Goodness, aren’t you oriented yet? You must be quite directionally impaired.
Well actually, yes…
Monday-Wednesday of this week have been designated “In-Country Orientation.” In reality, I will probably not remember this week for the (relatively few) hours I’ve spent in a chair listening to talks about safety and how to ensure basic happiness on a Russia Fulbright (–i.e. don’t expect to be coddled or to always find a toilet seat in every bathroom).
But I think I’ll remember living in Moscow with 30 really cool people.
On Monday, we visited the Embassy. Pretty interesting. There was a statue of John Quincy Adams inside. But what’s more interesting is that afterwards five of us found Uzbek food and then walked to Red Square in the dark. I ordered lagman, a dish with noodles, egg, onions, bell peppers, and garlic. So, like, all my favorite foods. And then we only got lost about once per kilometer on our way from there to Red Square.
On Tuesday, we sat on the 16th floor of our hotel and listened to presentations by the program director, a past ETA, and past Russian FLTAs (grantees to America). Certainly not boring. But what’s definitely less boring was a trip to the botanical gardens and a family-style Ukrainian dinner. A group of us wandered the streets for a while trying to find the gardens, and when we found them, we wandered the gardens for a few hours.
For dinner we shared macaroni po flotski (noodles with some meat-onion stuff), cherry vareniki (like dumplings), cabbage vareniki, golubtsi (stuffed cabbage leaves in some delicious bright yellow sauce), and green tea. Everything was deeeeelicious. BUT I saved the best for last: sala. Yes, I ate pig fat. Yes, it was yummy (I think it was cured in some kind of garlic-mix?). Yes, I think I’ll have fairly easy time gaining weight here.
Wednesday we didn’t have any strictly official activities except a closing lunch. At this lunch, I used my super sleuthing skills to discover what people were planning for the afternoon (going to the Tretyakov Gallery or going to a cemetery), and then I used my super decision skills to choose my own course (Tretyakov Gallery, because RUSSIAN ART). So three of us walked through pretty much the entirety of the gallery, spending absurd amounts of time in the rooms dedicated to peredvizhniki (a group of artists called “the Itinerants” in English). Some of you may already be aware of my obsession with the peredvizhniki, especially Shishkin. Levitan is also awesome, but really, Shishkin.
Then we walked around a lot… like a lot… and came back to the hotel, where I ate borscht for dinner. And it was spicy! My lips stung for a while afterwards. I felt kind of betrayed by Russian cuisine, which is supposed to be failsafe for us spice-wimps. Next time I will request extra sour cream (never a bad idea anyway).
To close out orientation week, I threw a party in my hotel room. Yes, it was a tea party. Yes, we had decaf tea. Yes, we watched Anastasia. It felt appropriate.
Now on to bigger (if not better) things, like a 30-hour train ride. Stay tuned.