Saturday, November 7, 2009

Missing Singapore:1(Nephew Reuben's Birthday)

Photo taken with Reuben, a day before I flew to Kaliningrad in September. We were born in the month of November, he turns one today.
Это мой младший племяник, Рубен. Я очень люблю его. Мы сделали фотографию в сентябре этого года, я носила его на руках в моей комнате. На следующий день, я уехала из Сингапура в Калининград.

Reuben's little feet.
Ножечка Рубена. (от ножка- это совсем уменьшительно ласкательное.)

Today is Reuben's one-year-old birthday, I celebrated his birthday with my family through internet. This is the beautiful couple, my couisn Brother Kok Hong and his wife, Katherine.
Сегодня у моего племяника день рождения, ему один год. Я общалась голосом с моей семьей по интернету. Мой двоюродный брат и его жена.

This is my sister, Michele Loo Li Meng, she is one year younger than me.
Это моя сестра, она на один год младше чем я.

My family is celebrating Reuben's birthday at a resort next to the sea.
Моя семья отмечает день рожденье Рубена на курорте у моря.

My mother was carrying Reuben, standing on the left is Aunty Amelie.
Это моя мать и Рубен, и слева моя тётя.

My father with the birthday boy, Reuben.
Это мой отец и Рубен. Празднование день рождения Рубена на моском курорте.

Here comes winter?

This is Kaliningrad two weeks ago, trees are turning from green to yellow.
Я была в центре города две недеди назад.

One week ago, leaves are falling on the left, and those on the right will be gone soon.

This is what I saw yesterday on my way back, it is early November, it is not even winter yet.
Сейчас ещё осень, уже такой холодно, когда же бывает зима?

Looking out from my window two days ago.
Снег пoшёл два дня назад, я была так рада.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My First Birthday in Russia

I bought a cake for friends in Russia. My teacher, Ludmilla, Erka and Axele.

Russian doll, my present for my Russian birthday!

Home-cooked meal for the day!

Gift from my Mongolian classmate, Erka.

Yet another gift from me for myself. Japanese tea-set, come visit me in Kaliningrad.

I am blessed with gifts and bouquets. My teacher gave me linen tea-tower from Smolensk, an ancient city in Russia.

November in Russian is prounounced as na-ya-brrrr...Good opportunity to develop the tongue when you start to learn Russian.

Holding the flowers that my French friend, Axele gave me.

My Birthday Cake.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Russian way of Life:10 (Russian names and Visiting Friends)

First time as a guest in a typical Russian home, but in a German building built during Kaliningrad's Konisberg's era. I was happy like a child.

Victoria's kicthen. Victoria is very established as an account and speaks English. Her husband Dimitry works in the military as a programmer, it is better for him to remain out of the picture.

We had black tea, Chinese tea, green, cake and home-made jam. They have a garden outside the flat, that keeps them busy during the summer. Victoria is teasingly trying to feed me with the pride of her family -- home-made cherry jam.

Victoria's childhood toys sitting on the chair in the living room. Their pet cat who just gave birth to two kittens sleeps soundly in a box underneath.

What a kitchen! I love it. But the table is too small for Chinese families.

When visiting Russian friends, one should never go empty handed as in other countries. Hence a cake with cream and dessicated coconut is perfect.

Little corner at the fridge, how I like the bronze stand!

The dining table with different teapots for different tastes.

Every corner seems to be well-decorated with flowers and plants, this is the room of Victoria's mother.

The Russian words mean everything will be fine. It is a gift from their friends.

I was very excited when I was invited to a Russian couple's home. They are Dimitry and Victoria, or Dima and Vika for short. All Russian names have its short form, for instance Sasha for Alexander, Kostya for Konstantin, Volodya for Vladimir, "Sereozha" (how it sounds in English) for Sergey and Katya for Ekaterina and so on. They use the short form among family and friends, if you refuse to use that name, you might appear distant and unfriendly.

One of the distinctive feature of Russian names is that of the middle name, or the father's name, or patronymic. For example, a daughter of Alexander will have a middle or patronymic called Alexandrovna. It is constructed by adding the ending "ovna" to the father's first name. While for the son of Alexander, he will be known as Alexandrovich where "ovich" is added.

Not only the middle name indicates the gender, the last name or surname also strictly follows the rule!

For example, a full Russian name for a girl is Nataliya Alexandrovna Ivanova. If she has a brother in the family, his name could be Boris Alexandrovich Ivanov.

The Russian language is very rich in different forms of personal names, which express all kinds of emotions. A person can be called differently at home, at work, by unfamiliar people and his friends. It is said that Maria has more than twenty forms in Russian.

Among even closer ones, the names could get even more affectionate by adding –en’ka, -echka, -ochka, -ushka and others. For example, Ekaterina could morphed from short name, Katerina, Katya to cuter pet forms like Katechka, Katusha or Katenka.

Let me give you an example. I have known my friend Boris for two years, and I never knew all Boris-s in Russia are called Borya, one among the many variations. So I still address him as Boris, and it appears really strange to Russian people not to call your friend using the personal form. And now I could recall when he first introduced his wife and son to me, he put their short forms in the brackets, but he never told me his short name. However I insist to address him as Boris and I think it sounds nicer than Borya. If it sounds distant, so be it. :)

Ever since I came here, I get to know more Russian people, I was told of their personal names immediately when I was introduced as a friend, hence I call Victoria, as Vika, and Dimitry, as Dima, and Vladimir, as Volodya.

