July Monday

Cyrvynne xyx print by Spires

Hello friends,

Thanks so much for stopping back here. The move has been so much more time-consuming than I thought it would be! It’s been hard for me to make time to post. But I miss the blog. The introvert half of me misses the reading, reflecting, and writing lifestyle that comes so much more naturally when you live in a 1-room Moscow apartment.

I’m not sure how this blog will evolve over the next few months, but thanks for bearing with me, and for coming back to read. Your comments, emails, and hellos have been so encouraging!

Until then, here are a few thoughts for the start of your July week:

And finally, this quote:

“Life is about experiencing all the things you find interesting and fascinating. Just get out there and experience as much as you can. Participate in life.” – Louie Zamperini

I’m thinking a lot this July about how to organize my life around experiences and things I find fascinating.

How are all of you? Any quotes or links or tips to share with the rest of us?

P.S. Art print by Spires found here

Share

The Great Thing about Living in Moscow?

What is so great about living in Moscow you at times may wonder?

It is, in my humble opinion, those bright diamond-clear moments that are totally transcendent.

White nights strolling along the river.  Coming in to hot tea, good friends, and a warm apartment from a freezing black December day. Life-changing conversations in an over-priced cafe with terrible service, but really good baked-bread. Ballet, painting, music and sculpture that reaches out and touches a part of your soul that you hadn’t even known existed. Personalities so deep and strange and lovely that make you see the world in a new, surprising, and more grateful light.

You have to wade through a whole lot of crap to get there, but those moments of beauty stand out stark in this city. Moscow, in a nutshell, is weeks and weeks of crap until you fall into one bright shining moment so lovely, and so unlike something you would experience anywhere else.

The lows are lower in Moscow, but the highs are higher. There’s just very little insulation.

Would you agree?

Share

Have a Great Weekend!

Hello dears,

How has your week been? We are trying to settle into things here in the U.S. We’ve spent the week car shopping. (So overwhelming! So many choices!)

Will you celebrate the 4th of July wherever you’re at? The U.S. embassy in Moscow usually has a great party… We are looking forward to fireworks here – I haven’t celebrated the 4th in the U.S. for 7 years.

A few links for your weekend:

P.S. camping photo found here.

Share

Birth Story: A Complicated Birth in Moscow (pt 1)

portrait by Pablo Picasso

It’s taken me forever to write this post. It’s so personal! But I think I would want to read something like this. I definitely would have wanted to read it a year ago when we were making decisions on where to have our baby, and what to do for pre-natal care. So, hoping that it will make for either an interesting read OR a helpful guide to anyone choosing where to have their baby, here goes…

Not long ago, I read an essay by Ariel Levy wherein she said that giving birth was the most real thing that had ever happened to her. I don’t know if I could say the same about having Anna, but it was an incredibly vivid experience. One of those action-packed, stressful memories where you have some new, momentous decision to make every few hours.

Being in an international marriage complicates things like having babies. For us, the decision to have a baby in Moscow was one we came around to gradually. I was pretty confident I could get good healthcare at EMC and the Perinatal Medical Center – especially as being pregnant in Moscow had been such a breeze – but I was sad that I wouldn’t be near my mom, sister, and brother when baby came. Eventually though, we decided to stay in Moscow for the birth because

  1. economist husband wasn’t ready to leave his job and I wasn’t ready to leave him and risk being on separate continents when baby was born.
  2. obtaining health care and insurance in the U.S. seemed too complicated and expensive at the time – we had found a doctor we liked at the EMC, and a fantastic personal insurance rate with CIGNA

So, we decided baby would be born in Moscow.

It was the end of November, almost two months until my due date when I switched from my gynecologist at the EMC to the Perinatal Medical Center, where I started seeing the obstetrician (Dr. Maria Borets) who would be overseeing my actual birth.

My first impression of the Perinatal Medical Center in southern Moscow was a very good one. Economist husband and I went on a hospital tour, and loved the clean, spacious rooms, the incredibly kind and polite staff, and the fact that we’d be able to have a doctor that spoke both Russian and English. The staff promised that economist husband would be able to be with me for the birth, which was the main reason we’d chosen to have the baby in Moscow. Several of our friends had had babies there, and they’d all had a great experience. Plus, they said, the food was great, and they took really good care of you. I was looking forward to it almost like a (painful) hotel stay where you get to leave after the weekend with a sweet little baby in your arms.

