Monday, December 18, 2006

Moscow musings

It's snowing! Say what you will about Moscow, it is a magical feeling to be wandering past Red Square when the snow is a-falling and the Christmas trees are lit up (near Red Square is on my way into the school. Red Square proper is not. I almost went in to experience the presumably even more magical feeling of being in Red Square when the snow is a-falling and the Christmas trees are lit up, but I couldn't be bothered, sadly. There's actually an outdoor ice-rink in Red Square - much as I hate ice skating, that would be a cool experience...) We have also had blue sky and possibly sun, although I've been in bed with the flu the majority of the weekend and didn't see it if there was.

On Saturday we had a seminar in at one of the central schools - happens once a month, boo! The fun part was that Saturday was the day of a planned march by a coalition of anti-governmental parties - 'Other Russia' - led by Gary Kasparov, the chess guy. The march was actually banned by the city council - illegally, so said the organisers, who vowed to march anyway. As I find out, they didn't march, merely held a rally, but boy, were the police and military out in force in any case! The square that we would normally walk through to get to the school was sealed off with dozens of cops, as were other streets in central Moscow. This meant a wide detour and turning up late for the seminar - that makes two out of two! I think the actual rally was somewhere else, but they were planning to march to where we were, but the excitement must have been over by the time we showed up - I saw one solitary guy with a placard, but hundreds of cops. According to http://www.breakingnews.ie/world/?jp=CWIDSNGBIDAU, about 8,500 law enforcement officials were out in Moscow on Saturday (!) Not to stereotype my gracious host nation, but this all seemed pleasingly Russian. Finally, a taste of the uber-authoritarian Russia the Western press harps on about! Sadly, no rioting and police brutality witnessed...

Prague people: Remember those Lay's chips in Prague that were called 'Fromage' but looked and tasted like Sour Cream & Chives? The mystery deepens: here in Moscow the same pack is indeed called Sour Cream & [mystery Russian word] and there's another pack of 'Cheese' flavour... Lay's also come in Mushroom & Sour Cream and Crab flavours here (shudder).

Interesting things I learned in The Moscow Times this week: Russia & Japan dispute a string of islands north of Japan. Because of this long-running issue, the two nations have never signed a formal peace treaty putting an end to their WWII hostilities!

And in cheerful news, more people have been murdered this year in Moscow than last - over 1000 so far in 2006. Moscow's a big city, but compare this to about 200 a year in London, and 571 murders last year in New York. It also charmingly mentioned a big spike in the numbers of serial killers - including one (thankfully apprehended) called the 'Bitsevsky Maniac' because he killed dozens in Moscow's Bitsevsky Park earlier this year. I guess I'll be taking the long way round the eerie woods...

OH and if you thought that working on Christmas Day on a Monday was not bad enough, they found a way to make it worse! My dreaded live observation (when someone comes in and watches you teach eek) was meant to be later this week - a fact I'd actually put out of my mind to the point of forgetting all about it. But this morning, the guy rings up and says "why don't we make it next Monday instead?" "Monday - Christmas Day?" I squeaked. "Yeah, I suppose it is Christmas Day" was the reply - this from a bona fide Canadian, no Russian who doesn't appreciate the sanctity of Christmas... So yes, on Christmas Day on a Monday I have to be observed while I teach. Superfluity of italics in fact not superfluous as they must convey the magnitude of the horror. :(

1 comment:

  1. Yes, well that does beat my horror of watching a cappucino I ordered in a cafe in Morecambe being made with instant nescafe ....
    And is the info about serial killers in there especially for me??? Aaaarrrggghhh
    Mum xxxx

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