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!!!!!