Moscow calling

Wishing you a hearty привет from Moscow!
It was a stressful journey on such a cramped and crowded 747….
I’ve been here for nearly two weeks and am comfortably settled in my flat. Whilst I did love my slightly retro apartment in Odessa, it is exciting to have somewhere that is equipped with more than one fork. And there is a TOASTER. My excitement knows no bounds. TOAST.
I’ve found myself settling in here much quicker than in Odessa (although taking that extra time was 100% worth it to get to love that special place), and have put it down to two main reasons:

1. Friends. Crazy Russianist friends. It is the best thing to have two of your favourite people launch themselves upon you as you walk into the arrivals hall of Domodedovo airport, and it is wonderful to have such entertaining tour guides.
2. The metro. I LOVE that there is a metro here. Although I did come to love my Ukrainian marshrutka rides (and became pretty adept at yelling at the driver to open the back door), they are not necessarily the easiest things to use. Praise God for easy to read metro maps and fixed stops and 60 journey tickets.
Just to make up for saying possibly bad things about Odessa, here is a photo to prove my real emotions:
Whilst I’m here I’m doing an internship at the law firm Linklaters. Work has so far been uneventful and everyone seems nice, but my time hasn’t been terribly work-filled due to the wonderful timing of public holidays in Russia last week. This has meant ample time for fun things, mostly revolving around drinking beer in various Moscow parks.
Here is a little snapshot of the last 12 days or so:
Jamie and Rhiannon took me on the obligatory trip to Red Square, which did not disappoint.

It didn’t take long until we took a nostalgic trip to a Ukrainian restaurant, complete with dancing.
Faye and I have been to Hillsong here a couple of times, where we got to celebrate Easter no.2, as Easter is celebrated later here. Our Russian got a good workout as, save song lyric translations on the screen, everything is in Russian.
We then paid a visit to Patriarch’s Ponds of Master and Margarita fame ( here is an adaptation)

First ever hashtag, felt wrong. It shan’t be happening again. To get over that shame we went to the zoo (classic post-church activity, I’m sure)

May 9th was Victory Day, we missed most of the military parade but headed into town for more of the festivities. 

I enjoyed joining in with this troupe singing Katyusha, a wartime song (take a listen
The highlight of my victory day was listening to some old women sitting outside singing Katyusha at 11pm. That was when it sank in that I am, indeed, in Russia.
The weather has been glorious, so it would have been rude (and indeed churlish) not to have had picnics in the park.
Jamie and I went to explore Sokholniki park and enjoyed some excellent dancing.

We had a mini Cambridge reunion in Izmailovsky park, complete with the world’s thinnest baguette and little Faye with a big beer can….

….and then indulged in some souvenir shopping at the market near the Izmailovo Kremlin, which is a very surreal wedding complex cum open-air museum.

Oh and TWINS!

And Jamie and Rhiannon’s home. No joke. This is Moscow State University.
 A few hopefully interesting happenings/conversations:
1.  Sitting behind me on the plane was a British guy and his Russian girlfriend. As we were coming down to land, out of the plane window we could see lots of very grey forest. “Darling, is that forest all dead?” “Yes, it’s normal in Russia.” We then flew over a blackened airport runway that appeared to still be in flames. “Are we landing there?? Darling, is that runway on fire?!” “Yes, it’s normal in Russia.” I know I sure felt positive as we touched down.
2.  None of Moscow’s 3 main airports are located at the metro station Aeroport. Thankfully I didn’t have to learn this the hard way. 
3. “Polish?” “No, I’m British.” “Polish accent. Hmmm yes, Polish.” “Poland is great, but no, I’m British.” “Hmmm Polish.” 
4. Walking near Gorky park and we stop at a coffee van which advertises ice tea and coffee. “An ice tea please.” “No.” “Ice coffee?” “No.” “Is there anything with ice?” “In principal.”
All in all, an excellent time so far.
This said, my so far very short stay in Russia is slowly confirming my suspicions. Prior to coming to Cambridge, and turning down a place to do French and Croatian at UCL, I had convinced myself that Russian was just as ‘me’ and that my heart would come to leap with joy at the very prospect of  writing and discussing an essay on Pushkin. Not to say at all that I have never felt enraptured by our study material- errr HELLO  and once again, but I rarely seem to be quite as in to it as some as my contemporaries who really seem to have it on their hearts to penetrate this culture. This is perhaps the issue with having very clever friends (who at least are kind enough to commiserate with me 😉 )
All this is rather confusing. How can you be exactly where you hoped to be and feel in exactly the wrong place? I know this is what it has all been leading up to, I know how incredibly lucky I am to be here, and I am having a lovely time. But I don’t think Russia has my heart. Somewhat surprisingly to me, far from disappearing from my vision in favour of the excitement of Russian, French has remained a part of my day to day and still excites me every time I hear a French tourist or a cheesy French pop song on the radio here.
Before I get too sentimental, perhaps I should consider that the reality is that it’s more to do with Russian being so bloody hard.  Oh, and brie.
While I ponder some more, I invite you to get excited for Eurovision 2013 which is this Saturday! What you should really do is come over to my flat for my now traditional Europarty. There will be excellent music, houmous and Greek pride. Don’t you laugh, it’s dissertation research and therefore intellectual, okay?

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