“Elka” or New Year for the little ones

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In Russia New Year’s celebrations are huge. So huge that people receive an official week or even longer- as paid leave. The entire country goes into a carnival -like celebration starting from the 27th December and slowly recovers later. There are home cooked meals, fireworks, natural pine tress, happy children and Santa or as Russians call him  “Ded Moroz” (literally translated this means Grandpa Frost”). New Year for Russians is now what Christmas has become for the rest of the world (in the light commercial, over-indulgence sense of the festivity). ]

It would be a major understatement to say that New Year’s is celebrated in Oman “lightly”. The children especially miss out on hanging up paper snowflakes, dressing up, joining celebrations and meeting Ded Moroz. Over the last few years the Russian community in Muscat has taken to organizing a special celebration for the children, a kind of show, where all the characters Russian kids know and love come to live in a magical performance. This is organized entirely on volunteer basis, there aren’t even sponsors or professional actors. The last 5 or so shows were the brain child of my mother, she put time and efforts into getting little kids and their parents involved in this festival of fun. Costumes are put together from scratch, the plays are “googled” and edited, lines are learned and the performance comes together on the grounds of the Russian Consulate of Oman just a week before New Years. I’ve attended the last two shows (and participated) and the number of people who how up every year is truly staggering. The children sit patiently, mouths open wide in awe as Santa emerges followed loyally by his army of fictional characters. Usually the kiddies get to perform, sign a song or recipe a poem and in exchange they receive a present from Santa. It’s always so much fun.

It’s happening again this year! If you are Russian or Russian speaking you are welcome to pass by the Russian Embassy (located near The Hyatt) this Friday, 23rd December at 11am sharp. If you have kids who wish to see the performance please bring a present with you to put into Santa’s “bag of gifts” and label the present with the child’s name. There is absolutely no entrance fee or age restrictions!

Here are some photos from last year’s show! (Guess where I am?)

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Happy Birthday to me!

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Last Friday, I turned 23. It was definitely a day I will never forget, for more reasons than I can elaborate on right now. I was feeling the love. The Facebook messages poured in by the dozens, international phone calls completely killed my telephone battery and my family and friends were there to celebrate with me. There was cake and there was champagne as early on as 10am. What touched me the most is how much of an effort everyone made. Have you ever received a gift and thought “wow this person knows me so well”? Everything I received that day was deeply personal. The highlight of the day however was definitely being surrounded by people who took the time to enjoy the day with me. It’s true that the best things in life are not things at all.
Alex wished me a happy birthday as early as 6am, to make it a point that he was indeed the very first one to do so. I asked for my very own hard drive for my birthday and he got me an enormous one (apparently it has the memory capacity of 5 laptops) because I really need to get all my pictures organized as they are all over the shop now. So this week I am really looking forward to spending a few good hours with my laptop to do a much needed spring clean of the 4,000+ pictures that piled up and when I am done with that I will treat myself to one of the fantastic Spa gift vouchers that I received as gifts 🙂 Oh, the good life.
On another note, I must absolutely rant about THE HEAT. It is unbearable. I live and work just a few meters from the beach so every day I am exposed to sticky, thick and hot air that blasts from all directions. I am sure the temperature must have reached 50 degrees one of these days. It doesn’t help that I need to spend an hour a day outside as per my work description- so it’s no surprise at all that I got a massive dizzy spell last week and almost hit the ground. Seriously, it’s hot. Worse still- it will stay like that until September. Due to these treacherous conditions, the hubby now only works till 1pm- that’s right, he is home for the good part of the day. Whilst I am happy for him I cannot help but succumb to outrageous jealousy over his “long hours”.
What career does one pursue if one enjoys the refreshing current of the AC and the occasional cooling cocktail during the day (oh and a dip in the pool would also be an added benefit)?

Dear 2011

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Before we meet I thought it best to give you a crystal clear idea of my expectations. Now, I am done blindly walking into others like you (2010, 2009, 2008…etc) hence from now on we are going to play by my rules. I may come off as excessively a little demanding, but trust me, that is only because I have a gut feeling about you.

