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www.色色.comThursday 29 January 2015

Can we learn empathy and compassion with five weeks classes?

I have just received an ads message in my email box: "Compassion CultivationTraining (CCT) is a course designed to develop the qualities of compassion,empathy, and kindness for oneself and others. CCT combines traditionalcontemplative practices with contemporary psychology and scientific research tohelp you lead a more compassionate life. The training includes instruction,daily meditation, mindfulness, in-class interaction, and “real world”practices. CCT is designed to be secular and generic so it can be effectivewith any faith tradition or belief system. " The class is suggested for aperiod of five weeks, will take place in the Bay Area and will be taught by awoman certified in Compassion (!) by Stanford University. People, I just do notknow what to say. If we can learn compassion now in five weeks with a Stanfordalumna, where the world is going?

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Philadelphia street fashion fairy-tale

When you think about street fashion in the United States, cities off the topof your head would be New York with its fashion week and stylish people, may beSan-Francisco for its particular Western Сoast way of leaving, thinking andwearing clothes. What else?? LA?? Probably. LA with its designers'showrooms, movie stars stylists and stylish people on the streets trying tofollow fashion trends might also be a fashion street capital. Would you thinkof Philadelphia though?? I seriously doubt it. Philadelphia, a meetingplace for the Founding Fathers of the United States, the temporary capital ofthe United States between, has left me impressed though with their streetfestive and cheerful style. I found that there were so many joy and magic inthe clothes people were wearing. Like if they were not just people but somefairy tale characters. Pictures are unfortunately not of that great quality buteven so you can see some joy and fun pouring throughout images:

When will she take her flying broom?


A walking green teddy bear:

philadeliphia fashion

Floral & Checked World:

philadelphia fashion

Hey Kagami Hiiragi from Lucky Star and Cilan from Pokémon! I recognizedyou!

philadelphia fashion

One more Kagami Hiiragi from Lucky Star? What a luck!

philadelphia fashion

The Red and The Black by Stendhal:

philadelphia fashion

Queen of Hearts (probably in her childhood)

philadelphia fashion

Jessie, the cowgirl (probably in her late years)

philadelphia fashion


philadelphia fashion

More fairies walking around:

philadelphia fashion

Tuesday 22 July 2014

San Francisco: Portraits

Here are San-Franciscans through the lens of Herb Wolff, my photographyclass' classmate:











All photographs by Herb Wollf

Friday 18 July 2014

Be Sure to Wear Flowers in your Hair...

When you can see these advertisments next to each other in downtown, youknow that you are in San Francisco:


And the girls, of cause, because otherwise it may be considereddiscriminative:


Tuesday 12 November 2013

Somewhere in Nevada...

I can understand. It is a desert...



Tuesday8 October 2013

Shut it Down!

This Miley Cirus parody is as badly done as all the Republicans dirtypolitical games. How even can you think of doing this to American people?We didStop

Sunday6 October 2013

My Starbucks Cups Collection

Some of you might collect Starbucks coffee travel mugs, but I have my owncollection of Starbucks cups.

So far this is my favorite. IMG_1670.jpg

I also have this one: IMG_1462.jpg

Do you think we are ready to live in a multicultural environment? May be notyet if we even can't pronounce our neighbors' names (including me). Having inmind a success of Anastasia cartoon, my proposal is to change all the primitiveDora, Mickey and Mini Mouse, Tom and Jerry, Donald Duck, Winnie the Pooh namesto real Chen, Cheng, Chun, Jing, Aishwarya, Akanksha, Bhaskara and Chandrakant.Yop, probably we will not have enough cartoon characters. But need to startwith something in order our kids can easily live in a new world full of newunusual names and unknown cultures.

Tuesday 30 July 2013

The High Line in NYC and La Coulée Verte in Paris - Pieces of Peace in Crazy Cities

I love big cities. I love them to the point that I was even not afraid to goto New York City during current summer heat wave (oh god, I love living in thebay area where you can't beat the weather!). Although, in the cold of winter orin the heat of summer, I love big cities, busy looking people in suits hurry inand out of tall buildings, street noises, hustle and bustle. But in order tostay sane in these crazy urban swirls, you need a place to hide, a place "aboveand beyond" . The High Line in New York is definitely one of them.

High Line Park - another view of New York:






In Paris you do not feel like you get smashed by skyscrapers. But you stillneed to get away from crazy everydayness of a big city.

Coulée verte in Paris:

photo credit:


photo credit:

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Independance Day. San Francisco.


Friday5 July 2013

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Hello my friends,

Sometimes I ask myself why I am where I am, geographically speaking. Whenyou have questions ask yourself first, then go and see you friends.

For a while I was thinking about hearing other voices in my blog (Do notworry about me, I do not hear voices otherwise, nor hallucinations, I amfine)).

And here it is. My friends shared their thoughts and impressions about theirdifferent lives in different countries.

