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The Semi-Regular Newsletter

Travels in Russia

KLM Rocks Across Europe!
Santa Claus in Moscow
Television Is a Time Suck
The Reality of Irrelevance
Salute Mayor Luzhkov
Impeachment Happens
I Am Not The Only One...
I'm Back! Did Ya Miss Me?
Chechnya Burning
Weddings in Winter
The Jews Are Here!
Is There a Central Bank?
Santa Barbara is Real
Nick's Thanksgiving in Russia
Den' Rozhdeniya = Birthdays
Those Crazy Expats
It's Just a Few Drops of Vodka...
Elections Are Always Rigged
The Blind Leading the Blind
Good Russian Grooms
You Say 'Boris Berezovskiy' Fast
Too Cold to Care!
Russian Oil Towns
Sneaky Siberian Tigers
Which Way is St Peterburg?
Where am I again? Oh, yeah...
I Love Me Some Vodka
It's a Gosorg Halloween
Hunger Comes to Us All
Why Don't They Just Learn English?!
Post-Crisis, Life Goes On
Is Yeltsin 'The Man'?
Murmansk - Brrrr!
Taganka Hides Her Secrects
These are Communists
It's a Power Vaccum
The Commies are Back
Propaganda is Good for You
You Better Buy Russian!
Sex Ed Soviet Style
Party over, oops outta time!
Russian Healthcare in Moscow
What Russian Financial Crisis?
YE Prices in Russia
The Hungry Duck
Russian Caviar Mafia
Magical Mushrooms
Shhhh! We're Bear Hunting
Soviet Street Scams
Bez Dollarov
A Koshka Konspiracy
On The Dacha
The Banking Implosion
Surviving Army Life
Shashleek is Steak on Steroids
Dacha Thinking
Beach Weekend
Dos Vedanya
Hello from Vladivostok
Equality Means Only She Works
Jogging is an Extreme Sport
Russians Have Reunions Too
My Folks in Massive Moscow
Better than Fireworks
Miners Are Real Men
The Russian Mafia is the Roof
No One Smiles in the CIS
One Year Anniversary
Russian Brides Rock
Laura is My St Pete Connection
Change is in the Wind
Chuck Norris' Beverly Hills Casino
The Expat Woman's Predicament
Street Food is Yummy!
Spring Flowers Make June Leavers
The Provinces Are Provincial
Ever Take an Elektrichka?
The English Invasion
Nuttin Like New Money
Rules Are Made to Break
All Black is Russian Fashion
Easter Memories = Easter Dinner
Politics, Russian Style
Theresa Tries to Russify
I Go to Gay Clubs Worldwide
I Hide on Women's Day
New & Shiny: Nizhny Novgorod
Psst! Wanna job in Moscow?
Fili Park Has All the Bootlegs
Web Page Reactions
Take a Break at Dom Odaha
Expat Living in Moscow is Swank
Why Are You Remonting?
They Look Like Telephones...
In Need of a Decent Hairstylist
Smashing Bottles in Red Square


Russia, November 30, 1998

Gailyn Goes to Town

What happens when you let Americans with cash wander around a Russian mall

The glory of GUM (pronounced G oo m)
Shop till you drop!
More shopping!
Check out the glass ceiling!
And more shopping!
Fountains for sale too!
For all the beautiful ladies
And don't forget the flowers

Gailyn's Personal Adventures in the Frozen Tundra

Wayan, as you requested I am giving my second installment of my own personal adventures and experiences in Moscow- or Moskva to the locals. I must first say that things here have been going significantly better than anticipated.

First, my arrival into Moscow via the international airport. On our first trip in July, we flew coach so when we arrived and wound around the entire airport on foot we were confronted with the dreaded 'PASSPORT CONTROL'. After and hour and fifteen minutes just waiting to get our passport checked and being pushed and cut in front of (my husband almost got in a fight with a French woman), we then we able to get our bags and then stand in line for customs.

This time, since the company paid for us to travel business class, we made it through Passport Control in less than five minutes. I have also been informed that for a fee of $250.00, you can have someone meet you to get you through the Diplomatic line. I prefer business class; you get a recliner on the plane, your own personal video system, and real food.

