I think I got yelled at by a nun today!
The story: We didn't have anything scheduled for today, and since I haven't done much sightseeing, I decided to do something "Moscow-y" and go to the Novodevichy Convent. It was a really nice trip - at my roommate's recommendation, I got off the metro a few stops away and had a nice long walk down a quiet boulevard to the convent. It was sunny and the convent was lovely - built (I believe) in the 1600's, with much "Moscow Baroque" architecture - and, to my surprise, there were REAL NUNS there. So I took a picture (from afar) of one standing in the doorway of the nun-barracks, and before I knew it she was coming up to me and scolding me about something! I guess I should be flattered that she thought she could effectively scold me in Russian, but I was so confused and mortified that I was struck completely dumb. I swear the first thing she said to me was "Вам кто позвонил?" ("Who phoned you?"), and I don't think she said anything about нельзя or фотоаппарат ("mustn't" or "camera"), so I don't know what I did wrong. Maybe she was trying to convince me to become a nun?
Another thing I wanted to mention:
On Thursday I went for a morning jog through a beautiful park near the university (formerly the estate of some duke). "Fixing" pets isn't as common in Russia as in the US, so there are a lot of stray dogs around. This fact is usually frightening (ask me about the dog fight in the subway sometime), but that morning one of the strays in the park decided that I was playing with it, and jogged with me the whole way through the park! Once I realized he wasn't going to bite me, I enjoyed the company. I was worried he would follow me home, but right before I left the park he encountered another dog and lost interest in me. So cute!
I think there is a general sentiment among Americans (at least, Americans who don't study Russian) that Russian food is bad. I would like to dispel this vicious rumor. A sampling of five delicious things I've discovered (or rediscovered) here:
1. Milk products. They're so good! One great one is kefir, a tart yogurt drink that's best (I think) when fruit-flavored. Another is tvorog, a soft, sweetish cheese (a bit firmer than cream cheese) that's used to make my new favorite food: syrki (сырки). Imagine little cheesecake logs covered in chocolate.
2. Blini! Blini are like crepes, and you can get them with savory fillings (I like ham and cheese) or sweet ones (jam, fruit, Nutella). Apparently there is a difference between blini and blinchiki, but I haven't quite worked out the finer points of that.
3. Pel'meni! These are my other new favorite food. They're like meat ravioli, but rounder and more delicious. You eat them with smetana (sour cream) or vinegar. I prefer the latter.
4. Juice. Russians like juice a lot more than Americans do. It's cheap and there are a zillion flavors. In fact, there's a whole aisle devoted to juice at our grocery store.
5. Chocolate with lots of little holes in it. I think you can get this elsewhere (Nestle Aero bars?), but Russia is where I first had it, and I think it's the best kind of chocolate ever made. It kind of crumbles in your mouth.
Mmm! So you see, I haven't starved yet, despite the lamentable lack of peanut butter. The verdict is still out on borsch, because I've still never had it, but I'll be sure to report when I do.
Also, the winner of the guess-the-largest-embassy contest was Diana, for actually trying. No one guessed correctly that the largest US embassy is in fact in Baghdad! (Big surprise, right?) Diana's prize is a postcard and the food-related portion of this post.
Hopefully I'll eventually find a way to get my photos from my internet-less computer to a computer that does have internet, or I'll find some wireless. Then you can see pictures of the convent! But not the picture of the nun, because I felt so guilty that I deleted it from my camera.