We came home, chose a doctor, and I went back for my first visit with Dr. Maria Borets soon after.

When I went to the PMC at 35 weeks for my first check up, I got a very different impression than I’d had from the hospital tour. The staff was still very kind and polite, but the way the day clinic was run was more Soviet/Russian than I’d realized. After the clean, calm, and personalized atmosphere at the European Medical Center, the PMC felt like a conveyor belt. I came in, donned plastic shoe covers, and visited the accountant right away where I had to pay in advance for all the services I’d need that day. Then I was given a handful of receipts (талончики) that I used to visit the ultrasound technician, obstetrician, and the technician who administered fetal heartbeat monitors to a roomful of pregnant women. After I had my various tests, I brought a handful of paper results, and documents in to my chosen obstetrician (Dr. Borets).

My pregnancy had been completely healthy and uneventful up until that point. EMC doctors had warned against lifting anything heavy because my placenta was looking a little low on ultrasounds, but they assured me it would move up by the time the baby was born.

At 36 weeks, on my second visit to the PMC, however, the obstetrician informed me that, not only would I have to have a C-section, but that I would have to be immediately admitted to the hospital.

This was a complete and total shock. I had been getting around just fine with absolutely no signs of complications at that point. I had actually been planning to go in to work the next day. When I asked the obstetrician why I needed to stay in hospital, she said it was because my low placenta meant there was an increased risk of bleeding which could put me and the baby at risk.

At that point, I refused to stay in the hospital – I was still a good 5 weeks away from my due date, the baby’s heart rate was totally normal, and I hadn’t had any bleeding at any point. The doctor made me sign a release form, saying I understood the risks, and I went home to stay on bed rest and scour the internet to figure out if either I or the doctor was crazy. From what I can tell, women with placenta previa in the U.S. are usually only admitted to hospital if they start bleeding, so I felt pretty good about my decision to stay home. But just in case, economist husband and I made plans to move into a friend’s apartment near the hospital. We wanted to be within close driving distance should I start bleeding or anything else.

The week passed uneventfully, and at my next weekly check-up, one week before western Christmas, the doctor again insisted that I be admitted to the hospital. Later she explained that this is not only common practice for a low placenta in Russia, but is also actually the law in Russia – if a woman has a low placenta she is supposed to stay in hospital after 34 weeks.

It was incredibly stressful to make the decision to stay in hospital. I felt that the doctor didn’t explain her decision very well to me. I had heard that Russian doctors like to show their professionalism, and knowledge by ordering lots of treatments and directions to their patients, and expecting them to obey without discussion. I had hoped, however, that this clinic, supposedly the best in Russia, would be different. It felt like I was being bullied into the hospital, instead of making the decision myself on the basis of what the doctor told me. Still, it was my first pregnancy, and the doctor insisted that the baby would be in danger if I didn’t. Plus, our insurance was supposed to pay for it.

So I was taken down to the first floor of the hospital where I filled out some paperwork, had my winter boots packed up into a plastic bag, and then had the surreal experience of being weighed, measured, showered, and shaved (!) by a nurse. I was shown to a room, and immediately had an IV put in, and a dinner brought to me. Economist husband showed up later that night with my things – I had packed a bag in anticipation of this possibly happening.

It was the week of western Christmas, so I had an incredibly difficult time getting my insurance company (CIGNA) to approve the hospital stay, and spent several days on the phone to them, trying to sort things out. Finally, on Friday, they said they couldn’t approve the stay, so the next morning we packed my bags, and went to live in a friend’s apartment nearby. I wasn’t convinced that I needed to be in hospital anyway, so was glad to have the excuse of insurance to leave.

