Fall colours

The corner of Rue d'Arcole and Rue du Cloître Notre Dame taken from the top of the stairs of the structure in front of the cathedral designed for its 850th anniversary.

Crêpes, anyone?

One hundred meters away from the Notre-Dame your boyfriend is getting you a banana crêpe with Nutella. You made it to the most romantic city in the world after a long transatlantic flight and no words can describe how happy you are. Enjoy your crêpe and welcome to Paris!

Off to Amsterdam I go in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

PS. Has anyone reading this post never ever ever been to the Netherlands before? :-)
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hello writer's block

I feel like I'm holding back the important details of my Irish existence. Just like the subject in this picture: the artist is in focus but the picture doesn't show what the artist is focusing on.

The initial joy of arriving and settling down in Dublin has been replaced by the joys of everyday living no different than living in any other part of the world, be it New York, Boston, Moscow, Brussels or Edmonton. The only difference is that I haven't moved to Dublin to start a new job.

Just as it is hard for a flower to thrive in the desert, it is hard for an artist to thrive devoid of artistic environment. I have enrolled into the creative photography class at the Institute of Photography - Dublin to address the need for support and advice from the industry peers. It has been a week and a half and I'm already working on a project that is due on October 19th. The objective is to pick a theme, make ten images, print and display them in class. Easily said than done, but I'll get there.

Projects aside, is there anything you would like me to write about? I am operating in the assignment-mode at the moment, so if you'd ask "what do you eat for dinner?", I'd certainly write about that experience as if it were my current assignment. Anyone? ;)

Du Bist So Wunderbar


There are many ways to see the Berlin sights: being short of time I picked a non-conventional way, a guided boat tour. This is the view from the top desk of a double-decker boat that sails in circles around the city. One circle equals one trip and it takes two and a half hours to complete.


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PS. If you'd like more information on Berlin city sights, check out berlin.de or visitberlin.de. If you're planning a trip, do consider purchasing a Berlin Welcome Card to enhance your experience.

And if you do not speak a word of German, it is never too late to get started. Trust me, you will love Duolingo: the desktop version is available on the go and you can strengthen your skills using an iPhone, iPad or Android. Free of charge. Try it : )
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Life is like photography: we develop from the negatives

That quote has inspired me to keep on writing about my current life experiences. I must admit that for a moment I thought of giving up and shutting down this journal for good. "Why would anyone share their miserable life stories?", I thought. There is so much stuff that should be left untold, it'd better be - most people never share their personal feelings anyway. Writing about negative experiences has never been my cup of tea: I would get all emotional and let emotions speak for me, sometimes saying the opposite of what I meant to say. Acting on emotion did get me in trouble in the past, and I've recently started exercising more control over my emotional side. So here we go.

Why would I write about something unpleasant? Think of life as photography: we develop from the negatives ©.

1. You're miles away from your hometown. If you have ever been robbed or lost valuables in a foreign country and your insurance would not cover the loss of something like a passport, or you did not bother getting an insurance thinking something like this will never happen to you, you must be familiar with the agony of getting your stuff replaced. Replacing IDs, bank cards and the like is a lot of pain especially if you did not plan to go back to your home country for a long period of time. This happened to me in July 2005 a week after arriving in the USA (I could not prove my identity for 6 months). This happened to me in December 2006 two weeks before leaving for China (the thieves took the cash and dumped my passports in the trash bin on a subway station). Two weeks ago it happened to my significant other here in Dublin - he lost his wallet, and we would have never visited Berlin or secured our new apartment with a €1216 damage deposit if we had no extra means of supporting ourselves. Surprisingly, the wallet was found by the Luas driver and reported to the lost and found, where they contacted dublinbikes (the annual subscription card bears the name and user id of its owner), and the latter called the phone number on file. Noone answered the call, so they left a voicemail. Plot twist: our voicemail service had not been set up, and the message "hey, come pick up your wallet" went nowhere. Since you-know-who was busy at work and kept forgetting to check with db whether they sent him a new card (he'd reported it lost and expected a new one to come in the mail), it was me who had to give them a call. I also had to take the Luas all the way to the Red Cow depot and retrieve the wallet.

This is all common sense, but let me voice it: please mind your belongings at all times to avoid stressing yourself and your loved ones out. Alternatively, if you or your family members have a habit of misplacing stuff, consider investing into a nifty piece of technology like Tile that works just like Find My iPhone. It ensures that your stuff is found when it gets lost, stolen or missing.

