Friday, November 30, 2012

Джерри

When I woke up this morning, I was greeted by the sound of excitedly tapping paws.  I opened my bedroom door and a black poodle promptly jumped up to greet me, wagging his tail and licking my hands.

"ой! привет!" I said.

"Джерри! Что ты делаешь?" called my host mom from the kitchen.  And, like the well trained poodle that he is, Gerry scuttled back into the kitchen at the sound of his name for some of my host-mom's adorations and bits of cheese.

We are dog-sitting for my host mom's friend who is ill.

Later that morning, I offered to take Gerry out with me when I met up with Annie and Patrick to take some snowy pictures of the Novodevichy Monastery near my house.  It would have been a fun time, but I think my host mom enjoys having a dog again, so she wanted to walk Gerry herself.  She used to have a Cocker Spaniel a few years ago.

Russians really love their dogs!

Our walk around Novodevichy was terribly cold.  Russian's are a hardy bunch.  I think Nikolai Gogol said it well: "The Russian man is apt for anything and can get used to any climate.  Send him all the way to Kamchatka, give him just a pair of warm mittens, and he'll clap his hands, pick up his axe, and off he goes building a new cottage."




Thursday, November 29, 2012

Скоро будет Новый год!

In Russia, the major winter holiday is not Christmas (рождество), it is New Year's (Новый год).

To celebrate the New Year, Russians decorate ёлки (trees), gather with friends and family, and give gifts.  дед мороз also makes his yearly visit, accompanied by his snow-angel grandchildren, and leaves gifts under the ёлки for Russian children.

Whether for New Year's or Christmas, the decorations in the snow-covered Red Square lend a magical excitement to winter in Moscow.  

And now for some New Year's laughs:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

иммунитет

I apologize for the rather lame blog posts lately.  Though I am abroad, I am not immune to the demands of being a Stanford student.  This week, I have been working on an essay for my course on modern Russian economic policy.  I am exploring the "Buy Local" movement in the United States and how a similar program promoting local agriculture could benefit both the Russian economy and society.
Courtesy of Leste

I had no idea that agriculture was such a fascinating subject!  As I'm learning, the agricultural sector has a nearly immeasurable impact (I say 'nearly' because I am, in fact, trying to quantify its impact) on the well-being and sustainability of a nation.  I'm considering continuing this research when I return to Stanford in the winter.

Speaking of winter ...
View from my window
снег!
This type of weather makes me want to crawl into bed with a mug of tea and finish The Dead Souls.  But, there is a time for reading and a time for work.  Now, I must get back to work!  

Monday, November 26, 2012

новое расписание

As my host mom predicted, the sun did not rise until 9:30 this morning.  Since I leave for school at 10:00 and need to be out of the shower and at the breakfast table by 9:15 so that my host sister can get ready, I could not fit a run in this morning.  For the remainder of my time here, I will need to change my routine and run in the afternoon on weekdays.

Mustering the motivation to run after classes was difficult, especially after ten days without heart-pumping exercise in Turkey.  But, as always, once I started, I was glad I forced myself out the door.

I ran my usual three-mile loop around the monastery's frozen lake.  In the gently falling snow, Moscow is truly a site to behold.  I wanted to take a picture; however, by the time I returned home and stretched for a bit, I didn't feel like going outside again the sun had sunk too low for decent lighting.  The long nights of the Russian winter have begun!

Photo courtesy of carhirex.com

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Turkey Day in Turkey: A Conclusion

Turkey Day in Turkey has been an experience.  I am anxious to return to Moscow, my host family, and my regular running routine.

While the ancient sites, such as the Hagia Sophia and Ephesus, are remarkable, Turkey on the whole has not captivated me.



Turkey strikes me as artificial.  I felt as though I were in Disney World the whole time.

If it is possible for a country to base its entire economy off of tourism, Turkey seems to have succeeded.

Everywhere, shopkeepers heckle us as we pass by, trying to entice us with yet another kebab or doner.  The most prevalent shops, besides the Turkish Delight stores and "Pashmina" scarf stalls, are travel agencies advertising tours of sites such as Ephesus and Cappadocia.
  
Perhaps only the portions of Turkey that I saw, some of the most toured areas in the world, are overwhelmed with such vexing tourist institutions.  After all, there are certainly many places in Turkey that we did not see.

But, if the rest of Turkey is like Istanbul, Epehesus, and Pamukkale, I must admit that I am less than anxious to return.

I am thankful that I had the amazing opportunity to enjoy Turkey Day in Turkey and to visit some of the oldest and most famous sites in the world.  However, right now, I have grown weary of Apple Tea, Baklava, and aggravating store owners.  Я скучаю по дому в Москве.      