For the next week I visited the hospital’s day clinic every morning to monitor the baby’s heart beat, get a shot, and sit for an IV drip. By the end of the week, however, ultrasounds were showing that the baby hadn’t grown at all, my amniotic fluid was down, and my placenta hadn’t moved up, so the doctor again insisted I be admitted. That day was probably one of the most stressful days of the whole experience. I couldn’t tell what exactly the problem was, and felt like the doctor was doing more to scare me into submission than to explain and help me understand what was happening. I called the U.S. to talk to a friend of a friend that was an obstetrician, and they said they didn’t think I needed to stay in hospital. Economist husband was at work and couldn’t come down to give me a hug or help me scour nearby grocery stores to find the coconut water and marrow bone that they recommended I eat to help boost amniotic fluid and blood flow, so I was waddling around southern Moscow in the sleet scared and extremely pregnant, hauling bags of frozen spinach, and coconut water around, and asking store clerks to check whether or not they had any soup bones in their back rooms. I spent most of the afternoon overwhelmed and in tears.

The next morning I went into hospital again, and was admitted. It felt like a relief to have made a decision, and to not have to totter around looking for spinach and liver. I settled in for another few days of IV injections, billowy hospital nightgowns, and having food brought to me on trays. The doctor said they wanted to monitor me for a week, and that if things didn’t change significantly, that I could expect to have a scheduled c-section in mid to early January.

More on THAT in the next post…

Here are the pros and cons of prenatal care at Moscow’s Perinatal Medical Center in my opinion:

  • PRO: the place is incredibly clean. Everything is sterilized, they make visitors wear shoe covers, and they send someone in to clean your room at least once a day. You can pretty much eat off the floor.
  • PRO: Everyone is very friendly. Just about every member of staff I met was really helpful and kind. The nurses were gentle with administering shots, and there was always someone on call to help with anything from a question about finance, to getting an extra pillow, to having a maid come in to wipe up the floor if the shower leaked.
  • PRO: The food is great! They feed you six times a day, and it’s all really delicious (Well, except for the few times I got cow tongue as a breakfast side)
  • PRO: You get your own spacious room (with a fridge!), and your own bathroom- I know this is a rarity in many Russian clinics, and even in some U.S. and European hospitals.
  • CON: I didn’t really like my doctor. She seemed to have the attitude that she was the professional, and I should just shut up and listen to her without asking too many questions. This was incredibly stressful. She didn’t seem to want my input or even my questions on any of the medical decisions being made. I wish the care had been more interactive, or even that the doctor had taken the time to explain things more fully to me.
  • CON: I didn’t like that they pushed hospitalization on me. I wish that they had tried to think of an alternative solution, or at least discussed things with me. I know that this is normal in Russia, but I chose this clinic because I didn’t want the normal Russian birth experience.
  • CON: The treatments suggested to me were much more invasive than I would have liked. I wish they had worked harder to give me less invasive options, and I don’t like how quick they were to jump to the conclusion that a c-section was necessary.
  • CON: I guess this is true of just about every hospital experience, but I hated the feeling of being caught up in some giant machine. The nurses and caregivers, while very kind, had their own systems, routines, and procedures to follow, which didn’t leave a lot of time for explaining to me what was going on, listening to my concerns when it came to big medical decisions, or deviating in any way from their habits to give individualized care. It felt like being on a pregnant lady assembly line where you were passed from one person to the next as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • CON: It was incredibly expensive. By the time everything was added up the bill was around $40,000. There is no way we could have afforded it without insurance.

Well, that wraps up the report from the prenatal part of my hospital stay. I’ll be posting Part II about the actual birth later. Thanks for reading!

P.S. If you are in Moscow and trying to decide on where to go for having a baby, and have any questions about the pmc or emc or doctors, or insurance, or anything, don’t hesitate to email me (breakfastinmoscow@gmail.com). I’d love to hear from you!

Share

Have a Beautiful Weekend!

Henri Fantin-Latour A Basket of Roses

Hello dear friends,

The past two weeks have been crazy with moving preparations. There hasn’t been much time for reading or blogging, but here are a few quick links for those of you who DO have time to browse:

P.S. beautiful rose painting by Henri Fantin-Latour found here.

Share

Top 35 Things I’m Excited for in Suburban America

 We’re leaving so soon! There are a few thoughts that keep rattling around in my head over and over as the move gets closer: It’s really happening! In just a little while we’ll be there, and we won’t be back in Moscow for such a long time! Are we making a mistake? This is a good decision. Man, I’m going to miss Russia…

One thing that helps a little when I start to get anxious/homesick/nostalgic is going back over the list of things I’m excited for in suburban America. I’ve been making this list for over a year now, and it does make the move a little more exciting.

