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Peace Corps, June 14, 1997

My Russian Host Brother

Dima rocks in German & Russian

the host fam

My Joe-Cool Host Fam

Margo is swank

My Love: Margo

spies like us

Summertime Fun

Alex & Dima, on the electritchka

Dima & Alex in 'hard class'

russian apc

Three friends & an APC

When we first arrived in Russia with the Peace Corps, we lived for three months with a Russian host family to acclimate ourselves with the people, culture, and language of this country. Overall the Peace Corps did a good job matching up the volunteers, whom the Moscow-based Peace Corps staff had just met, and residents of Zelenograd, the city we were to study in.

My match was perfect. I moved in with Natalia, Vladimir, Dima, Pasha, and Margo. Vladimir works in Moscow, an hour's commute from Zgrad, at a cruise company. He is a great father, teaching his sons how to be real men, in a country lacking sober ones. Natalia is the typical suburban mom, taking care of the house and the kids, while still looking good for Vladimir. She knows she has a fairytale life! Dima is the older son, and he read this page to his parents when he found out it was here. He knows enough English to help me out when I am stuck in Russian, but he doesn't let me use him as a language crutch. Pasha is the youngest son, a avid football (soccer) fanatic, who was always out playing with his friends.

Margo (on the right in the photo to the left) was my secret lover when I lived with my host family. She would climb into my bed at 3 am and start licking my face. If she wasn't so heavy, and have such good aim with her paws, I might not have minded as much. Margo is a trained attack dog, not uncommon here, where police can be bought, and she now knows sit, shake, bark, and lay down in Russian and English. She also is always ready to go play if you put on your shoes and grab her bone.

Notice the glass pitcher on the table. That is compot, a tasty drink made with little red berries. It took me a while to figure out why women were selling these berries that when eaten raw, are very sour.

The white pitcher is for water. Here everyone boils all their water before drinking it. Dima's family went a step further by passing it through a strong filter first. I think it is a it much, as I've lived in South America, but with cholera outbreaks even in Moscow, I'm not gonna be stupid to prove a point.

At the end of Peace Corps training we had plans to go to Riga, Latvia for new visas, and I wanted to leave a day early to spend some time with my friends there. Thankfully Dima talked me out of going, for he had a few surprises in store for me. The day I wanted to go to the train station to change the tickets, an all-day affair here, I went to an air show with Dima instead.

It was amazing. I was walking among all the latest Russian military jets and helicopters. I was amazed that I, an American, could wander freely among the aircraft, photographing and even touching the hardware. I did notice a group of American 'diplomats' with the largest cameras I've ever seen, taking as many pictures as they could.

In the midst of this Twilight Zone of Death, I saw and interesting sight. Boeing (the Seattle aircraft manufacturer) was there, trying to sell their commercial aircraft. (They also announced a 1billion loss this year due to problems meeting their current order backlog.) The American salesman was quite shocked when I asked to see the inside of the plane in my perfect American accent.

The extra day I would've been in Riga, and stayed in Moscow instead, Dima took me to my first Russian football (soccer) game. When we pulled up in front of the stadium, Dima's dad asked for my passport and disappeared into the stadium. Just as I was about to flip over his, and my passport's absence, Vladimir came strolling back. It seems my passport got us into the stadium for free. When I accused Vladimir of being a bit of a hooligan, he just laughed. Dima told me that all Russians have to have a small hooligan in them to survive in this country.

Alex has a bit more than a small amount of hooligan in him, I have never seen him pay for anything but food. Once he even snuck into the circus without paying. He wasn't all that lucky, he had to stand though the whole performance.

I think Alex and Dima are 'droogs', but I'm not sure. Usually you have to really know someone for a long time before you use the word to describe the other person. Strangely for me, here your wife/husband is not usually your droog, but it is someone of the same sex.

Notice the wood benches on the electrichki. That's why this is the 'hard' class. Sometimes the trains have cushion seats, but you have to be quick to get them before the babushkas grab all the seats.

A large paper in Moscow sponsors a 'Teenagers Day' in Moscow each year, and Dima took me this summer. We spent the whole day wandering around the Lenin Stadium in South Moscow, listening to Russian bands play. I'm not a big fan of such events, preferring to stay away from big crowds, but Dima was fun to be with. We met a bunch of his friends throughout the day, doing the usual teen thing, looking and being seen.

Dima is a great guy, and I am lucky to have lived with his family for three months. They are good people.

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