This site contains the archives of my travel blogs from 2010-2016.

I'm now blogging via Medium. For other life updates, including opportunities or requests to collaborate, visit my personal website.




Sunday, June 26, 2011

Adventures in Odessa

I just updated my blog subscription list and realized I have a whole new problem - in the best sense of the word.  My friends and blog subscribers include English, French and Russian speakers...and I want to keep in touch with all of you, so where/when possible I'll try to add translations for stories and captions.
Je viens de me rendre compte que, de nouveau, j'ai fait des amis uniquements francophones et russophones - donc je commence à faire des traductions pour que tout le monde puisse suivre :)
Поняла, что мои новые французкие, русские и украйнские друзья, не говоряющие по-английский не будут мочь читать эти истории.  Поэтому переводу когда возможно.

Between classes and homework I've been trying to fit in a few daily excursions around Odessa.  These often include a trip to the beach -- a convenient ten minute walk from the language school.
Après les cours nous avons beaucoup de temps libre et on va souvent à la plage boire un verre ou bien nager. L'école se trouve seulement dix minutes de la plage donc on se promener jusqu'à la mer presque tous les jours.  C'est là, où se passe souvent des histoires mémorables.
После уроков мы с другими студентами часто ходим на пляж или погулаем по городу. Школа находиться только 10 минут пешком от пляжа поэтому, почти каждый день мы ходим к море - или загарать или пить пиво и капучино в наше любимое кафе на берегу моря....Кафе пиратов!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Little Team

As the big sister of a lot of little soccer players, I loved this short documentary.
Above all, it's coaches with attitudes like these that make the biggest difference in a young person's life!

l'equip petit from el cangrejo on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


This made me laugh! Especially when I read this comment by another viewer:
"Two guys made this video after being stuck in an airport in Dallas, with their flight delayed overnight. Homeland security is wondering how they got away with this."

STUCK from Joe Ayala on Vimeo.
While on our way home from photographing Formula Drift Palm Beach, Larry Chen and I found ourselves stranded over night in Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) as our flights home were canceled. The following is a brief summary of the events that took place that night.
Check out our other videos at vimeo.com/tod

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Quote of the Day

So there's really only one blog that I consistently follow, and this is because it's fun and whimsical, doesn't take much time, and always brightens my day. Her name is Anne; she's the mother of a beautiful, tender-hearted six-year-old daughter, named Capucine, and a fun 11-year-old boy name Aliocha.  Even though I've never met them, I almost feel like I know this family because of all the stories I've read about on the blog. I would welcome the chance to meet them someday.

From time to time Anne puts up little quotes and conversations from Capu and Aliocha's interactions with their friends and family. This one really cracked me up! Can you imagine how her dad, Hervé, felt after this?

Hervé :I'm sorry Capucine, but I won't be able to attend your school party on the 28th. That's the same day as this concert I told you about, you know, the one I'm going to with uncle C. I can't miss it. I'm really sorry, honey. But Mom will be there and she'll take pictures and videos for me.
Capucine :Oh... It's ok, Dad, don't worry !
Capucine :Will you be there for my wedding ?


Read more on Anne's blog.

The Entire French Language Condensed into One Word

I happen to know that the girl that made this video loves French, Paris, and everything that has to do with France; so please, dear francophone friends...don't take offense.  You have to admit she's pretty cute!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

How well do you perceive color?

Take the Hue Test and find out.  I scored a 4.
It's interesting to see which areas of the spectrum you have problems perceiving.

A perfect score is 0 and the worst possible score is 1520.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Fontanka Most Project

While living in St. Petersburg, I crossed the most (bridge) over the Fontanka canal every morning on my way to work.  Sometime in the first few weeks I started to notice that the view from the most could change drastically from day to day, and I got into the habit of stopping to shoot a photo every few days.  It gave me a moment to pause, relax, be thankful for another day, and then continue my forty-minute commute with a new vigor.  While tidying up and cataloging my photos this weekend, I ran across this collection and it made me smile as I thought back on my time in St. Pete and the little things that made each day special.


