Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Russian Medicine

When you mention "mastitis" to a woman who has ever breastfed, it's like talking to a man about someone getting kicked in the groin - to a one, the women cross their arms over their chest and wince. And for good reason.

I of course had to get to the bad part at night, and the night before a holiday at that. I managed the night and in the morning went about finding a doctor as I knew I needed antibiotics. It was comical when the Russian doc tried to communicate with me before the English speaking nurse came in. When he finally decided to agree with me that yes it's mastitis he "prescribed" in addition to the antibiotic the following practice: soak a cloth in vodka, completely cover the affected breast with it, cover that with plastic and wrap it all up in a scarf. Leave it on for 30 minutes 2x a day. They even did a treatment on me before I left the clinic. The 'net only talked about alternating cold and warm compresses .... but you know, there's a million uses for vodka!

Our babysitter also suggested leeches. I planned to be entertained by that suggestion too but then Terry told me there is a resurgence in the medical use of leeches.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Only in Russia

I drove to get Alex from preschool the other day to see how bad it is. Took longer to drive than it normally does to walk, not a big surprise. The big surprise was on my return, a car was stopped in the middle of the road so we were routed onto the sidewalk for about 1/2 block til we got to the corner. It was actually a part of the sidewalk with a really steep curb so I wasn't sure our little Corolla would make it, but it did.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I've gone native

We've had a heat wave in Piter - it's been in the 20s Fahrenheit. We were going over to a friend's house, driving. We'd go from our front door to the car, which was parked right outside, and we'd park at our friends' lot right at their building. Maybe 2 minutes outside at each end for the kids. I asked Terry if he thought we needed to put Alex in her full snowsuit. He looked at me incredulously, then asked if I were in Mass. would I have put her in a snowsuit. I thought he meant when I was growing up so I said of course not, then do we want her to wear a jacket that goes with a snowsuit or her jacket that's just a jacket. He got very confused because he'd meant he thought there was no way I'd leave Alex without a snowsuit if it were that temp when we were home 2 months ago.
20 Fahrenheit is mild weather. I usually have my coat open at that temp (hat only because I don't have only-ear warmers anymore). I wonder how summer's going to hit me?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

They know their smetana

The Russian word for sour cream is CMETAHA (pron. smetana). The different varieties can take up a whole shelf in the little produkty. CMETAHA comes in different cream percents, we generally get either 15% or 20% but there are varieties with as little as 5% and one time I accidentally bought the 42%. We ended up mixing that one with 15% to make it more palatable.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Imperial Porcelain Factory tour

The Consulate organized a tour of the Russian Imperial Porcelain Factory on MLK Day. We took the opportunity to leave the kids with the babysitter and went. The tour guide brought us through where the Masters work (Artists are the ones who develop the new designs and artwork for pieces, Masters replicate them by hand). It's funny, it was basically like a regular office building with desks in a room but instead of computers they had thousand-dollar pieces of porcelain and tons of different paints.
The tour guide explained what ingredients go into the porcelain, how it's poured into molds, where the term bone china came from (yep there's real bone in there - wild animals, so they say). She also explained the two different ways of firing porcelain and how the firing both shrinks the piece as well as changes the color of the paint. Cobalt goes on black but comes out the well-known dark blue.
We then went to the gift shop, where we looked at pieces that cost hundreds of thousands of rubles (roughly 30 rubles to the dollar) They were significantly less intricate, smaller, and less ornate than the pieces we saw being worked on. Hm.
Here's some more information about the factory

Friday, January 8, 2010

The dark side of Petersburg

We had our first, terrifying to us as parents, experience with frostbite yesterday. Terry and Alex went sledding in Tavrichesky Park, where we had spent at least 4 days each week in the summer. They got home just in time for lunch, and while Alex was eating I noticed her cheeks looked strange. It looked like someone had drawn on her face, in a waxy white, little circles right over the apples of her cheeks.
I commented on it to Terry and then we both ran for the computers to look up frostbite. It was definitely frostnip if not full blown frostbite We can't be entirely sure as Alex couldn't articulate for us very well how she felt. We went right into the home remedy (warm wetness .... if it had been feet we could have had her immerse them in water, as it was her face we just kept re-warming washcloths.) As she thawed it started to hurt and she didn't want to let us near her. Then out came the Motrin "Motrin makes you feel better" she kept saying after we gave her a dose. After a while her cheeks got back a lot of color and we had debates over how supple her cheeks were (the frostbite makes then hard, you know the home remedy worked when the skin is supple again). It was naptime and we decided nothing would get worse if we waited 2 hours for medical care so we put her down as usual.
The upshot is that it looks like she's totally fine, but now we are pretty freaked out about having her outside for any length of time. Of course, her cheeks will now be sensitive to the cold so she probably won't want to be out that long anyway.
We're looking into balaclavas.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Who knew? Beer is non-alcoholic

We keep forgetting to mention this astounding fact. At least in Russia, beer is considered a soft drink, like Coke, and is occasionally sold in 2 liter plastic bottles just in case someone thought that was a joke. A Russian who claims never to drink might be telling the truth and still downing a few beers every night. Crazy.

Monday, December 28, 2009

We are living in a statistical anomaly.

My boss in the past looked up the average number of sunny days in St Petersburg in the month of December. The source he found gave an average of zero days. Since you can not have negative days to bring the average down that basically says there is no sun in St Petersburg in December. There probably is a day or two every decade so that rounding brings it to zero.

When I was in the states on facebook people in St Petersburg were posting about seeing the sun. Now today for a short period this afternoon I saw blue skies and sun. It seems this December we have seriously bucked the sun stats. Probably there will be no sun in St Petersburg during the month of December for the next two decades.

Settling in

St. Pete decided to welcome us back with a massive snowstorm. The snowfall itself is well over a foot and drifts are taller than me. It took Terry three or four trips outside to shovel out the car.

I had heard that the streets aren't plowed and sidewalks not shoveled and said to myself "OK this is something to learn to deal with." You can't truly comprehend what it means until you're faced with it. How to push a stroller on a "sidewalk" that consists of tampered down snow interspersed with piles of slushy drifts and the whole thing is the width of a person anyway. I have yet to figure out who gets the right of way; no matter which direction I travel it always seems to be the folks coming the other way. Driving is little better as the streets are in the same situation, except the width of the packed down snow is a car. Studded snow tires make lots of sense and I'm sure glad Terry got some on the car before he came home to get us.

I have yet to venture out with either stroller or car - so far it's been me alone or Zoltan in the Moby (a wrap - which is like a sling in concept). If I am not to go stir crazy though, I will need to brave the streets in some way, so I plan a test run in the car this week ... on a day our babysitter comes, as I don't want to be responsible for the children in case things don't go well.

The good news is the open space next to our building does seem to be free of the citizenry who populated it during the summer, so I should be able to get Alex out to play in the snow if I can ever get her and Zoltan's naps timed well enough that they are both properly up and not eating at the same time when the sun is out. It's like a logic game ... I love logic games!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Reunited at last

Terry has returned to the USA to assist me in bring the kids back to Russia. This is what I have to look forward to ... a recent conversation between Terry and his boss...

Boss: "I don't think the sun came out today at all"
Terry: "Of course the sun's out. It is a slightly lighter gray than it was this morning."
Boss: "If you can't see the sun is it still out?"