Thursday, October 29, 2009

Two Things I'm Constantly Aware Of...

1. I speak English
2. I am American

Two things I never really thought much about before coming to Russia...

1. I speak English
2. I am American

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"If You Say Go"

Friday, October 16, 2009


Some people have been asking about my address. Only now, am I smart enough to figure out how to write in Russian. So here it is:

Россия 197136
Г. Сант Петербург
Большой Пр., П.С. д. 86, кв. 19
Кому: Elizabeth Miles

I'm in no way posting this in expectation of you leaping up from your computer and running to the post office to mail me something. In fact, let me warn you, shipping to Russia is quite expensive as I learned the hard way...

On the other hand...
If you suddenly strike it rich and feel a burning desire to make a little girl in a far away land very happy, the following items would be gladly accepted:
-maple syrup
-macaroni and cheese
-pop tarts (I don't know...random craving)
-apple cider mix
-guilty pleasure reading (instyle, RealSimple, Rachael Ray magazines)
-anything related to the holidays
-canned pumpkin
-baking mixes

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Week in Review

I have at least 15 minutes to kill before the muffins I just made are cool enough to eat so I thought I'd write a blog filling you in on the uneventful events of the past week. I mean, why not, right?

Saturday morning I woke up and immediately I knew I was in trouble. Sore throat, achey body...these are not feelings we generally associate with healthy people. So I did my best to combat the inevitable. I took Zicam, emergenC, and coldease...all those products that promise to stop or shorten your cold but who knows if they actually work. Saturday was a fairly uneventful day and I liked it that way. Except I met a man to talk about possibly volunteering at an orphange. We were supposed to meet at 2:00 and as I was standing out there in the cold at approximately 1:56pm I realized I had no idea how I would distinguish who this man was apart from the crowd. At 2:11 I began to sms (text) him and just then a man came out of the building which I was standing in front of and started looking around. I got up the nerve to ask him his name and in English he responded, "Oh! You look Russian! You look very Russian!"
So that's that I guess. I look russian. I'm not sure if that is a good thing but I'll tell you one thing- I wouldn't mind having the figure of a russian woman. Well...let me clarify. I wouldn't mind having the figure of a young russian woman.

And that was Saturday.

Sunday I woke up and wished I hadn't. I had a stuffy/runny nose, sore throat, achey body, and an awful, awful headache. I pretty much spent the day in bed. I only got up when my back wouldn't allow me to lie (lay?...shoot, and I'm supposed to be an Enlgish teacher) on it anymore. The previous week we had been talking in class about home remedies when you get sick. Ironic, right? Anyway, one student told me when you get a cold you're supposed to soak your feet in warm water with mustard powder and I considered doing it...but only for a second. I'm not that russian.

And that was Sunday

Mondays are long days for us but I felt I had to at least try and tough it out as I couldn't cancel four classes and there was no one to cover the morning. Plus, I was giving a test in two of my classes and I didn't want to disappoint them by postponing it ;-)So, onto the metro we went, headed to school. It was about one and a half stops in when I realized there was a fairly real possibility that I was going to pass out. I could feel myself starting to sweat. I felt nauseous. My vision was a little off. I could just picture myself collapsing in the middle of the metro. Boy, would that be a story. So, I squatted down. Let me tell you, this was a last resort as people don't generally squat on the metro. No, they don't ever squat. The girl above me looked half concerned, half appalled at my behavior. The moment the metro stopped I made my way out and immediately sat down. My poor roommates just sort of hovered above me not really knowing what to do. And I had three thoughts.
1. I'm going to throw up/pass out in the middle of the metro station
2. God, help me not to throw up/pass out in the middle of the metro station
3. When I sit like this wearing these heels, it looks like I'm wearing high waters
Long story short, I pulled myself together, stuck it out for two classes and then Jeffrey came in and saved the day. Thank you Jeffrey!! (Also, sorry mom for not telling you about the nearly passing out part. I knew it would only worry you...I'm feeling much better today!)

And that was Monday.

