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Monday, 1 August 2016

Wild night out in Moscow?!?!?!

For a long time I did not go out properly. Actually it was even before my daughter was born so more than seven years ago. Not that I never went out in seven years but it was more of a beer or two and then home to bed. So being in Moscow, world party city, it was the right time to try it again. Also big help was a really good friend I met in Moscow. A half Russian half expat lady and a real party girl. Compared to her I was like a pensioned old lady.

So we set a date, a Friday. I was really excited felt like a kid preparing to go out. With a major issue - what to wear. My wardrobe is not exactly a party type. After few minutes I found what to wear, because as I no longer know how to prepare for going out it takes much less time, and also I have no other party people to compare myself with. After two dresses I decided to go with black trousers and a blouse. Why I am telling you about my dress options you will come to realise at the end of this Blog.

My friend booked us a place for dinner at nine, since in Moscow, people go to clubs around two am. It is probably the same in all parts of the world but as I was not in that circle it all seemed so new to me. After dinner we would go to a club called Jagger. Another Russian friend recommended it as a place where you can get in and there is some good music for dancing. Apparently in Moscow in all the hip clubs they have face checks - meaning at the entrance they decide who they let in and who not without any specification or explanation.

The night started great, we took a Metro to the restaurant had some good food and a really funny looking and strange tasting healthy desert. But all in all was great. We started a night with two glasses of prosecco and I was feeling twenty-five again.
After the restaurant we walked to an Irish pub next to the club, had another glass of white wine and were getting ready to rock the floor with our crazy dance moves. I wanted to go then to Jagger but my friend convinced me to have a look at another club next to it. So we went, but since it was one am not really many people were in it and nobody was dancing. At that point from the terrace of the club we spotted a short line forming in front of Jagger. There were three bodyguards, completely dressed in black with earpieces, looking quite intimidating but we were ready and decide to go to the club we came for. I was really looking forward to listen to some good music and dance.

So we stood in the line, we were in a great mood, ready to rock the floor. I was so excited I didn't even notice how the ten people standing in the line to the club were dressed. Line was moving slow but steady. And then, SHOCK. We came to the men in black and some lady behind them signed something to the guys and they moved my friend and me both out of the line. We were not allowed to go in. Just to mention we were the only ones who were rejected to enter the club. My friend started screaming and swearing at them in Russian and I, under the influence of prosecco and white wine, started laughing like a crazy lady. I could not believe, one night in seven years I decide to go out to dance and the one club who lets everybody in rejects me. It was so hilarious that it took me some time to grasp what happened. We than sat for another glass of wine in Irish pub and then the wine and two thirty in the morning started getting to me. My friend was already calling a cab for another club but I was out. I begged her to take me home. For me it was the sign from above. Although I am still not sure if my husband may have called the club not to let me in and to send me home.

The whole next day I was recovering. And then I started to think - why was I banned from a club who let every single person in that night for two hours we were around that place. Then I started to remember the girls standing in line. Everyone of them wore a dress, had a push up braw and a big cleavage. They saw that they could not earn money on a girl buttoned up with no heels and all in black. On the more positive side my friend and me like to think we just looked too young for the club.

I still did not give up, I will definitely try it again, at least I got an amazing fun night with my friend. I just need to settle with her that for me after three am I don't function anymore so we'll stick more to vine and beer night in a smaller club. I leave the dance floor to young, busty, Russian ladies in short dresses and high heels....

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Moscow rules - Just one of those positive summer days!!!

You know how when you were 6 or 7 years old you admired some professions. For me it was Ballet. I still remember seeing the first ballet Giselle in Croatian theatre. I really admired the dancers, the way these ballerinas move, walk.... I dreamed I would become one or at least meet one. But as dreams change, during time, there were some other dreams that came in and the ballerina dream stayed a part of my childhood.

But now I feel like somebody had thrown me back 20 years. I actually met a real Ballerina. Seems so funny when I write it, but I really felt so excited seeing that, despite my horrible Russian, she also wants to hang out with me. It is amazing how some things you dreamt as a kid just disappear and then just a few reminders and you feel like six again.
So I met her when she was substituting my daughters ballet  teacher, we exchanged numbers and that is how little by little our Russian coffees started. So today was a huge day for me. She invited me to see a Bolshoi ballet main rehearsal. I don't know if she was more surprised or worried seeing me so excited. Just like a 6 year old. For me it was like making a dream come true for a kid in me, still hiding somewhere in the back. Just to see first row the performance, to come through foyer where they train, to sit at her make up table it was really the best day for my childhood dream.

