Thursday, March 31, 2011

Opulence, I Has It.

I am sure everyone has seen the DirectTV commercials by now, mocking rich Russians?

They are hilarious, especially since, as with most stereotypes, they are not that off base.

Then, in response to the overwhelmingly positive response they got about the "Petite Lap Giraffe" featured in the video, they made this website , where you can order your very own. I am sure they are hoping the website goes viral, which I think it is.

Sokoblovsky  Farms being a ficticious location is a real dissapointment for my friends. Good thing it's not and I am just keeping the PLG to myself.

Our new Family Portrait with the newest addition

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fight Apathy...Or Don't: An Idiot Abroad

Bred from a recommendation on Itunes and my love for the TV show The Office (which I am not sure I would have fully appreciated had I not spent the past 6 years in an office), I have a new TV love. Idiot Abroad is a show created by Ricky Gervais (creator of The Office, who I typically have a knee-jerk-I-don't-like-you feeling towards for unknown reasons). The show centers around Ricky's friend, Karl, who has never left the UK and feels very strongly about not doing so. Maybe 'strongly' isn't the correct word, 'apathetic' may be. Karl is being sent around to see the 7 wonders of the world. He couldn't care less and is generally annoyed by most of the mission. Some people may think the show is scripted and that there is no way anyone could be that apathetic, about let's see, The Great Wall. I don't think it is scripted though. I think you can only know it's real if you feel that level of apathy, which I generally do. I am typically pretty even keeled when it comes to great events or "wonders". I like them, and I like seeing them, but I don't feel that AWE and I don't feel altered in any way from seeing them. Interactions with people are far more life altering and enjoyable for me than a hole in the ground. Even if it is a quite large hole in the ground, like you know, the Grand Canyon?

Didn't know it was cold at the Grand Canyon, or that we would be there at 4AM, so I only had this one mismatched cardigan.

I am rocking back and forth and cursing my husband for waking me up in the middle of the night, while sitting on a rock
I think my response was, "Yeah, that's cool". This is often to the frustration of my husband who has a thirst for traveling and who could be awe-inspired by an ant-hill I do believe. So while watching this show, Idiot Abroad, my husband commented multiple times "Oh my God, this is like watching a documentary about traveling with YOU!". I am not offended. The only thing here that offends me is the title of the show. I do not like Karl being called an idiot. It is very judge-y. A more appropriate title may have been :

"A Practical Fellow Who Enjoys Other Things But Maybe Not Rough Travel: Abroad"

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Regulators...Mount Up

Sometimes the benefit of living in the Moscow, Russia time zone is that I get to see news that happens while all of my North American friends are sleeping. Most of the time it is worthless news. However, in that vein, RIP Nate Dogg (little relation to Snoop Dogg). This is a sad day for all those guys who stand behind their friends saying "shooo shooot" all day. Or maybe it is an opportunity?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Being Normal Means Never Having To Say...

On my way to Tampa from Moscow, I had a layover in Washington DC which turned into an all night layover.

Because the weather in Florida was projected to be in the low 80's for the duration of my trip, I left my parka and boots in Moscow. Why bring that extra 7 pounds with me? Right? Good idea. Best I've ever had.
Then I find myself waiting for my hotel shuttle on the median at the airport in 40 degree Washington DC rainy weather, with no coat and opened toe shoes. Brilliant.

A man about my age, also waiting for the shuttle, said he had an extra sweatshirt, and would I like to borrow his coat? I decline, because come on, that would be weird. Now I have to focus on not looking cold. We make polite conversation about what brought us to our layover in DC. His was weather related, mine was the fault of United-I-steal-stuff-out-of-your-luggage-Airlines.

I had a free voucher for hotel, and he only had a discount voucher. We are now best friends at this point (his opinion, not mine, I am only focusing on not looking cold so not taking his coat isn't awkward). So my backpacking best friend suggests that we split my hotel room and he gives me 50 bucks instead of giving the hotel 100. I tell my new friend that no that is weird (in the best 1. I am not cold, and 2. We are not really friends tone). I really need to work on being less approachable. He insists it is a solid offer, that I will not get more than 50 dollars for my room from anyone else, and that I should take it while the offer is still good. I inform him, I did not list half my room on and that I am not a member of either.
He persists.