God helped me out yesterday. He knew I still wasn't feeling great and my Tuesday went off with abnormal ease (does that make sense? Can I say "abnormal ease?") I had a seat on the metro both to and from work and several students were absent from both of my classes, which while I dearly missed them, (okay, no I didn't) the smaller class sizes certainly made teaching easier. I came home feeling worn out, I rested on my bed for about an hour, and then my roommates and I decided to walk to the fancy grocery store because we wanted to make nachos. However, we got sidetracked on the way and ended up eating at a chinese restaurant. Nachos...chinese...they're basically the same.

And that was Tuesday

Today was a good day. I am feeling much better except for the fact that every time I blow my nose my ears whistle. I'm hoping that fluid will find it's way out of there without any problems...
Anyway, I only teach one class on Wednesdays and it does not begin until the late afternoon so I have the morning all to myself. I slept in, graded some papers, and decided that it's been four's probably time to shower. I know what you're thinking...four days? Gross! And yes, you are right. Four days is probably too long to go without showering but I've been sick, so give me a break. And to top it off, showers aren't exactly enjoyable here. If on any given day you can put you're entire body under the stream of water and not start shivering, you should say a little prayer, for God has surely blessed you. Anyway, I'm clean now and I can leave that four day business behind me. My class went well and I came home to half a pint of ice cream waiting for me in the freezer. I baked some muffins for the morning, watched the move "Bella" with my roommates (watch it!) and now I'm about to read Pride and Prejudice in bed. Aside from being sick, it has been a good week so far. And tomorrow is my Friday! Now it doesn't get much better than that! Spakonya Noche!

Where You Lead Me...

It is difficult for me to imagine permanately living anywhere when my heart is scattered across the world regardless of my location.

Sometimes I find comfort in that. Today that reality hurts a little.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Gone are the days of having someone else care for you when you are sick. They were nice while they lasted...

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I found this quote and I think it's lovely.

"To live without risk is to risk not living"

Nesquik and Blood

I'm considering starting to chew Nesquik powder. It's that good.

In other news, I walked by some puddles near the metro the other day that looked like they were filled with blood. Since being here, I've heard people (specifically Americans) use the phrase T.I.R. which affectionately means...This Is Russia. I've heard it used when things don't make sense, seem ridiculous, or you can't believe what you've just witnessed. Anyway, I asked my roommates if they had noticed the puddles and they both had. One agreed with me and thought it was blood, the other thought it was Koolaid. I found that an interesting observation as I've never seen Koolaid anywhere in Russia. But maybe I'll go with the Koolaid might help me sleep a little better. However, whether I'm walking over puddles of blood or Koolaid, I can't help but think T.I.R.

Welcome to my life. :-)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The View From the Top

Since coming to Russia, I have found myself hooked to the television show, “Criminal Minds.” We have all four seasons on DVD and it has become a nightly routine to make dinner and watch a couple episodes. I highly recommend this show, but let me warn you…it goes to your head. I have had several dreams where I am tracking down bad guys or caught in a crossfire. One night we were walking to the guys’ flat and we saw a laser pointer shining on the wall in front of us and I was sure it was a sniper. My heart literally started beating faster and I prayed that God would protect us. Just on Monday there was a man working on the roof of the building across from us, and I thought I should get a good look at his face so I could describe him to the police in case he was actually planting bombs up there. Ridiculous.

But the other night I made a startling realization. As I was sitting in my green chair, enjoying the show, a bit of dread started to creep up on me as I thought of the long day of teaching that awaited me in the morning. So I told myself, “Don’t worry. You just need to make it through the day and by this time tomorrow you will be back in this chair.” Whoa. That is a scary way of thinking. Snap out of it, girlfriend.

Here is the problem. I didn’t move to Russia to sit in a green chair and watch American television.
I’ve been here a month and only now am I really starting to experience moments of homesickness. And this homesickness... it’s not even a feeling of wanting to return home, it's just a feeling of wanting things to feel comfortable and normal. I so admire people who thrive in the face of change, adventure, and the unknown. I am not one of these people. I can continue on, but I am aware of the effort it takes to advance each step of the journey. Unfortunately, transitions and change are not easy roads for me.

