Московский метрополитен – The Moscow Metro (Part 2)

Партизанская (Partizanskaya)

This station is dedicated to (and obviously named after) the Partisan fighters who resisted the Nazis during World War II. The Partisans regularly met at a wooded park near this station, Izmailovsky Park. I love the various representations of this history in reliefs throughout the station.


Электрозаводская (Elektrozavodskaya)

This station is named for a large electrical plant nearby, and many elements of the design are intended to honor the people who worked at the plant–as well as, obviously, the idea of electrical power itself. It is well known for the rows of lights in the platform ceiling (318 in all).


Менделеевская (Mendeleyevskaya)

This is our connection to the ring line, so we’ve been through this station many times. The kids took an early liking to it, especially the light fixtures.



This is the Metro stop for the ВДНХ, also known as the All-Russian Exhibition Center. We actually take the monorail to visit there, so I’ve never been into this station itself. But the porcelain tiles and mural in the lobby area are worth a look by themselves.


Комсомольская (Komsomolskaya)

Undoubtedly the most elaborately decorated station in the entire system. The most interesting aspect, though, are the ceiling murals. They are a series of eight murals, based on a speech given by Josef Stalin during WWII. The speech, intended to bolster national morale, describes moments of heroism from Russian history. Each of the murals originally represented one of those events.The murals have a history of their own, however–they’ve been significantly altered to erase uncomfortable elements of history, including erasing Stalin himself from one of them.



Paris and the Eiffel Tower

Here is the river that we drove by on the way to the Tower.

We bought a taxi from the hotel. It took us to the Eiffel Tower. On the way, I saw the Seine River. Its banks were made of cobblestones and there was a path where you could walk near the river and under the street.


I stepped out of the taxi and this is what I saw!

The taxi dropped us off at the Eiffel Tower. It was early in the morning, and so there weren’t very many tourists and there wasn’t a line. We looked at it for a while and then my mom got in line. While my mom was in line, my dad took pictures of us, and then we all got in line and waited for the tower to open. While we waited, I played with my siblings and embarrassed my parents by shouting. (But they didn’t yell at me).


Napping is better on an elevator–or on your mother–instead of a bed.

When the tower opened, we went through security and then waited for an elevator. The elevators had windows on all sides, so when we went up, we could see all of Paris. This freaked out my sister and dad.


We went to the second and third floor and we looked out and my dad took more pictures. Then we went up to the top on a crowded elevator with more windows. My sister and dad were still freaked out.

Jack and Ella spotted a soccer field where someone was playing a game.

The top floor used to be an apartment for Gustave Eiffel, the guy who built the Eiffel tower. (It was fun to imagine living that high up, but my sister probably would have moved.) I liked looking down on the river that we drove by earlier that morning.


Who needs two chopsticks when you can have a fork and a chopstick?

We stayed up about 20 minutes, and then we went to the market and ate waffles, hot chocolate, ice cream and chicken from a Chinese restaurant. The market was sort of like the one in Greece, except it wasn’t as big and the people selling food were friendlier in Greece. The ice cream was good (I had raspberry and mango), but it wasn’t as good as Italy.


After we had ice cream, we went back to the hotel. On the way back to the hotel, I saw a church that was humungous and well-designed.


A Spring Adventure. Or Throw Mama From the Train. Or?

DSC_5265-20160506I’m just going to say it. In the game of Spring, Moscow wins. It has been 65 degrees and sunny for days now. There are birds. There are flowers, and there is a gentle breeze. Day. After Day.

I’ve never quite known anything like this, living on the Nebraska plains, we could get an 80 degree day followed by gusting winds and 40 degrees, followed by a blizzard. When I lived in Washington State, it rained most of the spring, and then snowed, and then it got hot. In neither place did there ever seem to be day after day after day of 65 degrees and no wind. Here, the blossoms on the tree get to stay there. They don’t blow off in the May snow storm.DSC_5289-20160506

So. Moscow wins. They do Spring better than anywhere else I’ve ever been.

