26 January 2009

The Pleasing Aspects of Expatriate Life in St Petersburg

First is my excellent wife who has lived a much of her life in St Petersburg except for a spell in Moscow and seven years in the USA. She is cheerful, energetic, and an excellent cook. We speak our brand of English, Russian, and a mixture with an emphasis on Russian nouns.

People are laissez faire here which makes a nice contrast to the weird paranoia about much in the United States. Russians usually mind their own business and it takes a lot for anyone to make an official complaint... which would probably be useless anyway. A few years ago a resident of one of the apartments a few times a week stood near the school in our courtyard, stripped down to his underpants and exercised in the snow. No problem here. In western Jersey a photographer had to take a whiz in a school parking lot... no possibility of students seeing him (just the janitor)... and he was jailed, charged, and fired by the local paper.

I can ride the metro from early AM (not my time of day!) to around midnight and never feel threatened. Unfortunately dark, Asian, and black people are occasionally attacked by skinhead neo-nazis.

Most Russians are less violent in their outlook and behavior than stereotypical Americans. Fortunately, preemptive war doesn`t hold a fascination for them.

We have a small radio on the kitchen wall which plays by push button Radio Rossiya and Mayak (lighthouse). We listen to one of the stations intermittently all day, except when they are off the air for abed (dinner) from 3 to 4 PM. The younger generation just tunes into one of many stations found on a typical modern radio.

I feel TV is much better here... long concerts and dramatic shows which allow time to give subjects a good treatment.

In 2000 I noticed that the better taste and texture of apples, tomatoes, bread, cheese, and milk products than what was in the markets in the States. Now in 2009 I feel that Russia is sliding into the trap of ready soups, take out food, tasteless produce, bland bread, and junky milk products.

Still, I believe Russian cuisine is the best. This afternoon I am baking leftover spaghetti and sauce in a casserole... scrumptious! You`re invited for dinner tonight!

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