Sunday, May 27, 2012

Russian foods

We are in Russia and  have to get used to the fact that things are different here in many ways. For instance electricity. It doesn't take much to overload the circuit breaker causing the appliances to stop working.
We have a SMALL washing machine so it's necessary to do frequent loads because they are much smaller. However, I have to time when I use the washing machine because I have learned the hard way that the washing machine and the oven and stove top and fans can not all be on at the same time. The oven is small too so I can either bake one batch of muffins or a casserole, but not both at the same time.
If I were to roast a turkey it could only be a small one because anything over 10 or 12 lbs wouldn't fit. Not to worry, though, because if I am lucky enough to find a turkey it will be around 7 lbs anyway. Talking of turkey, let's talk about other Russian food.

We have been going every week to this Russian restaurant in Zelonograd called Hoki Poki (our pronounciation.) We have enjoyed trying different traditional Russian dishes.
So far we've had:
Cherry dumplings (main dish) - little handmade dumplings filled w/ cherries and a light sauce. Yummy. Kind of a strange main dish though. I have seen it in the freezer section at grocery store too.
Vah ren ih kee - little homemade dumplings w/ onion and potato served w/ a mild and flavorful white sauce. Very similar to a pierogi and very yummy.
Meat or fruit pies (side dish). Little bread pastries (not sweet) w/meat, cabbage, apples or mushrooms served in a breadbasket.
Borscht the traditional Russian soup made of beets. Surprisngly very tasty,especially for someone (me) who was afraid of beets. ^_^ 
Potatoes are a main staple and we have had potato dishes w/ onion and pepper that was very tasty.
One food we have seen at the Hoki Poki but are afraid to try is meat jello. It looks oozhis (awful). I don't know if we will ever be brave enough to even take a bite.

We haven't found wheat flour, but it is possible to get dark bread (Pumpernickel or rye). We found the most delightful bread at the local bakery. Hearty and delicious and 25 rubles per round loaf, which is under $1. There is no preservatives in their bread.
Buckwheat and oats are easy to come by and fresh fruits and vegetables are in abundance. The strawberries this time of year are wonderful and are imported from Spain.
What I miss and wish I could find is:
black beans (bagged would be great.) There are plenty of kidney beans which I have been using.
PUMPKIN. I LOVE pumpkin. I use it year round for main dishes as well as breads and pie.
baking powder
Pumpkin pie spice and poultry seasoning (there are a lot of fresh spices - I just need to figure out what they are)
Vanilla. You can find vanilla sugar here, but no vanilla extract.
Salted butter.They prefer unsalted which is very bland.

Because we are on the go so much and traveling to Moscow at dinner time, we eat out (more often than we like to really). Fast food places include: Katoshkees, where you get a hot baked potato and toppings of your choice; Kentucky Fried Chicken which tastes like it does back home (according to friends of ours - we haven't eaten it), SubWay Sandwich shops, my favorite fast food place; McDonalds are EVERYWHERE and so are Burger King, Papa John Pizza and Dominos. They also have nice buffets in the malls where there is a good selection to choose from. Papa John's isn't bad and we eat it at the office occasionally.

Also, on Music Alley you pass by  a stand w/ this HUGE piece of roasting meat hanging in front and Sharmas are  very popular sandwich made with this meat and various veggies and cheese. It smells good, but since we don't generally eat meat, we haven't tried this.

Russians love mayonnaise and put it on almost everything. Little Nicole who we met last week in Lotoshino. loves mayonnaise with bananas. Yep, it's true. I've seen mayo added to cooked noodles too. They also like catsup and there are many different brands to include Heinz.

Foods are packaged smaller. A box of ice cream or cold cereal are about 4 servings, Eggs, which are NOT refridgerated are sold by the 10's.

We'll continue to share any unusual or different foods we may try. Highly unlikely that we will try
K-vass, which is black bread drink or the meat jello.