In celebration of Moscow’s victory over winter, we decided to take a little trip to Suzdal and Vladimir. These towns make part of the Golden Ring–historic Russian cities that were ruled by the princes before power was consolidated in Moscow by Prince Yuri in the  12th century.

From Moscow, you take a train to Vladimir and to get to Suzdal you take a bus from Vladimir.

Yes. The churches are beautiful. But what makes me stop on the sidewalk? The windows. OMGoodness look at those windows.

I will get to our impressions of the towns in a minute, but if you truly want to understand what it is like to travel independently in a foreign country with 4 kids, I offer the following scenario:

First, “buy” railroad tickets for the day of your choice. Spend two to three hours researching how to buy tickets, choose one of the better rated websites online from which to buy your tickets (it’s a middleman; you are not buying straight from the railroad), then choose the correct train, choose the seats (sometimes there is no seat map–think the consecutive seats are always together on the train? Think again. Spend 20 minutes finding seat map of the train you plan to ride on a different website). Then enter Six People’s Important Information (including passport numbers). Order tickets, pay, and get a confirmation email.

The 17th Century Wooden Museum in Suzdal. Some of the nicest museum docents in the world are here.

At midnight, seven hours before your train departs, remember to print out tickets. When you go to the confirmation email, you will see that it contained a time sensitive question that you didn’t see because you were buying tickets in a 600 sq foot apartment with a Small Person who likes to hang from your shoulders when you are on the computer and Someone Practicing a Cornet and Incessantly Hungry People.

Find that because you did not see the time sensitive question, your tickets are cancelled. Stay up another 2 to 3 hours buying different tickets. Discover that this is more difficult because the train is almost full. Persevere. Buy tickets. Wait for the confirmation email. It does not come. Re-read the part of the website that advertises “open 24 hours” and “tickets purchased in 1 to 2 hours”. Wait until 5am. Call. Get no answer. Surmise that you are not going to get tickets for the 7am train and decide to get an hour of sleep before the Small One wakes up.

At 6:15 hear a ding on your phone. See a confirmation email that the non-refundable tickets were purchased.

For the 7am train.

Departing from a station halfway across the city.

And you and your children are in bed.

Feel your heart start to beat wildly and wonder how you will get yourself and your children to the train station.

The church at the monastery that housed the religious dissidents and the troublesome Czar’s wives/ daughters/ sisters. Had I been born to the Russian aristocracy, there is a good chance I would have ended up here.

Leave the house five minutes after getting the confirmation email. Hope the things that you had packed the night before are sufficient for the day.

Run to the Metro. Oscillate between thoughts of “What will we do when we miss this train?”  and “What time is it?” and “Good Grief.”

The Small One on your back is the only one enjoying this production, and helpfully yells “Hurry!” and kicks his legs every time you slow down to catch your breath. Sprint up granite stairs to the Metro. Switch Trains. Look a lot like that airport scene in Home Alone except your are not sporting an early 90’s upper-middle-class wardrobe.

Think unkind thoughts. Do your best to let them go before you verbalize them.

Make the train with 5 minutes to spare. Sit on your seat. Try not to look like you just ran a marathon in a skirt. Try to act natural. Try to exude: “Of course we made the train” and “How Lucky. I like getting my cardio in before a long train ride.”

Needless to say, because of how our little adventure started, we were all a bit cranky when the train dropped us off in Vladimir. But the sun was shining and there were blossoms on the trees and we were able to find the bus station/buy the tickets/find the correct bus with our Russian language skills. Go team!

One of the guidebooks I read said that because the Trans-Siberian railroad didn’t go through Suzdal, it has remained in the 17th century. I think they might be right. It was pretty, pastoral, and did seem to have a time-machine like quality.

The time machine that is Suzdal.

Suzdal was really amazing. We went to a monastery that had housed religious dissidents and the Czar’s unwanted wives. We visited the town’s Kremlin, had an authentic Russian lunch, and visited a wooden town museum that had live exhibits of what it was like to live in Russia in the 17th century. There was also пломбир (Russian ice cream) and медовуха (mead) to be had, and so we largely forgot the crazy start to the day, and sank into the history.