With no further ado, a list of the top 35 things I’m excited for in suburban America:

  1. dishwashers
  2. Being able to order things from Amazon.com (being able to order anything online and have it delivered)
  3. garages
  4. backyards
  5. Netflix
  6. no traffic jams
  7. fresh air
  8. Target (and Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods, and Costco, and Walmart, and ALL THE STORES!)
  9. Not having to make new friends every six months because all my old friends have moved away
  10. Living near my mom, my sister, my brother, my sweet little niece, and my fantastic brother in law.
  11. Italian food with Sarah, long talks with Anne, possible work dates with Bethany, being on the same continent as Mandi, and reminiscing with Amanda – living near all those dear friends
  12. $5 rotisserie chicken at Cub Foods
  13. a slower pace of life – getting home from work at 6 or 7 instead of 10 or 11pm
  14. not living in a rental (having clean carpet!)
  15. NPR in the car (and driving in general)
  16. my church
  17. almond butter (and quinoa, and kale, and sweet potatoes, and year-round berries, and all that food that’s so hard to find in Moscow)
  18. grilling in the backyard
  19. parking lots
  20. baby changing spots in all the public restrooms
  21. a relatively trustworthy police force
  22. freedom (you can taste it as soon as you get off the plane)
  23. clean tap water
  24. affordable steak restaurants (ANY sort of affordable restaurant!)
  25. Panera Bread
  26. Everything in my language all the time
  27. Great customer service being the norm
  28. The laid-back relaxed atmosphere that comes when life is predictable, and people are friendly and open
  29. garage sales
  30. the beautiful wooded walking trail behind my mom’s house
  31. The exciting possibility of summer road trips! And summer camping!
  32. Decent plumbing (the bathroom doesn’t constantly smell like sewer)
  33. The unknown future
  34. being around for all those weddings, graduation parties, family dinners, and baby showers that I’ve had to say no to for so many years
  35. public libraries

P.S. table photo found here.

Share

What I’m Going to Miss About Russia

DSC04378

Friends,

It’s been a strange week. It’s very surreal to think that we’ll be leaving all of this soon. Economist husband tells me our life in Russia will be like a dream. One morning, not long from now, we’ll wake up, and the entire seven years we’ve been here together will have faded away like a breeze rustling the edge of a curtain.

We are saying our goodbyes, packing our bags, and researching health insurance in the U.S. Sometimes, when I stop to think about leaving, it hurts, and I get a little panicky, and nostalgia hits me like a wave. It’s such a big change, and it’s so emotional, and I know I’m going to miss Moscow.

Specifically, I’m going to miss the following things about Russia:

