Thursday, September 27, 2012

Winter Coat Shopping

9/27/12
Kristen says...

I think I need a new winter coat.

It seems weird to be thinking about that type of thing since it is currently a sunny 80° outside and the forecast calls for nothing lower than 72° over the next week...

Also, I haven't had to think about winter outerwear for two years, other than the brief forays home for Christmas, and it wasn't worth getting a new coat for that. I mean, last year we didn't even see snow at Christmas!

So even though it's hot outside now (even in Vladivostok--it's 57° now but will hit 71° sometime later today) I am remembering how living in a 4-seasons climate goes, and that after this hot the cold will definitely come!

So, I think I need a new winter coat.

Mine is a few years old, maybe 3-4, and it's in pretty good condition, but I'm not at all sure that it is suited for Russian winters...
This is kind of a goofy picture of me but shows my coat well...I like it because it's wool, it has nice big pockets and a belt, and I can wear sweat shirts under it and still button it...but it doesn't have a hood, and I can't remember if it's actually very warm or not!
But maybe it is suited for Russian Winters...you see, I can't quite decide what a "Russian winter" will be like in Vladivostok. (Besides cold, of course--but how cold?!)

This past Sunday Christopher made the ultimate sacrifice and eschewed football for shopping (what a guy, right?!) and accompanied me on a tour of Washington's best coat-buying stores (Lands End, L.L. Bean, The North Face, Eddie Bauer, even a few department stores) as I looked at every coat imaginable (or maybe that's what it felt like) trying to find "the coat".

My problem is, as with food and many other things, I am picky about the coat I want.

-It has to be warm (duh) but not too warm
-It can't be white or any other light color (it would be dirty so quickly!)
-It can't be down (allergies!)
-It should have a belt or cinch (I have a waist, I want to show it off)
-It should have a hood (I have changed my mind about hoods over the years, but they seem to be less destructive to hair than hats are, and are very warm)
-It must have nice-sized pockets (for keeping things in and for my hands when I am freezing)
-It may not have faux fur (or real fur for that matter)
-It may not be "puffy" or "pillowed" (those only look good on really skinny people)
-It must be longer than my shirts (so at least mid-thigh, preferably a bit longer)
-It should have buttons or snaps, but a two-way zipper will do in a pinch (both together is fine)
-It should be nice enough to wear to church or work, but casual enough not to look stupid over jeans

...

Do you see why I am having trouble?

Upon Internet perusal I think I have found a coat that meets most of the above specs, but the problem is its temperature rating...while -35° to -5° (F) sounds like it might be right, everything I've seen says that Vladivostok's winter temps rarely fall below 0, and usually hang around the 10° (F) mark in January, by all accounts the coldest month of the year.

All the coats (on this particular site) rated for -15° to 5° (F) are all either down or exactly like what I already have...and the ones rated for 5° to 40° (F) are all just fleece...all of which I have now or don't want.

Another site I'm stalking has what looks like a nice all-purpose rain/coldish weather coat, but I'm not sure it will be comfortable in 10° weather...

So here are the questions I'm agonizing over...is it possible to buy a coat that is too warm for Russia (specifically, coastal Vladivostok)? Will I cook and be horribly uncomfortable if I go for the really warm coat (thereby wasting my money)? Will I freeze if I just stick with what I have? Or should I take a chance on an insulated rain jacket that is getting rave reviews (most often with the word warm in them) online? Or I guess I could just wait until I get to Vlad and get a coat there...?

Anybody out there have any recommendations for me?
KF

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Check that off the list...

9/15/12
Kristen says...

First of all, Feliz Dia de la Independenca, Honduras! And long may your banner proudly wave!

Even though we're in full-on "We're moving to Russia" mode, our Honduran past keeps sneaking up on us...

For example:
-Spanish is everywhere! Quite often I hear someone speaking Spanish and try to listen in just to keep the language "fresh" (even though I probably shouldn't because I need to be totally focused on Russian...it keeps amazing me how often my teacher asks me a question in Russian and I formulate my answer in Spanish...)
-My bestie Maricarmen sends me her classroom blog every week, and an e-mail in Spanish too, so I keep up on my Discovery School news and my Spanish reading skills.
-I have a hundred million pictures from Honduras, and tonight I made/ordered a book full of Honduras pictures, something like a book version of this blog without all the words. I've been wanting to do it for a while as a surprise for Chris, but he kept coming out and asking me what I was doing so I finally just showed him...it was nice to get his input, though, because he will be looking at it sometimes, too (I hope!)

As far as getting ready for Russia goes, mostly we're just practicing our Russian language skills, but we have also started acquiring things we need...believe it or not, after two years in Honduras we are somewhat lacking in things like heavy winter coats and, for me, SHOES!

I didn't realize how low I was in the shoe department...until I started looking for them a few weeks ago, I didn't remember that I'd donated/given away all my real shoes before we moved...I think I can count on one hand the number of times I wore real shoes in Honduras...and since it is getting colder here (and will be WAY cold in Владивосток!) I've started to collect shoes again. (YAY!) Also on our list are heavy coats and thick boots...sigh...I ALMOST miss tropical weather...almost.

:) Stay warm!
KF

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Russian Class Days 1 & 2

9/6/12
Kristen says...

Ух! (pron. "ookh", means wow!) Russian is tough!

I have had just two days of class and I can tell you, there has been more than one time in the past two days that I have wished I was back in Spanish class!

Part of the difficulty is that I am learning an entirely new alphabet...well, actually two, if you count the cursive...

Yes, cursive.

Did You Know: most Russians over the age of six write almost entirely in cursive??

Me either, until my teacher shared that interesting tidbit...

So not only am I learning how to pronounce letters like this:
Щ ж д ф б ю

but I am also learning to read those same letters in cursive... And they don't always look the same..

For example, the letter д, pronounced like our letter "d", is written in upper case as a cursive "D", but in the lower case as a cursive "g"...


Also the Russian letter н is pronounced like our letter "N", so even when you recognize the letter it doesn't always sound the same.

Also, due to an interesting scheduling fluke, I was placed in a class with two people with actual experience in the language...one who took Russian 10 years ago and one who lived in Ugoslavia, a country that uses the Cyrillic Alphabet and houses many Russian-speakers...so instead of going through the 3-week introductory course, we went straight to the basic course...so I am learning Cyrillic and (attempting to) read(ing) long Russian words all at once...thank goodness my classmates and teacher are patient!!!

Although it is stressful and time consuming, (we have 5 hours of in-class time, one hour of computer lab time, and are expected to study for at least two hours more on our own EVERY DAY) I think it is going to be ok...

I do feel like I am learning something, although after only two days I don't think I have gained much practical application (I can't say "happy birthday" or even the formal version of "hello" (привет -pron. preev-yet- is the informal).

Mostly I feel a little overwhelmed and VERY BUSY! But I know it will all be worth it when I can read signs and talk to people in Vladivostok!!

Hopefully I will be able to update the blog even while I work hard at my Russian... I am writing this on my iPhone, hopefully I can use this to update "on the go" whenever I have time/something to write about.

I will leave you with another fun factoid my teacher told me:

Did You Know: learning and using the Russian language uses a different part of the brain than English...so not only am I learning something new, I am also fighting Alzheimer's! Ах! (interjection standing for delight, pron. "aakh!")

:)

KF