one month- we’re alive!

My deep apologies (seriously) for not writing sooner, I haven’t given up on this blog! We just haven’t had sufficiently fast, or even slow internet, but we finally have the needed docs from our landlord to move forward with a wifi of sorts. What does that mean? The pics are coming and I have many to share! However, the spastic state of our current internet means it has taken me a week to put this post together, sentence by sentence, and I (unfortunately) do not have the patience or the will power to watch the photos upload for 30 minutes, only to freeze and shutdown- NOOOOO!

Well, enough with the drama, you get the picture and the photos are on their way! :)

In other news, we hit our one month anniversary of living life here in this country. What a whirlwind (or better yet- what a hurricane) of information and newness! We have both had our fair share of tears and happy dances, and thankfully we’re alternating emotions, so we aren’t both in tears at the same time! :) But most days something great happens (actually quite small but seemingly huge in the moment) and we both start doing happy dances celebrating these minor accomplishments.

Here are a few ways I feel like I’m slowly becoming a local (emphasis on “slooooowly”)…
– on Saturday one of my new friends came over and taught me how to make somsa (look these up- they’re dangerously good!)
– in preparation for this event, I went bazaar shopping and one item I’m most excited about is a rolling pin that is more than half my height (and was less than $2)! I’m talking 3 feet long– bread making is no joking matter.
– bargaining for taxi rides! Here the typical taxi fare is between $.80 and $2.50, but there’s a great bargaining game to be had before you enter the vehicle. Lately, I’ve found myself bargaining over a measly $.10, where the taxi driver is grunting and pretending to be disappointed and I’m gasping and pretending to be blown away by the outrageous price. Humor :)
– I’m beginning to love bazaar shopping- here grocery shopping is a daily occurrence and locals even have a saying that all of life (the love and tears) and the development of friendships happens at the bazaar.

Other exciting things I’m learning and discovering (aside from crazy amounts of language and culture)…
– my fitness class is like a dream come true. I laugh so hard with these ladies and do the craziest moves to the silliest music, but the result has been sweet friendships and a whole class of ladies that is looking out for me.
– my favorite tutor so far is from my fitness class!
– I’m discovering that the “godfather” voice I thought was specific to our apartment manager, is actually quite the rage here. The other day is saw a 10 year old boy greet an older man (a friend of his) in this godfather-esque voice, and the return greeting from the man was in this same voice. WHAT?!
– I’m learning how to grow herbs from seeds- though I’m not sure I’m succeeding.
– I learned how to bargain for meat and ask for it to be ground (which may seem insignificant, but when you have huge burly men on the other end of the counter yelling at you in Russian to hurry up and make up your mind, it can be kind of daunting. So I’m learning how to yell back like all the other customers, and sometimes add a little snarl if they’re being extra brutal).
– We’re slowly getting the hang of how to greet locals– you must include at least these core questions, and it would be kind to add at least 2 or 3 more, and the greater feat is to string these together so fast that they fit into a five second hug– How are you? How’s it going? How’s your week? Are you well? How’s your health? How’s work? How’s your family? *and breathe* Usually we can only fit in 2 greetings by the time they’ve finished asking and answering! Wowza
– A smile goes a long way here to soften hearts and break through language barriers.

Here’s to hoping that the next post will be all photos!

a week of firsts!

This last week (now week and a half) has contained one of the largest transitions we have had together in our short married lives, namely, a move to Central Asia. Wow!  And, understandably, with such an event come many “firsts”… Here are just a few:

– first time wringing the whole neck off a chicken… with my bare hands. Maniacal laugh, maniacal laugh, maniacal laugh (for those of you who have seen the new Muppets movie)
– first time riding with our newly purchased table strapped to the top of a car driven by a stranger… in the rain
– first time meeting the “godfather” of our complex. At first it was not a pleasant experience, but after he was chewed out by a babushka on my behalf, he became my friend.
– first time being grilled in Russian in a real world setting, and the first time I think I preserved a stone cold face!
– never have I ever seen driving like this… in my life!
– never have I ever seen so many sparkles. My wee eyes are still in trauma and might need therapy!
– never have we ever not understood so much in such a short period of time- how about a slice of that humble pie, eh?!
Sorry there aren’t any pictures this week, I promise to get out with the camera this next week and capture a few snippets of life here!

a summer hiatus

This summer has been packed! We finished our intensive summer language program in late July, spent hours on Skype figuring out our visa situations, have had sweet times with family, and today (drum roll, please) we are officially beginning the process to set up our business in Central Asia!

Part of family time this summer has consisted of hanging out with and corralling our 5 (now 6) nieces and nephews. I know I shouldn’t have favorites, but I do… I’m not their mother, so I think that’s maaaaaybe ok. ;)

Our most recent adventure has been watching the Chronicles of Narnia series, and I thought I’d share a few of my favorite moments… Little Girl 3: (Great battle scene between King Peter and the Evil King) “Stab him through the HEART!!!”  Little Boy 1: (During playtime after the movie, I hear this echoing through the house) “FOR NARNIA!!!” These little ones make my heart swell with joy.

