Thursday, May 27, 2004

The Things I Miss About America

This one's for you, Libby. Maybe this will scare Amy out of moving your granddaughter to Russia:

1) The expectation of a hot shower every day. Jeff and I have had to take two cold showers since we arrived -- and I do mean cold. When I finished washing my hair in Moscow the morning after we arrived, my scalp was literally numb. In Russia, the hot water is turned off by region at least two weeks at a time during the summer while officials do repair work to pipes, and Masha said the two-week process usually takes longer. (Sounds like Russia already fully understands some principles of the American free-market system quite well!) Russians also can expect to have their flow of halt water halted regularly at certain times in the morning (that's what happened today), so you have to hope you plan your showers right.

2) Cold Diet Coke (you know what I mean, don't you Rick?). The soft drinks here are lukewarm at best, and ice, as in most of Europe, is almost non-existent. And they don't really have Diet Coke. As in Guatemala, they have Coca Cola Light. My tastebuds are trained to the after taste of true, American Diet Coke, with all those cancer-causing substitutes, and I find the taste of Coca Cola Light completely unappealing. That's why I'm drinking the real thing here, if I drink any cola at all. I'd rather have all the sugar of real Coke or none of it in Diet Coke. Masha says that makes me a "maximalist." I like that.

3) Red meat. Rick asked about a food staple here. They eat a lot of dumplings, and some of it has red meat, but other than that I haven't noticed anything we have regularly. So far I've had curds (not as bad as I expected), millett porridge, hot dogs (nothing like the U.S. version), canned salmon, lots of rice and potatoes and homemade chicken soup (very tasty). The one staple I've noticed has nothing to do with the meal itself: tea and sweets, ranging from cookies and cake to chocolate bars. We also eat a lot of crackers. Twice we have been invited to people's homes expecting meals, only to have sweets and tea. And we burned off all of that walking home. Masha was with us both times and she was starving, too, so she was kind enough to cook us late-night meals. But what I want more than anything right now is a big steak ... or a plate of ribs ... or both!!!

4) Public transportation with breathing room. I am amazed at how many people cram onto the half-pint buses here (they call 'em taxis). I really don't want to get to know Russians that well! A few nights ago, one guy (Tom later told us he was drunk, but Jeff and I didn't notice any tell-tale signs) was convinced he had seen me on a TV show. He reached that conclusion after he asked me about my family, and I told him I have two adopted children. He had watched a documentary on adoption, he said, so certainly that was me on TV. Well, OK maybe that was the tell-tale sign that he was drunk. That should give you an idea of some of the clientele on the overcrowded buses/taxis here. I long for a Metro ride where I can have some elbow room.

5) My car. Yes, I am a lazy American and proud of it. I WANT MY CAR!!! I hate walking and traveling by bus ... and train ... and tram ... and taxi. I want to drive. I want to be in control. I want to travel more than four or five miles in 30 minutes (D.C.'s evening rush hour aside). I'd like to say I'm losing weight from all of the walking, but Russians eat chocolate after every meal -- and sometimes as their meal. If Jeff thought he was more narrow than me when I arrived, wait until I get back home. So if I'm gonna gain weight while I'm here, it would be nice to be able to park my fat self behind the wheel of a car!!!

6) Clean streets. The amount of dust and dirt on the streets here astounds me. I've always been amused by the people in Washington, D.C., whose job is to hose down the sidewalks outside various buildings in the business district. I see them every morning when I walk to work, and I think to myself, "What a waste of water and money that is." I still think it's a waste ... but I have a greater appreciation of why they do it. The same goes for trash collection and pickup. Rubbish floats around the streets of Nizhny, and trash cans in public areas can be quite uncommon. If the wind kicks up, as it did regularly today, you may be eating dust and fighting off floating debris as you walk miles ... and miles ... and miles.

7) My daughter. All week in my head, I've heard her sweet little voice calling from the potty: "Daddy, I did it." How could I not want to be home to hear that? And I think of her every time Masha says Jeff couldn't possibly pass for a Russian because he's too happy and dresses too American. I, on the other hand, have the grumpy Russian look down pat, according to Masha. It's the one I taught Elli months ago so she can use it when boys start approaching my beautiful princess in her teenage years.

8) My son. I love coming home from work every night to watch Steve "The Crocodile Hunter" Irwin with Anthony. Tom and Masha have the Animal Planet channel as part of their limited cable selection, but I haven't yet found a time when Steve is on the tube. And let's face it, it just ain't the same hearing some Russian voice drown out Steve when he says of some reptile in his Australian dialect, "Isn't she a beauty?" It's all the more special when you hear it with your precious four-year-old son.

9) My wife ... my life.


Blogger Scott's said...

Hey! looks like you're on right now b/c you JUST posted this. i haven't even read it yet but we miss you (this is Charlei AGAIN) LOL i forget you don't automatically know which Scott it is...the only one that's posted so far i guess. Later gater!

10:58 PM  
Blogger Danny said...

Hey, Charlei, nice to here from you. Yep, I'm online right now. Thanks for all of your comments and for being a regular reader of my blog.

11:36 PM  
Blogger David R said...

1) I don't have the expectation of a hot shower every day... I don't even have the expectation of a shower every day!

3) David seems to have the idea that meat is not a regular enough thing around here either.

4) OK, this would bother me.

I feel exceedingly materially rich. THanks for the reminder.

Keep the posts coming! And thanks for spending some of your time over there sitting in front of a computer.


2:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Kimberly and Anthony:

Anthony says: I'm having a good time here and Uncle Glen bought me a remote control car and it's a really good one. I love Daddy. The Mudbug festival was so good. And they have all these blow up things to bounce on and a basball thing (a batting cage for kids) and I had gumbo. My face got painted with a spider and a snake and I want a spider on my tummy next so I can be like spiderman. Granny Mary (Mary Earle) has squeeze butter in a white thing(tube), we had dinner there tonight and ate biscuits and corn pudding(Mommy cooked). I'm having a great time here. I love the pictures (Jeff's photos). I miss you and I'm having a great time eating and having fun!

Kimberly says: I just realized that kids don't speak in paragraphs, but one long train of thought! Elli would have written too but, she's asleep for the night. Anthony's tummy is upset so he's having trouble falling asleep. (Too much spicy gumbo and late nights). Both kids need some serious sleep time!

I love you so much, but I'm very proud of what you and Jeff are doing in Russia. I miss you!



6:16 AM  

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