About five days ago I watched as my host babushka poured a jug of milk into two mason jars. There they sat on the counter for five days. On the third day I asked her why she was letting her milk sit out on the counter, and she replied that she wanted it to turn sour. I was beyond confused. Why in the world would anyone want to create sour milk?! She told me she was making a concoction called “творог.” That name rang a bell, but I couldn’t remember what it meant in English. She handed me a english-russian dictionary and told me to look up the name of this food in English. So I looked and discovered that it was none other than cottage cheese! However, this did not look like the cottage cheese I ate in America. After five days the milk had indeed curdled, yet there was a couple inches of yellowish liquid at the bottom of the jar and a good layer of white slime at the top. On the fifth day I was told to try it, and before I could say, “Um…I don’t think so,” she was shoving a HUGE spoonful of slimy, homemade cottage cheese in my face. I repressed a grimace as I swallowed the substance and tried to produce a smile, but I was too repulsed. The texture was only comparable to that of the slime in my shower drain. Don’t get me wrong, I love so many other Russian foods, but this curdled milk made my stomach churn. I think this situation is a great representation of my everyday experiences in Russia. Some days in Russia are fantastic, while others make my stomach churn. However, even if I experience a bad day, it isn’t the end of the world. I just need to try as many new things as I can and treasure the good experiences.
In other news, I have a few things I’ve been dying to get off my chest! Whenever I go to a café or a market, the cashiers never have change for my 500 ruble or 1000 ruble notes. They are about $16 and $33, respectively. The only places I can ever break these large sums of money is when I buy coins for the metro or at McDonalds. Most cashiers want exact change too! At one point a cashier grabbed my wallet from me and started rummaging for the change herself. She didn’t realize that I wanted to save my change to buy a bus ticket that day. I could get frustrated with these situations, but instead I just laugh. Laughing has become my best coping mechanism for strange incidents that I experience in this city. I’d rather just accept our cultural differences and continue to happily go about my day.
Speaking of smiles. I’ve smiled so much in the past week! I’ve been so fortunate to explore all around the city. On Wednesday I went ice skating with my friends in a huge park in a southern portion of the city.
Then, that evening I went to see Russia play Finland in an all-star hockey game. I’ve never seen such an enthusiastic crowd (maybe even more rowdy than students at Badger football games).
And today I wandered all around the city, visiting historic churches and monuments. I still can’t believe how blessed I am to be living and studying in such a phenomenal city. Every night I fall asleep with a smile, because I know I’ll be waking up in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.