Friday, March 9, 2007

Don’t leave home without your diplomatic potatoes.

Well, we have arrived safely and with all our maxed out luggage. It’s amazing what you can stuff in 200+ pounds of luggage. Thank god everything has wheels. Our apartment is just south of the Garden Ring which encompasses the inner part of Moscow. At first impression, it’s an amazing city. We haven’t waited longer than 3 minutes for the Metro or Bus. Within 5 minutes of our apartment we can hop on the Metro, bus or trolleybus and be most places in about 30 minutes. There are three 24-hour grocery stores and several pharmacies all within walking distance, not to mention the bakery, tabak (tobacco stands), large rinok (pronounced ree-nock, or large farmer’s market), plus vendors for just about everything else you could want on the street. If you thought Russia was still the center of bread lines and limited availability, put those preconceived notions aside. THIS is the NEW RUSSIA!

With the new Russia comes a high price. Inflation is on average 10% a year, and my jaw hit the floor at the sight of a litre of soy milk (from Finland no less) for about $10 USD. Yes, I bought the soy milk.

This doesn’t mean you can’t find a bargain. Fur is still cheap and fashionable (more in later postings on fur). In the Perehod, or underground crosswalks you can find good deals and plenty of pirated DVDs.

Today is International Women’s Day (March 8th). While originally a Communist holiday to celebrate the great contributions of women to the Soviet State, it now is a day for families to stay home and the men stop drinking enough vodka or beer to fix their wives dinner and relieve them of their household chores. In the new Russia, it’s an excuse for men to buy the women in their lives flowers formally unavailable in Soviet times. On the Metro and street this week you can see colorful splashes of tulips or roses poking out from the sea of brown and black coats. With a little prodding, I too received a bouquet of tulips. The closet equivalent in the US is Mother’s Day, but Women’s Day is better. There’s not the painful recollection of your family of origin issues, or marginalization of single or childless folks; this holiday embraces all women (and makes a ton for the flower vendors).

Well, if you’ve read this far, you might still be wondering about the diplomatic potatoes. While I made plenty of jokes about moving to the land of snow, cabbage, and potatoes, this actually has nothing to do with cooking or snow. Upon arriving in Russia, Diplomats and their families must register with the Foreign Ministry before receiving their credentials. After a few days, a pink laminated card with your picture is returned to you. This card doesn’t really do much for you except keep you out of trouble if you are stopped by the local Police and looks like something I could have engineered in High School Yearbook class. The Embassy tells us to make sure you carry your Dip Card with you at all times. Those of you who know the beauty of the Russian language know that there are many words with close pronunciations. As Tristan and I were getting ready to head our one afternoon, I tried my wonderful Russian out and said, “Don’t forget your Diplomatic Card.” With the slight mistake of a sh instead of a ch and shift in the accent, my potatoes were granted immunity and my card got left in fridge. I’m sure that won’t be my last language faux pas.

Lesson learned:

Remember the card, leave the potatoes.


Unknown said...

Hi guys, hooray for internet! I love your first post and can't wait for the next installments! Oh and Women's Day's going on our calendar right now for next year :-)

Allison said...

Hi guys i like your sight, especially the pictures. it was good to talk to you.

Anonymous said...

omg is so good to hear from you all. i keep asking sharon coleman if shes heard from you. YEAH!!! i love the potatoes story. as one who mixes her metaphors and occassionally forgets all languages i fully appreciate it. big hugs!!! from me and laura

Laurie Rudel said...

Yeah! So good to hear from you. Looking foward to more stories of life in Russia.

With love,

Laurie & Barb