May 16. 2005
Moving Day: Still sunny...still hot.
We are very excited to move to the apartment if only because I will no longer have to worry about whether or not I cleaned the room enough before the maid saw it. Oh yeah...a microwave and refrigerator will be nice too. And oh yeah. As soon as we move, we can bring Jupiter back to stay with us. I guess that's all right too...
Katya and Sergei show up promptly at 10am just as we're opening the door to start dragging the luggage down to the elevator. We know we swore we'd have less stuff but somehow we seem to have accumulated more. It almost all fits in the elevator. Sergei goes down with the luggage and Katya, Wendy and I take the stairs and meet him in the lobby. I bid farewell to the Super. Grand. Mirror. and the front desk staff who are probably beside themselves with joy because our departure will also mean Americans will stop calling for Room 811.
The apartment is very close to the hotel so it's not a long ride. It looks exactly the same, only now with less snow and a definite spike in the temperature. Sergei gets in the elevator with all the luggage and we take the stairs up to the fifth floor. As in November, there are discarded sales flyers on the radiators. I don't worry about it so much this time...here they turn the heat off in May. Good thing it's a million degrees outside.
We dump the luggage inside and leave immediately to go shopping. We start at the baby store (think a much smaller
"Babies R Us"). Wendy and Katya pick out juice and jars of food, cereal, soups and cans of meat (much to Wendy's delight). I push the cart. Wendy gets a bottle of coke out of a cooler and I perk up as I have not yet had my daily fix. We buy playground balls for the baby home and look at the walkers. Katya says they're rather expensive so we will try another store first before buying one of these. She asks next if Jupiter needs clothes but changes her mind and decides we're probably all set with that.
The next baby store is in the basement of a building so well hidden I wonder how anyone ever finds it. It's not open when we arrive so we hang out in the car and wait. Katya asks Wendy questions for some form that needs filling out. Finally we see a line of people going inside and follow them.
It's certainly a happening place. The sales floor is entirely filled with strollers and cribs in all different shapes and sizes. No walkers though. The sales lady recommends a third store so we pile back in the car and go.
The third store is in the mall which looks like a large airplane hanger. It's a two story airplane hanger though and we take stairs to the second floor. The stores look almost like booths at a flea market, a high end flea market, for sure, but nothing like malls in America. The baby store is a part of the apparent baby wing of the wall. Their walkers are much more reasonably priced and it comes down to a choice between a teddy bear walker and one with dolphins. Since I know the Russian word for teddy bear, I pick that one. They take the display off the wall and wrap it in plastic for us.
Our shopping completed, we stop at Baskin Robbins (don't worry, kids, I took a picture! I never miss the true cultural sights!) for ice cream. Well, Wendy and Katya have ice cream. I pass. The ice cream comes in little plastic cups that would be perfect for holding goldfish crackers for a small child, for instance, and plus, what a cool and unique souvenir, so Wendy saves hers.
On the way back to the apartment, Katya tells us the plan for tomorrow, otherwise known as our very last trip to Serov ever! We will be leaving at 7am and will bring all the baby home, caregiver and social worker gifts with us. See! We knew we'd eventually have less luggage. Kayta also says it is better to have the caregiver gifts individually wrapped which is kind of the exact opposite of what we were planning on doing so at least we know how we'll be spending our afternoon.
Back at the apartment, we spread everything out and decide we're going to need some sort of massive quantity of small gift bags or gift ribbon or both. Of course, we really have no idea where we can purchase these items, but we decide we only have one option: the ГYM store.
We also need band-aids. It would seem my new sandals are giving me blisters and in all my careful packing, I forgot the
band aids. So on our way to the ГYM store, we stop at the baby pharmacy. The security guard decides my bag is shifty and makes me leave it in one of the lockers. I do so but apparently, I am still suspicious looking so he watches us very closely as we walk the store's four whole aisles. There aren't any band-aids so we go. I have some trouble unlocking the locker in which my bag is sitting so security man has to help me get it open. Serves him right.