We send our love to our friends and family in the States. Until next week, dos vidonya.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lotoshino (Lo TOE shin oh)

Today we had the privilege of going to Lotoshino to attend Church services in a tiny branch of the Church there. Our mission driver, Alexander, drove us and a set of young elders. He picked us and delivered us to our door. Alexander is a member of the Church and he drives whenever there is a need. He has been hired to take care of the driving needs in the mission. Alexander is a native Russian and speaks very little English. His responsibilities include picking up and delivering missionaries at the airport, special shopping trips, mail run, ( picking up supplies for the office at the Distribution Center)  and whatever driving is needed. There is often a lot of mail, more than the young elders can carry, as packages and letters arrive for all of the missionaries and is delivered to the office. If there is a lot of mail or packages, Alexander picks it up for us. Sometimes there is a need to hire an extra driver, but Alexander is the "one" and we are lucky to have him. :0) 

It was a delightful change of pace for us today as we left the bustling noisy cities behind us. The high rise apartment buildings, clusters of little shops and people rushing to and fro, gave way to green meadows, little shuttered cottages w/ flower beds, farms with rich soil ready for planting.  The countryside reminded us of the USA. It was refreshing to be in the country and drive through wide open spaces.

The further we drove, we passed through little towns sprinkled here and there where it was clear that farming is the mainstay. We saw women sitting out by the road selling bottles of homemade preserves and pickles and potatoes and we saw a family in their large garden plot planting their seeds the old fashioned way - no machines, but their backs and hands.

It took us close to 2 hours to arrive at the little home of the Garbuz family where we would be attending Church services.

What a remarkable family we found here. This little Lotoshino Branch has been in existence for about 15 years. The Garbuz family came to Lotoshino from Kiev, Ukraine. There are about 20 members of the Church here. Sadly, in a matter of years, members of this little branch have gone inactive, leaving only the Garbuz family, Brother and Sister Garbuz, their son Alexander and his wife Luba and little girl, Nicole.
Nicole and Sister Garbuz with their hairless cat and a 4 week kitten. This friendly cat adopted this little kitten when she was rejected by her mother. Nicole loves kittens.

Here I am with Sister and President Garbuz and Elder Francom in the garden

Another picture of us with Elder Brown this time. This couple were so loving and so happy to have us in their home

Here we are with Alexander our driver second from the left.

President Garbuz mentioned that this little branch has suffered persecution for their religious beliefs. President Garbuz himself has been fired from a couple of jobs because of his Church affiliation. This faithful little family has Church services every Sunday in their humble home. Brother Garbuz is the Branch President and presides at these meetings. In spite of everything, they are holding tight to what they know to be true and it is a source of strength to them.

They take turns giving talks and teaching Sunday School. Of course, they are delighted to have visitors. Knowing we were coming, Dave and I were asked to bear our testimonies and the two elders, 20 year old missionaries, were asked to give the talks. In our limited Russian, we were able to share with this little branch our feelings about the Church and the joy we felt in being with them on this beautiful summer-like day. There was a sweet spirit in that little bedroom/living room where we had our Sacrament and Sunday School class and where we were  taught about prayer, the Atonement and given a lesson from the Book of Mormon and sang (as best we could) the familiar hymns but in Russian instead of English.

They were also overjoyed when we came bearing gifts. The Liahona (church magazine), a children's Church song book, new scriptures in Russian and other Church materials that we had been saving for them.  The little branch is so far away they don't have Church visitors very often because the only way to get there is by car. There is no bus or metro that goes that far out. It was a blessing for them, but most especially for us, to share in the spirit that was there.

We were given lunch afterwards, a delicious soup of potatoes, carrots and rice and homemade bread. The little table was only big enough for us, the visitors and little Nicole. The rest of the family would eat later. Such is Russian hospitality. There was an atmosphere of warmth and welcome in that little kitchen and the 4 of us felt humbled to be there with these wonderful people. We realized that this meal was provided at a sacrifice for this family who have little but are so willing to share.

Afterwards, Nicole and President Garbuz gave us a tour of the rest of the property. They certainly are industrious. There was a large vegetable garden where onions and potatoes were coming up, goats, chickens, and 3 fat pigs. Further in the back there was a large plot turned over for more crops.

