Saturday, September 29, 2007

Gutsy, or, late!


My purse. It's about to be replaced, hopefully, because it's starting to fall apart, but for now, this is what I carry to and from work most days. Above, you can see my earbud spool, and the book I'm currently reading, A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel. It's very very good; I recommend it.

inner pursepocket 1pocket 2pocket 3pocket 4pocket 5

So what's worthy of note? Well, the fact that I have hairpins in multiple pockets (I generally have hairpins in every purse I ever carry, and in at least one pocket of almost every coat or jacket. The 3 pattern row markers are still in there from when I was knitting the BIL's kilthose. The MAC lipgloss I got - free! - when I took back 6 empty MAC containers. It's a great reuse project they have, and the lipgloss is fabulous! And I've been looking for that earring...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Finally, or, Trippy scarf


The Jaywalker scarf! My diversion and companion on my flights to and from Russia, and on the long bus rides during our stay. I finished it a week ago today, but hadn't had the chance to photograph it properly until this afternoon.


Pattern: The Jaywalker scarf by Javajem
Yarn: Jitterbug by Colinette in colourway Jay
Needles: two 3.5mm 6" bamboo dpns by Crystal Palace
Modifications: none. Mistakes, consistent. I misunderstood the instructions for almost all of the decreases, which resulted in the pattern not turning out quite as intended. What is most problematic is the result on the right-hand edge of the scarf. Independently slipping the first two stitches knitwise, and then knitting them together, rather than slipping them together, knitwise, and then knitting them together, resulted in some loose loopiness on that edge. And I do not like it.


So what can I do? Frog the entire thing and reknit it? Grrraawwrrrr.....

Regardless, the yarn is awesome, the scarf is a nice, easy knit, but not boring, and the finished object is lovely to wear. I just hate that edge.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Baby sheep, or, To a Tea

teacup yarn

Rowan Lightweight DK, 100% Pure New Wool. Found for a steal in a discount basket at the LYS.

Sum, or, Blogstalking!

Who am I? Here are the most significant what's which make up my who.

wedding dress

I am a wife. The Man and I have been married since February 12, 2005. Being a wife has not long been an aspect of who I am, but it is something which shapes every day, including how I spend my days. Having a career-like job, rather than incurring greater and greater student loans through various graduate studies purely out of fascination which could drag me across the country, spending evenings at home or generally with my husband rather than downtown, considering issues of public education and politics which are of particular concern to people with families, or intending to someday have families are all ways in which being a wife has changed the shape of my daily life. It also means I have someone with whom to live, and with whom I can speak and share. It has also shaped my feminism, which is also an enormous part of my identity, which informs my outlook on the world. It is, however, remarkably difficult to photograph feminism.


I am a student. Despite the fact that I haven't been registered since April 2005, or that I haven't set foot in a lecture hall in almost two and a half years, I still consider myself a student. My joy is still in learning, in considering, in reading and discerning. I have topics for three or four research papers cooking up in my philosophical brain at any given time. I have kept all my texts from undergrad because I am, quite simply, far too attached to them and fascinated by the contents to sell them or give them away. And I reference them regularly, often in conversations with The Man. Our areas of interest and expertise differ so greatly, it does come in handy to have primary texts to which I can refer. Through my studies, I am a philosopher, a classicist, a considerer of world religions and a theologian.


I am a singer. I am also a choir member at my church. For that matter, I am also a Presbyterian, which is actually quite indicative of my personality. I am very Presybterian. I can honestly say, as a student of religions with a focus in Christian theology and practice, that Presbyterianism is absolutely the best fit for me. The fact that I was raised so is just a nice plus, almost a coincidence, really. I have been a first soprano at St. Andrew's, the church where The Man and I met, and where he was raised, for over four years. It was through the choir that I met my vocal coach, and it has been my lessons with her that have allowed me to begin performing amateur opera. Singing is euphoric and something I was meant to do.


I am a dancer. I began ballet lessons at 4, but for the past 12 years, Highland dancing has been my chief source of joy and exercise. Though I retired in June, I travelled on a first and final trip with my dance company to Moscow only weeks ago for an international dance festival. Now retired once again, I continue to teach classes at the studio. It's a joy.

yarn ball

I am a knitter. More generally, I am a fan of textiles, and the construction of garments. I worked briefly as a seamstress - not a handy way to make a living, that - and spend many of my free hours knitting or sewing, if only because I cannot justify spending my limited income on clothes I could make myself. So that's what I do.


I am mama to my furbaby. Wembley is my pride, my joy, and my baby. I have, unwittingly, turned her quite entirely into a toddler. She is cuddlier than any dog I have ever known or met, and does things which seem to me not canine at all. I love her.

So that's me. I'm other things: a Whedonophile, a bookworm, a yogini, but these are the elements of my identity which are most primary to me.

Blogstalking, or, Reconciled

Argh! We're not even a whole week into the latest round of Blogstalking, and I'm already behind! I kept forgetting to pick up new batteries for my camera after I used up the last ones in Moscow, and then ended up staying at work yesterday over 2 hours later than I normally do. How, precisely, did I end up with a job that requires me to reconcile statements on a regular basis? What a mess.

