Our new home:)

With the help of our friend Rustem, we were able to secure an apartment for our time here in Ufa.  It is great!!  Very modern, clean and close to the city center (for shopping/grocery shopping).  We are also just about 1 mile or so from the university.  The living space is opposite the kitchen/dining and is about the same size.  2 bedrooms and a bath round out our living space. Interesting is that there are 2 refrigerators/freezers, one on either side of the oven.

Kitchen 1

 

A Walkabout

Lenin 3I went out to search for the university yesterday, and became temporarily disconnected to known locations (I was lost).  Additionally, the place where Google said the university was located, it wasn’t.  Long story short, I ended up walking about 8.5 miles through the driving snow, looking for the college.  I eventually plugged the address into Google Maps, and figured out the university was located about 1.5 miles to the South, not 1.5 miles to the East.  So I went out to find it today, which I did with no problems.  While on my Walkabout, I was strolling down Lenin Street, and came across a monument of the man himself.

 

 

Lenin 4So, tomorrow I am going to the university to meet the college Vice-Rector (Provost) and hopefully some of the faculty.  The university is about 1.5 miles from our apartment, so that will be a nice walk every day.  It is a beautiful walk, as I will pass several parks and historic buildings along the way.  My friend Rustem, whom I may have mentioned several times in these posts, is the Dean of the Faculty, and mentioned the possibility for me to teach an American History course to Russian students.  It is not a done deal, but it looks promising.

Russia is cool, we are having a great time, and are very blessed to have met so many wonderful people along the way.

I was wrong!

Originally, I thought this was a monument dedicated to the soldiers from World War Two.  I asked about it, and it is called “Heroes of the Civil War.”  So it is dedicated to the fighters in the October Revolution, which began in 1917 and ushered in the era of Communism.Ufa Monument7

In our apartment!

SAM_0156Most of you are familiar with the American tradition that, when a person helps you move, you have to buy them a pizza. Apparently in Russia, the tradition is that a guy will find you an apartment, employ one buddy to drive you to the apartment, do all of the negotiating with the realtor, call the internet company to resolve problems when it isn’t working properly, employ another buddy to volunteer his car and then also help you move everything, then buy YOU and your family a traditional Russian lunch. I don’t see that idea catching on back home. Thank you Rustem Khabibullin for your help today, and for lunch.  Ann and Jacob were pretty adventurous with trying new Russian food.  I thought it was great!  We tried Borsht and calf’s foot jelly, among other traditional dishes.

No wonder!

Ufa Park3I inserted a page into the website with the weather in Ufa, which I thought I had done before, but I guess not.  Anyway, while messing around with that, I noticed that the weather this morning was -15 degrees (F).  That would explain why we were so dang cold yesterday!  Out walking today it was about -5, but no wind to speak of, so really not too bad if you dress for it.  I went out to find the university today, and apparently walked within a block of it without realizing it.  This photo was taken in the same park as the monument I posted about earlier.  Kind of gives you an idea how much snow is around.  We are supposed to get up to 34 degrees this weekend, so it would be nice if some of the ice and snow on the sidewalks and roads would melt.

Quiet Day

Due to a family emergency on the part of our friend in Ufa, Rustem, we just spent the day laying low.   We ate breakfast then we all went to the lobby of the hotel and did some work on the computer:  Ann and Jacob did school work and Dave worked on his Russian language skills.  After a few hours we decided we needed an adventure and tried to walk to the university, which is only about a half hour from our hotel, but it was dang cold out today.  We wimped out after about 20 minutes, and not knowing if we would find a warm spot once we got there, we turned around and headed back to the hotel.  (Hey, Napoleon turned around and went home when he was in Russia too, so quitters have a long and distinguished history here.)  We were so cold on the way back that we got within a hundred yards of our hotel, but ducked into a coffee shop to warm up.  We all wanted something boiling hot to drink but no one spoke English, so we got to practice our speaking skills, which was fun.

We ate dinner at KFC, which looks nothing like a KFC at home.  All they serve are chicken sandwiches, and no mashed potatoes, just French Fries.  (I’m not complaining, just making an observation.)  Now it is getting on to evening, and we are all hooked up to the internet doing something.  Jake and I have been watching season one of Elementary, so we will probably watch a few episodes tonight before trying to sleep.  Tomorrow is shaping up to be pretty low key as well.  I saw a monument on the way to dinner so I may have to go check that out, and who knows, we might make it all the way to the university tomorrow.  Stay tuned…

KFC for dinner

We thought we would make it easy on ourselves this evening and try out the local KFC about 3 blocks from the hotel where we are staying in Ufa.  Turns out it wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be;)  The young gal at the counter was less than impressed with me when I asked if they had a menu in English (they did).  KFC here has no mashed potatoes, so keep that in mind if you are ever in Russia.  Dave did the ordering as he does speak a little Russian, we thought he ordered chicken strips and some pop.  That is not what showed up on our tray though……we got bone in fried chicken and 1 small cup of coffee, along with Dave’s salad and a chicken wrap for myself.  It all tasted good and we are grateful that Dave knows some Russian, otherwise Jake and I may starve to death.

We made it to Ufa!

Well friends, we made it to Ufa, Russia, our destination for all of these months.  Our flight from Moscow was easy, mostly because the Russians were so friendly, and helped us, a lot!  We stayed at a hotel, literally in the airport, and walked down to take a look at the boarding area.  A friendly airline (Aeroflot) employee asked if she could help us, and along the way told us we could check our largest suitcases that night (instead of wrestling with them in the morning) and she printed our boarding passes, and helped us navigate the excess baggage charges.  By the way, $300 in baggage charges flying Delta, $100 flying Aeroflot, just sayin’.

