Monday, July 13, 2009

Moscow: Billionaires' Playground

little Russian kid
French embassy in Moscow.
Cathederal of Christ The Savior
Me outside of the Cathderal
the monstrosity known as the Moscow metro

A Billionaires Playground is exactly what Moscow is. The city is massively immense and there are expensive stores everywhere you look. I saw more Vertu cell phones (stores and owners) than I thought even existed in the world. The mall right across from Lenin on Red Square ГУМ (GUM) that I described as being so amazing had every expensive store ever and several very exclusive European Jewelry stores. I felt like I was walking through a Neiman Marcus Catalogue.

The Metro was very impressive but because Moscow is larger there were some stations that were not as clean as others. But overall the Metro stations were very extravagant and just as fancy and sometimes fancier than the ones here. It was an amazing experience.

I went to go have dinner with Yaprak (the girl from Turkey) at the mall and I was kind of late. We had a really good conversation though. She's working for a Turkish Bank here and she knows all of the currency exchange rates for all countries to the Russian ruble. She's a brilliant mathematician. As are almost all people from Turkey. But the conversation was great and it was good to see a familiar face.

After that I came back to the hostel and just relaxed. Was about to go to sleep but then some of the girls came back from the Hilton. The girls that were staying at the Hilton invited everyone over. I wasn't interested. I knew if it was just the Brown students there it would be lame. I was correct. We watched Russian television on our huge TV including an old Soviet movie, the Russian version of "The Real World/Big Brother", and the vastly inferior Russian version of Chuck Norris. He is essentially a Moscow Businessman that helps victims of petty street crime using his martial arts skills. Lame.

The next day I got up and sadly I didn't get to go see Linen but I did walk around and I saw a lot of the city. I went to the Russian Modern History Museum (late 1800's until now) and I noticed that most of the exhibits were of weapons or war things... It was really good though and I learned a lot. This one lady was very interested in helping me look around explain about what specific things were in the museum. It was even better cause I used my student card and I got in for 70 rubles.

I was really hungry but had no cash. So I go to a bankomat (ATM) and it didn't work and then at this other one this guy was taking forever and after he finished the ATM was broken. So I go inside a currency exchange place and they said that it would be better to use one of the ATM's outside because they were cheaper and I explained that they didn't work and they start shifting around with their papers and whatnot then a lady comes out to help and says that oh you're right the bankomat doesn't work you have to find somewhere else to go. I wasted about 30 minutes doing that. I walk about 2 and a half kilometers before I finally found an ATM. I ate McDonalds and I was happy.

I bought some souvenirs outside Red Square. I still have a lot more to buy but I'm trying to make sure everyone is happy. I also went to an underground mall that was very impressive and met a Black guy there with a haircut but it turns out he didn't speak English but French. He was African and I stumbled over the few French phrases I know trying to make conversation but it was just awkward and after about 2 minutes I got discouraged and gave up trying to speak. In Moscow there are a lot more Black people so I wasn't such a rarity and fewer of them speak English. It's mostly Russian and/or their native African language.

I was laying in a park and this Russian comes up to me and calls me the Russian variant of "the n-word" well actually translated it's closer to Negro at any rate he wanted to share some juice-boxed wine with me. Yes. Wine in a liter sized juice box. He was surprised that I spoke Russian so well and he needed to put a shirt on. We talked about a lot (in Russian) and I explained to him the difference between racial slurs and why they're not okay. Russians seem to think that they can use any variant of the "N Word" because they don't have the same history of slavery and segregation as the United States does. I've had this conversation before with other Russians actually. Anyway, he was just curious as to my thoughts on American politics and if Obama was a Muslim... Which everyone here seems to think. Before we parted ways he warned me about the skinheads in Moscow which greatly outnumber those in Petersburg.

I went to my favorite cathedral. The Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Which was blown up by Soviets so they could build a huge building/monument but then they never really got started on it so they turned it into the worlds largest outdoor open air swimming pool but in the 90's they rebuilt it. Anyway, when I was there I took a lot of pictures and it was so cool being close. I felt like everything I know about Russia was right before me. No matter what happens... Ancient Russia, Imperial Russia, Soviets, the Federation... The Russian Orthodox Church will always be there.

As I was leaving this lady gets really excited and wants me to take a picture with her son. I did. You can see the picture above. He walks up to me like I was Santa. Kind of half scared and half excited. He holds up his hand and says "пожалуйста" and so I just hold it... I didn't know if I was supposed to pick him up or put him on my shoulders or what... Someone later told me that I should have autographed his hat.

I kept walking just wondering around the city exploring and I found the French embassy. Which was having a baller reception for French Independence Day for everyone in Moscow with a French/European Union passport. I would have very much so liked to have been able to attend that. All this time I'm continually passing by very expensive lavish stores.

I go back to the hostel round up the troops and we head out to the train station. The train back was a throwback to Soviet times. Not the newer version I rode on en route to Moscow. But it had a very nice antique smell and I felt like I was back in the 1950's. I put my iPod on shuffle on my relax/chill playlist and fell asleep and then woke up in Petersburg.

I appreciate this city a lot more now. It is much more homely. Moscow is a huge city like New York and full of tourists and hustle and bustle. This is like a nice quaint community/village compared to Moscow. Both have plus and minuses (mostly pluses) but I have gained a much greater appreciation for this city now. Home Sweet Petersburg.

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