Lenin & Soup November 28 & 29

Lenin & Soup November 28 & 29

Back in Moscow, for the weekend at least. We kept this weekend pretty low-key as we attempted to get caught up in our school work. I still managed to get out a bit during the weekend to see and do a few things.

On Saturday, Jordan, John, and I went to try and see Lenin’s body in his tomb at Red Square. We were approaching the end of the line when the guard walked up and closed it off: “absolutely no more people.” Aghh. We decided to walk through Red Square (since it was open, a rarity) and ended up walking the perimeter of the Kremlin. So I did get to do something new! And I saw the back-side of the Kremlin, or at least a side that not many people look at.

Such green lawns in Moscow. Not anymore! The snow has finally fallen and it's white, and brown (yuck).

Such green lawns in Moscow. Not anymore! The snow has finally fallen and it’s white, and brown (yuck).

The Kremlin, hiding behind the walls.

The Kremlin, hiding behind the walls.

Two of the cathedrals inside the walls. I still need to go see these. It's getting close to the end...I better make it.

Two of the cathedrals inside the walls. I still need to go see these. It’s getting close to the end…I better make it.

Then, as John needed to get to class, we headed back home. I remembered that I haven’t taken many photos of the dormitory area so here’s another:

The building opposite our dormitory building. These are all dorms for college students. There are 10? of them in this one area, but we don't wander around that much so we haven't met too many people outside our own building. But that's alright, I already am having trouble keeping track of some people's names.

The building opposite our dormitory building. These are all dorms for college students, and they are all basically identical. There are 10? of them in this one area, but we don’t wander around that much so we haven’t met too many people outside our own building. But that’s alright, I already am having trouble keeping track of some people’s names.

The next morning John and I tried again to see Lenin’s body before heading to the souvenir market again. This time, we got there a bit earlier and so were successful in entering the line. After a short wait, we were led to the tomb and got to walk past the other graves of other Russian leaders, from the 1800s onwards. Finally, we entered Lenin’s tomb and walked down the stairs, a guard standing at each corner. We turned right and saw his body, on top of a rectangular box with a rectangular glass case on top of him. Felt shrouded him on the outside of the case and he wore a suit with a tie just for us. The rumors were true: he had a definite pink hue to him. Other than his nose and ears seeming ridiculously small, he looked pretty real. Apparently they take his body out every 3 years or something to bathe it in Formaldehyde and methanol. There are some pictures of his almost nude body getting a bathe online through a quick google search (rather shocking even it’s a fake body), but there is debate whether it’s Lenin or even a real body. His right hand in the tomb is closed and the left hand is open, but in the bathing photos both hands are open, and the body goes rigid after death?

Anyway, I’m not sure whether the body we saw was real or fake but it still doesn’t change the fact that if you split my life into two parts: before Moscow, and after arrival, I’ve seen more dead bodies and churches since my arrival than beforehand. Back to the tomb. We had to keep walking or the guards would immediately walk toward us (there were 4 in the room), as we saw happen to another viewer who stopped to gaze at Lenin. Luckily this viewer began walking before the guard reached him (another 3 steps) and so the guard returned to his standing position.

Then we headed to the souvenir market, of which I’ve shown already. Just before exiting Red Square we saw this:

Encounters like this one frustrate me, as they are caused primarily because of the Russian government. At the age of 65, an employee here (from what I'm told) must retire. They are then given a pension each month to support them, about 1000RUR, approximately $30. Ideally, the employee should be saving for retirement during his working years; but, often their salaries are barely enough to support them living less than luxurious lives (by far). So unless their children give them money each month, which I'm told happens a lot. The family of the boy I tutored gives money to his grandmother each month.

A Russian woman begging at the edge of Red Square.

Encounters like this frustrate me, as they are caused primarily because of the Russian government. At the age of 65, an employee here (from what I’m told) must retire. They are then given a pension each month to support them, about 1000RUR, approximately $30. Ideally, the employee should be saving for retirement during his working years; but, often their salaries are barely enough to support them living less than luxurious lives (by far). So unless their children give them money each month, which I’m told happens a lot: the family of the boy I tutored gives money to his grandmother each month, they must resort to street begging as a form of income. And what happens when they don’t have kids? They don’t stand a chance. Really pisses me off. I mentioned it to the head of our Russian language classes as one of my least favorite things about Russia and she agreed that sadly it is a problem here.

After the souvenir shop I split up from John to meet the other Russian language students at the southern end of Moscow as we were going to the head of the Russian Language department (if you will) to learn how to make Borsch, a traditional Russian soup made from beets (delicious, and I dislike beets), and creamcheese/dough/sugar pancake things that you eat with sour cream on top. Russian sour cream, and cottage cheese, are different here. I won’t touch cottage cheese at home but here they put it in chocolate and other things and it’s pretty good; it has a better texture and better taste.

All of us sitting around the table about to chow down on some Borsch. Actually, I think we already started.

All of us sitting around the table about to chow down on some Borsch. Actually, I think we already started.

From left to right: Dasha (one of the Russian teachers for my class, the other is named Dasha as well and they're friends, go figure), Lenny, and me.

From left to right: Dasha (one of the Russian teachers for my class, the other is named Dasha as well and they’re friends, go figure), Lenny, and me. Note the apron: I helped cook.

We returned home, full of good food and prepared for the upcoming week. That meant John and I started getting serious about our next trip as we were planning to leave the upcoming Wednesday night.

On another note, one about more of Russia’s failures…on one of the following days after returning from Kyiv, I was transferring metro lines and looked up from my feet when I reached the top of some stairs. Standing on the adjacent wall with a sign in her hands stood an ordinary girl about my age, with really pretty eyes. So I glanced at her eyes again as I walked past, not slowing my stride as I was in a rush, or at least I usually think I am. It was then I noticed that in fact she had one very pretty eye. The other was missing. And still, the look of pleading she was able to convey was painful. It didn’t effect anyone enough to do what was written on the sign, so maybe I’m going soft. My excuse for not doing what was written on the sign was that I didn’t understand it—and I didn’t get to read all of it, because I was in a rush like the others in the mob of people behind me (they’re behind me because I’m bridging the gap between two groups, using my cycling tactics, because I’m in more of a rush than them) Did I mention everyone was in a rush? too much of a rush to stop and help anyone? unless that person enters a metro car and the helpers are sitting and wearing fur coats exerting minimal energy to drop a few coins? Maybe what was written on the sign was some political activist thing and the girl didn’t want help at all. Who knows, obviously not me.

In the area of helping its people, the government (and any other entity or individuals) of Russia get the following rating, one that I see written on a wall everyday on my way to practice piano. It’s a great motivator! So maybe Russia doesn’t deserve it, but it was the first thing I thought of when I looked at this photo on my computer before writing this post. So here ’tis, conveniently in Roman letters and in English:

20091128-29 Lenin&Borsch 08

One Responseto “Lenin & Soup November 28 & 29”

  1. Jennifer says:

    Caleb, I’m sorry parts of the trip there have been hard on you, man’s inhumanity to man….

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