link to Inter-Bridge.biz

My company teaches English face-to-face or over Skype. See my website: www.inter-bridge.biz

Saturday, 31 December 2011

53:Here's one I prepared earlier

I took this photo in the Kantimirovskaya district of Moscow yesterday afternoon but it is typical of such scenes being re-enacted all over the city. Groups, mostly but not exclusively men, gather together in the open air, maybe around a park bench, maybe just under some trees, for a few drinks and a chat. As I walked past this group (the one in the distance) the almost empty bottle of vodka was sitting on the bench and they were chatting away animatedly. Perhaps these people can't afford the prices in the pubs, I just don't know.
Can I also draw your attention to the "handsome" block of flats in the background. There are hundreds and hundreds of blocks of flats like this, all over the city. It's the first thing you notice from the air when you are coming in to land. How else do you accommodate >13,000,000 people? http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/russianow/society/8555676/Moscow-17-million-people.html




This will be the last blog for 2011. I would like to take this opportunity to wish anybody who may be reading this a very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year. The next few blogs will be from UK, where I am headed for a short break.
с наступаюшим Новым Годом. Желаю всем счастья и здоровья 

Friday, 30 December 2011

52:Fenced in

Can somebody help me with the logic here please? Traffic in Moscow is almost in a state of gridlock during the long morning and evening rush hours. Part of the reason for this is that there is an enormous shortage of parking spaces. Why then are the authorities putting up fences to reduce still further the limited amount of space available? Look at the width of this pavement. It's almost wider than the road. Cars parked on it before the fence was erected. There was plenty of room for cars and pedestrians. Now drivers will need to drive further to find somewhere to park, thus making the congestion worse. Hey Ho.




That's some shadow! I didn't realise I was so tall! This photo was taken yesterday. The snow has all but disappeared from Moscow. Global warming? Or just very unusual weather conditions?



Thursday, 29 December 2011

51:faxlore

The word faxlore has not yet appeared in the Oxford English dictionary but it is in Wikipedia (and therefore must be true?? :) ) as a kind of folklore sent by fax (and by extension, by email).
Folklore is the traditional beliefs, customs and stories of a community passed down through the generations.
I thought today I would counter yesterday's slight bias against Russia and Russians by 'poking fun' at lots of other nationalities - including mine.
Here then are a couple of items of 'faxlore' 


1.   Heaven is where the police are British, the lovers French, the mechanics German, the chefs Italian, and it is all organized by the Swiss.
Hell is where the chefs are British, the mechanics French, the lovers Swiss, the police German, and it is all organized by the Italians.
2.   The following is in what we call "mock German"
Achtung! Alles turisten und nonteknischen lookenpeepers!
Das maschine-kontrol ist nicht für der gefingerpoken und mittengraben! Oderwise ist easy to schnappen der springenwerk, blowenfusen und poppencorken mit spitzensparksen.
Der maschine ist diggen bei experten only!
Ist nicht für gewerken bei dummkopfen. Der rubbernecken sightseeren keepen das cottonpicken händer in das pockets.
Zo relaxen und watschen der blinkenlights.
3.  Can any of my students tell me the difference between "Winter draws on" and "Winter drawers on"?  A prize for the first correct answer (from one of my students).
A photo to finish (A photo finish?) I bought a set of matryoshka dolls earlier this year hoping to sell them in UK. So far, no takers. After some research I discovered that eBay has hundreds of matryoshki on offer. 

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

50:Fifty facts about Russians

This is my 50th blog. So far there have been very few comments and observations. This may change today with this article I have plagiarised. "50 facts about Russians" is reproduced below. I'm interested to see what kind of reaction follows......