And these are the things which make Moscow so thrilling, at any corner something new and exciting can happen. Moscow is so huge, if you are willing to open yourself and try to get out of expat communities and women clubs you actually meet great Russian people and some great Estonian, Moroccan gals, so open and friendly that after living here for four different seasons of one year I can surely say we belong.

There are still some things we don't know but learn on the way. I would never think that shoe sizes in Russia are different than Europe. If you are a 37 in Europe in Russia you are 36, So imagine me trying to ask for a wrong shoe size and at the same time wrongly saying in Russian I need bigger size (the seller actually understood that the ones I am trying are too big) so I had to learn it the hard way - after trying to fit into size 34 - better stop, think and ask. Not to become Cinderella's bad stepsister with cut off toes.

And then, like out of nowhere, the other day someone asked me - After nearly one year in Moscow which country and town do you actually call home? It was a valid question and, me being me, started answering without thinking. I think I confused him but after giving my answer for five minutes I came to a pretty fine conclusion. Home is everywhere you feel you have closest people living close to you. To tell you the truth this question took me so much by surprise, that for the last hour I am trying to remember who asked me this?!

Still don't remember even after proofreading this article and uploading photos. Hope it was not just a dream?!

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Ordinary family in thrilling Moscow: Back to school?!

Ordinary family in thrilling Moscow: Back to school?!: You all know, especially the ones with school kids, it is end of the school year. So why the hell am i talking about back to school?!...

Back to school?!

You all know, especially the ones with school kids, it is end of the school year. So why the hell am i talking about back to school?! Well this year it was actually back to school for me.

I was one of the mothers who said i would never do homework with my kids. Ha, joke was on me. This year not just that my daughter started real school for the first time but it was in another country, in another system and in the language in which she could only say - how do you do.

First selection was done according to - which schools have additional english courses, so my 6 year old has assistance in learning the language in order to be able to follow curriculum.

The choice fell on English international school - west campus. And now, at the end of the year I can tell you it was the best possible choice. My daughter is not really open, but first day of school she just took the teachers hand and went into the class. My son on the other hand was mesmerised by his teacher. His group is called Pirates and still today he thinks that his teacher goes to his pirate boat in the evening and sails distant seas! And he constantly wants me to give him my necklace so he can bring the treasure to his pirate teacher.

The only problem there was - Me. First week my daughter came from school with math word problems. Oh horror. It is the thing that makes me look really dumb, like i don't know even how to spell my name when i see these tasks. But i had to show her its 'easy peasy'. So we sat down and started slowly. I pretended I don't understand a thing (actually not understanding a thing) and she taught me. It worked like a charm. So after full year of her teaching me i can say i grew over my fobia and can even perform all tasks she needs to know for school, with the help of google translate by my side!

The whole school environment helped a lot, since it is a small school, kids mingle with eachother, help eachother no mater which age or year they are. Unlike schools in croatia a lot is done to develop individual thinking, presenting, performing. The kids in the class do not feel they know more or less than others. They are rewarded for good choices they do. What i would do to have had same experience when I was kid. It would at least have helped me to have more courage and do things although they seemed undoable. I really believe they will be able to know what where to find and have the courage to say what they think. And in my opinion this is crucial for their happy future.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Ordinary family in thrilling Moscow: What is Russian babushka and how to survive Banya?...

Ordinary family in thrilling Moscow: What is Russian babushka and how to survive Banya?...: When in Russia, there are few things you MUST experience - Russian Babushka and Russian Banya. We were told that without accepting and e...

What is Russian babushka and how to survive Banya?!

When in Russia, there are few things you MUST experience - Russian Babushka and Russian Banya. We were told that without accepting and experiencing these it is like you have never seen real Russia.

Surviving Banya
So, when our friends came it was the best opportunity to try Banya (something like Turkish sauna but worse). My husband already tried the traditional, male banya. Gathering of a lot of guys in one small room full of steam, beating each other with branches. Ok when he explained how it looks, first I thought, good that women can't do it  and rather go for traditional - going out, dancing and drinking. But talking to different people we heard there are private Banyas, where you rent a full house for yourself and enjoy with the kids. At first we thought, renting a full house, how can we afford it. But actually when we called, it sounded really affordable divided on seven of us, so we booked it. 

It was near the centre, a gated compound with eight to ten of these houses. They are all wooden and entering there you feel like you came to some village in the middle of the city. The house had two floors, 1st floor with banya and dining table and second floor with billiard room and two rooms with beds. Outside was a pool at 19 degrees and a huge pot with water at 40 degrees.

