Monday, March 31, 2008

Children's Park Behind the White House

Yesterday afternoon I took the girls to a wonderful children's park located behind the White House (Russian Parliament). It's smack in the center of Moscow, near the Krasnopresenskaya metro station and across the street from the back of the American Embassy. I can't believe I had never known it existed until a friend recently told me that she goes there all the time... (That friend, incidentally, lived next the White House when I first met her. She actually had bullet holes in her kitchen cabinets from the uprising in 1993! Being in her home for playdates, and being at the park today, it's hard to believe that the bloody revolt occurred in such recent times--I had been living here in 1991!)

On the other side of the park, facing the White House, is one of the "Seven Sisters" Stalin skyscrapers--the residential building at Krasnopresenskaya. Through the trees in this second picture you can make out the brick of the American Embassy apartments. (Isn't that cool, Dina? Want me to take more pics of your future home?).

In any case, how I wish I had known about this park earlier!!! How pretty it will be once all the flowers are in bloom. Next time we're there, we'll bring our scooters and roller skates. I took so many pictures of the park, its surroundings, the route we walked to get to it, and, of course... the girls. These windows caught my eye as we approached the park.

The marked contrast between centuries-old architecture and brand-new expensive structures was particularly interesting in this neighborhood; the shot with the reflection of a cathedral in the black granite business center's windows is a favorite.

I also had fun using my telescopic lens for the first time; I'm particularly fond of the close-up of the ladybug and "Golden Fish" fairy tale sculptures.

Within the park, there were winding paved paths, a small chapel, various sculpture gardens based on fairy tales, a life-sized chess board with sculptures, and playgrounds. Look how thrilled Katya was to become part of a chess game! She very deliberately chose her role and how to move. How giddy she was when she won against her imaginary foe.

I used my telescopic lens to take my first real "people" shots today. It was thrilling--but unsettling. I can only imagine what this couple is going through; the possibilities are endless. An affair? A death in the family? News of a terminal illness? They were there for at least two hours; I couldn't tell if they had a child playing nearby or not. The woman was clearly in shock; as I watched them earlier they were much more distraught. I felt so very bad for them.

Now here are the girls in their "Yes, yes, it's really spring!" glory. (Yes, Mom, Katya insisted on picking out her own clothes, and Natalia refuses to wear her headbands any other way. I'm picking my battles).

I must say, the mixture of classical fairy tale themes and the squirrel from "Ice Age" was a bit odd. The girls, however, didn't mind a bit!

For the first time that I can remember, both girls got to just play in dirt. I bet they weren't supposed to... but no one scolded us so I let them just have fun. This wheelbarrow will probably be covered in flowers in May.

This swan will be in bloom, too; there were many other animals set to burst into color, as well.

They made up elaborate stories at each separate play area; what a splendid time. My "Hannah Montana"-loving, trying-to-grow-up-so-fast little girls were just that for a few hours: little girls.

Here are the rest of my pictures from the day.

On our way back to the car, we passed this driveway sign: "Do Not Park In Front Of The Gates! Children Will Go Without Milk And Bread!" I think that there might be an orphanage at this spot associated with the church I describe next. If so, what a cheerful location.

The singing coming from the yellow church was spellbinding.

We couldn't go inside, however, because I had no head scarf and the girls were covered in dirt. I held up my movie camera and hoped that I could capture some of the sound; listen closely! The wind became quite loud; I was only able to record clearly for ten seconds.


garnet said...

What beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing. Pictures of these old buildings make me homesick for Romania and the old town where I used to live -- especially the one of the windows. Last year our camera broke just before we went so I'm praying it will be working this year to try and capture some of life there.

I love these kind of parks and wish the U.S. had more of them. Maybe they do -- I just haven't lived much in cities -- or maybe they feel so much more special in the middle of a bustling city.

And oh, I love those sculptures!

Glad to see Larissa isn't the only one with such a unique sense of fashion.

Loved the picture of the dirt. Right now my kids' favorite place to play is the pile of dirt being used to construct a road on campus.

I think I'm rather glad that in a way they don't hear much about characters like Hannah Montanna -- I only recently found out who she is myself and I suspect my daughter has never heard of her. From what I've gathered, she seems nice enough -- but just so much older than I'm ready for my seven-year-old to be. However, your kids certainly seem better at creative play than mine do.

On a totally different note, I'm curious just which languages you speak. I can't help but think that with the mixture of French / Spanish and Russian you'd pick up Romanian in no time at all as those seem to be its closest relatives -- basically. I've always been fascinated with languages. My high school didn't offer any but I'd try to study French on my own during summer. Unfortunately, I don't have an ear for them like my husband does, even though that isn't his specialty. I'm determined to pick up my study of Romanian again in the hope of getting some credit towards renewing my teaching certification. However, learning Romanian books are hard to come by. I've got two -- one from the U.S. and one from Romania -- and I can basically read everything in them but I'm shaky on the grammar so that's what I'll be working hard on. I'm so envious of those who know multiple languages. If I could go to school more that's what I'd study.

MoscowMom said...