The ГYM store doesn't have any band-aids either but it does have both gift ribbon and gift bags. We are very excited. The sales lady comes over to help. We have to buy the ribbon by the meter. Wendy and I have no idea how much we'll need or how long a meter really is so Wendy chooses three. It's a very magic number, you know (A little School House Rock humor for y'all...). While the lady measures out the ribbon, I check out the gift bags. They have some on display that would be perfect for our needs but we doubt they'll have the quantity we require. What we've noticed about Russian stores is that if you see it, you buy it because it's likely the only one they have. Wendy asks and the lady produces the back stock. Since it's all located behind the counter she's standing behind, you know there isn't a lot. Wendy tells the sales lady we need sixteen. The sales lady thinks Wendy has the wrong number because why on earth would anyone want sixteen gift bags? Neither of us know enough Russian to explain it to her so Wendy just repeats her request. Please, sixteen. The lady counts out the sixteen bags. They're twenty five rubles apiece, which is just under a dollar, American.
Extremely proud of ourselves, we go back to the apartment and start assembling gifts. Larissa receives a mini LL Bean tote bag filled with Lindt Lindor truffles, a Tommy Hilfiger photo album and a postcard of Portland Head Light in the winter. The social worker gets the Tommy Hilfiger prize with a Tommy Hilfiger tote bag and photo album. We break the cycle when we give her a bag of truffles too. Sixteen lucky caregivers will receive clock radios...no, just kidding. I was just feeling a bit like a game show announcer just then. Seriously though, they will get their very own gift bags containing an assortment of shower gels and soaps. Four caregivers will receive Tommy Hilfiger photo albums.
Everyone will be able to partake in a beautifully arranged (good job, Wendy!) basket of teas, cookies (authentic girl scout thin mints even) and chocolates. We put all the gifts in the large LL Bean tote bag we bought as a baby home present. There's also a medium sized tote but that's in one of the sacrificial suitcases which is now filled with all the baby home donations: vitamins, clothes, toys, kitchen towels, playground balls and the like. We put all the gifts in the corner near the door. Suddenly, our luggage pile looks small. Smaller.
Next Wendy prepares for the baby. I do my best to stay out of the way. I have no idea if I'm at all successful. Jupiter soon has a huge mound of clothes waiting on the dresser in the bedroom. She saves out the baby's coming home clothes. And after ironing it, she carefully packs the pink and white sundress and all the necessary accessories (sweater and hat, because we are in Russia, after all, tights, socks, and sparkily pink shoes).
When it's time for lunch, we try to make Easy Mac. Turns out it's a lot hard to do when your apartment doesn't contain any instruments to allow you to accurately measure out a 2/3 cup of water. Especially when said apartment is located in a country that uses the metric system. For lack of any other options, we estimate. We estimate wrong. Note: Easy Mac is rather disgusting when you do not use the recommended amount of water.
After lunch we go to the grocery store and gleefully buy refrigerateable and/or microwaveable items. We buy milk (in a
bag!), butter, yogurt, juice, fruit and potatoes. We buy bread and soda and chicken stuffed pancakes. And then, as an added bonus, we manage to carry it all back to the apartment.
Wendy sets to making the pasta with butter and Parmesan cheese dinner she's been craving. Since I'm afraid of the gas stove, I hang out in the living room. I'm reading The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers because it's one of my life goals to read the entire trilogy. I don't think the first book got a mention in the trip journal, but I'm on the second one now. Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled program.
Wendy goes to add the butter to the pasta and discovers that while we did technically purchase butter, we bought the chocolate flavored kind. Needless to say, we didn't put it on our pasta. Note: pasta with Parmesan cheese is less desirable than pasta with butter and Parmesan cheese. But still better than Easy Mac made with the inappropriate amount of water.
I turn the television on after dinner. We have thirty channels, most of which even come in, which is a step up from the television in the hotel. Four channels seem to be the THT network and all show the exact same program. Four more belong to the Russia network out of Moscow and two are the Russian equivalent of ESPN but only seem to show soccer. Channel Seven seems to be the foreign television station because it shows mostly American sitcoms and movies dubbed in Russian. Tonight they're showing some American movie I've never heard of. That's hard to do.
We try and go to bed early because we have a long and exciting day ahead of us. I set the alarm for 5am even though I'm fairly sure we won't need it. Wendy's sure to be ready.