Sunday, June 24, 2012

Adjusting to life in Moscow

Someone asked me the other day how we had dealt with the culture shock. I responded that we had done well. A lot of things that are different don't really matter. We are guests in their country and we need to be the ones to adjust.
We are trying to expose ourselves to the good things Russia has to offer. After all, it's not like we are likely to come back to Russia. We take advantage of the sight-seeing opportunities we have and foods to experience.
As I write this, I am listening with delight to church bells from the Orthodox Church we visited a few weeks ago and can see clearly from our window. What a heavenly sound!
Many things are smaller:
Washing machines and the detergent boxes. You only need 1/8 cup for the machines.
Cereal boxes. Each box has about 4 servings (but you pay as much as you would in the States)
The refridgerators in the apartments and the freezer section is a lot smaller. We have learned to 
   adjust accordingly.
Paper napkins are tiny. (and flimsy). I choose to use papertowels which are about the size of a
    paper napkin and sturdier.
Aluminum foil is also flimsier.
The oven is small. I can fit in an 9 X 13 pan, or a smaller muffin tin. BUT I can't use the oven
       when the washing machine is on because it trips the circuit breaker. If we are able to find a turkey for Thanksgiving, about 7 lbs will be the limit.
Servings in a restaurant are much smaller than in the States (which is a good thing).. The servings are adequate for one person.

Some things are bigger:
Unhappily, their flies are very large. :o(
There is a black bee here the size of a bumble bee and aggressive. Not happy about that either.


We are trying different Russian foods.
K'vass is a non-alcoholic  drink made of dark rye bread. It is pretty bad. We tried it and it was served warm (yuk) and tasted like beer. (double yuk). We were encouraged to try it again at a stand where it was served cold. Better but still yuk.
Russian cookie made in Tula, Russia. It is gingerbready, baked in shape of a matroushka doll (nesting doll) and filled with yablahka (apples). Quite yummy.

Less salt and sugar and little spiciness is one way to describe traditional Russian foods. If you were to buy a Snickers bar over here,(which they do have)and also M and M's, chances are you wouldn't like it because there is less sugar in it. In baking, little salt is used (which is a good thing I guess, except that the food tends to be bland). I don't think they know what the word spicy means, even though they do use lots of fresh herbs and "non-spicy" spices. Cinnamon is very popular here. Russians like their drinks served warm; water or soda or juice. (I don't know about the liquor).

We really enjoy the potato dumplings (similar to pierogis). Cherry-filled dumplings (like a pierogi)  topped with a light cherry sauce is popular and is considered a main dish. Dave had a milkshake and it was more like a smoothie. Very light on the sugar (a good thing) and small, served in a milk glass.
Potatoes are a big thing in Russia and are served fried with onions and peppers. They are very much into all kinds of meats and salmon is a popular fish.

One food we have seen at the buffet and have been warned about is holladeeyets. MEAT JELLO.  The top looks like murky jello w/ a suspicious layer of brown on the bottom. One of our missionaries said that he tasted it and it came right back up. A Russian native told us that he would eat the holladeeyets his grandma made, but wasn't real happy about it. I think that is something we will forgo. Isn't it lucky for us that we don't generally eat meat? ^^

Things you don't find here are cake mixes, canned soup and spaghetti sauce. Peanut butter and cornstarch are hard to find and I miss canned pumpkin and almond or rice or soy milk. I pretty much hate the shelf-stable milk but don't have a lot of choice there if I want a bowl of cereal or to make pudding.

Their jams and juice are wonderful. The bread at the bakery is yummy and very reasonable pried at about $1 a loaf.

Certain foods can be found in abundance. Buckwheat, millet, quinoa, rice. Buckwheat is a biggie. i have made a delicious buckwheat loaf (in a meatloaf pan) which is really yummy. It makes a great cereal and I am still experimenting with it.

Some things are just different:

It truly is a different world here. You take a couple from a small New England town and plop them in the middle of the largest city in the worl (15 million people) and there is definitely some things to adjust to.
Sirens, explosions, and firecrackers at all hours. Fortunately I haven't heard gunshots. BUT also we hear the sounds of children laughing and the church bells ringing.
Even though we live in an older section of Mitina it is still a safe area.
Drunkeness is very visible. Staggering, falling-down drunkeness. It's not uncommon for someone to take a swig or two from a vodka bottle as he sits on the bus or in the metro. It's not uncommon to see vodka bottles left where the owner finished them; the sidewalk or thrown into the grass.

There is much more smoking here as well starting with the very young. No wonder the life span for a man here is only 57.

And yet.........
because the large majority of the people who live in the city or surrounding cities live in apartments and do not have cars, the bus or metro or your two feet are the forms of transportation. We see many old women (babushkas) walking slowly along, sometimes with the aid of a cane, on their own power to get from here to there. You don't see as many old men.

Kamikaze pilots:

We live on Piatnisky Highway, a four lane highway that the Russians easily turn into 6.  There are too many cars for the roads and highways. They drive like kamikaze pilots! There is no enforced rules of the road. Some of the cars speed excessively, they appear to be offensive drivers not defensive. It is every car, truck or bus for themselves. And as for pedestrians, BE CAREFUL.
We have had experience with VERY rude, dangerous drivers (when we were in a car) who forced us off the road and polite drivers who stopped to let us cross safely.


The LONG days lasting from about 4:30 am - 10:30 pm ...Russian children are still outside playing when we retire. I guess they need to play outside as long as they can, because come winter it won't be as much of an option. Since we haven't lived here during a winter yet, we will report on that later. Not looking forward to those short days and bitter cold though. :0(


Dogs are EVERYWHERE, both strays and family pets. We've seen a handfull of cats and lots of birds. We have forest behind us and a lot of empty land on our way to the office. We have not seen as much as one squirrel anywhere. I am wondering if the dogs eat them? It's strange.

Some things are the same:

Russia appears to be trying to  "Americanize" in some ways. McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burger King are very popular.


We are loving our experience here. One thing we have become aware of is our need for better communication. Dave is starting to take Russian lessons from Galia on Tuesday for 1 1/2 hours. She will come to the office. I have committed to my own personal Russian language study using the tools that Carson, our tutor from the MTC taught me.

I want to be able to communicate with the old lady I sit next to on the bus. I want to learn more about my three new "friends" who work at the productee and the fruit and vegetable stand. I want to understand the members at church (to  degree anyway) Russian is a hard language to understand, but we are going to try to improve our communication skills (which can only get better).


We feel blessed to have become good friends with some very special people in the office. We have dinner together every other week, either at one of our homes, or we take turns choosing a restaurant. We love having the mission office elders in our home a couple of times a month. We love our sight-seeing trips with our friends and have a couple exciting trips lined up. One to see Russian dancers, visit some museums and more sites in this beautiful ancient city.

We feel blessed to be able to stay in touch with you online. I love seeing mom and Shauna and other friends on skype and talking to Dave's mom and Mike and Kev by phone. I love hearing from you on FB or email.


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