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From: Sandy Lubkin
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 1997 18:22:50 +0000
Subject: Bits 'n' Pieces from Moscow

Hi, Everyone!

Thanks to all of you who've written. It's so very nice to have contact with familiar people in familiar places. I'm still homesick, but at the same time really enjoying the trip.

By the way, our hot water has been restored (two days early!) and the only real problem left is that the screen on my laptop is not working well - the back-light no longer works, so it's very hard to see what's on the screen. I've got sunlight behind me which helps things show up, but it's difficult to tell when I've made a typing error. Please forgive any I make.

Today, for your amusement, I'd like to present a bunch of little observations which don't really merit a full discussion.

Miscellaneous Notes

Police in Moscow carry truncheons and assault weapons as routine. Many of them wear obvious bullet-proof vests. ID checks are routine, although neither of us have been stopped.

Boredom looks the same everywhere. Some of the shop attendants are *very* bored.

Russians love flowers. The lilac bushes were stripped of their flowers up to easy-to-reach height, and everywhere were people clutching their lilac bouquets.

It's not uncommon to see people in the courtyards or parks harvesting plants (herbs?). Mixed in with the grasses are camomile, clover, yarrow, mustard, dandelions (they're everywhere!), mushrooms (it rains lightly most days, no matter how warm and sunny), and some other plants whose names I can't remember, but which are edible.

Because of all the parks and trees, birds of every sort are everywhere, even though we're in a city. The dawn chorus begins every morning about 4 am, and they do an encore evenings about 9 pm. There's one bird which sounds like a typewriter :)

Moscow is celebrating its 850th birthday this year! It was established as a city in 1147. By the time Columbus reached the Americas in 1492, Moscow was already 345 years old. The city had been destroyed and rebuilt *three* times, and had just defeated and expelled the Mongol Hordes. That's a lot of history.

Some of the people here try to be very helpful when we have trouble with the language (most of the time ;) and some people are just annoyed. We met one little old lady who tried to give us directions. She didn't speak English, but had studied German many years ago, so we used a mixture of German and Russian to find out she didn't know how to get there either :) At a park the other day, we spent some time chatting with a gentleman (in Russian, with pictures drawn on the ground, pointing to words in our dictionary) trying to convince him we weren't lost. He thought we were and was trying to give us directions home.

Yesterday we were looking in our guidebook on a Moscow street when a young lady came over to help us :) We got to talking (her English is excellent) She had just returned from Ireland, where she'd been studying at a university for two weeks. She and her friend were spending the day speaking only English because they don't want to speak Russian any more. When I told them that I think Russian is a beautiful language, they thought I was joking :(

When I got up on the first day of summer (21 June), the thermometer said 25 degrees and the ground was completely white. Snow? No, that was 25 degrees Celcius, about 77 degrees Farenheit, and the whiteness was a thick layer of cottonwood down. (Odd note: I'm allergic to cottonwoods in Washington/Oregon/California, but not in Moscow.)

We live just a few blocks from the famous Gorky Park. We also live near the site of the 1980 Olympic Games. I'm still mad at the US government for boycotting that year. That Olympic Mascot was really cute! (For those who don't remember, it was a cartoon bear named Misha.)

Kermit the Frog speaks fluent Russian. I watch him and the other regulars most mornings on "Oolitsa Sesam" (Sesame Street). I'm learning to recognize more words, but I still can't sing the theme song.

All text and pictures copyright 1997 Sandy and Bela Lubkin, all rights reserved.