  • the way Russians always have tea with lemon after their meals, and eat their cake with a spoon
  • How quickly this city changes: new laws from the Duma every spring, random (and nonsensically) placed metal detectors in the metro, expats washing up on Moscow’s shores every time the season changes, the sidewalk constantly being dug up and re-laid, etc., etc.
  • the sound of trolleibuses out my window (the sound of everything out my window)
  • walks in the park
  • the metro (LOVE not having to take care of a car, love the democracy of it, the efficiency. Altho def. more complicated now that I have a baby)
  • Debbie. Joy. Nastassia. Masha. Catherine. Albina. Many friends have moved on from Moscow, but there are many I will leave behind.
  • the fantastic news I’ve been able to report on here – it’s hard to beat larger-than-life personalities like Putin, Lukashenko, Lavrov, Kadyrov, Nazarbayev, Tsiskaridze…
  • the Bolshoi. The Tretyakov. Gorky Park. Tverskaya Street.
  • the people – people are so interesting here – smart, cultured, international. Artists. The expat community here is either super isolated, or super dedicated. Russia isn’t a top expat destination – they don’t exactly make it easy for people to move here, so those that do come are often crazy intense russophiles who are incredibly dedicated to learning more about, and loving this country. I get so inspired by them. I love it!
  • My in-laws
  • long summer evenings
  • the way guests here always take you up on offers of tea, and just about any food you have to serve them. No all-American “Just ice water, please,” here!
  • Conversations in which you don’t have to explain the meaning of the word ‘dacha’, ‘babushka’, or ‘remont’ and in which everyone can relate to and understand your funny stories about riding the metro, and the scary kiosk sales ladies.
  • Our warm apartment (why do Minnesotans keep their homes so terribly cold??)
  • Long, hot showers, courtesy of city water heating
  • The U.S. embassy – they’re fantastic
  • summer trips to Europe – much easier to do from Moscow than from the U.S.
  • Being able to walk places easily (cafes, stores, metro, parks, family – all within walking distance)
  • The random stuff you can get from babushki selling their wares at the metro (peonies! teapots! cornflowers! pumpkin!)
  • Stores that are open late and just across the street for when you really, really need to just pop out for that nutella to spread on your midnight crepe snack.
  • the summer camp/college dorm room atmosphere that allows you to make friends easily in the expat community
  • The view out my eighth-story window
  • Speaking Russian
  • Being a foreigner – living here as an expat that speaks Russian has opened so many unique and fantastic opportunities for me here.
  • My life. I’m really, really, really going to miss my life here. I moved to Moscow with two suitcases, and only knew one person, and God gave me a beautiful life here – a home, a career, dear friends, a husband, and a daughter. All praise to Him.

Mostly, I’m just going to miss BEING here, being connected to this city. It’s nothing specific, it’s just the feeling of home I have in Moscow that I don’t have anywhere else. This quote from Miriam Adeney sums it up well:

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” -Miriam Adeney

Share

Have a Lovely Weekend!

art by Dominique Corbasson

Hello dears,

I hope your week has been good. Mine has been a bit surreal, on the countdown to moving away soon. I’m suddenly so nostalgic for Moscow in May: long evenings, warm weather, the sound of trolleibuses humming in from my open window, and taking walks in the park with this little lady (who has recently acquired a sunbonnet, and little puffs of hair on her head).

Here’s to hoping you have a lovely (4 day if you’re lucky enough to be in Moscow!) weekend!

P.S. The above artwork by Dominique Corbasson was found here. Her work reminds me of Ludwig Bemelmans, no?

Share

We Are Leaving Russia

Silver Cups on Blue Floral by Olga Antonova

Friends,

Economist husband and I are planning to leave Russia. We’ve been talking about it for years, and finally decided that this year was the right time to make our move.

It feels surreal, to be honest. Moscow has become our home. We met here, dated here, started a family here, and have built our lives here. I’m a bit in denial about leaving.

There are lots of reasons we’re moving on. Some of them are silly, and some of them are serious, but they’re all part of the reason we’re wanting to move on. Here are some of the things that have convinced us it’s time to go:

  1. Moscow is such a different place with a baby. Becoming a parent changes your life so drastically. I find myself craving clean air, clean (non-rental!) carpet, a back yard, and the ease of suburban U.S.A. so much more now that we have a baby in tow.
  2. It’s just time. Like I said, we’ve been talking about this for years. If not now, when? It feels like a good time to interrupt our jobs, and start over in a new place.
  3. I miss my family! I want Anna to grow up around her American cousin, her aunt, and uncles, and grandma. I miss the support of my big family in the U.S. (Although, obviously we’ll miss our wonderful family in Russia)
  4. The traffic. OK, of course this alone wouldn’t make us want to leave but really, I’m sick of the average four hours traffic eats out of every single one of our days. I’m sick of not wanting or being able to do things in this city because of the traffic!
  5. The non-stop pace of life in Moscow. I don’t like the long work hours most jobs require of you here. Economist husband usually leaves the house around 7:00 and doesn’t get home until between 9:00 and 11:00 pm. I miss seeing him!
  6. A majority of our friends are gone – we’re tired of starting over. I love the constant influx of amazing people to this city, but it gets really hard to say good bye all the time. We missed church for a few months this winter when Anna was born. By the time we were able to come back, we hardly recognized any one! It gets to be exhausting to have to say goodbye, and make new friends every few months.
  7. We are tired of renting, and don’t want to invest our savings in a tiny, expensive Moscow apartment with a sky-high mortgage. When we compare real estate prices in Moscow vs. suburban America, there really just isn’t any discussion.
  8. In general, the cost of living in Moscow is really high. We know that the U.S. is also getting more expensive, but we want to try living somewhere more affordable
  9. Corruption and an absence of the rule of law in Russia makes things feel really unstable here. We feel OK just keeping our heads down, not making waves, and avoiding traffic violations or any other sort of run-in with law enforcement, but there’s always the fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Russia has a 99 percent conviction rate. It’s not a statistic that gives a person peace of mind about investing or building a future here. We want to live somewhere more predictable, and stable.