I have let your predecessor disappoint me a little, and although we had a fantastic time overall, there were a few hiccups I would gladly do without. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for the fantastic new job, my healthy family or the chance to go back home this year. I am forever thankful for the blessings in disguise and eternally pissed off about the lows. You would agree that when it got bad it got worse wouldn’t you? Hence, I make it your primary responsibility to make sure that during your 12 months reign none of that shit happens again. Don’t look at me like that; you know perfectly well what I am talking about.
My humble demands are perfectly reasonable and I think it is only fair to approach you with a counter request since you know what you can expect from me while you are around. All my strength, weaknesses and ambitions are in the palm of your hand to do with as you see fit. I must admit New Year’s resolutions are as achievable as participating in a triathlon for me, but you have always known that. However for you I am going to make an exception because I trust you to make all the right decisions about the course of events. I am going to make you a deal. *Drumroll* for the first time ever I promise to stick to the resolutions I am about to make, I will bend over backwards to make it work. It will not be a piece of cake but I will do my utmost to uphold my end of the deal. I expect you to do the same shady 2011. Here goes nothing:
1. I resolve to be calmer and more adequate. I will count to ten and bite my tongue, then count to ten again- before replying to anything that makes my blood boil. (However if after counting to ten twice I still haven’t to tell them shove it, they full on deserve it, wouldn’t you agree?)

2. I will make amends with my non-friends and relatives that I fantasize about killing don’t particularly like, I will forgive their faults and accept them as they are with all their issues, flaws and limitations.

3. I resolve to make use of my gym membership, and not only because I like the fact that the treadmill has a funky little TV, I will do it because I care about my health.

4. I resolve to get over my fear of dentists and sort out the 4 wisdom teeth that have been KILLING ME in slow, deliberate, painful agony for the last 2 years (ahem…)
5. I will come around the finishing off the many projects that lie gathering dust in the bottom drawer, the wedding album, the scrap book, the ever growing family tree. I will shoo away procrastination for good (I am not saying that I will never speak to it again, but when it does approach me I will say “shoooo” then we will see how it goes…)

Listed above are issues that I have been avoiding like the plague the last few years, hence please appreciate what an enormous offering I am making here. In return, I don’t ask for the world. There won’t even be anything materialistic on my list (that’s my other list, I can’t publish that on the blog!) I simply want the following from you:
1. This is an important one. Stop taking people out of my life. You know perfectly well how irrationally sensitive I am to death. Wounds like that take decades to heal and your fellow 2010 has done enough damage to me to cause fatal complications. I know this is a little out of your league, but I know you have good connections- just pass the message on.
2. Send a few muses down to make the people in my life a little more appreciative and helpful. Inspire them to be more considerate and gentle. I have been feeling pretty damn unacknowledged this year, and I am seriously considering crossing a few sour individuals out of the party list. But now I can’t do that because of my Resolution # 2… so work something out, will ya?
3. Slow down the rollercoaster. You know I get queasy and shaky during the ride; adrenalin has never been a key ingredient in my dish. Give me a chance to stop and smell the roses. With 2010 it was roses, daffodils, tulips, buttercups, carnations; …really I am ok with just the roses. Give me some time to catch my breath.
4. Bring on hell or high water. Challenge me.  Shower me with opportunities. Threaten me with difficulties and sit back and watch me cope. Send masked opportunities my way and trust me to recognize and conquer. Don’t hold anything back, I am a big tough girl- I can take it.
I won’t be greedy. That will be all for now. See, I told you I will ask for absolutely rational terms. Now 2011, put on your big boy pants and make it happen… don’t make me tell 2012 on you.
Best Wishes,
Olga

A belated Merry Christmas to you! (and you!)