2. Most people I know have to pay monthly rent for their long-term accommodations. That is particularly true for out-of towners like ourselves - renting or leasing a place until taking a mortgage is affordable sounds like a logical housing solution. Finding a place that is worth renting is an issue deserving a story of its own: let's assume you have just found the place that you like so much that you're willing to sign the contract and move in. Before your imagination takes you to IKEA for the furniture and accessories, ask the following questions to all the parties involved:

1) Has this apartment been professionally cleaned? Open the oven/microwave to check for the grease buildup. Check the showers/bathrooms/toilets, smell the fridge and the freezer.
2) Who will do the walk-around to note the damage caused by previous tenants and when will that happen? If the place is not brand new, signs of general wear and tear have to be there. You are not responsible for this damage, and you must not waste your time to arrange getting it fixed - it is the responsibility of the landlord. Good landlords will not let new tenants in until the unit has been renovated - even a small face-lift makes a difference. But what if that is not the case? And what is worse, what if you are dealing with the management company on behalf of the landlord?

You may have guessed that I'm writing this piece since we made this irreversible mistake - we were so overwhelmed by the fact that we finally found a decent-looking apartment that we failed to ask these questions. We expected the letting agent to arrange these things because we naïvely thought that 1) and 2) to be their usual professional practice. We paid the first month's rent and a damage deposit, we got the keys, we moved our stuff from the temporary apartment into the new one, and here's when the trouble hit us. The toilet body was cracked. The kitchen tiles were cracked, too. The cracks were not huge, but the chance of them expanding further was obvious. The cement in between the tiles was crumbling. The paint on several light switches was peeling off, one dimmer knob was missing. Add the grease and smell in the oven, broken cupboard handle, burned light bulb in the fridge, stained carpet, numerous scratches on the floor, other minor issues like a creaky microwave door and you'll get the picture. The thought that we risked losing the damage deposit made us act fast. Contacting the letting agent did not help - they said they were responsible for sales only and referred us to the maintenance website where we had to create a ticket with the description of our issue and wait for the maintenance team to respond. The maintenance team said they acknowledged the problem and were contacting the landlord. The overall experience dealing with these household issues can be described with two words: very frustrating.

Things to learn from this experience: know who you are renting your property from. If an agency is representing your landlord, ask who maintains the property on their behalf and how long the maintenance requests take. The most important thing is to thoroughly inspect the apartment (do get on your knees and look at things from the inside/underneath) and point out the damage that needs to be fixed before you sign the papers. And if the letting agency refuses to help and says that you will have to log onto this portal to report the damage yourself, be wary. If you can wait for a week or two for any other apartments to become available, please do - had we waited, we could have moved into another apartment that had a better floor plan and another letting agent.

Thank you for reading, and may none of these experiences ever happen to you.

Dublin docs

вы только не подумайте, что я больше никогда не напишу ни слова по-русски. Напишу вот прямо сейчас очень много букв. Так сложилось, что у меня появилось некоторое количество англоговорящих читателей, которые интересуются "как ты там?" и задают все те же вопросы, что и моя мама, и я не могу их проигнорировать. Мам, привет : )

Сначала про самое главное - про погоду.
В Дублине кончилась тропическая жара и началось привычное ирландское лето. Льет как минимум три раза в день и раз ночью (иногда несколько раз), подчастую льет очень сильно - мебель на балконе звенит. Знаете, как на съемках художественных фильмов симулируют проливной дождь? Я чувствую себя качественно политой из шланга каждый раз, когда открывается небесный кран, и каждый раз ругаю себя за то, что зонта у меня с собой снова нет, и что не вымокнуть не получится никак. Промокшая до нитки, оставляя лужи вместо следов, я добираюсь до дома, в коридоре обнаруживаю расклеившуюся подошву, вешаю одежду обтекать в душевую кабину, выжимаю волосы полотенцем, надеваю теплые носки, грею руки горячим чаем. Ничего, говорят местные, привыкнешь. Процесс привыкания выглядит так: вчера я купила огромный зонт-трость, куполом закрывающий плечи и висящую на плече камеру, и планирую в ближайшее время завести резиновые сапоги. Ближе к зиме придется обзавестись паркой-непродувайкой или чем-нибудь подлиннее, так как другие типы верхней одежды в условиях повышенной влажности и сильного ветра никуда не годятся. Снега в Дублине зимой нет, но до зимы надо дожить, впереди еще бабье лето.