What it all really comes down to is that we don’t like the future we see for our family in Russia. Don’t get me wrong – we have been really blessed here, and are so thankful for the time we’ve lived in Moscow. It’s hard, of course to see what our future might be in the U.S. We can, however, see what our future might be in Moscow, and we just don’t like the way it looks.We want something different for our family – different schools, a different environment, a different lifestyle, and I hope that the change the U.S. will give us that.

It’s such a scary decision for us, though! We know that the U.S. will be hard. We know that the transition will be difficult, and we know that we will miss Moscow like crazy.

I love the life God has given me here. I love, in many ways, the person I’ve become here.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll be back in Russia before too long. :)

For now, though, I hope this decision will be a good one for our family.

In any case, you can look forward to some reverse culture shock and moving-themed posts here on Breakfast in Moscow over the next few weeks and months, and I expect this blog will evolve in its content.

And what about you, friends? Have you ever moved to a new country? Was it harder or easier than you thought it would be? Any advice for us?

P.S. beautiful tea cup painting found here.

Share

Russia’s Best New Photographers

photo by Nadia Sablin

Calvert Journal recently compiled a list of 24 photographers they describe as “changing the way we see Russia”

The collections of work by these artists is breathtaking:

photo by Anastasia Tsayder
photo by Ekaterina Bazhenova
photo by Alexander Gronsky
photo by Daria Tuminas
photo by Alexey Bogolepov
photo by Olya Ivanova

I loved all of them, but Anastasia Tsayder’s work especially. Calvert Journal writes:

Tsayder documents everyday Russia, but unlike most, she’s chosen interiors over landscapes, documenting the intimacy of dimly lit rooms in village houses or the tacky, cluttered social spaces of schools and hospitals. -Calvert Journal

Her photos were so familiar – they reminded me of all the offices, hallways, living rooms, and stores I see every day here. I love it!

You can see the full collection of photos, along with descriptions of the artists, HERE.

Share

How Do You Know If You’ve Met Your Soul Mate?

Coral Peonies Art Print by kristina meltzer

It’s a big question. Too big, actually, in my opinion. I think the idea of a soul mate is something of a fiction. The word ‘soul mate’ freaked me out in my early twenties when economist husband and I were dating. I kept testing him against the enormity of that word, trying to see twenty years into the future to decide if he was the right person to marry.

Now, with several years of marriage behind us, the word has gained a depth that comes from experience, and friendship, and a shared life. Economist husband (thank God!) has become my soul mate.

We’re celebrating five years of marriage this week. I am so, so, so thankful to be with this man. Five years ago, though, I really wrestled with the decision of whether or not we should get married. It was mostly just me being freaked out by the immensity of the choice I was about to make. Looking back, though, there is one thing that made me realize that economist husband was the right man for me: he loved me just the way I was. 

I didn’t have to pretend with him! He knew who I was, and he loved me for who I was.

It’s like the quote from Juno:

“…the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person is still going to think the sun shines out your ass. That’s the kind of person that’s worth sticking with…” -Mac MacGuff

Ha! Isn’t that a great quote? That’s how I knew. Plus, you know, the fact that I was head-over-heels in love with him.

Thanks to my husband for a wonderful 5 years of marriage! I’m so grateful for who you are, and I’m so grateful just to be with you. Here’s to many decades more!

What about you, friends? What do you think is the determining factor in finding a soul mate??

P.S. peony print found here.