I met Hanna when I lived in France. She was , is and always will bea brilliant girl. She has both Belarussian and Nigerian background. It's likehaving Sergey Brin's brain and Barack Obama's charisma.

Name: Hanna

Occupation: Co-founder, Tenacity Health (

Nationality: US

Countries you lived in: Belarus, UK, France, Bosnia,US

Current city of residence: Boston/USA


What do you really miss in your native country or countries youlived in:

Belarus: I really miss my childhood friends and the crazytimes that we spent together.

France: I sometimes dream about French cheeses, such asMimolette Vieille or L'abondance. I have tried buying them at?specialtystores in the US but somehow they just don't taste the same.

UK: I used to live on the seafront in Brighton and wouldwake up every day to see the old Brighton Pier. It had had a fire and hadbecome a home for large colonies of birds. ?It was eerily beautiful to seethem swarm back and forth in the morning sunlight (It was always sunny in themornings!).?

Bosnia: I miss driving on the road from Sarajevo toTrebinje. It's one of the most picturesque, dramatic mountain drives I haveever been on. I think that the region is one of Europe's best keptsecrets.

US: Biking along the Rock Creek Parkway every day on my wayto work in DC.

What did not you like/ was something you never get used to/ neveraccepted or understood in the culture:

Belarus: My toes and fingertips would always get numb fromwinter weather. I remember going to school in a trolley bus where the heatingsystem was broken while it was -32C outside. I don't miss that. Culturally, Inever appreciated the lack of optimism??even though I understand whypeople were cautious about the future.

France: I was surprised to meet quite a few firstgeneration immigrants who did not consider themselves French even though theyhad spent 99% of their lives in France.

UK: I used to live downtown, next to all the nightclubs andpubs. Like clockwork, yelling and fighting used to break out once thenightclubs were closed at 2 or 3 am every day.

Bosnia: Dealing with local bureaucrats. After a while, Irealized that they were very attuned to their 'victims' psychology. They sensedthat you were on a verge of a breakdown and would not let go until you have hadit. I empathize with what the people of this country have to put up with on adaily basis.

US: Driving culture in Boston.

She was my boss, my best boss ever. She is French and that means afunny, elegant and an open-minded beautiful woman who knows what she wants inlife. She is leaving Russia behind for....god only knows what country. Whatwill she miss in her Russian life and what is she looking for....Let's askher.

Name: Sandrine

Occupation: marketing Director

Nationality: French

Countries you lived in: The Netherlands,Russia

Current city of residence: Moscow/Russia

Next: Abu Dhabi/United Arab Emirates


What did you really like/ still enjoying every day (or your everyvisit):

France: I like it simply because it is my native country andsmall things of the daily life are easy just because you almost do them more byintuition than thinking. I love the nature, I love going early in the morningto the bakery and buy fresh and still warm bred and pastries, going there bybike in small roads surrounded by trees, flowers and the smell of the freshlycut grass. This is what I keep from France. A sweet way of life, the sunrising, the birds singing, and the ease for me to do whatever I want (notwhenever I want unfortunately). Having a barbecue in the garden of my Mumaround a glass of rose and having this family Sunday lunch on the outsideterrace. Then going for a walk in the forest, crossing a neighbor who will sayhi and chat a bit, come back home, play some society games and just enjoy thelong outside evening summers and spring offers.

Russia: Here, in Russia, I like the speed, the energy thecity give you every day. I like the contrasts, this city being all aboutexcess, all the time. It is a permanent chaos, which after a while, becomesalmost fun as you learn to live with it and win over it. So what I like in mylife in Moscow is as well, all those little daily victories on those thingswhich are so easy to be done in my own native country and mostly everywhereelse in Europe and the US. Talking about contrast, I am walking to the metroevery day. I never found the utility of having a car or a driver. I do believethat to understand a nation and its people, you need to live as them, and sincemy job is as well to understand people to try to sell them our product, that isa must to try to be as integrated as possible. So every day, I walk in thisvery busy city, fight to get in the metro, escape at least a couple of times totake a metro door entrance on my face because the person in front of me as nodelicateness to look behind and hold the door for you, build big strategies tobe able to seat before the bitch who just stepped on you without saying“sorry”, wait at the red light on the side walk that light turns green forpedestrians when you can splashed by a car who just ran to close to thesidewalk after a long night of rain…and then get to the office, exhausted, wet,like you did a triathlon…But one day, you wake up early, go to the street tobuy some groceries, and there is nobody,… not even a simple car though you areliving in the city center. You do not meet a single person even walking his dogoutside, though you are in the middle of summer and it is already 24 degreesoutside… You just cross a girl with torn tights, makeup flowing, and astaggering gait on her 15cms high hills. You wonder what happened, you thinkyou missed something as you don’t speak the language, maybe there was a noticeto stay home, maybe there was an alert and everybody had to leave the city andI am the remaining? But then, all of a sudden, you realize that all this isfull part of your imagination and “Oh of course, it is Sunday morning”...People who does not know Russia, will think I am over doing the story, but allof this can happen in Russia, even in one day and this is what I like the mostcuriously. Beside that I like to take the metro, as I said, because it is themost reliable thing in this country, carriages are still authentic (not meaningdirty or bad maintained but real authentic and noisy but clean), metro stationsare just pure pieces of art. I like the red square and all those churches, Ilike drinking Kvas, and I am, at least, the only French I know, addicted to itand being able to drink 2 liters a day… I like having my own world and notbeing obliged to fit into the system too much and not being poisoned by radio,TV. I like that it is the country of possibilities, I like the fact people giveyou a chance, I like because feeling they are challenged so they are productive(there is a dark side of it as well, big one). I like Russia for its uniquenessand its contract and while some debates happen time to time about Russia, whenI am travelling, I surprise myself often, defending this country more than aRussian would do himself or even more sometimes than I would defendFrench.

