Friday, March 27, 2015

An Unexpectedly Lovely Morning

Right, so, I haven't exactly been jumping for joy over here, as many of you readers have pointed out to me in emails and Facebook PMs.

I mean, Russia is hard. Even for someone like me, who speaks the language and likes the culture and has done this tour before. It's just hard living somehow.

For starters, there's winter. Winter here is cold and dark and then it gets colder and darker and then, just when you think you've hit the worst of it, everything melts and refreezes so one day you're out in the cold and dark and you step on a sheet of ice and down you go on your ass and you really have to force yourself to get back up and keep limping along instead of just lying there on the frozen dark sidewalk rubbing your severely bruised butt and crying frozen dark icicle tears.

No? Maybe it's just me then.

Everybody hibernates in the winter. Or maybe they don't. Maybe regular people are out ice skating and skiing and marveling at the way the sunlight hits the frost just so as they snowshoe through the forest together. Maybe it's just me inside baking bread and cookies all afternoon.

Either way, I found this winter to be a bit lonely and - truth be told - it's my fault for not putting myself out there and doing stuff.

But now we're on the last weeks of winter. It's still hat-and-glove-cold most days, but the sun! She is shining right now, and I can feel my bones getting more solid and boney as they absorb all of this precious new vitamin D.

There was a month there when the kids got on the school bus when it was still dark. They got back off of the school bus later that afternoon, and the sun had already set. It was a very blah sort of a month for us all. Now there is sunshine, and after school they are scootering and playing catch and falling off of playground equipment. It is so much easier to be cheerful when the sun is shining and you aren't cold down into your bones.

(There is this blog I love to read, Sarah on the Road, because the blogger is an amazing photographer who lives - by choice! and happily! - practically on top of the North Pole. She posts these amazing pictures, and all I can think is, she'd be wearing shorts and a tank top right now in Russia. How she does it is beyond me.)

So today it is cold, but sunny. A neighbor - one of my favorites, actually - asked me to go to Dorogomilovo Market with her and some friends of hers whom I don't know. It seems the friends had never been, so she offered to take them, but wanted my help figuring out the bus route and the Russian stuff.

So we planned to do it today.

But as it turned out, the friends couldn't go, because something came up for them. So it was just me and my neighbor, out for the morning.

I've blogged about Dorogomilovo before.  (Story and pictures here.) It's really just a huge covered market, with different vendors selling fruit, vegetables, homemade cheese and honey, spices, nuts and so on. Technically speaking, it's a chore to go there: you have to wait for the bus, haggle for the goods, dodge the runners with their carts and trolleys. And then you have to lug your purchases back to the bus stop for the trip home.

But when you're with somebody else, it turns into a fun sort of nowhere-else-but-here kind of adventure. And this particular neighbor is someone I've been trying to friend-stalk since we got here. She's super nice, but not so nice that it's cloying. She's been around the world, so she isn't new to this life and I'm not constantly talking her down from the ledge, but she isn't all Pollyanna about the place either - just enough snark to be healthy. And we both have husbands who work too much, who are too good at their jobs, and who are in similar places in the Embassy hierarchy, which means we can complain to each other, or just compare notes, about the relative craziness of our family life.

But we're both so busy! And did I mention it's been cold and dark? So we hardly ever run into each other except when we pass on our way to and from the mailroom.

So it was nice to get to hang out all morning with somebody I know and like and respect, just talking about recipes and schoolwork and summer plans while we got our errands done.

And as an added bonus: we found brussels sprouts! And strawberries! And fresh baby spinach! The Korean vendor even had some flash-fried marinated homemade tofu, which sent me over the moon with happiness. You just know we're going to have some good family dinners coming up.

All in all, it was an unexpectedly lovely morning.

Please. Write your own stuff.