Privoz Market

Privoz is Odessa's biggest and oldest open air market. It occupies three huge warehouses, an awning the size of a football field, and tons of semi-permanent and completely temporary stalls.  People sell their goods off of anything.  Some just squat around the perimeter of the market and display their garden herbs on a piece of cardboard. You can buy anything at Privoz - from homegrown veggies to knock-off coach bags, plucked chickens that are so fresh they're practically still moving, to freshly-squeezed juice, q-tips, and screwdrivers. And it's open 24 hours. At about 6.30 pm the consumer-oriented day-sellers go home and the bulk goods vendors quickly file in.

For the mixer we hosted at our flat last night, my house-mate Adrien and I went on a wild shopping adventure at Privoz. We quickly learned some survival methods...

Phonetics and Russian Poetry

Russians love poetry. Especially St. Petersburgians.  I've never met a group of people so well-versed in poetry and literature. Not only do they burst into spontaneous poetry recitation in daily conversation (usually when the topic of discussion reminds them of a good poem), they also highly revere the persona of Russian writers and can provide extensive information about their lives, their families, where and when they wrote, and the symbolism and meaning of their works.  It's also interesting to note that this love of literature is not class specific.  I've heard professors, office workers, students, museum guides, a slightly-not-all-there guy on the street, and even a babushka selling flowers (what some would call a "bag lady") reciting poetry.
The Cyrillic Alphabet

This week I've been taking advantage of my private lessons to work a lot on phonetics, so I've been paying extra attention to intonation, stress, timbre, and rhythm.  And, following the advice of my professor, I've been reading aloud to myself to practice all of these things and to increase my reading speed. (Since Russian is written using the Cyrillic alphabet, learning to read in Russian is quite literally like going back to Kindergarten. It takes time to learn to sight read - to recognize new and ever-bigger words without having to sound them out.)  After running across a short poem in my new Russian textbook a few days ago, and then reflecting on Russians' love of poetry, I decided that reading and memorizing a few poems could give me some interesting conversation material when I'm making new Ukrainian friends, and could also really help убирать ("remove") my accent, as they say in Russian. The word is pronounced "oobeeROT" but spelled "ubirat" and for some reason it always makes me think of the English word "obliterate."  It's funny how our brains make such connections, often subconsciously. Bottom line: I'd really like to obliterate my accent.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Recipe for "Syrniki" - Russian Cheesecakes

I translated (and elaborated a little on) this recipe for a friend, and decided to share it on the blog as well. This is for the Syrniki we made with Sergei last week.  You can view the photo gallery of these delicious little cheesecakes and our cooking session in the original post.

Here's the original recipe, and below, my translation.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Cooking Class With Sergei

My studies in Russia and Ukraine have been organized through SRAS - the School of Russian and Asian Studies.  I've been overall satisfied with the assistance provided by the organization.  I heavily corresponded with Renee, the director, for two years as I tried to set this up.  It seemed like no matter what time I emailed her, I always got a response back within 1-2 hours.  SRAS helped me obtain the priglashenye (invitation) to study in Russia that was needed for my visa; they set up my housing, enrolled me in the school, met me at the airport, and provided lots of information about the places I would go.  They also provided the comfort of knowing that I could call a local resident an any time if I needed help.  But other than that they have been pretty hands off, and that's the way I like exchange programs in general.

One thing that I've really enjoyed, however, is participating in some of the optional tours that SRAS offers.  Do you remember Sergei's guided walking tour of downtown St. Pete?  It was absolutely a wonderful time. The same multi-talented Sergei (a professor and culture enthusiast) took us to a play by Gogol at the Aleksandrinskiy Theatre, on a tour of The Russian Museum, and invited us over to make and eat syrniki -- the highlight of today's blog post.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Odessa: Ultimate Eastern European Vacation Destination

I've been in Odessa for less than 48 hours, and already I've explored downtown on foot, eaten at some delicious local restaurants, refreshed my wardrobe with attire appropriate for the 95F (35C) weather, attended a spectacular performance of Madame Butterfly at the world-famous Odessa Opera House, spent a morning sunning on the beach (during which I fell asleep in the sun and will continue to pay for that nap as my sunburn becomes more and more painful), swam in the Black Sea, and made Ukrainian friends at the Irish pub next door to my apartment.

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