.” True words there.

Speaking of old clothes, on the subway this afternoon we sat across from a sleeping hobo who smelled strongly of urine. After a few stops, I turned around to see four police officers in uniform standing in the doorway. Now, every time I see the militsia, I assume they’re going to deport me. Irrational, but true. Just after my heart begins to pound, I realize that they’re yelling not at me, but at my neighbor. He doesn’t react, so one of the officers goes over and jostles him, telling him to get up. And again. Finally the guy opens his eyes, shifts a bit, and ignores the cop. When the guy makes it clear that he’s not going to move willingly, how do the four big policemen take control of the situation? They shrug, turn around, and leave. The hobo slept on.

Lunch today (what a segue!) contained the first Real Live Salad they’ve given us (cabbage, dill, tomatoes, and cucumbers), some fresh horror of a fish soup, and pork slab with macaroni.

In the Lonely Planet guide book, there’s a Georgian restaurant called Dioskuria. In addition to (allegedly) reasonably-priced and delicious food, they boast an in-house a capella trio. Obviously, I couldn’t leave Moscow without going. So with carefully written directions and a voice recorder concealed in my bag, I went downstairs to meet Nathan and the two or three friends we’d invited to come. Somehow, from somewhere, word got out, and I was greeted by a group of 14 people. As the Russians say, oy.

That’s alright, I thought. It’s just like if Nathan and I were going by ourselves, but a little more crowding on the metro. By the time we reach the metro station, a flaw has already been discovered: the station we want has a duplicate with exactly the same name, in a similar but not exactly the same part of town, and I don’t know which one’s which. To further add to the ridiculosity, let me tell you one thing about Russian language: they have two words for what we call “blue.” One corresponds, roughly, to sky-to-normal blue, and the other to normal-to-navy blue. If you want to know exactly where the line is, ask a Russian; any American that says they know is lying. I digress. Point is, both of these stations are on the blue lines, blue being the only (English) color that repeats on the Moscow metro map. Due to a bit of clever sleuthing and a whole lot of guesswork, we eventually found our way to the restaurant–only it wasn’t the same restaurant. Still Georgian, yes. Still Merzjakovskaja 2. But somehow, the a capella has been swapped for a smooth piano, the place is lit up in blue mood lighting, the waitstaff are all bilingual (and not in Georgian), and the prices are double those advertised.

So a herd of 12 hungry, tired, slightly annoyed foreigners made their way back to Jolki-Palki, a traditional Russian chain. I sat with Sasha, a heritage Russian speaker from southern California, and Nathan. It was a stereotypical Russian experience not only because of the kvas and pel’meni: of the items we asked for, more were unavailable than available. Nevertheless, dinner was had, Red Square was visited, Sasha was hit on by some Russian boys, Nathan made friends with some Russian boys (the mileage he can get out of his 2 sentences of Russian is really astounding). As Arielle pointed out, things rarely go as planned in Russia, but they usually turn out just fine.

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