After Suzdal, we went back to Vladimir and saw the churches there. My favorite was the 11th-century white one. It was amazingly old. The kids liked the grass. And the view, and the playground.

Vladimir. The Cathedral of St. Demetrius. 12th Century.

So. That was our adventure to the Golden Ring. Part of me is grateful for the entire experience because I think that sprinting for that train taught us all perseverance and one’s smallness in the midst of things. That train was not going to stop/wait/care about our ticket fiasco.  And despite it all, in the end, we won.

For the train going back home? We got there early, Baby.

A Normal? Day

600 sq. feet means your summer clothes are in a suitcase. And your bed is also your couch. And your toddler has a healthy respect for mess.

I haven’t written in a while, and I don’t know why exactly. Maybe because I’ve been using my writing energy for some professional stuff, maybe because the sheer volume of work that it is to teach and live abroad and home school three children and keep a toddler from Russian Emergency Rooms and learn a language and a culture and make dinner is catching up with me? Yes, maybe that’s it. Also, sharing a 600 sq foot apartment with five other people makes one’s creative juices turn to sap. I’ve been known to hide from my family in the bathtub (fully clothed, I sit there in the dark and reading my Kindle and eating seaweed chips).

Where’s Mama?   (Nobody knows. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.)

The same bed above, is this playing space (when clean). Legos save rainy days.

So, here I offer you a usual day for the six of us. Mind you, this is a little like a historical movie: It’s kind of like our life, but you know. We’ve never had a normal day yet.

Huck jumping on the bed from the window. Mama! Wake up!

The first thing that happens in the morning is Huck wakes me up between 5:30am and 7am by jumping on my head. “Mama!” he says. “Mama! Ok?”  “Something?” (Translation: Mama! Are you OK? I think we should watch something? Eat Something?”). At this point Saint Matt lures him into the kitchen to eat yogurt or granola or eggs and lets me dream. Bless him.

At some point (in either 5 minutes or 45) Huck comes back and I have to face the music and get up. Matt has coffee made, and I drink the first half without really tasting it. Huck is bored at this point and gets spoons to make “music” or plays another round of “Jump on Mama Until She Wants to Die.” At some point, Matt and I give up on the dream of having a quiet sip of coffee together and he takes the kids to the playground across the street.

One of the morning adventures to the playground. It was April. Yes. Huck is wearing a head to toe snow suit.

There should be a reality show where they put a family of 6 in a 600 sq. ft apartment in a different culture/language context for 9 months. I might watch that one.

When Huck is at the park, the older kids read, work on math, play their violin or cornet etc. I get a

600 square feet means practicing one’s cornet in the kitchen. And who needs a music stand anyway?

moment to work on my teaching plans for the day and check email. I also get a minute to plan the day’s food and maybe even read with Tillie or discuss poems with Ella.

About the food: our kitchen is tiny and our implements are…not the ones Cooks Illustrated would recommend. Consequently we make really functional food here. Lentils. Rice. Beans. We eat fresh fruit (bananas and apples) and vegetables (cucumbers and peppers) and indulge in an occasional baked chicken. We miss homemade pizza and muffins and enchiladas and shrimp pasta and puttanesca and our garden. But honestly, because of the time constraints of living in a city of 13 million and the energy it takes to go buy the food, bring the food home (on the metro, in a suitcase), walk the food from the metro (up stairs), and then cook the food once it gets here, I’m usually amazed we don’t eat crackers and cheese (or peanut butter–given half of my family’s stance on dairy) every night for dinner.

Lepyoshka! Delicious! Round! Magic!

At some point in the morning, my schedule for the late-morning/afternoon gets confirmed by the various departments I work for, I print the copies I need for the classes I will teach, and I walk to work. I was extremely lucky to get an apartment so close to the university. It is only a 20 or 30 minute walk and there is no public transport involved. Many of my colleagues travel over an hour each way to get to work.

When I get to one of the departments I teach at, we have tea while they round up the students. I teach between two and four classes a day with anywhere from 5 to 15 students. The classes are sometimes small because the students are grouped by discipline.  For example, the bio-chemists take their English class together and the soil specialists have their own classes. This strategy creates nice little study communities as the students go from classes to labs in their cadre. They seem to get to know each other quite well.

