Привет, Katya’s Back

Привет, sup homeys, salut les potes – it’s me, Katya, comin’ atcha live from Moscow, the bizarre, magical world that I’ve been lucky enough to call my home for the past three months.  Now, I realize that I have severely, sickeningly neglected this blog to the point that, when I attempted to log on to my WordPress account, I was hurled obscenities and threatened with various forms of retribution, including banishment to Azkaban, public ridicule in the pillory, no ice cream for a decade, etc etc – BUT I must point out that I haven’t written not because I’ve had nothing to say, but, quite the contrary, because I’ve had too much to say; I’ve been completely, entirely distracted by the strange, glorious adventures and odd, hilarious experiences of everyday life here, and haven’t gotten a chance to catch mah golly forsaken breath to write it all down.  For that, I am deeply sorry. So here is a redemption post, which documents this past weekend spent in Saint Petersburg, and maybe now all will be forgiven and I can keep eating ice cream far from the chilly presence of pesky dementors and the stockade?? Я остаюсь с надеждой.

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I should start off by explaining that, despite a maddening knee injury and an upset, wrathful IT Band, my track team and best Russian homey Masha and I decided to hit up Petersburg last weekend with the goal of running a half marathon.  Upon mentioning our plan offhandedly to my track coaches a few days before taking off, they were neither amused nor in favor of this tomfoolery (can’t imagine why) and forbid me from running (again, cannot imagine why), so I planned to simply walk/limp it, Crippled Katya style.

Anywhooo Masha and my weekend started off rather unconventionally – that’s to say, with a mildly panicked, slightly clandestine 2:09 am train ride up north to St Pete’s.  The “mild panic” was the result of the train officials almost refusing to allow me onto the train, some hullaballoo about my passport identification not being legitimate…

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I simply cannot comprehend how they could deem this crumpled ghost face as an unacceptable form of i.d. Mind blowing.

So, after explaining that the international registration office has kidnapped and been holding my passport hostage for the past six weeks, and that I’m just a poor, knee-gimped gal trying to defy all odds and run a half marathon and, above all else, with the help of Masha and her boyfriend (at one desperate point, all of us, including the tiny train attendant lady sprinted as best we could with our bags and my busted knee the entire length of the train, which was unfortunately around 20007 kilometers long, to consult with the Bossman “Начальник” of the train, as the sweet little attendant shrieked all the way, “БЫСТРЕЕ БЫСТРЕЕ!!!! [faster faster!!]” at us), we ultimately persuaded the train staff and captain (I don’t think this is what you call a train’s leader??), himself, to let me on board, but only as a despicable illicit clandestine – they literally swore Masha and me to secrecy, never to tell a soul of these merciful acts.  They also warned me that I would probably never be allowed to return to Moscow with my wrinkled, phantom passport copy.  So, it was an all in all promising start.

At least things started looking up when we arrived to Saint P-burg, and it immediately started snowing on our sleepy faces, and my shoulders broke in half as I carried my duffel bag, realizing that 275 pounds of clothing is perhaps unnecessary for a weekend trip, and Masha discovered that she’d left her official race documentation in Moscow.  Oh wait…………….. But it’s cool, y’all, because anything and everything is possible in Russia, and all of our problems were soon resolved: after that silly joke with the snow, the sun popped out for the rest of the weekend, I simply grew new shoulders, and we found a copy center willing to print Masha a photoshopped race “справка” document (after we were rejected at the first couple of nerdy, “play by the rules” centers).  So, after averting a few casual catastrophes, we spent the rest of the day feasting and walking hundreds of kilometers around the beautiful city that is Santo Pedrosburg.  Of our discoveries, my personal fave is the Petersburg “Chocolate Museum,” which took us decades to locate, probably because it was literally a single tiny stand manned by one employee, offering a small array of truffles and some strange large chocolate squirrels and motorcycles…I’m not sure…I don’t….there are no words…… Sadly, I failed to take a photo of this jaw-dropping display.

