Tag Archives: Russia

Last Days of Summer in Moscow

Setting Sun on the Moscow River

Some people think it’s cliche, but I love walking through Gorky Park and then along the Moscow River to the university, which you can see in the distance in the photo.

Ping Pong is very much a big thing here!

There’s always time to stop and grab an ice cream cone

It’s considered to be very polite for a man to hold his girlfriend’s purse.

However, I’m not sure how this guy feels about it!

Regional Train Station

A young guy in uniform catching a Suburban train out of Moscow

Suburban Trains

One of the many Suburban trains zipping in and out of Moscow. It definitely helps to be able to read Russian if you intend on catching a train here! There’s not a lot of help available and during rush hour it’s definitely not easy to find someone to stop and help

Inside a Suburban train

The view at dusk in my neighborhood closer to home

One of moscow’s many universities lit up at night

Triumph Palace

This is a towering apartment complex in my neighborhood. I don’t even want to know what the rent is there! Moscow is still considered one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in.

Saint Basil’s Cathedral

Some of Moscow’s most photographed guys

These guys stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Kremlin in the center of Moscow. The changing of the guards always brings crowds of locals and tourists to watch.

Lenin’s lineup

The long line up on the right is the queue of people waiting to enter the tomb where Lenin is kept

Tverskaya

The city spent a kazillion dollars upgrading for Tverskaya Street in the center of Moscow. I have to admit that I think it looks fantastic. They actually took out car lanes to make more room for pedestrians and trees

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A Beautiful Day in my (Moscow) Neighbourhood

My quest continues to give my friends & family an idea of my life here in Moscow. And since a picture’s worth a thousand words, here we go….

My apartment block

It’s a pretty basic, traditional Russian 5-story building. I love it because I face a small park and schoolyard so whenever I’m home it’s generally super quiet

The Bare Stairwells

Whenever I’d see a stairwell like this in a movie I knew it had to be in Eastern Europe. Pretty typical in Moscow. Pretty bare but I mean: it’s a stairwell! As long as I can go up & down, I’m good!

The obligatory playground

Every apartment block in Moscow will have a courtyard & children’s playground nearby. On weekends they’re packed with kids, families, and grandparents chatting the day away….I was jet-lagged and out at the crack of dawn when normal people were sleeping!

My little pond

Not every neighbourhood has this! I love stopping to watch the ducks and to just relax here.

The Colossus!

This is an absolutely gigantically large apartment block down the street from me & I heard it costs quite a few rubles to live there!

Farmer’s Market

Every weekend this pops up down the street.

Bike Share

And yep: Moscow’s got a public bike share/rental program to zip around town.

Baku Movie Theatre

Moscow has its share of massive, glitzy movie theatres, but a few old neighbourhood movie houses are still around

The Homeless Cats

You generally don’t need to wander for long before stumbling upon one of these cuties

No Shoppers Drug Mart here!

Pharmacies are usually pretty small, but you can get a lot of medication without a prescription

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!”

Darren Logo

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.

Sign to Help Stand Against Brutal anti-gay murders on the rise in Russia

Anyone who knows me knows my love and fascination toward Russia, my second Mother Land. Living in Moscow was my first big international adventure and the experience opened my eyes to both beautiful and brutal things in our world.

Unfortunately, under the present Putin regime, there is more of the “brutal” going on in Russia in right now and it is only going to get worse. Information, publications, and educational materials that mention homosexuality are now considered gay propaganda in Russia. Possession and/or distribution of such material is now considered a criminal offense.

Please click the image below to sign the AllOut form to voice your opposition to Russia’s anti-gay propaganda laws:

My Marred Motherland

I used to call Russia my Motherland because I had such a connection to it and its people when I lived in there in 2002-2003. I met people whose outlook on life and the world changed my own thinking of the world and my place in it. And so I am deeply saddened by the recent (or ongoing) descent within its social structure.

Last week there was a brutal torture murder of a 23 year old gay man in Volgograd. The details are too horrific to repeat, but the rise in homophobic violence in Russia seems to be heightened by the nation’s homophobic government administrations:

  • There are bans against gay news or “propaganda”
  • President Putin has overseen a religious revival of the Orthodox Church, whose leader suggests that homophobia is one of the greatest threats to Russia.
  • Every year since 2006, Moscow authorities have refused to authorize gay pride parades/marches

And now a new book by award-winning journalist Oliver Bullough investigates why Russia is dying from within: “driven by toxic levels of alcohol abuse, Russia is also battling a deeper sickness: a spiritual one, born out of the country’s long totalitarian experiment.”

And another Russian fact in Macleans magazine this week: Russians are five times more likely to die of “external” causes (murder, suicide, drowning, car crashes) than West Europeans.

I was in Russia last summer and I know it’s not all bad. There is good and beauty all over the place. But so many of my young friends, especially my gay Russian friends, just want out. I think it speaks volumes when people want to do anything to leave their home, their motherland.

Ten years ago while living in Moscow I remember saying: give it a generation. Young people will come around to accepting homosexuality…..I’m starting to think it will take longer. But I’m hopeful that it will happen.

Return to the Motherland: A Decade After First Touching Down in Russia, I Return to the Country I Fell in Love With

My Room

This is me a decade ago in my apartment in Moscow, flanked by Russian chocolate and a crap-load of the Russian pop music that I fell in love with. I had just turned 23 and had no idea what to expect. What I got was an experience that changed me & has kept me intrigued with this nation ever since.

Now, almost to the very day 10 years later, I’ll be returning to Moscow. I’ve been there since, but this decade-mark seems a little more meaningful for some reason.

Привет, Москва!