Share

The Most Personally Worrying Thing to Happen in Russia This Year

100_5506

A lot of things have changed since Russia annexed Crimea. It really feels different here than it ever has before. It feels like a slow (or not so slow!) return to the restrictions, and paranoia of the Soviet Union. Of course it’s not 1937, but there are new constraints coming into force that haven’t been around for decades. There are two new laws in particular that I find personally threatening:

  1. Russian parliament’s recent decision to approve legislation making it a criminal offense to hide dual citizenship
  2. A law that puts restrictions on bloggers and the internet

It feels like freedom in Russia is fading quickly. I think that the next year or so will see Russia clamping down on the internet, and people in Russia with dual citizenship will be penalized. Perhaps they will eventually be forced to give up one of their passports, or find themselves denied permission to leave the country, or worse. Perhaps the law will be used to pick on certain individuals that the authorities find threatening – that’s the way a lot of laws here work. Having a foreign passport is legal according to the Russian constitution, as is the freedom to travel, but I share the concern of many who think that the constitution does not really mean anything in Russia anymore (if ever!). Another recent rule was announced banning 4 million Russian civil servants from traveling outside the country, despite the constitution guaranteeing the right of Russians to travel.

I won’t elaborate too much more on a theme that many journalists have already covered in depth. I’ll just say that, as part of an international family, the dual citizenship law is really scary. Will Russia penalize international couples? I’m afraid the answer is already pretty clear.

Here are a couple of fantastic articles on the subject:

 

Share

Birthdays in Russia (plus, our family’s birthday traditions)

Friends,

Last week I celebrated my birthday. Economist husband outdid himself with yellow roses and Комильфо chocolates.

Birthdays in Russia are a big deal, but they’re definitely celebrated differently than they are in the U.S.

  • In Russia, it’s usually up to the birthday boy or girl to plan and pay for the party. Co-workers expect you to bring cake and champagne to the office, and friends expect you to pay for their meal and drinks at a restaurant.
  • Presents, in my experience, are usually a big deal, and are usually given in front of everyone with at least a little pomp and circumstance (enormous bouquets of celophane-wrapped flowers are a pretty popular gift).
  • Birthday greetings are a must. People’s phones ring off the hook when it’s their birthday. Their parents, friends, cousins, aunts, co-workers, and bosses call to congratulate them, and wish them all sorts of things in the new year (usually, you know, health, happiness, success and love). This also comes in the form of toasts if you host a birthday party.
  • Birthdays can only be celebrated ON your actual birthday, or afterwards – never before. Russian superstition says it’s bad luck to celebrate your birthday before it actually occurs.
  • Blowing out candles on a cake has become a thing, and people even sing happy birthday – either in Russian to the ‘Happy Birthday’ tune, or else they sing the Krokodil song (Confession: I LOVE the Krokodil song!! It’s so Russian, isn’t it, to, instead of just going for “Happy” in your bday wishes, to look at the dark side of things, and say “Unfortunately, birthdays are only once a year.” Ha!):

Economist husband and I, however, have our own birthday traditions. From my side of the family, we’ve incorporated the breakfast in bed ritual (you get whatever you want for breakfast, and you get it served to you in bed!) From his side of the family, we have started giving each other exactly two gifts – one small gift that’s a surprise (i.e. my roses/chocolate), and one big gift that the birthday boy or girl picks out themselves.

What about you friends? Do you have any birthday traditions? I would genuinely love to hear about them.

Share

Have a Great Weekend!

photo (3)

Sorry for the long silence on here this week, friends.

It’s been a crazy week of roof repairs (read: constant hammering), move preparations, and lots of editing work here. There hasn’t been much time for blogging. Thankfully, we’ve had amazing weather – long, golden sunsets, walks in the park, ice cream. It’s gotten so hot, we’ve turned on our air conditioner. What a difference a few weeks can make!

Here are a few links for your Saturday and Sunday reading:

Share

Have a Beautiful Weekend

Friends,

The weather in Moscow right now is perfection! Gorgeous sunny skies, apple trees and lilac bushes blooming in the parks. So, so lovely!

And it’s ночь в музее (Museum Night) in Moscow tomorrow night. If you haven’t made plans yet, you should head to Gorky Park – they’re showing the ballet Giselle there for free!

A few other links for your weekend browsing:

P.S. Kids and Shadows photo found here

Share