After Passport Control we had to make it through customs. This time we were quite apprehensive since we were carrying 10 bags- yes 10 bags( we aren't like Wayan who came with a backpack), plus Scout- our red Persian cat. We were told before we left the United States that we would need a Health Certificate less than 10 days old and proof of the rabies vaccination. We had all of these documents but of course written in English. We were also told there would be a veterinarian awaiting our arrival to assure our cat was in good health.

We entered the line ' Something to Declare.' We anticipated a 2 hour delay with this whole process. Let me tell you that the fastest way to make it through customs is to have 10 bags and a cat. The woman customs official looked at the two trolleys heaped with baggage, the health certificate written in English, and finally the cat, rolled her eyes and waived us through. We made it from our seats in the plane to our hotel room in less than an hour and fifteen minutes, which I think must be a record.

We stayed at the Aerostar Hotel while we searched for temporary housing. We had stayed at the Marriott on our last visit which was very comfortable but unfortunately they don't allow cats. We got a suite at the Aerostar which was the size of the normal room at the Marriott- Europeans have a different view of 'space' than Americans. We looked at a number of Russian apartments. Walking into the entry hall [podyez] was quite shocking. My husband described it as looking like 'the entrance to a crack den in Harlem.' I don't think I would be quite so harsh but it was rough looking. However, once you get into the actual apartments they are quite lovely. High ceilings, lots of windows and quite roomy. Due to the 'Crisis', lessees have the advantage. We were able to secure the presidential suite in a French hotel- we even have a bidet. Although we are still debating how to use it.

We have been to a number of restaurants. One included a Russian/Cuban restaurant- an interesting combination. The food was very good. We went with Wayan and his friend Jean. We had a great time laughing and being quite obnoxious. The waitress gave us a 5 % discount on our dinner for being such joyous people. You'll never hear of that in the states. After dinner we asked if the dead animal leg that was sitting on the bar counter was real. We were informed it was and was deer meat that had been smoked and apparently a delicacy- to whom we are still wondering. Anyway, Wayan was the only brave sole. Of course he only tried it after the waitress ate some. He said it was very salty.

On Thursday we went to GUM Department store (pronounced Goom, I've been corrected several times). Gum is located along the length of Red Square. At the end of it is St. Basil's Cathedral. We came out at night and there was a light snow. The lights were illuminating St. Basil's and the street lights made the snowflakes look like diamonds. It was breathtaking. I have to say Moscow is much prettier in the winter, but it is cold--damn cold. That Saturday we went shopping at a park in an outdoor market. Make sure you bundle up for this!!

There was beautiful art work, lots of souvenirs and fur hats. We had to have one- each of us. My husband purchased a Russian brown mink hat (like the ones you always see the men wearing on TV) from a outside vendor. I bought a white arctic fox hat. I look like a Q-tip in it. It was bitterly cold so odors are not as noticeable. But after wearing them all day and our heads started to sweat and unusual odor started to emit from our purchases. In other words, it smelled like I had a dead dog on my head which is exactly what I had on my head.

Please take note, for the animal rights activists, that at least a third of the Russian women wear fur coats here. They are a necessity not a luxury due to the frigid weather. Even some of the men wear fur coats. When we had concluded our shopping frenzy, we smelled a wonderful aroma. There were a number of men cooking shishkabobs [shashlik] on a barbecue- yes outside in -15 C. We grabbed a couple of bobs, some bread and tea and sat outside at some tables-yes outside in minus 15 C. The food was very good and the tea kept us warm (except for our feet.) When we were leaving though we did see a little dog sitting outside a door shivering. There are quite a few stray dogs that run around in packs. But they never bother you and usually avoid you at all cost. But it certainly makes you want to adopt them all.

That evening we were invited to a Russian birthday party. Birthday parties are big here. We were told an appropriate gift to bring was flowers. But they must always be in odd numbers never even. Even numbered flowers are for funerals and are bad luck. Just think a dozen roses is bad luck here. We easily found a flower shop; they are everywhere. Russians love flowers almost as much as ice cream. They eat it constantly. There is an ice-cream kiosk on almost every street corner. And in -20 C you will see a number of Muscovites walking down the street eating it. Brrrr.