1: Russians distrust anything cheap.
2: The English word "bargain" cannot be adequately translated into Russian.
3: Although Russians distrust anything with a cheap price, they are fine with freebies.
4: A Russian who reaches high levels of power feels it his his/her duty to put down those who don't.
5: In Russia you need to call the lazy waitresses over by aggressively yelling "Girl!"
6: One needs skills in hitting people with your elbows on the Moscow Metro.
7: In Russia you can drink beer on a park bench without getting arrested.
8: Russians gather in the kitchen and stay up very late, talking about "life".
9: Russians usually avoid talking about work.
10: During any reception in Russia people are immediately separated by gender.
11: There are a lot of police in Russia, most of whom do nothing.
12: Russians never throw anything away. Ever.
13: However, if Russians throw out half of their things, nobody notices.
14: A Russian stranger is likely to call you with familiarity, like "man" or "woman".
15: Russians don't usually say "please" or "thank you".
16: The Russian proverb "Arrogance - the second happiness" cannot be adequately translated into English.
17: Russians drink a lot of vodka. It's not a myth.
18: You don't have to fear for your life when walking the streets in Moscow alone at night.
19: Russian men are convinced that feminism has led to the collapse of the West, and Russia's historical mission is to resist.
20: A myth within a myth: Russians believe that Americans believe that bears walk the streets in Moscow, but this myth of a myth is a purely Russian invention. Americans actually believe all the bears in Russia are dead.
21: Russians simply do not understand it when a foreigner from the west applies for permanent residence in Russia.
22: Dentists are very surprised when people show up for a "routine" check-up. So are doctors.
23: Russians drink tea with a centimetre of sugar on the bottom of the cup.
24: All Russians, from young to old, abuse emoticons.
25: The number of brackets in an email or sms infers the importance of a message. For instance - Birthday party tonight ) means a birthday party, but Birthday party tonight )))))) means a fantastic blow-out extravaganza.
26: Moscow has the best subway system in the world.
27: Despite having the best subway system in the world, there are millions of Muscovites who refuse to ever take it, and spend half their lives stuck in traffic.
28: A Russian will use the slightest reason to bring everyone gifts of chocolate. "It's your birthday in four and a half months? Wow! Chocolate for the entire office!"
29: Anyone who speaks a language other than Russian is automatically suspect.
30: On New Year's, don't surprised if you are invited out at 11:30 pm, drink champagne and cognac until 6 am, eat herring under a fur coat and olivia salad in a kitchen, and then party in a flat for three more days.
31: The only alcohol-free zones in Russia are McDonalds.
32: Smiling for no reason makes Russians angry.
33: Borscht, cabbage rolls and pirogies are actually Ukrainian.
34: Russians don't send their elderly to nursing homes or make their children leave after 18; instead they all live together in the same 1-bedroom flat.
35: Despite the small roads and the frustrating traffic jams, Russians still buy giant SUVs.
36: Sushi is more popular in Russia than in Japan.
37: In fact, Japan is more popular in Russia than in Japan.
38: Russians are extremely friendly if they've known you for more than ten minutes. If you've known a Russian for at least a week, you will be invited to meet their family.
39: Russians are also extremely emotional and passionate, and although they don't show emotion in public, they cry and laugh and shout and play more than Italians.
40: Russians care more about the philosophical side of living than the material, and have a folk song for every situation.
41: Most Russians are very superstitious, and new-age superstitions are en vogue.
42: Russians are passionate lovers, and will quarrel like bitter enemies and make out like porn stars in public.
43: Russians love to criticsize their own country, but will be offended if a foreigner does.
44: If a cashier manages to not break anything while scanning your items, they have provided good customer service.
45: Russians love McDonald's, KFC, Subway and Burger King more than Americans.
46: Russians spoil their kids rotten, and then magically expect them to behave responsibly at the age of 18.
47: Although Russians eat more fast food than people in the west, Russians are still healthier.
48: Russians cannot do anything that requires putting a car in reverse. It can take the average Russian driver ten minutes to parallel park (I've seen it countless times).
49: Winters in Russia are actually quite beautiful, and Russians are fantastic winter drivers.
50: Russians are actually freer than westerners; there are less laws and social constraints, and yet the crime rate is lower than in the US or UK

