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And I was mortified. I sound like a woman unhinged, and I was.

Now that I live kind of in the forest and my huge stress is electricity going out (which I can usually control), I feel much better. My neighbors still come by too often for my comfort but it's generally because they want to give me something. Not ask me for something. This may be the give and take of Russian villages? I don't know.

Why do I not ever see my friends' posts on LJ? It's just a vast nothingness. To be fair I see only Olgana and PlatoFish's posts. Is no one else posting?
She put up big American and Russian flags on our dacha when we first built it, much to my chagrin. The American flags have broken off and are in our storage room. The Russian flags are still there. I'm not a flag person, at all. I simply don't get "patriotism" and read it as "nationalism".

I was worried she would want to re-install the American flags but she hasn't. She gets how I feel, especially now. I wouldn't mind if she put up Canadian flags, however.

Today when I was shoveling snow

I was thinking about food stamps. I keep reading about how Republicans are certain there is huge Food Stamp Fraud and I can attest to... an anecdote!

When I was 18 and lived in a five bedroom house with seven other young lesbians all under 24 in Phoenix, Arizona, our landlord, Cherie, asked me to sign up for Food Stamps. "You can pay your rent in stamps and keep your money for yourself!" Something smelled wrong so I refused. I had a job at Rainbow Car Wash on McDowell and could pay my $55 a week, thank you very much. (I mean, I made $99 a week and was pretty much rolling in dough, by my standards.)

My family had been on food stamps for a time. (I believe after the divorce, when my never-having-had-a-job-in-her-life mom had to get a job. I was mortified when she first trepidatiously used them, so I must've been a teenager when that happened.) Food stamps really helped us and were a necessity. When Cherie asked about food stamps for rent, I just thought, "Something's not right."

So, in my experience, fairly wealthy women who live in Scottsdale and drive the latest model Mercedes and have multiple rental properties will sometimes ask their gullible tenants to sign up for food stamps to pay for rent. I have no clue how this works, and I really don't want to.
It's -22C these days and I hate the thought of animals not only freezing but starving. (It's -35C in Moscow which is ridiculous!)

Today I put out nine slices of bread because the first two sets of three I initially put out were immediately gone. I know it's the Jays. They come in and steal all the bread from the Great Tits and Sparrows. Which is fine since the smaller birds prefer seeds anyway. I also put out some salo, which is basically a slab of animal fat. Birds LOVE it in winter months.

I grew up in Arizona, moved to San Francisco when I was 22, and then moved to Russia when I was 44. The whole concept of Winter is still pretty new to me. We had snow at our cabin in Pine, Arizona but it was maybe two inches? I can spend every day, three times a day shoveling snow and never be finished. I'm also a terrible snow-walker, though I have become better. I used to fall almost every day trying to walk in snow. I asked N for clamp-ons my first several years here, to no avail. (I think that would've been "steedno", shameful. ;) )

Okay, time to check on the cats.
Last I was posting here, I had just moved to Russia and things were quite stressful. They didn't actually feel that way but reading back over my posts, I was stressed.

Nowadays, things are much calmer. We're living at our dacha ("we" being me and my gf, N) outside of Saint Petersburg with our two cats, Uma and Koba, and our two lovebirds, Ari and Buzik. ("Arbuz" is watermelon in Russian and they look like little watermelon faces so we thought that was appropriate.)

I've worked at my school for almost six years now and my lessons have been entirely online for the past ten months which is both good and bad. I miss seeing my students but I don't miss the security rigamarole every time I had to enter the buildings. I also don't miss the expense of taxis. I traveled many, many times by Saint Petersburg Metro which invariably made me ill. The Metro is really deep underground here and the escalators are quite steep. By the end of those rides I'd be shaking in the knees and not feeling great for my lessons. But I did it. Now I feel much better for my lessons, and I have no commute!

My gf, N, (I'm using an initial because she has a highly popular LJ in Russia and has a very unusual name) works and works and works so I'm alone most of the day, at our dacha (country home). We built this place with our own two hands (in one month!), so I'm especially fond of it. We have generally spent summers here but this is the first year we're spending the winter here. And it's cold! It's -22C right now but pretty cozy inside. I'm happy N made me pack so much "vata" (insulation) into every wall, despite how itchy my face and hands were. She's a very smart woman.

I enjoy being alone during the day, but I'm never really alone because (besides my quite heavy class load) there are a lot of wild birds, and foxes, and rats, and muskrats, and stray dogs to tend to around here. There are even beavers, but they never ask for food. Of course I also have my "pets". Now that it's so cold, Koba and Uma just want to spend all day in our banya (Russian sauna). So I start the "pech" (wood stove) and keep it stoked for them. You've never seen such happy cats. Five delivered meals a day and my petting schedule of every half hour. Our birds have their own bedroom here and I have tricked it out with toys and spend several hours a day (when I can) interacting with them. They're so smart! I love birds so much.

In the winter, it's lovely because no one ever comes up to our dacha and knocks on our door. In the summer? It's sort of a hot house of visitors. I'd really like to journal about them because they're quite amazing.

Of course the best is when my N is finally home every evening. She always insists on cooking (except for when she's in the mood for Mexican, which only I can approximate). And then we just spend a quiet evening together. I love her very much.

Tags:

We're in Colorado Springs, Colorado

We've driven 25 hours from San Francisco since Tuesday morning. Rather, Nikol has driven. I've been in charge of entertainment.