So I apologize, dear Stalkers, that I have yet to post my first Blogstalking post. But rest-assured that I am cooking up a good one, picture heavy and hopefully pretty. And that is the plan for this evening. Choir is still out due to the slow-healing of my laryngitis (at least my speaking voice is starting to return to soprano-like registers, rather than the contralto I had for a while there) and besides, it would be rude to invite a guest into our home and then abandon him to his own devices on his very first evening. My dance-friend, Kiltwin, currently volunteering in Mexico, has a lovely mini-Schnauzer named Sprite. Her parents are going out of town for the weekend, and since Kiltwin is in Mexico, Sprite needs a sitter. And that's us! I'm mildly worried that he and Wembley won't get along. I have no reason to think that will happen, I just know that it would be deeply unfortunate if it did. I expect they'll enjoy each other's company. It should be a fun four days!

Check back again tomorrow for at least one post; if I'm really on my game, I'll hammer out another Russia post, too!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sick, or, nah, just sick

My Russian-derived cold was abating, but appears - during the course of its retreat - to have left the door open, allowing another cold to sneak in and take up residence. I am feverish, I am congested, I am not impressed.

I am out of sick days. And the Husbeast is unemployed. So taking a few unpaid days to get well is, quite simply, not an option.

I am going to be ill for the rest of my life.

I'll blog the Kremlin later, hopefully tonight, at home. Now, back to my regularly scheduled workday.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

POCCNN::4.5 and onward

Now, where was I. Right. Grocery shopping. Bus-ride home. Both good things.

We arrived at the compound, took a moment to drop our bags and groceries (I later wished I had picked up more in the way of food: long bus-rides really call out for snacks, don't they?) and head to the dining hall for dinner. If I remember correctly....we had pork. I believe it may have been a large hunk of pork. Yes, just what my veggie eyes wanted to see. So, yogurt and mashed potatoes it was, with tea and bottled water, secure in the knowledge that I had food waiting for me back in the room.

After dinner, I thought it wise to recharge my mobile phone. Yes, I had brought it with me. It serves as my alarm clock and my mp3 player, so I left the phone itself inactive, and only turned on the necessary portions (something I am thrilled that my phone allows me to do). I went to my backpack to grab my phone wasn't there. Gone. Earphones: gone. No sign of it. I tore my bag apart: nothing. My garment bag with all my costumes: nothing. I walked out to the lobby where the "boys" had settled in for a night of beer: "Jim, my phone is gone." He came to my room, we tore my bags apart, again: still nothing. We knew I had had it that morning, because I had used it to send a text message to Jon asking him to call the Glengarry and Navan studios, so that the parents of all the dancers could be contacted to let them know all was well: we had positively no access to landlines by which to contact people. But by the evening, my phone was missing. The only explanation we could think of - as all the girls said they had not seen it - was that it had been nicked. I borrowed Heather's mobile and sent Jon a text telling him I thought it had been stolen, but that I'd get back to him in a few hours after more looking. Then I sat, knit on the scarf for a bit, and quietly fell apart, briefly. I was exhausted, I was terribly, terribly ill, and my mobile was gone. And with Jon out of work, there was little way of replacing it.

A short while later, I grabbed the one, incredibly large, bottle of Russian beer I had purchased that day at the grocery store, walked out to the lobby, held it out to the guys (I didn't have a bottle opener, and it required one) and said "I need a drink". Chuckles all around, and a moment later I was seated on the floor at Heather's feet, pleasantly drinking my beer.

It was an enjoyable, if rather crazy, night. A while later, Heather and I determined that we needed some vodka, and wandered over to the bar to purchase a bottle, some Coke and some juice for mixing, and the night improved from there. It had been determined that it was in our collective best interest for us to travel not in the pairs as we had originally thought, but in groups of four or five. This was due to some overzealousness on the part of a few of the men from some of the other countries. So in our packs of girls we headed out to the disco for some dancing. We had a great time, and turned in at a respectable hour, happily aware that the next morning was not as early as the last two had been, and that it would be performance-free!


What joy, to awake less than 2 hours before breakfast, shower, dress, and NOT french braid our hair!! Breakfast was...not served to us. For some reason, the staff refused to serve our table. Yogurt and rye all around!

As we were gathering up our cameras and passports for the day's excursion, one of the girls from Glengarry enters my room and asks "Is this your phone?" And yes, it was!! It was a brilliant start to a very good morning.

Into Moscow we drove on our buses for a tourist-y visit to....the Kremlin!! For the duration of our trip we had been cloistered: in the compound, on our buses, in our fenced backstage areas. The opportunity to walk outside and visit one of the most notable, most historically significant and most beautiful areas of Moscow was very very welcome.

::And my mum just invited us over for dinner! The Kremlin was so awesome, in the truest sense of the word, that it really does deserve its own, picture-heavy post. I'll try to have that up within the next day or so.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Another one, or, pr0n-less

Yup, another Friday sans-pr0n. Last week, I was just off the plane, terribly, horribly jet-lagged, and unable to see straight, let alone take artsy pictures of my yarn. The week before, I was in Russia, so a bit of an impossibility there. This week: the lack of sleep has caught up with me, and I've been headed to bed around 8 pm every night this week. Last night, the Husbeast was at choir (I can barely speak, so singing for two hours would be unwise at this point) and I was in pj's and snuggled in bed by 7:30. Yup, right when they were warming up at the church, I was climbing into bed. I was knitting! But I was definitely ready for sleeping shortly thereafter. Also, I'm still battery-less in the camera-department. I must remedy that within the next day or so.

