Monday, September 28, 2009

My Russian name

While Cochrane is a pretty famous name in the United States, though it might be spelled without the "e" sometimes, I have found that many people in the U.S. don't know how to pronounce it.

I remember answering the phone when I was little:
"Hi, can I speak to Milton Coachryan?"
That's when I would hangup. It had become obvious that the person was a telephone solicitor because they didn't know how to say our last name.

You can imagine that if native English speakers often can't pronounce my name, native Russian speakers would have a hell of a time. So in Russia, to native Russian speakers, my name has become Kimberli Kochreyn (spelling) - with my last name pronounced "Coach-ryan". This mis-transliteration of my name has gone on for so long that I now just let it slide and recognize it as my name, but I have been able to trace back the missteps and see how it happened.

It all started back in September 2008, at the Russian Consulate in Seattle. Of course, I filled out the visa application myself and didn't think to put the transliteration of my name in Russian, even though I had figured it out. After waiting for about an hour for my visa, they called out "Cauchryan" and I sat in my seat for a little bit, until I realized it was me they were calling. I couldn't figure out why or how they could mispronounce my name so badly, until I looked at my visa. On the visa my name is in Russian and English. The English to Russian transliteration had been literal and ended up looking like this: Кимберли Кочрейн. Literally pronounced, "Keem-byer-lee Koach-ryan". On my original visa, the mess up seemed fine. They used my spelling of my name in English and their spelling of the Russian, so I thought, ok, no problem.

Yet, when it came time to apply for my year long visa, I was no longer filling out the application and the person applying didn't look at the original spelling of my name, rather they transliterated the Russian back into English. Making my name look like this: Kimberli Kochreyn. The second year long visa application just used the spelling from the first, so, in effect, in Russia, this is my name.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Tuesday was the third time I have moved since arriving in Moscow almost a year ago. I am now living in a very Euro-style apartment. A large entryway, completely separate bedrooms, the toilet is not in its own room, and the kitchen has a proper dining table -- not to mention, a whole lot of counter space (comparatively). So, what does this mean? I'm spoiled. Currently, I'm living in this ginormous flat alone, until the school gets another native over here. No one is quite clear on when that will be.

The adventure of looking for a place in Moscow was not too exciting. Basically, you (or in my case, my company) hire an agent and tell them what price you are willing to pay and where you want the apartment to be located. You then set up meetings to see each apartment and you have to make the decision right then, in front of your future landlord. This situation is understandable. Its not a renters market. Even with the crisis, there is an incredibly high demand for flats in Moscow. So, needless to say, there is a huge likely-hood that when you make your split second decision, you will have overlooked something.

My oversight wasn't too huge. The place is nice, it's in a fairly decent part of Moscow. I have option of going grocery shopping at small shops or a huge "hypermarket" - like a super wal-mart. Since I have been in Moscow, my love of baking has emerged. I like to make banana bread, or cookies, or brownies and bring them into work. And there is one essential tool needed for baking. An oven. When I looked at the apartment, there was a strange looking device in the place of the oven, but I didn't think twice about it being an oven. It sits where the oven should, under the range, so it must be an oven. (To my disappointment this is a faulty syllogism.)

You can imagine my surprise when I opened the device and found out what it was ... a dishwasher?! What do I need a dishwasher for? And it's so tiny. Fortunately, the apartment came equipped with something I hadn't seen previously, a giant microwave with grill AND convection settings. Basically, the micro-oven will function as my oven. I'm learning, but it feels a bit like an easy bake oven. Like a toy.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Moving is an adventure

Ah, moving ... trying to pack up everything you have and take it in the one trip in a taxi that the school provides. Granted, this is much better than the alternative via the metro. Moving via metro is a slow and grueling process that I have been fortune enough to avoid -- getting my luggage to the airport and back was enough of a pain, I can't imagine making similar trips throughout an entire day.

So, really, should I be complaining?

But am I going to anyway?
A little.

Because I moved on a Tuesday, everyone was working, so I refused assistance from the couple people that offered. I thought, maybe, just maybe, the taxi driver would help out, like the one who helped me out when I first arrived in Moscow. But I thought wrong. First of all, he was late. Secondly, he must have been paid by the hour because he tried going through the center of Moscow instead of taking one of the lovely ring roads that Moscow has which avoid the necessity to deal with central traffic. Finally, after arriving at the apartment three hours after leaving my old apartment (it takes 40 minutes via metro and an hour via other routes), the gentleman got my stuff out of his car, asked if that was all, and told me he had to go - leaving me, with my stuff, in front of the apartment building. I had sense enough to ring the landlord, get the door open and start putting my things near the lift, but really, I guess its just another example of not understanding service. My company has a contract, so my little complaint isn't going to change anything. Why should the taxi driver make sure I get all my things inside so they aren't stolen? In the end, all turned out fine. Kate, the landlord's daughter, helped me get my things up to the 7th floor.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Going to the doctor

In the United States going to the doctor seemed like a fairly routine thing. I set up the appointment, and then went to the doctor and told them the problem. Basically, going to the doctor works the same here ... but with a slight tweak.

In the U.S., even if we don't always think so, doctors and clinics are focused on preventative care. Even when you go in for a shot, the nurse takes your temperature, weight, height, blood pressure and pulse. It's comforting to know that they have your blood pressure from every time you have been to the doctor since childhood.

In Moscow things are different. Maybe it's because I'm a foreigner, but I have never been asked for my medical history. The first time I visited a clinic, I didn't have to fill out a form that asked me about my allergies or my family history of heart disease. I simply filled out a form with my contact information and signed a release form. Additionally, there was no nurse that greeted me and put me in an exam room to wait for the doctor. Immediately when my name was called, I was shown into the doctor's office (literally) and the doctor greeted me. This actually is a nice change. No waiting in the exam room for what feels like forever, just to have the doctor ask you the same questions the nurse just asked. When I went in for a cold in May, the doctor took my blood pressure and temperature, but only after talking to me for a few minutes about what was wrong. Not so bad you might say. I could get used to that.

And really it isn't bad, just different. I go to English speaking clinics because I trust them more. I am better able to interact and communicate with my doctor. The down side of this is that I pay more and some doctors charge per minute, so the more he can get you to talk, the more money he makes (not the best system for the patient). Yet, overall, despite the cost, or maybe because of it, my experience has been more than OK on the medical side of visiting the doctor's office.

While I have not been treated in Russian public hospital, I have visited one, and they aren't as bad as those opponents of social medicine might make you think. In fact, in many ways they are similar to American private hospitals. Granted they seem a bit cramped because three patients are put in each room unless you pay extra, and not everyone gets a television unless they pay extra, but overall the place was pretty decent. And who needs a television anyway :)

After my brief study of doctors and hospitals in Moscow, I have decided that while no one is ever excited to go to the doctor, it is not exactly something to be feared. when visiting or living in Moscow.