I finish my last class at 5:30 pm and walk home. (Sometimes I teach the night

Right before the May holidays, we had a small Friday at 3:30pm class. We are each other’s favorites, so we decided to document the fact with a picture.

classes–then I get home between 7:30 and 8). When I get home at 6 or 6:30 we have dinner as a family. During the winter we had lots of soups and stews. We made them fancy by buying bread (lepyoshka) from the local Uzbek place. Matt loves this bread and will miss it like crazy. When it was colder, he would stop by and get fresh warm bread on his way home from the metro. He and Huck would devour an entire round loaf on the walk home, and arrive home happy and loaded with carbs.

Now that it is warmer, we eat beans and rice and tortillas for many dinners. To make it

600 sq. feet means sharing. Want to play Minecraft with your cousins in the US? Well then prepare to share the experience with your beloved siblings.

different, sometimes we have Spanish rice. The kids have been understanding about eating basically the same thing for days on end, but I think they are getting ready for a change.

After dinner, we usually go to the playground and let Huck run out his energy. We brush his teeth and then we walk him in the stroller to sleep. Some nights this is at 8pm and some nights this is 10pm…it depends on his nap schedule for the day.

After Huck is happily sleeping in his stroller, Matt and I watch an episode of something.

This is lake is on our walk while we put Huck to sleep. While stopping to take in this view, I here a little “Mama! C’mon” from deep inside the stroller. I guess someone is still awake.

Our favorites are BBC mysteries and most recently a show about Danish politics. (I know. We are super cool. Can you say 40 and white? We can.) Anyway, Borgen has been a fun watch, and because of it I’m picking up some Danish. I can even swear a bit. Maybe Denmark would be an interesting place to visit…





Day One:

Sled ride into camp
Today we took a van to Lovozero. The van took us most of the way then we went on a sled pulled by a snow mobile  a mile into the woods. That’s where our cabin is. Then our host showed us around. He showed us the dog kennel and the chum (a wooden tent with a fireplace and tables, the roof was really pointy). Then we ate soup in the chum. I took my little brother outside. Then I had a snowball fight with my siblings.

Day Two:

SkiingToday we went cross country skiing and before that we ate breakfast. We had boiled eggs and porridge and sausage with bread, and for dessert we had donuts. After we ate we played in the snow all day. Then at night we saw the Northern Lights. They kind of looked like clouds with lights in them.
Northern Lights

Day Three:

DogsledToday was dog sledding. It was cold and blizzardy. I went on a sled with Jack and Ella. My parents were on another sled. My dad was driving it. On my sled there were seven dogs and my host was driving. Dog sledding was fast and bumpy. We went in the woods. There were pine trees everywhere. We followed a trail that a snow mobile made. By the end I was really cold. I could feel my fingers, but I wish I couldn’t. My feet were cold too. After dog sledding, we went back to the cabin. I sat by the fire and drank lots of tea with sugar.

Day Four:

Reindeer sledToday we went reindeer sledding. We went sledding around a frozen lake. It was very fast. It was faster than dog sledding. Two reindeer pulled the sled. It wasn’t as cold as dog sledding. We fed the reindeer bread. They seemed to like it. They ate it so fast I could barely get my hands away. Today we left and went back to Murmansk. We ate out of our supplies at Murmansk, because room service wasn’t that good. I ate seaweed, chips, crackers, and pistachios.

It was very cold in the Arctic Circle. I am glad I went. My favorite parts were reindeer sledding, staying in the cabin, and sledding down the hill by our cabin. (Once, I even hit a tree, and it was awesome!)

In the sled

To be a traveler . . .

I am  going to Murmansk today! It’s really far up north. We are going to dog-sled, and do cross-country skiing. And we will do reindeer sledding. And hopefully see the Northern Lights. My dad is really excited to see them. We will have a cabin in the woods near Lovozero.

I will post more later with pictures.

That Lovely Land of Might-have-been

We had a long Winter Break, so we did some travelling.