I have several days of trip details to right up, photos to mosaic, WIP's to photo, and hours upon hours of sleep to catch up on. My plan is to go to bed this evening whenever the mood strikes, and then stay there as long as necessary to feel rested. Between the lack of sleep from the trip, the jet-lag, and my cold (FINALLY abating!) I'm just done right in. Hopefully, 12 hours of sleep or however much I get tonight/tomorrow will help the situation.

**Ever notice how many rather colloquial phrases force English speakers to defy the laws of grammar? It is, quite simply, next to impossible to use a phrase like "done in" without dangling a preposition at the end of the sentence. Perhaps my awareness of this fact is really my brain telling me to use more formal language and drop the colloquialisms. Meh.**

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Waking sleepy, congested and exhausted, we readied ourselves for our second and final show of the festival. The shows were, logistically, so long and involved that it didn't feel that we'd only danced twice by the end of this day, though that was certainly the case.

After a breakfast of what looked like hot dogs, cold canned peas (why, Russia, why?) and some crepe-like pancakes with chutney, we loaded ourselves onto the bus for some tourist-y fun before our afternoon performance. We drove to the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, which is WWII to, you know, the rest of the world. The museum is massive, and very much about the glory and honour and blah blah blah of war. Don't get me wrong: some incredible heroism took place in the course of the war, but focusing on glorifying death and explosions is simply not my cup of tea, whether justified or not. Regardless, the building is quite impressive, and possessed of a very "Russian" proportion.


We were led through the museum in our bus groups, though all the dancers for the festival visited the museum at the same time. Our tour guide made frequent reference to "the fascist Germans", meaning the Nazis, however, the judgment rang rather false seeing as how we were in RUSSIA. I felt particularly badly for the German and Austrian dancers: the Germans because it was their nation being judged so poorly, and the Austrians because of the historical animosity between the two nations due, of course, to the actions taken by the Nazi forces in the course of the war.

After a brief tour of the museum - which, we were told, would take 8 hours to tour fully, thank you very much - for a rather 'spun' interpretation of the war, we were treated to lunch in the museum's dining hall. A roasted vegetable salad, which was a welcome change from the starch and protein, followed by *sigh* a large chunk (and I do mean chunk) of pork with rice. There were also small stuffed rolls, filled with shredded cabbage and onions; they were incredibly good!

The stage for the afternoon's show was set up on the approach - an expansive, second performancestepped, pedestrian boulevard - to the museum. The day had turned out sunny and relatively warm, affording us the opportunity to relax on the steps in the fenced backstage area with our fellow performers. The number of countries involved in Sunday's performance exceeded that of the day before: dancers from Syria were now included, and a bluegrass band from Utah. We took pictures, socialized with other dancers, and generally enjoyed being performers, learning and teaching steps to each other. It was a very nice afternoon. Our performance went very well, and without incident; while our musicians and the sound tech had had issues the previous day, which had resulted in a few moments of little-to-no sound, Sunday's show was issue-free.

After our show, we visited some of the folk-art booths nearby, and listened to a band playing traditional Russian music on traditional instruments. People in folk costumes were dancing before the small stage, and one of the young male dancers, who was also involved in the festival with us, approached us, saying "Please, someone must dance with me!" It was sweet, and Angie responded "Sure! I'll dance with you!" She looked like she had a very good time.


Back to the bus. Here we get a little TMI, but I'm trying to be thorough, and really, this was rather amusing to me. The amenities we "enjoyed" in Moscow were...questionable, at best. Often, things were astonishing, but such is life, and I'm not prude enough to be entirely shocked by the reality that most of the world is not as obsessive compulsive about its toileting facilities as North America. I was feeling a bit "I'd like to pee" but was not entirely looking forward to checking out the port-a-loos in the backstage area. As I approached the line of blue plastic huts with my friend Heather, three of the Italian dancers were doing the same. The three dancers, all male, systematically opened the doors of the loos, looked inside with trepidation, and then exclaimed loudly with expressions of horror and disgust on their faces as they slammed the door. It was really quite funny, but also rather disappointing, as I was fairly certain that I was at least as possessed of prudish sensibilities as the Italian men; so I waited.

After we had climbed onto the bus, our teacher came aboard and said we should come outside for something. As we got off the bus, in a large open space between buses, a group of dancers, primarily Eastern-Russian dancers, were dancing and singing in a circle. They opened the circle to include us and the other countries who approached, and we spent a long time chanting the Russian words and moving in a slow circle, enjoying the community that dancing provides. Later, we were told that the meaning of the lyrics may have been, *ahem* less than entirely PG, but we were delightfully oblivious at the time, and it certainly makes for an amusing story now, that 17 Canadian dancers were dancing in a circle loudly chanting in come-ons in Russian in front of the massive Moscow war museum. As the circle of dancers broke apart to board our respective buses, a woman who was obviously Eastern-Russian approached us and asked if we were from Canada. We said yes, and she asked if we were from Ontario, to which we responded yes, and she enthusiastically, in thickly Russian-accented English, exclaimed, "I live in Toronto!" We were very surprised! The day before, in the heart of the city, we had encountered a Canadian family from Ontario, who had lived in Orleans* a few years ago. Canucks are everywhere!