It was a joyous day for us and we left feeling uplifted and blessed to have been in the presence of such strong but humble members.

How grateful we are to live in a land of freedom, where we can worship as we see fit without fear of persecution. GOD BLESS AMERICA.

How grateful we are to rub shoulders with the strong and humble Russian people. It truly has been a wonderful day.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Alone on the metro!

One of the things I feared most happened today. Anyone who knows me knows that I am directionally challenged. I refuse to go on the metro by myself. If I attempted it, I would most likely never be seen again. I have been afraid of being on the metro by myself.

When we are in the metro station, which is always bustling w/ thousands of people, I cling to Dave like a piece of velcro. Anyway, today we went to Moscow to attend Zone Conference. On the way back, we approached the "green line". (the metro lines are by color - green, purple, brown, blue and dark blue). Different colors take you different places. The door was open so I got on, but then the door closed and the door actually hit me in the arm. There was a man on the train who saw the door hit me and asked me if I was ok. (there was a look of concern on my face and I'm guessing that is what he was saying).

 I was on the inside looking out and Dave was on the outside looking in. (once the door starts to close, that's it). Dave said that I had a look of panic on my face. He said he wished he could have taken a picture. The door shut in front of me and my face was close to the glass and I knew I was headed out w/out him! He made a gesture w/ one finger and I nodded. Luckily, we had a plan. The plan was that if we ever got separated on the metro (which I swore would never happen), the person who went on ahead (in this case me) would get off at the next stop and the one left behind would go ahead and get off at the next stop also. The trains come along every couple of minutes so it wasn't going to be a long wait once I practically jumped off at the stop. I waited only a couple of minutes and there he was. WHEW!

Sometimes it is standing room only when all the seats are taken. Dave said he felt like a sardine in a can.  I have seen many acts of kindness of which I have been the recipient when a seat is offered to a woman or an older person. (I am the woman, not the older person - ha ha.)

The metro is an interesting place. We knew that we would be on the metro a couple of times a week for an hour or so. I have never found the metro to be boring. People are so fun to watch. One day I was sitting across from a lady who saw my name tag (in Russian - it says Sister Sutton Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). She was glaring at me. Another time this past week there was a man sitting across from me and he was staring without blinking. It was creepy. Then all of a sudden his head would drop forward and he would stay down for a while. Then, back up he'd pop and the staring would begin again. I decided he was looped.

You see all kinds of things on the metro. Men in business suits, jogging suits, w/ their bikes in tow, moms with strollers, old men and women and young teenagers. All different attire. One day a man came in and got out these lights which he hung from the ceiling and started demonstrating how they worked. He was selling his wares there on the metro. It worked. Sometimes people who want money come through singing or playing instruments w/ a pan held out for you to donate, or the poor will do the same thing sometimes. Then they get off the next stop and get on another train.

There are thousands upon thousands of people who use the metro every day. That truly is no exaggeration. The metro station is massive and very beautiful. There are engravings on the ceilings, some statues around, beautiful pictures and marble walls. It was very elegant at one time and still has a stately grace to it, even though people are going so quickly that they most likely do not see or appreciate the beauty around them.

It is clean. All those people are passing through and it is kept clean by a staff of people hired for that purpose. And the escalators. I've never seen anything like them before. The metro system is deep under ground. They were built to also act as a bomb shelter. The escalators are the longest we have ever seen. They are several stories high.

You see all kinds of things riding the escalators. People kissing, talking on their cell phones, reading the newspaper. They are fun to watch. I love to watch their expressions. I love to catch the eye of a child and wave and watch them smile and wave back.

In the wide wide halls as hundreds of people pass you, there are also interesting things to see. There are beautiful statues to look at. My favorite is a man w/ a dog. Many people who walk by stop to rub the dog's nose. It is for good luck. The nose is getting shiny. You also see stray dogs in there from time to time, which is not a good thing. We were there when a stray (who liked people but not other dogs) went after a dog who was walking with his master.