Here are a few shots of them in action:

meet the “Mocklers”

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a typical apartment building

Imagine with me: a real-estate “bazaar.” You’ve heard of food bazaars, gift bazaars, clothing bazaars, but what about a bazaar for real-estate agents (known as “Mocklers”) to advertise themselves? These mocklers arrive around 9 am to set-up their tables, line them with all of their notebooks of available rentals, and hook up their large rotary dial phones. Then, come 10 am, the hoards of people arrive and the hounds are let loose. Those “newby” mocklers who haven’t yet earned the right to have a table, have taken it upon themselves to safety pin their listings to their jacket coats and roam the bazaar yelling the names of every listing they have.

Out of sheer intimidation, we hid in a corner while our translator pushed his way through the chaos and argued with men, women, and babushkas, all frantically attempting to convince him (right there, in that moment) that we would, undoubtedly, love their apartment and we must sign the lease… now!

Us: Can we look at the place?

Them: What?! Who does that? No. You will love it. We have plasma screen TV.

Us: We don’t like TV.

Them: No, no, listen. You will LOVE it. Come, sign lease.

Run.

Then, with a list of available apartments in hand and the numbers for their mocklers, we set out. After having my senses rocked with more pink, purple, sparkly, and neon walls than I ever thought I would see in my life, we came upon the mockler “gang.” Again, imagine with me: 3 burly men who look like the “bad guy” lackeys from an action movie. All have black leather jackets, all are smoking a cigarette a second, and all have gold chains hanging down their hairy chests that are bursting through barely-buttoned shirts.  After our translator exchanged a few words with these men, we were told, “Erm. Better leave.” Erm. Yeah, no problem!

Ready to call it quits, our translator convinced us to take a look at one final apartment.  This mockler was… well, imagine a slightly smaller, slightly rounder Robert De Niro, wearing a flat cap and a baggy suit. Very quietly and shyly, he led us up 3 flights of stairs. We relaxed. The door was opened and we were led into a calm, lightly-colored apartment with lots of windows and the sound of children’s laughter in the courtyard beneath. Cha-ching! Sold! (Well, not literally, but definitely at heart!)

And now, my friends, you too have met the Mocklers.

our “almost” home

In August, we will be moving to an area of Central Asia, located along the ancient Silk Road.  We recently had the opportunity to spend 2 weeks taking in as much of the country as we could. And while we are thrilled for this new adventure, this short trip provided amazement, laughter, and a few of the scariest moments of my life!

Here is a string of notes, made along the way… but, be forewarned, if you have any aversion to run-on sentences, I’d advise skipping to the gallery of photos below.

Eating horse for our first meal; watching 12 women simultaneously stir a cauldron of mush (a motion they would continue in for 12 hours); walking through subway stations that were more fit for a museum; raging the countryside; weaving through a maze of potholes (thousands… and hundreds that were at least a foot deep); feeling the urge to open the car door and jump, after hours of driving over said potholes; being told by a native that I look native; carrying a stack of 800 “thousand-dollar” bills (of the country’s local currency- which was equivalent to carrying around $200 in quarters); head scarfs; Russian everywhere; every car is a taxi… even the one summoning you, whilst 4 burly men jump out of the back seat and one pops out of the trunk with a box full of alcohol… in the dark of night; gold teeth, leather jackets and strong perfume are a pre-requisite; attending pilates, weight-lifting, and Latina dance class, with a red-headed Russian instructor that yelled at me (the entire time); massive outdoor bazaars; ice cream being sold on every street corner; beautiful green avenues and boulevards lined with pink and purple-flowered trees; parks in every neighborhood; dilapidated and leaning Soviet-style apartments; watching natives bargain = endless yelling matches (with a few smirks thrown in); flying in a locally-made propeller airplane that shook from side-to-side and felt as if it might crack in half upon take-off (never been so scared… in my life!); feeling very much ready to make this place our home.

(drum roll, please) school… is… finished!

After an elaborate graduation ceremony, several dozen cookies and cupcakes spread around, 600 questions to be answered for finals, and a bit of insanity, school is officially over. Huzzah!

Here are a few of the responses I got when students heard I wouldn’t be returning next year:

1. But, teacher! No one else will show us movies. You leave, we have no movies!

2. Teacher… me sad (kid makes a very sad face and even draws a frown on his already frowning mouth). BAH! (flails arms and lunges to give me a hug)

3. Teacher, you will come after 60 days. Summer is 60 days. You will come?! (Smiles… I say no…) No, teacher (student nods her head and continues to smile) you will come after 60 days. No problem!

And, here are a few photos from graduation rehearsal:

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at long last– a post!

Almost 2 months have passed and so have nearly 30 visitors, mid-term exams, and a track-and-field competition.  Visa applications have been filed, airline tickets have been purchased, departure schedules made, 2 weeks remain with my wee students, and I’m catching my breath from this run-on sentence.

Below are a few epic moments to share from our track-and-field competition. There were potato sack races, sprints, obstacle courses, and elated teachers (who got the best deal- a day to see their students laughing and excited and working hard, AND a day “off”!)

P.S. WordPress has made a few revisions to their media section, which means that the photo displays now look a bit different. For the pics below, if you click on the first image in this batch, you can then look through them all in full-size.