On the way back to the compound, our dance teacher's husband, Jim, requested of Yuri, our festival organizer/tour guide/resident socialist, a beer-purchasing stop. We visited a grocery store outside the Moscow city centre, where we found beer, Russian chocolate, cookies, some sort of puffy poppy-seed things, and a not-horrifying WC. It was a good stop.


Sorry for the abortive post. Soooo sleepy. Dinner, dancing, an unfortunate discovery, and a sobering conversation in tomorrow's post.

*Orleans is a suburb of Ottawa, and the neighbourhood in which the majority of our studio's dancers live.

Lagging, or, All Drugged Out

Tomorrow turned into today, and, I know, I haven't posted on the trip again. I came home with serious jet-lag (this morning was the first since my return that I didn't wake at 4 am thinking it was time for lunch), an ugly cold, and terrible laryngitis. I skipped out of work two hours early to take a quick visit to the doctor and get a scrip for some antibiotics to tackle the raging throat and sinus infection I'm now enjoying. Fun times.

What's particularly fun - not - about taking the antibiotics is the likely effect on my digestive system. Due to the starchy, fibre-less diet we encountered in Russia, and the effect it had, and now the influence of the antibiotics on my little body, I will have experienced the full spectrum of intestinal fun!

That was a little TMI; I apologize. But such things are certainly a part of the sphere of international travel, aren't they.

Later today: An actual trip write-up! And I'll flesh out the pics on the last two posts, as well, including links to the sets on Flickr.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

POCCNN::2.5 and 3


Following the opening concert of Russian dancers, we took a break from our festival duties with four hours of: dancing. You gather 150 dancers together, what do you expect them to do for fun?! So we danced. Big, loud, discotheque in one of the compound buildings. Most of the Canadians wore summer dresses, despite the breath-cloud temperatures, because we knew how hot things were likely to get inside the dance hall. We were right, though we did get some funny looks from the other countries. Hey, we're from Canada: we're tough. That night, I learned that Russians know how to throw a party. The dance hall ended up filled with large hollow circles of festival participants, wherein someone would be dancing, showing off something impressive, traditional, or generally incredibly sexual. Thank gourds, the Canadian girls all comported themselves brilliantly. We did some step dancing, some Highland, and Heather and I personally engaged in several acts of Hornpiping, a particularly impressive and athletic dance. I succeeded in not breaking anything, or fouling up the steps, so I consider the evening a personal accomplishment. At some point, some of the Bolshevik dancers - all of whom are undeniably talented and most of whom dance with the Russian Ballet - decided that Nelly had it right, it was hot in there, and the solution was to remove items of clothing. One male lost his shirt, than the principle male - a 21-year old lad named Anton who comes from East of the Ural mountains, and despite his light brown hair, sports the almond eyes and slightely olive skintone of the people of Siberia - and then one of the female Russian dancers. She was, fortunately, wearing a bra, unlike some of the others, who were obviously not, obviously had taken to some surgical "improvements" and obviously quite enjoying themselves. Then Anton lost his pants. I'm not sure how they ended up around his ankles, but I turned to see him standing mid-circle, shirtless, jeans around his shins, wearing only heather-grey boxer briefs and a very satisfied look on his face. He redressed himself, and I thanked my lucky stars that all of my girls - who all had their eye on him prior to his disrobing as he is very talented, extremely beautiful, and hopelessly aware of these attributes - had seen fit to keep their hands off him during his nakedness.

We were thirsty. Dancing for so long is thirsty work, and there was nothing at all to be had at the dance hall. I was chatting with some Austrians, who suggested we go to the bar. What bar? I responded. Over by the dining hall, apparently, and several of us went off in search of replenishing fluids (read: vodka and beer). We arrived to find our two musicians, our dance teacher and her husband (also a musician: he pipes) and our lone male dancer, Chris, who does not dance, despite the fact that he is, you know, a dancer (we joke: he's too emo to dance!) enjoying much beer and wine at one of the tiny tables in the bar. "How did you find us?!" exclaimed our teacher. An accordion player - a musician for Austria, I think, though he could just as easily have been with the Germans - was playing polka after polka in the corner near the largest, though admittedly very small, section of open floor. Austrians and Germans were spinning around, doing what they all do so well (is polka taught at length to school children?) I grabbed one of our dancers, a Franco-Ontarian named Sophie, and proceeded to two-step around the bar with her. An Austrian dancer named Christian came over and we danced several polkas together. We talked about how long it had taken our respective groups to arrive in Moscow, and about from where we both haled. Several of his teammates arrived, and Canadian girls and Austrian boys were redistributed to ensure as many people as wanted to dance could. I danced with another Austrian, named Stefan, and then called it a night, as I was utterly exhausted.