To begin with, we spent Christmas in Poland. I lived there briefly, decades ago, and this is the first chance I’ve had to visit again. It was really a great time. For me, of course, it was wonderful to catch up. It was sweet to revisit so many of the things I remember—the places, the food, etc. Beyond that, though, Poland was really just very inviting for our whole family. It was good to be able to visit people outside the context of Susan’s work, for example.

It was also really nice how many people spoke English—friends, people in shops, etc. I’m not comfortable expecting that of people, but at the same time it’s awfully pleasant to find. Makes things a lot easier for the kids, too—they were able to connect pretty quickly with people their own age, which they’ve been missing. Susan and I, for our part, have certainly developed a functional proficiency with Russian, but we don’t speak it well enough to have interesting conversations. So just hanging out and chatting was a breath of fresh air. More than that, really—it was like coming to the surface after a very long time underwater.

Better still, even after only a week there, I could feel my long-dormant Polish reviving. I was able to sit in on conversations among native speakers, understanding the majority of what they were saying, and even responding in a limited way. I really enjoy that language, and it was a great feeling to speak it again.

Tillie with Olives
Seriously. Olives.

We stopped back in Moscow long enough to celebrate the New Year, and then headed to Greece, which was every bit as good as we’d hoped. The weather, of course, was gorgeous. We all shed our winter coats and boots for a week, and spent our time in the sun—walking around Athens, visiting the beach, heading up into the mountains. We dove into the food, as well. So many olives, so little time. Also the feta. The meat. The honey. The giant desserts. Added to all of which, English was even more common here than in Poland. I learned hardly a word of Greek.

We got a bit spoiled, in other words.

Seriously. Spoiled.
Russia. (Or: Home.)

I have to admit, as a matter of fact, that I was worried about coming back. I had noticed in Poland, and again in Greece, a certain loosening of the tension in my chest. I wasn’t pre-doubting all my interactions, wasn’t struggling through basic interactions. More than the weather, say, or the lack of good Parmesan, I wondered how we’d adjust back to this. Struggle, really, is the canvas on which life in Russia is painted. I don’t want to generalize across a population, but I’m about to: Especially compared to Americans, Russians really seem to expect difficulty in most situations. It’s a point of pride, really—there’s even a tendency to brag about how difficult things are for you.

It’s probably not coincidental that (compared to people everywhere else we’ve been) Russians are not naturally inclined to make things easier for a visitor. Muscovites are famous for their (complete lack of) smiles, and I think that’s emblematic of something deeper.  It comes off as unfriendliness, but it’s really not. What it is is a fundamentally different view of the world. When you expect difficulty and struggle in your own life, it doesn’t seem strange to see others having it in theirs. And if you’re proud of your own adversities, you’re not inclined to deny others the adversity that life presents them.

Adversity knocks.

And here’s the thing: I’m actually kind of grateful for that. I was worried about adjusting back, but it hasn’t been at all bad. It’s not that life is so much easier here. For all that we’ve learned of the language and the culture, there is still an awful lot that we don’t understand at all. It’s tough not knowing the language very well. It’s tough not knowing exactly where to find the things we need, or how to procure them once they’re found. It’s tough not knowing just how to express the details of what you want. It’s tough not knowing (or, for that matter, knowing) why everyone in the room has stopped to gawk at the Americans. It’s tough walking everywhere on three inches of snow-covered ice, and it’s tough living with a two-year-old and his three older siblings in 60-square-meter apartment. But generally (generally, and not without exception), I don’t mind as much as I used to. I’ve settled back into the warm blanket of travail that has become so familiar here.

You can’t tell from this picture, but Huck was actually being quite a little jerk at this moment.

Susan and I occasionally have these kind of 30,000-foot discussions about our life here. It looks different when we take a step back and look at it as a whole. One thing I think we’ve both noticed is how much less we worry about challenges that arise.