Currently, I am missing fall in the northwest. I miss changing leaves, scarves, friends, family, and coffee shop chats. I find I am craving all things cozy. More than that, I am craving things that seem familiar, comfortable, and safe. I want to be in a place where I can understand and be understood…the first time. I long to not worry about getting lost, or doing the wrong thing, or making a fool of myself. Truth is, I don’t consciously worry about these things but I feel my mind and soul relax the moment I walk through the door of my flat and I can stop trying so hard. Perhaps that is why my green chair and "Criminal Minds" have become my place of refuge. It’s on days like these when things seem too difficult, I find myself longing for home; for time spent with family and friends, perhaps over a cup of coffee in familiar surroundings. I long for such things not because they seem better, but sometimes when you’re tired, and cold, and a little bit lonely, they just seem easier.

I guess such obstacles are to be expected and hear me out-I’m not complaining. What good is an easy adventure? Where are the lessons, sense of accomplishment, and growth in walking a paved, flat, clearly marked trail? I’m not asking for easy. Give me a mountain and let me climb. Let me work, and try, and sweat, and cry, just so long as I know there is purpose in the pain and effort. And I know there is. I suspect the view from the top will be the most beautiful I’ve witnessed so far. So thank you, God for this mountain. Give me strength to continue to climb when all I want is a break from the trying. And when I fall, help me to fall back on you.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Thursday is the new Friday. At least for me it is. I’m sitting in my quiet flat with a week’s worth of work behind me and the adventures of the weekend to look forward to. It is a glorious feeling. Yesterday our heat came on and I’ve never loved the Russian government quite so much as that moment when I felt the warm heater.

When I return home, there will be many things I think I will miss about Russia. The metro during rush hour, however, will not be one of them. Yesterday as I was going to work I thought about the chaos that was occurring around me and I had to laugh. Out loud. It’s possible that people thought I was crazy for laughing out loud to myself in the metro, but I honestly don’t care. If you saw the madness and actually thought about it you would either laugh or cry. I chose laughing as that seemed a little more appropriate for such a public place.

The metro during rush hour goes against everything I have been brought up to be. From my days in preschool I have been told, “wait your turn…stand in line…don’t push.” Which makes me they have preschool in Russia? Literally throngs of people PUSH their way to get onto the escalator that brings them down to the platform. Sometimes I want to say to the person in front of me, “Good work, Grandma. You pushed yourself onto the step right in front of me and you will now make it to the platform a half second before I do. Congratulations!” It really is unfortunate I don’t speak Russian. ;-) Therefore, it is safe to say I don’t enjoy being a part of the madness. And thus far, I have held to my American standards and refused to push. Though I have a feeling one day in the near future…perhaps a day when my students have been particularly unruly…I will deliver a firm shove to the person in front of me. And I suspect it will feel quite good. ;-)

In addition to not enjoying the process it takes to get onto the metro, I also have not developed my metro legs, which makes the journey interesting when I am unable to lean against something or hold on. I am in awe of the people who stand there, free of any support, as the metro jerks and shakes. It really is a skill.

However, there is always a silver lining. I have a created a game for the metro. After all, you do what you have to in order to amuse yourself and not make it home in a bad mood. You see, everyday my future husband passes me on the down escalator as I ride the up escalator. By the time I make it to the top I must pick the man I will marry. I give myself one opportunity to change my selection on the way up (as experience has taught me I don’t always choose wisely the first time…or the second…or the third…) but I must make my decision before I reach the top. This is a game even my Dad could play, as there is strategy involved. Pick a decent candidate early on. You can always change your mind if a tall man with dark hair and mysterious eyes passes you towards the top.

I’ve won almost every day. Except on Tuesday. I thought I would be daring and walk on the wild side and wait until the very end to make my selection. However, it turned out there were slim pickings at the top. No matter. I’m sure he had a great personality…