Category Archives: Russia

the motherland welcomes you.

i enjoyed russia so much more than i anticipated. don’t get me wrong- i was very excited to go, but i knew it would be cold, i knew it’d be busy, and i knew that work trips always have a way of… well, being work.

the opening reception at the grand hotel europe was amazing. it was a great opportunity to network and see some colleagues who i haven’t seen for awhile. a men’s russian choir also sang for us while we ate, an experience i’m not sure many would have. i sat with some of my favorite people within the company. they didn’t even mock me too much when i had sprite instead of wine. 🙂

the next day the meetings started. i won’t bore you with the details of the sessions- but our technical service people and marketing people split up into two different groups and attended sessions that related to their subject. i obviously went with the marketing group. the sessions were nice- they were lead by internal employees so we all had an opportunity to see and get to know people’s personalities more as the week went on. there were also poster sessions (where people presented an important “finding” for the year for their division) and a bit of time that i used to get interviews done, the main reason i attended the meeting.

after the first day was over we were broken out into smaller groups for dinners. our dinner was within walking distance, so we set off for this place called terrassa.  it was snowing, but very lightly. the walk was nice because it allowed us time to check out the sights of st. petersburg. it also gave me time to catch up with my friend chandru, who i had not seen in a very long time.


(looking fluffy in our warm winter-wear)

the restaurant was very nice– and the menus were absolutely ridiculous! the menu was more like a magazine, i think it had around 20 pages and it gave all the food and then the corresponding images were around the outside. we quickly made it into a matching game, trying to guess which item was what. the food also tasted pretty good. i had some sort of seafood udon noodle dish. the indians ordered round after round of food, then realized they couldn’t eat it all. it was kind of humorous. 🙂

our dinner ended and a group of us… well… the women…. decided that we were going to go shopping. there was a giant mall across the street from our hotel and everyone had a different mission of something they wanted to get. diane wanted a soccer jersey for her fiancee’s son. marsha wanted a coat like diane had bought the day before. april wanted a russian hat for her husband. and i- i wanted nesting dolls. the mall is actually very different than malls in the united states, because all of the rooms are connected. you walk into a store and then you immediately walk into the next, there’s no division. i found the nesting dolls almost immediately and then tagged along with everyone else while they made their purchases.

i got back to the hotel, went to the bar to say hello, but stayed away from any tasty beverages. i was still tired and recovering from the nights before.

the next day was potentially my favorite day in russia. besides having to present my poster, there wasn’t really anything that i disliked. the sessions were good and after they were over a bus took us to the hermitage, which is one of the most famous and prestigious museums in the world. kessler and i were in the same group, so we decided that the hermitage was our “first date.” and by that, he meant that he was going to throw his jacket on mine and make me wait for the coat pick up.

um. wait. what?!

the hermitage is BEAUTIFUL. words cannot even express how impressed i was with the museum. i know that the museum was so large that it would’ve spent days upon days to see the entire thing- but because we had local tour guides, they showed us the best of the best. we got to see some van goghs and some picassos. we got to see beautiful, elaborate design and rooms so breathtaking i literally was letting out contented sighs while i was in them. we also got to do a bit of goofing off, because i was with a fairly fun group who knew how to have fun. 🙂


(check out dexter’s “chiseled features”)


(twinsies)


(the gold room- possibly my favorite room in the hermitage)

At the end of the tour we were able to see this peacock clock. It’s a very famous clock that has a peacock, an owl, and some other nature-like items in it’s mechanisms. When the clock is wound the creatures “come alive” and the peacock even makes some… peacock-esk noises. they aren’t pretty. but they are pretty cool. the clock is only wound up around once a month now or for “very special guests.” i assume we were in that later group, and it doesn’t go unappreciated.

as we were exiting the museum portion of the hermitage there was a string-quartet playing music and champagne waiting on the tables. i wasn’t going to have any, but my arm was twisted (rather softly) by my colleagues and i gave in to the bubbles.

also, since this was the only photo i could find in my album with champagne, let me tell you about frank, who is also featured in this photo. frank is my favorite frenchmen in the world. he’s the nicest and politest person i’ve ever met, and he won me over entirely on this trip with his gentleman ways.

