Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks...for Moscow!

It's a little after 11 pm, another batch of dough for this week's second round of pies is refrigerating as we speak, and I'm feeling calm, tired, and grateful, crashed on the couch. I joined in on Thanksgiving Round 1 after work (this will be the first of does that happen in Russia?!) and my stomach would happily decree it a success. My primary endeavor was the pie. Pecan, pumpkin, and chocolate cream. Moscow poses some difficulties to the American baker, but on the whole I was satisfied with the product.

Being away from home on a very American holiday (no one that I've talked to here really understands what this one's even about) normally makes one a bit nostalgic for home, family, and whatnot. And while I would always love to be spending time with my family, I have to say that most of my feelings of gratitude today were focused on Moscow. Here's a few of those thoughts in no particular order.

I'm grateful for Moscow evenings. For city lights and for stillness that is all the more poignant after a day spent in a city of 15 million+.
I'm grateful for Russian. The language and the relationships that speaking has allowed me to develop. It's a challenging but stunningly beautiful language, which you may not believe if you haven't had the chance to listen to it closely.

I'm grateful for the work which brought me here. And the patience that trying to do my job in Moscow is helping me develop. There are aspects of working here which drive me crazy. Every. Day.
But how I love my colleagues and getting to work with such amazing singers!
Two of my lovely sopranos!
I'm grateful for who I've become in Moscow. In leaving the known behind, redefining self,
expectations, and my world, I've grown into a more preferable version of self.

I'm grateful for the foreign. And for the fight to find the familiar. Hunting through multiple grocery stores to try and find a turkey and finally locating and purchasing two 3.2 kilo babies. Which then half to be hauled back through the metro, a bus, and up a significant number of stairs. There is never a dull moment in daily living.

I'm grateful for the cold. And the snow! Who would have thought I could pen those sentences?!? I have to say though, snow transforms a city into something magical. And an evening walk in the cold...but still breathable!...air is romantically refreshing.
The list could go on, but I'll leave it at that. Let it be known though that on this American
holiday, this American girl is grateful for Russia. For Moscow. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

All about Georgia! And not the state...

Life in Moscow has it's ups and downs. But after a fantastic dinner at one of my all time favorite restaurants, Хачапури, I found myself completely in love with this city yet again. Apparently food is the best way to inspire such emotions within me...

Funnily enough, though, the real source of said love is not even Russian. It comes from one of our neighboring countries to the south, which is now near the top of my list of countries to visit: Georgia! While there are many reasons for wanting to visit, I feel no shame in saying that my love for their food is primary among those. If you haven't tried Georgian food and live anywhere near a city that offers it (Brooklyn friends!!!)...go! Eat! Be blissfully happy! Fall in love with food all over again!

Here would be my list of loves:
Pkhali. This version is spinach but I've had an eggplant variation as well. Fabulous. What is it? A vegetarian delight: spinach, walnut, and spices galore! A recipe I might actually attempt on my own...
Eggplant rolls filled with a garlic-walnut paste. Oddly enough I'm normally not a walnut fan. But in this context...yes please!
This is the dish for which my beloved restaurant is named: khachapuri. Georgian cheese pizza. There are different variations of this that is shaped like a boat and has an egg in the middle...but this version is my favorite. Why? LOTS of cheese!
In my excitement, I may have dived in a bit too enthusiastically and ruined the beauty of this photo op. But please meet khinkali, another Georgian staple and personal favorite. You can get these large dumplings filled with a number of things...potato and cheese, mushroom, salmon, and meat. I opted for the latter. There are a number of sauces to choose from, but I always opt for the side of sour cream. It's the Russian coming out in me I suppose.
The key to eating these is the handle pictured's designed to be held, so dive in and get a bit messy. (I generally use a spoon in the opposite hand for assistance. And to make for easy sour cream distribution.)

