Archive | June, 2003
June 30, 2003

I follow the Moskva down to Gorky Park…

Moscow is so sweet.  I think I like it more than Saint Petersburg.  There seems like a lot more to do here whereas in St. Pete it was Nevsky Prospect, Nevsky Prospect, and more Nevsky Prospect.

Yesterday we went to Sculpture Park, (located in Gorky Park) the final resting place of the various Soviet era statues.  The most well known statue there is that of Felix Dzherzhinsky (founder of the Cheka, the forerunner to the KGB).  The Dzherzhinsky statue used to sit in front of the Lubyanka (KGB Headquarters) until it was pulled down by Russian citizens during the fall of the USSR.  There are also statues of Lenin, Stalin, Brezhnev, etc.  Afterwards we walked along the Moskva River to check out the ridiculous statue of Peter the Great.  It is one of the funniest statues I have ever seen.  Then we went to the Church of Christ the Saviour, which was recently rebuilt.  The old one had been destroyed by Stalin…he wanted to build a “Palace of Soviets” but that idea never materialized so instead it bcame the site of the world’s largest outdoor swimming pool.  Ah, Russia!  After we went to the church we had blini!  There was a blini stand right outside the church…I have had blini for three days straight…that stuff is soooo good.

Today was the first day of class.  Class is alright…I am remembering a lot of Russian from last year…I seem to have forgotten it during the year in between my trips to Russia.  Oh well.

We are at the Time Online Internet Cafe at the Okhotniy Ryad shopping mall near Red Square.  It’s an underground shopping mall designed by the same guy (Tserteli, I believe his name is) that built the Peter the Great statue and the Christ the Saviour Church.  As he is the favorite architect of the Moscow Mayor, he has certainly had ample time to leave his mark everywhere.

Liz just told me that Putin was at the Moscow International Film Festival yesterday.  Dammit, we were going to go to that but decided not to!  Argh!  I coulda seen Putin!

I am still waiting to get my Passport back from the government so I can get my damn cellphone.  This place can be really annoying because there is so much red tape…every document has to get stamped (they are obsessed with stamps) and you have like 4 different IDs that you have to carry around. 

Well, I got to write a lot this time because I bought an hour of internet time (yay!).  Hope everyone is doing well back in the States.  The Fourth of July is coming up…I have no idea how we are going to celebrate it.  We have met some other Americans in our dorm, so we were trying to think of something to do.

June 28, 2003

From the scramble and dust of Muscovite streets…

Today we went to Red Square and saw Lenin.  Nothing has changed from last year – he is still wearing the same silly polkadot tie.  We were going to go to the Kremlin but it was cold and rainy and we decided to go see a movie at GUM instead (maybe Kremlin tomorrow).  We ended up seeing Anger Management, but it was all in Russian so I didn’t really understand a whole lot.

Classes start Monday.  I’m going to get a cell phone, soon.  My visa is being registered and I can’t get the phone until I get it back…the red tape here is ridiculous.  Alright, internet time is almost up.  Liz says “hi” to everyone at GW.

June 26, 2003

I need internet

We travel quite a long way just to use the internet for half an hour…go one stop from the metro near our dorm, then transfer to the circle line, then go to one stop then transfer again and then go 3 stops up.  This is insane, I gotta find a place closer to my dorm.  This internet cafe is awesome, though.  It is in a really nice mall…it’s like an American mall, but with Cyrillic signs everywhere.  Alright, my time is almost up.  Ahhh I need a closer internet cafe!

June 25, 2003

I’m back in the USSR, you don’t know how lucky you are, boy

Liz and I arrived safely in Moscow.  We are staying at the Shabolovka Dorm in the southern part of Moscow.  It’s alright…kind of like a Russian version of New Hall, I guess.  There’s no hot water (supposedly won’t be turned back on until Sunday) and taking cold showers is NOT fun.  We live on the 6th floor and the elevator is broken (typical Russia, yeah?)  The time difference has thrown my sleeping schedule way off (Moscow is 11 hours ahead of California).  Ahhh my internet time is running out (we are at an internet cafe a few metro stops away from our dorm), so I will write some more later.

