Thursday, May 29, 2008

You are what you eat.

Whew. Sorry it’s been so long since I posted, but there’s been a lot going on here! Charles and I finally made it to Ikea and purchased some basics. Some plastic cups and bowls, and some silverware. The main reason we went, though, was for a mattress. Not a whole big mattress, though. We just needed something to make our bed softer. It’s a pull-out couch, but it’s basically just a wooden frame with some quilting batting and velvet upholstering. Velvet and I do not agree. And even after we piled all of our bedding on the bed and then slept on top, I was waking up with tender places on my hips and shoulders, from sleeping on my side. I told Charles we were either moving to an apartment with a real bed, or we were making a trip to Ikea. And I’m very happy with the results! The only sad thing about Ikea was that they didn’t have macaroni and cheese. What kind of Ikea doesn’t have macaroni and cheese? But they had meatballs, so Charles was happy. We got a roll-up mattress thingy that’s very comfy, and we got a pair of sheets with pillow cases and a duvet cover. It feels like it’s our bed, now.
And just in time! I got an amazing night’s sleep that night, and then woke up sick as a dog the next day. Charles has already made a couple runs to the Aptyeka (apothecary. One might call it a pharmacy.) for the Russian equivalents of Dayquil, Tums, Sucrets and Theraflu. He’s had to learn some new words in Russian, like “heartburn.” The cool thing about Russia is its bountiful opportunities for hydration. Every kind of juice you could ever crave. I drink about 2 liters of water everyday, in addition to all the grape, strawberry, and pineapple juice I want. And I’m spending a lot of time in our newly softened bed. Thank goodness for Ikea.
Yesterday we made it to Stockman’s, which is a department store that caters mostly to foreigners, and they have a grocery store inside. They had some of the staples we were dying for, like soy sauce and skim milk. Skim milk! Can you believe it? It comes from Italy, if you can believe that. And even though it’s a pretty expensive store, sometimes mac and cheese is worth paying three dollars for. I’ve been feeling very much like a fish out of water lately because I haven’t been able to cook much. I suppose this sounds very silly and petty, but it’s true so I’ll say it. I treat homesickness with food. Now that I know I have a box of mac and cheese in our cabinet, I can make whatever I want, and be happy with it. For the first week or so of being here, I was tempted to not eat rather than face the disappointment of something being really gross. I ate a lot of bread and cheese. Anyway, tonight I’m making my potato soup, and whether or not it tastes as good as it usually does, I can be happy.
Oh, I mentioned the things I wanted to talk about last time. So, the first thing is, I lost my tooth again. I went to the dentist the day before we left, just to have him check up on me and he cleared me for a summer in Russia, and said my tooth would be fine. So I went crazy in Germany. They have such good bread. Even German airline food is good. So I just finished my bread and butter on the airplane, and I was eyeing Charles’. He finally consented to trade his bread and butter for my dessert, so I took a giant bite, and as soon as I bit into the bread, I felt my tooth snap out. It took everything I had not to cry or throw a hissy fit on the plane, because I already hadn’t slept for over 24 hours and I had whiplash and all I wanted was to eat some bread and butter. So I took some deep breaths and told myself to behave, and meanwhile the bread was still hanging out of my mouth. Charles thought I was being a little absurd about the bread, so he turned to me and said “Make sure you savor that bread. Yeah, don’t worry about chewing, just suck on it for awhile.” If looks could kill, I’d be a widow. Luckily, Charles knows a really good dentist here in Moscow, so he’s got me an appointment tomorrow for a new tooth. I’m going to start naming them, because I’ve had so many that I’m having a hard time keeping track of them all. This will be Lucy IV.
Charles took me to one of his old favorite restaurants. It looked exactly like I imagined The Molly Campbell looking, which was pretty cool. The menu was kind of weird. Charles ordered “Beeznas Lanch,” which means business lunch. I was very interested in the part of the menu labeled “Myeksikyen.” Mexican food in Moscow? What’s sketchy about that? I ordered something that Charles said translated literally into “the warm heart of the muchacho.” It just sounded promising. The menu labeled it as a burrito, so I was kind of surprised when they brought it out. It was an eggplant. Personally, I’ve never trusted eggplants. Very dishonest vegetables. For one thing, they’re really fruit, not vegetable. Also, when you pick them up, they feel completely different from what you think they’ll feel like. So I generally avoid eggplants. But I was a big girl and I tried it, and it wasn’t great, but it was not the death of me. They basically sliced the eggplant like a fan, and then grilled/fried/baked (who can tell with eggplant?) it and put some tomato slices and cheese between each slice to melt. I added sour cream, much to the waitress’ bewilderment, and the result was not bad. Russians love sour cream. I think this is the start of a beautiful relationship.
This has very quickly turned into a very long post, so I think I’ll call it quits here and just close by saying happy birthday to my sister Emile! Who’s turning 21 tomorrow! Good grief. Em, you’re so stinking old. I love you!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Odd one out