Today we spent the sunset hours in the Garden of the Gods park, our destinatiion. It was amazing. So beautiful. We're going back tomorrow morning for opposite lighting. And then immediately driving back to SF.

I feel really shitty about blowing off friends in SF before we came here and am too mortified to check in on FB. I had vague plans with them and none sounded terribly interested so I think it's okay, but I'm still beating myself up about it.

One of my very dearest, oldest, dearest friends made it sound like she'd be visiting us in SPb last June and she simply ran silent and I had no hard feelings but I fear most people are not like me.

It's actually a lot deeper than that: my best friend chooses drugs over me always, my second best friend is rarely available to me unless I genuflect to her and mostly I'm not willing, my old friends were not ever really good friends, they just like the idea of me.

Recently, I lost two friends of over twenty years because they did all the "work". Okay. I don't miss them. They made demands and I can't meet them.

I'm a terrible friend, if you want more than infrequent emails, Skypes and phone calls. If you're suffering, I am a constant friend and this is what pains me the most. When I suffered most, my only friend was my drug addict friend. She was there for me, constantly. For the friends who dumped me, I was there every single day, maybe five times a day for them when they suffered, multiple times. But no more.

Traveling on the road with Nikol is sublime to me because we are the perfect travel partners. She says, "You had a huge coffee, you must need to pee." I do and she stops. "Baby, you must be thirsty. You act like a camel when you're driving but do you want water?" I ask and she does and I run in and grab her one. Plus, I love having her to myself. It's so rare. (Our first night in America, one of Nikol's clients called SIX times between midnight and seven a.m. Good gourd!)

I've met some very lovely people in Nevada, Utah and Colorado. The billboards sicken me but the people are nice.

I sincerely hope

That every woman I know votes. I have voted in every election I've been able (though I've overwhelmingly been on the losing side) but I take voting very seriously.

I've had three girlfriends (with whom I lived) who were completely apathetic and so I got to vote twice. Do not be apathetic! That's how fuckers win (unless you have a gf like me). I'm proud of Nikol because she voted in the National election even though we were in Istanbul. She made a point to go to the Russian Consulate early in the morning.

I read rapturously and in great detail exactly-- the many propostions, the small time supervisors/educational seats-- there was no political vote beneath my extensive research. Every vote is incredibly important.

In Russia, I still vote. I'm now unable to vote in California (of course) but I can vote on a national level. And I will. I hope you will, too.

Remember, we were only allowed to vote 89 years ago.


I see, now, on so many blogs, women making excuses for what's going on now. It's NOT okay! Last I checked I was a human being with choices. That may soon not be the case.

Pure evil in Texas.

We're cattle/chattel!

We're only incubators, not human.

I believe, here on LJ, I'm preaching to the choir. Nonetheless, I need to purge.

We Have Come To The End Of The Book

This is always a helter-skelter* time in classes or in individual lessons. Because will they pony up for another book or will they just lean on me to print print print?

To be honest, most students do not ever get their own books and this makes it very hard on me. I usually end up buying them a book because it's cheaper than printing/copying them or looking up worksheets and printing those up. Now that I'm going into my second year teaching at this school (actually more than my second year) I think I will insist that students buy their own books. I'm tired of paying for printing.

If you want a conversation only lesson? Yes, I will come with only my mouth. If you want to learn grammar or vocabulary or grammar? You need to buy your own book.

I prefer books (and I know which ones now are the best) because there is a natural progression and repetition that is not possible to replicate on your own. I will always add my own materials when I see where a student/class is lacking but I'm not going to scrap lessons together anymore. I don't NEED to anymore, I have a mighty arsenal of the best of the best, but if you want to learn the language, you're going to have to pay an additional 1000 rubles ($30).

I think that's fair. When I took private Russian language lessons in San Francisco, I had to pay $2500 for 50 classes (one hour each) and I had to buy a book ($50). If I canceled a class? That was $50 right out of my pocket; I was never able to reschedule. You can't make it? You still pay. It was much stricter. If teacher canceled? I had the choice of rescheduling or getting a $50 credit. (I mightily disliked my first teacher but really liked my second so I was happy I rescheduled.)

Here, I have students who cancel cancel cancel and they prolong their lessons ad nauseam. Oy, I like to finish them and move on. (I'm not counting holidays, of course, and I AM out of the country a lot--because of my visa needs or because of Nikol--I don't begrudge my mistakes.) I just wish my school would be "more professional", in the terms in which I understand "more professional".

I love my students and often am a self-sacrificing dork for them but if I'm spending more than what I'm making, no. I need to say "No!"

*Not to invoke Charles Manson nor The Beatles--my understanding of helter-skelter came from Charles Dickens.

One thing I don't get about Russia

Why is their TV so difficult?

So many British shows are available here. Nice for me, except Russians (apparently) like echo translations. Meaning the English is spoken first and then the Russian is shouted over it one second later. Wouldn't it be better to have Russian subtitles? OR full dubbing? I mean the echo dubbers are so distracting in their emoting that I can't hear anything but them. The echo translations make me a bit crazy. Can I please hear the English? Maybe? Or no echos? The combination makes me nuts.

This is the bastard child of dubbing and subtitles and it sucks.

I'm guessing Russian broadcasting systems couldn't care less about deaf people. They have no closed captioning in Russia. (This is what my gf tells me. With Irina and Alex in San Francisco, we simply watched movies in CC mode and everyone was happy.) Need I say, again? It's not possible in Russia. I have to hear some man interpret everything. In crappy women's voices. UGH.