June 23, 2003

All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go…

Well, this is it – my plane leaves in a little over 12 hours from now.  My flight is out of LAX, so I am leaving here at 6:30 in the morning.  I am meeting up with Liz in Atlanta and then from there we fly to Paris and then to Moscow.  We only have one hour inbetween our flights in Paris – hopefully we (AND our luggage) will make the plane.  Supposedly when we get to Moscow someone from MGU (Moscow State U) will meet us at the airport.  I have no idea where we go from there – maybe to the dorm?  I sure hope so, because I am going to need some sleep after traveling 24+ hours straight.  I can’t sleep on planes, which is something I need to work on, because it’s really annoying when you are the only one awake on a redeye flight.

I am almost done packing.  I had to run out and get a bigger suitcase today, and now all of my stuff fits in it quite well.  I packed a ton of snacks in it (trail mix, goldfish crackers, beef jerky, dots, and jujebees – you can’t get that stuff in Russia!).

Some of you have asked for my address in Russia – I don’t know it yet, but when I do I’ll let you know.  If you sent me mail it probably wouldn’t get there anyway, as the Russian mail system isn’t known for being very efficient.  When I was in St. Petersburg last year my mailing address was in Finland, and it was sent by courier to the Westpost office in St. Pete.  That’s how bad the mail system is over there – you have to have it sent to another country!  I’m sure I’ll be checking my email over there, though.  There are internet cafes spread throughout the city, and Liz is bringing her laptop, so maybe we can find a local ISP to dial up (if we have a phone line in our room, that is).

Oh yeah, I got the new Harry Potter book.  It’s HUGE.  I’m going to leave it here and read it when I get back…I don’t want to haul that book all the way over there.  I’ll stick to some small paperbacks for the time being.

June 14, 2003

Socialism in one country? Nyet to that!

You’re Leon Trotsky. Actually, you were never a leader of the Soviet Union, probably because Stalin was just a little too tricky for you. Famously intelligent, but a fool among fools, you are revered in South America alongside Pepsi as one of history’s great losers.

Which Soviet Leader are you?

June 7, 2003

Have visa, now allowed to travel

I received my Russian visa, and starting June 21 will be allowed to enter the Rossiiskaya Federatsia.  I’ve been very impressed with the efficiency of the Russians.  I didn’t expect that everything would come together so quickly, so props to the Russkies.  Now I just have to get some medical insurance for overseas.  Russian hospitals are free (even for foreigners) but you would probably find your condition worsened after going to one, so it’s best to avoid those.

I haven’t been doing much down here.  The desert is so boring and during the day it is hot as hell (although this past week it hasn’t been too bad).  I’ve had a ton of free time, so I’ve been reading a lot.  It’s nice to be able to read books that you want to instead of the ones that professors assign.  I finally finished Dostoevsky’s Crime & Punishment – interesting book, but not as good as I expected.  When I was at Border’s I randomly picked up Aleksander Topolski’s Without Vodka: Adventures in Wartime Russia.  It’s probably one of the best books I’ve ever read.  It’s the true story of Topolski, a 16 year old Polish reserve soldier that was caught by the Soviets when he was trying to cross the border into Romania.  The Soviets sent him to the USSR, where he was held in a variety of prisons and labor camps.  It is truly an incredible story – highly recommended!  After that I picked up Casino Moscow by Matthew Brzezinski.  Also a very good (and quite humorous) read detailing life in capitalism’s wildest frontier and the events leading up to the 1998 financial crisis in Russia.  Continuing with the Russia theme, the last book I finished was In Siberia by Colin Thubron.  This book makes me want to go to Siberia (preferably not in the winter, though).  Right now I’m working on Taubman’s Khrushchev: The Man and His Era, a hefty biography on a certain eccentric Soviet leader.