what i’m getting at is, if i was to have a “top 5 men of work” (which, let’s be honest, of course i do), he would definitely be on it. 🙂

the rest of russia kind of went by in a blur. i got the rest of my interviews taken care of. attended more sessions. worked. stressed out. relaxed. drank. socialized.

we did get to see catherine’s summer palace and also take a horse sleigh ride around alexander’s park. the palace had an extraordinary outside, but the inside was less impressive to me. don’t get me wrong, for a house, sure, it’s pretty amazing. but after seeing the hermitage i just expected more. as for the horse ride- well, we have horses and we have snow in iowa. 🙂 granted, we also have dogs in iowa and i was still excited to pet the dogs in russia, so i can’t really talk.

on the last day in russia i finally got to take advantage of some sight seeing opportunities. originally i had planned on going out on sunday, but didn’t make it out of the hotel. lucky for me, jim and frank had nothing to do the last day either and were ready to do some exploring.

the first stop was the church of the savior on spilled blood- the only thing that wasn’t on the agenda that i really wanted to see. the outside was just beautiful and iconic and i felt immediately drawn to the building. the church was built on the spot where emperor alexander II was assassinated, which i think is where the ‘blood’ reference comes from in the title.

the inside of the cathedral was even more beautiful and intricate than the outside. the inside was comprised completely of mosaics. 7,500 square meters of mosaics– having more mosaics than any church in the world.


after we left the church (which i think jim and i would’ve been content to hang out in all day), we moved on a bit farther to go see st. isaac’s cathedral. at st. isaac’s you can pay to enter the church, but also pay to walk to the top of the cathedral and overlook the city. of course we would like to. oh? it’s 622 steps? yeah. i guess we’d still like to.

breathtaking views. the weather was brisk, but i felt good after jogging up the steps. i was also very contented at the top of st. isaac’s- i’ve found that i like places where i feel calm, but slightly out of my element. those are usually high up places, or places where the land meets an ocean (not really a beach, but more like the cliffs of moher in ireland).

but i digress. feast your eyes on this.


(they will see us waving from such great heights)



(inside the lower level of st. isaac’s)

in conclusion- would go back to russia in a heartbeat.

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russia: the bad and the ugly

have you heard?
there’s a rumor in st. petersburg….

(thank you, sarah, for getting that song stuck in my head on repeat)

oh, russia. let’s see what i remember about you.

this post might have to be broken into two segments: the arrival and the worst day of my life in the first post, the best and brightest in the next.

i got to the airport about two hours before my flight took off. the des moines airport got the new sexy machines, i mean, the hot naked, i mean, the tsa full body scanners so we were supposed to get there a little earlier than we normally would. i thought i’d be the first in my group to get there, but surprisingly i went to my gate and found dave and mark already sitting. jen joined us about 10 minutes after that and stephanie another 10 after her.

now tell me how this works out. all five of started in the same airport and were taking the amsterdam flight to st. petersburg, all arriving at 7:00pm. and yet i was the only one on my flight out of des moines. i was going dsm>msp>amsterdam and the others were doing dsm>memphis>amsterdam. not a big deal overall, but c’mon! i should’ve seen that as an indicator on how the trip was going to go.

i managed to sleep a decent amount on the minneapolis to amsterdam flight. i watched a movie, drank a bit of wine, and had some crappy airplane sleep. but by the time i got to amsterdam i was feeling pretty sickly. i had a headache, needed some real food in my stomach, and was not used to the new time. by the time i boarded for st. petersburg, i was miserable. add on top of that the fact that i get motion sickness fairly easily, and you can go ahead and say that the last flight was potentially the worst flight of my life. stephanie and i talked for about an hour and it helped take my mind off of things, but by the second hour my head was spinning and i was having trouble concentrating. when the plane landed and i stood up i was afraid i was going to black out. stephanie and mark both said i was getting paler and paler by the second and suggested once the people started moving to get out of the plane and they would grab my bags.

first off, i’m going to go ahead and fake that from now on to get people to carry my bags off of planes.

secondly, if i fake it i won’t have to make a beeline to the bathroom to throw up. so really, it’s a much better idea.

