App Round-up

Here is a summary of the apps I think are most useful as an Expat in Moscow.  I had to find some new ones when I moved here because for example “Yelp” is not really used here.  So here they are!

Foursquare – I don’t use the location service of this app but I found it is the best for restaurant reviews in Moscow.  I love that I can save places I’ve found that look cute and then go back to them when I’m looking for a place in a specific neighborhood.

foursqure

Viber / What’s App – I prefer Viber but What’s App is good as well.  It’s a free messaging service so I can text and talk to my friends back home.  Since I have an iPhone I can use iMessage as well but I have quite a few friends that have Android phones so this allows free communication with them as well.  It is so nice to be able to keep up casual conversations!

Tiny Fax – One thing that has been frustrating is having the file paperwork for bank transactions for example and being overseas.  Tiny Fax allows you to send a fax from your phone!!  How cool is that?  It’s a paid application but has been such a convenience when companies can only accept original signature faxed documents.

tinyfax

 

iHerb – I LOVE iHERB!  It’s a US site that allows for free shipments on orders over $50 to a locker in Moscow.  You can find Method cleaning products, spices, granola and protein bars, chocolate chips, and so many other missed items from the US.  The shipments take like 2-3 weeks but it’s totally worth it.  My Boxberry locker location is in the basement of a small eyeglass store…this is so Russia.  I really thought I was in the wrong location the first time I went in to get my shipment.  I went up to the check out counter and sure enough she had my package!

iherb

Uber – Probably the most used App for me.  Of course we have this in the states as well but it is a life saver here.  You don’t have to be able to communicate the address, it’s a set price, and nicer cars that taxis usually.

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Learning Russian

I’ve really enjoyed learning the Russian language. It has been extremely challenging but rewarding. This past summer I took an exam at the university here and passed level A1! All my tutor had to say to motivate me to study and take the exam was that I would receive a certificate if I passed. DONE! I will basically do anything for a certificate or trophy. I was so nervous leading up to the exam that I studied everyday and tried to practice speaking as much as possible as this is my weakest point.

I am happy to say I passed receiving good marks in reading, writing, speaking, listening and grammar. Woohoo!!  Here is me with my certificate:

certificate

BUT, speaking is still really difficult for me in public. I feel confident with the language I need for a specific conversation but sometimes my mind just goes completely blank. Nothing. Crickets.  Can I get a vowel? Nope.

In these cases, it turns awkward and I rely on a combination of single word sentences and mime. Such as – “Need” followed by me wiping my mouth.   And in general this gets the point across that I need a napkin. Sometimes all goes well and entire conversations are exchanged successfully. Can I get a certificate every time successfully I order Papa Johns in Russian? No? Ok, fine I’ll settle for extra buffalo sauce on the side.

Recently, I was at the nail salon – one that I usually avoid because of their impatience with my language skills. Which only makes me more nervous in conversing with them. When I went to check out there were about 5 people that worked there standing around the cashier. I thought the cashier had asked me for an additional 200 rubles – maybe I misunderstood the total….so I handed over the cash. She rolled her eyes and started basically yelling “20…20!! Two 10s!!” I was so embarrassed as everyone was staring. I didn’t have 20 rubles (which is like 5 cents) to make the proper change she wanted so I said “I don’t have”. She rolled her eyes and yelled again “20!” and when again I said “I don’t have” she just ignored me basically. I just kind of paused and then left without my any of my change. As I was walking away from the salon I started crying. I was trying so hard to learn the language and trying to communicate the best I could…why did she have to be so rude?? It just left me feeling defeated.

Exchanges like this don’t happen everyday but they are not unusual. What I take away from this is that I want to try even harder to learn Russian – AND it gives me a newfound empathy for people that are learning a new language.

