Katie Moore
Katie Moore

One Great Night


Written by Katie Moore, a Clemson University Junior

As a feisty Irish girl, it is to be expected that I would celebrate St. Patrick's Day with much fervor and festivities. During my years at home, my mom would provide my brother and I with buttons and green shirts to signal to the world that we were Irish and proud. Our dinners would be complete with green mashed potatoes, green applesauce, green cookies, green pancakes, etc. Thus, coming up onto March 18, 2011, I was a little apprehensive about the idea of celebrating St. Pat's in Moscow (especially because the annual parade on Arbat Street was canceled). You know what they say though, if you can't bring Mohammad to the mountain, you bring the mountain to Mohammad… or something like that.

It's very important for me to make sure that I am always wearing green on St. Patrick's Day. Unfortunately, I did not bring any green items of clothing to Moscow. I instantly changed that by drawing a shamrock on my forearm with a green pen. Problem solved. Dr. Katie McKee, our fabulous teacher for the month of March, shares my affinity for Irish culture and was just as enthusiastic about engaging in an adventure. So, at about 3:30 we set off to find some mischief.

Karlie, Katie and I began our festivities for the day by taking the most convoluted route on the Metro possible. We had 3 line changes and multiple stops on each line; it was an ordeal. I noticed the banality of the Russian people more so today than other days. No one was wearing green, no one was cheerful, and no one was celebrating. It was tragic.

Our destination for the day was an inexpensive souvenir shop on the other side of town. Unfortunately the guidebook did not include detailed direction, so ultimately we were unable to locate this mythical souvenir shop. However, while on our wild goose chase, Katie entertained us with Irish folk stories. We also kept ourselves entertained by singing show tunes up and down the sidewalk, much to the chagrin of our fellow pedestrians. (Our harmonies were incandescent, in case you were wondering).

A wonderful St. Patrick's Day in T.G.I. Friday
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A wonderful St. Patrick's Day in T.G.I. Friday.

So, after our unsuccessful venture, we decided to take a chance on a strip mall located close to the metro. Being the lackadaisical people we are, Karlie, Katie and I had no problem absentmindedly wandering the myriad of little shops littered with snobby Russian storeowners. I don't think the concept of customer service is quite as pronounced in Russia as it is in the US. Nevertheless, this did not temper our mood (we were hyper after singing songs from The Sound of Music).

After a bout of unsuccessful, yet entertaining, shopping, we decided to stop in T.G.I. Friday for a little American dinner. I could have cried tears of joy at the sight of chicken fingers and honey mustard. I never realized how much I missed those little bundles of cholesterol. Our waitress was the nicest girl I've come across. She was so enthusiastic and willing to speak English. We

Katie with one of the free shirts we won.
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Katie with one of the free shirts we won.

wondered the motives behind this service. We debated whether or not there was a correlation between the customer satisfaction and the American origins of T.G.I. Friday's.

St. Patrick's Day was in full swing at T.G.I. Friday. To make a long story short, I will just say that our night concluded with free t-shirts, full stomachs, and a happy state of mind. But overall, I think it is important to note the disparity in customer service between the boutiques and our waitress at T.G.I. Friday. I suppose Russia is a nation of contrasts, which was perpetuated in our fantastic night out.

Also in this Issue...

  • Two Nations, One Classroom by Shelli Danjean
    "Having others that think differently than you, with different life experiences, is always useful when developing ideas; however, ideas can be extremely conflicting, and the language barrier can cause problems. It takes patience from everyone involved to make the classroom experience here a successful one."
  • Slowly, but Surely, Spring is Coming by Marie Vogler
    "Here, we work together to solve problems, discusses issues, and come up with a solution as a class. We learn as a "team" you could say. While it is sometimes slightly difficult, due to the language barrier, it is overall very stimulating. We dive into the information in front of us, and stay at it for six hours.."
  • Moscow's Multitude of Churches by Miles Atkinson
    "Inside, they are painted from floor to ceiling with Russian iconography; pictures of saints in elaborate gold and silver frames with prayer candles burning beneath them. Old women whisk past to kiss the pictures and light the candles. There are always paintings of God and Jesus up on the ceilings staring down at visitors with the trace of a frown, as if to say "we're on to you." "



Slowly, but Surely, Spring is Coming

Written by Marie Vogler, a Virginia Tech Senior enrolled at Clemson University for Spring 2011

Marie Vogler
Marie Vogler

On March 6th we celebrated Maslenitsa, the ancient Russian holiday that heralds the much-anticipated coming of Spring (Весна). On this day, an effigy of winter is burned, the hallmark gray weather begins to lift, and the birds begin to make regular appearances. It was as if someone flipped a switch, cueing the snow to begin melting—although though there have been only a few days above freezing since.

    The sun comes out just in time for a beautiful sunset.
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The sun comes out just in time for a beautiful sunset.

The Moscow River is now flowing freely and the sun is warm and out almost every day, a much welcome change from the dreary days of February. And although dodging puddles and slush is an art form we Americans are still perfecting (as usual, the Russian women manage it gracefully—in heels no less!), it is worth the muddy shoes and damp socks to see signs of a change in the weather. When they say Russian winters are long, they aren't exaggerating. I have never so eagerly welcomed Spring.

And yet, though Spring may be here, if the stacks of blini we ate on Maslenitsa signify as much, it sure is a tease, or maybe I am just anticipating it a little too much.

The ice on the river has finally melted.
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The ice on the river has finally melted.

Give me a few warm days (and a warm day in Moscow is anything around freezing or above), some sunshine, and the beginnings of grass through the melting snow and I think that it is time for flip-flops. But in my eagerness, I forget that this is still Russia and it is still March. Even at home in comparatively southern Virginia, March rarely brings all warm days and nice weather. Here, like at home, although we've had more sun and more people are coming out of hibernation, it is probably too hasty to call it "Spring" just yet. Russians are still walking outside in boots, heavy coats, and hats, and although we can now see the sidewalks, hefty puddles and patches of ice still remain.

Next weekend we will change our clocks here for Daylight Savings Time. This, to me, has always been a crucial indication of brighter, warmer days. This is the last year for that mile marker in Russia, and I can already tell that the days are getting longer as it no longer gets dark at 4 p.m. The darkness that falls over the country for the winter has begun to let up, and even the gray days don't usually last. The sun almost always reappears, usually just in time for a beautiful Moscow sunset.

I guess I cannot put my cuddle duds away just yet, Spring hasn't quite arrived. But I'm confident that it is coming—and if urging it on a little requires eating a few more blini, I'm perfectly OK with that.

 




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