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Since I don’t have a pic of chocolate squirrelies n motorbikes, here is an equally spectacular photo of one of the sites seen in this snazzy city (reminds me of Notre Dame’s dome)

Race day = an early morning and a delicious breakfast of home-brewed Kasha à la Masha aka MMMMMMM.  After our power feast, we headed off to the race, which I planned to walk like a hobbling, gloopy slug and Masha planned to dash like redbull-infused lightning.  We both fulfilled these goals.  Although, my performance ended a tad prematurely, and somewhat shamefully, as, after around six or seven kilometers, what I presumed to be a stalker bike man began to tail me closely and eventually explained to me that I was in last place and that it might be a good idea to vacate the premises immediately since apparently slow pedestrian injured gals are not welcome at such events ;(  I protested at first, but then it just got too embarrassing, and I quickly shuffled away into the shadowy horizon, never to be seen or heard from again.  Imagine a single tear… rolling down down down my cheek….hehehe but NAH mane, it was no big dealio.  I don’t know the meaning of shame, so I just hung ten for awhile, found some free redbull, did some dignity-rebuilding lunges and waited for Masha to finish (which she did in approximately 2.75 seconds :D).  The one good thing about being forcibly escorted off of the race track was that everyone seeing me walk around with my race number thought that I’d finished the race SUUUUUUPER quickly, and they were all like, “AAAAHHH WOW молодец, well done, number one female runner!!!!!!!!”  My 15 minutes of fake fame.  Glorious.

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Post-race galzz (МОЛОДЕЦ ЕЩЕ РАЗ, МАША))))) )

The rest of the dizzay was spent exploring the city and walking 2073 more kilometers around town, sipping hot wine like fancy ladies, exploring secret art parks, crossing sunset-lit bridges of magic and gold, and, of course, hitting up a (literally) hAwT bar where they, for some reason, enjoyed setting the bar on fire every hour or so.  I never figured out the logistical mechanics of this stunt, but I think we can rule out gasoline-dousing as a technique due to the lack of fumes.  Some mysteries go forever unsolved.  Что делать.

It goes without saying that we spent the entire night out painting the town, spending the first few drinks and delectable dessert-feasting with Pasha, our track team homey, and his wife, and then cabbing over to that pyromania bar I’ve already mentioned for some fiery festivities (heh).  Because we are insomniac warriors who require no sleep, we decided it would be a good idea to buy 5:30 am train tickets home to Москва, so we proceeded directly and seamlessly from party mode to coffee/morning/train mode.  Below is proof of our graceful, seamless transition:

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WE ARE BOTH JUST BLINKING – THE CAMERA FLASHED AT THE WRONG MOMENT OK? it’s nbd

And now, I must bid you all “до свидания!” as I hear some angry babushkas rapidly approaching (I think I’m sitting at an off limits table – THERE WILL BE SEVERE CONSEQUENCES IF I DON’T FLEE).  Don’t be alarmed.  But fo real, I’ve got to run, so until next time, which I very much hope will be in the near future.  Пока пока))

Katya in Moscow (Part I)

Privyet from Mother Russia, where, I’ve recently discovered, there is a wizarding school by the name of Koldovstoretz, not to be confused with Durmstrang (which is actually located in Bulgaria and not Russia?!?!) Like Hogwarts, this esteemed Koldovstoretz Institution has apparently lost my gah damn letter of invitation in the mail, so I haven’t had the chance to become a wizard yet.  I’ll become a Russian in the meantime.

Anywhoo, I severely (SEVERUSly**) digress.  It’s come to my attention that I haven’t written a single blasted blog post since I arrived to Moscow three weeks ago, and this needs to be remedied.  Life here is pretty much infinitely bizarre and riddled with hilarious, nonstop idiosyncrasy, so I think I’ve been too occupied by da entertaining adventures and angry babushkas to sit down and write about it all.

