Sunday, November 28, 2010


Now here is one of my favorites--brought to you specially from the pen of Professor Tolkien. This is the little tune Frodo danced and sang to in The Prancing Pony in Bree--and when he made such a fool of himself. To get the full effect of this great song read the masterpiece "The Lord of the Rings!"

There is an inn, a merry old inn
beneath an old grey hill,
And there they brew a beer so brown
That the Man in the Moon himself came down
one night to drink his fill.

The ostler has a tipsy cat
that plays a five-stringed fiddle;
And up and down he runs his bow,
Now sqeaking high, now purring low,
now sawing in the middle.

The landlord keeps a little dog
that is mighty fond of jokes;
When there’s good cheer among the guests,
He cocks an ear at all the jests
and laughs until he chokes.

They also keep a horned cow
as proud as any queen;
But music turns her head like ale,
And makes her wave her tufted tail
and dance upon the green.

And O! the rows of silver dishes
and the store of silver spoons!
For Sunday there’s a special pair
And these they polish up with care
on Saturday afternoons.

The Man in the Moon was drinking deep,
and the cat began to wail;
A dish and a spoon on the table danced,
The cow in the garden madly pranced,
and the little dog chased his tail.

The Man in the Moon took another mug,
and then rolled beneath his chair;
And there he dozed and dreamed of ale,
Till in the sky the stars were pale,
and dawn was in the air.

Then the ostler said to his tipsy cat:
“The white horses of the Moon,
They neigh and champ their silver bits;
But their master’s been and drowned his wits,
and the Sun'll be rising soon!”

So the cat on his fiddle played hey-diddle-diddle,
a jig that would wake the dead:
He sqeaked and sawed and quickened the tune,
While the landlord shook the Man in the Moon:
“It’s after three!” he said.

They rolled the Man slowly up the hill
and bundled him into the Moon,
While his horses galloped up in rear,
And the cow came capering like a deer,
and a dish ran up with a spoon.

Now quicker the fiddle went deedle-dum-diddle;
the dog began to roar,
The cow and the horses stood on their heads;
The guests all bounded from their beds
and danced upon the floor.

With a ping and pong the fiddle-strings broke!
the cow jumped over the Moon,
And the little dog laughed to see such fun,
And the Saturday dish went off at a run
with the silver Sunday spoon.

The round Moon rolled behind the hill,
as the Sun raised up her head.
She hardly believed her fiery eyes;
For though it was day, to her surprise
They all went back to bed!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Random Thoughts

Saturday afternoon. Bored. Why? Never be bored. Find something to do. Blog; go buy an umbrella; finish your laundry. Do some work for school next week...wait, work on the weekend? What? Well, I guess I'll blog. Sounds more fun than anything else. I don't really know what to say; nothing but random thoughts run through my head.

I bought "Evgeny Onegin" on an audio CD last night at a Russian bookstore. It's in Russian of course and I am so excited. I broke the plastic wrapping on it this morning and listened along as I read my English translation. Oh, how I wish I had brought my other copy of it in Russian. Why oh why didn't I?

I was really upset with Mark Zuckerberg yesterday as I was watching "Social Network" at the theatres. What he did to his co-founder...mean. But by the end of the film I guess I didn't dislike him so much. I guess I'll keep my facebook page up.

My housemate, Ella, made delicious borscht the other night. Best I've yet had in Russia.

I just agreed to tutor a 5th grade Ukranian boy in writing and a little in math. He is attending the Anglo-American school and I guess is really struggling. I heard about the job through a friend of mine who works at that school. So I will be working with this kid at least twice a week. Crazy what you can charge for tutoring in this city. Here I come Sallie Mae--I'll kick you to the curb so fast...

One of the classes I teach is 5th grade conversation. My school is on the IB program and so I teach conversation within a theme of inquiry. These next two months they are inquiring into the universe/space. So I get to teach all about the planets, NASA, and everything that is so cool about space. Teaching friends--are you jealous? You should be. I am having so much fun with it. I've spent so much time lately researching cool topics that interest me, then I boil them down to the basic ESL 5th grade level, and have some fun!!

Vacuum is very cool in particular. Who knew that vacuum theory/technology was so difficult to get your brain around? And black holes? And brown dwarfs? And binary stars? And plasma propulsion? And there is some really cool stuff you can see in infrared! I love it! For being so bad at science when I was in high school, I am surprised at how interesting it all is. It makes me wish I'd taken a physics class (even from Kamesh killer hard as that would have been).

The weather in Moscow is very strangely warm lately. And by warm I just mean that I'm not bundled up to my nose in down and fur, but can wear a normal wool coat and shoes instead. This is probably the calm before the storm--Moscovites say it will get bitter cold very fast.