And then my son came running from the top floor cuddling two pillows. The images that went through my head were ten people having a party at the place and you cold imagine my thoughts how they used the two rooms with beds and pillows. I took the pillows form him and convinced him that the cold pool is the best option otherwise he goes to the steam room.

On one screen in the room there was a promotional video about the Banya and they showed 'Parenie'. you rent a guy to come and 'beat' you (not actually beat) with branches in the banya.  The guys on the promotional movie were tall, well built and you really trusted them to know what they were doing. So we ordered a guy to come. Well, Russians are good at promotional movies. The guy that came was small, thin, but I convinced myself that he must be a professional.
It is a great massage, if you are able to survive it. In fact, with these branches the guy moves the hot air and steam all over your body. In the end it took me some time to stop the dizziness, but after few minutes you feel reborn and refreshed. I was astonished that even my seven years old daughter enjoyed it.
After four hours of eating, drinking and steaming I can tell you it is great way to spend time with the whole family, highly recommend it.

Babushka lesson
They say you have to know a real Russian Babushka. How you recognise her. Old lady, strict, shouting at you in the street, that you should dress your kid better because it is cold and she is not related to you in any way! We finally met one on a bus ride. 

Kids under seven don't need to pay for public transport. My daughter just passed that limit but my son still rides for free. So when we entered a bus we were so fast that we slid the ticket for all four of us. As we were riding a bus a strict looking, serious lady approached us and asked 'Who speaks Russian!'. I have to admit I got a bit scared and wanted to hide under the seat but got a little bit of courage and said that I understand a bit. She started shouting at me: ' Why did you use the ticket for your kids. They can ride for free. Save your money, don't spend it on things you don't need to. What, You say she is above seven (looking at my daughter), then say she is six !' I was astonished, here was this Russian lady, who saw me for the first time in her life, giving me advice how to cheat properly in Russia. From that day I love Babushka!!!!

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Some not so Russian days!!

When I was a working mum in Croatia it was very hard to imagine my life as a stay at home mum. I always thought at some point I would get bored. It did't even come to my mind that at one point I would actually start to use a planner. Planner was for work. And now here I am after 9 months in Russia, so many things to do in one week, not related to 'real' work and I start forgetting, what I need to do, when and who i need to call. And I don't think dementia started to kick in at age of 35, at least I hope.

Not Russian Ballet!
There are so many things I want to tell you since my last post, it is really hard to know where to start. Still our life in Moscow is amazing. So if some of you thought I disappeared for a while because my previous posts were not true, tough luck! My daughter started ballet lessons. But not Russian ones. As we want to get to know as many different cultures here, she started ballet with Korean teacher. Amazingly, although all her ballet peers are Korean, she does't at all realise she is any different from them. I think she will ask me one day if there is any way she can transform into a Korean lady, and with my husband I already discussed probability of her being Korean in her previous life. Nevertheless in two weeks she will have a performance. Her and thirty other Korean kids. I would have never imagined that this would be her extracurricular activity in Moscow!!!

Expat-Russian Friends!
I have made some great friends here. Mostly foreigners, who are in the same expat situation as me. I really tried in the beginning to meet local Russians, but it is not as easy since the only Russians I meet are on kids birthday parties. And that is something else. When I was organising a birthday party for my kids I was very enthusiastic to do it as we did in Croatia. Book a play place, get the kids there, drink coffee with parents and go home. Tough luck! The prices here of a regular birthday party is around 500 eur, in Croatia I would pay 90 eur. So we decided to have it at home. It was a bit exhausting but in the end both kids and we enjoyed. Still through celebrating kids friends birthday parties we could get the real feel of Russia, or not?!

I have been to a few of the Russian kids birthdays. Cannot say it is something hugely extravagant. A kids place with games, animators and that stuff. Funny part is when I show up to pick up my kids. I was never a person of high heels and gowns and here all the Russians dress in amazingly nice clothes. The problem was that I, in my hoodie and pants, felt a bit out of place. I started to explain whose mother I am and I realised I am not getting weird looks from mothers but mostly from staff at the place. I looked more like a nanny or a female driver. Next time, I decided, to avoid the explaining I would just say I am their nanny and problem solved!!

Spring brings Croats!
Finally Moscow spring came as well as some nice weather. It also brought our friends from Croatia. After their visit I am looking for a job to promote Russia and Moscow. They were sceptic about coming here. I have to note, if you read my first blog, they have the same Russian friend who told us that when Russians ask us where we are from we say Yugoslavia. They loved it. Every day we had completely full and still did't get to do many stuff we have planned. But the best story of the visit was - If you don't wanna feel stupid, don't trust translation of your husband who even doesn't speak Russian!

