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Please replace the word "MOVIE" with "FORUM", and by forum I mean the internet as a whole, and specifically LJ. Over the weekend, some self-loathing troll decided to invade my blog and leave all kinds of misogynistic comments, all written as "anonymous." I've never censored any type of criticism toward me here - people have openly insulted my looks, clothes, mentality, life choices, etc., and I tolerate it for two reasons: (1) people are entitled to their opinions; and (2) freedom of expression is the only way to have open and productive discussions, facilitate changes in mentality, and progress societies as a whole. But I will no longer permit blatant misogyny here, directed toward all women in general.

All anonymous comments are now banned. I previously allowed them, but only after I screened them first. I don't have time to weed through dozens of sexist comments to find a diamond in the rough. If you wish to communicate with me, you will have to register as an LJ user to leave comments moving forward. Of all the comments left the past few days, nothing infuriates me more than the following:Read more... )
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Before we get to Russia, let's talk about Georgia. My big expedition for the year will be to this country, which is described in almost all articles as a "tiny, but proud nation." I always try to read a bit about local customs before stepping foot on foreign soil, learn a few basic phrases in the local language, and understand a bit about the current political climate of the nation. To this end, I even purchased a book called "Georgia - Culture Smart", which explains how to behave in the country to avoid trouble. A huge part of the book is focused on traditional gender relations, warning Western women about the wild and untamed men of the Caucasus. :))

I place almost no weight on these types of books because they are always overly cautious with their interpretations and warnings, and I really don't fear offending locals when I'm a guest in their country. If you're running around trying to be so prim and proper all the time, there's no room for true adventure, or learning about local nuances from the mistakes you make when dealing with natives. I think it's always best to just be yourself, and simply live and learn along the way.


Yesterday, I came across another article explaining ten things you should never do in Georgia. Almost all of them focus on supra etiquette, as these huge meals and gatherings are a main part of Georgian culture. Let's take at the things this simple American woman should never do during her visit to Georgia. Then, we can think of a similar list for Russia. :)Read more... )
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You know, I used to be a waitress during university days. I worked at both Olive Garden and Ruby Tuesday's. If you live in, or have visited the USA, you will recognize them because they are chain restaurants, located in most States. Back then, I embraced my feminine charms on an entirely different level. This meant getting dressed up as a doll almost every shift, wearing cleavage exposing tops, and other things that I don't do now. The reason? Of course, it led to better tips. :)

In the U.S., we have a service focused culture. We expect good, friendly and efficient service, and it's most often received. But last night I became enraged when I went with my friend to a local joint for dinner. It was early, and we were the only customers in the dining room. The waitress came to our table with a shitty attitude, brought menus, took our order, and then immediately delivered drinks and free bread. Then, we never saw her again!?! Another person brought our food to the table, our drink glasses remained empty, and meanwhile the waitress stood chatting on the phone for at least 45 minutes in some type of argument with her boyfriend or husband. I could hear the whole conversation and all the drama.


So, how do you react in such situations? Or, you just accept bad service with no complaints?my method and a brief English lesson from Shannon :) )
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I once visited a refugee camp, and only once. Yet memories from the visit remain bright and vivid, with conflicting emotions that never seem to escape me in life. We can understand most human conflict is grounded in the following bases (1) divergent ideologies or viewpoints; (2) religion; and (3) the inability of people to see past stereotypes imposed by media, culture, or the environment in which they grew up. I was reminded of this visit yesterday, when an Israeli reader began to argue with me yet again about "scary" and "evil" Muslims. Given the current political climate in the U.S., and the escalating global situation with terror threats, now seems as good a time as any to share this story.Read more... )
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While editing photos from the last winter journey, I was reminded of a scene that plays out all over Russia in the brutal winter months. It doesn't matter where this photo was taken, because it's symbolic of almost every city I've driven through during all my visits to the country. Usually it's mothers struggling to push a stroller on unclear roads or sidewalks covered in snow, ice, and most often a combination of both. Or, they labor to carry a heavy stroller and child up or down steps in metro stations. I began to wonder whether the country in which you live matters when it comes to raising children?