I hope that when we do return to the states I can always be patient and calm when trying to communicate with people speaking English as their second language. Here are a few things that I really appreciate people doing when I’m trying to speak Russian:

  • Giving me a couple seconds to process what was just said and formulate a response. I know it’s slow…but just give me a second and I can usually remember the words needed
  • Not speaking more loudly – this does not help me understand what you just said – it just makes me more nervous and then I forget more easily
  • While I do appreciate people switching to English I also need the practice, it’s really helpful when we stick with Russian

To those that show patience, thank you and I’m sorry…for my awful accent!

Привет!

Well hello! It’s been long time! Partly, I take this as a good sign because it means I’ve been busy here in Moscow with new endeavors. Partly, I’ve just been plum lazy with writing.

I recently read Lauren Graham’s book Talking as Fast as I Can – which was great! In the book she talks about her struggle with writers block and motivation and a solution to this issue. I have adopted the solution…so here we go again!

As a quick update, I have filled my days here in Moscow over the past year with a lot of volunteer work, yoga, substitute teaching, reading voraciously, and traveling as much as possible. In picking up where I left off with A Midwest Girl Abroad, I want this blog to be a journal of sorts for my travels and experiences here and also give some tips to expats in Moscow.

For this first post in a while I will just leave you with a photo and let you know I’m doing well here! I have made great friends, learned a lot of Russian and explored the city as much as possible. In short, I <3 Москва.

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Learning to slow down

I like to think of myself as independent, strong and that I take on the attitude that I can do anything I put my mind to…that is the mantra they feed you growing up, right? While all of those are traits I definitively hold, the one thing I have been learning over time, it is OK to slowly go about showing them.

As an example of this, since landing in Moscow 36 days ago, I have:

  • immediately jumped into many IKEA trips and have become familiar with some more unique furniture stores and since have furnished the house with at least the basics (even the guest room….why?, we have no plans for guests :)
  • assembled countless pieces of furniture
  • threw myself into being comfortable with the subway system
  • started Russian lessons 3 hours a week (priviet!)
  • found a flea market to start a couple DIY projects
  • started a tomato, herb and flower garden
  • started cooking daily (which for this delivery happy New Yorker was no small feat!)
  • joined the American Women’s Organization and have attended a few meetings
  • started a list of restaurants we must try out
  • replaced a lot of our electronics that would not work in Russia
  • found were to buy the best groceries and found real ketchup for Christopher (a high priority) and figured out how to read a lot of the grocery labels (well, not so much read yet but de-code)
  • managed to move out our rental furniture and then move in and unpack our shipment from NYC
  • etc…

Looking back on this truncated list it’s no wonder I have recently had a really rough week here. I have recently felt like a bit of a failure or that I am not the type of person that could handle this big of a move.

The difficultly to slow down and take a break and appreciate progress I’ve made so far without feeling like a failure I think stems from the corporate mindset where goals are set everyday and progress is marked on a weekly basis.

Before our move to Moscow, I was working at an accounting firm in NYC with very short deadlines and tight turnaround times. I went to work everyday ready to tackle the next challenge and turn around a proposal from idea to polished piece in any short deadline. I think I took this same mindset into our move to Moscow. Christopher would go into work every morning and I would get up and review my list of goals and work through until dinner time. The problem with this mindset is there is no separation between work and life. At work you can have a bad day and (hypothetically) leave it at work. At home if you have a bad day you carry it with you and have no one to blame but yourself.

So far, I have done plenty to make living here comfortable, why couldn’t some of these objectives wait (like, finding the perfect mani/pedi salon…I wish I was joking about that one) and give myself a break to just enjoy having some time off and to enjoy this beautiful city in the summer!

So as a first step, I am saying to hell with not having a dining room table, our patio table in the dining room is working just find for now. I am going to TRY to start to slow down a little and enjoy the progress we have made so far and living in Moscow!    

