On the Bright Side

I admit it, I'm having a rough time adjusting to the fact that we're moving to Russia in six months. I shouldn't be; I knew John wanted to go to Russia, and he has a funny way of getting whatever he wants. But the realities of all of this have finally hit - as I knew they would. I'm terrified of a five-month winter with temperatures averaging around zero degrees. I'm terrified of going to a post that according to one report has had one family with a preschool-aged child in thirteen years (this was a few years ago, so hopefully that's changed). There are no international schools in Yekat, so it's not a post that many families even consider. I'm angry with myself for not figuring this stuff out BEFORE we bid Yekaterinburg high. And I'm terrified of living somewhere I don't speak the language and can't even rely on my four years of Spanish to help decipher a few rudimentary things.

I know there are worse posts, of course. We'll be living in a modern city with many conveniences that families at some posts can't even dream of. We'll have a nice apartment (hopefully with an extra bedroom or two!) and a car to take us to a Target-esque store, from what I've read. I haven't found any information about English-speaking preschools, so most likely I'll be spending a lot of time with Jack, but we will probably be able to afford at least part-time help. The Internet is fast, apparently. They have Zara and Mango (hurrah!) and movie theaters (although one site said all the English movies are dubbed in Russian; I'm praying that's not true). If anyone out there has been to Yekat or is there now, please give me some good news in the comments! I'm having no problem dwelling on the negatives at the moment, as you can see, so you can kindly leave that out.

On the bright side, however, there are a few family-friendly sites, including a water park (can't imagine I'll ever be warm enough there to go to a water park, but maybe I'll acclimate) and an amusement park. And then, of course, there is the Yekaterinburg zoo. Whether or not the zoo is actually worth visiting remains to be seen. However, their website is certainly worth a visit. Thanks to my mom for finding this particular gem. And here are a few enticing points you might want to keep in mind when you're deciding if you'd like to visit us in Russia next year; they just might help sway you in our direction:

"It is so pleasant indeed to go to the Zoo when the Sun is shining and the day is bright. We are not going to discuss animal numbers and variety that you can see there. Zoo was not meant for statistics fans. One should go there for positive emotions that you get from communicating, exactly communicating with animals. Amicable raccoon is always happy to make a pause in his household activities and laundering, and come up to shake your hand."

This just looks like a bad idea...

"The elephant, despite its 'diminutiveness' has evidently always been thinking to be a ballerina. That is why it is non stop singing something to itself and dancing. It’s amusing to see it, as if it is listening to a walkman and moving according the rhythm of that music all the time."

"We recognize ourselves in animals, there is no point to confirm or disprove Darwin’s theory. There are things speaking for themselves. So many characters so many ways of life… diversity surprises and makes us smile sometimes."

So many characters, so many ways of life...  Not just true of the zoo. And hey, at least the raccoons seem friendly.


  1. It sounds like the elephant has no companions and spends a lot of the day swaying (a form of stereotypic [abnormal] behaviour). The zoo is probably not a great place to visit – but if you do take photos of the bad exhibits please! I have a Russian friend here in Brisbane, if there are any questions I could ask him for you just let me know :) I'm sure you guy will have an awesome adventure over there!

    1. oh great, now i'll come away from the zoo feeling horribly depressed (although zoos are always kind of depressing, anyway)! ask your russian friend what brand of coat he suggests for the winter. i'm having trouble figuring that one out...and i promise to take photos of the bad exhibits! ha!

  2. Mara! This experience has such potential for you to have a one of a kind experience! I'm confident you'll enjoy it more than you're anticipating. Doing something outside our comfort zone (to say the least!) will most often create a layer of anxiety that fogs over all else, and understandably so! It will be an adventure, either way, and I hope you enjoy it!

    Looks like Yekaterinburg has a circus, an opera and ballet house, museums and some really beautiful architecture. At the very least, it looks like you'll have some awesome picture taking opportunities and, I'll bet, some fodder for your writing! I'll look forward to following your adventure!

    - Christine

    1. Hi Christine! I know this really will be an adventure, and there are parts of it I am definitely looking forward to. Once we know our housing situation and what the opportunities are for families, I think it will be easier to get excited. In my dreams I'd love to go and write in a cafe or take photos, but obviously having a small child makes those things difficult. Here's hoping we can find a nanny/babysitter! I hope you and Kimmy will come visit us, maybe next summer when it's warmer. :)

  3. Hi its, me again from St Pete (I swear I'm not stalking you! But I am the CLO here so I love telling people what's real and what's wonderful about post and yours will be similar to mine, just smaller and with less English).

    I could be wrong about some of these things, but this is how I think it will go down: you don't have movies in English at the theatres, get used to Netflix (we don't have any in Piter). The water park is likely indoor (we have a few here) and they are best attended during American holidays. The zoo is likely depressing, don't go. MEGA is actually a mall, not one store, and it has Ikea, a grocery store, and an indoor playground. You'll spend time there in the winter. The ballet will be fantastic and ticket surprisingly cheap, especially in the winter which is when the "A" team is there anyway. You have a hockey team and the games are fun (less fighting than in the USA, more pretty skating). If you like photography, you will be surprised how much you like the darkness of winter, the ice glistening in the moonlight is very nice.

    There are no English language preschools (only one here) but there are probably some private Russian preschools (called Detsky Sad, lit. children's garden). My kids are at one here and it's a real highlight. If you're lucky like I was, there's an English class at the detsky sad and the person who teaches it can help you with registering and whenever else you need to understand more than you do. I can't say much about the reasonableness of nannies, here they are cheaper than in the USA but not by a lot.

    1. Hi Lynne! Thanks for all the info! Want to be my email pen pal? I'd love to pick your brain about CLO stuff (and about St. Petersburg in general, since I'm setting my next book there - I figure we'll get there eventually!). I'm afraid it will be difficult to avoid the zoo, considering it's literally across the street from our house :P And I hate water parks but I have a feeling I'll be learning to love them pretty soon... :) Will you guys be in St. Petersburg for a while or are you leaving soon?


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