I often think of one moment from early in our time here. We were walking with a Russian acquaintance along a very busy street—6 or 8 lanes, something like that, all full—and we needed to be on the other side of it. At one point he simply stopped, turned toward the road, and began walking across. It was a bit of a shock, but honestly, it wasn’t the first time we’d seen someone do this. It was just the first time we’d done it with them. Traffic slowed, paused, and flowed around us as we crossed—no honking, no swearing, no cars rear-ending each other. More than anything else, this seems to me to be the Russian way. They simply look squarely at every challenge, and begin moving past it. It’s a bit ironic, I think, but constantly expecting difficulty keeps you pretty flexible. I, for one, can learn a lot from that. I have, in fact. And I may just find myself bragging about it now and then.

Московский метрополитен – The Moscow Metro

We were in Moscow a week or two before we finally ventured into the Metro, but it really opened the whole city to us. There is almost nowhere we can’t easily reach this way. Beyond that, though, the stations (and sometimes even the trains) themselves have been a revelation. The Metro has continually been one of my favorite parts of the city. It’s unlike the public transit I’ve seen anywhere else (other than St. Petersburg, I guess); it has a lot of history, and is a significant part of the city’s culture. It would be impossible to do it justice here, but I’ll do what I can.

By the way: Almost all of these images are shown here at less than full size. Click any image to see it larger. The details on some are worth a look.


The first surprise, at many stations, is the escalator. Metro stations are typically very deep—many of them were used as bomb shelters during WWII. Often the escalator is one long, unbroken descent. Our nearest station (Петровско-Разумовская) is no exception.

Descending to the Petrovsko-Razumovskaya platform
Descending to the Petrovsko-Razumovskaya platform. There are four escalators here (two up, two down), and my rough estimate is that, during rush hours, together they hold about 3500 people at once.
One of the light fixtures
One of the light fixtures – just to give a sense of the angle of descent.

How it looks from the bottom.
How it looks from the bottom. (This is in the Komsomolskaya station, which is why the fancier light fixtures. It’s also not a particularly long set of escalators, really.)

So, now, on to the stations themselves . . .

Площадь Революции (Revolution Square)

This is undoubtedly one of the most famous stations in the whole system. It’s also one of the oldest, built in 1938. This makes sense, since it serves (or connects to stations that serve) Red Square, the GUM, several historic hotels, the Bolshoi Theatre, etc. The most storied aspect of the station is the series of 76 life-size bronze sculptures that line both the central passage and the platforms. They depict primarily military and agrarian characters, though not exclusively. Several of the characters are frequently rubbed for good luck, which is obvious from the polished look that results.

I have to apologize for the poor quality of these. The light in this station is not great, and my flash wasn’t working properly. Did the best I could.

Soldier with dog
The luckiest of the lucky statues is this frontier guard. Or, more specifically, his dog.

Soldier with dog - detail
. . . as you can see, from his polished nose. In the brief time I was photographing the station, I saw four separate people rub it for luck.

Another lucky animal, this rooster.

Tillie rubbing rooster
Tillie gets some of that.

A partisan, I assume. I love his shoes.

First soldier
Another soldier. I’m not sure whether his knee is considered lucky, or whether people just rub against it accidentally.

One of the more rural subjects.

One of the few non-military, non-agrarian subjects. An engineering student, it seems to me.

Row of sculptures
The central passageway, lined with sculptures.

A view from one rail platform to the other, directly across the central passage.
Театральная (Theater station)

It’s not a particularly noteworthy station on its own, but it connects to Площадь Революции, so I thought I’d throw in a few pictures. The most interesting feature is a series of porcelain bas-reliefs along the top, depicting musicians and dancers from around the USSR.

Single figure Two figures


Row of bas-reliefs

Новослободская (Novoslobodskaya Street)

This is a slightly more recent station, being built just after WWII. It’s one of the stations on the “ring line,” which runs in a rough circle surrounding the city center. This line is famous for its elaborate stations. I’ll feature several more in later posts. This one happens to be our connection to the ring line. It’s best known for its 32 stained-glass panels, and large mosaic mural.

Stained glass - painter
One of the stained-glass panels, this one featuring a painter.


Stained glass - painter - detail
Detail of the painter.

Light fixture
One of the light fixtures. They’re about 5′ in diameter.