The metro station is not a place for the faint of heart. There is shoving as people hurry to their next destination. It amazes us as we see these little old ladies or men who are shuffling along, that they don't get knocked over. Dave mentioned that he felt like we were cattle being herded along.

My goal is to never ride the metro alone again.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day in Russia

Happy Mother's Day to the wonderful women in my life. The Russian people do not celebrate Mother's Day. However, Bishop Markov wished me a happy Mother's Day as did some of our wonderful missionaries in the Zelonograd Ward. I enjoyed talking to three of our children yesterday and hope to touch base with the fourth one today.
However, they the Russians celebrate International Women's Day which is on March 8. It is a day of gifts and flowers and celebrating women. Very nice. I'll be here to celebrate it in person next year.
My sweet companion has been giving me foot rubs and back massages and doing the dishes today. Thank you Sweetie!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Lost in Moscow (on our way to Novodevichy)

Today we went sight-seeing w/ our friends the Naegle's. We decided to go to Novodevichy, a famous convent and cemetery in Southern Moscow. After getting directions off Google off we went on this bright sunshiny day. Our first mistake was going out of the metro the wrong way. After walking for quite a while we asked for directions. The man we asked (sitting in his car) had a GPS system and he misunderstood our wonderful Russian and sent us on our way in the wrong direction. (which was the way we were going). Basically, what we ended up doing was going in a huge circle. If we had gone straight out of the metro instead of turning right we would have gotten there in 1/4 of the time. For heavens sake, how do you hide a large convent and cemetery which is located on many acres? Well, we managed to do it.
We walked our legs off but finally arrived. When we were finally headed in the right direction, (thanks to a young woman studying in England and could speak a bit of English),we could see the spires of the beautiful Russian Orthodox church beckoning to us.

Our visit to this beautiful convent and cemetery was worth the walk! SO beautiful.
                                            Diagram of the convent and cemetary grounds
Small Chapel
The lilac's were beautiful

Novodevichy Convent  was founded in 1524 by Tsar Vasily ll. Because it was founded by a tsar, it enjoyed elevated position among the monastaries and convents and became primary for ladies of noble birth.
It was also used as a prison for rebellious royals to include Peter the Great's sister and his first wife.
It was significantly rebuilt in the 1680's and enhanced after the Time of Troubles by Regent Sofia who was later confined by Peter the Great, along with the unwanted wife. Yep, it was used as a prison for rebellious royals, to include Peter the Great's sister and his first wife.

The Novodevichy Cemetery is located within the Convent walls and is very lovely. It is the third most popular tourist site in Moscow. Among the graves we saw were Nikita Kruschev and Boris Yeltsin. There are many famous Russian writers, composers, artists, dancers buried there.
                                   This is the gravesite for Boris Yeltsin which is most unusual
                                                        Gravesite for Nikita Kruschev
                             This is one of our favorite sculptures with Elder and Sister Naegle
We enjoyed spending time with our new friends, John and Carolyn Naegle, on this beautiful day.

                                   We send our love to our friends in the States. Until next week,
                                   dos vidonya!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Victory Day

I wanted to share a little with you about Victory Day here in Russia.
Russians are a proud and patriotic people.
Victory Day marks Germany's surrender to the Soviet Union in 1945.
Military parades are held in Red Square with veteerans wearing their medals.
Fireworks are part of the festivities at night.
Red carnations are given to the veterans.
Families gather around a festive table to honor survivors and remember the dead.

I see a lot of similararities to Memorial Day even though we honor all the men and women
from all the wars and Victory Day is all about World War II.

As we approach Memorial Day, it is a perfect time to reflect on the sacrifices that have
been made by the men and women of our wonderful country who have fought and are
fighting to keep our land free.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Moscow. Red Square and Victory Day

Last weekend we took our first sight-seeing trip. We went to Red Square with our missionary friends the Naegle's. It was a beautiful warm day.  It was mind boggling as we considered the fact that we were visiting a place in history that  dates back to the 1100s. WOW. Red Square is aptly named. It is a large square with St. Basil's Cathedral  on the south side, and the Kremlin lines one whole side. A special building in front of the Kremlin houses the body of Lenin, and people are invited to visit (no thank you) and see "him." There is another old church, and the GUM which used to be office buildings for the old Soviet Union. It is now a high-end indoor mall and very lovely and spacious. It is a magnificent building inside and out.

