More than occasionally. But occasionally the gods smile, and his ideas actually pan out.

Well, the gods smiled on him and Julia on Friday, as they took off on a mysterious mission with several thousand rubles and leaving a confused Kate to hold down the box–I mean apartment. About an hour later they returned, and the mystery was solved: they had gone to talk to the owner of the Caucasian cafe in the market, an ox-sized man named Arman, and he had agreed to show us how to make samsa. He told us everything from the recipe for the dough (much simpler than it would have been if I’d tried to recreate it myself–how, then, is it so tasty!?) to where we can get the spice mix. He’s going to write out the exact spice recipe for us, but just in case we can’t get the spices at home, he recommended that we buy a kilo for 600r and take it home with us. Just to be sure. I’m not going to put the recipe online, since that, though actually unlikely to affect that cafe in any way, would be poor form, but if you want it, feel free to ask. Or better yet, we’ll make them together in the fall.

So when we get home (29 of August, woop woop!), most of you (let’s be honest, I don’t really know who reads this blog–maybe I don’t like you) are invited to a Caucasian feast!

So yes, we booked flights home. It was an incredibly nerve-wracking experience–over the course of the several failed payments, prices of flights from Ulaan-Baator rose about $200. Because of this, we decided to take the train, adding five days’ worth of travel to our journey but ultimately ensuring that we have a place to sleep and saving us about $300 apiece (excluding food, of course). By hook or by crook, we will eventually get home.

You’ve probably heard stories about hot water being shut off in the USSR for “maintenance.” Well it turns out this is still a thing almost everywhere, and I found out just yesterday that our two week period of boiler-free thrills and chills begins on the 4th of June. Whoop-de-stinking-do. Julia was surprised that I was annoyed about this– apparently in her birthplace, Arkhangelsk, the hot water is shut off from May to September. Every single year.

Speaking of Arkhangelsk, here’s a common Arkhangelsk joke (don’t read until you’ve figured out where Arkhangelsk is by clicking the link above):

Person 1: “Hey, how was the summer?”
Person 2: “I don’t know– I was working that day.”

Speaking of amenities and not having them, here’s a funny story: there are rats in the dorm bathrooms. It’s a known problem that we’ve been hearing about since we arrived. They literally run around all the time and skitter across people’s feet when they shower. Well, immediately before and after, I suppose. Fortunately, they stay on their side of the dorm, and we stay on our side. Anyway, we came home a few days ago to discover that less than a month before the end of the school year, the Powers That Be have finally decided to do something about the rat problem. We were notified by a small piece of paper, hung among a lot of other nearly identical pieces of paper (Russian authorities’ favorite way to notify people of changes that affect their lives is in the least noticeable way possible) that said, “The showers will be closed until the 27 of May.” Now, that was a little over a week, and there’s only one student shower. There is no university gym; there is no other dorm whose showers are working. They just told 700 students, “For your end-of-year celebrations, we want you to reek. Either you shower in a sink, or you shower not at all.” Because of this, our shower is booked for a couple of hours a day by various friends and friends-of-friends. Actually, the closed shower works out well for us, because for the first time, we have virtually unlimited hot water. But this joy is but fleeting.

Friday marked the end of the school year (excluding examinations) for many, if not all, schools and institutions of higher learning around the city, so despite a spell of cold, rainy weather, spirits in the city are high. On Friday Katja the Dark-Haired, along with (but independent from) a bunch of high schoolers, celebrated the Final Bell. This is a celebration of graduation that usually takes place between the end of school and the start of exams and the “Gos”, or State Graduate Examination. Vypuskniki, or graduates, dress up and wear sashes advertising their newly won freedom, like this.  Yes, the girls really do wear those stupid bows. Katja the Dark-haired got a leadership award; Katja the Blonde got a potted plant. She might have gotten an award, but she didn’t tell me about it.  She’s now in the throes of trying to not fail her Gos, which takes place in a few weeks. She can be found basically any time of day on her bed, surrounded by papers covered in impossibly small print, looking helpless. And so the wheel keeps rolling.

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