Про жилье (по просьбе mirror_dazzle).
Поиском постоянного жилья мы озаботились еще до переезда, изучив желаемый район и разброс цен на съемные квартиры на местном "из рук в руки". Из всех квартир, которые мы посмотрели, понравилась только одна, в новом жилом комплексе Spencer Dock, что в Dublin Docklands. Из второй спальни решено сделать кабинет-студию, так как пришла пора избавляться от привычки принимать пищу перед монитором, сидя за кухонным столом. Изначальная стоимость аренды в месяц была €1550, но сотрудники фирмы, занимающиеся нашим переездом и транспортировкой наших вещей, договорились с фирмой-арендодателем о скидке в €100 (на что бы потратить эти €1200? : ) Коммунальные услуги оплачиваются отдельно, в зависимости от времени года набегает €100-150 в месяц. Рядом с домом находится остановка трамвая, до работы пешком семь минут. До центра добираться дольше, но зато порт рядом и знаменитый поворачивающийся мост в пешей доступности. Также недалеко находятся стоянки городских велосипедов, которыми мы уже две недели пользуемся: на этой карте оранжевым обозначены велосипедные станции, которые откроются в ближайшем будущем, две из них появятся буквально за углом. Надеемся, что все бумаги подпишем уже к концу недели, и начнем переезд на следующей.

До новых встреч!

PS. А вот тут я прилежно веду мини-жж в картинках.
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Hello world, we finally made it to Dublin!

My love for this place starts with the airport signs in Irish Gaelic, for example, ardaitheoir that stands for lift, or elevator. You notice the wooden interior and cannot help thinking it looks very familiar (think Soviet office rooms). The border officer takes your picture, stamps your passport with a green stamp, and unlike the feeling you get after the ridiculously long lineup in JFK is finally over, you're truly welcome to Ireland. One sign you find amusing while waiting for your luggage is that they drive here on the left. You smile thinking it's not a big deal, but the reality kicks in right away - your taxi driver takes a seat on the right and drives on the left side of the road. Next thing you do is crossing the street instinctively looking to the left (your mom taught you to look left first) completely oblivious to the car approaching on your right. Something is wrong. For some odd reason regular rules do not work. Then you rent a bike and join the city traffic to find that you have turned onto the wrong lane - after the bike path ended, you had no idea which side of the road to cycle on (yet again). Being right-handed, you feel as if you have no other options but to use your left hand all the time. Would you call it frustrating? We call it quite an amusing experience :)

Note 1. I do not recommend flying to Dublin with Lufthansa unless you have a Schengen visa and no objections to spending a night in Germany - you may miss your connecting flight in Frankfurt if it's just an hour and a half to connect. We did.

Note 2. Do rent a Dublin city bike here and explore the city. The city is beautiful when it's not raining. To quote aldanor, Dublin is a cleaner and whiter version of London (quite contrary to Brussels, everyone speaks the same language), and it's got an authentic British feel mixed with sunny Italian atmosphere. Sunny, you read it right. It has not rained so far, and the forecast for Dublin remains sunny (+16/+24) for the next week and a half. There are a lot of touristy places to visit, things to do as a local, tons of places to get delicious food and drinks from, shop, chill and enjoy yourself - all accessible by bike.

If you are connected with me via social media, you probably already know that Dr. Smirnov and I are engaged. As of today we have not set the wedding date - right now we are busy dealing with Garda registration, re-entry visa applications, apartment-hunting and other newcomers' relocation-related issues. We have not unpacked yet, this is how organized we are. In fact, we are not organized at all - missed the train to go shopping at Kildare Village outlet, and missed the admission deadline to NCAD. The latter means I have no other choice but to go study here.

Bye for now, we're off to check out the local club life. iPhone shots are up on fb.


I call it spring

Пока весна московская еще не совсем весна, я ностальгирую по весне канадской, и в очередной раз обнаруживаю порции неразобранных фотографий.

Весной 2011 года мы ездили на long weekend в Калгари, и так случился один из лучших выходных вне четырех стен и компьютерных экранов, проведенный вдвоем. Было воскресенье; залитый солнцем даунтаун оказался пуст и словно заброшен. Удивленные, мы шли по свободным от будничной суеты улицам куда глаза глядят, фотографируя все подряд - машины, редких прохожих, солнечные блики и отражения бирюзовых небоскребов в блестящих стеклах небоскребов через дорогу. Преследуя пару черных белок, носившихся друг за другом по деревьям вдоль дороги, мы оказались в парке, где и гуляли все местные жители - на импровизированной площадке развлекал толпу веселый клоун, показывая фокусы с десятидолларовой купюрой, а у моста расположились уличные музыканты, про которых мы сняли видео, записав картинку на фотоаппарат, звук на сверхчувствительный рекордер отдельно, а после смонтировав все вместе.

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