Hey, there-- yes, yes, Katya certainly has her own sense of fashion... Her kindergarten teachers are convinced she'll grow up to be a famous designer. Her first temper tantrum was thrown at 14 months over clothing--she insisted on wearing her Old Navy fleece elephant Halloween costume instead of other outerwear whenever we left the apartment in Brooklyn. She loved the attention... She then insisted on wearing a blue feather boa over her snowsuit... Or a bathing suit... She has rubbed off on Natalia and we can have multiple hour-long time-outs over bad behavior stemming from refusal to wear what I say or deem appropriate. ARGH!

Hope you have a good camera before your trip to Romania; I don't know what I'd do without mine now! I'll probably pick up an inexpensive point and shoot, though, to use as my "out and about" camera. I'm afraid of damaging my good Nikon by too much wear and tear.

We had some super parks in Brooklyn, but there weren't charming features such as wooden sculptures. They sure make for cute photo ops!

My kids are sheltered in many ways from US popular culture--but they then soak it up full-force when in the USA for summer camp. At least I have control over whatever they're exposed to here in Russia. I pretty much limit their toys to art supplies/building toys/American Girl. I must confess, though, that I actually like the Hannah Montana and High School Musical music. The lyrics are clean and it's fun to dance around with the girls.

As far as my languages go, I speak French, Spanish, Italian and Russian. I've taught oral sections of those languages at the first-year college level and in middle school/high school. I can get by reading and understanding German at an intermediate level; I speak it much worse. (I just didn't have the time to study it well enough when I took two semesters of it in college. I would like to go back and "do it right," though. Perhaps I'll do the 10-day total-immersion program where I used to teach one summer--but as a student in the German program.)

In college I used to have a lot of fun hanging out with friends from all over Europe; we'd have at least five languages going at once and I could follow along when people switched to Romanian. Knowing French, Italian and Russian made it quite easy have a good idea of what was being said. My two favorite professors in college were Romanian or part-Romanian and I loved hearing them on the phone with their families. I remember that "stakan" was also "glass" in Romanian.

It was also fun to try to follow along when others spoke Ukrainian, Polish or Portuguese.

As you can tell, I *LOVE* languages. I had an amazing teacher when I was in 8th grade who instilled in me a real passion for them and I've been a language nut ever since.

I'm having a very hard time maintaining my languages, though. "Use it or lose it." My Spanish has really suffered since I stopped teaching full-time in 2001; my Italian has, too. I read in those languages and search out opportunities to use them, but it's just not enough...

When the girls are old enough to attend sleep-away camp nearby, I'll go back to teaching in summer total-immersion programs. That way my skills will get a real workout and I'll benefit from all of my colleagues. It will be fun when I'm teaching the Russian sessions; my girls will be a real asset when around for mealtimes since only Russian is spoken! They'll get a kick out of correcting adult students' mistakes!

Good luck with your Romanian--are there any good on-line resources? What about Rosetta Stone? (I've heard good things about that program).

Annie said...

How absolutely lovely!!! I adored this post; it was a little trip to Moscow for the Russia-deprived.

I particularly liked: being able to hear the singing coming from the church, the photo of the doors in front of which you must not part (or deny children sustenance) and the photo of the grieving woman. I will pray for her today, whenever I think of it. Her problems must be worse than my own.

Nataliya said...

These pictures are gorgeous. After reading this post I started thinking about going on a sightseeing tour to Moscow sometime in the future! I've been to Moscow a couple of times many years ago still during Soviet times - once as a high school junior, and the other time as a college sophomore. It would be so cool to visit again!

Anonymous said...

I think I have to stop reading your are walking in my footprints from nearly 2.5 years ago..I have all those pictures...I am so sad that I can not go to those places...that yellow church is totally unbelievable..we did go is as beautiful as the sounds coming from it. We stayed in the Government house Apartment building kiddie cross the River from the Kremiln. The translators and driver thought we were VIP's and we received some really nice treatment and advice and help...I miss Moscow


Annie said...

I think Debi and I are kindred least I certainly did resonate with that "I miss Moscow"...

Anonymous said...

add me to the "miss Moscow" group, too. we have only been gone from there 1 year, and it already seems like 10. miss moscow, miss the smith family, miss mccafe, even miss hard rock...but, hey, life in eldridge iowa is cool too, right??????


Annie said...

Jeannie - my other favorite place on earth (apart from Russia) is Iowa! Really - I was born in Wapello, and whenever we went to Iowa to visit when I was a child, I felt I'd "come home".

Rachael said...

I think I must have looked at this post at work before, because I didn't see all the photos the first time. Or maybe you added more.

HOW AMAZING! It's like a little fairy tale. And to think, I must have walked right by (near) there and missed it the day I took Katya to the zoo and we got a bit lost by going out the "other" exit. (I just keep following the "tall" building until I found the American Embassy and could get back on the right trolley home!)

P.S. I miss Moscow too! I must find a way to come visit you while you are still there.

And, I swear I commented on this post before. Weird.

jabroon piece said...

Paultons Park
I really like these type of recreational areas and wish the U.S. had more of them. Maybe they do -- I just haven't resided much in places -- or maybe they experience so much more unique in the center of a energetic town.