Dear family and friends,

 

Excitement of all Forms and Flavors

 

Well, the incredible whir of the past semester is beginning to wind down. Next week is a work week, so we're both still scheduled to teach quite a few classes, but many other things have stabilized already.

    

Foremost on our current excitement list is Ira's brilliant finish of her final semester of classes in the Master's program at Lomonosov Moscow State University. She beautifully topped off her perfect record with another round of well-deserved 5.0's!! She hardly slept at all last week, since, in addition to exams, she had 5 major papers to write in the 20-30 page range each. All that's left now is for her to finish her Master's thesis, defend her thesis orally, and pass standardized government exam, and she will officially receive her Master of Science in International Economics.

 

The excitement of last month was a long-awaited last-minute surprise trip to Montana. After two and one half years of hair-pulling, fingernail-biting, and pulling teeth, Ira was told she had been issued a visa, just one day after being told that it would be sometime in 2003 at best! The one-page document had 5 different mistakes, but we decided fate was better in the hands of border officials than corrupt embassy bureaucrats, and bought a ticket for a whirlwind trip. On the border, after a silent delivery and overview of the documents, the official looked up and commented, "Boy, are they complete idiots at the embassy, or what!?!" He kindly corrected the mistakes, and in the end things turned out even better than expected. The only hitch was a one-day delay coming back to Moscow, due to snow in Salt Lake closing the airport.

 

While in the U.S., Ira worked on our ongoing "excitement" (if that is an appropriate term). We have applied for graduate studies, Stan in physics and Ira in Economics, at seven leading universities. We won't know the outcome until late March or early April. Please be praying we'll both be accepted at the same university and make wise decisions if we need to choose among several universities.

 

We had an active summer, visiting St. Petersburg twice, visiting several cities of the Golden Ring, traveling to Paris, Amsterdam, Salzburg, Munich, Dresden, Berlin, and other European destinations, returning to Egypt (relaxing on the beach and witnessing Luxor's glorious grandeur, and venturing inside tombs in the luxurious Valley of the Kings – our first Egypt trip last January introduced us to the beautiful underwater playground of a tropical reef with storybook fishes, the wonder of the Pyramids, the unforgettable alien landscape and inverted sunrise visible from the pinnacle of the mountain of God, Mount Sinai), playing tour guides for Angela and Melanie in Moscow, and visiting Rostov.

 

Long-Awaited Cultural Revolution

 

After being trapped in the busy blur of activity, we knew it was high time to revolutionize our lives with a bit of refreshing culture. Planning a month in advance, we bought tickets for Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and his Fifth Piano Concerto in the Tchaikovskiy Great Hall. On Saturday the 14th of December, we enjoyed the deaf music master's beautiful creations in the unmatchable clarity of a live performance.

 

Though it might sound impossible, the next day was even better! We had Sunday night tickets to the Moscow Operetta for the premier of Kalman's classic "The Violet of Monmartre." The beautiful hall, constructed in an acoustically perfect half-oval, is abundantly lined with plush red velvet seats, and red and white walls ornamented with shining gold illuminated by a magnificent crystal chandelier suspended below the beautiful figures which grace the uniquely-painted ceiling.  The building has a long and rich past, after being started by the influential Zimin family, for a time housing the famous Solodovnikov Theatre, and for a time serving as a second stage for the Bolshoi Theatre (it was here during this phase that Rachmaninov launched his famous conducting career, directing countless great works including his own), before entering its 75-year service as the home of operetta.

 

When the director followed Rachmaninov's footsteps into the orchestra pit, we knew we were in for a real treat. His energy was contagious, as he jumped and bounced higher than anyone on the stage. Our intimate first-row seats gave us a beautiful view of the most extravagantly beautiful costumes we have ever seen, and the voices soared throughout the hall. The actors played throughout the stage, with at one point the musical's parody of a wild composer dropping into the orchestra pit, then leaping up onto the railing separating the audience from the orchestra.  As he towered above us, we cowered comically below, pulling in our feet and bags under the seats, for fear of losing our toes.  Let's just say we were so close that we didn't need to take a shower that day, after his forcefully enunciated consonants!

 

After the final chord had sounded, the normally-nonchalant audience continued boisterous rhythmic applause so loudly that the director encored the finale, a grand "curtain call" number of sorts with the entire cast on stage giving every character a chance to sing one last phrase. After we left the Operetta, we took a romantic stroll home, our path leading us across Red Square. We were so filled with music that some of it spilled out, even letting us sing to police on the streets, who tactfully ignored us. :-) Soon we were home, where we collapsed, exhausted.

 

The week was a six-day week which started on Sunday (Ira had to leave class early to make it to the operetta in time) and continued through Friday, punishment for celebrating Constitution Day the Thursday before. But we survived last week and made it into this, our final work week of the year.

 

Christmas Eve, while Stan was teaching his evening classes until 9:00, Ira beautifully cleaned and decorated our room, set out the presents, cooked up a feast, washed the dishes, did the laundry, and started writing the exam she'll give her students today (Christmas).  Wow! What a super-woman! Stan was amazed she accomplished so much in such a short time!

 

As the date on the clocks rolled to 25, we opened our presents. Our festive Christmas day plans include 8 hours of work (we're both working), followed by Christmas dinner (Ira peeled potatoes, cooked a pork roast, and prepared most of the meal already), then a trip to the symphony for more music!

 

Well, that's a bit of an update from our lives! We'd love to hear from you!

 

God bless you, and have a

Merry Christmas!!!

Love,

Stan and Ira Guthrie

 

Winter Wonderland: the forgotten verses

by Stan Guthrie, (c) 2002.

(to be sung as festively as possible)

 

Class bells ring, are you listening,

Students smoke, teachers bristling,

A sad sorry sight,

We're tired tonight,

Working in a winter wonderland.

 

Gone away is the day off,

Here to stay is sneeze and cough-cough,

We croak out a song,

As we go along,

Working in a winter wonderland.

 

In the square there stands a Christmas tree,

Decked with lights and snow it almost dances,

You ask, "Is it real?" "Yes, and no, see…

Its wooden frame is covered with pine branches.

 

Even here in the city

There is snow, and it's pretty;

The festive old mayor

Made Scrooges a payer,

Working in a winter wonderland.

 

Soon we'll close, with a smile,

Every last little file,

Then we'll go away,

After the last day,

Working in a winter wonderland.

 

This page is created and maintained by Irina Guthrie, 2003.