Happy Thanksgiving

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Flag of Russia  ,
Friday, November 25, 2005

Dear All,

I hope all is well. I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and give a brief update...

I am currently working in Dubai. Dubai is going well although our weather is still around 90 F. Although I can't complain because Dubai has only had one cloudy day in the last 6 months...the weather of the Middle East!

The month of October was the Muslim holy month called Ramadan where they all fast during the light hours and feast with a meal called an Iftar around 6 pm. After Ramadan ends (determined by the position of the moon and always announced the night before...) they have a celebration called Eid and about a 3 day holiday, therefore called 'travel-time' for expats! I went with a friend to Moscow, as you can see from the title of the travelpod.

Moscow...quite an interesting place. Once you apply for the visa and persist, persist, (beg) for acceptance at the consulate it's time to take on this former soviet city. I believe that the biggest challenge was the lack of English spoken (for a moment I was taken back to Castiglion Florentino, Italy- the small town I studied at in college). Except this time we had no one to refer too. After arriving we blindly found the hotel through assumptions and nods. Once there we found our way around the city by counting subway stops on the map. It is a beautiful city with the bright colored buildings and historic architecture. Every Eastern European city I've visited (ie. Prauge, Bratislava) that was a former-Soviet territory always has the most beautifully colored buildings in the main part of the city. Of course on the outskirts there was a lot of low cost house in the gray- communistic like building. Once you met a person they were friendly, but people in general do not show their emotions therefore looked very unhappy. Someone explained to me that during communism times people hid all of their emotions in order to conceal their life or what could possibly be happening.

For example I heard a couple of 'communism days' stories and a guy told me that during communism the movie Rocky was banned. In addition DVD players were a very expensive and very difficult item to have. He knew a guy who was pretty well connected and had a DVD player. He also had the movie Rocky. One night he had a lot of friends over and they were watching the movie on the 9th floor of his apartment complex. Also when you are turned into the police often it is someone very close to you. Anyways that evening when they were watching the movie all of a sudden his power turned off. This is what the police would do when they entered a building and it also kept him from taking the movie out of the dvd player....therefore the only option he had before the police arrived was to completely throw the dvd player including the movie outside onto the concrete outside so it smashed into pieces. From my knowledge everything was fine in the end because he didn't have anywhere in his house Rocky. Although this story is based on a low importance item, a dvd, it truly shows the control and lifestyle during the communism days.

In addition to asking loads of questions to a friend of a friend who brought us to dinner one night we did some city touring. We visited the Red Square, St. Basils and The Kremlin. In addition the country is still very corrupt, if you can slip money to someone then it happens. I experienced this on a small level at a museum in the Kremlin. I bargained the entrance fee with a lady and then she asked me to follow her and put her finger of her lips to motion shhh. I had to follow her into the bathroom and slip the discounted entrance fee to her then she walked us to the main entrance personally so we didn't need a physical ticket.

All in all Moscow was an adventurous city with all the history and beauty it was definitely a place I recommend to visit....next Russian destination...St. Petersburg, the Venice of Eastern Europe!

A brief holiday update....I will be traveling to Houston on the 16th of December. I will be in town from the 16th till the 28th of December. I hope to catch up with everyone...for those of you who don't live in Houston or I won't see, have a great holiday season!

Take care and have a Happy Thanksgiving.

All the best,

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