Today started with me oversleeping, and arriving for breakfast 20 minutes late. I slept like a baby, and think I'm mostly adjusted to the time change now. I joined Chuck and Alexey for more tomatoes and cucumbers, followed by strawberry yogurt (yum) and then meat-stuffed pancakes, which I did not enjoy. I snarfed down a couple pieces of bread and cheese, and another waffle-donut, then scuttled off for a shave before we had to leave. We traveled by van to Sergei Posad, a monastery which is about 100km outside of Moscow. It was very pretty, and I snapped a lot of pictures. It's apparently a very holy site to the Russians and many of them were in prayer there. We had a Russian guide, who gave us a tour, which was translated by two new companions from MISiS. I felt somewhat conspicuous, as we were obviously being given the VIP treatment, and were taken into a locked building and into other areas that "normal" visitors and worshippers were not allowed into. there were various services going on as we were there, and I felt a bit awkward standing around gawking at the people. I took a lot of pictures of the buildings though, which I'll get uploaded some day.
After our tour, we crossed the street to eat at what Alexey described as a "fake Russian" restaurant. Probably the same way that TGI Friday's here is a "fake" American restaurant. The meal started with some bread that was quite good, more cucumber and tomato salad, followed by some soup that didn't translate, but I gathered was like borscht, it was red, and full of cabbages, onions, etc. That was pretty tasty, but I'm not big on soups. Next came "pot of meat" which was a little ceramic pot of beef bits and potatoes. This was served extremely hot, I had to wait about 5 minutes for it to cool before I could eat it. Having it in a ceramic pot doesn't speed the cooling process. I'm starting to understand why none of the Russians that we had in the US ever ordered beef. It's not cooked particularly well here, (at least so far) and the beef in the pot was very fatty and full of gristle. It was definitely "chewy". The flavor was good, it reminded me of curry. I ate the potatoes, and the leaner pieces of meat. Alexey said the meat wasn't prepared right (though I did not complain), and since he has two sisters who are Russian chefs, he should know. Dessert was some tasty ice cream, and some German white chocolate.
After our return to Moscow, during which Chuck and I talked with one of our translators, who is a Graduate student in the foreign language department. It turns out she's completing her thesis, which is studying American terms related to automobiles. We made her day be explaining what a bedliner is, as she hadn't been able to find a definition anywhere, and was under the impression that it was a type of truck, not an accessory for one. I also gave her a few more bits of slang, such as "tranny" for transmission, and talked about a classic car being "cherry". I also speculated about the origins of the latter term, in regards to the vulgar manner in which it is also used, she was very happy, and took down our e-mail addresses, so that she can ask us questions in the future. [Update: Dan Black sent me an awesome list of car-related slang, which I'll pass on to her. This may depress her though, as she thought she was close to finishing her thesis, she may have to start over with this many new words!]
Traffic was a lot slower on the way back into Moscow, but we made it back. After a brief rest, Alexey, Chuck, and I headed towards Red Square on foot. The MISiS website says that the Institute is only a 10 minute walk from Red Square. You'd be hard-pressed to run to Red Square in 15 minutes, forget walking it in 10. We hoofed it down there, and took the obligatory pictures near St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square. Much of the square was closed off due to security concerns, including Lenin's tomb. We ate underground, in a posh shopping mall that is about 4 stories deep. We had some excellent Sbarro pizza, washed down by a tall Pepsi, and started the walk home, stopping by the Christ The Savior Church, version 2.0. Apparently, version 1.0 was demolished in the Soviet era to build a swimming pool for Khruschev, but the new version was rebuilt in the 1990s from the original plans.
We hiked the rest of the way back to the Institute, and relaxed for a bit before heading over to TGI Friday's for our daily dose of high-speed internet. Tomorrow morning we give our presentations, I guess that means I should finish mine now...