At our dorm, several of our dancers were making friends with the dancers from Italy, a company which featured some young dancers of similar ages to our girls, in their mid-teens. There appeared to be much vodka, much laughter, much noise, and general glee. I was intensely aware of just how jet-lagged I still was, and exactly how early I needed to be up the next day in order to braid my hair, do my make up, and prepare everything necessary before going off to our first big show in the Moscow centre, so I went to bed.

Sept 1::3

Our first performance! Up at 6 - how thankful was I for being accustomed to rising so early to go to work, thus allowing me to hop right into the shower without having to wait for anyone to get out - then hair and make-up and dressed, with costumes ready to go immediately after breakfast. Breakfast was....probably hot-dog-like sausages with cold canned peas. I believe this was the beginning of our long sojourn with various forms of pork for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Thanks heavens yogurt, bread and cheese were present for every meal, as well as tomato and cucumber pieces, and instant coffee or tea and bottled water. I have never so regularly craved water and roughage. To say I have no idea how the Russian dancers stay so thin and healthy looking on such a diet would be an understatement of massive proportions. Still, I avoided complaining, as that certainly wasn't going to help anything and would only encourage the rest of the girls to be negative about things. And the yogurt was full-fat, so my calorie count certainly didn't drop, much to my dismay (I came home weighing precisely as much as I did when I left. Boo).

We were on the bus by 8:30 and off to see a few sights of Moscow before our show. This was the day I forgot my camera, which is a shame. We drove to the highest point of the city, where the National University is located, and which Yuri, one of the organizers of the festival and our constant companion on our bus-outings, informed us was a traditional location for wedding portraits. True enough, we saw at least five wedding parties, complete with brides in various styles of dress, assembled or assembling in the misty Moscovite weather for their pictures. This hilltop is also the site of two ski-jump practice ramps. The jumpers wear standard-looking skis and gear, and a series of rollers carry them down and off the jump, where they land in a large patch of soft, inclined sand. One of the two jumpers we saw seemed quite irritated by the presence of so many international dancers, and also seemed to think quite highly of himself, walking with quite the swagger. Historically, elite athletes enjoyed certain advantages in Russia, and I imagine that may not have altered so entirely since the days of the CCCP.

Into the inner circles of the city. Moscow is built in a series of concentric circles, each more secure and exclusive than the last. We were allowed - and I am told we should feel honoured - to enter the very innermost circle, right next to Red Square, where our stage was located. As we drove into the city, Yuri mentioned that the weather was unpleasant, but that the government had promised, for this special holiday celebrating Mockba's 860th birthday, to take away the clouds. We chuckled. Remember that; it'll come up again.

We passed the headquarters for the Moscovite police force, on Petrovka Street, made famous - or infamous - by many cold-war era action films. Within moments, we had reached a spot further down Petrovka within easy sight of the large stage, which was set on the street, as the city centre was largely closed to traffic that day for the various performances happening on the many stages within blocks of one another. As we pulled up, Yuri mentions over the bus PA, "...and on your right you will see Bolshoi Theatre under construction". I flipped. What?!! What?!! The Bolshoi??! It was within metres, just two lanes of street, away from my window. It was covered in scaffolding and swathed in the netting that surrounds all Moscow buildings undergoing construction, but it was the Bolshoi, and I was RIGHT THERE. And I was DANCING. I was excited, can you tell?

Off the bus, and into the fenced, military-guard-controlled backstage area. We deposited our bags and costumes, and then decided to make an attempt to visit Red Square for a photo op. Our tour guide and interpreter led us to the nearest entrance, where we waited, attempting to stay warm, to get through the heavily-guarded gate. After 15 minutes of standing around, we were finally informed that this entrance was only for military personnel (why our two Russian guides thought they could enter at this point, I do not know) and that we would only be able to gain entry by walking around the large building across the street, around the block, and in through the next entrance. So we walked, swiftly, as being late for our first performance would be very very bad. I was convinced, utterly convinced, that we would not have time for lunch, which we were all very desperately wanting by this point. We eventually got through the first security checkpoint, somehow circumnavigating the enormous crowd of waiting tourists and Russians, and made our way to the second checkpoint. At this point, we were informed that the Square was currently closed, something we later learned happens at several points daily, seemingly - from the state of the thronging internationals pressed against the fence - with little warning or schedule. We could, on no uncertain terms, not enter.

So we did the next best thing: we changed into our dance shoes, stripped off our sweaters and scarves, and assembled directly in front of the fence for a photo as close to Red Square as possible under the circumstances. We attracted quite a crowd, which wasn't difficult considering the hoards of people who were already there, as we were obviously in costume and obviously not Russian (not only were we English-speaking, we don't look Russian; our cheekbones are too round, and our eyes are too big, generally speaking). We took our pictures as best we could, and then bundled back up and hustled back to the staging area for our boxed lunches. They were hot, which was nice given the briskness of the day. They also featured a pork cutlet with mustard sauce, sliced tomato and cheese over pilaf. While I'm willing to bend the constraints of vegetarianism to include chicken - largely in an attempt to keep from starving while in Russia! - pork and beef are right out of the question. I believe one of the other Canadian dancers ate my pork, and I had the tomato, rice, bread and some yogurt I had stashed in my pocket earlier that day at breakfast.

