Superstitions in Russia

My flatmates and I got into a huge argument the other night because I asked, “What should we do about the toilet spider?” You see for the past three months or so we’ve had a spider living in our toilet (note for the North Americans reading, the toilet is a room which contains only a toilet. The bathroom is separate where the bath and sink are located). Apparently Ilmira hadn’t noticed the spider in the toilet this entire time, but since she’s very scared of spiders, she is now angry that neither of us told her about it for three months and now she will be too scared to use the toilet at night. And Angelina hadn’t wanted to tell Ilmira about it for precisely that reason.

Now, as a reasonable person, I suggested that we kill the spider so that we can all move on with our lives, but this was apparently the wrong thing to say. “You can’t kill a spider in Russia!” They told me. “It’s bad luck! We’ll have winter until June!” To make a long story short, we all ended up on the floor with them trying to pin me back as I sprayed the toilet spider with Windex and then tried to bash it to death. Continue reading “Superstitions in Russia”

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Anton Chekhov and his journey to Sakhalin

“Sakhalin is a place of the most unbearable sufferings of which man, free and captive, is capable.” (Letter to A. S. Suvorin, March 9, 1890)

On Sunday, Ilmira and I went to the Chekhov Museum downtown. Anton Chekhov, of course, was a famous writer at the turn of the 19th century. His works in realism won him fame and awards and he influenced many of the literary greats of the 20th century including Virginia Woolf and Ernest Hemingway. What may be unknown to Westerners is that Chekhov not only wrote in fiction, but he also made a journey to Sakhalin in the 1890s and wrote a book about his experiences called “The Island of Sakhalin”. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find an English copy of it yet, but Chekhov also wrote extensive letters during his life which reveal his thoughts, attitudes, and emotions. Continue reading “Anton Chekhov and his journey to Sakhalin”

Food on Sakhalin

Russia isn’t exactly known for its cuisine throughout the world. I suppose it’s natural that when your country experiences such long and difficult winters, the food ends up heavy on root vegetables or pickles. I’ll admit that it has been difficult adjusting to the food here. I came here a vegetarian, but after some health problems, I’ve had to re-incorporate some seafood and chicken into my diet. But somehow, I’ve still managed to find some tasty things here. (Sorry for the terrible quality of photos in this post but I was too lazy to get my camera every time I had a meal) Continue reading “Food on Sakhalin”

Winter in Russia

Winter in Russia is cold. This is a truth as universal as ‘The sky is blue’ or ‘Fire is hot’ or ‘A single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife’. Given how widely known it is that winter in Russia is cold and how much I dislike the cold, you might be wondering why in the world did I move to Russia for the winter? Honestly, I have no idea. Temporary insanity is my only plea. Continue reading “Winter in Russia”

Nightcap – A day in Seoul

Finally finishing my blog posts about my New Years trip. Thank you to the magic of WordPress for allowing me to pretend I posted this in January and not almost three months later!

I had always thought it would be romantic living on an out-of-the-way island where life isn’t as affected by the outside world. But it turns out there is a massive drawback: trying to get off that island. I guess I’ve been spoiled living so close to DFW where there are tonnes of regular flights that go all over the world. A fairly remote airport in the Far East of Russia, however, is not so blessed. Apart from flights to Moscow which are subsidised by the government, flights in and out of Sakhalin are few and on the pricey side. Because of the high population of ethnic Koreans, there are multiple flights to Seoul each week but not every day. Since I wanted to maximise my time in Okinawa, I couldn’t get a direct flight back from Seoul on the day I wanted. This meant that I was going to have to take a long journey back. Continue reading “Nightcap – A day in Seoul”

Finding my roots in Okinawa

My great grandfather, Pepo, was born in Okinawa just around the turn of the 20th century. It was about 20 years after the king of the Ryukyu Kingdom was overthrown by the Japanese government and the Ryukyus were fully incorporated in Japan as the prefecture of Okinawa. Contrary to most people’s belief, Okinawa has its own culture, people, and language distinct from Japan. Pepo left Okinawa in the 1920s to work as a farmer in Cuba. Since I’m interested in genealogy, I’ve tried for years to find out more about Pepo including his parents’ names and more, but out of all my great grandparents, he had eluded me. So when I was in Okinawa, I was determined to hunt more. I only imagined that I’d be able to see the general area Pepo was born in and maybe some details about Okinawan culture, but I was able to find so much more. Continue reading “Finding my roots in Okinawa”