Unfortunately, I’m unwilling to sit here for the next 27 hours recounting all that’s gone down so far (my fingers would get so pissed YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW omgah), but here are some of the highlights:

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This is the palace where I live.  Apparently, I’m a pretty big deal here, and they’ve named me Tsaritsa Katya of Moscow State University – it’s mainly a symbolic role, kind of a “Queen of England” gig, but I can’t say I’m not flattered.

Below is a small video tour of my regal inner dwellings:

I tried to tell them, like, “Look guys, I’m just a normal person like everyone else – I don’t need all this special treatment; I’m a simple girl with simple tastes,” but they just wouldn’t have it and insist on treating me like a Tsar, so I mean, whatever, who am I to complain amirite?! ehehe

Also, I have my own personal bank, which is pretty snazzy:

 

All in all, life is Russia is quite good.  Castles and royalty aside, I’m loving it here – the food on campus has defied vastly my expectations (in a good way, aside from the surprise cow tongue I once found in my salad), the people are quite nice (even the patrolling babushkas who like to invade my room while I’m showering, hoping to lecture me about the dangers of fire, replacing refrigerators with chairs, offering me chocolates – it keeps me on my toes, and I never have any way of knowing what’s coming next…I can’t help but visualize a babushka breaking down my door with an axe, screaming “Heeeeeere’s Johnny”/”Воооот Жонни”….Omgahsuchnightmarezbutthey’reactuallyreallysweetladiesISWEAR)

(Above is visual documentation of the subtle refrigerator swap that went down about a week ago)

Another magical element of Moscow Life has been the track team that I joined a couple of weeks ago.  I run in a place called the “Moscow Sport Palace” (fittingly continuing the theme of regality and further persuading me that I may be of long lost, noble Romanov descent) and am both meeting some of the fittest, friendliest Russians around town while simultaneously sculpting myself into an Olympic, gold medalist runner named Svetlana (gon’ make dis dream a reality – just you wait til May, homeys ;D).

Here’s a pic after ice skating/running a 5k one fine Saturday morning on an ice-rink-I-mean-running-path along the river:

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(I’m in the center dressed in black, wif my good homedawg/speed demon Masha in white, beside me)

HOKAY, so I am being summoned to dinnalin and must leave this update as it is.  More will soon come – I am by no means finished spinning peculiar tales of my Moskva days.

Poka for now.

Odd Things I’ve Learned in France

Here are just a few of the unique “life lessons”(?) I’ve learned during my time in Franceland:

1. If you happen to get pulled over by the French popo for doing something unacceptable like speeding 5 km/h over the limit or daring to make a left turn, try to resist that inflammatory gangsta nature of yours, and whip out a naïve, slightly bamboozled American smile.  Don’t forget to play the role of charming yet daft simpleton, and certainly don’t be afraid to allow a single tear to roll down your bravely smiling cheek.

2. If you find yourself driving around France in your stick shift miniV, havin’ a ball, laughing n singing like it ain’t no thang, THINK AGAIN and NEVER LET YOUR GUARD DOWN because that old lady driving ahead of you might just decide to rapidly switch into reverse in the middle of the road and begin a demented, slow motion game of bumper cars with you as you desperately attempt to honk your horn, which has hilariously decided to malfunction on the wrong damn day.

3. If you want to live, by all means avoid eating ANY and ALL mushrooms that you find ANYWHERE AT ANY TIME.  If you simply must go mushroom hunting rather than investing in a truffle pig, MY GOD don’t you forget to bring one hundred tiny plastic bags in which to store your individual mushrooms as, if you mix them together, the poisonous devil shroomies will contaminate the entire batch.  Also don’t touch your eyes during your mushroom quest or you WILL go blind or possibly die.  (This general message was conveyed to me by a local pharmacist who inspected the fresh bag of mushies that the French twins and I collected during an enthusiastic forage throughout the forest.  All of our hopes were dashed when the pharmacist told us that we’d basically collected enough poison to wipe out all of humanity.