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

49:Christmas tree

The season of goodwill to all men continues. Does that extend to all women as well? I am finding it difficult extending goodwill to the grumpy old cow that just served me my Ice Coffee in MakCafe. 
The weather is unusual to say the least. Instead of the -5 to -10 we might be expecting at this time of the year we are having +5 and a massive thaw and the snow is melting. They say the warm weather is coming from the Atlantic.
The daily grind continues unabated.
Today's photo shows "New Year" trees corralled and ready for sale. Such "selling points" spring up everywhere and often block access to pavements. In the Summer they sell Melons and Water Melons and in the Winter New Year trees.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

48:Merry Christmas

'tis the season of Good Will to all men (and women). I wish all my Christian readers a very Merry Christmas (according to the Gregorian calendar). Russian Orthodox readers will celebrate their Christmas on January 6th/7th (according to the Julian calendar). The Russian holiday will start on 31st December and carry on right through until they return to work on Monday 9th January. Very many Russians choose to travel abroad for these holidays and that goes some way to explaining why the air fares from UK to Moscow are so expensive from 5th-10th January!

Here is a link to a legal website that suggests that Post Office workers who accept a gift of more than £30 over Christmas will fall foul of the Bribery Act 2010. It is a serious website but I found it amusing on lots of levels.
http://www.lombardchambers.com/index.php/tis-the-season-of-goodwill-but-dont-fall-foul-of-the-bribery-act/
I wonder if there is a Bribery Act in Russia? Almost certainly. Is it rigidly enforced? Possibly not.

Hope you like today's photo. The rather large snowman is on top of an ice-skating rink. Such open-air rinks are everywhere at this time of the year and ice-skating is a very popular pastime among Russians. I must try it some day!




Saturday, 24 December 2011

47:It beggars belief

Sorry guys, I'm going to talk about begging again. It is endemic in Moscow. I see them every single day. And now the dear little old ladies are out on their knees in the snow. I must confess I weakened yesterday and gave this one some money.
They tend to fall into three categories: little old babushkas, crossing themselves frantically as you pass, ex-military  with no legs wheeling themselves on tiny trolleys up and down the metro system, and people with placards asking for money for an operation for their son or daughter or asking for money for bread because their son has died.
Many of the people I have spoken to suggest that begging is a highly organised racket and a large proportion of earnings goes to the the criminals who mastermind the operation. Be that as it may, it is still a crying shame to see an old lady on her knees in the snow. She should be at home with her feet up, enjoying her well-earned retirement. Not out on the streets all day and every day in the snow and the biting wind.
The State appears to be letting these people down.

Friday, 23 December 2011

46:"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."

I came across this quote from Oscar Wilde this morning and thought it was great: "Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go." Oscar Wilde.


While I'm on the subject of quotes, somebody told me on the way to work this morning that somewhere in Pushkin's Evgeniy Onegin there is a line that says something like "Winter is late this year - already November and the snow hasn't arrived". Global warming? These days the serious snow doesn't arrive until December or even January. It's here now!


Today's photo is for any UK car drivers reading this. Eat your heart out. Petrol here is 29 roubles a litre - about 60p. 



Thursday, 22 December 2011

45:Five stars

That's the name of a cinema here in Moscow (in fact it's the name of a network of cinemas in different cities in Russia). I went to the cinema this morning because I had 3½ hours to kill between lessons. I saw, and enjoyed immensely, an animated film called Arthur Christmas (in Russian it was called, strangely, The Secret Service of Santa Claus).
As you will see from the second photo, Winter has arrived with a vengeance.















