Sunday, March 5, 2017


We have finally settled in here. The weather has been mild, with some sun and some overcast days and temperatures in the 40s. Most of our time has been spent at the university and in our apartment. We are usually chaperoned around town in Valeriy's car, but we've also tried out the marshrutka (van-buses), which we'll cover in another post.

Today I'd like to write about our accommodations and the area surrounding our building.

Our apartment is in a dormitory that mostly houses students with families and married couples. It is more than enough room for the two of us, and it is well-kept. There is a washing machine and ironing board in a common area, as well as an eating area with refrigerators - perhaps for larger items that don't fit in the mini-fridges within the apartments?

We are situated near the outskirts of town, so there's not much around us:

View across the street from the apartment building

View behind the apartment building

We are anxious for Spring to arrive, because it seems there are lots of rose bushes and probably other flowers planted around the front of our building. Apparently Kalmykia is awash with tulips in the springtime. Right now the predominant color is BROWN.

The street next to us is lined with garages. Valeriy says that some hold cars and others are used for storage
(just like in the U.S.!). The large pipe in the foreground probably carries water to this area.

From our road, we can see the khurul (Kalmyk word for Buddhist temple, pronounced HOO-rool) on the horizon

Upon entering the apartment building there is a sort of "house mother" who sits at a front desk and can help out with anything we need. When we need our linens washed, we take them to her and she takes care of it (the washing machine is not big enough for things like bed sheets). If we want someone else to clean the floors in our apartment, she takes care of it. If we want to arrange for a delivery, she takes care of it. If someone in another apartment is being too noisy late at night, we tell her and she takes care of it. She's kind of like a mother, cleaning lady, and mafia boss all wrapped up into one.

"House Mother" not pictured (we don't have that kind of a relationship yet...)

The hallways and common areas are filled with potted plants, to my great pleasure. I love houseplants, and the space would feel too clinical without them.

The common area is filled with people in the evenings - older people watching the news
(TV mounted on the wall to the right, out of the picture), children running around shrieking, etc.

Our apartment is on the first floor, at the end of the hall. It consists of a bedroom, office, kitchen, and bathroom (the toilet is in a separate area than the shower/sink).

We have a very nice office where Ted can do his work and I can write blog posts.

The bed is actually two twin beds pushed together with two separate comforters covered in duvet-type pockets. That seems to be the way they do it here in Russia, with the two covers. I like it because Ted can be a covers hog sometimes, and this way I don't have to fight him. :) The pillows are large and square rather than rectangular like pillows in the U.S.

View of the bathroom(s), to the left of the entryway

We have to sit or squat in the tub to take a shower, because otherwise water goes everywhere - the tub is not flush with the tiled wall. There's a handheld shower head, so you have to strategically turn the water on and off, with sudsing up or shaving done in between rinses. It's not too bad, actually, and probably saves a lot of water.

Hope you're not claustrophobic, because the "throne room" is a tight space!

To the right of the bathroom(s) is the kitchen. The stovetop works well, but using the oven trips the circuit breaker, so we have a microwave for "baking", which we keep in the cupboard when not in use because there's not a lot of counter space. We use a cafeteria tray as a drying rack and an electric kettle to boil water. 

Here you can see what we look like eating dinner in our pajamas at night:

Just beyond the kitchen, we have a small porch with a clothesline:

We need to get with the program and hang some laundry up outside!

The heat in this building seems to be kept at maximum temperature throughout the day and night - perhaps for families with children - so we have our windows open a good 50% of the time to cool off. The outside temperatures have so far been pretty mild, with no snow accumulation despite a couple flurries the day we arrived. We asked our international office guide whether people around here ever talk about climate change, and he answered, "All the time."

Today we are planning to go to a restaurant for a special dinner with Valeriy to celebrate our arrival. Posts about Kalmyk food coming soon!


  1. Thanks Mackenzie. Lots of rich details here. I wonder what the land itself would be character used as... tundra??

    1. Thank you for commenting! The surrounding land is called the steppe... I'm not sure if that is a type of biome, like tundra, but there you have it.

  2. Thanks for sharing all the photos of your place. The brown surroundings remind me of Northern Indiana in the winter...dreary. I can see why you're waiting for the tulips.

  3. Yes, if you can see the background photo of this blog, you can really see the brown. I took that photo from the airplane as we were approaching the city of Elista. There really is nothing out there but BROWN right now!