Oh the Places You’ll Go

Written by Annie Mesavage, Junior at Penn State

Annie on Red Square
Annie Mesavage in
Red Square

None of us can believe that we have been here for a month already! The Russian students have done a great job of helping us see the sights. We are quickly becoming better at navigating the city using public transportation, especially the very efficient Russian metro system.
Our first outing was to an ice skating park. People could skate throughout the park through paths and sidewalks that were all surrounded by small cafes and restaurants. As we skated we heard several radio stations playing both Russian and popular American songs.

Sergei the travel guide
Throw the Tourist Books OUT! Russian student Sergey Kleymenov a.k.a. “Serge,” is the Ultimate Travel Guide!

There is nothing like jet lag and ice combined. We all came back with some bumps and bruises but had an excellent time.

We also visited the All- Russian Exhibition Centre which once highlighted the economic achievements of the former USSR through beautiful buildings and statues.

All Russian Exhibition Center
Main Archway of the All Russian
Exhibition Centre

The main archway into the park shows a statue of a tractor driver and woman representing the area when it was also used for agricultural exhibitions. The architecture still remains but today the area is also an amusement park and shopping area. We did some shopping while there and also took a ride on a large Ferris wheel overlooking the city.

Marina at Tretyakov
Marina in front of the famous entrance to the Tretyakov Art Gallery

Another highlight was our trip to the Tretyakov Art Gallery. This museum holds the art collection of the millionaire Pavel Tretyakov. It houses the largest compilation of Russian art in the world. We explored both floors of the museum which showed art collections of 18th thru 20th century paintings. Some of the famous paintings there included the “The Rooks Have Come” by artist Aleksey Savrasov showing the famous, crooked birch trees of Russia that symbolize the ending of the harsh Russian winters.  We also saw the famous portrait of the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. Fascinating were the exhibitions of famous church icons such as the Virgin of Vladimir and the Trinity.

Becky at Kremlin
Becky in front of a the Kremlin Cathedrals

One of our most recent trips was to the Kremlin which is home of the Russian president as well as the government buildings. There we were able to tour the cathedral square and see the famous Tsar Bell, the worlds largest. We also went inside the Cathedral of the Assumption where many princes and patriarchs from the Orthodox Church were buried. The cathedrals of the Kremlin were all painted with beautiful color frescoes lining the interior walls. We went outside and walked throughout Red Square where we viewed St. Basil’s cathedral and saw the outside of the Lenin Mausoleum. We hope to tour the Kremlin palace and armoury at a later date as well as other parts of Red Square.

Also in this Issue...

  • Turning 21 in the Motherland by Annie Mesavage
    "I had known the Russian students not even ten days the weekend before my birthday. Yet, when I came in that day they not only helped me for two hours with my Russian homework but brought gifts.."
  • Feeling You are On a Different Planet by Aaron Ladd
    "Being unable to communicate is such a limiting factor that we often take for granted when we (Americans) travel to other countries."
  • Weather by Ben Crooke
    "Each new day brings its own energy to Moscow, where citizens bustle about the frozen streets, clad in dark coats and warm hats, and look forward to what tomorrow may bring. As the semester progresses I expect the weather to also progressively get warmer after a few months."
  • Bread is the Head of Everything by Stephen Ratasky
    "It is customary in Russia to serve bread with every meal.  One of our fellow Russian students named Sergey said that “a meal without bread is not a meal.”  The evening meal does not consist of bread but mostly vegetables or salads, chicken if desired, or a dish derived from wheat."

Feeling You Are On a Different Planet

Written by Aaron Ladd, Junior at Kansas Fort Hays University

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to go to another planet that has humans and attempt to interact with them? That is how I felt upon arriving in Moscow Russia on January 16th. Being unable to communicate is such a limiting factor that we often take for granted when we (Americans) travel to other countries.

When we do travel we often go to places like South America. We have heard some Spanish so we have an idea of what they are talking about since that was the language we were taught in school or have heard it on the TV or radio. If we were to travel to Western Europe many of the people would speak English due to the amount of tourism or if they spoke a second language it is English since it is the international business language. This is not the case in Eastern Europe, with only a small number of the population speaking English and even a smaller amount speaking it outside of the tourist areas. After being in Russia for a week I began Russian language class to help minimize this barrier. The class started with the alphabet which sounds like an easy task but was not the case.