A Midwest girl in Moscow

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Welp. We’ve moved to Moscow, Russia.  My husband was offered a great position with his company (yea Christopher!) so here we are. When Christopher first brought the opportunity to me I was very uncomfortable with the thought and even was leaning towards “no”. True to self, I started research and after reading many expat blogs and hearing that we could live in an International Community, I came around. When we lived in Dubai, yes it was an international experience, but it was also very easy. Everyone spoke English, you could find any American products or food items you desired and we had many built in friends through my husband’s company. Moscow will be different to say the least.  The challenges are both scary and exciting.

First, it will challenge me to learn another language. I even need Russian to order Starbucks!! Um, how do you say iced skinny 2 pump vanilla latte? So far in Russian I know how to say “Thank you”, “Sorry”, “Good” and “IKEA”.

Second, we are living in a huge overwhelming international city which will bring endless challenges. With that comes the excitement of living in Europe (or Europe adjacent).  I am so excited to travel around with Christopher and see as much as possible while we are here.

Lastly, it will force me out of my comfort zone to make friends and meet people I wouldn’t have come across in NY. This will probably be the hardest challenge for me since I tend to be natural hermit. Yesterday, I stopped and talked to one of my neighbors. Yep, a stranger on the sidewalk. I have done this 0 times in NYC.

So here we go Moscow!

New York 1 — Shannon 0

This round goes to you, New York.

Living in the greatest city in the world proves to be, on most occasions, amazing.  But New York knows how to keep you humble.  One day you’re running in Central Park, strutting down the streets feeling fabulous, going out to dinner amongst the city’s chic-est…and the next you’re crouched in the middle of the street barefoot.  I’ll explain.

Our office moved to the ever dreaded part of New York that is known as Times Square.  To tourist this is their “downtown”, the part of the city that holds familiarity and is a central location to all tourist activities.  To New Yorkers Times Square is known as hell.

So yesterday I left the safe haven of our office and ventured out onto the tourist packed streets to get some lunch.  After navigating the streets arriving at the lunch spot sweaty and annoyed I ate and started to head back.  As I was about to cross the street to the office I noticed that I only had 5 seconds to safely make the light-plenty of time.  I start strutting across and then…my heel gets stuck in one of the sewer grates in the middle of the street.  I realize this after I step forward and my barefoot lands on the gritty street.  Looking back by shoe is properly wedged in one of the sewer grate holes.  Barefoot I turn around bumping into the flow of people traffic frantically pointing at my shoe.  By the time I get back to my shoe the light changes.  So taxis, busses and financial guys in BMWs start to whish past as I crouch down to try to get my shoe out.  The shoe is not budging…I’m afraid if I pull too hard it’s going to snap the heel off so I’m trying to like jimmy it out.

FINALLY, it pops out and I FROGGER it back across the street barefoot and put my shoe back on.  Totally grossed and freaked out I continue the walk back to the office when a tourist steps on the back of my other heel popping that shoe off as my OTHER foot now stomps onto the dirty sidewalk.  ARE YOU SERIOUS, NEW YORK??

I make it back to the office and beeline to the bathroom to disinfect my feet which were a deep black color.  The heel is ruined on my one shoe and there is a scuff mark on the other heel.  I surrender!!  At this point I just want to make it through the end of the day to when some girls from work are headed to a venue tasting, aka free champagne and sushi.

The end of the day arrives and we all set off excited for happy hour!!  Looking for a cab is a futile effort at 5:30pm so we decide to walk the 1 mile to the bar.  We are in good spirits knowing we’ll soon be drinking some spirits…until we reach a road block.  The entire 28th street is blocked as Obama is in town and they are blocking the street waiting for him to pass!  After asking one of the police men on guard if we can cross he informed us there is no way to cross until Obama passes which could be another 30 minutes.  ARE YOU SERIOUS, NEW YORK?  I then said “The real question is, if we run will you chase us?”, which did not receive a favorable response so we stayed put.

Followed by 20 motorcycles, 15 police cars and 10 SUVs Obama makes his passage and we cross the street and headed to the bar.

The night ended with complimentary Dom Perignon, Tao sushi and fun ladies so all in all a great day.

But advantage New York!

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