Thursday, October 21, 2010

Москва! Moscow! Moskau!

So I was just in Moscow not too long ago and it was crazy...well kinda I guess? Anyways, Elista has two main options for getting to Moscow: (flying - there is one flight there and back every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday) or take a 24 hour bus ride.  I opted for the former because I don't really care what country you're in, a 24 hour bus ride is not exactly exciting.

Anyways, I get on the plane (which is late) and sleep for the first half of the two hour flight.  When our snacks arrive and I wake up to eat.  The guy who had been sitting next to me had been less than friendly up to this point, but I'm thinking he was a-hungry because after our meal he. would. not. shut. up.....for the next 6 hours!!

So this guy isn't from Elista, has a wife and a kid, speaks no English, works in construction and oil and all that.  He was in Elista doing God knows what, but really enjoyed the Buddhist temples and meeting with the monks.  This guy loves Buddhism.  He also loves aikido, which means that he loves martial arts and Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van-Damme and of course Steven Seagal (who has, in this guy's view, the extra added bonus of being Buddhist).  Since two of these aforementioned fellows have visited this fine town, I'm pretty sure this guy was on cloud nine here in Elista!

Well, we land and he, more or less, drags me out of the airport and we hop on a train for a 40 minute ride into the city (I am grateful for this.  It was super cheap).  But that also meant 40 minutes sitting next to him again.  After some grueling conversation about what I can't remember, we arrive in Moscow where, much to my chagrin, he votes for the both of us that we do some hardcore sightseeing.  All I really want to do is go to the hotel, check-in and get rid of my bag.

So carrying our bags (he had like 10 hours to kill before he went to his mother-in-law's place), we hopped the metro and, after him getting lost umpteen times, finally made our way to Red Square.  We took all sorts of pictures around the Kremlin, Red Square, St. Basil's and just everywhere before finally settling down and getting us some McDonald's, which was packed of course and was a 30 minute wait.
Me and my captor

An empty Red Square for Putin's bday
Bolshoi Theatre
After a few more pics, he finally let me go and make my way to the hotel where my orientation was to be held (that's why I was in Moscow; Fulbright had another orientation for us).  We parted ways and he wasn't annoying like I make him out to be, he was a nice guy and fun to hang out with for a day, though I have to admit, I thought he had some big elaborate plan to kidnap me at first...

Anyways, the next few days were spent getting to know my fellow Fulbrighters better.  We go to see the US Embassy in Moscow (pretty cool), had our digs at a swanky Moscow hotel (The Holiday Inn) and this time the orientation was really useful!

Aside from orientation, most of us did the touristy things.  We went to Red Square. We went to stores and bought English books and whatever else American we couldn't get our hands on our own cities.  We had spicy, delicious food (I had the spiciest thing ever...some beef Szechuan that was ridiculously spicy).  We stopped in at ВДНХ (shout out to all you CIEE people out there and the good times at the Cosmos Hotel).  We went to ГУМ (a super-expensive Russian mall at Red Square) and had ice cream.  And we hung out in the hotel, had a few drinks and told war stories.  I had a great time getting to know everyone better and it was fun!

If you've ever seen a Soviet film, you know what this is

The infamous Cosmos Hotel
ВДНХ (or at least part)
Since I opted to fly and our orientation ended on a Sunday, it meant I had Monday and some of Tuesday to do my own thing.  So Monday I basically wandered around the city and got lost and saw some stuff!  I saw The Cathedral of Christ the Savior seen here:  

I saw some of Gorky Park, which was eerie beyond my comprehension and so I left without really getting to the cool part.  They were, however, playing Christmas music there!  On the last day there I tried to find the Fulbright office, but instead got horribly, horribly lost and had to abandon that plan before I missed my flight.  No crazy talkative guy sitting next to me on the way back, just a nice quiet flight with some serious napping.  

Oh I'd also like to note that when I studied in St. Petersburg in 2007, the first Starbucks in Russia opened in Moscow and many Russians didn't believe it would last due it not selling cigarettes or beer.  Well, my friends, Starbucks is alive and strong in Moscow and there are approximately 15 or so in the city.  Here's the proof: 

So, Dear Readers , Moscow is just a hugely beautiful, absurdly expensive, abnormally crazy and unbelievably awesome place, but it was nice to get back to Elista. Here are some random pics of the city, please check out my link to my photo gallery with all my Moscow photos!!!!

Can't remember what this is called,
but there's a huge mall below it.

The Kremlin &
 Lenin's Mausoleum


Beautiful Moscow

Red Square, Gum (Гум) & St. Basil's

Some Fulbrighters

More Fulbrighters!

Moscow from my Hotel!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Lessons Not learned

I haven't blogged in quite a while and this is the first of several others that should show up in the next week or so.  But a while ago I blogged about being open-minded and becoming accustomed to new things in a strange new place.  Well it seems I've failed to take my own advice.

I'm still adjusting to life here and as of late, it was pointed out to that I've been doing a lot of complaining and really isolating myself.  Now I've been told this before (by the same person and on more than one  occasion) and it was something I did back in the states as well.  Making excuses for pretty much everything; being selfish with other's time and being ignorant about things.  I didn't listen before.  I think I was too stubborn to accept that I possessed many of these qualities; I was an 'international citizen'!  Well, I still am an international citizen, in a way I guess, but yesterday when these qualities were pointed out to me (yet again), it finally sank in.

I was offended when these things were said, but only because I knew them to be true and couldn't bring myself to accept them.  I stayed up too late last night thinking about them and finally realized I couldn't ignore the truth any longer.  I wasn't who I thought I was and I wasn't being the person I wanted (and want) to be.  I was holing myself up in my room and just unloading on You who so graciously helped me (thank you, I really do appreciate it), which wasn't fair to you and unhealthy for me.

I've realized that I really, really, need to change.  I need to be more proactive with my time here in Elista. I need to go out and do more and really immerse myself in the language and the culture and the people.  I need to keep in contact with those of you back home and across the world who mean so much to me (I apologize for not staying in touch the way I should) and I hope you will let me back in.  I need to really become invested in my teaching and reach out to and accept the help of others when I get stuck.  I've been an ass a lot lately and for that I'm sorry as well.

This doesn't mean things here still won't be hard, but I need to grow a pair and deal with it like a big boy.  I knew what I was getting myself into when I signed up for this and I'm here with a purpose: to become a better teacher and to learn this damned infuriating language and its silly grammar.  Certain things will still be difficult, but far from impossible (unless I get hit by a car, in which case nope, done for) and I can do this.

Now last time I didn't take my own advice.  This time I have to, otherwise I think circumstances will break me.  When I look back at it, I'm ashamed. It's time, Dear Readers, for a change and a huge thank you to You who helped (you know who you are,  I appreciate your care and your honestly, I really do).