Russian Sign

The language has different signs for letters as well as using some of the English letters but switches which letter they actually represent like the letter C is actually S and H is N. Once the class got a feel of what the alphabet was we moved onto small words and some simple vocabulary.

After having Russian language for nine days I was ready to move onto the agriculture class but now I am wishing that we had Russian language more than just one day a week. I feel extremely rusty when we come to class on Monday morning and by the time we refresh about what we review what we learned in the previous lesson the period is up and the teacher has to go to another class. Interacting with the other students has helped with the language barrier but I am still wishing that I knew more words to make it easier when going to the market or to the bank to exchange money.

When the four months are complete I am sure that I will still feel like I barely know any Russian but I should at least be able to communicate with the merchants and not have to sign or attempt to sign what I want.

Bread is the Head of Everything

Written by Stephen Ratasky, Junior at Clemson University

Eating in MSAU Cafeteria

Of all the different aspects that are encompassed with the word “culture” food is by far my favorite.  I have been fortunate enough to experience quite a different array of dishes, soups, and beverages since I have landed here in Moscow, Russia and I am yet to be dissatisfied.  Many of the ingredients are the same as back at home in the United States but the preparation that goes into the cooking brings out interesting flavors and smells every time a hot meal is served. And hot is what we are looking for.

Moscow and all of Russia is notorious for their winter blizzards, strong winds and bone-chilling temperatures which makes a hot soup or “Суп” especially enjoyable after a long day outside in the streets.  The most common “Суп” is borsch, which is primarily composed of beets, cabbage, and carrots.  Throw some potatoes in there and you have a wonderful dish that warms you up the moment the first spoonful hits your mouth.  If the borsch is too hot then one can enjoy a fresh salad or “Салаты” to cool down the pallet.  The “Салаты” are a lot different then they are back home because most of the vegetables used are cabbage and carrots and many of the “Салаты” are vinegar based or made with mayonnaise.  Mayonnaise does not strike a particular fancy of mine but it is very common here in Moscow.

Russian agriculture is on the rise now which has not always been the case. Farmers are integrating new technologies with help from the government and enough food is being produced to feed the hungry mouths of Russia.  I have heard an old proverb from time to time that “it is better to kill than to feed.” 

This might sound very displeasing but when looking back on how insufficiently supplied this country was with essential and healthy nutrients, this proverb does not surprise me.  I much rather eat then have to worry about doing the latter.

Breakfast, also known as “zaftrak” is the first meal of the day which primarily contains bread and butter with tea or coffee. Our idea of lunch is the Russian “dinner” and this meal is also the largest of the day, taking place in early to mid-afternoon. Most of these meals consist of soup, usually followed with another dish being rice or fish or some kind of salad. Yet the most essential part of the meal is bread. 

It is customary in Russia to serve bread with every meal.  One of our fellow Russian students named Sergey said that “a meal without bread is not a meal.”  The evening meal does not consist of bread but mostly vegetables or salads, chicken if desired, or a dish derived from wheat. 

So far my favorite dish has been “plov” which is a dish made with seasoned rice, carrots, chopped onions, and beef chunks.  I along with the other students have been using the kitchen to the best of our abilities to help cut down on spending.  I brought some Zatarain’s Gumbo Mix from home and made the dish to celebrate Mardi Gras but unfortunately I was not able to serve this to any of my Russian classmates.  Aaron and I went across the street the other night to one of the local vendors and had a fried dough wrap stuffed with shaved chicken, sour cream, peppers, salsa, and onions. It was amazing! Unfortunately I can see us eating more than our health’s share of those while we are here. Yet, I know I can’t find something of that quality within a 5 minute walk at home.  Overall I have been very impressed, pleased and full from all the food here in Moscow. I can not wait to sample more of the local cuisine and hopefully learn how to prepare some of these delicious meals.  Bon appetite!

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