This place is a whole other world. I think I must have known that before signing up, but I’d forgotten the feelings associated with being the alien. They started coming back before we even left the airport in Moscow. First of all, we came into the airport that the Central Asians tend to use, so it was filled with strange yet familiar faces and smells. Second of all, while I remember the Cyrillic alphabet, I’m still a very slow reader. I have to sound things out. The whole ride home, I kept trying to figure out what the billboards were saying, and I’d get about halfway through reading the words and then we’d be moving past it. That was actually the hard part for me. I’m a reader, and it was very unnerving to me not to be able to read the signs around me. Even if I made my way through the words, I wouldn’t know what they meant, and I actually got a slight stomachache trying to figure it all out. That’s when I started to panic a little. What had I signed up for?
So I said a prayer and asked for help to calm down, and I reminded myself that I had been wide awake for the past 48 hours, and that I was being irrational. That helped. I think I forgot to mention that with the accident before we left, we didn’t have time to start packing until around midnight, and we left for the airport as soon as we were done packing, at five am. So, we didn’t sleep that night. Charles fell asleep before we even took off from Salt Lake, and stayed that way. For some reason, I couldn’t fall asleep the whole way, but I had a great book to read, and interesting foods to eat. I finally fell asleep in the van that the academy sent for us on the way to our apartment, and I only vaguely remember making it into our apartment, meeting our landlords, and plopping into bed. Jetlag never felt so good. Charles went out with Totya Valya, our landlady, to get some groceries and check the place out while I was asleep. He brought me some juice, water, coca-cola light, and two beautiful oranges.
I have to say right now, that I have never been more in love with my husband. He’s been so careful about making me feel safe and loved, and he’s so good at it! And he’s the handsomest man in Russia, by far. The metro, which we take everywhere, is often very crowded and there isn’t always something to hold on to. Charles does his best to make sure I have something to hold on to, or even get a seat, but if I can’t, then he plants his feet and keeps his hand on my back to make sure I don’t topple over. I don’t know how he doesn’t fall over, but he’s always been the coordinated one in the family. He’s very good about translating for me, and tries to include me in all the conversations. I’m really impressed with his Russian!
I’ve decided that I will include a few things that I have learned in Russia every time I post, so that you can see Russia through my eyes. I know that's just what you’ve always wanted.

1. Russian escalators are very long. I mean VERY long. Really, really, ridiculously long. I think in America that if an escalator goes more than one or two flights, they cut it into a few different escalators with a landing between them, but here, your escalator ride could last as long as three or four stories. This is not an exaggeration. Also, the escalators move very quickly. I applaud Russia for that, because I’ve always hated how long escalators take, but I wonder how all the little old babuskas are able to move fast enough to get on and off, because I have a hard time in my young and spry state.

2. Russians carry flowers upside-down. Especially the men. Occasionally, you’ll see a woman carrying her flowers with the blooms up, but it seems to be the exception. The reason I’ve noticed this is that Russians buy a lot of flowers! There are flower vendors on every corner, and sometimes in between. Mostly roses, but also a lot of tulips, and I have to say that I have never seen such beautiful tulips in all my life. Charles bought me some pink ones yesterday, and the pinkness of them made me want to cry. (That one’s for you, Mollie!) I think this is a custom I want to bring home to America. It’s very romantic, wouldn’t you say?

