Important events of the last week that all collided together into one big festive week:
Iliya Gets a Hamster:
For most of February I lived in two places: my freeing cold dorm with its Soviet-style kitchen and a bathroom door handle that falls off every time you touch it, and then I also practically lived with my colleague Angelika and her family. In fact, I have recently spent more time at Angelika’s than in the dorm. Considering they have a very nice, warm apartment, great food, and a washing machine I think one can understand why. Angelika’s family consists of: her, her husband Boris, Ilyia (11 yrs) and Kiril (16 yrs). Babushka Svetlana is also often here, and they have a cat, Nora. Oh, and me.
The point of this story is that Ilya got a hamster two days ago. So now there are seven of us in this small two bedroom apartment, and it’s quite comfortable. Ilya named the hamster Ham. Before Ilya got Ham, we had a great conversation about what we would name him: quarantine (on the basis that the school’s quarantine forced them to get the hamster), Harry (starts with an H..), Steak (Nora’s dinner), Beef-Steak (obviously a brainstorm off of steak), and Hammer (the influence of MC Hammer, of course).
In his 48 hours of life, Ham the hamster has been attacked by Nora twice, held by nine different people, swam in a plate of maccaroni, and got lost among the empty bottles and boxes on the counter.
Did you know, one year in human life is 25 years in hamster life. Thus, Ham the hamster and I have a lot in common.
So this is the Orthodox holiday, carnival, celebration in preparation for the big fast before Orthodox Easter. Essentially it’s “Pancake Week” which was officially recognized by http://www.allrecipies.com thus making it a legit holiday. So everyone during the week makes massive amounts of pancakes, or blini. I ate probably fifty. Maybe not that many, but it was probably close; I’m all blini-ed out for 40 days. At the end of the week, or Sunday they have a big festival where they burn a straw doll, have native song and dance, and eat more pancakes. It’s also “forgiveness day”, where Russians ask all their close friends and relatives for forgiveness. Many of them go to church and ask for a blessing to begin their fast, because if they really want to fast it’s very difficult and they must ask for support.
So why is it so difficult? Well Russians give up everything: very strict fasters cannot eat anything made or created by animals and they must only consume fruit, vegetables, and grains. Some also give up the three sins: alcohol, cigarettes, and sex. This being said, amongst the younger generation there are less strict “fasters”… as you can imagine.
Day of Russia’s Protectors (and Boris’ Birthday):
This is a day to essentially remember those who served Russia. However, it has turned into a “men’s day”, where all the men are recognized, gifts are given, and lots of phone calls to grandparents are made. Iliya, Angelika’s son received a nice wallet from his lady-classmates. That being said, he’s only 11 years old and has definitely not served, at least not in the way this holiday was original intended for. So today I sent out massive texts, wishing my male friends “с праздником”, or happy holidays.
As for me, I didn’t have to work. Also it was Boris’ birthday. He relaxed fully. Not typically being a drinker, he went out on Wednesday night and came back very very happy, refusing to let his mother-in-law leave the house, hugging every member of the family (including Nora), and talking about “Russian Traditions”.
On Thursday at 1 pm I joined a friend for whiskey and pancakes and we jammed to The Roots. And at 4 pm I went to this fancy French restaurant (with “original” French cuisine), where all of Boris’ family danced, toasted to Boris’ health and success, and ate like Napoleon probably did.