Saturday, July 17, 2010

overview update

In the last month:
- Alex finished preschool until September
- Zoltan started crawling like a fiend and cut 4 teeth
- I got a job offer at the consulate (haven't started yet)
- My father visited for a week
- Terry left for a week of training the same day my father left
- Petersburg got record high temperatures. It is worth noting almost nobody here has air con, including us. Hot children are miserable. Hot babies are worse

I have lots to write about between the places we went with my dad and lessons learned on the travel front (from previous post). They will have to wait until Terry's return.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

welcome home

After three too-short weeks back in the USA, during which we saw my "little" nephew get Bar Mitzvah'd and got three whole days at the cabin, we are back home. One thing I say more emphatically every time we travel - it sucks with little kids. Just sucky-suck sucks. Alex is the new superstar, thanks to the Dramamine that I administer unapologetically - this was the first long haul she did not get sick after, due to getting some shut-eye for once. Zoltan, however, brings us back to hellish reality. The upshot is - no more long hauls until Congress makes us return to the USA in a year.

So we return to our home and ... wait for it .... burst pipes, puddle-y bathrooms, 3 inches of water in the basement and the musty smell of mold. AND the next day, when we really wanted to open all the windows are air things out, we had to have our windows closed all day because of cleaning the outside of the building. At least it isn't our problem to fix, GSO came on Tuesday, found and fixed the leak (an upstairs neighbor's apartment got some demo for that) and put stand fans in our bathroom to try to dry it out so they can seal the wall back up. We're still showering in the guest bathroom because there's a home in the wall in ours, and the back of the apartment is still a bit musty, but all in all I can't really complain. And it is wonderful that Terry didn't have to be the one scouting through the wall looking for leaks and cutting and fitting new pipe.

It took a good week to recover but assuming good weather our adventures will resume this weekend. And now that Terry's helped me set up so I can email my posts, there will be more blog activity. It's sad how many thing we've done this spring that didn't get recorded and now nothing but the fact that the experience happened is in our memories, but such is life.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tavrichesky Park is Open!!

Tavrichesky Park is where Alex and I spent most of our waking hours last summer. It closes for a month or two in spring when things get really muddy and sloppy, and re-opens around May 1. This weekend the weather has been beautiful (in between the rainstorms, which occurred 3 separate times yesterday, interspersed with hot bright sunshine)

Yelagin Island

We went to Yelagin for the first but far from last time with some friends last weekend. What a treat! It is a car-free park, full of trees and grassy areas and a petting zoo, cafes and fresh air. Alex loved picking weeds to feed the sheep and next time we'll remember to bring bread for the birds. We even ran into some new friends who live a few blocks away ... and we're totally envious of such a great location (although of course we also like being walking distance to downtown Piter, so I guess you win some, lose some).

Here's the wiki entry, which does not do justice to the experience.

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.