yep. what’s the first thing i did when i got to st. petersburg, russia? i threw up in the airport bathroom. awesome. top that.

but enough about that. we got to the hotel, got checked in, and i went to my room real quick to start feeling a bit more human. the plan was to have supper in the bar and then call it a night. i even made a pact with someone (who shall remain nameless) that we would not go out to the bars afterwards because we were tired, we were dehydrated, and it was simply not a good idea.

all our best laid plans, huh? 🙂

i stumbled back to my hotel around 1:30am. i know/can confirm it was this time because i skyped with tina when i got back and iMessaged jessica about my adventures. the night is a bit hazy, but these are the things i DO remember:

  • “Na zdorovje” means “to your health” in Russian. It is not normally used as a drinking cheers- but it has become more popular with tourists who know it’s very important to say something before you slam a shot. I just learned how to spell it a few minutes ago, but I could definitely pronounce it correctly (with lots and lots of practice). 😉
  • russian standard is the best vodka i’ve sampled- it is extremely smooth. too smooth. i was struck by a smooth criminal. i was not okay.
  • apparently i have very strong back muscles. i was told this after i was able to dip a 6’+ male without falling over.
  • there was a grey horse on the sidewalk and no one would believe me until the second to last night when mark confirmed that he saw it too, when he was escorting me back to the hotel. apparently i had wandered off with some russian women who “looked like they were going to have their way with me.” i’d like to think he meant that in the fun way and not that i was going to get Taken (with a capital T, Liam Neeson style)

so, i got back to the hotel, talked to some people and passed out.

i woke up at around 7:15am, very alarmed. where a nightstand once was, now sat a very large television set that was not there when i went to sleep. i was very concerned- was i in the correct room? yes. did someone bring a television to my room while i was out? was the television there before i went to bed? no. did someone deliver me a television while i was sleeping? that is extremely creepy. i would’ve thought i’d wake up to that. it’s kind of the opposite of robbing someone.

i thought about going back to sleep and probably would have, except my body was now paying me back for what i put it through the night before. i won’t go into too much detail, but let’s just say it was the worst i have ever been. i couldn’t keep anything down- after 6+ hours of continuous puking, i was afraid i was going to die of dehydration. around 3:00pm i finally started feeling a bit better and ate some of my room service sprite and crackers (i think i scared the poor bus boy who didn’t speak english and had to decipher my grunts of where to set the tray). i fell asleep immediately after and woke up again around 5 and started getting ready for the opening reception.

once i got down to the reception i exchanged knowing looks with a few that had been out the night before as well. i don’t know if i felt the worst, but i definitely was a contender. people at my table gave me sympathetic smirks while i ordered a sprite instead of enjoying the provided wine or beer. a woman at my table pushed food around on her plate to make it look like she was eating– eventually, after dinner and mingling, she went up to her room. i stuck it out and got to feeling better and better. i didn’t drink anything that night (or the next). and i definitely learned my lesson. i wasted my whole free day in which i had planned on sight-seeing st. petersburg. i was angry with myself. but it really was a night to remember (or not remember and be reminded of).

oh, and it turns out the television was INSIDE the end table. there’s a switch (that i obviously must’ve hit while trying to turn off the light) that raises and lowers the television. …oh.

…Na zdorovje.

here we go…

leaving work now. need to stop at target and buy gloves and then i’m off to the airport. everyone’s flights are being delayed– i am hoping i am one of the lucky ones.

next stop: st. petersburg.

russia [[rough agenda]]

friday, february 24
– arrive at des moines airport at 2:00PM (they just got full body scanners so apparently international flights must be ready 3 hours in advance)
-board plane at 5:00PM
-arrive in minneapolis at 6:15PM
-find amsterdam gate. (no panic this round, traveling with co-workers)
-depart for amsterdam: 7:10PM
-sleep, eat, read, pass time on a plane

saturday, february 25
– arrive in amsterdam: 10:50AM
-find st. petersburg gate. try not to act annoyed or grumpy.
-eat, then probably feel less annoyed/grumpy.
-arrive in st. petersburg: 7:00PM
-get ride to 5-star hotel (i’ve never stayed in a 5-star hotel before). check into said hotel. [grand hotel europe]
-start to look presentable
-find a nice place for dinner [potentially teplo]
-discover night scene. [metro or taleon club]
-stumble back to hotel. i mean… no, it’s okay. stumble back to hotel.