Netherlands: The highest hill in the Netherlands is mostlikely the same height as the sand castles I was building when I was a kid.Therefor what is enjoyable is to be able to bike everywhere without suffering.Amsterdam, where I lived was just the perfect place for a 1st expatriation.Full of expats from all around the world, so easy to make up friends, Englishwas spoken fluent by everybody even administrations (which ease life seriously)and it was 2h drive from my home border and 4h from Paris still by car. So youcould be homesick, it wouldn’t matter, you knew you could take your car anddrive home for the week-end of even for the night. And of course as you knew itwas possible, you wouldn’t do it then. I did though once to make a surprise toa friend and this was awesome. I liked being able juts to take my beach bag andgo to the beach on Saturday’s while summer was heating the city. I liked everytime landing at Schiphol from my numerous business trip having this 1st smellof farm when exiting the door. I liked living in a city that was the size of a“village”, but have all facilities of one of the biggest European capital. Iliked being so close from home, that my friends would easily come to visit fora week-end without any struggle or begging them.

What do you really miss (will miss) in your native country orcountries you lived/currently live in:

I miss in general all those things I like in each country. Especially when yougo or leave a place or somebody, after a while only the best memories come toyou and you completely forget the struggles and the difficulties and all thosethings you used to dislike. As for France, I miss not being closer to my Mum,though I must admit that when you get to see your relatives, the time spend isoften of much better quality than living next to each other and barely talk orexchange on anything. Everything as their pro and counters, I decided to livefor the pros and only look forward to have more.

What did not you like/ was something you never get used to/ neveraccepted or understood in the culture:

France: never coped with the mentality, this well thinkingthat if you do not think like me, you are not worthy to listen to or you are afascist even. I do not like the fact we live on our laurels and because we havebeen a great nation, we can sit and do nothing and we will still be. I do notunderstand this contrast between French. On one hand some travel a lot and insome amazing countries barely no one’s visit but on the other hand you havethis France who just lives on the past and what our ancestors did whilecriticizing all those stupid people who do not apply the French model. I don’tlike and cannot get use neither to all gossips, criticism and prejudices. Itgives as a result that you are more judged on what people say, your appearance,your race, your religion, and even the way you dress, the town you live, theschool you went, the jobs your parents were doing, your way of dressing… thanon what you are really are. So I cannot get used to the mentality, whereeverything is impossible or will be difficult before even starting. It is sosad in a way because all the rest is just amazing in this country.

Russia: for all the reasons I love Russia, I hate it aswell. There is no in between neither with this country, neither with thepeople. I will not regret the lack of education and politeness of the peoplestepping on you at every step you make, those doors slapped into your face,those eyes looking at the floor instead of saying hello... I remember, by theway, once I was on the phone next to Albina and talking in French. When Ihanged up, she asked me “to whom where you talking with”, I replied I wastalking with some administration (I don’t remember exactly but not somethingvery sexy or funny). She said, your conversation was so friendly and you wereso polite. I understood that day, that even Russian people are suffering fromthis behavior. Unfortunately, people who had the chance to live in othercountries, and see. I will never get used to the fact you might have to becomenasty and impolite yourself to have a chance to get what you want. I never gotused to the fact that people cannot think by themselves and if a coma ismissing, the all document is just not valid and on top of it you cannot evendiscuss.

Netherlands: never got used to the food, which was thebiggest struggle ever. They are very patriotic and like to sell and consumewhatever has grown in their country. But Man, this country barely gets sun! Sowhat you get are no taste vegetables, no taste fruits, even the meat is awful.It is the only nation I know grown with sandwich and daily glasses of milk foreach lunch. Maybe this is why they are so tall and strong! I am easy with this,as they also admit the fact they have the worst gastronomy in the world. Itadded to the fact I never understood and will never understand why, everysummer you see thousands of cars towing caravans migrating to south of Franceand overloaded with food. When I asked what for, most of them replied “just incase we do not find what we want” (sure, once of the main thing they take inbetween are 10 kilos of potatoes and true that in France we do not growpotatoes) and some of them because they would save money (I don’t know what ischeaper that those small outdoor markets in south of France and moretasty).

