Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Lots to Celebrate

After a really sad and stressful week last week, this past week has been an absolute party! There have been so many reasons to celebrate...and celebrate we did! Our colleague and friend Mollie from Kiev came to visit from Friday until today, and her friend from home, Kristin, was here on a 3-week writing program. Along with our new friend, Joe, we've been having a wonderful time, running around the city and soaking up nearly every single cultural event we can! Here's a quick rundown of the past week's highlights:

Tuesday, July 3rd: Our 2nd wedding anniversary, which we celebrated with a quiet romantic evening at home. We then joined some other American expat friends for a "July 4th in Russia" themed midnight boat cruise on the Neva. We ate Pringles and popcorn while we guzzled beer, Sovietskoe Shampanskoe (straight from the bottle of course), and did other reckless Russian-inspired activities! Because the cruise ended at 2am, we got stuck on the wrong side of the bridges when they went up, so we crashed on our friends' couches.

Palace Bridge goes up for the iconic photo of White Nights in St. Petersburg (above),
while Kristin and Joe pick up some Russian drinking habits (below)



Wednesday, July 4th: We had an insane day at the office (after barely sleeping the night before) during which time we conducted two tours of YESOD and had a lunch meeting with Jay Lurie, a native Clevelander who is doing a Illuminated-esque backpacking extravaganza through Eastern Europe, looking for his roots. That evening, together with Kristin and Joe, we decided to try to see the free performance of the Three Muskateers that was "a gift from the city to its people." See, we had tried to buy tickets, but were told that they are not for sale. That should have been the first clue to stay home. Instead, we lined up an hour early, shoving babushkas out of the way when they finally opened the outside doors. Unfortunately, the inside doors were still locked. So then we waited some more. Finally, we found seats in the balcony. The musical (a cross between an opera and a ballet) lasted an hour and a half (including a 30-minute intermission) and was among the worst we've seen here in St. Petersburg. Matt even managed to catch a scene on film in which one of the dancers falls down!

Thursday, July 5th: We woke up the next morning to some incredible news. Our sister-in-law, Jen, had given birth to our newest niece, Abigail Sophie Rappaport, four days ahead of schedule. She was born on July 4th at 1:38pm, weighing in at 5lbs 11oz. Here are some photos of her for you to admire...

Our newborn niece, Abigail, with Mom and big sister, Hannah (above) and with Dad (below)

Friday, July 6th: We saw Elton John in concert! Despite the pouring rain, the concert was amazing! He played his hits for nearly 3 hours straight in the middle of Palace Square, with the Hermitage, the Alexander Column, and St. Isaac's Cathedral serving as the backdrop. And because Shabbat doesn't start until 11 o'clock at night, I didn't even feel bad about breaking my "don't go out on Friday night" policy!
Singing in the rain, at the Elton John concert, with the Hermitage behind us


Saturday, July 7th: We spent the day getting Mollie registered, walking around the city, enjoying blinis, and catching up. We also went to this grungy urban artist colony called Pushkinskaya 10 that turned out to be a big disappointment. In the evening, we tried a new Mexican restaurant for dinner then we caught a late-night concert of JD and the Blenders (my friend Jennifer Davis' band) at the Achtung Baby!

Sunday, July 8th: Matt's birthday! In honor of his big day, we spent the afternoon and evening doing a soviet retro bar crawl (CCCP, Lenin Lives, Road to Communism), drinking bad beer at some of the city's finest watering holes. We capped off the night and the weekend with some deliciously Zen eats at our favorite Kashmir Cafe. Take a look at our photos from Sunday!

Na Z'darovya!

Monday, July 9th: Another insane day at work. People are starting to take note that we are leaving soon, so we are getting bombarded with last-minute requests. And we are desperately trying to set up interviews back home, clean out our office, write our final report, and tie up all of our loose ends.

The highlight of the day was our final English Discussion Club. Matt organized a special session -- a mock session of the Knesset -- as our grand finale and, because we made a big deal about it, we had a record 20 participants! The goal was to negotiate to pass your own party’s bill and block your opponent’s bills. It was pretty incredible to watch Russian young adults role playing as each of Israel's political parties, learning about the inner workings of democracy while practicing their English. It was a huge success, although the bills that managed to pass, and those that failed, were quite surprising to everyone involved!

Mollie, representing the Meretz party at our Mock Knesset session

Tuesday, July 10th: Rounding out our summer concert series, we saw Aerosmith in concert last night! Suffice it to say that this week has been: AMAZING!

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