A Travellerspoint blog

Vladimir and Suzdal

Yesterday, we left Moscow in Gregory’s car. Gregory is Valeryia’s older brother, who helped me get my VISA. Also accompanying us was his friend, Alexey.

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The first place we went to explore was Suzdal, and old medieval town adorned with churches and flowery meadows. It is part of the Golden Ring, a famous ring of cities northeast of Moscow. We had a very interesting day – we visited many churches. At one point, there were 400 churches for 4000 families!

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Outside the Kremlin, we entered a wooden village. All of the houses, windmills, and churches were all made of wood, and not a single nail used to construct them. We also learned a lot about peasant life during a tour of the village.

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Also in Sudal, we drank the local wine – made from Honey. We drank 10 different samples at a really cool traditional restaurant, with the waitresses dressed in traditional outfits.
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We spend the night in Vladimir, a town named after the man who brought the Roman Orthadox church to Russia. We saw several beautiful Unesco heritage sites, including a giant gate which used to guard the city from Mongolians, as well as more churches.

Later that night at our hotel, I taught Gregory and Alexey how to play 9-ball. We drank more honey wine and had a great time.

The next morning, we went to a traditional Russian Banya (bathhouse). It involves sitting in a hot sauna while being beaten with branches from a birch tree. Afterwards, we jumped into a cold lake. It was amazing.

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Tonight, Valeriya's friends came over. They were an interesting bunch, and it was great talking politics with them and watching funny movies on youtube. One of them (who's name I will not mention) is going to the FSB school (foreign intelligence), another is studying to be an anviation mechanic. One of them was also born in Germany (his father was in the Russian Army), except he was born on the OTHER side of the wall!

Posted by e1quarnst 11:05 Comments (3)

Moscow

Day 1

Today we woke up bright and early to get me registered at the local post office. After dealing with the red tape, we headed to Tverskaya, in central Moscow. After walking a few blocks from the Pushkin memorial statue, we went to the Gulag museum. It was a depressing to hear about all the terrible things that happened during this sad chapter of Russian history. At many tourist attractions in Russia, foreigners have to pay a separate (and higher) entrance fee. Val purchased both of our tickets at the same time with me waiting outside. We found out later that we had to be accompanied by a guide. I just nodded and pretended I understood during the whole tour, and I will never know if he figured it out or not.

We ate the sandwiches we prepared for ourselves in front of Moscow’s famous Bolshi Theater, which unfortunately was closed for renovations. But the scenery was nice; the architecture in central Moscow is amazing.

After lunch we headed to the Soviet Union history museum, which recounted the years of communism from the revolution all the way to its fall in 1993. Although the museum was all in Russian, I had a very patient and brilliant linguist assisting me – my girlfriend!

We then hopped back on the subway and went to the Armed Forces museum. I felt like a kid in Disneyland – they had all the World War 2 vehicles and weapons that I became familiar with from my videogames and BBC documentaries. The highlight of the museum was the flag that the Russians planted atop the Reichstag, marking the end of the war in Germany. Also present was the American U2 spy plane, shot down in 1960.

We came back to Valeriya’s flat after meeting her mother, who has been VERY sweet to me, even before I arrived. I presented her with some tea that I brought her from Shanghai, and she presented me special, limited edition “Putin” brand vodka called “Putinka”. As a lifelong Moscovite, she had lots of interesting stories to tell about her family history, as well as her life throughout Russia’s changes. She told me she remembered hearing the tank explosions when parliament we being shelled, and wondering if she should pick up Val at Kindergarden that day. Also touching was her stories of the aftermath, when ration cards had to be used to buy everything, and basic essentials such as soap and sugar could only be obtained after long waits in line.