Our show went well. We danced two sets, the first of which included a 180 second change on the part of five dancers, including myself, from white dress and overskirt, step shoes and tights to kilt, jacket, hose and highland ghillies. One of my sweetheart girls, Liz, was a fantastic help in getting me changed (we all had a spare dancer helping us) and we were all dressed and ready to go on with mere seconds to spare. As we performed our second dance in full kilt rig, I looked out past the crowd and shared a moment with the Bolshoi. As close as I am ever likely to get to the great theatre, and certainly while performing. It was bliss.

The Russian crowd was enthusiastic, though far less interactive than our Canadian and other international audiences generally are. Though not particularly responsive during our dancing, they were smiling and seemed to genuinely enjoy our performance, and applauded vigorously at the conclusion of every number. This was also the day that I discovered Russians' love of wigs and various novelty headdresses. It was quite the sight from on stage.

Following our performance, the sun began to show itself, and the air warmed a little. Many of us sat or stood outside the small marquee tents erected as our change rooms, much to the dismay of our tour guide. She spoke no English, but was very sweet, and seemed genuinely concerned that we would be absolutely frozen in the Moscow chill. She repeatedly gestured to us to put on coats and hoods, as she herself was well bundled. It was impossible to explain to her that, despite the difference in current temperature in Ottawa and Moscow, the weather was truly quite similar to our own, and that we would be "enjoying" similar meteorological circumstances within a few short weeks back at home. Some time later, we changed into street clothes and returned to our bus, where we realised we had the best view of the stage. While the audience at street level was closer to the stage, we were far more elevated and could easily see the performers' feet, which, as dancers, is what we most wanted to see. We were just across the street from the small park with a fountain outside the entrance to the Bolshoi, so several of us hopped off the bus and across to the park for a quick pic. We approached a young man, about late 20's, and carefully asked, complete with emphatic arm gestures, for him to take our picture. "Sure, I can take your picture for you" he responded with perfect, fluent English with only a very slight European accent. "You speak English!" we four exclaimed delightedly, to which he responded, grinning, "Of course I speak English: I'm not Russian!" He told us that he was from Gdansk, Poland, and was staying in Moscow on an internship, though he had previously studied in Hamburg, Germany, as well. The topic of the weather in Moscow came up, somehow, when he said, " Well, yeah, the government takes care of it." Excuse me? "Yeah, they fly up into the atmosphere and drop chemicals to get rid of the clouds. If they didn't, it would be grey and rainy year-round." We stood there, jaws agape, and then practically shouted "That's insane! We were told the government was promising to take the clouds away but we didn't believe it!!" "Oh, yeah," our Polish friend said, "the government is insane, but they are able to do it!" He took our picture by the fountain, and we thanked him. I would have enjoyed talking to him for a while longer, as he had a decidedly realistic view of the country in which we were staying and was quite well-spoken and very very nice, but we had promised to return to the bus directly, and so we scampered back, excited to relay our new knowledge of Russian weather control to the rest of the dancers. They were suitably shocked and entirely entertained.

Then back to the compound for a dinner of - you guessed it - pork and mashed potatoes, and some discotheque action. The bar wasn't nearly as swinging on this night, and some of us ended up hanging around for a while in the room of our two musicians, Dave and Darryl, and our lone male dancer, Chris, before returning to the dorm for some sleep. By this point, I was rapidly becoming very very ill, with a fever, deep chest and sinus congestion, headache, and a terribly sore throat which was threatening to become laryngitis, so I went to bed much earlier than most other girls.

I awoke to sound of very loud drums and much shouting coming from the lobby of our dormitory. I attempted to go back to sleep, but the volume was truly incredible. When my dance teacher walked into my room and told me I should get out of bed and join the party I was, not unreasonably, I think, not entirely impressed. I'm sick, I told her, and I would really like to dance well tomorrow, and I just don't think that will be possible if I don't get enough sleep. But this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and the sort of spontaneous celebration that can only happen at a large gathering of dancers, and she said as much. After five minutes of steaming in bed, I agreed, and threw on some comfy pants, shoes and a sweater.

The scene in the lobby was entirely chaotic, and highly celebratory. Dancers from various countries danced around and around the not-particularly-large open common area, where two Indian musicians with drums sat in the centre of the room, drumming with their sticks and hands rhythmically. Indian dancers were guiding other nations through the movements of their dances, and other nationalities were joining in the dancing with elements of their own traditional dances. Our dance teacher was filming the party on her small camera, and said to me, "The Glengarry girls are all dancing, but none of my girls are! Get out there!!" So I grabbed my friend Heather, threw ourselves into the fray, and threw down a little Highland. It wasn't long before the celebrating began to seem a little more extreme and gregarious than most of us were really interested in joining, and we retreated to our rooms for some necessary rest, while our dance teacher attempted to calm the noise. She must have been fairly successful, because I believe I went rather directly to sleep, with the knowledge that rising the next day was going to be even more unpleasant and exhaustive than I had already anticipated, but glad to have joined in the fun.

**::Sigh:: I've been blogging and photoshopping all day. Tomorrow, our second big performance, some Russian grocery shopping, and we visit the Kremlin.**

POCCNN::1 and 2

I honestly don't know where to start. My week in Russia was likely the longest week of my life; I arrived home feeling I had been gone for much much longer. I suppose I'll start at the beginning.