4. Don’t go jogging on private farmlands and/or what may or may not be hunting grounds.  I learned this lesson the hard way one deceptively charming morning a couple weeks back; the sun was shining, the birds were chirping away in French, and I decided to take my run down this beauteous, new path I’d discovered beyond a gate that might have warned, “Private Property” or “Danger: Death”–it was all in French, so who can really be certain?  Anywhoo, it looked to be a fine scenic route and, best of all, as I was running, I spotted this single black stallion waiting for me behind a fence a little ways off.  I merrily picked up the pace, practically skipping my way over to Black Beauty, when suddenly “BAAAAAANG!”–I was met with a cordial, ear-splitting explosion of close-range gunfire.  I probably jumped 900 feet in the air, simultaneously screaming “WHAT THE F[udge]?!?!?” when a second later I saw in the distance a menacing Frenchman holding a rifle and waving at me with angry gestures which I assume can only have meant, “Get the h(uckleberry finn) off my land, American swine!”  I am polite and value my life, so I respected his wishes and calmly sprinted away.

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Another horse that I saw during a run around the woodz; I didn’t even get shot at for taking this picture!

Rather Be Singin’ in da Rain

A lot of people, including myself, have asked me why exactly it is that I decided to fly the coop and skedaddle off to France for a year.  The father’s voice from “Shoes” is constantly ringing through my mind in that haunting monotone drawl of his: “What are you gonna do with your LIFE?!?” and sometimes I’m not quiiiiite sure of my response.  I don’t have a 5-year-plan; I laugh in the face of routine schmoutine; and as for settling down – SETTLE DOWN FO WHAT?!

But, fo real, in all seriousness, the more I consider my eccentric, haphazard life decisions (aka France, Russia, NYC, trying my hand as a Burger King employee in the glory days, etc.), the more strongly I come to the realization that, when I’m all old and bundled in wrinkles hundreds of years from now (naturally, they’ll have discovered some kind of sorcerer’s stone or fountain of youth to grant me immortality), I will not regret a single one of these experiences.  At the moment (and I have a feeling that this moment will last awhile), serious faces, stiff suits and stressful Susans (relatives of Chatty Kathy and Debby Downer) are simply not my cup of tea. I’m just not feelin’ it.

Why work yourself to the bone, deprive yourself of all creativity and adventure, forget about love and thereby rip your demented soul into seven (OR EIGHT) pieces like Lord Voldy?

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Poor lil dark lord – all pooped out after a hard day of unimaginably evil work

Personally, I’d rather be in France siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiingin’ in the rain with dis boi:

🙂

Bedtime Murder Mystery

It’s always slightly unnerving, I think, to walk into your room and immediately sense that something has been trifled, tinkered or toyed with – the intruder’s presence still lingering as you glance around warily, hoping against hope that your secret diary remains a secret, that your most precious belongings (i.e. gold dubloons, the sorcerer’s stone, etc) remain locked safely away, and that you are not, in fact, being haunted by a demonic poltergeist.

This evening, I stumbled upon just such an unsettling scene as I returned to my bedroom after dinnalin.  What first drew my attention was a pair of tiny blue shoes, belonging either to an elf or a child (modern technology is not yet advanced enough to conclusively determine which).

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Elf/Boy Shoes

Next, it dawned on me that some sort of creature had been rolling around in my bed, smashing up the pillow and rumpling my poor, agitated red blanket.

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This is for sure not the way that I made my bed this morning

More disturbing, still, was the chilling article to be discovered at the foot of my bed…

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WHAT IN GOD’S NAME?! HAS SOMEONE MISPLACED A GUN BY CHANCE?