Stained glass - cartographer
Another panel. A cartographer, I think.

Stairwell for the transfer to Mendeleevskaya.

Mir mural
Mosaic mural at the end of the platform. The banner reads “Peace throughout the world.”

The view from one rail platform to the other, across the central passage.
Трубная (Trubnaya Square)

It’s an out-of-the-way station, and less than a decade old. Honestly, I’m not sure how I even ended up visiting it, but it’s a nice one. It’s the only other station I’ve seen that features stained glass, though obviously in a more contemporary way. The panels here are each dedicated to a historic Russian city. There is also a large mosaic dedicated to Moscow, at the platform’s end above one of the exits.

Mural - Moscow
The Moscow mosaic. I recommend clicking on this one to see the full detail.
Bench - Yaroslavl
Yaroslavl, which at one time served as the capital (while Moscow was occupied by the Polish). I believe one of the churches here is St. John the Baptist, which is also on Russia’s 1000-ruble note.


Bench - Suzdal
Suzdal, one of the Golden Ring cities. Suzdal was one of Russia’s most important cities long before Moscow had established itself.

Window - Moscow
Besides its mural, Moscow also has a glass panel.
Новокузнецкая (Novokuznetskaya Street)

I believe this is the only station primarily lit by floor lamps, and they give it the feel of an old, outdoor street-level station. It’s really quite striking the first time you see it. It was opened in the midst of WWII. The ceiling features large mosaics, mostly dedicated to industrial themes. This station also features large benches which were taken from the Christ the Saviour Church before its demolition. Quite a few Metro stations have parts of that cathedral—especially the marble, for instance. But I don’t think any others have such large, intact remnants.

Sorry for the glare on the ceiling mosaics, by the way. They’re directly above the lamps, and quite shiny, so it’s hard to avoid.

The central passageway.

The row of lampposts.
Faux-brass relief
One of several brass-finished reliefs on the rail platform.

Lenin mural
Mural at the end of the platform.

Long view of the central ceiling.

Mosaic - train
Ceiling mosaic- skiers pausing to watch a high-speed train and airplane passing.

Mosaic - construction
Ceiling mosaic- construction.

Mosaic - bulldozer
Ceiling mosaic- not sure where this bulldozer is being delivered to, exactly.

Mosaic - apple picking
Ceiling mosaic – apple orchard. Ironically, this was being created during the food shortages of WWII, so these would have been the only apples anywhere in sight.

Mosaic - airplane
Ceiling mosaic – Huck’s favorite word in Russian: самолёт!

Ceiling mosaic
Ceiling mosaic from the entry vestibule.

Tillie, benched.

Dome (with windows)
The dome atop the escalator.

Bas-relief - hammer & sickle
The entryway ceiling is a repeated pattern of plaster bas-relief hammers and sickles.
To be continued . . .

This will be the first of several posts on the Metro, and the best stations are really yet to come.

Oh, these days…

I haven’t written a lot lately, but man have we been busy.

Our apartment also came furnished. Я люблю Россию! No buying/moving couches. Most apartments come furnished.

We moved into our very own tiny Brezhnev-era apartment. It came complete with Russian Drapes.


Here, the kids dig the guts out of the pumpkin. Their audience was intrigued.

The Foreign Language Department hosted a Halloween Party where we were the guests of honor. Since the college works with many students from the regions of Russia, I have been one of the only (and sometimes THE only) American or native English speaker they have ever met. It turns out they like talking to the kids because the kids speak slower (and really, kids are so much more fun than adults, anyway) so the kids had a lot of fun at the party telling the college kids their life philosophies.

Group Photo!

Also: we carved a pumpkin (many students’ first) and sang songs.DSC_9719
The high point for me was when Tillie and Ella overcame their shyness and by their own impulse performed “Old Dan Tucker” (With ALL the verses–Jennifer From Camp: you would have been proud at how your music sharing is now being shared across the globe.)
For Thanksgiving, I made a pie in my Tiny Bake Oven for the folks at the Foreign Language department, and my little family and I had a cozy meal at home. Since we are used to the Big Nebraska Thanksgiving, this one was much smaller, but sweet.