I think so, for conditions everywhere aren't the same, though the motivation of any good parent around the globe is the well-being and development of their child. In the U.S., I rarely see situations like this and there are several reasons why. First, we're a lazy society, and elevators or escalators exist in almost all major shopping centers or transport hubs. Second, most people have cars, and aren't struggling to walk everywhere in bad weather conditions for basic chores or necessities in life. Outside of big cities, parking is rarely an issue, and even in big cities there are plenty of garages but you will pay a lot to park in them in places like Washington, DC (around $25/day), and in New York City the cost is even more astronomical. Finally, we're a heavily regulated society, with a lot of laws on both the Federal and State level.Read more... )
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During the last winter journey through Russia, I was haunted by this cute little bear while driving through the Kostroma and Vologda regions. He suddenly appeared at the most unexpected spots - on an abandoned and decaying bus stop in the middle of a deserted village, on old billboards, and in some small shops along the way. I didn't recognize the symbolism of the Olympic rings on the bear's belt, but later learned "Мишка" was the mascot of the 1980's Olympic Games in Moscow.

I
too am an 80's child. Being born in 1973, I experienced the 80's in full force, at the height of my teenage years. However, it's difficult to find a common thread when comparing American cultural symbols from the 80's and prior decades with the treasured symbols from the same Soviet periods. This is not surprising given that our nations were seen as political and strategic enemies at that point in history, and sadly even now to a certain extent. The bear played an integral role in the last place I visited during the journey, the "Museum of the Socialist Way of Life", located in Kazan. Let's take a look inside...Read more... )
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Over the weekend, my local community experienced horror and shock after three police officers were gunned down when they responded to a domestic violence call. An active Army Sergeant named Ronald Hamilton decided to slap his wife around yet again, with their young son in the home. The boy fled when the violence started, and escaped the bloody scene that followed. As soon as the three police officers arrived at the scene, Sergeant Hamilton began spraying bullets at them. Two remain in the hospital and one was fatally wounded. It's a tragic tale, and every officers worst nightmare. The victim was one of several female officers who had just graduated from the Prince William County Police Academy on Friday. She was killed on her very first night on the job. Only 28 years old. No, this was not a response call to some ghetto area, but to a nice, suburban neighborhood, where the average house costs around $500,000. The wife was already dead on the floor when police officers arrived.Read more... )
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We have some strange behaviors in the USA, and today I'll tell you about one of them. Anytime there's a possibility of snow, everyone runs to the grocery store and ransacks the shelves. It's as if they're preparing for the apocalypse. :) I can hardly imagine that each time it snows in Russia, people hurry to the store to buy food. This human behavior is a mystery to me, because the maximum amount of time you will ever be stuck in your home after a massive snow storm is probably three days, unless you live in some remote mountain region. Yet all Americans prepare for eternal starvation, and an ordinary visit to the grocery store turns into a trip to the zoo, with wild crowds and people all searching for one item - bread! I think it was Jesus who once said "man cannot live on bread alone," but apparently humanity didn't take this saying seriously. It doesn't matter if the prediction is only for a few snow flakes, or a massive blizzard, people will always buy bread first and if you go to the store in the evening, the bread shelves will be empty. Why? How many sandwiches can you really eat during a blizzard? :) What about meat?

When I posted this photo yesterday on Facebook, one of my Russian readers informed me that if you cut a loaf of bread into little pieces and dry them in the oven, you'll get a delicious snack which can be stored and eaten forever. Apparently some Russians do this when they feel hard times are coming:
сушат сухари. Besides bread, what else do you think Americans buy to prepare for a massive snowstorm?Read more... )
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© The Telegraph