I met Yana here, in California. Our kids are friends and we arefriends too. How can you not be a friend to such an interesting and multi-facedpersonality? She is keen on photography, plays guitar, cooks delicious treatsand creates amazing polymer clay jewelry.

Name: Yana

Occupation: M.Sc in Life Science, currently stay at homemom and (Yarn&Clay) designer

Nationality: Ukrainian / Jewish

Countries you lived in: Russia, Israel, US

Current city of residence: Santa Clara/CA/USA


What did you really like/ still enjoing every day (or your everyvisit):

US: life quality, great nature, lots of free space, SanFrancisco.

Israel: friendly people, great historic places, the sun andthe?sea, Tel Aviv beaches and night life.

Russia: my friends, my city (Moscow), theater,nature.

What do you really miss in your native country or countries youlived in:

Israel: good friends, many aspects of life in Tel Aviv likethe night life, hanging out on the beach at summer, interesting bars, parties,exhibitions, lots of small café and nice restaurants. I also miss my Alma-materthe Technion, located in Haifa.

Russia: the great nature that I remember from my childhood,some of the foods, which are hard to find abroad and Moscow itself - itsstreets, parks, buildings, lakes and many many more places I love.

What did not you like/ was something you never get used to/ neveraccepted or understood in the culture:

US: Currently, the only thing I don't like is that there isno option to walk, you get everywhere in your car. However, its more a suburbsproblem,?you defenetly can walk in San Fransisco. Also, I was shocked todiscover that there is almost no café in European?meaning of the word.Only diners and self service places. ?

Israel: most of the people are too straight forward, askingright away about private metters, I don't like the non stoppable heat and not abig fan of mediterranean nature.

Russia: the feeling of insecurity, authority rudeness,vandalism.

I've known her since we studied together at the university inRussia. Every time I see her, I am happy. It is a kind of positive and sunnyperson who makes you happy, you know. Now, Tanja lives in Germany, with allthese Germans around drinking beer and shouting ?? Arbeiten,arbeiten!??.... but she is still the same shiny and happy Tanja, full ofpositive energy, ready to share it with you.

Name: Tanja

Occupation: mom of twins

Nationality: Russian

Countries you lived in: Russia, Germany

Current city of residence:Heidelberg/Germany


What did you really like/ still enjoying every day (or your everyvisit):

Germany: On the practical side: everything worksefficiently - post, public transportation, administrative issues are quicklyresolved without extra red tape. On the personal side: Germans are very good atcultivating and safeguarding their heritage and traditions. For example thingslike making Adventskalender for Christmas (Christmas cookies, etc.), orcelebrating Carnival, or drinking beer at Oktoberfest :-).

Russia: It makes me feel good to see how Russian women takegood care of themselves and always manage to look good, no matter what budgetthey have.

What do you really miss in your native country or will miss in yourcurrent country of residence:

Germany: good roads and highways without speedlimits.

Russia: May 9th.

What did not you like/ was something you never get used to/ neveraccepted or understood in the culture:

Germany: German pedantry.

drunk people in the morning in public transportation. :-)

Have you ever met a Russian guy married to a Mexican woman (alreadyintriguing, right?? But that's only the beginning). The guy lived inFinland for a while and now is a US resident. You still do not trust me, I see.Here he comes.

Name: Andrey

Occupation: Software professional

Nationality: Russian

Countries you lived in: Russia, France, Finland,USA

Current country of residence: USA


What did you really like/ still enjoing every day (or your everyvisit): US: weather, beaches.

Finland: tranquility, piece and order, well-preservednature, clean water and ecology, lots of intact nature, work culture, statesocial benefits system, blunt and direct people.

Russia: relatives.

What do you really miss in your native country or countries youlived in:

Finland: sauna and winter. Sauna is not just sauna, it'sFinish Sauna. Imagine, you are on a small island of archipelago, sitting in ahot room of the wood stove sauna. Then you run and refresh yourself in the icywaters of the lake. You can do it only in Finland.

Russia: friends and family.

What you did not like/ was something you've never accustomed to/never accepted: US:

1. high crime level

2. poor (elementary/highschool) educational system

3. income/wealth inequality

4. corporate greed (i.e high prices, poor quality)

5. culture: double morals in everydays life (soft lie as a norm, sugercoating truth, indirectness).

6. other: poor spread of modern IT technogoies, tons of hardcopy paperworkin both govermental and commercial agencies.

Finland: finns can't cook! dining is expensive and food istasteless. 24-hour supermarkets are rare. Health system consists of a publiclyfunded health care and a very small private health care sector. It results inless choices in medical services.

Russia: corruption, money cult, wealth/incomeinequality.

She calls herself Tetyana, I call her Tanya, my good friend Tanya. Imet her in France while I was in my final year at Paris business school. She isUkrainian and I am Russian. I am Russian and she is Ukrainian. Not easy, youknow - gas disputes, Crimean issues, and even a question of borschtorigins....Yes, yes, our countries have issues but not Tanya and I. We are aperfect example of Russia-Ukraine friendship.

