Friday, August 6, 2010

unfriendly city

In the store today I dropped my diplomatic ID card on the ground when I searched my pocket for correct change. A lady actually came running outside after me to return it to me. Who says the city is an unfriendly place??


The refrigeration in Spb stores isn't very good. In the last 3 weeks I have had to throw away 5 bottles of milk because they went sour before their due dates, several were sour in the store as I tried them immediately upon arrival home. I had gone to different stores and even had different brands of milk.

I think long life milk is going onto the next grocery list.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Learning the language

Before we came to Russia, we got an intensive 8 week course in the language. This was followed by our 4 week home leave, in which we practiced nothing and forgot everything. With many fits and starts, several months after our arrival we finally started the post language program, which permits 2h/week of language instruction.

Suffice to say, we're treading water and no more.

Since the economic crisis of 2008, the restaurants are barely ever full. Reservations are rarely needed. In our time here, I have now made reservations 3 times. The first 2 times were in English, speaking with a person whose English seemed pretty good. Both times, there was no reservation when I got to the restaurant at the appointed date and time (happily, it was never a problem as mentioned previously - even the night there were 8 of us). The third time I decided to try it in Russian. I was able to convey everything the person asked!!! And, better yet, they had the reservation when we showed up! Hmmmmm.

Divo Ostrov

When my dad visited earlier this month, we took the opportunity to go try out the local amusement park - Divo Ostrov. Located on Krestovsky Ostrov (ostrov = island) it is a mix between a local fair and Disney. We went during the week, which partly explained the absence of people; the oppressive heat may have also played a part - smarter folks were probably flocking to the water park.

You can either pay per ride or get a day's pass. We opted for the pay-per-ride but will give it a good think next time. There were plenty of rides Alex was big enough to go on, and some required adult accompaniment and some didn't; some charged for the adult accompaniment and some didn't. There was also a decent couple of sets of playground equipment, one for the preschooler and one for older kids - free of charge. In addition to the kiddie rides, there were plenty of adult ones with roller coaster and bungee jumping things I would never set foot on, as well as an arcade, a roller-skate rental, a Segue rental, plenty of tchotchkes to buy, some fair-type games, and several cafes. Given my bulk of experience in the USA with these types of parks, I was amazed at the tastiness and the reasonable prices at the cafe. I shouldn't have been, of course, as Spb is one of the better food cities I have lived in (or, for that matter, visited).

No funnel cake though :(

Friday, July 30, 2010


This would have been funny if it had happened to anyone other than me (OK, fine, it did happen to me and I was laughing quietly to myself about 10 minutes later). Alex's behavior has been appalling for the last few weeks (long story, not relevant). So today she was in the stroller and told me she was hungry. I gave her 1/2 of her PB&J sandwich. She ate some, then proceeded to rub the rest of it all over her hair! Needless to say, even if it weren't a bath night already, it would be.

Monday, July 26, 2010

more details

Terry is, thankfully, back in Spb. His one week of training in Budapest became about 4 days then an almost-no-notice trip back to the USA for his grandmother's unexpected death/funeral. As fabulous Vonage gives me free calls to Hungary, I was the conduit between his family and him to figure out details and arrangements.

This one will probably get a bit whiny as it was an almost intolerable 10 days without Terry. First, he left the same day my father did, so we'd had no real opportunity to manage household things in the week beforehand. Second, Petersburg had a record heat wave that began right around the time my dad hit town. Being "record" means that it was way hotter than it had EVER been at least for such an extended period. So, the fact nobody had a/c made sense, but didn't make it tolerable. The kids couldn't sleep well and were cranky. Zoltan decided to go on a bottle strike, I wasn't making enough milk for him, so he got almost dangerously dehydrated. This did nothing good for his mood and really he spent most of the days screaming. Alex was further miserable because she really noticed Terry's absence and punished me (as the only one around) because she missed him and he wasn't here. It was almost comical when she demanded Grammy read her the books when we video chatted, and when Terry started to read the 4th book she said she wanted someone else to read it. I was so grateful when she decided to forgive him upon the moment of seeing him, rather than spend days being miffed. I even had help most days for at least a half day - but the kids were so miserable I think I would have needed 3 people all day to manage.

Oh, and Zoltan cut tooth #6 during this time too.

Next update will be about fun stuff we did when my dad visited

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.