Saturday, December 15, 2012

Последний день в Москве

I will always remember my final day in Moscow.  The city was beautiful, awash in sunshine.

Patrick's host parents invited us to the Tchaikovsky Conservatory to hear a concert.
Patrick's host dad, Matt, Me, Patrick's host mom
Both the music and the venue were beautiful.  The arts in Moscow redeemed themselves after last night's circus misadventure.

Calmed from the music, I returned home to my packing nightmare.  How was I going to fit everything into my suitcase!

Before I knew it, the sun had set and it was dinnertime.  My host mom and sister prepared an elaborate final dinner for me complete with salmon and wine.

In Russian tradition, we toasted to my memories, my time in Moscow, my upcoming marathon training, and my future.  We toasted quite a bit, enough so that after dinner, when I ventured into the city for the final time, I barely felt the below freezing temperatures.

I needed to see Red Square one last time, to see the magnificent city lights, to hear the rush of the Metro, and feel the chill of the air against my skin.

Spending a semester in Moscow has been a life changing experience; one that I will always remember and one that will forever impact my perspective.

I felt I needed to toast the city that has given me so much.

Shivering in the cold, Annie, Patrick, Kyle, Gelya, and I raised shot glasses of Vodka "To Moscow!"

I will miss this city.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Russia in the wintertime is magical!

Annie, Stephanie and I went ice skating in Gorky Park this morning.  In the winter, Gorky Park is transformed into a huge ice rink!  All the paths that are normally walkable, are coated with ice.  We had so much fun despite the fierce cold.

Then, my day took a turn for the absurd.  Kyle bought us tickets for the Russian Circus.

It was weird.  The highlight of the show was a parade of bears riding on cows.  Что?

(Photos of Gorky Park and the bears to come soon!)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

что Сколково?

Two years ago, I wrote a paper about Russia's Skolkovo Project.

The Skolkovo Project is known as Russia's attempt to replicate the Silicon Valley's successes in technology and innovation.  Projects are underway, such as the construction of Skol-Tech, an engineering school to complement the already built Hypercube and School of Management.  Those involved in the project hope that Skolkovo will be a testing ground for new ideas in business, technology, and society.

With the help of the Stanford Program, we were able to attend an "Open Government" Conference at the Skolkovo Hypercube this evening.

The Skolkovo "complex" lies twelve miles west of Moscow.  I write "complex" because there is hardly anything there; the business school consists of a small cluster of buildings a short distance from the main Skolkovo entrance, and then, inside Skolkovo, there is the Hypercube, which is a seven story cube in the middle of a snowy field.

According to our guide, the Skol-Tech Engineering school will be opened in 2014.

Our evening in the Hypercube began with a talk about the Skolkovo Project.  "What is Skolkovo?" rhetorically asked our guide.  "Well, that is what we would like to know too."
Interior of Hypercube
Hypercube Auditorium
Following a brief tour of the Hypercube, which is purposely designed to look unfinished with concrete walls and visible metal bolts, we assembled in the main auditorium to hear from a panel of international ministers and political figures including Russian Prime Minister and former President Dmitri Medvedev.

The panel discussed the necessity of Open Government in enabling its citizens to advocate for change.  Open government projects such as access to documents and data are important steps for Russia as it seeks to better its credibility in the business world.  However, pledging to join an Open Government Partnership is one thing; actually enacting these procedures is a far greater demonstration of openness than any partnership.

*I wasn't sure how tight security would be, so I only had my point-and-shoot camera.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Алмазный фонд ... в конце

I finally saw the Diamond Fund!  For anyone who wants to guarantee herself tickets, go at 10:30AM on a Tuesday morning.  The guards will laugh at you because they are bored (especially if you have a fork in your purse ... yes, that happened and no, I don't know why I had a fork in my bag), but seeing the most prized Russian jewels without crowds is very much worth the ridicule.

Great Imperial Crown
Peter the Great started the Diamond Fund after seeing similar collections on his travels in Europe.  He issued a proclamation that ordered each of his successors to leave some of their jewels to the state.  The Diamond Fund was originally located in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, but was moved to Moscow in 1914 to be kept safe from the invading German Army.  Through Russia's revolution and years of Civil War, the collection was forgotten in an underground vault.  In 1927, the vault was reopened.  However, at the time, the Soviet economy was struggling.  The next year, 2/3 of the collection was auctioned off.

After the fall of communism, the collection was opened to the public.  Some of the highlights include Catherine the Great's Imperial Crown, the world's largest sapphire, and the Orlov Diamond.
Orlov Diamond
Now, I am working on my paper!  Just one more paper and an exam to go! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Встреча с послом

Last night we were honored to meet the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Ambassador Michael McFaul, at his residence, Spaso House.

The Ambassador treated us to stories of his time as a study abroad student in Russia during the Soviet era and shared his thoughts on the challenges facing U.S.-Russian international relations.  We spoke about issues such as Syria as well as problems facing the Russian business sector.  One of the most interesting topics we discussed was the perceptions that Russians have towards Americans.  Just as I had never experienced Russian culture before studying abroad here, many Russians have never actually experienced American culture.  It is easy to forget that cultural misunderstandings go both ways.

He ended the evening by reminding us to leave room in our lives for "serendipity."  Ambassador McFaul never imagined he would end up serving the United States government abroad and he certainly took a more out of the ordinary path to get there, but he enjoyed every minute of it.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

мое последнее воскресенье в Москве

Annie, Patrick, and I attempted to see the Diamond Fund again this Sunday.  We arrived at the Kremlin at around 11:00; however, the only tickets that were available were for 2:00 PM.  We already had afternoon plans to hang out with Bekah and her host family, so we decided to postpone the Diamond Fund for yet another day.  Third time is a charm!

We walked around the city, filming awkward interview segments for our FlipCam video about the BOSP Moscow program.  Being on camera makes me so self-conscious!

We found the Red October Chocolate Factory, which is now a very artsy, hipster area of Moscow.  In 1851, German immigrant Teodore Ferdinand von Einem arrived in Moscow and opened a small candy shop near Teatralnaya Square.  Finding success with the notorious Russian sweet tooth, he later opened a red brick production facility on the embankment of the Moscow River.

By 1913, the factory was providing chocolates to the Czar and his family.  Then, in 1918, the company was seized by the Soviet government and renamed "State Confectionery Factory Number One."  In 1922, this lengthy name was changed to "Red October."  The Soviet government funded the expansion of the chocolate factory and expanded its offerings to include such notable sweets as Southern Nights, Stumbling Bear, and the infamous Alenka.  
The Red October chocolate factory has since moved to a 48,000 sq. meter facility in the suburbs of Moscow and continues to produce delectable Russian sweets.

After our stroll through Moscow, we met up with Matt, Ron, and Sharia and went to Bekah's house for afternoon tea.  Her host family is so accommodating and kind!  This is actually Bekah's second host family since she encountered a few problems with her first family.  I really glad she decided to move and has been enjoying time with her new family!

In other news, I have the written portion of my Russian language final exam tomorrow!  I'm so nervous!  Wish me luck!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Я ненавижу времени

I greatly dislike all the endings and good byes that are beginning.  Earlier today we had our final Russian class, then this evening we had our Bing Dinner at a Georgian restaurant called John Joli.

John Joli had a great atmosphere!  It was very festive.  The food was excellent, but, (though it sounds trite), the best part of the evening was the company.  Over the past few months, I feel as though the participants in our program have developed a very unique bond.  I love everyone so much and never want the fun times in Moscow to end!

We have one week left in Russia.  Let's make it count.