Monday, February 21, 2011

Back to work

Hello everyone,

Yes, it has been a while since I posted anything in here, and you might even think I am no longer in Russia. Well, if that's what you think you couldn't be further from the truth. I am still here, hanging on... and there is no sign that I going to leave any time soon: I now have my little routine which includes 2 walks a day with Urmik, 3 or 4 teacups a day (extra watery please) and weekly borsch with extra sour cream that I now manage to eat without staining my shirt. Even the yearly display of snow sculptures is becoming a routine, but since you guys are just dying to see them, here they are. Because the camera battery emptied unexpectedly fast before I managed to take good shots of all the sculptures, I went outside the day after and also made my own little snowy piece of art that I included in the slide show below.

Consider this post as a warm up for all the amazing stories about my crazy adventures that await me this year. I'll try to keep you guys updated between 2 dog walks.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

1, 2... and 3!

I have now officialy completed my 3rd year in Siberia. That is a happy event. I can now celebrate that I am 3 years closer to leaving than when I arrived. Tadaa.
It is funny how I did not notice that I actually spent 3 years here. You wouldn't notice either if you heard me speaking Russian, in fact I am still struggling with sentences other than the subject-verb-complement type. Still, I get better everyday and God knows where I will stop. I may not even stop at all, maybe I'll keep on moving asymptotically toward the holy grail -intermediate level-. What will I then do with all my Russian language skills once I leave Russia? Keeping up the level by practicing with Urmik? That won't do it... Call me a condescending jerk, but the truth is that Urmik is not even a the subject-verb-complement level yet. 'Verb only' is good enough for all the messages I usually convey to Urmik (run, shut up, eat, get off the couch) and he gives me a confused look when I try to initiate him to more complex phrasal construction (like "mais qui c'est le gros toutou a son pepere?").
What else will I get out of those 3 years beside the semantics to talk to Urmik? Hmmm... character? I guess living in a bureaucratic country with very cold climate is good to build character, which is nice if you still want to build character at 34. And I also grew a thicker skin by living in cold in Siberia. Literally.
The highlight of my 3 years here is that I met Katya. She was well worth a few frostbites, and if I had to do it again, I'd give away a few toes all over again without hesitation just to meet her. Katya and I are now going to get married so we can stay together for life. We will do this in Moscow once all our preparative paperworks is done -no big party, sorry, just something between me and her. Still, that will be a happy event... May the 4th year bring more happy event to us (and to all y'all).

Saturday, October 2, 2010


It's that time again: fall. Fall in Siberia is so inspiring, it's almost like I am getting some spiritual experience. The yellow, the red, the green... Wow. Cool.

I know I already posted pictures from fall the past 2 years, but you guys are creatures of habits and you won't mind looking at similar pictures again. This time, we took them not just from the botanical garden down the street, but we also went all the way to the sea to get them; the Ob Sea, that is, which is down the other street from our place. As usual, it includes pictures from Urmik, whose black and white fur fits every season.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Irkutsk and the legend of Baikal

Going to Irkutsk and visit Katya's family was also the occasion to visit the city and the surroundings in more depth than I did 2 years ago. The center of Irkutsk is rather pretty in fact, with nice avenues and buildings with nice shops.

We strolled along the avenues past the local statue of Lenin all the way to the embankment of the Angara past the statue of the tsar Nikolai 2.

We walked along the river, which have buildings of unique architecture, that can’t be seen anywhere else.

One example of unique architecture from Irkutsk

We also spent some time at the open air museum of architecture and ethnography at the settlement of Tal-tsy which is half way between Irkutsk and the Lake Baikal. The museum is primarily made of houses from villages that were submerged with the building of the dam on the Angara in Irkutsk. We had a very quiet and relaxing day with tasty snacks.

Then we drove all the way to Listvyanka, the city where the Baikal flows in the Angara. We had dinner at the “Legend of Baikal”, a restaurant with patio that faces an infamous landmark related in many legends of Baikal: The shaman rock right at the river inlet. To understand the essence of the legend, you have to know a couple of things about the Lake, which I am cultured enough -and kind enough- to tell you: the lake has 336 rivers that flow to it, and only one that flows out of it… the Angara, which flows to the Yenisei river. So here is the legend. Spoiler alert: I’ll skip many of the epics and suspense of the legend and I go straight to the point. Mister Old Baikal had 337 daughters until one of them, Ms Angara, decided to leave to because she fell in love with Mr Yenisey. Mister Baikal was not happy and threw a giant granite stone at Angara, but it was too late… Angara had already made her way between the hills and was already happily flowing to Mr Yenisey.

Now you know the legend… you can see the rock!

See the legendary rock in the center of the picture.

Of course, since the dam has been built in Irkutsk, the level of the Angara has gone up and the rock is largely submerged. It is about 2 ft higher than the level of the water, so it is not so impressive. You need a much bigger lense than mine to make a decent picture of it. Are you happy now, grumpy mister Baikal?

See below more pictures from Irkutsk and its surroundings.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

When you cannot prevent a risk, mitigate it.

Who said that safety standards in Russia are low? Obviously, someone very oblivious to his surroundings in the critical moments... See the picture below to see how pro-activity rules when it comes to mitigate head injuries in the toilets.

Admire the attention for details in placing safeguards at the strategic places: on the ceiling for tall people, on the wall for people in a hurry. No more going to the restrooms with a hard hat and a mouth guard for me!

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, June 6, 2010


We went to Saratov to say Hi to Katya's family. I'll skip the details about the family... just in case they read this blog, let me say that they are all extremely nice people, very welcoming and that it was a pleasure to meet them all.
About the city: Until the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, Saratov was designated a "closed city", off limits to foreigners because of the aircraft manufacturing facility in the city. With the end of the Soviet Union, they stopped manufacturing their Yak planes, but you can still fly in one if you go to Saratov (in fact, you have to).
To all the foreigners who could not go to Saratov during all these years, let me tell you, you missed a very interesting city. The architecture of the city dating from the XIX century is beautiful and there seems to be many cultural events happening all the time (I did not stay there long enough to really benefit from all the culture there): there is a beautiful museum (Radishevski museum) from outside, but they say inside it is nice too. There are many parks... and of course, there is Volga, omnipresent and which is over 3 km wide (ca 2 miles).
The weather was beautiful, we walked a lot, so I am bringing back a few pictures from there. Please share with all foreigners who could not go there until 1992.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rediscovering the world with new eyes: wildlife

I used to think there was no wildlife around Akademgorodok. That was before I got into photography. Oh! I used to be such a banal pointer-and-shooter, oblivious to the beauty of nature surrounding me. How could I just go around like that and watch the world through 7.1 Megapixels only? Why did nobody tell me about features other than the "Auto" mode? Am I the first one to open my eyes beyond what's on my old tiny LCD screen? Are we all walking through life, blind to the beauty around us just because the Auto mode of our camera does not have the right shutter speed or aperture?

I now have a big heavy camera with many buttons. It's black, it has many features, and I look very cool when I walk with it. And the Auto mode works great. And now I see the world from another perspective. Let's just take wildlife as an example (our first example of what I believe will be a long series): What I thought was a tamed schnauzer is now revealed to me as a fierce predator. Look how he nearly breaks that branch by the strength of his jaws! and how he rests on the beach like a... wild thing that he is!

And look at these birds: isn't that wild? That's not your grandma's chicken, I can tell you that.

And with my new camera, even toads that copulate look good...

I am so excited about the new dimension that is now open to me with this big black camera. More beautiful pictures on your way very soon...