I give the ultimate shut down of "No, my husband would not be thrilled to find out about this."

He counters with, a surprising, "call your husband, I'll talk to him on the phone and he won't mind."

Yeah, my husband REALLY isn't going to be ok with that.

So the shuttle comes for the hotel.


My bus to heaven is here.

He is on my shuttle.

He is going to the same hotel.


Him persisting the whole way, and me and me shutting him down the whole way, was our ride to the Landsdowne Resort from Washington/Dulles airport.

In a last ditch effort, he pulls out his trump card,

"But I am normal!"

I realize that I have never once had to implore with someone that I am normal. True normal people do not have to defend their normalcy. I tell him such, and I pull out my creepy-guy trump card, Ted Bundy.

"Yeah, you know who else looked normal and said he was normal? Ted Bundy."


I spent the rest of the night thinking of ways to be less approachable and vowing to never leave my coat at home again.


I have self-confessed Internet ADD. Whenever I am online, I have no less than 6 pages open. I bounce from site to site, digesting, skimming, and discarding. Once in a while I find something worth hanging on to. Sometimes it is meaningful, sometimes it is just a great time waster, or a mental break from doing heavier work.

Today, while uploading some educational sites for work, I came across this cool site:

Oh the places you will go when you don't want to be where you are.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Talk Good Russian

In an effort to integrate myself into Moscow, I signed up at a language school to be a "conversation facilitator" for a group of Russians in the final stages of learning English. They are basically fluent, but need to be more comfortable, and need help with the little things such as articles. "I walk THE dog" not "I walk dog". Also maybe some help with tone, i.e. why do you sound so angry and flippant when you tell me you ate cake and watched TV last night?
My first meeting with the director of the school was to go over my role and responsibilities in the group.
She tells me that my main role is to keep the conversation flowing.
I am a skilled conversationalist, this is easy enough. 
I am not to allow any one person in the group to dominate the conversation.
Ok, cheerlead the wallflowers, I got this.
Do not let them fight, well they shouldn't fight, ok they will fight, but you have to not let them or it will get out of hand.
Excuse me, they're going to fight? What am I, watching the gremlins? Should I also not let them have water at night? Huh? Oh that isn't important, let's just go on to the next rule? Ok.
Participate int he conversation yourself, share with them things about the United States, they will be very interested int he United States. For example, maybe you tell them why you have name like man, but you are not man.
Why I have a man's name, but I am not a man? Robin isn't a man's name. It is for a woman or for a man. Like Sasha for you Russians. In America Sasha is a woman's name, typically a black woman's name. For example, our president, who is black, his daughter's name is Sasha.
She is appaled by this information and does not believe me. We move swiftly on, no need to dwell...
Week one of the conversation group and I learn  my group consists of 8 Russian women. My devushkas.
The conversation topics and follow up questions are provided for us and week one is about emotions and communication. This should be fun. Among the group of 8 they have 3 names. The 8 of them are all either Elenas, Natalias, or Tatianas. Easy enough not to mix up.
The question comes around: "Are you open with your emotions, do you show people what you are thinking easily?"
HA! Silly question, Russians don't show emotions, I am not even sure they will understand the meaning of this question. How can this be a question if there is no alternative?
Tatiana #1 (The only Tatiana in her world) is a tall typical Russian woman with a severe blonde bob haircut who keeps her fur coat on the entire class. She is anxious to answer this question, I can tell by her raised eyebrow. She tells me:
I do not show emotions. People at my business will say I am cool? Yea, cool. Because I will not show emotion. For example, you do not know if I like you, I don't like you, who knows? But for example, they I have power. If you do not know, power is with me."
(Side note: Russians love the phrase "for example" and place it awkwardly and excessively in conversations. It is their well placed curse word I believe. For example.)
The wall-flower sitting next to her is excited by this realization, and wants to high five Tatiana. Tatiana will have none of this, and tells wall-flower in a monotone voice:
No! You do not touch me. You have no access to me.
Wall-flower is very sad.
Tatiana continues with:
You see what I did there? I have power. Also, I do not like to be touched.
The phrase of the day I teach Tatiana is "cold-fish", as in "Your co-workers don't think you are cool, they think you are a cold-fish". She enjoys this phrase very much, I can tell by her raised eyebrow. She writes it down in her notebook and mumbles about remembering this and using it in the future.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

