Wanna Swim with Winter Walruses?

Gotta go swiming in Winter to get the feel of it

Some Muscovites warmly welcome icy swim

Ann & a WalrusMOSCOW (CNN) — From throughout the Russian capital,
Muscovite “walruses” convened on a frozen pond for the celebration
of an annual event: Walrus Day.

Here is Ann with a St. Peterburg Walrus. Note, they are standing
on ice!

Okay, so Moscow’s walruses are not really mammoth gray mammals with long
tusks. But they are an unusual breed, and they do love the cold. Every year,
members of Moscow’s “Walrus Club” cut into an icy pond to create a huge lap
pool. Then, they dive in.

“You’ve got to get used to it,” one veteran walrus explained. “You start
out at home in the bathtub, then try to swim outside in the autumn. It takes
years.” Another walrus, 72-year-old Galina Voshinsky, told CNN that the secret
to her successful polar swim could be found in her diet. “You’ve got to have
a lot of fat, like a real walrus,” she said. “And after a swim, I’ve got
a big appetite.”

Correspondent Steve Harrigan contributed to this report.

It’s My First Xmas in Russia

Don’t get you hopes up December 24th, the next day ain’t xmas in Russia

Wendy is the best Xmas elf you could ever want under your tree!
PCV’s making a merry mess
Christmas Day I had to work. Not that I have a
slave-driving boss, but Christmas is celebrated on January 7th here,
the Orthodox Christmas, not December 25, the Catholic Christmas. Not
much was happening that day, most of the expats are home in America, so
I spent the day talking with my staff as we worked. They were
quite informative on the wiley subjects of men and marriage in Russia.

After work I went to the Peace Corps office, where all the PCV’s
stationed in Moscow were getting together for an Xmas dinner. The
dinner was good, especially the chicken someone bought at the metro
exit. We laughed and giggled through a few games and a gift
exchange before heading off to our diverse homes.

In the end it was lonely, even with all my friends here, because my
family was not.

Wild Dogs Run Wild

Cute puppies are not in the window

A dog rooting in the trash bin

Before the “fall” of communism, wild dogs here, like in America, were rounded
up and exterminated. (Yes, that is why they call it the Humane Society, they
kill ’em humanely.) But now, since there isn’t any money for such
egalitarian projects, the dogs here just run wild. A pack of about
5-7 dogs lives near the hotel where I stayed, barking, chasing cars, eating
trash, and just having a good time.

Here is one looking for supper in the trash bins.

Now there are quite adventurous dogs that think they are humans. They
walk next to you, as if they are your best friend, and try to sneak into
places with you. I’ve seen them find their way into strange places,
like stores, restaurants, and even the metro.

Metro PoochI
noticed that everyone on this metro train followed the old “let sleeping
dogs lay,” adage!

The packs of wild dogs are not as scary as you might think. Russians
are pretty gruff to strays so the dogs are quite shy. I don’t think
all the dogs are strays either. Some are just too healthy/groomed to
be wandering the streets all the time. It makes me wonder about
the owners.

Here, unlike the states, dogs do not get specialized food, they eat the leftovers
from the dinners of the owners. I only know of two stores that sell
dog food, and most expat dog owners have special food shipped in from the
states.

Now all this talk about dogs might make you wonder where all the cats are.
Well it makes me wonder too. The only cats I see are the kittens
the babushkas in the metro exits are trying to sell. Maybe the winter
gets too cold for the cats, or they are just smart enough to stay out of
the snow.

I think this is a tough country for a pet, no matter what the lady selling
the turtles in the metro on a freezing cold day says.

It’s Damn Cold!

Brrr! You wander the streets when its -30 C!

I wanted to burrow underground on this day
Brrrr!
This past week Moscow broke a few records for record cold,
and unfortunately I was here to experience it! Now this is Moscow,
not know for its tepid climate, but -30C is a bit ridiculous. It
was so cold, my breath was taken away when I walked outside. Little
crystals would form on my beard and on my eyelashes, making the walk
to/from the metro a bit surreal.

I weathered the cold as best I could, with a the grace I could
muster. I put ski pants over my slacks, a thick leather jacket
over my blazer, a thick scarf around my neck, and my wool fez on my
head. I wasn’t quite the Michilen Man, but I didn’t have it
together as some of the winter hardened Russians. My favorite are
the men who do not wear hats on the coldest of days. I am the
first to take off my hat, for I hate hat hair, but these freaks will
walk around on a -30C day bare headed! Luckily there are babushkas
who will loudly remind them of their need for headgear as they beat the
men over their bare noggins with any available object. It is quite a
sight, a 4ft grandma hitting a 6ft full grown man upside the head with a
broom, and the man runs from her!

Today the air is warm, only -8C, and I walked home with my coat open,
trying not to sweat. That is the other quandary here, how not to
sweat in winter. All the homes are very warm, usually about 75F
all winter long, and the metro never gets below 80F, so coming from the
snow with a good walk and a thick coat, I usually strip down to my shirt
to keep form being sticky wet until I exit the metro 30 minutes later.
Of course the Russians do not share this same aversion to
sweat/stink and think I am insane for disrobing on the metro. Too
bad.

All this cold weather has made me desire a vacation in a place where
the isn’t a word for snow in their language. I am thinking Afrika
in February. Maybe India. Somewhere I only need a pair of
shorts, not even a shirt or shoes, and I can sunbathe all day long!
Any suggestions? Email me.

Russian DJ’s Try Disco

No shout-out to the Moscow DJ’s!

Last night, well actually early this morning, I went to a club called Pilot.
It was cool, not as cool as some clubs I’ve been to, but it held its
own. With a strip tease, video screen, and an actual airplane hanging
from the ceiling, it had atmosphere. Unfortunately it also had a local
DJ.

As far as I can tell, there is good music here, I’ve seen it at
Fili Park and I’ve heard it on the radio,
though I am still searching for it in the clubs. Ok, the clubs, on
occasion, do play good music, Pilot did for a bit last night, but on the
whole, any good song is destroyed by the DJ. Their style is horrible!

A good DJ will have a selection of songs that give a certain energy to the
dance floor. In a random club it is usually slow song, followed by
progressively faster songs, ending with a very popular and danceable song.
Then the DJ will pick a bit slower song and work down the list until
he is back with a slow song, never repeating himself in the night. A
good DJ will also mix the song together so you cannot tell where one ends
and the next begins, leaving you with the impression of one continuous song
progressively changing.

None of these rules apply here. Many DJ’s firmly believe in playing
“Prodigy,” “Staying Alive,” “Jump,” and “I Will Survive,” in one night, in
that order. You never know what speed or tempo the next song will be,
with DJ’s jumping all over the musical spectrum without notice, but with
extreme repetition. I once heard the exact same sequence of four songs
twice in one night. Last night the DJ at Pilot enjoyed putting slow
songs, as in slow dance songs, in between rave and techno songs. What
a contrast! He was better than average in mixing the songs reasonably
well, unlike the Propaganda DJ who even leaves a
moment of silence between each song.

I would love to import a good DJ from the States for a month, just so the
local DJ could listen and learn. The Moscow club scene would be all
the better with a good DJ education. Calling DJ-3 and Masterful Mike!