Moscow City Day and Sergiev Posad

Привет друзья!

These past almost two weeks I got the opportunity to adjust a bit more to life in Moscow and begin classes. Everything here is on “Russian time”, meaning things like classes and schedules are often not decided until a day or two before, and can take a couple weeks to iron out. This is in stark contrast to Holy Cross’s system of scheduling every student in a whirlwind online enrollment day many months before the semester begins. Other American students that I have met here agree that we don’t know which process is more stressful! But I have appreciated the extra time I get to take in Moscow while the weather is still nice.

For example, last weekend was Moscow’s 871st День Города or City Day. Every Russian city has a tradition where they celebrate the anniversary of their town’s founding. Moscow celebrates by closing off one of the main roads near the center of the city and holding a sort of parade in reverse. Different performances and activities were set up along the street and the crowds walked by at their own pace. My favorite stations were the dance and music performances. Listening to Tchaikovsky in the middle of Moscow was a thrill for my inner geek!

The weekend before last, I visited the Trinity Lavra St. Sergius complex, the most important monastery in the Russian Orthodox church and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My cultural advisor was pretty nonchalant when he told me about the trip, so imagine how I felt when I walked into a place I had seen so many times in pictures!

Inside Assumption Cathedral in St. Sergius Monastery

And later I learned that it is the home of my favorite icon, Andrei Rublev’s The Trinity which I didn’t see! I will be face palming over that forever! Where did a Midwestern girl pick up a favorite icon you ask? From my first-year Montserrat seminar on early Christianity. Thanks, Jesuit education!

The Trinity by one of the most renowned iconographers, Andrei Rublev

I admit, I got a bit wigged out when our guide started kissing the glass over the faces of the bodies of several saints in the Monastery. But overall, I came away with a much deeper appreciation for the Russian Orthodox faith.

The intact body of St. Innocent of Alaska
Approaching the Russian Orthodox equivalent of the Vatican

And to round out the day we witnessed a reenactment of a medieval battle fought at the monastery.

Until next time!

Russian phrase of the day: Боже мой! (Bo-zhuh moi!) Oh my God!

Crash Course or Crash Landing?

Privyet from Moscow!

Don’t worry, that title is not literal. I landed safely in Moscow early Friday morning.

First steps in Russia

Stepping off that plane, I couldn’t be more excited. I was breathing Russian air! Hearing Russian words! Seeing Russian people! I was a bit surprised then, at how “normal” everything seemed. Where was that culture shock? I figured, well, maybe an airport is just an airport, and a city just a city, even in Cyrillic. So far everything does seem pretty comfortable, but every once in a while I crash into something that makes me feel, well, shocked!

A brand new playground in Novoslobodskaya Park

The first time I really felt that I was in Russia was when I was walking around a park near my apartment on my first day and I heard little kids speaking in Russian. For some reason knowing that these kids knew more of the language than I did really humbled me!

Breakfast that Alla made my first day, including traditional Russian kasha

Sometimes I feel like I crash and burn a thousand little times a day, as I try to communicate with my lovely host mother, Alla, in my broken Russian. She patiently listens and helps me spell out words I don’t know into Google translate, but I feel terrible for all the things I know she is trying to say to me that I don’t understand!

This church popped out from behind a steel skyscraper as I navigated through Moscow

However, I’m already amazed by how concepts I struggled with in the classroom make sense in real life. For example, the direction/navigation unit was one of my worst in class last year, but after Alla gave me directions and I consulted Yandex (Russia’s Google), I had an epiphany and I have found everything I needed so far! (I’m no expert though… I got lost and was late for my first class!).

The crash course is going well so far, minus a couple bumps and bruises. There is so much I can’t share in a short blog post, but some topics coming up are: the Cyrillic alphabet, food, architecture, the tourist spots, money, getting to know Alla, and much more!

Увидимся! Oo-vee-deem-sya! See ya!