Sit down before I go

Dogsledding, March 2017

The Russian people have a saying: ‘Посидеть на дорожку’, or ‘to sit down for the trip‘. The phrase originates from the tradition of taking a moment to reflect upon, and literally sit down before, a journey.

Here, at the end of my five years in Moscow, I took a moment to reflect on what this journey has meant to me – my travels, my students and friends, a place representing both lockdown and incredible privilege.

Reflecting also reminds me that life is about who you spend it with ❤

Thank you to those who traveled to see me here or elsewhere abroad. For those who weren’t able to visit – you were with me in spirit and I felt your support throughout these last five years. I hope our paths will cross again soon in the States or elsewhere. Now it’s time to pack my bags and prepare to chase the sun across the Atlantic on the solstice. До свидания, Москва.

“Well, there it is. It’s about what we went for. We found, as we had suspected, that the Russian people are people, and, as with other people, that they are very nice. The ones we met had a hatred of war, they wanted all the same things all people want – good lives, increased comfort, security, and peace.”

– John Steinbeck, A Russian Journal, 1947

All good things must come to an end

Hello everyone ~ I hope you are all enjoying beautiful weather wherever this post finds you. Moscow is experiencing the most beautiful May I have ever seen (there has been snow, people!). As the school year winds down, so does my time in Moscow. Due to major changes, my school presented us with new contracts. For a number of reasons, I’ve opted to return to the States. It’s a bittersweet decision for certain, but one I’m confident will open new doors and exciting experiences.

Graduation took place this past weekend and I said goodbye to my Visual Art girls. Having taught the group for two years, they hold a special place for me. Four of the five are Russian, one from Romania. Two will pursue university in the UK, two will study art in Moscow, and one will try her luck in Paris. We had an absolutely idyllic day for the ceremony which was conducted outside for COVID reasons, of course. Though we are all vaccinated (you can be vaccinated at 18 in Russia), masks were worn for the majority of the event. It was a poignant celebration after a tumultuous final year of high school.

In addition to sorting, packing, and distributing my belongings, I have been enjoying the open-air dining Moscow has to offer – so many more options than ever before thanks to the pandemic. Though everything is open here, my friends and I still take precautions. Plus, what is better than a river view?

The Cathedral of Christ the Savior is one of my favorite landmarks here in Moscow. When my friend Julie mentioned that she had always wanted to take a tour of the bell towers, we decided there was no time like the present! Soaring 40 meters above the ground, the observation deck offers 360 degree views of Moscow. The gleaming onion domes radiated heat and shone like the Orthodox icons sheltered inside.

The final weeks of school seem to be slipping away faster with each passing day. Discovery Days brought the chance to take my students down to the forest stream for an afternoon of oil pastels and sunshine. I’ve been so blessed with wonderful students here in Moscow and their resilience has helped me soldier on during this pandemic. They will truly be missed!

One last stop at my favorite vintage warehouse, Chronos Factory (“In rust we trust”). Bought a piece of stained glass which is light enough to ship (love the onion dome). Went splunking for paintings at NB Gallery with a friend looking to invest. Such appreciation for the arts here – another aspect which I will greatly miss.

Packing up my place, many memories of the past 5 years wash over me. It’s been a great run. I will soon have an ex-pat cat and be back among family and friends who I haven’t been able to spend proper time with in years. I have a new teaching position and (hopefully!) a new apartment to move into in August. There’s a lot to look forward to. For now, I’m trying to savor the moment. Keep an eye out for one final post from the Motherland before I go. In the meanwhile, take care.

Keeping up with the Joneses

On Monday evening I had the chance to attend a town hall meeting at the Spaso House in the heart of downtown Moscow. On the agenda – an ex-pat security update and remarks from the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, John Tefft. Positive points of discussion included Russian-American relations (space exploration) while other points were decidedly negative (Ukraine, Syria, etc.). The Ambassador spoke eloquently, encouraged us to vote, and highlighted the importance of on-the-ground diplomacy. This last point seems especially significant. Not to go all Sarah Palin on the US news media, but I can actually see Russia from my living room, and it’s a vastly different story from the sensational cable news coverage.

I could not get enough of this beautiful chandelier. The cobalt evening light through the window complemented so well.

The decor was reminiscent of the US White House, replete with young and eager members of the diplomatic corps. Must be that Neoclassical interior design…

The Ambassador addressing an ex-pat constituent. A number of citizens in attendance have lived in Russia for decades. It was a very interesting congregation.

The Spaso House has served as the home of the US Ambassador since the time of FDR’s presidency, 1933.

This weekend will require a completely different wardrobe as I’m headed to Anton Chekhov’s Estate, Melikhovo, located approximately 2.5 hours outside of Moscow. It will be my first trip outside the city (this requires some paperwork) and I’m very excited to see another part of Russia. A group of us will help tidy the grounds for winter and then we will be treated to a picnic and tour of Chekhov’s cottage. Having read only one of his plays, The Seagull, I look forward to learning more about the man. Hoping for some sunshine as well!

August, die she must

привет from Moscow where it’s 60 degrees and sunny. Things here are settling into a rhythm, punctuated by new adventures and daily surprises. A good friend wrote that she was enjoying the pictures of Moscow, which she hadn’t had a good visual reference for previously. I felt much the same way before arriving and the subtle beauty of this urban landscape continues to delight.

The view from my classroom balcony after the rain featuring the high school street mural.

The weather here in Moscow is always a topic of conversation. Before it gets really cold, I’m planning to enjoy this beautiful autumn as much as possible. We’ve had quite a bit of rain these past few weeks and this town is so gorgeous after a rainstorm. I’ve mentioned the vivid clouds before and my evening bus commute is repeatedly blessed with these gorgeous views.

Highland skies.

The view from my living room as the rain starts to tap on the windowpane.

As for the air, it is so refreshing to be in a cleaner air environment. I certainly didn’t have it as bad as friends in Shanghai but there’s nothing like clean air to do a body good.

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I awoke to a text alerting me to high winds ~ we were out all day and managed not to blow away 🙂

This weekend flew by but I did have time to explore each day. On Saturday, my friend Caitlin and I checked out Pushkin’s apartment down on the Arbat. For two art teachers, seeing the pomp and circumstance of 19th Century Russian interior design was pretty exciting. It’s so nice to have another art teacher from Seoul here with me.

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My friend Tori takes the cake on the first package I’ve received here in Moscow. I was so touched that she included two of my former homes – Korea and Vermont. Now I can enjoy nights cooking Korean food and dreaming of enjoying tteokbokki with Emm in Sindang.

On Sunday, my school organized an outing for us newbies at Izmailovo Market. Chock full of trinkets and stalls, the market was a fun starting point for our day out. The market comes to my school in December so be prepared for plenty of KGB flasks and t-shirts fronting images of Putin riding a bear in your Christmas stockings this year.

 

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I found the khokhloma charming. It’s a wonderful traditional Russian handicraft and no two works are alike. Click here for a great video on the artisans behind the scenes.

Next up – the Folk Flea Market in the courtyard of the Moscow Museum of Art. A true flea market, the silver plated pieces glittered in the sun as a Russian duo sang Elvis Presley numbers in the background. I remain surprised at how many staples of western culture, particularly that from the States, are seen here in Russia.

 

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Beautiful day for a flea market.

 

The meringues looked incredible but we managed to resist.

In the homestretch of the week, I’m looking forward to the Kremlin Military Tattoo in Red Square on Friday night. Russians really seem to love their fireworks so it’s sure to be quite a display. Pictures to follow…