Through the Russian Looking Glass

>> Thursday, 20 August 2009

Priviat (sp), Blogging Comrades!

Yes, the Potski Familiski is visiting Mother Russia, hence the unaccustomed quiet on my part over the last few days. It’s an interesting experience being here, not least because there is no internet connection where we are staying, so I’m reduced to begging for crumbs from the internet table when Husband is not tapping away on the laptop. This is a rare occurrence since he's working flat out, so I've been forced to adopt a more laid-back approach to posting over the last couple of days. I can handle it, this lack of access, of course. It’s not making me itch, or anything. Not at all...

Anyway, you don’t want to hear about my addictions. I bet what you’re really wondering is - if you've not been here yourself, of course - what is it like over there? Well. More different from home than I’ve noticed on any of my previous trips, to be honest. Perhaps that’s because it’s more the same, as well. What on earth am I talking about?

The first time I visited Moscow was back in 1995. It was not long after the communist regime fell apart, so of course it was all new, exciting, and the city had more than a hint of the wild west about it. There was an air of energy, an attitude of ‘anything goes’. I loved it. Not enough to up-sticks and actually move over here to join then Boyfriend (eventually to become Husband), you understand (which in hindsight was exactly what I should have done), but still, it was exciting. Certainly Russia was more raw than anywhere else I had visited in my sheltered life up until that point.

Now? Well, now it is more as if I’ve stepped through the looking glass. I’ve been back a few times since ’95, but perhaps it’s finally being here with the children that have given me this impression. You know, trying to do some of the same things – shopping, finding a local playground, watching Husband trek off to the office – whilst being a completely different city where I speak about 3 words of the local lingo. One of which – vodka – is not one I’ve much cause to use whilst looking after my boys...

At first glance, things over here look – sort of – the same as they do back home. Same Starbucks on the street corner (thank god for wifi), same Macdonalds serving nutritiously questionable meals, same brands of car on the street. Scratch the surface though, and things are not quite so similar. And I’m not just talking about the fashion, the ridiculously high numbers of smokers*, and the similarly high proportion of unattractive men...

Through the Looking Glass Example 1: The UK is a relatively safe country, isn't it? Apparantly not, at least, not to the rest of the world. Before disembarking the plane, for example, no-one was allowed to leave the plane until a rather large lady wearing socks with sandals had boarded it and, holding a star-trek type of ray gun device, had pointed it at our ears and pronounced us well enough to be admitted to her glorious country. Oink, Oink...

Through the Looking Glass Example 2: At the supermarket the same evening we arrived, when wandering past the fish counter, Boy #2 was delighted to see a sizeable aquarium behind it, with fairly large fish swimming around in it. The next moment an assistant was fishing one of them out with a net, (you think you know what’s coming, don’t you? I certainly didn’t), and in what I suppose was actually a more humane gesture than simply letting the poor thing drown from lack of water, she put it in a sink and clubbed it to death with a special ball-headed hammer before putting it in a plastic bag and handing it – ungutted – to the customer. Not what you see at your local Sainsbury’s, as a rule. Boy #2 took it surprisingly well. In fact, he showed rather more interest in the hammer that she used – asking all sorts of questions about it – than I would have expected. Perhaps C-Beebies is more subversive viewing than I realised?

Through the Looking Glass Example 3: Yesterday we spent the morning viewing apartments and houses shown by pony-tailed estate agents that had such attractive features as a raised bed platform with – gasp, the convenience! - a bath directly next to it. That;'s in the same room. You could, in fact, roll straight from one to the other. Questionable taste is not a purely British affliction, it seems...

Anyway, time to go. Husband needs the laptop and I'm about to run out of Starbucks wifi credit. Plus, my hot chocolate has gone cold. There's another through the looking glass moment, by the way. It's Autumn here. I wish someone had told me that before I packed a beautiful capsule wardrobe suitable for - yes, you guessed it - weather about 10 degC warmer than it is here...

*Note; interestingly, I had been going to write: 'the ridiculously high proportion of beautiful women', because when I first visited here 14 years ago that was indeed the case. Gorgeous girls wherever you looked, with skirts up to their elbows showing off long toned legs and fantastic figures. But guess what? I discovered today from people watching that fast food seems to have levelled the playing field there a little. Food for thought - if you'll pardon the pun...


Chic Mama 20 August 2009 at 20:31  

Really interesting son no 2 would also be very interested in the fish clubbing. Very worrying. I hope you will tell us more. How long are you there for?

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy 20 August 2009 at 22:39  

Welcome to Eastern Europe! If it is anything like Bosnia then don't hold your breath on the playground front. It is however a good 40C here, so can I borrow some of your wardrobe?

Enjoy your stay. Have you taken the boys on the metro?

Grit 20 August 2009 at 23:00  

adventuresome times. i look forward to reading more!

Mwa 21 August 2009 at 13:00  

I love reading about other countries. More! More!

Nicola 21 August 2009 at 14:00  

Oh wow. Sounds like you are going to have some very interesting tales to tell when the move becomes permanent. Fish clubbing - ugh. Oh well, at least you know the most important word in the language to help you through...

nappy valley girl 21 August 2009 at 16:29  

Sounds intriguing. So is the move definitely happening? It will be a big change for you all...

Mya 21 August 2009 at 20:00  

Very interesting. I thought you were going to say she milked the fish for caviar. But, that's probably just me.Take care.
Mya x

Frog in the Field 23 August 2009 at 13:28  

They club fish to order?
Let's hope that never becomes the thing in Waitrose!

Tattie Weasle 24 August 2009 at 09:43  

Fish clubbing: how wonderful! No seriously, you know it's fresh then so much better than the sad dull eyed specimens in Tesco's here. I know I should go to the local fish mongers but they're 30 miles away!
Wonderful post and glad to hear that equality on the figure front is being globalised by that bastion of democracy MacDonalds...

Iota 26 August 2009 at 22:04  

There would have been NO point moving to Russia in 1995, because you weren't blogging then, so would have had no proper audience to share the adventure with.

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