Wednesday, 21 December 2011

44:Ossetian Pies

Yet again my first student of the day "cried off". This time, thankfully, I heard about it before I left the house. I must confess I went back to bed for an hour or so.
It's 9.15 in the morning and still dark, well not really dark but the kind of half-light you get when it is or has been snowing. We've had a lot of snow overnight and the temperature is -3. It is forecast to rise to +1 later.

Today's photograph is of the Ossetian pie cafe on Malaya Ordinka. It is a nice place to go for a change from fast-food outlets. They sell a large variety of traditional pies from the Ossetian region of Russia. They are very tasty. They even offer free delivery in and around Moscow.
http://vkusnee.ru/
Look at the snow, piled neatly in a little heap. Between now and next April an army of workers will be spending an awful lot of time piling snow into little heaps for tractors and lorries to come and take away.


Tuesday, 20 December 2011

43:A wasted journey

My first student of the day is sick. Poor Olga. Let's hope she feels better soon. Unfortunately she either forgot, or didn't think, to tell me she wasn't going to be in work. So, two short walks, two bus rides, six metro rides (including four changes) and two shuttle bus rides later, here I am home again. 2½ hours wasted, not to mention getting up at 5.30. 
Still, as the TV ad in UK said a year or so back, "I'm not bitter". Especially since this particular contract provides for a Late Cancellation so at least I will get paid for my troubles.




Here is a snatched photo of a fresco on the ceiling of Komsomolskiy metro station. I say snatched because if you stand still in the metro at that time of the morning you are likely to get trampled underfoot in the seething mass of humanity that is Moscow on the way to work.

Monday, 19 December 2011

42:по пути

I am in a rush, as always. In the marshrutka today the driver had his mobile clapped to his ear with one hand and the other hand was taking my fare and searching for change for me. Believe it or not we were in motion and there would be occasional adjustments to the steering wheel with the hand that was searching for change. Not for the faint-hearted!
While I'm in the process of finding a solution to the transferring photos from new mobile to computer, here is another photo from my archives. It just about shows Marshal Zhukov sitting on his 'orse in front of the historical museum on the edge of Red Square.


Sunday, 18 December 2011

41:room with a view

Today is one of those rare days where I don't have to go out - so I won't! All your roving cameraman can offer you today is a view from the window of my 10th floor flat. It's a bit wintry outside!

I took a picture with the 8MP camera on my new phone and then found, to my chagrin, that when I tried to Bluetooth it to my notebook I was getting an incompatible file message. I'll have to try and find an App later that will convert the photo into something the notebook will accept. In the meantime, here is the same view, but taken with the camera on the old phone.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

40:Overindulgence

There will be no blog today, largely due to the fact that I overindulged last night!


Cheers!
P.S. I've finally bought a new phone so I can stop dithering now and get on with my life.

Friday, 16 December 2011

39:Why don't you think like we do?

I'm sorry, I'm going to express my frustration at the Russian character again. Please forgive me? Yesterday I went shopping for a new mobile phone. I knew what model I wanted as I had read reviews of it in English. I had established that the phone was available in Russia and seen that it was available to buy on the internet. Of course I wanted to look at it first and try it to see if it was suitable. I know, I thought, I'll go to the market at Savyolovskaya. If there is one shop dedicated to mobile phones there is 100. They are bound to have it there. I must have gone in to 10 different shops to be met with "Nyet". In UK, I venture to suggest, most people would have said "no, but come back tomorrow and I'll order one in for you" or perhaps "no, but have you tried... as it's very similar".  Or maybe even "sorry". 
Can any of my Russian readers please explain why Russian people think and react in this way. Why don't shopkeepers want my money?  


To counter this implied slur on the Russian character, today's photo highlights Russian kindness and thoughtfulness. Somebody has gone to the trouble of putting out a home-made bird feeder in the middle of Winter. 



