Tuesday, December 23, 2014

December in Vladivostok

Well, I will start this out with the observation that the entire month of December (Dec 1-21) was spent below zero C AKA below freezing.

That is a bus window that is totally frozen over with ice...

In other words, FREEZING COLD!

This is a underground walkway with snow piled in it.



I got to learn new words such as "метель" or blizzard. I also got to experience cancelled classes in Russia. I would recommend that they invest in the text notification system that U.S. universities have, because otherwise, there is not a lot of ways of notifying people- students and professors just have to check the school's website.Which is interesting and informative- if you know to check.


Russians also had something I hadn't seen people do before (given I hadn't lived where there was snow before)- they used dump trucks to scoop up the snow and take it somewhere else. {I looked into this and they totally do this in places like Boston where they git tons of snow. And it causes a lot of environmental problems because the salt and stuff gets melted into the rivers and poisons things.}



Also, after one of the blizzards- I decided to go exploring and take some beautiful pictures in the snow. But I underestimated to cold and the lack of waterproofing on my shoes. But- I got wonderful pictures. The snow was piled up into the the underground walkways, along all the building and there was almost no one out there. Except a few hardy souls who were trying to hook their Siberian Husky dogs up to mush them. The dogs were the only happy things I saw out at all. No one else was happy, but these dogs were literally jumping in circles and happy barking. it made me smile.


Also in December- I went to a local art gallery. It was off the beaten path, but I had passed it when I was going to tutor the little girls. All the art was done by local artists- they even had an exhibit of student art.



the balloons had Russian poems on them,.








One day before I left, I went out to eat at the restaurant that the family I was tutoring owned. It was Korean food (well a mixture of Korean and Russian), but the older girl recommended some things to me and it was yummy!

I also went and explored the frozen salt water. Yup, it gets so cold that the salt water freezes over. Very cool and very cold looking. There were young Russians out playing in the snow and a guy out ice fishing.

Proof! Also, note how high the snow is on my jeans- I had to step through all that!

One other interesting thing-the sanctions were causing some problems while inciting nationalism in the people. It is an interesting time to be in Russia. All the people were nice and friendly. Most were amazed to meet an American. The few times I was able to discuss politics and they didn't necessarily like the government but they were super interested to meet an American. One of my regrets was that I didn't carry my camera around to start a photo-essay of "The American Flag in Russia." Everywhere I turned there were younger Russians wearing the American flag on a swim suit, t-shirt, jacket, vest, shoes, bags, etc. I would have loved to capture these with an explanation of why it was so prominent.  On the other hand there was this:

Basically translated as "Our prices remain the same."IT is in reference to the fact that as the Rouble was falling, everything was getting more expensive because it cost more to import, but at these stores- they didn't let the silly dollar matter! And it was posted all along stores in the central mall.


Christmas Time
Although Christmas isn't really celebrated in Russia- News Years is-Elena hosted a Christmas dinner for Adela & me. We had this delicious spread:


And the cool "firecrakers" that pop out streamers.

I really enjoy my time with these two ladies and will miss them when I leave. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Coca Cola Tour!


While looking for things to do here, I figured out that there was a Coca-Cola factory here! Totally cool. However, they only take group tours, so I asked Svetlana if we could go, and she made it work! She arranged a tour and offered to let the other American and Australian I had met go with us (high school students on an exchange program with the Rotary club).




We took a long (30-40 min) bus ride out to the factory and then got a tour. We had to wear hair nets and those little booties that go over your shoes. But we saw the whole process from the beginning to end. The bottles started from this little test tube like plastic things that was blown up to the 2L bottles. Then the bottling area (it looks like a normal bottling area).


We got to taste a sample of whatever we wanted to. I chose Fanta Mandarin (which is NOT Fanta Orange). It was sweeter and smoother than the Orange. But, like all of Fanta's flavors- not distributed world-wide. It also was a New Years special for that area of  the world.

But this meant I had toured corporate Coca-Cola, a factory in Russia, and Coca-Cola World in Atlanta. Totally cool!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Oceanarium!

While we were at the Suhanov Museum, we picked up a pamphlet that listed "20 Cool Places to Visit in Vlad" by the awesome vl.ru site that lists all of the stuff to do or see in Vlad.

They listed the Oceanarium as a thing to go to. I mentioned to the amazing Svetlana that I wanted to go there. She asked Alex and Ryan if they wanted to go, and since we all wanted to, she suggested Saturday at 12.

It was a date!

Only I was the only one who showed up. Oh boys.

So Elena and I explored the Oceanarium as a girls day!





It is cool to look at, lots of weird fish, even giant fish and crabs, possibly a shark?

It isn't much to look at, but fun, if you like fish. However, a bit expensive at 300 RUB a person (for Russia). (Although kids were cheaper.)



What was different about this aquarium than others was that it had a museum with a dead things in bottles that most American aquariums don't have. Even creepy dead seal fetuses....


I'm not sure what this thing is to the right, but I think it could eat me alive. I could actually go look up what the Russian or scientific name is, since it was totally listed on the little white card on the top.

But what would be the fun in that?



Afterwards, we decided to go to Tokyo Kawaii, where I had been once before, but it is really delicious.  So we went too!

Sangria with Japanese?





I had delicious Japanese food- cucumber rolls, miso soup, sangria and chocolate melting cake. I know, the last two are really weird order at a Japanese place, but Russia?
Melting cake, but with weird green stuff in it. No I don't know what it is.


See you around the globe!



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Suhanova House Museum!

Another SRAS museum tour!

Suhanov was the governor of Vladivostok at the turn of the 19th/20th century. I'd tell you more, but I don't remember dates on tours and he doesn't exist according to Russian or English Google.  (seriously?)

