Aurora Fashion Week: Part II

Feeling thoroughly un-glamorous and making promises to myself to wear more red lipstick, garter belts and velvet, I returned with Katie to the bar. We grabbed some champagne and explored where the plebeians (see: non-VIP) were forced to loiter in-between shows. At this point we had become painfully aware of how important FLAB was to Sergei and pretty much every person working at Fashion Week. Intrigue was fast hitting critical mass. Should we go talk to him? He’s American. I’m American. We have that in common. I’ve been to LA before. I speak English. He has to want to be friends, right? Who only wants to be surrounded by Russian models? Oh, right. Every hot-blooded male ever. So once again I find myself stealing furtive looks at this stranger with the leggy blonde who looks suspiciously like she was hired to “entertain” him during his stay in St. Petersburg. Ugh. Quick do something chic. To the Bentleys! Standing next to a Bentley always makes me feel better about myself. I call it luxury-good association. I may not own it, but damn do I look good standing next to/with it/in it. So Katie and I headed to the Bentley stand. See below:

Beside the Bentley stand there were several fashion exhibits, one that included real models standing incredibly still.

I am clearly not meant to be a photographer….


Soon the bell rang for the last show of the night, a Swedish designer whose name  I cannot for the life of me remember. During intermission I had noticed a group of people who I became insanely envious of. It was a group of beautiful, unnaturally hygenic, insouciant teenagers. I referred to them in my mind as the cast of the Russian Vampire Diaries (this show does not yet exist. Hint hint channel 1 …) They laughed when everyone else was quiet, acted as if they grew up at fashion shows, saddled the benches during shows, and had more inside jokes than an Andy Kaufman skit. When an important looking Japanese-American designer showed up with posse en tow, he greeted them by name. Who were they? And how do I make friends with them. During the show, Katie and I sat nearby and I found myself watching them more than the models.

Here are some photos from the show I did not watch. It was very Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. This could be true. Or there could be the chance that as an American, I instantly associate anything Swedish with Lisabeth Salander.

After the show, Katie and I decided to grab some food. Should we go to the after party we were invited to by Sergei’s assistant? Or grab some sushi to continue our cosmopolitan night? Or should we go to the walk-thru McDonald’s window that is open 24/7? McDonald’s it is. We made the short walk to Nevskii Prospekt where I ordered a Royal with Cheese and Katie got some nuggets. As we were waiting for the verrrry slow woman behind the window to arrange our food, we spotted a very fancy Lamborghini parked in the middle of the road surrounded by two black Escalades (it could also have been a Ferrari and two Explorers, a Porsche and two Range Rovers….). What in tarnation? Who parks their car in the middle of the road? Wait, I’m in Russia. Naturally, we were curious so we waited to see who got out of the Lamborghini. Lo and behold out pops Sergei. And out of one of the black SUVs pops FLAB and his entertainment for the night. Oh good lord for all the people to be on the same 100 meter stretch of road as us at 2am, it is Sergei, FLAB and his honey boo. What to do? If they see us, any gains I made in my X factor immediately get wiped out. Where to hide? How to hide? Should we hide? Or should we run away triumphantly, mouths full of corn-fed beef in a 1976 Lada we flagged down on the corner. We’ll take the latter.

As a rusted-out Lada (not pictured above because that is one cool Lada) rounded the corner, we hailed it down gypsy style and climbed in. To the mansion! We declared to our Uzbeki driver and as we rolled by FLAB and his entourage, we giggled into our value meals, thinking of the absurdity of coincidence and the night we had just had.

I’ll leave you with this:


Apples or Apple

Today I received my first piece of fruit from a student– a banana! I thanked her and told her I would see her next week (in Russian). She looked at me like I was a hyena.

It’s the small things that count.


Anecdote: I was talking to a tutor for a fancy British tutoring company. She told me that once when she was working in Moscow, her client gave her an iPad as a thank you gift. I guess he thought a regular apple wasn’t good enough. I wonder what I can get for this banana?

Happy Tickets

In Russia when you ride the bus or the tram or the trolley, you get a paper ticket as proof of purchase. If the sum of the first three numbers equals the sum of the second three numbers then you have a received a “happy ticket.” This is a very lucky ticket and in order to receive the luck it brings you must eat it.

It’s true, it has been corroborated by Valya.

If I Were a Tsarina

Today, Lindsay, Eino and I went to Pushkin, a small town located a half hour outside of Saint Petersburg. It was originally named Tsarskoye Selo after the large summer palace built there for the Tsars but was changed in 1937 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Pushkins death. (People here seriously love Pushkin and most can recite Eugene Onegin from memory).

We wanted to go inside Catherine’s Palace but the line was so long that there would be no way we could get in before the museum closed. Disappointed about not being able to see the Amber Room but still excited to be in Pushkin,  we walked around the gardens for four hours, in 30 degree weather. I was a popsicle by the end.

It was mind-blowing to think of the wealth that the Tsars possessed and the frivolity with which they spent it. Entire parks were fabricated, entire palaces built and then re-fabricated and re-built to cater to the whims of the new tsar or tsarina. On the one hand, they created some magnificent pieces of architecture, built up impressive art collections and generally (along with other nobles) funded the advancement of art and culture in Russia and abroad. It’s just sad that it had to come at the expense of the wellness of a great number of their people.

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They Tried to Make Me Eat the Meat Jelly but I Said No, No, Yes…?

Have you ever tried saying no to a Russian mother? I don’t recommend it. If you ever find yourself in a situation where a Russian mother is either telling you or asking you to do something, just do it. There is no sense in resisting.

This is how I ended up eating xolodets…. Lindsay had warned me about xolodets; a gelatinous, cold meat aspic that is often accompanied by spicy mustard or horseradish sauce. I had luckily been spared such an experience until on Saturday, Valya informed me that she was making xolodets!?! She gave me a serving with my dinner on Sunday and I mixed it into my mash potatoes to no avail. It still tasted like cold, not firmly-set, salty meat Jell-O. While Valya was in her room getting ready for the theater, I swiftly discarded the remains of my helping in the trash bin, feigning delight when Valya returned asking how I liked it.

Lindsay and I commiserated later that evening on our shared xolodets experience and as she left I reminded her that Valya had invited her over for dinner the next night– for which she would be serving xolodets.

The next night as we were gathered around the kitchen table, Nina brought out the blue, tin dish of doom. “Oh yes, Kristina likes xolodets. She ate some yesterday. It’s very good, very delicious. It’s just like cold soup.” Lindsay and I looked at each other and tried not to giggle.

“Do you want some?” she asked as the serving spoon hovered dangerously close to my plate. “Oh I would love some,” I responded “but I have plenty on my plate right now.”

Lindsay, angel that she is, could not say no and soon she was served a massive spoonful of jellied beef– just like cold soup! Lindsay ate it like a champ and quickly scarfed down some beets to mask the taste in her mouth. Soon, Eino, returning from doing the dishes from our soup course, picked up the same blue, tin tray.

“Lindsay, would you like more xolodets?” he asked, completely ignoring me and my empty plate. “Ummm, da da, sure,” Lindsay muttered as another serving was heaped on her plate. At this point I broke into a fit giggles, not something uncommon at Valya’s dinner table, and watched Lindsay picked up her fork and start in on her seconds…