Written by Blaise Nicklas, an Edinboro University Junior attending Penn State this semester
Two weekends ago, instead of staying in Moscow, we accompanied our friends Stas, Pasha, Dima, and Katya to Stas’s hometown of Taldom, about 68 miles north of the capital. Taldom was founded in 1677 and has a population of 13,334. We met Saturday morning and took the train from a station not far from our hostel. The train was similar to the one we took when we returned from Kolomna. After a two-hour ride, we arrived in Taldom. From the dusty platform, we took Dima’s car the rest of the way to Stas’s home.
When we made it to Stas’s house, his mother, Luba, had prepared sweet bliny (traditional Russian pancakes) and tea for us. As we all love bliny, this was a welcome introduction. We introduced ourselves to Stas’s parents and also met the family’s cat and dog, both named “Beliy,” Russian for “white.” For us
American students, this was the first average Russian house we had visited. Katya’s family in Ozyory lived in an apartment, which is also a very common arrangement in Moscow. We saw no apartment blocks in Taldom, only individual homes. The inside of Stas’s home was beautiful, with a dark wooden interior and welcoming atmosphere.
Stas had promised us shashlik (a Russian/Uzbek take on shish kebab) for dinner that evening, but we didn’t expect it to be freshly slaughtered. To our surprise, a lamb had been butchered just for our arrival. The new pelt by the side of the house evidenced this. We were very appreciative of this generous touch, as we love shashlik as well. That evening, Stas, Dima, and Pasha cut up wood for the fire and slid the lamb meat onto skewers. These skewers were then laid over the fire and grilled; we compared the situation to a typical barbecue in the U.S. After a short wait and a few turns, the shashlik was
ready. We also had black bread to accompany it. It was by far the best shashlik we’ve had during the whole trip.
We retired late into the night, but not before poring over a map of the U.S. with Stas’s mother, each pointing out our respective states. The next day, we had meat-filled bliny for breakfast and then made our way to the train station for the return to Moscow. With our overall trip winding down, we value these experiences more than ever and I know that they are ones that I will remember most vividly after my return home.
Also in this Issue...
- On American Ground Again by Aidan Lowe
"We heard from both economic and political advisors. They told us how they became involved with the foreign service and what they did on a day-to-day basis. Some of the presenters had journeyed all over the world and were employed in a variety of service settings, from human rights work to counseling services."
- Novodevichy Convent by Chris Olvey
"While in the convent, we took some great pictures and managed to see some of the church service held that day. The church’s interior was incredibly beautiful, with murals on the ceiling and icons on the walls where people pray.."
- Presentations in Russian?! by Malisa Manning
"The presentations went smoothly, for the most part, with only a few technical difficulties and mispronunciation errors, which many of the Russians in the room were quite helpful in correcting. As each of us finished, we breathed a sigh of relief.."
Issue Photographer: Malisa Manning
Issue Reviewer: Blaise Nicklas
Written by Aidan Lowe, a Clemson University Sophomore
Last Monday, we visited the American Embassy, which is located in downtown Moscow. It was quite tricky to get inside the complex. We first had to enter through the correct doors, which was harder than it seems because there were at least four entrances. After several passport checks and metal detectors, we were given special badges, which permitted us to be on the grounds of the embassy. This is the second American Embassy that was built in Moscow because the first had to be demolished due to the fact that most of the construction materials were bugged with listening devices.
Both Russians and Americans are employed at the embassy. I was surprised to learn that in some of the offices, the main language spoken is Russian.
We were presented with information about the role of the embassy in Russia, how to obtain a career in foreign affairs, and student internship programs. We heard from both economic and political advisors. They told us how they became involved with the foreign service and what they did on a day-to-day basis. Some of the presenters had journeyed all over the world and were employed in a variety of service settings, from human rights work to counseling services.
Foreign officer terms in a particular country usually last two years.
Another main project of the Embassy is assisting Russian students studying in America. It is essential that students be given this opportunity, as it promotes cross-cultural awareness and understanding. We learned that in 2008, approximately 1,200 Russian students studied in America, with the three most popular states of study being New York, California, and Massachusetts. One of our presenters, Janae Cooley, mentioned that the embassy is similar to an American island in the middle of Moscow. Most of the American employees live on the grounds of the embassy in flats and their children attend an American school that is also located on the compound. The embassy employees are a close-knit community and work, learn, and live together daily.
Overall, it was an extremely interesting trip. It was riveting to learn the stories of the various embassy workers; some had traveled and worked everywhere from the Caribbean to the Middle
East. We learned that there are several opportunities for both American and Russian students who are interested in foreign affairs. I was also glad to see some of the basic things we take for granted back home—Oreo cookies and conversations with American citizens!