Name: Tetyana

Occupation: Business Development Manager

Nationality: Ukrainian

Countries you lived in:Ukraine (22 years), France (10years)

Current city of residence:Suresnes?/France


What did you really like/ still enjoing every day (or your everyvisit):


language, songs, nature, friends, family, Ukranian cuisine.

What do you really miss in your native country or will miss in yourcurrent country of residence?


Places, landscapes, smells of my childhood (rather than of my last 5"grown-up" years spents there for studies), like my grandparents' village andhouse, dishes they cooked, moutains, forest and fields around...over there I amout of time, I am what we call free (I don't like to use this word, I don'treally know what it is), liberated, freed, released, carefree without feelingcareless, serene, at peace,... protected, maybe I feel like a kid there? Atleast I was, I don't know how it will be next time (this summer). I also misssome friends of mine (when we have enough time not to be superficial), mygrandma, my brother and parents. I miss an attitude that makes difference withthe Western world such as?: a kind of relaxed or at least not anxiousattitude in the worst conditions, which - I have to admit - can be oftenirresponsible or lacking of long term view attitude. I also miss a certainsimplicity/humanity in relations, which is unfortunately changing as peoplestart to calculate (relation to money), start to isolate themselves. I alsomiss certain simplicity/spontaneity in doing things or getting access tothings, which is unfortunately very often the result of lack of rules or of"small" corruption, corruption being precisely smth I hate... Finally, I missour buckwheat:) (that by the way was domesticated and first cultivated inChina....).


When I am in Ukraine (or elsewhere), French things I miss are:?

- "esprit critique".

- pastry, good bread.

- a certain "civilisation" i.e. basic superficial common culture or rules"of living together" (bonjour, au revoir, ?a va? merci...can be considered assmth completely hypocrite, but still I prefer it to a very special post-sovietignorance/aggressiveness/treatement depending on some status).

- language, some TV programms.

- big plates :) everywhere they use small or middle-size plates and I needto have a big plate even if I eat smth small:).

- my home (I always enjoy getting back to France as it is my home even if Ido not have a French citizenship).

What did not you like/ was something you never get used to/ neveraccepted or understood in the culture:


- some superficiality/hypocrisy in human relations (well, depends on thepeople/regions:))

- anxiogenic, stressful atmosphere, everyone is stressed, even children arestressed (because of their parents/surrounding)...doctors, psychologists,waiting rooms are fool, drugstores are full, bars-tabac are full, socialsecurity/public welfare system is empty, tv is full of economic and othercatastrophes...easy to be trapped by all this (well, depends on people andregions:)). - hidden communitarianism (again depends on the people andregions:)). - "fonctionnaires des préféctures". - a certain veneration ofAmerica, or let's say "complexe du conflex" (by the singer M) ( again and againit depends on people:)).


- slave/inferiority complex, fatalism, impossibility to draw lessons of ourhistory and use correctly the country ressources/potentiel.

- "sovok" mentality.

- lack of "esprit critique".

- absence of national interest oriented/long term policy.

- young people's bad tastes.

- adults' bad tastes.

We studied together at the University in Russia. She wanted to be ateacher and a translator. Now she sings and plays keyboards in the SisterMonkband inNew-York. If you still haven't heard Sister Monk, you should?: veryoriginal folk, funk, rock music with poetic lyrics. From herprevious Russian life into her new American life, Tani brought her passion formusic, her creativity....and also her gusli, balalaika and wooden spoons....for her next performances.

Name: Tani

Occupation: musician (keyboardist/vocalist forSisterMonk:

Nationality: Russian

Countries you lived in: Russia, Senegal, USA

Current city of residence: Paterson/NJ/USA


What did you really like/ still enjoying every day (or your everyvisit):


I very much enjoy living close to the ocean. I grew up in the central partof Russia, the closest sea shore is a 1000 miles away, and now I can go to thebeach whenever I feel like it. Simple joys of life. The biggest joy is ofcourse being able to play music. In The States success of an indie band doesn'tas much depend on who you know though it is of course important. But if yourproduct is unique and original and of great quality there is a greater chanceto make it here than in my native country.


Sounds silly but food is one of the great pleasures of coming back. Favoritefoods and favorite people is all I need when I'm there.

What do you really miss in your native country or countries youlived in:


I live in The States so I don't get to miss the country much but if I happen tobe away for a long time I really miss playing music. We play in NYC a lot andyou might call it my social life. I don't go out to clubs to drink, dance andmeet people. I would play a gig and get all of that plus a healthy dose ofadrenalin.


My folks love to party so every time I'm in Russia there are plenty of familygatherings, and every one of them ends with singing folk songs, a cappella oraccompanied by my aunt's accordion playing. I think the songs is what I enjoyand miss the most. They got me started on the whole music thing, I think Istarted singing right when I started talking.

