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Trip to Moscow, Part 2

May 2, 2009

Today, I have a lot of down time because the Russians are all going to their country homes this weekend, except for Masha.  I will do stuff with her later this afternoon.  Anyway, I finally figured out how dinner works at the hotel.  I had salmon Slavonic style on Tuesday night.  Thankfully the menu has English translations of the food for some reason, even though none of the staff at the hotel speaks any English.  I can communicate with the staff at a very basic level of Russian, pointing, and over exaggerated hand gestures.  I write things down such as my room number when I check in my key for the day.  I think the staff recognizes me and is aware that I don’t speak any Russian.  Some might even know that I am from the United States, such as the lady at the front desk who registered my visa.  Most of the guests at this hotel are Russian, there are also Chinese guests at the hotel who seem to be fluent in Russian.  The second largest group of people in Mosc ow are the Asians.  You see Chinese people and some people around the campus Moscow state University.  There are also the Central Asian people from the former Soviet Union, who are the people that do all of the dirty work and hard jobs around town.  They fill the same labor niche in Russia as the Mexicans and Central Americans fill in the United States.  Yesterday, I saw the police in the park pulling aside a group of people who were either from the Middle East or the Caucasus region of Russia/Georgia/Armenia, etc.  I asked Dmitry Bagrov whether they pull everyone over like that.  He said they probably would not pull us over to check our documents.  That is racial profiling to me.  They have a square across the street from my hotel dedicated to Mahatma Ghandi.  I saw a couple of Indians around the University.  I saw two Africans during the Military parade.

Back to the plot.  On Wednesday morning, Petr picked me up from the hotel in his Lada.  Petr was late due to the terrible Moscow Traffic.  I checked my e-mail at the lab, and threw together a presentation that I found out about at the last minute.  My boss Yuri came over to the lab.  We had an early lunch with Yuri and the students.  I dropped 100 Rubles into my bowl of soup, and it had to be replaced.  I so noobed out the first couple of days.  It was a fish soup with cabbage and potatoes.  I have had fish everyday in Russia.  I also had some other stuff, like a Blini with Ricotta cheese and some salad with Russian sausage that Yuri’s wife, Luda, seems to love, but that I did not care for.  We then had lab meeting.  By this time I was so laggy, and we were transported to another building by our host, Dr. Yaminsky, who drove us in his brand new Volkswagen Passat, with leather seats.  It was his birthday, so there were juices, chocolates, including the ones that I brought with me to the trip.  I was the first to go up, and I was so out of it when I gave my talk, and Yuri was bobbing his head up and down.  I guess it turned out good though.  Yuri said that.  Another student called Dmitriy also said the same thing.  The Russians seemed interested.  It was hot those first two days and I sweated so much.  I had the longest of all of the presentations.  After the presentation, Dr. Yaminsky took Igor and I to the Sparrow Hills overlook point for photo opportunities and visited a small Russian Orthodox Church.  I spent the evening posting the images online and calling family.  That night, I ordered chicken Kiev from the hotel restaurant.  It was smoky in there that I got a sore throat that lasted until the next evening.  I took a walk to the grocery store to try to get some fresh air and some razor blades.  I got lost in the store and then I left.  Then I went to the hotel room, took a Benadryl and slept fitfully for 1 hour.  I then got up with a really burning throat and I drank some cherry juice really fast to make myself feel better.  I then got stomach cramps and I thought that I was going to puke.  I just ended up lying on my pillow and farting.  I had trouble sleeping that night, but I think that I got more sleep that night than on the first night in Moscow.  The next day I felt terrible, and I had to plan an experiment with Petr.  We went back and forth over what could be done, and planned alternative experiments instead.  The Russians spoke to each other in Russian and it got really boring after a while.  We then went down to the cafeteria had some more lunch.  I had some potato soup and some pork again.  I forgot.  It was such an unremarkable dish.  Petr and I then went to the chemistry department in his car.  We talked to this organic chemist called Alexander  We had tea and they discussed things in Russian.  The reaction was possible to do, but it would take some time to synthesize the reagents needed for the experiment to move forward.  Therefore, we had to plan alternative experiments.  I talked to the computer programmer Alexander Filonov about the software that they use in the lab, which we also use in our lab back at home, and he gave me a demo of the latest version of Femtoscan.  I called home then went to the hotel to change into warmer clothes.  By this time it was getting very cold and gloomy outside.  Igor picked me up from the hotel and we took the metro to Christ the Savior Cathedral and walked toward Red Square.  It was closed off, and we ate at McDonalds.  I had shrimp, farm style potatoes, which are fries with the skin still on it, and McNuggets, which tasted a little different than they do in America.  When eating, a Russian girl with really short hair was smoking, and I began hacking really loudly.  She said something to me and I told her that I did not speak Russian.  We passed by the Bolshoi theatre, which is under renovation.

I went to bed and slept better.  I had the BBC news on and I was half asleep when I found out about an incident in the Netherlands where some black Geo Metro ran over a crowd of people during the Queen’s birthday.  At first I thought it was part of one of my nightmares, but the next morning I saw the same story on the news.  Creepy.

On Friday, Dmitry showed me around.  I missed breakfast, so I went to the store by myself and bought some waffles and juice and some more CONE FOREST ECOLOGICALLY PURE WATER.  I then went to the convent with Dima and through a park.  We went to the Circus near the University.  There were different nationalities such as Africans, Azerbaijanis, Chinese, Mongolians, Romanians, Colombians, and Russians.  It was impressive, as they changed the stage often.  I may describe more later.  We then stopped at the hotel so I could swap some batteries from my camera.  We then went to the WWII park, and triumph arch.  We then took the Metro to Dima’s house for dinner with his mom.  The Russians live simply.  The apartment was built in the 1960s.  There are four rooms.  A typical bathroom from Soviet times has a faucet that pivots from the sink to the bathtub, and a toilet that you pull up on a knob to flush.  We had to wear slippers in the apartment.  There was also a kitchen that was small.  The refrigerator was in the front entry way.  The washing machine for the clothes was in the restroom.  I guess they dry their clothes with a clothesline, which is common in what I have seen in Russian apartments.  There was a den, where the computer was and where his mom had a piano.  Dmitry slept in the living room.  They listened to Relax FM.  They had dial-up internet, which required Dima to disconnect the phone temporarily to get the internet.   I had some squid for the first time.  I then went home.  This morning was nothing special, though.




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