America Is The Best Half-Educated Country In The World

I am not one of those American-bashing ex-pats. In fact, I want to bash those people. Sure, America has downfalls, but it is still a wonderful and comfortable place to live. I can't stand when Americans who live abroad talk poke excessive fun at America and it's superifciality, and worse, it has become almost envogue. Every country has its merits, and its downfalls.

That was my disclaimer so I can post this and not feel like one of those people:

To be honest, without names, there are a few countries on here I can't identify. I went to private-religious school however, so I am lucky I don't still believe they are all attached.

Monday, March 7, 2011

My Tampa Trip...No Elaboration Required

Booked a ticket on Saturday. Left on Sunday. Plane delayed for 4 hours in the airport that got bombed. Sat on by a Russian. Shoved by a Russian. Generally assaulted by all surrounding Russians. Vodka spilled in my purse by a Russian. Can't wait for America. Slept most of the flight, that was good. Arrived in D.C. way past connection flight. Lost all hope of arriving in Tampa on Sunday. Realized I left coat in Moscow. Possible serial killer offered sweatshirt and tried to share hotel room. realize that no one who is actually normal ever needs to say they are normal. Pass. Woke up 3 hours after going to bed. Jet lag sucks. Go back to D.C. airport. Meet a girl who reminds me of my slightly white trash sister. End up holding her cat through security. Not convinced cat isn't a drug mule. Hear her sob story about her meth-making boyfriend. Now convinced cat is a drug mule. Realize cat scratched me. Wondering if I would now fail a drug test.  Arrive in Tampa. Go to lunch. I hate hugs. Go to a club. Fist pump. Nothing has changed in Tampa. Remind myself how to drive. Melt my credit card at the mall. Beach. Go to the dentist hungover. Get told by the dentist to eat an Alka Seltzer if I ever have a UTI. Wonder the entire dentist visit why he told me this. Wondering if the dentist ever verbally told me he is normal. Go out way too late way too often. Tried a jalapeno margarita. Reminded why I don't drink tequila. Where did these bruises come from? Physically exhausted. Please don't hug me. Partied with my favorite Asian. Pulled car over the throw up. Dinner with deceased step-dad's ex-wife. My family is strange. Drink wine. Eat cheese dip with a friend. Name it a "in queso emergency" party. Tell my friend I am not stoned. Hit by a slow moving car. Drag a coffin shaped bike case through the airport. Get the wrong boarding pass. Collude with the flight attendant that I am too sick to have people sitting next to me. Arrive in Moscow. Get shoved as soon as I exit the plane. Robin, Welcome Home, Love, Moscow.

P.S. With all of that said (in one breath, mind you). I couldn't have been doing this on February 27 in Moscow:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Winning, Duh" - Charlie Sheen

My pal over at Life In the Pickle Jar  awarded my little young 6 lb 7 oz baby blog an award. Look at my little munchkin.

But there is no free lunch in Russia.  Here are the parameters:
I give 7 little known facts about myself and then, tag-your-it-psssst-pass-it-on. I think the rules say something like pass it on to 10 blogs, but I am not sure I know 10 blogs, so I will pass it on to as many as I can think of.