What did not you like/ was something you never get used to/ neveraccepted or understood in the culture:


Eating habits in America surprised me. The amount of food commercials on tv ispretty scary. If in a five-minute commercial block three minutes are taken byfood and the remaining two by different weight loss programs there is obviouslysomething very wrong here. Kids menus in restaurants is another topictoo.


Russian pop music is pretty awful. Seriously it's torture. Perfect example ofquantity over quality. This is one of the reasons I never go to Russian clubsand Russian parties, can't stand the music. I can only hope smth will changeeventually. But where there is demand there is supply. There is plenty ofamazing musicians there, but they are outnumbered. What you hear on the radiothere is often even far to be called mediocre.

When I first met Gilles he surprised me by saying a few words inRussian. I was even more surprised to see him making conversation in Russian.All of the French or Americans I knew, who pretended to speak Russian a bit,were already lost after my second question to them. Then I found out thatGilles lived and worked in Japan and (!) speaks Japanese fluently. You couldmeet a French person able to speak fluently both Russian and Japanese, whenpigs fly. Gilles is a walking encyclopedia and thinks out of the box. Even hisreplies in this mini-interview were outside my framed questions. So I decidedto keep them as they are.

Name: Gilles

Occupation: Engineer & father

Nationality: French

Countries you lived in: Russia (Moscow), Japan (Tokyo),US (Vermont and Silicon Valley)

Current city of residence: Sunnyvale/CA/USA


What did you really like/ still enjoying every day (or your everyvisit):


This is a country I felt “at home”. This may surprise many who have heardabout rejection of the foreigners are a usual issue. Well, I think this ismostly due to people not trying… First and foremost, I have worked very hard tolearn the language. I did not stay with other foreigners. I made it so that Ihad no choice but to discover Japan. I loved the food. I think this is onething that made it enjoyable to be. In general, I think there are a lot ofcommon ground in the “way of thinking” of the Japanese and the French. Culture,food, dressing, family values. After food, the second thing I loved in Japanare the public bath?! I could spend hours in there…


I actually first discovered Russia when I was in my teens, as part of aschool trip, the year right after the Moscow Summer Olympics (I studied Russianas my first foreign language). On my first “real” stay there, I was privilegedto work as part of the French Embassy, at a time of transition with a lot ofthings changing. Because of that, (and since I was part of Embassy staff), Iwas able to take advantage of things unthinkable… I paid the Russian price fortrain/hotel and planes… Even for the most expensive hotel in Saint Petersburg,I could afford it with my modest “military compensation”. This was a time ofvery large inequalities and paradoxes… I remember having a 1 kg box of caviarin my fridge, but not being able to find bread to eat with it… My secondassignment (with my current company) was also very good, yet very different.Materially, I was well off, and interestingly occupied the apartment of Mr. No(Mr Gromyko), in the inner circle of Moscow. The changes were drastic betweenmy 2 assignments – but in both times, I really enjoyed the easy access toculture (concerts, expos, theatre). Moscow is definitively a cleaner city now,and you don’t see old ladies selling mushrooms (morels) (maybe it’s a shame) inthe spring at the exit of the metro stations. Seeing a lot let drunk people aswell… But it is still a very unbalanced city. The inner city markets are alldisappearing to be replaced by expensive new apartment complexes, and thedifferences between the poor and the rich is very, very obvious.One thing thatmarked me in both visit, but also probably more in my second time… The waypeople dress-up in Moscow. Specially after leaving in California… There is noway you catch a girl walking in her tennis shoes in the streets of Moscow, withher hair not done and without make-up :-)


Life is easy as long as you have money… I am here because I work here, andalso because of some of the freedom that California offers. My family would notbe possible in Japan or in France. But I am not sure I would live hereforever…?

Now… some cross-cultural comparisons, if I dare…

Both Japan and Russian like bath. There used to be public bath in France,but they were mostly an "hygienic" place, not a place to be enjoyed. There aredefinitively "bath houses" in California, but they are not the kind where youwould casually enjoy the steam. However, both Japanese and Russian have adefinitive culture of the bath… It is different, yet it is the same… There arerules you have to follow… and there is even special idioms that have to belearnt before you are allowed to be a real "part of it".

What did not you like/ was something you never get used to/ neveraccepted or understood in the culture:


What is different between French and Japanese…?? I think the biggestdifference is Japanese Resignation (reflected in a phrase.. "shoga-nai (itcan't be help)). It soooo got to upset me when someone said that… and did nottry to do anything about the issue… because it is the way it is and the way itis expected to be…


US and Japanese… well… it is just 2 completely different cultures… Not surewhere to start.. already covered food and culture. Even for us here in the verycosmopolitan Silicon Valley, with San Francisco not far away… I don't think wecome close to Tokyo… (or Paris, or Moscow). But I will focus my negative energyon american culture on the "service" area - or lack of thereof. If anything wasto happen to my plumbing in Japan, I would be able to get a technician within afew hours - and on time (to the minute) at my door. This holds trueas well for utilities (installing a phone line) electrical or Gas…. This issimply un-thinkable in the US. It feels to me that here, we are "at theservice" of the utility company…


Russia and Japan… disorganized and inconvenient are the terms that comes tome when I place these two experiences next to each other. Getting somethingdone (anything) in Moscow is always an adventure and requires you to "knowsomeone". Shopping is all (mostly) on the outskirt of the city as allreal-estate is for luxury shops in the center of the city. This would beun-thinkable for Paris or Tokyo.

