Wednesday, June 12, 2013

It was one of those days you would never have in your home country...

Kristen says...

 Today was a weird and wonderful day. It was one of those days that makes you happy and uncomfortable all at the same time. And yes, it was one of those days you could only have in a foreign country.

 Normally I would be working my usual 4-hour schedule on a Tuesday, but this week I had to adjust my hours and take an extra day off...I say extra because tomorrow is also a day off, thanks to "Russia Day," also sometimes called Russia's Independence Day (although, as my Russian friends point out, as Russia has never been taken over by another country, so it would never need to gain its independence...).

 I took advantage of not having to work by sleeping in (something I love love love to do) and then kind of bummed around the apartment (washing dishes, tidying up, walking the dog, etc.) The weather today, in my opinion, is absolutely beautiful (75 and sunny), so being outside was something fun.

 While Pip and I were walking around the building I noticed something that made me so happy, I almost cried:
I love peonies!
 When I was a little girl we had peony and poppy bushes near our house, and I loved to watch the ants crawl on them and couldn't wait for them to open. When Chris and I got married (7 years ago this month!) our friends and family showered us with peony petals that my mom and I went all over town to gather and then my sister and mom spent the night before the wedding plucking from their stalks...
So finding peonies in Russia really made my day!

 There are many other flowers around where we live, some I recognize and some I don't. Since I had the day off today, I took some time to go around and smell them (and take pictures of them, too!)

Even dandelions are a welcome sight after all the snow of winter! :)
 After visiting the flowers, I decided to head downtown and visit a couple bookstores I have been eying for the last few months. We live probably 2-3 miles away from downtown, not an unreasonable walk, but farther than I wanted to I took the bus.

 I have actually been taking the bus regularly to work, something that speeds up my morning commute but does nothing for my fitness, so it was no trouble to get on the bus and get downtown. I have to say that I purposefully avoided riding public buses in Des Moines and London, and clearly couldn't ride the unsafe buses in Teguc, but here the buses are pretty handy.

 There are two bookstores in downtown Vladivostok, and both are pretty good if you want books for the local Russian schools, Russian classics, or children's books...but pretty low on books translated from English, and only one of the two carries books with English-language text...and when I asked for that section, I found that in the whole two-floor bookstore, only one half of one shelf had books in English...still, better than nothing.

 After asking for the section, I thought I couldn't very well leave without picking something up (although to be honest, most of the available books were classics I can get for free on my Kindle or books I really had no interest in). Luckily they had one copy of an Agatha Christie book--in my oodles of free time I've watched all the1980s BBC Miss Marple movies and most of the 2000s remakes on Netflix, so I'm kind of "into" Christie at the moment--so, I bought it.
Isn't that the most hideous book cover you've ever seen!? If it hadn't been a Christie book, I would never have bought it. Yes, I judge books by their covers... :)
 Upon closer inspection this is a really cool copy of the book, though:
The box at the top says (roughly translated) "Кead in the Original"
Within each chapter there are endnotes, which lead you to the commentary at the back: commentary that translates words and phrases that might be hard to understand for a non-native English reader. Sweet.
  After the triumph at the bookstore I was feeling pretty good about things (all my questions were asked and answered in Russian) so I decided to push my luck and try to find the Russian post office. Last week I bought some postcards and I wanted to get them mailed. I could have mailed them using US stamps from the consulate, but I thought that the people who were receiving them might like Russian stamps, so I went back to the place I bought the cards from to ask where to mail them from...

 Which turned out to be right next to the bookstore. Le sigh. At least I got my exercise!

 After visiting the bookstore and mailing the cards I decided it was time to head home. We were going out to dinner and I wanted to let Pip have some out of his kennel time before we left him again.

 If you remember, a few months ago I mentioned the Methodist Church located not far from our apartment. The bus stop closest to our house is not far from the church, and as I was getting out I noticed that the door to the church was open...a few years ago the Methodist Church as a whole had an ad campaign Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors. so since this door was open...I decided to go in.

This is where the wonderfully weird part starts.

 Inside I found rows of chairs, an alter, even information (in Russian) about the history of the Methodist Church...and four women taking part in a Bible study.

 Of course, the were startled to be interrupted, but they were very welcoming once I told them that I was a Methodist and had just wanted to check out the church. They were so welcoming that they invited me to join them.

 I guess they were pretty much done with the Bible study part (or decided to be done when it was clear that my Russian was not up to Biblical discussion) because they all started closing their books and putting them away.

 The leader of the group, the youngest of the four, explained to me that after their study they danced and then had tea. She asked me if I liked to dance, and I, not understanding, said I didn't (which is true), that I liked to read and things...but she invited me to dance anyway, and so I did...which was totally hysterical, because we were doing the Russian-style dancing where you shuffle in circles and raise your arms and...ok I can't describe it, but it was pretty funny/fun.

 We only danced one song, which I'm not sure was because I was there so everyone felt awkward, or because everybody just wanted tea, but either way, after that one song we sat down and had tea with Russian bread, a carrot-butter-garlic salad, and chocolate. Mmmm.

 And after that I went home, to write this blog and think about the weird day. And while yes, any of the above could have happened in the States, remember that while I am telling you about it in English, 96.8% of the day happened in Russian...probably incoherent Russian at times, but Russian.




  1. Great blog, Kristen!

    Love you!


  2. Kristen I love your blog.
    I live in Des Moines, most of the flower about done now except the last picture. We have had a lot of rain this spring. So we been mowing a lot. A ton of construction going on all ove town.

    1. Thank you Sharon!! (I am so sorry I'm just catching this comment now!) We are in the Des Moines area now, and it's nice to see how little the city has changed since we left, even with all the construction! :) I'm excited to get back to Vladivostok and see how the flora and fauna has changed in the past three weeks! :) Thanks for reading, and for commenting! :) Kristen


We love reading your comments about our crazy adventures!