Well anyway, we purchased some flowers. It was the right gift to bring. Everyone brought flowers. The dinner was held in a Korean restaurant. They had traditional Russian dishes with a Korean flavor. It was unusual but very good. The meal started out with lots of toasting to the birthday girl. And of course everyone drank vodka. (Toasting I think is just an excuse to drink as if you need one with the cold weather.) Only two other people at the party spoke English so there was quite a language barrier as my husband and I have just started our Russian lessons. But everyone was so kind and gracious. Especially the father of the guest of honor. He kept speaking Russian to us even to our blank stares and smiles but he kept us fed.

They looked after us, made sure we had everything we needed and stuffed us. There was an enormous amount of food on the table when we arrived. But they just kept bringing more entrees about every 30 minutes. At one point there was no more room on the table for more food, so they just emptied the liquor bottles. They had two men and an electronic keyboard.

They played Russian songs, techno songs- the in thing here, the Beatles but what shocked us the most was when we heard, and I must say they did it well, 'Achy Breaky Heart'. We roared with laughter to hear country music. God I thought I could at least get away from that in Russia. Then the father gave us his rendition of a Russian song. I think it would have been good if the microphone was turned down but it was on high and he sang at the top of his lungs. I am still in search of a good ENT physician. There were children present as well. The family unity is very strong here and lovely to watch.

Sunday was spent in a search for kitty litter. We did manage to finally secure some. Scout was pleased; the newspapers were getting old. You can pretty much get anything here but you just have to go to a lot of different stores. The prices are not as bad as what we had heard they were before we left. I spend alot of my time just going into to shops to see what I can find. I've got it narrowed down to about 5 stores to get everything I want and need. Except for clothing.

Women here are so slender. I have the typical American figure- curvy and a little overweight so I have had difficulty finding anything that fits me. For men who like long slender legs on women- you will be in heaven. The women mainly wear mini skirts- and I mean mini- with high heels- even in the snow and ice. I have yet to find one pair of shoes that have under a two inch heel.

The other hindrance to my shopping is the use of credit cards and access to cash. A lot of the stores that advertise they take credit cards have difficulty connecting to the states to get approval. So only about a third of the time has my card worked unless we are in a restaurant or a large store. I have yet to find an ATM machine that accepts my ATM card. This has proved to be very frustrating. But we are saving a lot of money as a result.

We have enjoyed a lot of the opportunities that a big city offers. We went to an art opening by a Russian artist. It was a mixture of Mayan and Russian art. It was very different but beautiful. We attended a modern dance recital at the Maly theatre which is directly across from the Bolshoy theatre. Just as in New York, they have some weird stuff over here too. But the theatre was beautiful; very ornate with gold leaf paint, red velvet everywhere and beautiful tapestry rugs. The chairs were not like auditorium seating like in the states, but separate chairs with carved wood and beautifully painted. We didn't know where we would be in the theatre, so when we were offered opera glasses we rented them- for only 50 cents I might add. We were in the second row and could see the whites of the dancers' eyes even without the opera glasses. We felt a little foolish. Next week we have tickets to the Bolshoy ballet. I can't wait to see that theatre.


Today at the grocery store I saw Kellogg's cereal for $15.00 a box and Uncle Bens Rice for $7.50 a box yet I could get a can of Diet Coke for 25 cents and a huge loaf of bread is 33 cents.


It has been much warmer this week. Only -2 to -6 C. However we are in for the coldest winter in 30 years and I came just in time. To switch Celsius into Fahrenheit- take the temperature in Celsius say -2 subtract 2 from it- or a -4 multiply it times 2 or -8 then add 30 to it so it would be 22 degrees F. Not too bad.


They don't use dryers here. So as you travel down the roads you can see laundry hanging outside on the balconies. Since the temperature is never above freezing I don't see how the clothes every dry. They must just freeze solid.

Well that's it for this installment. I have to study Russian so I can finally hail a cab on my own.

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