Should I stay or should I go??

With all that put down… Is there a place I prefer?? I think I would sayJapan. But I have to remember and caution myself that my experience was aprivileged one. I was living in a house (yes) with a walled garden… within theinner circle… I was not commuting to work, but walking to work… But then again…all of these experiences are a lot what one makes out of them…?

Friday 14 June 2013

Moving Memories

Where do you keep all your pictures, diplomas, your kids' paitings,postcards from your trips, your memories? At home, on your computers, in photoalbums and boxes on your shelves. You might also have some memories in yourphones, so you can show some funny pictures of your kids and hear "Oh, he's abig boy now" or "Your girl's growing into quite the little lady" or somethinglike this.

Sometimes you can display family pictures at your office desk: "Look at mylittle ones!"

Americans love transforming their cars into moving business cards. Sometimesstickers and license plates can say a lot: family status, political views,hobbies, places you visited..... People even put thier kid's names on thierlicense plates, in case they forget them back home...

Hey, I am a proud mom.


Hey, I love soccer. If you love football, change the lane.


Hey, I love Obama. And I love hiking in Hawaii too. If you are Republican,change the lane.


Saturday8 June 2013

Memento Mori!

I always thought that there are some taboo subjects universal to all modernsocieties. Like death. Of cause there are some ancient societies where deathwas celebrated: Ancient Egypt, some tribal cultures. But it is all in the pastand now people usually do not like speaking about death. We fear it and we donot want it. Hey, are you still alive? - is just a joke. But even this joke canbe perceived as rude and tasteless.

Imagine my surprise when I received this letter?

Why? Why?

Ok, ok, it makes sense, I understand. Though when you are already dead, nothingin the world makes sense anymore.

I could even win a pre-paid cremation! Wow!

Oh, I am happy for David Casey! Congrats! How are you doing Mr Casey? Areyou still alive? Oups.

And, oh suprise again, in May I received one more:

No, guys, it does not make any sense for me. Please check my age in yourdatabase or just do your marketing differently. May be a small event on thecemetery with champaigne and orchestra would be a good idea or a small talkwith elementary school kids "Cremation just makes sense"?

Memento mori, guys,.... and do not forget about money!

Saturday4 May 2013

American and Russian Daycares in the US or Do We Love Our Kids Differently?

It has been a while I did not write anything for my blog. I still live here,in California. Time flies. Life goes on. Things became pretty familiar andsomehow aren't worth describing them.

Though I still see things that suprise, impress or even profoundly disturbme here in the USA.

My 2 years old daughter goes to the American daycare twice a week. I alsoconsider to put her later in a Russian daycare. There are some of them here inthe Bay Area: teachers are Russian and speak Russian with students, the waythey deal with kids is somehow also familiar and known from our childhoods.

From what I saw until now, there are 2 main differences between Russian andAmerican approaches to early childhood education. For convenience I'd call them"treatment" and "methodology".

1) treatment.

I will never say that Russian or American daycares treatments are better orworse. They are just different and basically reflect what we call "normal" inour respective societies.

a) food.

Russians, we all know what "goryachee pitanie" means. I'd translate it as"hot lunch" but it is not a word-for-word translation because in Americanculture you just do not have such a phenomenon. While in Russian daycareslunches are provided by a school with almost no exception, in American daycareslunches are often provided by parents and can be just a sandwich and chips,macaroni, cheese, carrots. Sometimes kid's lunch is the same as snack is, bigsnack but still a snack: one or two cheese slices, baby carrots, goldfishcrackers and a fruit, no fish or meat included.

b) nap.

In most Russian daycares kids nap in pajamas, in beds. In American daycareskids nap with their shoes on (for fire safety reasons) and on the cots with orwithout a blanket. I am really not sure kids need those shoes on while nappingbut it is obligatory.

2) methodology.

Russian moms ofter want their children at an early age and later, of course,to learn. Do you remember Lenin's "learn, learn, learn"? Yes, we all rememberit and basically follow this way. In American daycares academics are not soimportant at least for children 1 to 5-6 years old, social skills are, fun is.At American daycares teachers are here to accompany rather then to teach. If achild does not want, they do not force, sometimes do not even insist. They letit go.