I eat too much chocolate in this country. Back in America, eating one piece of chocolate in a month was normal. Now I probably eat a piece (or more) every day...eek! But they are always bringing it to you at school. Every time I turn around someone has put more chocolate on my desk. And someone seems to always have a birthday. In Russia, when it is your birthday, you provide a party and bring all the cakes, chocolate, and fruit to your co-workers. There is just always too much chocolate and sweets available. The best chocolate in all of Russia, in my opinion, is the little Alyonka bar. So simple, and yet simply the best you'll ever eat!

I finished the book I have been reading since I arrived, "The Portrait of a Lady" by Henry James. It was interesting, but the ending was strange and not my favorite. I think I had higher expectations of it, but alas, it is what it is. Being as I am so similar to Isabel Archer in some ways, I hope I won't make some of the stupid choices she did. By reading about her life though, maybe I learned some things about myself, which is one of the best things you can hope for from a book.

Anyway, as you can tell I had a ton of random thoughts today. I do have a lot of stuff to tell about Helsinki still. I will get around to it one of these days. But for now, I am going to do some errands and hopefully go buy that umbrella.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Estonian Adventures

I just spent a wonderful week vacationing in Estonia and Finland. There are so many things that I could post about that I don’t even know where to begin. Well I will start off by using this post to talk about Tallinn, and then set aside the next post to talk about Helsinki. Rather than tell you everything that happened, I will just talk about a few of my most memorable events.

1. On the 14 hour, middle of the night train ride from Moscow to Tallinn, we stopped early Sunday morning to cross the border from Russia into Estonia. This alone took almost two hours. First we stopped for over an hour in Russia and the police came in with guard dogs, checked all our paperwork, and went through our bags. Finally we started moving again. We crossed into Estonia, and five minutes later stopped again. Now the Estonian guard dogs and police came in to do it all over again. What a hassle!

2. Soon after arriving, finding our hostel, and settling in we went exploring. We had decided to buy a “Tallinn Card” for about $50. This was the best thing we ever did. With this card our entire trip was practically free except for our meals in the evening. This card gave us free entrance into museums, attractions, and paid for all our transportation in the city. We also got free ice cream, coffee, marzipan, shots, bowling, truffles, etc in businesses all over the city. The best of these was free time at a spa, which I will talk about next.

3. Aqua Spa—with the Tallinn Card we got 1 ½ hours free spa time. And we could go as many times as we wanted. So we went twice and essentially had 3 amazing hours of incredible saunas. There were 6 different types of saunas, and multiple swimming pools and some a couple “warm” tubs. I say “warm” because I could not classify them as hot tubs.

4. Ice cream—another of the free things we got with the Tallinn Card was ice cream at a bookstore. I chose wheat flavored ice cream. It was delicious and it tasted exactly like wheaties breakfast cereal.

5. One day as we were walking to our hostel a girl on the sidewalk suddenly yelled at us to stop. She was maybe in her late teens or early twenties and there were a few other people her age with her. We stopped and she drunkenly asked us in English, “are you from Estonia?” “No,” we replied. “Oh, darn. I don’t know where I am or what I’m doing here. I just know that last night I was partying and this morning I woke up in Estonia!” “Well, where are you from?” I asked. “Finland.” Hahahahaha. By far one of the funniest things I ever encountered.

6. Boat tour. So we decided to go to the “Maritime Museum” and take a tour around some boats. We get there, and it is in a very sketch part of town. I was glad Rick was with us. We were the only ones there, and the “tour” had no guide. There were about 10 boats at the docks and they pointed to 3 of them and said, “go explore!” So we ran around and had a blast by ourselves climbing through engine rooms and down dark iron holes. There were two large boats and a submarine. Very cool.

7. Wall tour—the city was once surrounded by high stone walls and we got to walk around and climb on a few of them. Very fun and there were lots great views and pictures to be taken.

8. Hidden Tunnels—over the centuries as Estonia was expanding the people built huge bulwarks to surround the walls. A bulwark is a tunnel that is built above ground and then covered with lots of earth. They are huge hills that are now covered by parks and nice lawns. But once they were a main defensive tactic for the city. Until 2005 many of them had filled up with water, but the city is cleaning them out and taking people on tours. Only a small section is tourable—about ½ km. There are many kilometers of bulwarks. They have been used for different purposes over the years. During WWII the dry parts were used as shelters during the bombings. It was a very neat tour.

Summary—Tallinn is an incredible city. I could live here with ease. The people are very friendly, the food is delicious, the history is interesting, the city is much smaller than Moscow and is easy to get around in. There are a ton of restaurants and neat alley ways to discover. It would be hard for me to get bored here. But there is one thing I didn’t care for. It was much too easy to communicate. Everyone speaks English and the few that don’t can usually understand some Russian. I became very lazy with language and am sad to say that I didn’t learn one work in Estonian. Shame on me. But overall, I would recommend this place to anyone, anytime. I sure hope to return at some point.