Aug 29::Day 1

Oh, the madness of last minute packing and preparing. I had errands to run, costumes to be ironed and packed, hoards of makeup to be organized (it was a performing trip, after all). It was generally chaos. I barely ate, and felt crazed and icky all day. Such is life. We left the house at 2:30 to go to my doctor to get my Hep A shot (yes, I know, I left it to the very last possible minute) and then on to the mall for a quick wax (at this point, I was under the impression that the weather in Moscow was going to be unseasonably warm per the forecast, and that I'd be wearing t-shirts and tanks all week. Ha). I realized immediately after leaving the house that I had forgotten to give the dog a big hug and just about fell apart. My two appointments went shockingly quickly, though, and we were able to swing back by the house before heading to the studio to meet up with my ride. Wembley got lots of hugs, and I was able to write out the pattern for the Jaywalker scarf which was to be my on-flight knitting for the trip, the pattern for which I had inexplicably lost. Off to the studio, then, pattern in hand, and we all climbed in our respective cars for the drive to Trudeau airport in Montreal. I rode with my good friends Heather and Chris; Heather's mum was kind enough to drive us all there. Heather's dog, Sprite, joined us for the ride, as it was to be the last time Heather would see her puppy until February, as she is volunteering outside Mexico City for five months, and left from Montreal 6 hours after we returned from Russia.

Heather and SpriteAn enthusiastic Chris

Heather enjoying a last snuggle with Sprite before our trip, to be followed by 5 months of volunteering in Mexico on her part, and Chris trying to look super-enthused. Did he succeed?

Everyone arrived at the airport without incident, we partook of some St. Hubert's chicken for dinner, and then headed through security about an hour in advance of our 10:45 pm departure. My ball of yarn was in my carry-on, and two of my Crystal Bay bamboo dpns were stashed in my pinned-up hair. No problems.

We flew Air France, and may I just say that they have entirely secured my business. Checking in our luggage was a quick and painless procedure, both to and from Russia, the service on board was spectacular, the plane was quite comfortable, despite flying as cheaply as possible, and the meals were remarkably good. Air France, you will take me on my next international trip.

on-flight knittingDespite the fact that we all went through check-in as a group, and that we were, I believe, the first people to do so, we were not able to get all our seats en masse. I was seated with two of the dancers from my studio, Liz and Kristy. Soon after take-off we had some pasta, I had some wine, and then settled in for some rest. When I couldn't sleep I listened to Feist, my new obsession, and tried to work on the scarf. In the dark. Very little progress was made on that flight, and eventually I gave up, and played solitaire on the seat-back screens with which each seat was equipped. I won.

Aug 29/30::1.5

We landed at Charles de Gaulle about 6.5 hours later. It felt like early morning, while it was in fact almost noon. The staff at the airport did a great job of retrieving us from our flight and getting us to the next terminal for our connection. Unfortunately, they had absolutely no appreciation for the fact that we were travelling as a group, the majority of which was minors, and I had to have some very irate and forceful words with the woman who kept mocking me and saying "It all goes to the same plane". Screw you, I thought; I will personally piss off every person between here and Moscow if that's what it takes to keep this group in one place and all together. We made our connection with a great deal of time to spare, to catch our airbus flight from Paris to Moscow.

I do not like airbuses. They are too small and cramped, and ours had a very unhappy baby on it. We were delayed by nearly an hour due to some passenger checking in his luggage and then failing to board the plane. His luggage had to be found and retrieved from the hold. I imagine it may very well have been destroyed for fear of explosives. I sat next to Darryl MacLeod, one of our two musicians, who is a riot, and made some good progress on the scarf. Feist was also a major theme.

We landed in Moscow about an hour later than we were scheduled to. It was late at night, perhaps about 10:30 pm Moscow-time, though it felt like dinner hour. In passing through customs, however, we had a small problem with Darryl's fiddle. Not sure what the trouble was - he was never able to get a well-translated answer, and we were all forced to wait in the lobby of the arrivals terminal for the better part of another hour. We were met by one of the organizers of the festival, who informed us that we would be sharing a tour bus with one of the other countries for the duration of our stay. The Indian dancers had arrived earlier, and had been waiting for us on the bus for the entire time. We felt badly, but there was nothing to be done.

Dave - busEventually, Darryl and his fiddle were returned to us, complete with long, hand-written letter in Russian with some regard to his fiddle, and were able to move on to the bus. This was our first exposure to Moscovite roads, traffic, and general driving practices. The first word to come to mind? Scary. 6 lanes of seething traffic, darting in and out of lanes, failing to signal, and using the shoulders of the road as additional lanes. We sat in traffic for hours. I knit. I listened to my mp3's. We all napped. We barely moved. It became evident that there was some sort of accident ahead causing all the difficulty, as emergency vehicles occasionally passed us on the left shoulder, with opportunistic drivers following behind in an attempt to gain some head-way. It was ridiculous. We came upon the accident, and within metres the traffic cleared. We were held up on a Moscovite highway for three hours due to rubberneckers.