We went with friends to a Mosquarium show. It is the show with dolphins and Orcas. Quite amazing to see these huge animals but sad at the same time because you know they should be in the ocean.
In the beginning of the show they say in Russian that it is not allowed to film and take pictures. So my friend was very careful doing it (we are balkans , so rules are there to go around them :-)). After few days we went to a huge park called Sokolniki. When you enter the park you can hear a guy on speakers talking about security in Russian: where to walk, not to let kids out of your sight... So husband of my friend say: 'Wow the guy is saying that you actually cannot take any pictures inside the park!'. and we all laughed. After few hours in the park I notice my friend is barely taking any pictures, but I thought she was saving battery. Then after few minutes we heard the guy on the speakers again. My friend turns to me and says: 'Amazing, I understood no pictures policy on the show, but why the hell can I not take pictures in a huge park!?' Its quite easy to imagine that we laughed about this for all the rest of their stay..

And finally, I still did't give up on meeting Russians. Just now I am going for a lunch trying to better my Russian. Talk to you in a week!!!!!

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Caviar problems and other stuff

Wow, already six months in Moscow. Time really flies. We already feel like part of this town, culture, and the apartment. Only difference, we are still in learning process to love what Russians love. And still finding millions of new places every day. Coming from a small town, where you really need to think how to spend your weekend, and not go to the zoo again third time in one month. Here the problem is to decide what to do out of million possibilities this weekend

The Caviar incident
In Croatia I loved Caviar, but it was not a thing that you would eat everyday. Coming to Russia, land of Caviar, I thought it was a match made in heaven. But then, you realise there is a problem. I never really thought there were different types of Caviar. That in Croatia you get one from the sea snail. I think I lived in denial, not wanting to realise that actually I am eating somebodies raw eggs. Coming to Russia I awaken this realisation. 

So to treat me with something exceptional my husband ordered a special red Caviar from Volgograd. Poor guy was negotiating delivery, price in his broken Russian and after few days he came proudly home with red Caviar especially for me. So me and my daughter set the table and can hardly wait to try this Russian masterpiece. I try it, and.......??????!!!!!!.
It was nothing like the one I am used to. It actually has quite big eggs so first I had a problem imagining eating real small baby fish and then in your moth it actually pops, like the chinese juice that you can buy with small bursting balls inside. I was so embarrassed. I do consider myself to be open to trying food, especially the one I already liked, but this was really not for me. So you can imagine my embarrassment as well as my husbands when he took it to the office to give it away. 
After some time I recuperated. And was up for another try, This time we decided to treat ourselves with Black Caviar, which is 5 times more expensive than red one and - it was amazing. Just, we will not be able to have this one more than once a year!

Minus 20 degrees
We were scared how we will get through the freezing winter, but it is really great. -20 degrees is amazing but you can only enjoy snow for 20 min, after that your hands, feet, nose and some other stuff start to burn and hurt. And, although on my boots and jacket it says it goes to -30 degrees, no way, it is not true, unless you do cross country running. No matter the clothes label, you can be out max 20 min or you become a frozen snowman.

Sledging adventure
It still amazes me how many stuff is there to see and do. One weekend we spent sledging. And it was a great day. It is quite a different way from the way we did it in Croatia. We went to Park Pobedy. there are three separate ice sledging paths. You rent a tire and off you go. Or not. Because in Moscow everything you do has to have some kind of traffic jam or long queue. In the queue it is much better to be rather small like me, people don't notice you move past them and go in front (just for your info, we started cutting the line after 10 other Russians cut it first, so we considered it to be a custom!). That was not case for my husband who is 2m tall. He did try but few Russians as tall as him just made a warning look and one shout and it took him 15 min more to get to the sledging path.

Fani Kabani
And where in the world do you find a restaurant with a live pig. Yes, live. She is called Fani. They bring her in the restaurant every few hours so you can pet her and feed her. It is really a good way to start being vegetarian. It wasn't as easy to enjoy the meat fully as this little cute pig comes to your legs and shoves you to get some treat.

And still I stand my ground that Moscow is not the city with coldest people in the world and no internet vote can change my opinion. I mean, never in my life have I got bonbons and chocolate in the taxi and heard whole life stories as in Moscow. the only catch is to talk Russian no matter how Croatian it sounds!!!