Saturday, September 29, 2012

Здравствуйте Путин

While I was running today, a woman stopped me by the stadium and asked "где метро?"  I am proud to say that I gave her directions entirely in Russian!  They were rather pathetic and consisted of "go to the right then straight."  But she understood!  Of course, she thanked me in English.  If my "stunned ox" look doesn't give me away as a foreigner, my accent most certainly does.
I live just behind the stadium and run around the stadium.
I had been concerned that my host dad didn't like me much.  He usually sits in his television room watching sports whenever I am in the house, and the size of the dinner table means that my host mom serves us each in shifts.  First, I eat; then, she serves Igor; and finally, Nastya.  In all, I haven't had much interaction with many of the other members of the family.  However, today, during breakfast, my host dad came in and started chatting with me and Nina!  He asked me if I had heard of the song "Alexandra" from the old Russian film, Москва слезам не верит (Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears).  I had heard it before, but not in a long time, I told him.  He wanted to play it for me, but I needed to leave for Stanford's tour of the Kremlin, so I said I would listen to it later.

Stanford organized an English tour of the Kremlin for us.  Our guide, a slightly sarcastic Russian man, met us at the Metro station and brought us through security and into the Kremlin.
Trinity Tower: The entrance to the Kremlin
The Kremlin has been the symbol of the Russian government for centuries.  The first wooden fortress was built in 1156 by Prince Yuriy Dolgoruiky.  Then, in the 15th century, Tsar Ivan III commissioned Italian architects to build the Cathedral of the Dominition (not Assumption, as our guide explained) and the Cathedral of the Archangel, among other buildings.
Cathedral of the Archangel
Now, the Kremlin houses the seat of the Russian President's Administration.
Our group with the Tsar Bell.
Ron, Bekah, Annie, Patrick, Shariah, Stephanie, Me, Matthew, Kyle
While our tour guide brought us through nearly all of the buildings, it was "the same sad story" - as he put it - "no pictures."
Ivan the Great Bell Tower - once the tallest building in Moscow
Later, Annie and I toured the nearby Alexander Gardens.

We saw the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier.

Then, we met up with the rest of the group at Old Arbat Street.  

This area was once the artistic and intellectual center of Moscow.
Stephanie, Ron, Kyle, Me, Annie, and Matthew
Now, it is a large tourist area with many chain cafes and souvenir shops.  Try to guess which stores these are!

After resting for a bit at home, we ventured out again to see the Circle of Light festival in Red Square.
The festival clearly projected the image of an "open" Russia.

I still have my doubts that this image lines up with reality.  However, I am starting to wonder if the estranged relations between Russia and the larger international community can be blamed on widespread ignorance, especially American prejudices, and not on Russian secrecy. 

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