Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Week 5

I think that's right. I already did week 8, 7 and 6. Counting backwards was never my strong point (ok, counting forwards isn't my strong point either).

11-17 July. I'm sure if I skipped a few days, someone will let me know.

So, Monday-Thursday: same as last week, including margaritas.

Friday, 15th: Excursion to Gorki Leninskie. This is the home (the writer's, Gorky) where Lenin lived the last couple years of his life. It's about a half hour drive outside Moscow. Before I describe the excursion, this would be a really good place to say, Russia has the best public transportation in the world. Tokyo may have a better metro than Moscow (but only because it's newer), but every time we went into the countryside, we took either a bus or a train. And it didn't matter how small the town was, they would have public buses. So a giant shout-out to Russia for having something really, really right.

Anyway, there's a museum at Gorki Leninskie and then the two houses (the summer house and the winter house, of course). The museum was amazing. It was set up really, really well. They even had these cheesy areas, kind of like disneyland, where they would play music and movies, but there would be statues and stuff, so it would make it look like they were moving. It was so cool. I can't wait to go back. They actually had a lot of displays that could be useful for my dissertation. But, they said they don't actually have archives at the museum. It would still be fun to visit again. The houses were beautiful. These were old style nobility houses. We got to see Lenin's library and his office. It was also just really beautiful out there. Then, instead of walking all the way back to catch our original bus, we hiked for 30 minutes through fields and up hills to catch a new bus. We were joking that it was like some bad movie, with a string of American students walking through a foreign land to find transportation and shelter. We walked by a giant pond, and there were so many Russian families swimming. It was really hot, so I think most of us wanted to join them.

Then, that night, I met Elena, Illona and Natasha for dinner. We had a good time, just talking and eating.

Sat., 16th: I did homework all morning. Then, Elena and I, and the other student Kari, went to the Great Patriotic War memorial and museum. That would be WWII for you Americans. The GPW was very traumatic for Russia and the USSR. More than 26 million Russians were killed, and more than half of those were civilians. The entirety of Western Russia was completely destroyed. Of course, it didn't really help that Stalin was very paranoid and started moving around whole groups of ethnic peoples (anybody know who the Chechens are?). But the Russian people fought and they put it out there and I honestly believe that if the Russians hadn't fought like they did, Hitler would have won. Their main memorial looks like the Washington memorial, except there is an "angel" at the top, and along all the sides, are friezes of war scenes. It has the names of the cities who really fought and suffered carved on it, and various people as well. At the base, there is St. George, the Patron saint of Russia, slaying a dragon. It's very beautiful, but almost impossible to take a picture that does it justice. The building behind it is very beautiful, old style, with columns. The museum is in there. The museum has a Hall of Sorrow, recognizing all the people lost in the war. Hanging from the ceiling are 26 million chains, some with crystals on the end, to represent those who died. It is very beautiful and really reminds you how much 26 million really is. The museum also had a Hall of Glory, that lists all the people who won highest honors in the war. I think there were 4 different honors for this. Around 12,000 people were awards at least one of these. I think 4 men were awarded all four. Almost 80 women won at least one of them. The USSR had a division of women fighter pilots, and women were much more active there then they were anywhere else. Quite a few partisans (underground rebels in German occupied territory) won these honors as well. Since this year is the 60th anniversary, there were many different things going on to celebrate. Outside the Hall of Glory, there were the photos of some of the recipients, along with a large, painted portrait of them now, along with a biography. Needless to say, there were not 12,000 of these (however they were still working on it). I was pleased to see that among these recognitions were the portraits of 4 women. The actual museum itself was amazingly professional and still beautiful. It included sections on their allies (that would be us) and the help we gave them, a section on partisans, and a section on the Jews of the USSR, among many other parts. If you ever go to Moscow, demand that you be taken here. Absolutely amazing. It makes you thankful that within the last 100 years a war has never been fought on our land.

I need some sort of good transition here. That night, I made fajitas for Nina and Elena (Nina is Elena's mom: I lived with her). Nina was amazed and kept telling Elena to watch me (Elena doesn't know how to cook, and Nina does her laundry and ironing and everything else: on the other hand, Nina doesn't work and Elena does financially support her). Nina was very impressed, and thought the fajitas were just delicious (she was still talking about them when I left). It was fun, but I have to admit, I didn't light the stove (old gas stove, have to light it yourself). To be honest, I was terrified of the stove.

Sunday: 17th: Elena and I went to Novodevichii monastery and cemetery. First, I should say it's actually a convent, because it's for women, but Russian doesn't have a word for that. Second, do the cemetery first. It is beautiful, but it will also help you understand Russia. Now, this is THE "state" cemetery, but still. The graves are much closer together than they are in the states, and people plants flowers and plants on the graves. All the gravestones are monuments to the persons life. For example, this one person was a Dr. On his grave was a life-size statue of him in his dr. scrubs. This one woman was a ballerina, her statue is of her, in her ballerina custom, doing some move. They were almost all like this. There was one of a clown, and he had a monkey sitting on his shoulder on his statue. These were celebrations of the lives that these people had lived, not mourning for the lives they had lost. Now, the "regular" cemeteries are as "fancy" but even there, they usually have a picture of the deceased on the gravestone. I felt very at peace there and contented and happy. How many times have you felt like that in a cemetery? The monastery grounds were nice, but they really are all over the place in Russia.

After the monastery, we walked around this beautiful park and pond. We found these statues, of a giant mama duck and her babies following her. I guess they had been presented to Russia by Barbara Bush and represented a very famous American children's story (of which I had never heard). So I got a picture of me sitting on the mama duck.

I guess they really liked the fajitas, because that night, they asked me to make them again. They really were good.

ok, there's week 5 for you.

On a different note, I'm going to grandparent's house this weekend. I guess my grandpa's health is starting to rapidly decline, and he maybe going senile. I talked to my grandma yesterday, for the first time since I got back, and she asked me right away when I was coming to visit. When they die, I'm not going to wish I had done more homework. So, there will be no internet access from Friday until Monday night.

I hope everyone has a great day,
I have a dr.'s appointment. I'm going to ask to be put on acutane, because even though my adult acne keeps me looking young, I'm tired of looking like a 15 year old going through puberty.


1 comment:

Queen of Ass said...

I know you were busy, yet had a blast and everything, but can I second the whole "Glad you're back" thing?

Also, hope your grandpa's health situation works out okay.