becoming a tourist

It’s been a long time since I’ve written in this journal.  As April ends I can really feel the time ticking down on my stay in Russia.  Sometimes I want to go home right away, want to speed through the rest and then be home with my family–this feeling usually comes at my most exhausted moments, when I relate being home in Connecticut to spending long summer hours in my comfortable bed reading unchallenging books in English, watching classic movies, and eating bagels and lox two times a day–and sometimes I imagine that I have another year here–albeit with a different and less aggravating job.

And because I’ve spent so much effort both working on improving my Russian skills and on building a life here, I admit I haven’t explored the city as much as I’d like.  This adds extra urgency to my last month and a half–less than that!–in Moscow.  I want to see more neighborhoods, to go to more museums, to just go on more walks and take more pictures.  Luckily, my friend J came all the way from New York to see Russia and to stay with me, so I have been able to become both a tourist and a guide during his nine days here.  The suddenly unbelievably good weather doesn’t hurt!   It’s sixty degrees here, beautiful, sunny, with the sun setting only at around eight thirty every evening.  It is wonderful just to sit on a curb at Red Square at sunset time and take in all the color, grandeur and enormous, people-dwarfing scale of Moscow, and be surprised that I am here, and more than that, that I live here.

So since J has been here, we’ve been to Kolomenskoye.  The first time I went there was late afternoon on a cloudy day, and I was practically alone.  This time, it was full of people and activity.

This white church is very very tall, and closed to the public, which gives it a mysterious feeling.  And here is one of Peter the Great’s wooden cabins:

While we were there, we ate our Easter kulich:

And we visited a church with a deep blue roof spangled in gold stars.  It was full of church goers lighting red candles on stands in front of their chosen icons, and the doors were opened to the special back room of the church.  On either side of the doors were the letters X and B for Khristos Voskres–Christ has risen–in deep red and white roses.

There was an outdoor concert where two musicians played eerie music on sheets of metal.

We went to a circus at the insane complex that is VDNKh, a former Soviet agricultural exhibition center that is a Soviet kitsch palace with dilapidated halls devoted to each former Soviet Republic.  We unfortunately were not in time for the cat exhibit–I always seem to be seeing signs cat expos around here–but we toured the grungy amusement park, saw a group of youths bounding around on some high tech bouncing stilts.  The circus, held in a little tent/cafe, had no sad and distressed circus animals as reported by others who have seen circuses in Russia, just extremely talented and charming performers doing utterly complicated tricks with no support ropes.  And a very fat and very flexible tutu-wearing lady who was hoisted aloft on a hoop to do splits in mid-air, and clowns doing highland dances in kilts.  Then when we went out we saw this space monument:

and this absolutely giant and very famous Worker and Kolkhoz Farmer Girl monument, which was glowing in the sunset.

And then I introduced J to pelmeni, the delicious meat dumplings that I’m sure I will miss when I am home.  I am very tired, but I like presenting my Moscow, exploring more in it, and trying to answer J’s questions.  This last thing–I wish it made me feel more like an expert on Russia, but it more often makes me feel at a loss for words, trying to explain something that is so big and complicated and that I still have so much to learn about.

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