When Vika was showing me her photo albums of her family and friends, I learned more about Russian short forms, for instance her best friend Lubov (which means Love) is affectionately called "Luba", which sounds similar to my Russian teacher's Ludmila's short form, as "Luda". And we must strictly follow that!! Of course, I already know that I would never call my teacher Luda, but only by her first name and her father's name!

As a guest, I was served tea, home-made jam and the pears that they grew in the garden. The cake was surprisingly delicious, much the same as the one I get from "Love Confectionery" in Singapore, which was situated at Queenstown Town Center. However, the proud and expressionless owner only bake very limited quantity everyday, and more often than not, I would be disappointed as they were already snapped up by neighbouring residents. I used to quip when I got back into my sister's car, and said, Love (Confectionery) has no love today! The soft chiffon cake covered by dessicated coconut reminds me of cakes from the good old days, honestly baked with simple sugar, flour, eggs and white fresh butter cream, no fanfare, no artificial colours, no nonsense.

I tried my best to speak with them in Russian, and Vika tried to speak to me in both languages when our topics moved further beyond my scope of vocabulary. The couple used to live for seven years in Murmansk before they moved back to Kaliningrad, and solid friendships were built during that time. Friends from as far as Murmansk would come to visit them in Kaliningrad. She also told me about her aunt and cousins in Germany, and many stories from their lives in both Murmansk and Kaliningrad.

Victoria's mother live with them and she was extremely nice and was curious about my parents back home. I answered her in Russian, gaver her an account of my family and my ever-getting-richer (in terms of vocalulary) "mission statement" of why I came to Russia. She refused to take picture with me as she was already in pyjamas, but we were amused by her non-negotiable insistence.

Dima and Vika have been married for a good sixteen years. They have four godchildren, among them are her nieces and friends' children. She said she loves children and told me a Russian saying: Children are the flowers of our lives. When her mother heard that, she said in Russian to Vika: Yes, yes! You will always be my little flower! And they happily kissed each other, and hugged! And I hugged the two of them and we had a good, hearty laugh! It was a pleasant surprise that three of us were all born in the month of November.

Leaving their flat around midnight, I was deeply thankful of such a wonderful time. Vika said she must bring me to Dima's parents's home at the seaside one day. And hopefully we will meet really soon!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Attractions in Kaliningrad:1(Victory Square)

A rainy night in the city center, the Victory Square is sufficiently illuminated.

Victory Square in 1942. (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

The seat of City Administration.

The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (Храм Христа Спасителя) is the largest church in the Kaliningrad Oblast. It is one of the dominant buildings in the city center.

A shop next to the churh with religious merchanise and visitors must not speak loudly in the shop. Unknowingly I giggled with friends when I walked in, only short of being asked to leave. :(

Situated in the heart of the city square, the cathedral was recently completed in 2006.

The Russian Orthodox Cathedral is designed in a simplified yet modern variety of the Russo-Byzantine style which was popular in Imperial Russia.

The golden top of the cathedral glows in Baltic sunlight. My favourite sight, I would sit under the sun just to savour such a spectacular view.

If you look at the map proper of Russia, you will not find Kaliningrad. Move further to the West on your map, and you will find this geographically separated exclave tuck between Lithuania and Poland on the Baltic Sea.

Kaliningrad is the new name of the old German city Koenigsberg
(Кёнисберг), which was the northern part of former East Prussia empire. Founded in 1255 by the knights of the Teutonic order, it was largely destroyed during the second World War. Its ruins were occupied by the Soviet Army in 1945, and was renamed in honour of the popular Communist Party member Mikhail Kalinin in 1946.

The unique city, part of which is now occupied by parks and public gardens, is a seaport and administrative center of the Kaliningrad Oblast.
The population in the oblast is estimated at around 1 million, while slightly less than half lives in the city.

Kaliningrad is also the economic and cultural center of the region. The tourists' interest to the city is said to be constantly growing. Located near the Baltic Sea, Kaliningrad was also known as the city of amber in olden days.

Kaliningrad is also one of the scientific centers of Russia, as there are several famous Universities and Naval schools in the city. The city is famous as the place where Immanuel Kant, a world-famous philosopher, is buried. Today, even with the extensive damage suffered during World War II, Kaliningrad offers an amazing opportunity to see a Russian world still somewhat untainted by the world of fast food and easy living.

There are great hotels available in the city, as well as the nearby Svetlogorsk which is a costal spa resort. If you like to return to nature once in a while, the Kursche Spit is a stunning peninsula of sand which is rich in flora and fauna.

Up until 1934 the presnt-day Victory Square was named Hansaplatz, and during Nazi Germany the square was known as Adolf-Hitler-Platz. As the old Koenigsberg city centre was destroyed during the war, the post-war city was developed around Victory Square. Today one can find many banks, shops, malls, and the city government in the neighbourhood of the square. The former North railway station, which was built in 1930, is currently a business centre. The new city hall, built by Hans Hopp in 1923, still function as the seat of the city administration.

During the celebration of the 750th anniversary of the founding of the city in 2005 the square was thoroughly renovated. A new fountain was placed in the centre and the new Cathedral Of Christ Saviour was consecrated in the same year. The statue of Lenin, previously in front of the cathedral, was removed from the square and in 2006 placed at another site in Kaliningrad.

Facts about Kaliningrad
Area: 215,70 sq km
Location: It is located on the Baltic Sea coast and not physically attached to Russia. The city lies between Lithuania and Poland.
Geographic coordinates: 54 43 N, 20 30 E
Population: approx 426,000 (2005 est)
Foundation: 1255
Climate: Transitional (from gently continental to nautical).
Area code: 0112
Major attractions: Koenigsberg Cathedral, Victory Monument.