sunday, february 26
-sleep in. try to get over jetlag
-sightsee, be a tourist.
-buy gifts. take too many photos.
-eat lunch.
-more sightseeing. more photos
-find way back to hotel to get ready for opening reception
-meet with robert regarding sales training videos
-meet with chandru for interview
-opening reception; meet up with product managers and technical service
-final final, in the words of the famous dr. james w. kessler (who will be there, making it officially a final final)
-sleep

monday, february 27
– wake up early
-meet with justin for interview
-quick breakfast
-meeting kickoff from 8-9AM.
-start regular ol’ graphic design workload
-lunch
-interview presenters of poster session a
-meet with monika for interview
-walk to group dinner at terrassa
-walk back to hotel
-final final
-sleep

tuesday, february 28
– wake up early
-meet with betsy for interview
-quick breakfast
-start uploading and editing video
-start regular ol’ graphic design workload
-lunch
-present during poster session b
-attend ‘branding update’ session
-attend ‘personal development’ session
-tour of the hermitage & russian dinner
-final final
-sleep

wednesday, february 29
– wake up early.
-meet with corey for interview
-quick breakfast
-start uploading and editing video
-attend ‘personality types’ session
-start regular ol’ graphic design workload
-lunch
-interview presenters during poster session c
-closing sessions and awards
-catherine’s summer palace tour & dinner
-dog sled ride around alexander’s park
-meet with RC for interview
-eating at mansarda with potentially one of the best small groups available
-final final
-sleep

thursday, march 1
-wake up
-email my niece and wish her a happy 5th birthday
-meet with tom for interview
-quick breakfast
-attend ‘one ag’ session
-start uploading and editing video
-hopefully grab other ag people for interviews, if necessary
-lunch
-hopefully grab other ag people for interviews, if necessary
-pack up
– arrive at st. petersburg, russia airport: 4:30PM
-board plane at 5:30PM
-arrive in paris, france airport: 6:00PM
-find verona, italy gate. have a minor panic as i can’t find verona, italy gate
(i suspect this will happen). have some nice stranger help me.
-depart for italy: 8:35PM
-arrive in verona, italy: 10:10PM
-have another minor panic attack thinking bruno forgets to pick me up at the airport.
-ride with bruno to destination.

{apparently i’m flying out thursday night instead of friday night, threw off my italy agenda}

italy [[rough agenda]]

friday, march 2
– arrive at st. petersburg, russia airport: 4:30PM
-board plane at 5:30PM
-arrive in paris, france airport: 6:00PM
-find verona, italy gate. have a minor panic as i can’t find verona, italy gate
(i suspect this will happen). have some nice stranger help me.
-depart for italy: 8:35PM
-arrive in verona, italy: 10:10PM
-have another minor panic attack thinking bruno forgets to pick me up at the airport.
-ride with bruno to destination.

saturday, march 3
– wake up, eat breakfast, drink coffee, soak in italy
-road trip to cinque terre, italy (approximately 2.5-3 hours away)
-eat lunch in cinque terre
-sightsee, be a tourist. soak in italy.
-buy gifts (optional). take too many photos (not optional).
-eat supper.
-discover night scene.
-stay in cinque terre?

sunday, march 4
– wake up, eat breakfast, drink coffee, soak in italy
-road trip to pisa? (approximately 1 hour away) or continue to be amazed by cinque terre.
-sightsee, be a tourist. soak in italy.
-buy gifts (optional). take too many photos (not optional).
-eat lunch. maybe drink lunch.
-drive back to verona (approximately 2-2.5 hours)
-check into hotel
-final final?
-sleeeeeeeep

