Pearl in Sandbox

Gorky Park, just a subway stop from my house, boasts bike paths in the summer and skating paths in the winter along with swan boats and ice cream stands.

I think I’ve uncovered a little gem, here on the edge of Europe. My first weekend in Moscow was lovely. I spent a rainy Friday evening at a nearby restaurant with my new neighbors, enjoying Georgian wine (they’re famous for it) and delicious meat (lamb, chicken, pork) and good conversation. In the corner, someone played an upright piano lit by candlesticks that burned on each side. It proved a cozy spot to wind down after a day packed with new faces, places, and experiences.

We newbies were about 15 in number on the Friday morning bus ride to school. Incredibly, the school provides us with transportation to and from our apartments, multiple times each morning and afternoon. As we chatted amongst ourselves, I was looking forward to a glimpse of my new school. I was anxious to step into my classroom and experience it for myself.

As the bus crested the front hill, we were astonished to find a good 30 of our new colleagues cheering our arrival. Dancers in traditional Russian dress marched forward to welcome us.

Our dancers, in a picture courtesy of my school.

They slipped ribbons of sushki around our necks and spun us around in time with the music.

We were then offered bread and asked to dip it in a cup of salt. This symbolizes our host’s wish that this be the only bitter taste left in our mouths during our stay. Also, salt is believed to protect against evil forces. Cheers to that!

The traditional welcoming ceremony known as Bread&Salt.

Following the welcome, the school tour did not disappoint. With beautiful facilities and a wealth of resources, I am very excited to experience life as a Penguin. My classroom even boasts a balcony off the back for some plein air studio time! Big windows and great closets – an art teacher’s dream. Nothing can beat my room in SoKo – fishbowl and all – but this one has a lot of promise.

Here are a few photos of my new apartment (click for captions). With my shipment still in transit, the walls are oddly stark, but I look forward to a Christmas in September when everything arrives.

As I sit in the piazza opposite Kiev Station, the chilly evening rain brings with it the promise of winter ahead. I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t share that I had definite apprehensions about coming to live in Russia. Rumors about the cold – both the winters but also on the faces of the people – dogged my mind. I knew the job would be a good one and would afford me the lifestyle and location I desired, but I honestly had no idea what my time outside of school hours would bring.

The view of modern Moscow City from my kitchen window.

I am pleasantly surprised to say my fears were unfounded (aside from 60 degree weather in August!). I have found the people here in Moscow to be highly receptive and thoughtful. From my grocer to our taxi driver today, kindness is evident. Smiles may not be on constant display but actions speak louder. As I learned in Asia, it’s very American to expect complete strangers to smile at you when you’re out and about. Respect and kindness can be shown in other, equally powerful ways.

Now this is not to say that I haven’t had my moments. I’m about 50/50 on grocery purchases tonight ~ that definitely wasn’t milk… and, Oh! Cottage cheese instead of yogurt. But this past week has reminded of how important it is to abstain from judgement without proof, especially when such judgements encompass a whole people, religion, or country. People and places have a way of surprising you, if your heart is open and your aim is true. This fine city is certainly making me feel welcome.

Sunset over Moscow.