“What do you mean they turn off the hot water for ten days?”
I asked blankly.
My grandma tried the hot water tap again, just to be sure.
Except for an odd gurgling, nothing emerged.
“They turn it off in summer for maintenance. To clear the pipes.”
“I see.” I said, breathing in and out slowly to avoid having a
“Bastards” she grumbled, “they usually do it earlier. In June.”
I thought she was missing the point.
And so began my first week in Moscow.
As you can see, being an ex-pat means you don’t get a typical tourist holiday when you go back home.
The hot water issue is only an issue because I’m staying with my grandmother in Lyublino |translation =’I love you but…’| on the outskirts of Moscow.
Soviet style buildings with too many flats, crumbly balconies and lifts scarred by graffiti.
The hot water fiasco doesn’t happen to newer apartments.
However in the grand scheme of things, being in Moscow this way is much more interesting than being a tourist.
An a-typical week in Moscow
When I first arrived, after unloading my bags and having a shower, I was force-fed a variety of salamis, cheese, yogurt, blueberries, middle eastern desert and tea by my dad and grandma.
Then, dad decided to visit our family gravestones at the Luyblinskoe cemetery.
I was delirious from lack of sleep but decided to come along anyway.
At the Luyblinskoe cemetery
Russian people visit family gravestones quite often to pay their respects, leave fresh flowers and clean up the place.
So you can always find people in a cemetery on a weekend day.
The unusual thing about this Sunday was a military funeral we stumbled across.
At least fifteen soldiers, military marching music and a firearm salute.
Someone passing by yelled “Who are you burying?” but got no reply.
Dad suggested it was a Russian soldier who died in Ukraine.
I suggested it wasn’t, because I didn’t want to believe the worst.
(That’s another story though – I wrote about the crisis here.)
A few days later I paid a visit to the family dentist, close to Dynamo Metro.
My mum started going to this guy when she was eighteen and still makes an appointment every time she’s in Moscow.
We immigrated before my teeth became a royal pain in the ass so this was my first time meeting him.
“You’ve been to see me before” he contradicted when I said it was my first time at the clinic.
“Really?” I asked, trying to recall childhood tooth-related memories.
“Yes,” he continued “But you were in your mother’s stomach last time.”
Now that’s family history for you.
For the weekend, grandma and I traveled to Podmoskovie.
Our holiday house |dacha| is about an hour outside of Moscow by long distance train |electrichka|.
The area is for all intents and purposes a village, which is what makes it great.
There in the backyard, I gorged on various berries and vegetables grown by my grandma, frothing over what hipsters would call ‘organic’ living.
Aka an outhouse, an outdoor shower and a pechka instead of a fireplace for heating the house.
Mushroom picking was also involved.
When I got bored of the above I tried to expand my limited Russian vocabulary by reading Dovlatov’s memoirs of his time in the gulags.
A day and a half later I had enough of serenity and country air and made my way back to Moscow.
It was Sunday again.