So, tomorrow we go to the university to check in and file some paperwork, and then we go look for an apartment.  We have seen a few on a website sent to us by a great friend here in Ufa.  Rustem has been a great help to us in the months leading up to our arrival.  We have been such a burden, in fact, that I asked him not to show up at the airport to meet us, I told him that we could take a taxi.  Of course, he showed up with a huge van and driver to help us get to our hotel.  Tomorrow, he is taking us wherever we need to go.  Thanks Rustem!

Moscow Market

Can you say outdoor market in the middle of January??  We had a great adventure over the weekend at an outdoor Market. Another Fulbright family, the McDowall’s, who have been in Moscow since Sept.  took the time to show us around Moscow over the weekend.  The market was a ton of fun with many souvenir booths. Our favorite was the hat booth……how many hats can one girl wear?  I think we walked away with 6 (some are gifts:)  The owner of the booth was a great salesman.

Moscow Mkt 8 Moscow Mkt 9

Leaving Moscow

We are leaving the Hotel Voskhod today and going to a hotel adjacent to the airport.  At 8 am tomorrow, we board an Aeroflot jet for the 2 hour journey east, to Ufa, where we will spend our remaining time in Russia.  We have a friend there, Rustem, who will help us find an apartment and show us around our new city.  We have enjoyed Moscow tremendously, but look forward to the next phase of our adventure.

Subways

SubwayArt4Over 9 million people ride the Moscow subway system each day.  It is amazing, with new trains arriving about every 90 seconds in some cases.  What is truly amazing are the stations, which are absolutely beautiful.  Stalin wanted the subways to be an art museum for the masses, so each one has its own style.  One that we visited had bronze statues depicted Russian life, with soldiers, farmers, academics, etc. This picture shows a Russian hunter with his dog.  The Russians rub the dog’s nose for good luck, which is why it is shiny but the rest of the statue is tarnished.

To see some amazing subway stations, that look more like palaces than metro stops, see the link below.

Click here to see the amazing Moscow metro stations.

Russian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Tomb UnkSold7I don’t care who you are.  You can’t gaze upon the Tomb of an Unknown soldier from any nation without reflecting for a moment.  The Russian tomb is guarded by three soldiers at all times, two of which are visible here.

Georgy Zhukov

Zhukov6I am a bit of a military history buff, and this is cool.  Just off of Red Square is a statue dedicated to Georgy Zhukov, kind of the Russians version of General Eisenhower from World War Two.  He is shown riding a horse that is trampling on Swastikas.  You can’t see it well, because it is covered with snow.

Red Square

St Basil4Some friends took us to Red Square this morning, and it was great!  This is 3/5 of the Mills family standing in front of St Basel’s Cathedral, erected in the 1500s.  In the direction I am looking was the Kremlin and Lenin’s tomb.  The other direction was the Gum (pronounced Goom) department store.  It is really a mall with lots of individual shops, but it is absolutely massive and the architecture is beautiful.

We are so fortunate to have this opportunity, and really luck y to have an administrative team who made it possible for Ann to come to Russia with me.  Thank you Jeff Williamson!  We greatly appreciate what you have done for us!

I have no complaints (at least for a while)

If you have followed my writing, you know that I was freaking out about getting our travel visas before our trip.  It was close, but we got them.  Now let me tell you about some friends who are also in Russia.

They had their passports and visas (the visa is simply a sticker that gets pasted inside a passport) a couple weeks before they left, but somehow, the passports (and thus the visas) got left in some clothes that got donated to the Goodwill two days before their trip.  They went to the Goodwill warehouse where they searched a mountain of identical black trash bags, but couldn’t find the bag they donated.  On to Plan B.  The day before their trip (they were going to Italy for 3 weeks before Russia) they went to the Twin Cities where they got emergency passports in the same day.  The next day, they flew to Italy, and once there, Fed-Exed the passports and copies of necessary paperwork back to the US to reapply for visas.  They were in a foreign country without passports for two weeks!  But, they got the visas in time to fly to Russia, and all was well with the world.

A difference in cost

In Russia many things are cheaper. For example in the U.S. you can go to the store and get about 10-20 items for about 20-40 dollars. But in Russia you can get all the same items for about half the cost. Things like hotels, apartments, shoes, and electronics cost less here than in the U.S. This is mainly due to the lower cost of gas and oil here and in the U.S. because oil is one of the main things that drives the Russian rubles value.

Comrade Cowboys

Today was all about presentations outlining the projects of Fulbright Scholars currently in Russia.  I heard many good presentations, but one that stuck with me was by a guy named Ryan Bell, who is a very interesting guy, to say the least.  He went to Argentina and became a cowboy for five years, then went to Montana where he was a cowboy for ten years.  Before he gave up the saddle to write about the cattle industry full time, he helped deliver about 1500 cattle from Montana to Russia, to rebuild the cattle ranching industry after the fall of the Soviet Union.  He and a number of other cowboys trained the Russians to be cowboys as well, managing the herds on the Russian Steppes.  Here is his story:

 

The “Cowboys” of Russia and Kazakhstan

Well there’s your problem…

PizzaRemind me to call the marketing department at this company.  Someone there decided that referring to the ingredients of their product as fungus didn’t really need to go in front of a focus group.

I’m kidding, I’m kidding.  This pizza is obviously not even Russian, but it struck me as funny while browsing the grocery store.

Breakfast Plans…

Dunkin DonutsHmm, where is the worst place for a guy with my health issues to eat breakfast in the morning?

These are the words “Dunkin Doughnuts” spelled phonetically in Russian