As images of pistol-wielding elves rolling around on my bed dashed through my mind, I came upon a gruesome crime scene:

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What a shame

Both a longneck dino (thought to have been extinct millions of years ago!!?) and a round, three-legged pig seemed to have been slain by the pistol-popping intruder.  Inert and knocked over onto their sides, both improbable beasts were cold to the touch – long dead.  A heinous crime, indeed.  BUT WHO HAD COMMITTED THE ATROCITY?!  Fortunately (and astoundingly), the perpetrator left behind the most damning of evidence…

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Nothing more incriminating than a school picture

Thibault, the mischievous French trickster/elvish gun wielder, strikes again.

On that disturbing yet satisfying note, it’s time for bed. I always sleep well after cracking a case.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/thats-absurd/

Une Folle en France

As a number of you may have already known or suspected, I’ve recently hopped the pond and moved on over to France, a fromage-filled, delectable wonderland. My mission and raison d’être here is both to teach English and to upgrade my own level of Français. Before my departure, I’d been feeling fairly confident in my French abilities; I had been reading French Harry Potter on the daily in NYC, and, obviously, mastering Harry Potter in French is the highest mark of impeccable language skeeillz. I was surprised to find that reading Harry Potter and conversing with a family of French natives are, in fact, two entirely different things, and you cannot compare your aptitude for bilingual wizard fiction comprehension with real-life, speedy, colloquialism-ridden French convos. It’s apples and oranges; sorcerers and squibs; Severus and Spongebob.  I’d like to think that it was merely jet lag causing me to stumble through introductions, forget how to say “breakfast,” occasionally mispronounce a word so appallingly that the family thought I was swearing at them (this happened only once and was due in part to trickery of the mastermind pictured below), etc.  It could also simply be that the average French dinnertime conversation does not consist only of Harry Potter vocab.  Who really knows.

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Thibault: Trickster/Mastermind Extraordinaire

It’s been a week now, though, and each day I sound less like a demented buffoon and more like a refined French lady (although, I, of course, realize that the leap from “demented” to “refined” is a large one, and it may take me a sec to work out the kinks and transform into a glorious French butterfly.

However, this week has been all about rest, relaxation and the transition from sleep-deprived lunacy to my natural state of a functional, cheery, semi-maniacal gal. Living with an absolutely wonderful French family at their gorgeous poolside home, while exploring the gigantic, magical forest to be discovered just down the road from the house has helped me immensely with the transition into what appears to be an extraordinary new life and adventure to be had here in Poitiers.

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View of the poolio from ma chambre and Nicholas being tossed around in la piscine 😀

Nevertheless, my fingers remain firmly crossed for Monday because that is the day that the real adventures begin.  I will teach (for the first time !!whoahowahowhoah!!) English to the three boys who live here with me in this magnificent home, aaaand my French university classes begin bright and early that fine journée; maybe I’ll make some new international homeys. Fingers crossed, fingers crossed, doigts croisés!

A bientôt, y’all.

The Preacher Screecher: Ramblings on Religion

To the bellowing Christian man on the subway:

I will keep this brief because I am not a deeply religious person and do not particularly enjoy dwelling on religion-based skirmishes.  I entirely respect the core ideas of your speech or presentation or whatever that display on the subway was; I understand the positive value of spreading love, loving the stranger beside you, replacing fear and distrust with love and kindness–all of that fantastic amo(u)r-based stuff that embodies much of Christ’s teachings.  However, your presentation of these fine ideals was a bit lacking and a bit disturbing.

Why would you, a man preaching love, trust and unity, think it best to spread these warm values to others by shouting–and spittle-projecting fragrant saliva–into the faces of people on a muggy, urine-scented metro car chock-full of sleepy human sardines?  Maybe I’m just ignorant and a dunce, but your assailing screamed message of “WHY DON’T Y’ALL TRUST ME? I’M JUST LIKE YOU, AND YOU, AND YOU!  F**K THIS BULLSH*T–LOOK AT ME WHEN I’M TALKING TO YOU”

And, “CHRIST PREACHED LOVE, NOT HATE! DON’T HATE–HEY YEAH HEY, I’M TALKING YOU YOU, DON’T HATE, BROTHER!  YOU THINK YOU KNOW BETTER THAN JESUS?!”