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My Christmas tree was up in the first week of December. I had already bought, wrapped and gifted most presents by the 14th. Can you tell I was excited? Christmas is possibly my second favorite day in the year, the first being my birthday 🙂 As an Orthodox Russian I have absolutely no relation to the Catholic Christmas celebrated on the 24th, but because my dad is Catholic, the whole family kind of goes with the flow- and we end up celebrating both Christmases. Fantasic isn’t it?
Much like every other year, I have enjoyed causing myself tremendous exhaustion and stress by trying to organize a Christmas gatherings (all-except-turkey inclusive) for my closest friends Initially I planned to spend Christmas with my parents, but they have shamelessly pursued a vacation abroad leaving me and Alex in absolute solitude over (my second most favorite day of the year) Christmas. The warm jittery feeling that comes from spending the holidays surrounded by loved ones was under immediate threat, and I set out to amend the catastrophe by any means.
Luckily, I managed to persuade Yulya to come back to Oman and spend the holidays with us. Now, “persuade” might be a rather strong word, when all I did is ask “how much is the ticket from Kuwait?” A few hours later I had an overly-excited Yulya bombarding my Facebook with flight details, visa inquiries and holiday plans. I thought it was too good to be true. I have over the years trained myself to react mildly to “happiness” just in case it doesn’t last. Because her husband’s resident’s card was expiring and Kuwait has a general problem letting people out of the country- I did not believe they are coming until their plane took off and landed in Muscat on the 22nd of December.
On this superb occasion I have organized a pre-Christmas/welcome-back-Yulya get together at our place. The simple gathering quickly grew out of proportion and turned into one of the best Christmas celebrations of our lives. There is nothing greater than being surrounded by genuine friends in your own home. However stressful the task of cooking/cleaning up/picking up Yulya at the airport and playing 1950’s perfectionist hostess (all within the span on an hour) was- we did a fantastic job! The table was groaning under numerous salads, pizzas, canapés, appetizers and sandwiches whilst the fridge was bulging with drinks eagerly cooling.

At 7:30pm I could hear her running up the stairs as I stirred yet another dish, she rang the doorbell anxiously and in seconds she was back home. Glowing with excitement, walking to and fro the kitchen- it was like she hasn’t even left. The cat was super excited to have her suitcases to explore, and her husband Dima clicked with Alex like they were good old friends. Friends were quickly arriving and I soon found my sitting room filled with 19 amazing personas, all content and basking in each other’s company. We grinned at each other all evening unable to believe that Christmas wishes do really come true.  

Here is a little insight into the preparations of the pre-Christmas-Christmas.   



 I go a little overboard with Xmas decorations 🙂

Along the first stages of making deviled eggs for the Xmas table.

High-tech tomatoes.  Mysterious milk.  Supersquash.  Are we supposed to eat this stuff?  Or is it going to eat us?



All I want for Christmas is you 🙂

 



On a happier note…

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It is our 2nd Wedding Anniversary Today!

A worthy reason to return the blog which I have shamelessly abandoned since my last post (see below).

I needed a break, some time off but the most viable excuse I have is that I have just not been up for it. I have been drained by the events of the last 3 weeks, because…I went on holiday. We went back home to Uzbekistan and 9 hours later had to attend the funeral of one of my closest friends….but more about that later, because I have just glued back the pieces of myself together and I am not yet ready to pick them apart and Deal.With.It

Back to the anniversary. This day two years ago, we said our “I do’s” and we absolutely still DO! I woke up to an amazing flower bouquet on my night table and the day has just gotten better since! We are going out for a romantic candlelit dinner tonight (aka a date- it’s been a while!) and we are going to sit there, munch on our Mexican feast and enjoy each other’s company!

These two years have flown by in a wink of an eye. So much has happened and so much more has yet to happen. We have established ourselves, we got to know each other better and began to (!!!) compromise and cooperate on areas that were challenging in the past! Was it easy? Not even a little bit. It is challenging and takes a lot of hard work, but as long as you keep your eyes on the prize- it’s all absolutely worth it! Marriage is all about falling in love many times- and always with the same person.

This year, I have failed to get a present for the worst reason possible- work overload. It has been one of those weeks where the morning blends into evening and before I know it, its night and I have yet again failed to come up with a creative solution to the anniversary gift! I may just have to tie a bow around myself this evening… what better gift could there be?