I have a new apartment! Or rather, a new old apartment. Like my last one (and probably like most apartments in Russia that you can get for ~300 dollars a month), it's very, very Soviet. The layout is Soviet, the furniture and dishes are Soviet, the wall hangings are Soviet (or they were until I removed them), the washing machine is Soviet, even the pigeons living on the roof are Soviet (ok, you're right, I have no evidence of that – just a grudge against pigeonkind). Unlike my last one, it's also filthy. My mom and a few select others have already gotten to listen to my rant on this subject, so I'll just summarize: the owner rents it out a few days at a time in the summer to vacationers (despite what I said in the first Taganrog post, Taganrog is kind of a tourist destination, since it's sunny, has beaches, and is cheaper than Sochi). As I'm sure you can imagine, these vacationers never, ever clean anything, so after an entire summer of this, the whole place is pretty slum-tastic. The kitchen is especially gross, although by now my steel wool scrubber (my new best friend) and I have declared victory over more gummy residue and baked-on grease than I care to recall, leaving only the very worst parts: the floor, the tiled walls and the Khrushchev-era fridge.
So most of my time and energy at the moment is taken up with cleaning and buying stuff for the apartment, which is good, since I haven't started teaching yet and therefore have little else to do. The combination of having already lived on a shoestring for one year and having gone back to America and been reminded of all the nice stuff they have there has caused me to go a little hog-wild buying things for the apartment that I went without last year. I've stopped short of a flat-screen TV and an espresso machine, but I've already bought all new rugs, extra towels, a non-mildewed shower curtain, a bathroom scale, a printer, new sheets and new dishes (none of which I had last year). I'm considering a new fridge, a new stove, a washing machine (that's going to be a game of which-do-I-want-most, since I can't really afford all three), a new TV, a mixer, and internet. And I'm going to caulk the poorly-installed bathtub as soon as I figure out how, although when I walked into the hardware store today, every one of the twenty or so men in there looked at me like I had two heads. I guess the hardware store isn't girl-domain in Russia.
Speaking of the bathtub, my water seems to occasionally have electricity in it. I had to cut my shower short this morning because my hands were literally buzzing from holding the showerhead. (In Russian showers you almost always have to hold the showerhead. Sometimes it amazes me that this country ever put anyone in space, because they seem terrible at designing and building even simple things such as a doohickey to hold the showerhead on the wall. I bet you Gagarin had to pedal that spacecraft.) A few minutes later I turned the water back on and received a mild shock when I put my hand under it. I'm not sure if this is a problem with wiring in the walls or the fixture itself or the water or what, but I'm more than a little concerned that I'm going to hurt myself. My landlord says, "Hmm. Well, it probably won't get all the way up to 220 volts." Here's hoping.