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turkey Day in Turkey: Pamukkale

Turkey Day in Turkey:
Pamukkale

Doing a day trip from Selcuk to Pamukkale is difficult, but possible.

The bus ride from Selcuk to Pamukkale was approximately 3 hours with one transfer in Denzli. When we arrived, we were immediately assaulted with the usual Turkish salesman attempting to sell us a tour of the region. Since we did only have a few hours and we wanted to make our time in Pamukkale worth the trip, we negotiated the price a bit and decided to take a tour.

Our tour began with the red springs.


From there, the bus dropped us at the entrance to the ancient Greco-Roman and Byzantine city of Hierapolis.



We saw the Antique Pool, where Cleopatra swam.

Then, we photographed our way through the Travertine terraces, which are comprised of calcium deposits.




It was really bright!
It was a stunning day to visit the pools and we all thoroughly enjoyed the trip.

Since we paid for a private tour, we also were provided with a private bus ride back to Selcuk, a nice perk that shortened the trip by about 40 minutes.

Back in Selcuk, we celebrated Turkey Day Turkish Style!


Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Turkey Day in Turkey: Ephesus

Turkey Day in Turkey:
Ephesus

This morning, we took the local mini bus to the Ruins of Ephesus.




The first signs of life in the antique city of Ephesus dates back to 6000 BC!





On our way back from the ruins, we stopped at the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  


Later that evening, we dined at one of the best restaurants in the Selcuk area: Mehmet and Ali Baba Kebab House

They gave us complimentary apple tea.  We were content.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Turkey Day in Turkey: Istanbul

Turkey Day in Turkey:
Istanbul

Bekah, Sharia, Annie, Patrick, and I are spending the Thanksgiving holidays in Turkey this year.

We arrived in Istanbul in the early afternoon and took the airport shuttle to the hostel, which we are pretty sure was involved in some illegal operations.

The sunshine and warmth of the people immediately struck us.  We weren't in Moscow anymore.

Sharia and I set out for an afternoon run.  Unfortunately, we received a number of strange looks.  While I felt relatively safe running, I don't think I will be running in Turkey anymore due to cultural discrepancies. 

Later, we did some exploring and went inside the Blue Mosque, which was the first time I had ever been inside a mosque.  


I was surprised to learn that men and women pray separately.  I don't know as much as I would like about the Muslim faith.

Then, we sampled some Turkish cuisine, which is a cross between Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking.  I can't say I am the biggest fan. 

The next morning, Annie, Patrick, and I went to the Hagia Sophia.

The Hagia Sophia is considered the archetype of Byzantine Architecture.

It was dedicated in 537 A.D. as an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral.  It became an Imperial Mosque in 1453 after Sultan Mehmed laid siege to Constantinople.





The grandeur of the Hagia Sophia overwhelmed me.  It may have also been the oldest building I have ever been inside.

That afternoon, we also explored the Basilica Cistern, an underground cistern built in the 6th century.  

Not much is known about the cistern or the rationale behind the Medusa heads that lie rotated in the northwest corners of the underground edifice.



Patrick then led us on an adventure through some of the rougher parts of town in search of the best Turkish Delight in Turkey.

There was so much decay and so many bombed-out buildings.  I guess with a city of fifteen million, one can see a wide range on the poverty spectrum. 

Our hostel lacked hot water, so on our next morning, Annie and I went to the Turkish Bath House.

We then faced a dilemma, should we move into a hotel or should we stay in the hostel and go to a Haman everyday? 

As much as we loved the bath house, we decided to move into the Naz Wooden House Hotel in order to sleep better and enjoy some of the necessities that the hostel lacked.

New Room!

Our porch

View of the Blue Mosque from our Hotel
Later that afternoon, we visited the New Mosque and Spice Bazaar.

Then, we re-caffienated with some Turkish Coffee (my new obsession) and went to the movie theatre to see Skyfall, the most recent James Bond film.

The opening scenes of the film looked oddly familiar.  As soon as we saw the Dolphin Police, we realized that James Bond was in Istanbul!  What an awesome coincidence!

Going to the movies in a foreign country is always fun.  Halfway through the film, at one of the most intense moments, the picture suddenly changed to a Turkish cartoon.  In Turkey, films have a short intermission.  I'm surprised that American cinemas do not offer the same break so that guests can purchase more refreshments.

On our next day in Turkey, we met Sharia's friend, who took us on a ferry ride to the Asian side.





There wasn't much to do over there, but I enjoyed seeing a part of Istanbul relatively free from tourist institutions.

Today, our last full day in Istanbul, we are going to the Grand Bazaar to do some shopping.  Then, we are catching a short flight to Ephesus!