After 1 am, Moscow-time, we arrived at the place we would be staying during the festival. We had been told it would be a hostel, but it was much more like a compound of some sort, with four dormitory buildings, many additional buildings for staff quarters, a main building with dining hall, auditorium and bar, a high concrete surrounding wall, and a 12-foot locked gate complete with military guard. Welcome to Russia.

Despite the late hour, we were given dinner in the dining hall. Hot tea, roasted chicken and potatoes, and yogurt. It was very welcome and quite good. It was also hot, which was nice as it was about 9C in Moscow!! The forecast I had read had NOT indicated that it was to be that cold in Moscow, and we were not entirely prepared. Of course, we're all Canadian, and Ontarians at that, so we're all quite accustomed to the cold. The dancers from India, however, seemed to be suffering, and all sported toques and parkas. One of our dancers had become quite ill on the bus, and did not recover for the better part of a day. Several members of the Indian company were very kind, and found bags for her to use for her upset stomach for the long, long, bus ride. One man did ask, however, if it was motion sickness or "a baby". Oddly enough, when we arrived at the compound, the health staff asked the same question, and seemed quite convinced that she was pregnant. No, Amelia is not pregnant, and yes, she did recover fully.

We found our rooms, we set our alarms after changing out clocks and watches to what we believed to be the accurate time and went to bed. It was about 2 am, and we needed to be at breakfast for 8, fully dressed and ready for the day.

Aug 31::2

We lost a day in travel. I think we left it somewhere over the Atlantic. We set our alarm for about 6:45. What we had failed to hear was an accurate time upon our arrival and we had overestimated the difference. So we woke around 6 am, not 7 as intended. We had sufficient time to have our showers, get ourselves ready, and take a good nap before heading to the dining hall for breakfast. Our meal was baked eggs with cheese, bread, cheese, yogurt (sensing the dairy theme, already, are you?) and this instant coffee, complete with sweetener and whitener, which was remarkably good.

After breakfast we had a three hour rehearsal in the lobby of our dorm. The floor was hard, we were all buzzing from excitement, and had a great time. We were housed in a building with the delegations from Austria, Germany, Italy, Greece and India. The Austrians and Germans were particularly interested in watching our rehearsal, applauding at the end of our dances. It was fantastic.

Lunch time. Chicken, mashed potatoes, tea, and more yogurt. Afterward, we had been told to arrive in the auditorium in our costumes where we would "sit and watch the other dancers rehearse". What was lost in translation was that we would rehearse as well, first. We were exhausted, we had just eaten, we had danced hard all morning, and we all passed out in the seats of the auditorium. With moments to spare, we were awoken by being told we needed our dance shoes NOW. We proceeded to engage in one of the worst rehearsals of my entire performing career. It was awful. We were off our game, our musicians were flubbing, and the head of the festival, one of the premier members of the industry in Russia, was NOT happy. He yelled at us, at length, in Russian, while our translator failed to keep up with him, and failed to understand him herself, which just caused greater problems for us, as we had no idea what he was looking for. There was to be an introductory bow at the commencement of each of the shows of the festival, and this required nearly an hour of painful rehearsal because we simply did not understand.

After we were finally released from the stage, our dance teacher, Heather Forbes, met with the festival organizers to receive details on our performances during our stay. When she returned to us, she looked bereft. She informed us that we were scheduled to dance twice: once the following day, Saturday, and once the day after, Sunday. That was all. We had travelled all that way, spent countless hours in preparation, and large sums of money to come to Russia to be locked up in a compound (granted, for our own safety, but still very much NOT exposed to Russian culture at all) and dance two shows. She apologized to us all, I felt terribly for her, and there was nothing any of us could do but go on with things. We continued to watch the rehearsals of the other countries - which was not only enjoyable but also reassuring as they all had as much trouble with learning the bow as we had - and Heather was pulled aside by the organizers again and given fuller details on the festival. She was told that, while we were only dancing twice, our shows would be on two of the largest stages in Moscow, and for enormous crowds. While small in number, our shows would be unbelievably large in capacity and importance. We all felt better upon hearing this. After a nap in the late afternoon, dinner (which I believe was more chicken, mashed potatoes, yogurt and tea) and showers all around, we felt better and more ready to face the rest of the festival.

opening concert
Dancers in traditional Russian garb. They were incredibly beautiful.

That evening was the opening ceremonies of the festival. We all marched, in costume, into the auditorium, and were treated to performances by the numerous Russian dance companies who were also involved in the festival. Many of the dancers and companies represented the small-in-number, tribal, indigenous peoples of Russia from parts of the country furthest east and north, past the Ural mountains. The dancing and costumes so closely resembled Native Canadian and Inuit traditions that we have witnessed at Canadian dance festivals, we actually felt quite at home watching it. The Bolshevik-era dancing, however, was the real treat. Impressive, balletic, bright, and expressive, it was energetic enough to make us forget our exhaustion and jet-lag.

During our hours during the day and evening in the auditorium with the other countries, we began to meet other dancers and establish friendships with them. The Italian dancers were the first to initially befriend us, which, culturally, didn't surprise me a bit. We were the youngest (on average) and decidedly most female dancers at the festival, and many of the male dancers from other countries were quite intrigued by us, telling our girls how beautiful Canadian dancers were and taking pictures of us.


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