3. Borscht is yucky. I hate cabbage. I hate beets.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Home. Ish.

We're here in Russia. I'm borrowing internet from the other married couple in our program, and Charles needs it after me, so I'm going to write a very rushed entry. I just wanted to let our family and friends know that we are alive and well. Our landlady wants us to call her Aunt Valya, and she's so sweet. She took us all the way into town yesterday to make sure we got on all the right trains, and this morning she chewed Charles out for not making me eat. I haven't been too hungry lately, and she was worried because she hadn't seen me eat. She's funny. I really like her.
I'm compiling a list of my first impressions, and I'll post them later. Russia is very entertaining to a people-watcher like myself. And my husband is by far the handsomest man in Russia.
And I just want to let my family know that I ordered lunch in German in Germany for my husband and myself, after I asked directions in German to a cafe that could sell me some Apfelschorle. and I didn't ask for any any Apfelschnitzel. After that, we stocked up on Rittersports, in the most wonderful flavors, as well as paprika pringles, and kinder eggs. I soooooo pitched a fit when it was time to leave Germany. But Charles slept the whole way to Russia, so I don't think he even noticed.

And to those who care, Russia is like Turkmenistan on steroids. Neon steroids. It smells the same, but they have Mcdonalds with free wifi. and their mcdonalds also has chocolate croissants. In conclusion, I'm learning tons and I'm having quite an adventure, and we're both really happy to be here.
And I have some funny stories about bread and cheese, losing teeth, and meksiken food.

Friday, May 16, 2008

on a lighter note

So, the last post was kind of dramatic, so now I'm just going to post pictures of our trip to DC, which was, fortunately, very undramatic, even with the wedding. That's saying something for Meppen reunions, as some of you already know. We didn't even have any hospital trips, although there was a funny incident involving Charles taking his allergy medicine in the dark and accidentally ingesting a sleeping pill instead of a Claritin. We didn't see him much that day. The doseage for those sleeping pills is normally a quarter of the pill, but Charles took a whole one. Bless his heart.

Cooking in my mom's kitchen is really fun, because she has ingredients that I would never think to buy, but that turn out really good. Maggie and I did some experimenting, and we ended up with a really recipe for a strawberry pie! Unfortunately, I didn't write it down, but it did involve craizins, cooking sherry, and pineapple topping. It was pretty amazing. And Maggie was a very smart little sous chef. I'm going to have to hire her when I open my restaurant!

Other than strawberry pie, we pretty much chowed down on Emile's wedding leftovers. Baked beans, Texas sheet cake, pulled pork and mac and cheese. Did I mention her reception was in a renovated BARN? Because I wouldn't be lying if I did say that. Because it's true.

Charles and I went to the zoo. It was free, because it's the national zoo, and it's owned by the smithsonian institute. Aweseome! They have a panda, and some hippos, and some very large elephants. I love hippos and elephants and flamingoes and I had such a fun date with the love of my life! But I have to say that the otters were by far my favorite of the whole trip. I LOVE LOVE LOVE otters! I want everyone to know that about me, because it's integral to who I am as a person.

Of course, my family does a pretty good job of providing a zoo atmosphere for free, too. Maggie was occupied with capturing caterpillars the whole time I was home, and them feeding them and watching them make cocoons. It was actually really cool. And who knew we had so many caterpillars?

Maggie is no comparison to Lizzy though. That girl's wild! She went out to lunch with my mom and Charles and I, and I think she was having a hard time figuring out where the chopsticks go. So, Charles and I leave for Russia tomorrow. I'll blog asap when we get there, but until then, I love you all. And I can't wait to get back and hear about your summers, too! Please keep blogging, everyone! And mom, have Lizzy start a blog for you, because I really want a family blog.

going out with a bang.