Thursday, 15 December 2011

38:Murphy's Law

Let me remind you about Murphy's Law (or it's slang equivalent - Sod's Law) which states that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
Every morning in life I get up and turn on my mobile phone. This morning I didn't turn it on until I got to the place where my first lesson was due to take place. You can guess the rest, can't you! Yes, the student had sent me an SMS at 06.30 this morning asking to postpone the lesson until tomorrow! If I had said no I would have been paid for the lesson as a Late Cancellation. I am too soft by far and agreed to swap the lesson to tomorrow afternoon. No money, just a wasted journey. Such is life. такова жизнь.
I'm now in a "works canteen" at the site of my next lesson and about to order a big boy's breakfast. I am slowly becoming as fat as the figure shown in the photograph. It is one of a set of 13 figures in the powerful sculpture by Chemyakin called "Children are the victims of adult vices". This one represents alcohol!


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children_are_the_Victims_of_Adult_Vices


Wednesday, 14 December 2011

37:One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich (and countless thousands like him)

It is impossible to imagine what life was like in the hundreds and hundreds of Gulags* that were scattered all over Russia and other countries of the old Soviet Union. Many completely innocent people were sent to these places for long stretches of time (10 or 25 year terms of imprisonment were not uncommon). Some for having had the audacity to have been captured as Prisoners of War and when they were released or escaped back to their own lines they were accused of treason against the State. Some for having the wrong "friends" who "informed" on them to the "Authorities". Some just had the misfortune to be names on a list of somebody who had a quota to fill.
I've just finished (re-)reading Aleksander Solzhenitsyn's famous book. In theory a work of fiction but largely autobiographical it describes the conditions in one of the Gulags. Solzhenitsyn himself was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment in 1945 for making derogatory remarks about Stalin. He was released after Stalin's death in 1953 but had to remain in exile for the next three years.
I took this photo yesterday as I was passing the State Gulag museum. It's a very thought-provoking place. I've visited a few times and will continue to visit occasionally just to remind myself how lucky I am not to have lived in Russia in such times. There is also a hyperlink to the museum if anybody wants to explore further.

http://www.gulagmuseum.org/start.do

*Gulag = Гулаг = Государственный лагерь = State Labour Camp

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

36:wireless technology


Cartoon of the day?

Sorry, this is all I've got time for today. 

Monday, 12 December 2011

35:The best hotels in town

Moscow has many many 5* hotels and not nearly enough 3* beds to attract mid-range tourists. Here is just one of the 5* hotels, the Swissotel. You will notice the weather is pretty dreich today.

dreich. A Scottish word 
  • (especially of weather) dreary; bleak:a cold, dreich early April day

Sunday, 11 December 2011

34:Larging it Part II

Another example of the Russian propensity for things large. This is the front of the Frunzenskaya metro station. Last Thursday evening I saw a manager ejecting an old drunk from the McDonalds you can see here. Very impressive the way the manager just pinned his arms around the drunk and marched him out.


I went to the cinema yesterday to see the new film "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy". In Russian it has been renamed as "шпион выйди вон". Anybody any idea why? I enjoyed it immensely but was glad I had already read the book and seen the original film otherwise I wouldn't have had a scooby what it was about. John Le Carre's books are quite heavy.

Scooby = clue. Rhyming slang from the cartoon character Scooby Doo.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

33:legs eleven

Most of the legs in Moscow have been covered up for the Winter but there are still a few on display. I may have mentioned before but Russian girls go out of their way to look their best all of the time - not just when they go clubbing etc. I have never seen so many Beauty Salons in one capital city. It was funny the other day watching a Russian girl, who was sitting almost opposite me in McDonalds (and who was nothing to do with me I hasten to add), putting all her war-paint on. The number of different bottles and brushes coming out of this small make-up bag and their contents being applied to different parts of the face. Amazing.