My goal over the next 4 weeks? Be able to make all these dishes on my own. My relationship with Georgian food is one I'm determined to keep intact, no matter the distance!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Relationship Status: It's Complicated

Fear not. This post will not be spent trying to explain the complexities of my dating life. Or hilarities, depending on the date. And my level of optimism...But today's relationship is one I've spent a great deal of time analyzing and evaluating. And I think it's time for some input. So here goes!

Technology.  You may have heard of it?

I've generally been a fan. But I have to see, moving to Russia changed our relationship. I picked up a new Russian phone and number and opted for the least expensive option...a cell that was functional for calls and texts. And even has a calculator feature as a bonus! My new gadget was affectionately referred to by my friends as the "iPhone 7." It may not have controlled the speed of the metro or foretold the future, as we jokingly claimed, but my baby Nokia got/gets the job done. And frankly didn't even have to be used all that often.

Enter separation from phone.

Phones nowadays often mean Internet. The iPhone 7 did not, however talented she may have been. In our office in the theater, there was a computer where I could access the Internet or (post-Christmas and my iPad!) wifi, but I maybe popped my head in there once at the beginning of the day and once at the end. When I was home in the evenings and the Internet was functioning, I was admittedly very attached to Skype, email and the blogosphere. It felt like I was able to access a fraction of my other life that didn't really even exist in Moscow.

On the whole though? Add significantly increased Internet separation.

I just spent a little over four months Stateside... a new fancy phone...Internet and all...and discovered: I love technology! I love being connected, easy to access, and constantly informed by Google as to the meaning of all things. BUT while I loved receiving all of the information, I really didn't care to be participating in it. I've become a person who doesn't like to answer her phone (alright, that wasn't really new), finds responding to texts often ridiculously annoying, and can easily delay email responses for days. Clearly blogging was nowhere in the picture.

For someone who is her own business, these are not the best of reactions to the medium that is the source or all employment/income. 

And the technological disenchantment hasn't really come to an end. Don't get me wrong, I'm still VERY appreciative for the connectedness. I think it's just the excess that seems to create a constant sense of overload. That, I'm not handling very well. Being in Russia taught me a lot about the  necessity of relationship investments that provide a healthy return. It felt like the technological equivalent of one of my juice fasts being here...a serious cleanse that revitalizes and reminds you what's really important for your well being. And my technological time when it was limited felt focused and meaningful. Maybe? Here's where you can insert your diagnoses.

I love technology. But I really don't right now. Solve that one. 

I'm hoping for a dose of insight from Russia Round 3!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Back to the Big Theater

Today was my first day back in Moscow. And the first (from what I've gathered) snow of the season. The Motherland was either trying to get even with me for being away too long, or else attempting to give me an authentic welcome back. And nothing seems authentically Russian quite like snow.

Despite a healthy dose of jet lag and the early signs of a cold (my inferior sinuses are always outraged when I decide to fly internationally), it looked and felt great to be back.

What I loved most about my first day back? First, the language. It didn't flow as smoothly as it once did, but spending a day in Russian felt so invigorating. Stepping into this country and into another language almost feels as if I'm able to take on a different identity. Or at least unlock a part of me that can only exist on a small scale in the States. 

Second? The routine. I love returning to a theater where I know how things work...or how they don't on occasion. I loved popping into the cafeteria for a piroshki and some cucumber salad as I did on many a day last year. I know this city, this metro, and some of the personalities that you're bound to meet in a day. When I was purchasing my metro pass and the cashier decided to give me grief about not having the exact change, I may have even smiled inwardly. While outwardly giving her a little dose of attitude in return. It's just the open communication that exists in these parts.

Mostly, I loved getting back to work. Not only do I absolutely love my job, but I love the people that I've developed  relationships with because of my job. And seeing my Moscow family made me feel right at home. 

An added love? Being back to my blog. And getting updated on reading yours! I can't begin to give you all of the updates that come along with a 4-month absence, but I imagine some of them will work there way into this sphere eventually. For now, I'm going to continue the battle with jet lag. By going to sleep.
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