Literally. I'm sorry to any of you who are reading this and have not yet had a chance to say goodbye to our firstborn, CJ, but he now lies on the top of a junkpile waiting for our insurance agency to total him and sell him for parts. And while the police have determined it wasn't my fault, I can't help but feel guilty that Charles no longer has his Jeep. He loves that Jeep so much. And he will hate me for saying this, but the next car we buy will have to be a little more practical. Better gas mileage and more room for rear-facing carseats. But he's insisting on a stick shift, and I'm feeling just guilty enough to grant him that much. He may have changed his mind by the time we get back from Russia and I really hope that's the case.
So, last night, I was driving home from Provo after getting my hair cut and all taken care of for Russia, and I decided to stop at McDonald's on the way. I stopped in Lehi, which was kind of dumb because I don't really know my way around there, but I was starving for a double cheeseburger. and I got one. and a diet coke. But as I was heading across the intersection to get back on the freeway, and a silver car with two teenage girls in it slammed into my right side. I'm really glad I didn't have someone sitting on that side. So then my car tipped over and slid down the road. This is the weird part: even though I was slammed by a car and then slammed onto the road, I never hit my head on anything. I didn't even bump it once. Cool, huh? the other kind of cool part was that there was an EMT already on the site. He was off duty, but he must have been just coming home from work, because he already had his EMT shirt on, and he ran over wearing rubber gloves and telling me not to move. Not that I was hurt. I have a bruise on my elbow. That's it, pretty much. So I was laying there on my window, which miraculously was NOT broken, and checking to make sure I could wiggle my toes and stuff, and I even thought to turn the car off. I didn't bother putting it in park, though. So some guy came over and climbed on top of the car to pry open some doors and windows and get me out. I had to climb out in a white skirt, which I realized now had diet coke all over it. I'm glad I didn't wet myself, and that it was just coke! Nobody else in the other car was hurt, either. I love seatbelts. Everybody needs to wear them.

They put me in an ambulance to take my vitals and info and stuff, and they decided to take them twice because I was so shaky and nervous that my pulse was way wack. But there was nothing else wrong with me. I can't get over that!

There was this woman there named Brenda, and she was so nice to me. As soon as I realized there was a car coming at me, I slammed on the brakes and squeezed my eyes shut, and I didn't open them until all the slamming and banging and tipping were over. And as soon as I opened them, the EMT guy was telling me not to move, and Brenda was there telling me that it was ok, that everyone in the other car was fine, and that she would find me a phone. And she did, but not before she gave me a really long hug that felt really good, even though she was a stranger. I felt like we'd been friends forever. She's about my mom's age and build, too, so it kind of felt like a hug from my mom. Which I needed really badly! After that I figured out that I wasn't wearing shoes or glasses, and I was sure that I had been before the accident. Doy. I must have looked like a drunk driver. they of course had to ask me if I was, and I said no. I wasn't even using my phone, and the radio wasn't even on. I was concentrating as hard as I could on finding my way home.

Looking back, I'm realizing that this is really all a big blessing. Our car was completely covered under insurance, even if it HAD been my fault. Even though it's totaled, we still have another car that was just randomly given to us by a family in Jean's ward. And now we'll have enough money for a down payment on a more family-friendly car, and we'll for sure have enough money to pay rent this summer in Russia. And that accident could have been SO much worse. I was planning on driving Jean's car, because it's safer, gets better gas mileage, and it's an automatic, so I'm more comfortable driving it. But I had a feeling I should take the Jeep instead, which I didn't understand at the time. But because the Jeep is so boxy, it only tipped over instead of rolling all around the street like the Outback would have. I ultimately ended up without injuring myself or anyone else. That's such an incredible blessing. I was really afraid I'd find out it was my fault after all, and that I'd hurt someone, and I'm so grateful that the other girls were fine. and that we didn't have a pile-up. and that we're not buying Jean a new car. And that my insurance agent is so nice to talk to. He told me to tell my husband that my "therapist" at USAA told him he needs to wine and dine me, take me to Tucano's, draw me a hot bath, and rub my shoulders. He said he wanted to have a little fun with Charles, since nobody was injured. I told him I'd pass it on to him, but I'm feeling so guilty about totaling CJ that I'll just take myself to Tucano's, instead.

That was a joke. But I could really go for some grilled pineapple and fried bananas.

Here are some pictures of the car.
This one's my favorite. This metal box was our car's 72 hour kit, and it was kept under the driver's seat. The car doesn't look that bad for a totaled car, but that box is for sure totaled. how did it get that mangled?