And, “LOOK AT THIS GUY–RUDE AS SH*T!  WON’T LOOK AT ME BECAUSE OF THE COLOR OF MY SKIN, BECAUSE OF MY CLOTHES, BECAUSE HE DOESN’T THINK WE’RE EQUAL–WELL CHRIST HAS SOMETHING TO SAY ABOUT THAT.  LOVE, PEOPLE, LOVE!!”

Etcetcetcetcetcetcetcetcetcetcetcetcetc This went on and on for the duration of my 15 minute commute uptown.  I was trying to drown out the freaky preaching with my headphones and some music, but it was simply impossible, and soon it became a very awkward because no matter what song I played, I would watch you frothing and shrieking about love, making everyone entirely uncomfortable, and the whole scene would turn into a demented music video.  Me, observing-but-trying-not-to-observe you, jabbing your finger into people’s closed off, worn out faces, and spitting on them (by accident, I’m hoping), to the narrative of Ke$ha and Birdman was unsettling.  More unsettling, though, were your words of love, poisoned with anger and aggression.  Rather than uniting us, reminding us of our “oneness,” you seemed to be blaming us all, accusing us of, what exactly, I’m not quite certain.  Maybe you were accusing us of being impious fools who had forsaken Christ, Christianity and his teachings?  Maybe you were blaming us for not jumping with enthusiasm to join your roaring, vociferous ranks.  Or maybe the reasons were more internal, more personal.  Whatever the case may be, your performance did nothing to heighten my sense of God, Christ and love in humanity.  It made a tight-squeezed, smelly journey reek even more–not in the physical sense, but in the twisted values, corrupted love, warped Christianity sense.

As I mentioned, I’m not a particularly prayerful, churchgoing gal; I am a non-partisan Switzerland when it comes to religious matters.  But seeing this kind of thing always upsets me a bit because I think, in a way, that it demonstrates right up close and personal the way that so many religions and their deep-down, fundamental values, which are good and can be shared by all regardless of individual faith, are cheapened and made to look foolish, crooked and hypocritical.  In our inner, innnnnnnner depths, I like to think that we all essentially believe and are invested in the same thing, the same love, the same harmony, the same humanity–and we wrap all of these good things up, call this glimmering bundle God, and then proceed to add our own unique rules, interpretations, cultures, histories, etc to form hundreds of different “Gods,” hundreds of different creeds, sects, squabbles, quarrels, wars.  And we lose sight of what is real, what is good, what we actually believe, and why we believe it.  We forget about the real Faith, Humanity and Love, and we replace them with “faith,” “humanity” and “love”–phony tools, used to manipulate, to blame, to influence, to control, to falsify that which is real and pure.

I realize now that I’ve unleashed a tide of rambles and would like to draw this to a close by thanking you, subway screecher (I replaced “preacher” with screecher because I decided that it would be wrong to insinuate that what you were doing was preaching).  I didn’t agree with much your presentation of love/Christianity on the train, but you made an impact on me, nonetheless.  When I started writing this response, I’d planned to make it funny, highlighting all of the flying spittle, and the angry, suited man who attempted to use an umbrella as a barricade between himself and the showering verbal onslaught–stuff along those lines.  That didn’t feel quite right, it so happens.  So, thank you kindly Mr. Screecher, for inspiring me to write about something a little more serious–and not to mock it, as I very often do when it comes to the purportedly “serious matters” of life.

Good luck to you, Mr. Screecher Preacher.  I hope that one day you find the love of which you spoke and of which you attempted to make us all aware, however furious and troubling to the ear your tactics may have been.

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