Huck and I try to re-create Thanksgiving Magic.

Thanks to all of you who posted your pictures of your Thanksgiving traditions. My students liked looking at the people in all the pictures. It paved the way for this really fun discussion of American Traditions and Russian Traditions, and I learned so much. They promise that for New Years there is this wonderful dish called “Herring in a Fur Coat” which I will need to try.

They explained it to me; I then googled it, and I don’t know if I will be that brave. I guess I have a couple of weeks to work on my courage.


And so the days are rushing past. It is kind of like that First Year of a New Baby’s life, really. Things can sometimes be fast/slow all at the same time. Just like you kiss the top of your baby’s soft gorgeous head and think “wow, I could do this forever” and then you blink and your twelve year old is staring you down with the look that says “try to kiss me one more time in public and see what happens.”



I catch myself thinking “Wow. I still have a lot of this adventure left”

but I’m going to blink and it is going to be June very soon. I talked to a friend the other day, and she was getting ready to have a Usual Saturday. For a minute, I thought: “Gosh, I could totally get into my car and drive to Hy-Vee now. That sounds so….American/Nebraskan/Therapeutic/In English”.

But usually–or at least some of the time now, I dream in Russian.  Although it is probably not grammatically correct.

I guess with this, as with all of life, the trick of it is not taking for granted all the magic. To see and celebrate the magic in the moment, and not have to wait for the picture flashback, with the heavy sweaty toddler, the mud, and the people in my family who are simultaneously hungry and unwilling-to-eat-anything-available-to-them sieved out, with only onion tops and cobblestones and smiles left. The trick, I think, is to see the onion tops and the cobblestones and the Magic(and also Impossible) people I live with all at the same time.  For me, I am still learning how.

Lately, as I re-listen to Brene Brown in the subway, I just think about how lucky/grateful I am. I really like the guy I married. Our children alternatively drive me mad and crush my heart with how hard they strive living this life. I have family and friends who love me and inspire me, so many people at work back home who make the work meaningful, and so many people here who make this work meaningful, and so I am just blown away. I’ve been reading about the Northern Lights lately, and all I can say is that it is like I have my own set of Northern Lights right here in this life, and for that I am both grateful for it, and grateful that I see it.2015-11-30 16.05.17

Our Hero Goes to Russian Class

“On Monday at 9:00, go to a red building with white corners. room 319.”

At my last English class for the week, a student/administrator friend of mine (I’m teaching him English–he’s super smart–he’s about my age) He tells me:
“her. she will teach you Russian.” (he points to a woman walking through the office and who then disappears).

My first quiz
He tells me like there is nothing to finding this red building with white corners.  This is surprising, because that red building with the white corners? When he explains this to me we were looking out a window and into a fur tree. He was pointing through it and explaining how to get there in English as a Third Language. I smile and nod. But I found that building. Because Girl Scouts.

I think one of the problems of my upbringing and my Catholic heritage and the generally “need to please” presence in my personality is the fact that I can’t quite distinguish between an invitation and a demand.

and so maybe I take suggestions with a bit more force than they were intended.

or maybe I take them exactly like they were intended, but I add my own oeuvre to the whole deal which makes the whole thing a bit harder to say no to.
(which is probably why I don’t answer my phone.)

It is extremely hard for me to say no.

so. I didn’t.

and now I am in Russian language classes with Chinese, Iranian, and Vietnamese international students.
And part of it is the anthropological: how does RFL (Russian as a Foreign Language) get taught and is it different than how we teach EFL (English as a Foreign Language)? and How do I personally learn Russian? Will it match how it is taught? This and a host of other questions around teaching/learning that we as humanity haven’t exactly answered anywhere regarding shame, how people learn, how much agency students need to have in the classroom over their learning processes. And so: I am vulnerable and bumping into furniture again.

But part of it is also educational. I do love being a student. I love being in a classroom and not have to know what the class might be doing for the next hour when I enter. And now, I have more friends.

Maybe, too, I’ll get a handle on these Russian nouns.