Dave & Barb standing at the north end of Red Square

Unknown Church at north end of the Square

                                   One of the towers located on the outside wall of the Kremlin
Moscow is not only a capital of Russia boasting 15 million people, but an ancient city as well. It is mentioned in manuscripts in 1147 ad.. And I used to think that New England was old!

During nine centuries Moscow underwent many severe trials: fires, devestations, and enemy's riots. In 1812 Napoleon troops entered Moscow. In 1941 German fascists tried but did not conquer Moscow. Russia and America stood together as allies and won the war against Germany. This date, May 9, is celebrated in Russia and is known as Victory Day. We saw signs of preparations for this important Russian holiday as we toured Red Square. Russian people are very patriotic and are very proud of their heritage. However, Victory Day is a Russian holiday and Americans are not invited to attend.

Dave with the Kremlin behind him

Looking south across the Square towards St. Basil's Cathedral

Looking north across the Square-Barb is in the red blouse

Our visit, however, on this day, was to visit St. Basil's Cathedral. It is truly magnificent. I have never seen anything like it. The architecture is amazing and the inside of the Cathedral takes your breath away. (unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures of the exquisite paintings that covered the walls and ceilings.) There are 8 churches within the cathedral, each named for a different saint.


                                                      Dave & Barb with Ivan the Terrible
We also saw the Balshoi Theatre on our way to Red Square. I can't imagine ever seeing it on the inside, as lovely an experience as that would be, because we simply cannot afford the high price tag!

We are looking forward to visiting a lot of different sites while we are here.

Today we walked over to a Russian Orthodox Church that we can see from our apartment window. We popped our heads inside for a minute and were astounded by the grandeur there.  There were wall-to-wall paintings of the Savior and the holy family. There were magnificent chandeliers, beautiful woodwork and ornate furnishings that looked to be gold-plated. There were no pews. When you attend church there and in many other churches in Russia, you stand during the service.
On the outside of the church there were several head shots of Jesus. To the left, was a painting of him on the cross and it was quite detailed.  Interestingly, there was a skull and cross-bones underneath the crucifix.
                                          Russian Orthodox Church located near our apartment
On a lighter note, we continue to see things in Moscow and Mitina that you just wouldn't see back in big cities. For instance, horses with riders meandering across the street. If they leave their calling card, like a pony and rider did a couple of days ago, oh well. They go on their merry way. I'm not sure who cleans up after them, but I used to complain about dog droppings!

As I have mentioned before Mitina is a large city. It has been delightful to learn that there are woods in our backyard. We walked out along one of the many paths a few days ago. People are coming out of the woodwork now that the weather is nicer! There were families having picnics, kids rollerblading, bicycle riders, boys playing basketball at a small court. It is very lovely and many different paths to take (which isn't good for me, because I could and probably would get lost). We understand that there is a lake back there somewhere which we hope to find.

We continue to love our mission and serving in the mission office amongst so many wonderful missionaries. A couple of days ago, we had a little birthday celebration here for one of our office elders who is now 20 years old.
  From left to right: Elder & Sister Naegle; Elder & Sister Pierson; Elder Brown; Elder Everett; Barb
Elder Brown, birthday boy, on the right

                   Elder Everett with his stash, which he received with a care package from home

Until next week, dos vidonya.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Thorndike and Mitina

As we settle into life in Mitina, there are So many differences...

In our ward back home in Ludlow, MA, we have friends named Pat, Sue, Lucy and Erica.
Among our new friends in our new ward in Zelonograd are Natasha, Soosha, Galia and Kateeya.
Back home we have friends named Ralph, Jim, Fran and Bob.
Here we have met Victor, Dimitri, and Alexsai and Ivan.
Back home, we have friends with the last name of Welliver, George and Reed or Vancour.
Here, their last names are more likely to be Martyanova, Frolova or Boikov.