Friday, 9 December 2011

32:Moscow never sleeps

Going home last night after watching The Sound of Music, I was struck by how many Muscovites were still out and about considering it was about 23.30. It was standing room only on the Metro and the traffic on Dmitrevskoye Shosse heading home needed to be seen to be believed. There were plenty of cars and lorries but, unfortunately, not too many buses. Rather than wait goodness knows how long for a bus I decided to walk home from the metro station. Of course, a bus overtook me as I was walking.
Coincidentally, the headline on this cutting from this morning's Metro newspaper reads "Moscow - a city that never sleeps"



Thursday, 8 December 2011

31:Cutting off the nose....

Another incident of "cutting off my nose to spite my face" today (в порыве злости действовать во вред самому себе; причинять вред себе, желая досадить другому).
I called in at my local shop for a few bits and pieces. When I got to the check-out the queues were four and five deep and only a few cash desks were working. I can't stand this laziness/inefficiency so abandoned my shopping trolley in the middle of an aisle and went home. SERVICE. Join the rest of the World in the 21st Century.
That's a side view of "my" block of flats in the background.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

30:BBC clip about visiting Russia - then and now


My blog is a bit of a cop-out today but I enjoyed this clip about St Petersburg and thought you might too. Comments, as ever, gratefully received (it proves that my blog is being read)

Sorry about the ad at the beginning of the clip
how visiting Russia has changed since the fall of communism

Monday, 5 December 2011

29:vagaries of the Russian language and Russian roads

Look at how similar looking, and sounding, these two Russian words are: распутица, распутница. The first word means (the season of) bad roads or slush - an example of which is shown below. The second means a debauched woman, profligate or libertine - an example of which is not shown below (because,of course, I couldn't possibly admit to knowing any such people).

We have these slushy seasons twice a year - as the snow arrives and as it melts. At the moment it's just a rehearsal for the real thing in early January. One's trousers are often mottled at the end of the day from all the mud and slush. And if you forget and stand too close to the edge of the pavement you can get a whole leg full of filth as the cars go whizzing by, their drivers oblivious to the plight of the poor pedestrians.

Looks as though United Russia got in then. какой сюрприз!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

28:Compensation culture


I don't know whose responsibility it is to look after these steps - probably either Kvartal, the local supermarket, or perhaps the local authority, but whoever has the responsibility should be thankful that the compensation culture has not (yet) arrived in Russia. Fall and break a leg here and there is 0% chance of being recompensed for somebody else's inefficiency.
These steps are lethal when rainwater pools and then freezes over.

P.S. I wonder how the voting for the State Duma went today. Will United Russia win a majority or not? This is a tongue-in-cheek question.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

27:The Lubyanka

I couldn't resist this photo of a "Christmas tree" in front of the Lyubyanka.
"Peace on Earth and Good Will to all Men." Irony with a capital I?



Thursday, 1 December 2011

26:Larging it

You'll have to have tomorrow's blog today, because tomorrow I'm out and about all day. I went to the cinema this evening to see Tower Heist (как украсть небоскрёб). A good film. I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more if it had been in English so I could have understood more of it.
But, walking up to Metropolis and seeing it all lit up ready for "Christmas" reminded me how Russians are really good at doing things on a grand scale.










Somehow it reminded me of the recent additions to the (British) English language - larging it.
have (or give) it large

British informal go out and enjoy oneself, typically with drink or drugs; go clubbing:
are you still having it large every weekend?

verb

[no object(large itBritish informal
  • enjoy oneself in a lively way with drink or drugs and music:Bez is known in clubland for his capacity for larging itpeople cannot large it for three or four nights a week and expect not to experience something negative

25:1st December already

Where did November go?



Here in Russia the children are thinking about writing their letters to Дед Мороз (Grandfather Frost). Some of the letters will end up pinned to this "tree" in the Megapolis shopping arcade near Voykovskaya metro. I hope Grandfather Frost manages to read them there and is able to provide some of the presents the children are looking forward to.





In UK, meanwhile, we have advent calendars to keep us amused for the first 24 days of December. You open a little door, or flap, on the front of the calendar and take out what is inside. I particularly like this one!