24 October 2008

To market, to market

I learn a lot about Russia every day. After all, that's what they pay me to do (by which I mean give me student loans to do). But occasionally I learn something so surprising that I feel the need to share it here. Today was one of those days; in Central Asian history lecture we learned that markets (in the sense of bazaars) didn't really exist in Soviet Russia until the mid-'80's!

This was shocking to me because markets were so much a part of my daily life in Russia. Longtime readers with nothing better to fill their brains with might remember my post about Sportivnaya market in Vladivostok; I'm pretty sure I also mentioned, at some point, the ever-changing bounty of local fruit at Taganrog's central market. I used grocery stores, too, but markets were my go-to place for almost everything from twine to cabbages to houseplants. My Russian friends encouraged market shopping, and most of them had their own particular market skill sets and habits. It never occurred to me that all of that sprung up (or was revived) just in the last 20 years.

(Geeky note: markets appeared in Soviet Central Asia, which had a more ingrained bazaar tradition and was also farther from the watchful eye of Moscow, much earlier, pretty much in the '60's when the Soviet agricultural program really tanked and the state started giving out private plots of land (dacha land) for independent subsistence agriculture.)

04 October 2008

Monk Sighting!

Remember my fascination with Orthodox monks? Well, I came across the link to a story about one today:
Wall Street Trader Becomes a Monk.

Putting salvation aside and looking at it from a purely secular/selfish standpoint, I think he made the right choice. I've never heard anything good about the lives of investment bankers and Wall Street types (well, except that they make a ton of money), but living in a 12th-century monastery and tending to a herd of cheese-producing buffalo sounds awesome. Smelly, yes, but awesome.

(P.S. - I notice he let them photograph him.)