Back home, there are towns called Pittsfield, Amherst and Belchertown.
Here in Russia  Skolniki, Rechnoy and Lotoshino are the names of some of the towns.

Late at night as we lie in bed:

Here in our apartment in Mitina, a suburb of Moscow, we hear sirens and dogs barking and people  talking.
Back home in Thorndike, MA, we hear crickets and silence.

Looking out the front windows:

At home in MA we see a little country church with a red door that is always lit up at night. We can see kids on bikes and mothers walking their babies in strollers.
In Mitina we see people rushing to catch the bus, cars speeding on a very busy 6-lane street (or as Dave refers to it, the local drag strip), kids on roller blades, mothers walking their babies, men walking their dogs.

Thorndike is a small quaint New England town where the girls in the little post office know you by name and know your post office box number without looking.
In Mitina, we haven't even seen a post office. We don't even know our address. Our mail is delivered to the mission office where we work. We don't know how other residents get their mail. We've never seen a postal truck or mailman and we have seen a small amount of what look like mail boxes but definitely not enough for the hundreds of people who live in our apartment building alone.

In Thorndike, we live in a two story condo.
In Mitina we live on the 10th floor of an old apartment building surrounded by many other older apartment buildings, all over 10 stories high.

In Thorndike, our car is used almost every day to get us around.
In Mitina, we do not drive. We walk, take the bus or the metro. (or as the youth do, ride bikes or roller blade) Roller blading is definitely big here!

In Thorndike, MA, USA,we are free to come and go as we wish.
In Mitina, we are guests in Russia and as such must always have our identification on us. We use what is called a kanga pouch around our waist to keep our passport in in case we are ever asked to show it.

In Thorndike (Palmer) our population is in the thousands.
In Mitina there are over a million people who live here. Moscow boasts 15 million people. WOW.

In Thorndike, we keep our money in a bank, write checks and use our credit cards.
In Russia, it is a cash-only society. ATM's are used to withdraw cash and purchases are made in rubles.

In Thorndike, you can find McDonalds,  Burger King, Nike, Hyundai, Subway
In Moscow, you can find McDonalds, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Subway, Adidas, Rockport shoes, Yves get the picture?

In Thorndike, when I ran out of a food item, I'd zip to the store to get it.
Here in Mitina, we are grateful for the little prodooktees on every corner (of our apartment as well) and vegetable and fruit trucks). Every Friday we generally go do our "big grocery shopping" for the week. We take our little bob cart (picture coming next week) and our sturdy grocery bags and lug our beans, tomatoes, rice home.

In Thorndike, I can find anything I need or want.
In Mitina, that is not true and I have had to learn to make do or substitute. Whoever would have thought that I would wash out the few ziplock baggies a friend gave to me? They are worth their weight in gold! And what I wouldn't do to be able to find almond, rice or soy milk! No luck yet in that department.

In Thorndike, so many of our dairy are in the refridgerated section.
Here in Mitina eggs, whipped cream (or equivalent) are not refridgerated. Most milk is shelf-stable as well and bread is brought in daily and has no preservatives.

The Russian people are clean, industrious, family-oriented, dog-loving (you see owners and well-behaved dogs everywhere). While some of them are reserved and won't make eye contact with you, that's not true of everyone. The people we see every day on our way to the office are more "receptive" to at least meeting our gaze now that they recognize us, women with babies smile when I look at their baby and sometimes we will get a nod on the bus if we smile first. Since they are such a reserved people, it is delightful when they smile or even speak to us as we pass by. (I wonder if they can tell we are Americans by our accent as we attempt to greet them in Russian?)

Wherever we go in this big world there will be differences, but there are so many things that bring us together that are the same. How grateful we feel to have this chance to be here in this great land of Russia.

Until next week dos vidonya and boods darove.