Vegetarian in Moscow: A New Russia

When I left Moscow in 2003, it was hard enough to order a salad with no meat let alone find a veggie burger in Moscow. Thankfully, times have changed.

There are now not only places to find vegetarian food, but also growing online communities to help the vegetarian in Moscow.Even regular supermarkets carry vegetarian lasagna, cutlets, burgers, etc.

Jagannath [my city-pick favourite!] locations have full vegetarian/vegan restaurants with small shops selling everything from meatless foods and supplements to all-natural soaps & toothpaste. And the Vegetarian Card gives members discounts to vegetarian-friendly businesses around the city.

Most mainstream restaurants have a way to go before I’d call them vegetarian-friendly. But Moscow is definitely taking a step in the right direction.

Returning To Russia

Of all the places I’ve visited, the only other place that has moved me & shaped my life as much as Russia has been Tibet. And maybe I’ll go back there someday. But right now: I’m moving back to Moscow.

Since finding out I’d been hired in Russia, I’ve had three types of responses when I tell people the news:

  • Outright baffled: “Oh, I don’t really know anything about Russia”
  • Outright confused: “Why on Earth would you want to go there?”
  • Outright overjoyed: “Oh my gawd that’s so exciting! Russia!”

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It’s been a decision fraught with self reflection. I’ve been slightly torn because I’m very well aware that I’m not skipping into a rainbow-covered land of unicorns, to put it lightly. But it’s a nation with an amazing history and a currently political climate that I find fascinating, with all it’s complexities.

Red Square & MeAbove all, ever since I reluctantly left Moscow in the winter of 2003, I’ve vowed to go back to live & work some day. I don’t have many regrets in life. But I know that if I didn’t give Russia one more chance, I’d get to the end of my life, look back, & regret that I didn’t at least give it a shot.

So here I am giving it a shot. 36 years old. A new teacher. And moving from Toronto to Moscow.

If you’re one that said “Oh I don’t really know anything about Russia” or “why on Earth would you want to go there” or “oh my gawd, that’s so exciting! Russia!” Follow along and I’ll do my best to show what my life there is like.DSC01232

People who have never been to Russia tell me that Russians don’t smile or laugh. But I know that they do. And I’ve seen them myself. And I look forward to more.

West T.O. Loses 3 Gems in 1 Week

WHAT AM I GONNA DO?!?!

Three of my favourite West End businesses in Toronto all closed in the same week. They were unique spots…little hidden gems in my neighbourhood. They’ll be missed in a downtown core that seems to be replacing character with condos. Farewell!

The Henhouse was the home of Tapette, my favourite gay French dance party each month. Tapette will survive in other venues, but the Henhouse gave it a nice, West End feel. And whenever I ordered a rum & coke there, it was RUM and just enough enough coke to taste it, the way a drink should be! None of this “are you sure there’s rum in this?” stuff!

 

 

Sadie’s Diner was my favourite vegetarian diner in Toronto. Their entire menu was vegetarian and they had a fantastic, affordable brunch menu…..all set in a cute, traditional diner atmosphere with cool, hip servers.

La Merceria is one of the cutest coffee shops I’ve ever seen in Toronto. It was a mix of coffee & gift shop with some unique, often hand-made, gifts for the home. The people who ran it were absolute gems. So friendly & always up for a bit of conversation, even on a busy day.

More Than Birds & Bees [Credit: Maclean’s Good News]

Starting next fall, schoolchildren in Ontario will learn more about sex, and at an earlier age. The update to the province’s sex-ed curriculum – the first since 1998 – covers societal changes such as the legalization of same-sex marriage and the rise of sexting, and puts a focus on abuse, gender identity, and risky behaviours. Some parents protest that the new information is too frank. But it isn’t anything that can’t be easily found – in far more graphic detail – on the internet. Talking honestly and openly with kids about sex and its complexities is a good thing, and an important step toward creating health and happy adults.

The Quest for Cheap Contact Solution in France

One thing I’ve always been amazed at in France is how expensive contact solution is. It’s usually only found at an optician’s store or perhaps a pharmacy and, compared to most countries, it’s extremely pricey.

This post is simply for the many people out there looking for affordable contact solution in France. In my own search I found many blogs and forums with travellers and expats voicing their surprise over the high price. But rarely did anyone post about where to find the cheapest. So here’s what I found:

IMG_20150216_120309_editHans Anders. At least in Lille, Hans Anders has (by far) the best prices for contact solution. Their store-name brand is about 5 euros cheaper than most other places, and you actually get a larger bottle! They also have a travel-sized bottle (within the 200ml carry-on allowance for liquids) perfect for vacation.

Find a Hans Anders location near you here.Find a Hans Anders location near you here.

Not Just Another Zombie Show….Not Even Close

There are a lot of entertaining TV shows out there right now, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt compelled to sit down & write about one of them. Not until I watched BBC’s award-winning show for Best Mini-Series: In The Flesh.

Flesh 03Yep, it’s a zombie show. But it isn’t about the blood, gore & outrunning the undead.  The zombies here have PDS or Partially Deceased Syndrome and are being rehabilitated into society. The show uses zombies as a metaphor for so many ostracized groups in societies both today and historically. And that’s where this show gets its power. Flesh 04

The outsider: not accepted by family, not welcome in the community, living everyday with a label that evokes hatred & stereotypes. So many people can relate. Which is why so many people relate to Kieran Walker, the lead character played by Luke Newberry. The ending to Season Two, Episode Three not only made me yell out loud & lose my breath, but it has it’s very own YouTube clip [spoiler alert!].

Flesh 02Though it’s not outwardly a gay-themed show, LGBT blogs & magazines have probably been the most vocal in sounding their support and recognition of the show’s similarity to the gay community, the struggle with coming out, and the stigmatization of people living with HIV and AIDS. As a gay man, these undertones in the show are exactly what had me sitting at home with tears in my eyes over zombies on my TV screen……and that’s a first.

Blackberry Travel: Best Travel App I’ve Ever Seen

imageThis app continues to baffle me with how amazing it is. For frequent travellers, especially for business, I see why Blackberry is still the way to go.

I just booked two flights. When I received the confirmation email from the airline, Blackberry Travel automatically loaded all the flight details into the app & my phone’s calendar. It includes everything: date, departure & arrival times, flight number, booking reference number, confirmation number, flight company website & contact, +++ image

It’s an active app so it constantly monitors the flights: automatically updates time changes, gate changes (yes, it even tells me what gate to go to), etc. It tells me the current weather forecast & time for my departure & arrival cities. It’ll even take me to other travel apps to help with city guides, maps, and translation for foreign languages.

From right in the app I can book a hotel (with a low-price guarantee), rent a car, or book a private vehicle for airport transportation. It adds all details right into my calendar & phone so I never need to worry about losing reservation info. It’s all right here.

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