Saturday we walked into the heart of Mitina to buy a metro pass, bus ticket, enjoy the sunshine and get more familiar w/ our neighborhood. We needed a muffin pan so we went to the local mall to check it out. There were many nice clothing stores and in the basement of the 3-level mall, we saw a kitchen supply store. In we went, found the muffin tins, the girl took it from me and walked to the counter (I guess she was afraid I was going to run out of the store with it). I was pleased to be able to make Dave blueberry muffins.....until I took the time to look at the receipt. We ended up paying the equivalet of $34 for one nice muffin tin. WOW. They saw us coming! In order to make up for that extravagant purchase, I will need to make muffins twice a week for our entire mission! From now on we will ask "skolka stoit?" meaning how much is it. Live and learn.
We are delighted that Spring is really here. We are amazed with how quickly it came and how quickly the snow, which was piled up a foot high or more in frozen dirty clumps of icy snow, disappeared. No time was wasted in using shovels and picks to move those icy clumps away. In three days time, they had the snow removed, had raked and tidied up the lawns and there was grass growing! Today we saw buds on some of the trees as well. The temperatures have been in the 60's and the days are getting longer. Because we are so far north we experience more daylight much in the same way as Alaska does. We may need sleeping masks as before long we will be going to bed when it is still light out!
Also, people are coming out of the woodwork it seems to enjoy the sun after the long dark days of winter. Roller blading and biking is very popular w/ the younger people and kids and people are sitting on benches outside, kids are playing on the playground and couples walking their babies.
We have noticed that the Russian people are an industrious people. They work VERY hard to keep things clean. There is a constant crew using brooms made of sticks tied tightly together, to sweep sidewalks, sides of the street, painting fences, picking up trash and removing snow.
The metro stations are filled w/ thousands of people every day. There is a crew that cleans up after those careless enough to toss cigarette butts or paper down. Sadly, as in any large city, there are those who are very poor and some of them take up residence there during the day hoping for a few coins. We have gotten in the habit of grabbing a large handful of spare change every time we go on the metro for this very purpose.
There are tiny businesses everywhere (as before mentioned - productees, vegetable trucks, flower stands) where people earn a modest living. Wouldn't it be wonderful if America adopted some of the work ethic we have seen here by putting those on welfare to work in keeping our communities clean?
Russian people love dogs. I can look out the window almost at any time and see someone out there w/ their pet. The dogs we pass on the street w/ their owners seem to be very well behaved. Even the strays which are plentiful, are used to people and appear to be well behaved. I wonder if they watch the Dog Whisperer?
It is delightful when we meet friendly people and it is becoming apparent to both of us that we need to improve our Russian skills a bit so we can interact with those who show an interest. This past week on the bus it was VERY crowded and Dave and I were standing near the front of the bus. When a seat was vacated the woman next to her motioned for me to sit down next to her. She was chatting cheerfully and I felt sad that I couldn't communicate with her. We have both decided to make studying Russian a little more important. Our days are so full and we are usually tired when we get home but it is important. We will keep you posted!