What does the Orthodox priest say to you, or he simply watches? I don't understand the rituals behind this Orthodox tradition, but the wonderful feeling of being half-naked in the snow, I know well. How refreshing to work up a sweat in the banya, and jump naked into the flurries, with your bare ass and breasts hugging the snow! Your body shivers, you see the vapors of your own breath swirling in the forest mist, and toes tingle! Probably one of the authentic Russian experiences I'll remember most from all my journeys. :) Do nonbelievers also partake in the Epiphany festivities? The spectacle seems entertaining to watch, although I'm certain many people view this behavior and tradition as foolish. 
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I don't understand this holiday in Russia. Is it merely a religious observation, or do people also exchange gifts on Orthodox Christmas as they do on New Year's? Congratulations to those who celebrate! I'm not sure how the Orthodox church observes Christmas day, or if it varies from the Christian rituals in the USA and Europe on 25 December, but I hope everyone has a festive day! Cheers from the USA! :) Please share Orthodox Christmas traditions in comments. I'm not religious and don't observe these holy days, but is interesting to learn about cultural distinctions for celebration.
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I believe hands are one of the most intriguing and useful body parts. They serve as the catalyst for immense emotions ranging from pleasure to pain, from soft caresses to violent beatings, and for some people the subtle and tactile movement of hands transforms ordinary images or pieces of wood into artistic masterpieces. During my trip to Alaska last year, I encountered a group of Native totem carvers. I knew almost nothing about totem poles before I visited the small town of Ketchikan, but it was there that I met with a local carver who explained the important role these poles play in Native traditions. I've already shown you the handsome carver. Perhaps you remember him?Read more... )
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Who knew that it was shameful to eat off of paper plates, or sip from a plastic cup? My translated post about Thanksgiving appeared in TOP LJ all day yesterday, and the comments were just a feast for the soul and mind! Many people immediately commented on the fact that my family eats off of paper plates, not porcelain or china! This is a sign of bad taste and a lower class upbringing, of course! We are poorly educated American rednecks! :)) Apparently after slaving over the oven all day cooking for 40 people, many Russians would prefer to stand at the sink in the evening for hours loading the dishwasher multiple times or hand-washing precious porcelain than demean themselves and use disposable plates and cups! My family certainly owns nice porcelain, but we don't feel the need to eat off of sparkling plates at such huge gatherings. Does the food taste different if it's served on a fancy plate? I don't think so. :) Other common observations in the comments:Read more... )
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Here's a holiday repost for all of my new readers, but as a special thanks to everyone it is written in Russian. :) I changed the text a bit, there are some new photos because I made a different dessert for the feast this year (peanut butter pie!), and we started a new family tradition for this holiday (see photo 32). Thanks to my reader Alexander in Tbilisi, Georgia, for spending so much time translating the text in the middle of the night out of pure kindness. Cheers!

Если спросить у американцев про их любимые праздники, то большинство выскажется за День Благодарения и Рождество. Это наиболее значимые для Штатов праздники, и их отмечают с размахом большими компаниями, включая дальних родственников. А сейчас посмотрите, как этот праздник отмечает моя семья в небольшом городе Манассас в штате Виргиния. Приятного вам просмотра, тем же моим читателям, кто отмечает этот праздник в США или за границей - приятного аппетита! :)
Read more... )
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Несколько лет назад на олимпийских играх в Сочи ко мне подошла группа пожилых мужчин. Они были в праздничном настроении, несли флаг их города и махали им в тёплом в воздухе, который наполнял олимпийский парк в тот день. Они сразу заметили, что я иностранец и попросили меня подержать флаг так, чтобы они могли сфотографировать. Я сделала это без всяких колебаний. Не потому, что у меня есть какие-то связи или почтение к российскому флагу, а потому что это был момент простых человеческих отношений, где не было места политике и слов, создающих языковой барьер. Просто группа людей разных наций разделяет вместе приятный и короткий момент времени.

Со времени моего первого поста о России прошло много лет, люди постоянно называли меня русофобом. Но давайте поразмышляем над этим словом, которое состоит из части «фоб». Фобия — это иррациональный страх чего-либо, желание избежать это любой ценой. Тем не менее я продолжаю возвращаться в Россию год за годом и даже иногда много раз за один год. Это правда, что я не провожу время, бездельничая или изучая только самые наиболее популярные места в России — Москва, Петербург или Золотое кольцо. Нет, я ездила и в другие места, деревни, отдалённые города, даже путешествовала одна ночью в плацкарте. Рассказов очень много и они хорошо известны многим из вас, кто читает мой блог уже долгое время. Это не расслабляющий отдых, путешествовать в России не всегда комфортно и легко. Как юрист, зарабатывающий хорошие деньги, я могу позволить себе путешествовать в более изящные и роскошные места в мире. Поездки в Россию — это поиск понимания и изучения страны, которая мне была интересна ещё со времён учебы в университете. В любом поиске такого понимания должны быть заданы вопросы, и это то, что я делаю здесь, в моём блоге. Поиск разъяснений, понимания и различных точек зрения людей, которые раньше жили в России и те, которые провели там всю свою жизнь.