monday, march 5
– wake up, find a way to veronella
-catch up with des moines office- review projects and workload
-work with benjamin on SOT (sound on tape) bytes
-interview benjamin
-upload interview; make sure sound bytes come out okay
-work with koen on SOT bytes
-interview koen
-upload interview; make sure sound bytes come out okay
-do graphic design/other video work, if time allows
go back to hotel, YEAH RIGHT
-go explore soave castle
-sightsee, be a tourist. soak in italy.
-night walk through the vineyard (don’t get face ripped off by werewolves)
-back to hotel in san bonaficio
-final final
-sleep

tuesday, march 6
– wake up. grumble. press snooze.
-car pool to veronella.
-catch up with des moines office- review projects and workload
-study video script/interviews. come up with more defined shot list.
-go shoot b-roll for video.
-discuss with koen additional footage/editing needs for lunch & learn
-pierrick or bruno to give factory tour for internal usage
-upload video content; make sure footage comes out okay
-do graphic design/other video work as time allows
-drive to verona, sight see, supper.
-unless that’s boring, then lake garda it is.
-final final
-sleeeeeeeep

wednesday, march 7
– wake up way too early. grumble. can’t press snooze.
-taxi to verona airport. arrive at airport: 6:30am
-catch flight to paris, france: 7:40am
-arrive in paris: 10:50am
-go practice my french (kissing) on strangers.
-board plane for usa: 1:45pm
-get stranded in minneapolis for a bit: 3:05pm (time zone throws me every time, just doesn’t look right)
-get back to des moines: 4:12pm
-no final final
-sleep.

no need to russian-to-it.

i think i may have mentioned it a time or two (or eight or ten if you are around me often), but i am going to russia in february for work. this “will she, won’t she” game has finally come to an end, and i will be traveling out the last week of february/first week of march.

at first i asked my boss if she was punishing me (because i imagine winters in russia are even worse than winters in iowa), but the more and more i think about it, the more and more excited i become. i will be spending a week in st. petersburg- 4-5 days of video interviews, working on product positioning with product managers and technical service people, etc and then an additional 2 days checking out the city.

plus, it gives me an excuse to wear my awesome hat:

(my mom thinks these hats are super dorky so my sister-in-law and brother got her a similar one for christmas last year. i make her wear it around the house with me sometimes.)


and to make matters even more exciting, an old college friend of mine is thinking about meeting me there for the last portion of the trip. i love seeing people i haven’t seen in a long time, and this man is no exception.

ladies, meet ari. he’s single and ready to mingle: (and finnish. and adorable.)

i met ari my senior year at wartburg college (you-rah-rah-rah!). he was a freshman at the time and under normal circumstances i wouldn’t have even noticed him. for one, he’s blonde (and we all know how i feel about that). and for two, he was a freshman. when would i ever have a class with a freshman?

lucky for both of us, one of my roommates was on orientation staff and she brought him around a time or two. we quickly became friends- i mean, sure, he was blonde and young… but he was FINNISH. He was stylish. He was worldly.

…and his hair was beautiful. 🙂

one of my favorite things about ari is that he always laughs at my last name. my last name is lundberg. it’s swedish (just like me… haha… sort of.)  in most european languages, “berg” means “mountain.” i’m not too upset about that, it’s an easy translation, and i probably could’ve figured it out for myself. another [sad eyed] friend has told me that “lund” in swedish means “grove,” so apparently my roots trace back to the people living off the land between the grove and the mountain.

but in hindi, “lund” is a slang term for male anatomy– most specifically it translates to “dick.” so ari calls me Dickmountain, or DM for short. …he’s a real classy kind of guy. 🙂

after i graduated wartburg at semester i ended up seeing ari a few times [when i visited school for homecoming and also at my fake-prom party], but he soon returned to his homeland and we haven’t really seen each other since. i am STOKED that he is making some time to come and visit- especially in the cold of winter!

neither ari nor myself have every been to russia, however. seeing as i want to soak in as much as possible, i would appreciate any tips or ideas of places to see while i’m in st. petersburg. a small group of work colleagues (the fun ones) are also staying for some extra time, so hopefully someone will have an idea of what to do. don’t get me wrong, i love to travel and explore new things, but one fault of mine is that i’m too laid-back when it comes to itineraries. if i have a rough draft i will follow it, if i don’t, i will play it by ear…

…and my ear usually leads me to a bar. so help a sister out and give me some good ideas! 🙂