Sunday, December 2, 2012

12/2 - Base, Snowstorm, AIDS Benefit Concert, VDNKh

Big news came my way this week! Yesterday, I found out that I'll be stationed at Pope Army Airfield in North Carolina as my first assignment as a Logistics Readiness Officer in the U.S. Air Force. I received my sixth choice out of six for my base, but I have already realized that you can't have high expectations for job and base placements in the military. However, I definitely consider myself lucky to be stationed here, its a beautiful town with a strong military community and culture. The base itself is famous for the 440th Airlift wing, which is one of the finest and largest in the Air Force, and has over 16 C-130 cargo airplanes. As part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure program, Pope Field was combined with Fort Bragg (controlled by the U.S. Army) - the home of the Army Airbourne and Special Forces training. It's great news, and I'm excited to go on active duty. The last piece of information I'll need is my EAD, or the date I need to report in for duty. 

This weekend started with one of the longest snowstorms (or метель/metel) that I've ever witnessed, even as a kid who grew up with Nor'easters in New Hampshire. It was snowing nonstop for almost 2 straight days, and it was so much that my host family was even surprised. Some news agencies reported that they hadn't seen a snowstorm of that longevity and caliber in over 50 years. However, it made the Moscow landscape look beautiful, except for the streets, which were covered in a dark brown slush and often got extremely icy. It inspired me and my friend Dan to go explore Red Square, and we got some awesome pictures in front of St. Basil's Cathedral and the adjacent mall. 

In front of St. Basil's Cathedral (Red Square) in the snowstorm

With Dan and Lena (Лена) with a Coca-Cola polar bear (белый медведь)

On Friday night, our friend Jesse was gracious enough to invite five of us to help volunteer at the Russian Entertainment Awards at the Драматический театр (Dramatichesky Teatr) or Drama Theater in downtown Moscow. This was essentially the Russian version of the MTV music awards, and featured some famous Russian singers and TV personalities. Unfortunately, the Americans hardly knew any of these celebrities, but how would we have known? We aren't avid viewers of Russian entertainment television. The concert was run by the United Nations and the organization Красная ленточка (Krasnaya Lentochka) or "Red Ribbon" to help fight the AIDS (ВИЧ) epidemic. It was an honor to help volunteer with such an important organization with an extremely bold cause. Before the concert I had the responsibility of escorting some of the music stars to the main part of the theater where the awards ceremony and concert were to be held. It was nerve-racking because some of the stars only spoke Russian, but others only knew English. Obviously, I was more inclined to help the latter!

From left to right (Me, Jesse, Becky, Gizem, Amanda) on the Red Carpet!

Some interesting looking Russian "stars" getting interviewed on the Red Carpet

On Saturday, we made a short visit to the All-Russian Exhibition Center or VDNKh (ВДНХ) to do some browsing, shopping, and enjoy some holiday fun. The biggest shocker to me was this center was formerly a Soviet Union Republics memorial that has been converted into a market and amusement park. For example, the Soviets had built a huge memorial to the Russian Soviet Republic called the "House of the People of Russia" or Дом народного России (Dom narodnovo Rossii), which is covered with hammer/sickle logos and has a huge statue of Vladimir Lenin in front. Now its simply a souvenir shopping center for tourists. As we continued to explore, we saw some old Soviet relics, and other buildings dedicated to the former Soviet republics such as Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Kyrgyzstan, and others. We even got to see the old Soviet Vostok rocket, and a small Christmas concert. It was definitely an interesting place...

House of the People of Russia (Дом народного России)

In front of the USSR Vostok rocket (СССР Восток)

Thanks for reading my blog post! My journey is coming to a close soon, so I'll probably only have time for a few more adventures. I can't believe how much I've seen and learned about this language and culture. Finals are on the horizon, so I'll be focused on studying for those. 

Countdown to returning home: 16 days

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