But I do remember a lot.

He was married with 7 (!) kids. And they all lived in this cool little house. The house was populated with old furniture, not sure if the family actually owned any of it, or if it was all just period.

When they sat down for dinner/lunch, dad (obviously) sat at the head of the table, with the girls to the right and the boys to the left.







He also had a really cool office with an interesting map that was made when Japan controlled the Kurile Islands (disputed today, even though Japan renounced all claims at the end of WW2).









Upstairs they had the bedrooms, where the 4 girls slept in one and the 3 boys in the other.

Personally, I found the privacy of the bathroom *refreshing*.

Then we got to have a "Master Class" of calligraphy writing.

In Russian. 

Although, I was apparently good at it. And purple was  apparently the color of ink back then. 


One thing that was cool about the museum was that we could simply wander through and touch anything we wanted. They had replicated letters and newspapers that was cool to look though.

Interesting fact: the son of the governor/representation of the Tsar in Vladivostok/definition of the bourgeoisie class was .....wait for it....a revolutionary. Must of made dinners awkward.

See you around the globe!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hockey Game!

The arena!

Apparently Hockey is going to be the sport that I go to when I am in Russia. Went once in Petersburg, and now I've gone in Vlad.

One of the girls, Adela, in my class is married to one of the players (which is actually why she is in Vlad).
Elena and Adela
The team is called Admiral (like the naval thing).

Three rows from the ice? Why not!






We weren't supposed to take pictures, but you know me!


 In case you don't remember- Cheerleading is a thing at hockey games. It's weird, but still.

What was different with this vs. Petersburg, is that there were no police here. But the fans were still as awesome.

We didn't win, but they did play well.

See you around the globe!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Military Museums

I'm a big museum person.

Like I need to go to museums when I travel.

I think this is because of my history minor/fascination.

But, I wasn't getting my museum fix here in Vlad, so I decided to rectify that.

November 8, 2014
First up, I went to the Battlements Fortress Museum on the seashore.


I had my handy dandy Lonely Planet guide with directions to help me get there.

It was as good as ever. In other words, don't ever listen to them ever. They stink. They have no idea how to give directions or make a map. They are never right.

I spent a good 30-40 minutes wandering around trying to figure out how to get in. I eventually asked a Russian who was working at a sports complex how to get in. (She also gave me bad directions, but I can see that there used to be an entrance there, so I can't REALLY fault her).

Then I decided to just try to get there the way I would have if I didn't look at Lonely Planet....guess what? It worked. Kind of annoying.

It was 200 RUB to get in for adults, but children under 5 are free (like most places here).

IT WAS TOTALLY INTERESTING...if you like history. And don't mind freezing cold wind.

There is a small museum under the fortress, which was cool to see, and in English for my non-Russian speaking readers.
I mean I guess you COULD have more knives. 

This is a must go if you like military history or have children.

November 17, 2014

Then it was the mystery war museum that no one knew what I was talking about when I asked them about it.



Turned out to be an FSB/border guard museum. You can't take any pictures, so you just get to see the door.

But it was FREE!

And it had a kitten wandering around. Which like most kittens didn't really want to get held, but rather play with dangling strings. But, like most kittens, is just too little to stop the Big Bad Cassidy from scooping it and cuddling as she explored.

It takes about 30 min to walk though, and displays are in English (some what).

Must go if you like military history.

See you around the globe!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Safari Park!

One of the places I wanted to try to go see, but Lonely Planet said you needed a guide to go, was the Safari Park where two tigers live.

Well SRAS must of known we would want to go- so they organized it for us!

It's about 1 to 1.5 hours car ride outside of Vlad. So you need an organized group or to rent a car to get there.

On one side they have bears, an otter, a badger, foxes, raccoons, and wild cats in one enclosure, and birds of prey in the other.

I took a few pictures on this miserably cold November morning of the bears climibg trees, figuring they would be behind cages when we went (foreshadowing).



The Russian guide lectured to us (it sounded like what not to do), but we didn't really understand everything he said, but just shrugged and figured all would be ok, you know cages?

THERE ARE NO CAGES!

THERE ARE BEARS AND FOXES AND WILD CATS AND A VERY FRIENDLY OTTER RUNNING AROUND FREE.
This is the "lean towards the bear for a picture, but really hope they don't charge me" smile!

Suddenly the Americans were joking that we should of paid a bit more attention to that speech....

We couldn't pet the bears, but they were happy and playing and ignoring us. If we had come in April, they would of been litter and you could hold them!

The otter and the badger were very friendly towards the group and kept running towards us and through the group.

HI!!!!






The otter really just wanted out of the cage...





Then you go into the next cage and there are birds of prey. This part was a little sad- they din't have enough room for the size of the birds. I hope they rotated them so they could all fly in the large cage that smaller cages were a part of.







Then we had a quick lunch break, before going to explore the other side.

While we were waiting, the wathogs(?) were making the most pitiful noises ever.
video

Which we figured out why, once we were in there. Apparently with every tour, they get milk. 




We walked through to see the two tigers, which were in separate cages from each other. I did wonder if the cages had US regulation hights or what the Russian regulation (i know, funny) was...but the tigers were acting like cats too much to care...AKA the were totally just sleeping.

Then on the same side as the tigers, there were.....deer. Cuz that makes sense. I mean the tigers couldn't get to the dear, but still.

This time the deer were anxiously looking at us when we walked in.

We give them food/breadcrumbs.

After the gigantic walk though of deer, with multiple families, we drove back to Vlad. This was actually quicker. I timed it both ways, so it's not just "you think it is quicker on the way back" no it was legitimately quicker on the way back.

Russia.

See you around the globe!