Valery has been proudly cooking me authentic Russian dishes wish are really delicious. For breakfast, she made me special packackes with milk curds, and for dinner we had kotlety (meat rissoles) – a delicious meat, pork, onions, eggs, and bread combination. I finally got to try holodets (meat jelly), which I was kind of afraid of, but it was really good! And

For a first day, it’s been quite memorable.
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Posted by e1quarnst 14:02 Comments (3)

Summer 2009

Class reunion

The past month, i've been working a lot - the summer offers the most work than any other time of the year. Last year, I took as much work was available, in order to visit my good friends in Europe. So I thought, why should this year be any different? This year I've chosen to visit Russia and England, despite the fact that the cities that I will be visiting are the two most expensive cities in the world!

In Russia, I will be visiting my beautiful girlfriend Valery. Her family has gone through a lot of work at hassle to arrange my visit - everything from helping me obtain my VISA to calling the places that we will go to visit and arranging accommodation. I really hope that I don't disappoint them, and that I can be a good representative of my country, to show that this is a new age that we are living in, where world powers can work together as friends, and not enemies.

In England, I will visit two people very dear to my heart - Ed and Josie. I've known them since arriving in Shanghai and our first semester at ECNU. Josie eventually went on to work full-time as an English Teacher, and Ed continued at ECNU as my classmate for the next year and a half. The two of them have dealt patiently with my break-up with Amara (including some of my immaturity during that time), and always remained fair and impartial to both of us during the whole time. Although it is sad to see them go, I know that they are on to bigger and better things, and my hopes and prayers go out to both of them.

Joining us in England will be Anne-Laure, also a former classmate, whom I visited when I went to France last year. It will be a nice reunion of friends.

Posted by e1quarnst 12:28 Comments (3)

July

Birthdays, Solar Eclipses, and so on

For my birthday this month, I invited my friends to my favorite Xinjiang restaurant. We ordered an entire goat, which was enough to feed the entire party. At 100 dollars, it was a real bargain. It was a nice reunion of friends.

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Yesterday, a solar eclipse shined above Shanghai. Unfortunately, it was so cloudy and rainy we were unable to see it. I even bought the special sunglasses in advance! However, it was very cool seeing City go pitch black for a few minutes at half past nine in the morning. It reminded me of the solar eclipse in Hawaii that I saw as a boy (even though that was just a partial eclipse).

Next week my dear Valery will leave back for Russia, but it is comforting to know that I will see her in Moscow in August. Her family has been very nice and helpful to me, from helping me with my VISA to helping me arrange my itinerary. I hope that I do not disappoint them.

I've spent the past week interviewing with different companies about a full-time job when I come back in September, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. So I look forward to the upcoming year.

Posted by e1quarnst 10:10 Comments (5)

update

thats all it is, an update....... but please enjoy

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, so I figured I’d give an update. Since getting back from the Philippines, there has not been much to tell – but a few things stand out in my mind.

Kristin’s cousin Danielle came to visit Shanghai for a few days, and we a good time showing her around our great city before she headed out for Beijing.

I got a chance to meet with the GVSU group one night at KTV, and I got to see Dr. Shang. It was good to see him again.

The other night Valery and I went to an engagement party for our friends Ken and Helen. It was at a really fancy Japanese restaurant beside the Jin Mao tower. We had a great time, and our friend Henry (the best man) gave a really nice speech.

Me with my Korean friend Sam:
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Helen and Ken:
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Val and Helen:
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Recently I’ve also been seeing the departure of good friends back to their home countries. Amara has gone back home, our classmate Jin returned to Korea, my good friend Felicity will head back to England soon, and probably the most difficult – my close friends Nate, Heidi, and Beau all recently returned to Michigan.

Jin's farewell dinner:
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My British friends Ed and Josie will be returning to England in July, and Valery to Moscow around the same time. So I decided to fly to Moscow and London in August, using the money I’ll earn in July. The tickets to both places were around the same price as flying only to Moscow, so figured i'd go for it!

Mom should be here in a few weeks, and we are all excited about her arrival.

Our wonderful Ayi and her friend Tui Ayi, whom we owe our life for helping us out with our apartment issues:
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-Erik

Posted by e1quarnst 08:50 Comments (4)

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