Moscow simply glittered with magic. The city winked at us with well-intentioned mischief. Things just somehow… worked out! On Friday night, my Fulbright friends and I were simply гулятьing (wandering around) the night away when we came upon a small, seemingly nondescript alleyway. We peeked in our nosey heads and… it was lined with resplendent, decadent illustrations of scenes from Master and Margarita, done in that hypnotically beautiful art deco style. Oh, how we reveled in the twisted bodies and flowing lines, a mix of horror (heads rolling, the Devil, havoc and chaos) with the beautiful and mysterious (lovely Margarita, enchanted love).
As we continued deeper, we found a hidden gem of a museum, tucked away in the non-tourist treasure chest of Moscow: The Master and Margarita Museum. As it was past midnight, we swore to return the next day. However, suddenly, something miraculous caught our attention, and after we all noticed it, we grinned giddily, pranced around, and squeezed each other’s hands with anticipation: the museum was open until one a.m.! Somehow, Moscow deemed us deserving enough for its twinkling secrets and opened itself up to let us in. On the outside, there was a chuck of iron jutting out of the corner, sculpted with a collage of characters in flight with their iron dresses rippled in eternally frozen motion. Inside, there were more paintings, original copies of the novel, playbills, sculptures and statues of Bulgkov and characters from the novel, a full-sized, rusty trollycar with an iron head rolling beside it on the floor, a place to write letters of admiration to Bulgakov, and… a mischievous, arrogant, portly black cat strolling freely and confidently around the apartment-sized museum. Yes, yes!! It was all such a delight!
During the day on Friday (backtracking a bit), an assortment of speakers presented on other types of Fulbright grants, the upcoming elections in Russia (two speakers, one, a representative of the US government, the other, a politically fired-up Russian), the idea of “privacy” here (i.e. the lack thereof, the ability of the state to check in on you without any cause or suspicion), opportunities for working with the Moscow Times, and the importance of theater and the arts in Russian life. The speakers were animated and informative, rekindling in all of us (or at least just in me) our Russophilia that may have taken a backseat lately to all the business of teaching English and Awesome America.
Everything in between the first day and the last was just a stream of delights. Thomas Santos spoke to us on Saturday and Sunday with his velvet-and-chocolate theater voice, alleviating our concerns, delighting us with anecdotes and spot-on impressions, and erasing all our troubles with moisturizer and candles (cures for rough Siberian winters, we’ve learned). Spending time with American friends was so satisfying; we all just talked and talked and caroused and reveled in each other’s company.
On the last day, once again, everything just simply worked out. During my wanderings, I happened to walk into the filming of a television show! It’s called “Детка” and centers on Sergei Shnurov, from the infamous group Leningrad, as an older rocker that just found out he has a 15-year-old daughter. More (in Russian) here: http://blogkino.ru/2011/10/21/serial-detka-s-sergeem-shnurovyim-na-sts/ The scene I fell into was a concert she was to hold in Moscow, and we were all fans eager to get her autograph. That was silly and fun.
I continued on, serendipitously finding a delightful old book open-air market, where I bought elegantly decrepit books for 35 rubles that smelled like dusty, living history. Forget reading; I just want to rub them all over my wrist and neck and evoke warm-library-feeling everywhere I go! Just kidding, I’m reading them. Just a bit further and then a Pushkin museum appeared. I decided to enter, even though I’m not as dedicated fan as I know I should be, and lo and behold, yet another loving wink from Merry Moscow! It was a double museum, featuring my beloved, quirky master of shapes, literature, and all things, Andrei Bely! Ahhh I just dissolved into a bucket of grins. The babushka at the counter at least appreciated the enthusiasm, though she clearly was befuddled by “that odd foreign lassie” that became so animated by someone who was not Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Pushkin, or Chekhov. I even paid the nonsense fee to take pictures, which I will now flood your computer with.
Look at his brilliant, darting mind, bristling with ideas and colors! So eager and passionate about life and all its complexities! Unifying it all, bringing mathematics and literature together, making language into a 3-D production that you don’t even need glasses for. Oh if only one day I could sail on his mind waves, feel his rushing thoughts swish through my hair, chase futilely after his shimmering ideas as they dart in and out of the water.
…and oh yeah, Cathy (fellow fulbrighter) lead a ZUMBA CLASS in the hotel conference room. Pump up the варение (jam) Moscow, pump it up!!!
Grossly over-simplified moral of the story? When you relax and submit to the steady Russian current, you’ll find much simply works out. Of course, that’s not always true, but often, the sightseeing, activities, and lesson plans (in Moscow as well as in KhM) that I struggled to plan and forced into place couldn’t hold a candle to the unexpected treasures that came from a peaceful acceptance of “the flow.” For a metaphorical visual, see the classic Soviet cartoon, Ёжик в тумане (Hedgehog in the Fog), specifically the last scene where he is floating down the river. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eaVOYizc80