Open Forum for Ideas, Random Thoughts and Introductions...

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It's a strange world, being an English language writer on LJ. Some of you may wonder how an American made her way to the Russian blogosphere. It all started in April 2012 when my Ukrainian friend sent me a link to one of Ilya Varlamov's (varlamov.ru) African stories. Immediately I was captivated. A sea of intelligent and prolific thinkers/travelers all writing in the same place. I became hooked, reading many of the top bloggers daily for intellectual pursuit but also to study Russian words.

Then I became friends with another popular Russian blogger, made my way to Russia, and wrote a story that received a lot of attention when he translated it into Russian on his blog. Now I have a wonderful audience, consisting entirely of Russian speaking subscribers. I still don't know how some people make their way to my journal but I'm very grateful for your readership, insight and comments. Sometimes I question whether I should continue writing on LJ
, or move to another platform where I'll reach a larger English speaking audience. However, I think there's some value in having an American woman writing here, in a creative space that is dominated mostly by male bloggers.

This post will now remain at the top as an open forum. I try to maintain an active dialogue with readers and you can write what you wish in these comments. Tell me something interesting about yourself, how you discovered my blog, ask questions about America, travel or any other topic. And, most importantly, let me know the types of stories in which you're interested. Thank you for visiting, and cheers from the USA!

Uzbeks and the art of bargaining

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I have rarely been so enticed to buy things! In Uzbekistan, there are endless shops filled with artisans, crafts, ceramics and all kinds of beautiful items I wanted to carry back home to the USA. Each shop owner smiled, and tried to lure me into their colorful areas, placing decorative silk scarves, coats, fabrics, etc. into my hands to caress.

Of course, any time I asked the price for an item the initial amount quoted was astronomical, thus it became very necessary to bargain with the locals. I traveled with my friend from Tbilisi, Georgia and she was uncomfortable with this style of negotiations because apparently it is not normal in Georgia. However, for Americans, it is totally ordinary to bargain at markets and it does not bother me at all. Maybe it is the lawyer in me, not sure. :) At the same time, there is a sort of ethical and moral issue when you engage in such tactics in poor countries like Uzbekistan.Collapse )

Return from Uzbekistan

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I returned from Uzbekistan. What do you want to know about the journey? :) This is perhaps the most colorful of all countries I've visited. And completely secular. So those who warned me about wild Muslims and savage practices have absolutely no clue about which they speak. It's a pity people are so poisoned with prejudices, and I cannot understand why so many Russians have a negative attitude toward the Uzbeks. The locals were warm, open, welcoming and the country is far more civilized and advanced than I imagined. I will try to share more impressions next week...

Off to Uzbekistan!

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At long last, I will travel to one of the "stan" countries! I depart for Uzbekistan in two weeks. In July of this year, the Uzbeks made e-visas possible for citizens of the U.S. Very simple online procedure to get a tourist visa, and only $20! Way to go Uzbeks, although I am 100% against any visa regimes. But alas, I do not make the rules of the world.

Please share any insights about Uzbekistan. Where to go, what to see, eat, and so forth. Many thanks! I'm very excited about this journey...

Faces from Batumi - Georgia

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Every day we are in motion, encountering a multitude of different faces on the street, metro, in markets and almost every corner of life. Yet it seems to me most humans walk around not noticing a damn thing about the people or things around them, living in their own personal bubble or cocoon of sorts. There is a truthful saying in my view - the eyes are useless, when the mind is blind.

I know you have seen dozens of reports from Batumi, Georgia, where many Russian tourists go to sit by the warm sea. During my time there I was not concerned with the water, but the local inhabitants. Today I will share some portraits of the locals I met there, including this couple who sat on a bench outside the apartment complex where I stayed. They did not speak one word of English, but language barriers are irrelevant when people flash such nice smiles and inviting eyes!Collapse )

Happy Holidays!

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There is nothing more to say...this time of year is joyous for many, and very hard for others. Wishing everyone a bright holiday season, some hope for a better world when gazing upon the golden stars in the wintry sky, and a small spark of magic!

It seems almost no one is left on this platform, so I write much more frequently now on Facebook and Instagram. You can find me here and here. :)

Happy holidays to those near and far, and all the best wishes for harmony in 2018!

Teaching English abroad - in search of contacts in the TEFL field

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Greetings! Sorry for the long absence, but it appears everyone is on summer vacations, and there has been no time to write. Remember how I once told you about my childhood ambition to be a teacher? :) It seems life sometimes comes full circle, and I'm now in the final stages of completing my TEFL Certification course to enhance teaching opportunities abroad.

Do any readers teach a foreign language - Russian, English, or any other native tongue? Or, have contacts in this field? If so, I would be grateful for your comments to the post. As I mentioned a year ago in this post, I have been contemplating leaving lawyer life and moving abroad for at least six months to teach. Almost all options have been explored - from the Peace Corps to Teach Learn Georgia, the government-backed initiative to teach rural Georgians English. However, these do not seem like a good fit for me, for various reasons.Collapse )

Snapshot from Niagra Falls - Ontario, Canada

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Creeping closer to the Falls, the boat began to rock and sway with the wind and force. And you stand there with your hands and body pressed to the rails, sometimes holding on and other times letting yourself feel unsteady as you oscillate, even growing dizzy...knowing any moment you could get sucked into the huge swirling pools in front or behind you. A reminder of life itself, of all the forces, emotions and waves carrying us through the journey.

This is the mighty Niagra Falls in Ontario, Canada! About this place I will try to write a small report, but just wanted to share this photo I took while viewing the Horseshoe Falls from a distance. I made my way onto this boat thereafter, what an experience! I recommend that all nature lovers and thrill seekers visit this natural wonder if you ever have the chance. This environment really impacted me in a big way, causing me to ponder the purpose of existence and also temporarily transform myself.
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Balcony puzzle solved!

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The answer to yesterday's puzzle - Georgia! Some of you solved the puzzle very fast, but most were thrown off by the English language sign on the building. Your answers and logic were interesting to me, so thanks for participating in the game!

The photo of the balcony I showed yesterday was taken in Batumi, Georgia, one of the most popular tourist spots in the country. I will write a report about this place eventually, but it was my least favorite of all the cities I visited in Georgia. Where there are many foreign guests, Georgia does a decent job of having signs in both English and Russian. Kudos to officials for that, as they seem to understand the value of tourism and foreign dollars thrown into the local economy.

I look at the photo in this post, and am immediately transported back to this magical path. A gentle breeze rustled through the autumn leaves, the shades of red, gold and green dancing to create a sort of kaleidoscope impact. The scent of fresh-turned Earth permeated the air, and pure romance floated about. I wanted to reach and hug someone, grab a hand, but no one was there...:))Collapse )