Day Two: Moscow – While others were Protesting 

Wild to think we parked and walked Pushkin Square yesterday was the scene of one of the largest protests in years, many were arrested. This morning Andrei and I went to Izmaylovo. Did a little mentoring here as he didn’t know about the place. Figures I know a shiny castle / Kremlin look-a-like with a market full of chachkies, Soviet paraphernalia items and a vodka museum. There were so many photos I wanted to take but I did not want to be disrespectful. We had a really fun time shopping for matryoshka dolls.. Andrei and I were like Bonnie and Clyde clearing out the market so I can bring gifts back to the students at Mother Caroline Academy. Andrei thinks that it was the biggest sale of matryoshka dolls in the history of matryoshka doll sales.

What I learned ..

“The history of the village of Izmaylovo goes back to 1389. Since the days of Ivan the Terrible it was an estate of boyars in the Romanov family. The Kremlin in Izmaylovo is a unique center of culture and entertainment, based at the famous Izmaylovo Vernissage. It is built in a pseudo-Byzantine style, based loosely on what palaces in Russia looked like in pre-Petrine times, but more inspired by drawings of Russian fairy tales.”

In the afternoon I headed to meet Sasha in the Artist District where Big Brother Big Sisters Moscow hosted a match event for the female mentees and their mentors. Entrepreneurial women in the branding, fashion, make-up, and one male celebrity food blogger came together to educate the group. They started out by talking about their pathway to leadership, the importance of personal brand, social media image management and ended the event in break out sessions. The mentees came from Russian orphanages in Moscow and before the event they gave each other makeovers in the orphanages. During the event the make-up artist showed the young women how to look natural by applying make-up to a model. I could tell they were really enjoying this part of the program.  Though I couldn’t understand what some of the mentors were talking about to their mentees … I could see how strong the bond was between one match in particular, by the way the mentee looked in admiration at her mentor and the way the mentor responded non verbally to her mentee. One of the Case Managers of BBBS told me they had been together for over one year. It made me think of some of the strong relationships developing this year at Mother Caroline. Like events at MCA, the snack was a big hit, small sandwiches and juices were donated by a local restaurant.

Lastly, the quote Juliette from Brand Me put up on the screen tied the event together – “Do one thing a day that scares you.” Stretching yourself just a little will give you a sense of purpose and accountability.. I like to think I do this at least weekly.

After the event Sasha and I took a ride to Moscow State University. The campus was quite impressive. About 47,000 students are enrolled on campus with 5,000 professors (some who live on campus). The main building is the highest of seven Stalinist skyscrapers of Moscow. It also claims to house the tallest educational building in the world.
The campus sits on top of a hill that looks over the entire city. Sasha let me out of the car to take a stroll because parking is very hard. On the overlook people were people strolling about, you could buy an espresso from a guy with a full espresso machine out of the back of his van. Rock artists were bracing the cold playing for a crowd, I saw a guy with an owl on his arm and a guy dressed in WWII gear riding a motorcycle and some other relic, two young girls dressed in hoop dresses were dancing and playing with the crowd. Another young entrepreneur rented mini segways by the 15 minute increment. This moment was pretty surreal and it is beginning to sink in that I am in Russia! I could have sat there all day people watching.

We headed back to Arbat Street for dinner, sampling some Georgian food. As we drove back home about 9:00 p.m. the barricades from the protest we still being collected from the afternoon. If you managed to read this all it is 1:48 a.m. Managed this day on 4 hours sleep from some jet lag and over stimulation of impressions (I fully understand how my Dutch mentees feel in the US). I also think we experienced daylight saving .. Europe is a week or so later. Loving every minute of this experience … I will sleep on the plane next week!

Sometimes I do not have WiFi during the day .. When I can I post at least a photo on Instagram. I’m in great hands here with my Russian team and the people are very kind.

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