Read more... )
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We all have mentors growing up, people who inspire us to do great things in life or those who instill a sense of profound knowledge and insight. They make us better and more intelligent humans, and can turn an otherwise directionless life and place it back on course. Growing up, I had several teachers who were mentors, and especially during university when I met a young professor who encouraged me to continue writing poetry and other creative works. So you can imagine my horror when I received an email from a beautiful young girl I met during my visit to Ples. She lives in the town of Volgorechensk, and is very studious, speaking almost perfect English, with a dream to study or visit abroad. Completely interested and open to the world outside of Russia. She began to tell me about the things her teacher tells her and other students in the classroom...shock! )
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The problem with Russia - fools and roads. I heard this phrase so many times when I first started reading LJ a few years ago, but never understood it until I visited the country. Fools, they're found everywhere on the planet, but the roads in Russia remain a mystery to me after so many visits. The answer to yesterday's game - the Kursk villagers had a huge celebration because the dirt road in their neighborhood was finally paved. According to my reader, the villagers had been waiting for this day for over 85 years, and now live in happiness over something as basic as a proper road. For me, it's almost incomprehensible that such a celebration would ever occur in the U.S., because good roads for us are the norm. Even in small towns, with few rural exceptions. The only time I've seen a lot of dirt roads was in rural parts of Kansas, but such pathways were usually leading to privately owned farmland or very remote areas, not neighborhoods where many homes and people are located. Rural roads in the U.S. look something like this.how roads should look! )
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On a rainy summer day, local villagers gather in Kursk, Russia for a big celebration! Watermelon, peaches, and tasty fruits are sliced to celebrate one of the most exciting events in the history of the village. What are they celebrating? Let's play a game, turn on our creative brains and have fun. :) Readers, please guess the reason for the party and gathering. If someone guesses correctly, I will send them a prize from Maine! This photo was posted last week by one of my readers on Facebook, a lovely lady who told the amazing background story behind this photo. I will announce the answer tomorrow evening. Btw, I don't know anything about Kursk, what is interesting there? Should I visit?

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Over the weekend, I was sitting at my apartment pool, relaxing in the hot sun when I was disturbed by very loud voices. Immediately I could tell that it was some of the Russian residents living in my building. For me, it's easy to spot Russians in the crowd, perhaps because I spend so much time communicating with them in my personal life and in this blog. They most often talk in a very loud tone, which sounds aggressive to my English trained ears. Why is this? This is not only at my apartment, but also a perception based on numerous personal encounters with Russians in the USA, on airplanes and throughout Russia. It's not an insult, just an observation. :) The topic of the conversation can be extremely friendly, with a loved one or friend, yet still sound like an argument to me because I barely understand any Russian words when they are spoken by natives.

Other signs that the person at my pool is Russian - older women almost always wear bikinis, despite their physical shape or appearance. Very old, overweight females stuff themselves into these types of bathing suits, and it's fine. About someone else's appearance, I have no opinion or say, and if they're comfortable in this type of clothing, more power to these ladies! :) However, it's not so common for old women in the States to wear bikinis, I very rarely see it. Similarly, Russian and European men at my pool almost always wear Speedos, or tightly constricted swimming trunks. It doesn't matter that they have huge bellies, I suppose it's just a cultural difference in swimwear attire. Something like this...Read more... )
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I've never once seen bloody animals being sacrificed, goats with sliced throats or any other celebratory or religious customs of Muslims celebrated on the streets of the USA. However, I remember readers sending me photos of these religious traditions, which may seem barbaric to some, playing out on the streets of different Russian cities. I've always struggled with the question of immigration vs. cultural heritage. To what extent should immigrants in a new country part with their cultural ties, and assimilate into the new environment? I think it's a delicate balance, and there are no easy answers.

When I was in San Diego a few months ago, my visit coincided with one of the most important Mexican holidays - Cinco De Mayo. Most Americans think this is Mexican Independence Day, but in fact it's a day to commemorate the Mexican army's victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. The holiday is widely celebrated in the USA, with many festivals and ordinary citizens eating Mexican food and sipping margaritas in the warm sun. I was in Old Town San Diego, a huge Mexican mecca in California, during Cinco De Mayo and encountered all kinds of festivities, food, beautiful dancers and mariachi bands.Read more... )
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American women are the worst females in the world. We're fat, ugly, have no sense of style and typically behave as man beasts. We like to gorge ourselves on fatty foods and alcohol, but have no idea how to cook. Our idea of a nice dinner for a man is carry-out from a local restaurant, or throwing something in the microwave. All femininity is lost in the quest for our careers and we constantly emasculate men with our demands for equality. These are the musings of a famous pick-up artist named "Roosh V", who grew up very close to me in Maryland. Now Roosh is a master blogger, creating such genius and noteworthy posts like "As the Pussy Turns," even publishing a book entitled "Bang," which instructs men how to get laid in various parts of the world. His favorite location is Eastern Europe, more specifically Estonia, Ukraine, Moldova, Russia...But, his favorite hobby is discussing and dissecting every trait of the horrid American female, like in this video. For those too lazy to watch it, I'll summarize his main points about why American women deserve no attention from men:Read more... )

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