1. My Mom is a lesbian- Despite my love of all things ruffles, my mom is quite the lesbian and bears a striking resemblance to Tony Danza. (Also, she threatened to never talk to me again and never join Facebook when I first posted this picture, but it is too much of a gem to not share it with the world.)
Who's The Boss Now?
2. I am legally blind in my right eye- this makes my depth perception next to non-existent, I am a worthless park-er. I can typically tell how tired I was the night before by the angle my car is parked in the driveway. I did not know I was legally blind in one eye until I was 15 and took an eye test for my driver's license. I was accused of faking this condition by an optometrist when I was 5. Later I asked my Great Grandfather why everything was REALLY blurry out of one eye, and not the other, and he told me to "shut up, stop complaining, everyone is like that".

3. I worked at Hooters for 5 years- Not just while I was in college either, also for the year after college when I didn't know what the hell I wanted to do with my life.

4. I still don't know what the hell I want to do with my life- I have successfully managed to fall into every job I have ever had and end up convincing myself I love it and could never leave. 

5. I tricked my friend into thinking she was lonely- enough to adopt a cat. Not sure if she really wanted a cat, but I did.  Now I live in Russia, and the cat is driving her crazy in Tampa.

 6. I ate snow- I had a particularly hungover morning, and out of the combined need to avoid movement and hydrate, I rolled towards the window, opened it, and ate a handful of snow.

Evidence of poor decision making skills

7. I dress for Happy Hour- Most Friday mornings I dress for the Happy Hour I want not the job I have, regardless of if a Happy Hour is actually planned yet. I have one of those, if you dress for it, it will come mentalities.  (see number 6)

Bloggers I would like to pass this award on to:

1. Stefanie over at Mommy Musings - She has been one of my best friends since Kindergarten and is the one who gave me the idea to even begin a blog

2. Chloe at The Chloe Conspiracy - She has one of the most fantastic fashion blogs I have ever read, and her wit is the only thing that outshines her fashion

3. Tara at Little Girl Big Closet - I have enjoyed reading her blog transition from just about fashion to more in depth discussions

4. American Russian Observations- For being one of the first blogs to link to me

5. Roxy at Effortless Anthropologie- I have enjoyed reading her anthropologie reviews for a long time, and have benefited from her trade markets and sales posts, but would love to know more about her personally.

And that wraps that up, just like my trip to Tampa will soon be wrapped up and will have me on a plane headed back to the snowy embrace of Moscow.

There's a Fine Line Between Fun and Puke

After 4 months of living in Moscow, I still had no friends outside of co-workers. My co-workers are not my people. They are of the I-don't-like-to-go-out-past-8pm-maybe-I'll-turn-into-a-pumpkin people. My people, my Tampa people, are the I'll-sleep-when-I'm-dead-fist- pumps -all- night-shots-shots-shots people. I came direct to Moscow from a job in radio (which I am not grass greening, because it was also a very stressful job) directly to working at a school with very few 20 somethings, whose idea of a filled social calendar is an occasional happy-hour (that ends at proper happy hour time) and a weekend spent re-organizing their classroom. I like these people, but with me not being a teacher and therefore not having a classroom to reorganize, that left my own social calendar with a lot to be desired.

I made a plan, a mission if you will, to meet some English speakers living in Moscow whose idea of a good time expanded further than a wine cooler and some peanut m&m's. My husband and I made a date to go to Happy Hour (requires capitalization here because Happy Hour is a sacred event in my book, and therefore a proper noun at least) at a restaurant owned by Americans, where we had heard English being spoken at the bar. When we walked in, along with my coat, I also checked everything my mother ever taught me about not talking to strangers. (well, MY mother never taught me about that, but certainly I had heard SOMEONE'S mother warning them about that, right?)

As soon as I heard a girl speaking English, I pounced on her like a cat in heat. Turns out we had more than language in common, she was also from Florida, bored out of her mind in Russia, and was willing to make my friend making mission a joint one.

I got a little excited about making a friend and began celebrating with martinis. My liver, a little out of practice, was not as thrilled about the martini celebration. I spent the second half of the night making friends with the toilet in the ladies' room.

My new English-speaking friend still speaks to me. Now that is my kind of people.