Friday 11 January 2013

Guns without Roses

There are a few things which are really disturbing for me here, in the US.One of them is the fact that everybody can buy a gun in every sports magazinealong with a basket ball, a snowboard, a fitness outfit or whatever itis.
Every single month you read about school shootings, domestic or gang violenceinvolving guns or tragic accidents like the recent one when 5- year-oldKentucky boy fatally shot his 2-year- old sister.

Fortunately, all the schools shooting do not end like Sandy Hook Elementarytragedy which claimed the life of 20 small kids and 6 adults. But still you seethese pictures of terrifyings kids and crying parents and again and again adebate about a ban of assault weapons and a plan for curbing gun violence isback.

To understand this profound attachment of Americans to guns you have tounderstand that individual right to bear guns is a constitutional right and isa part of the 2-nd amendment dated December 1791.

But sometimes I just want to say "Come on guys, take it easy, you are safe anddo not need guns anymore: Indians will not attack you". May be in a countrywhere gun violence is one of the highest in the world, you might finally admitthat 1791 and 2013 are two different epochs and there is something that needsto be changed.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Playing with words...

In the US it's better to be rich and healthy than poor and sick.
In France sometimes it's better to be poor when you're sick: social security isin charge of everything.
In Russia, if you're rich and healthy it's better not to tell it. Otherwise youcan be poor and sick very soon.

Question of Trust

Americans trust the System, not people. Russians trust people, not theSystem.

Monday5 November 2012

My American Election Top 5 Why's

The 2012 United States presidential election is scheduled to be heldtomorrow, the 6th of November.

Here are my top 5 why's about this election:

1. Why American election takes place tomorrow, on Tuesday and not on Sundayas everywhere else?

2. Why American president Barack Obama voted before the election day andwithout his wife?

3. Why in the US presidential election the information about how much moneyRomney and Obama got in fundraising is more important that everythingelse?

4. Why Candidates' wifes convention speeches are so important and why theyare so....stupidly touching?

Michelle Obama:
Our life before moving to Washington was filled with simple joys...Saturdays atsoccer games, Sundays at grandma's house...and a date night for Barack and mewas either dinner or a movie, because as an exhausted mom, I couldn't stayawake for both.

And the truth is, I loved the life we had built for our girls...I deeplyloved the man I had built that life with...and I didn't want that to change ifhe became President.

I loved Barack just the way he was.

Imagine Ludmila Putina or Valerie Trierweiler saying this in front of acrowd of people.

5. How you can have a candidate running for a president (and, even moresurprising, a candidate who can become a president) saying:
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matterwhat. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upongovernment, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government hasa responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement."

"If I'm president of the United States, I'm making it very clear, I love freetrade. I want to open markets to free trade. But I will crack down on cheaterslike China. They simply cannot continue to steal our jobs… "

"So in terms of a geopolitical foe a nation that is on the Security Councilthat has the heft of the Security Council and is of course a massive nuclearpower, Russia is the geopolitical foe and the idea that our president isplanning on doing something with them that he’s not willing to tell theAmerican people before the election is something I find very, veryalarming".

The only answer I can have for all these questions is "It's because we arein the United States".

Sunday 28 October 2012

How did I become a Halloween hater?

I do not like this holiday. And actually, I've become a Halloween anti-fanhere, in the US. In Russia or in France it is somehow a marginal holiday. Youcan love it or not, you can celebrate it or not. There are some Halloween saleshere and there, some nice Halloween parties for aduts and kids, kids knockingon the door for "Trick or treat"...

And it is fun when it is unique.

Here in California you can see pumpkins everywhere, costumes everywhere,obligatory Halloween parties in every single school, Halloween theme in everysingle shop and house. Everybody decores a house for Halloween and eventransform their homes into haunted scary houses.

"How do I make my house look scary for Halloween so the kids are alreadyscared". Are you crazy guys or what? How parents can even think of scaringtheir own kids? For me Halloween now is tons of thrown away pumpkins forpampkin carvings and all these scary bloody ghosts and monsterseverywhere.

Halloween is a celebration of death although by definition a holiday for meis a celebration of life. Ironically I did not feel it this way in Europe.Why?

May be just because less is better and too much is too much.

Boo and pampkin cakes. They are ok for eating. But in some shops you can seebloody monster's hands or hearts as cakes.... you would never eat, at leastme.


Pampkin theme is everywhere


Tuesday 25 September 2012


This charitable organization's name is City-Sunshine and it operates inLipetsk (Russia) only on Wednesdays and Fridays from 2 to 3 pm. I do not knowexactly what questions City-sunshine's members discuss and what project theycarry out. I have never attended meetings they have during these 2 hours perweek (I regret). But when I saw their door, the only thought that passedthrough my head was: Guys, before making your city shine, try to sweep your owndoorstep and at least paint the door."


Tuesday 18 September 2012

My Russia

This is my Russia.
Tradition and modernity, speed and slowness, beauty and lack of harmony andchaos, chaos everywhere....

Belaya ploshchad business center. Belorussky Station square. Moscow.

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