A couple of weeks ago I went museuming with Denise. We started with the Zoological Museum and saw hundreds upon hundreds of stuffed animals. Kinda creepy, but you get over it pretty quickly. I even got to introduce my Aussie friend to a badger and a skunk! I was so proud. The main attraction at this museum is the baby woolly mammoth, but it wasn’t very exciting, if you ask me, although nobody did. The zoological museum’s biggest downfall: NONE of the signs were in anything but Russian. So really, I learned…… nothing. Just looked at stuff. It did make me think a lot more, like… all of these 15 animals look similar to the American grey squirrel that I saw EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE… but I can’t tell which is the REAL one. Same with white tail deer, bison, skunks, etc. It’s kind of embarrassing to really have to inspect and consider and reconsider if that animal really comes from your backyard. Denise was of no use, since all of her ‘home’ animals are exotic to me, and vise versa. Luckily, I could readily point out the badger and the bald eagle, like a good Wisconsinite (the badger being both the state animal and my alma mater’s mascot).

After the Zoological museum, we crossed the street (and wandered and wondered at signs) to find the Kunstkamera museum, which seemed to be a museum of cultural items from the past. Most of this museum was also only in Russian, so again, just gaping at stuff. There was one section of the museum, at the top, in the back, that was in both Russian and English. The ‘museum of oddities’… I guess Peter the 1st had somewhat of an obsession with researching the human body. Basically, this room was filled with dead babies and dead baby parts. In jars, on shelves. I had lost Denise before we got into this room and as soon as I stepped over the threshold and realized where I was, I thought, ‘I can’t do this on my own… Where’s Denise?!’ I found her quickly and began exploring with support (moral, imaginary support, but still). It was enthralling and appalling, equally. They had baby heads, baby insides, deformed babies, ‘sensory organs’ (like baby lips and eye sockets and ears), conjoined twins of all varieties… In each case, there was also a distraction, usually aquatically themed. Signs 1-10 would say something about each jar, and sign 11 would be ‘starfish’, or ‘miniature alligator from Zimbabwe’ or something. The effectiveness of this was lost on me; I felt it actually enhanced the creepiness factor. Baby fingers AND an alligator, in the same case? This whole time, I was also thinking that there is no way that this type of thing would come to fruition in the US, so I should look and see things that are rare. I was starting to fear that I would have nightmares about this room though too, since I have had nightmares about being locked in a museum overnight, and this would be the WORST place to be locked in and forgotten overnight. Finally, we left, because the museum was closing, stopping first in the loo. When I came out, all the lights were off, and Denise and I had to walk through part of the place in the dark to get our coats. *shudder* It was pretty terrible.

We then decided to walk back across the bridge and try out the Korean restaurant on our block. We told stories about home and other places we visited and talked about various other random topics. I believe I complained to her about the meat situation in Russia, because we were about to eat beef, and that’s rare. At Carl’s Jr here, I haven’t had one burger with out ‘bits’ in it. I am not sure what these bits are, but, they are hard and shouldn’t be there, end of story. Denise told me of when she was living in Thailand and about how hard it was to find quality meat there. She had local friends (and lived with them) who would sometimes cook for her. Once they spent hours and hours making this wonderful sauce for chicken, a traditional sauce that is supposed to be unique to each chef/maker and wonderfully delicious, so of course Denise was looking forward to some tasty local cuisine. After the sauce was made and the chicken boiled, everything was smelling delicious and amazing. Then, after all that, Denise watched in horror as the women chopped up the chicken, right through bones, cartilage and flesh. Everything was chopped into tiny pieces and thrown in with the sauce. Every bite was crunchy and full of grainy, sandy bits. I was pretty traumatized by this picture, but then our food came and I got over it.

I didn’t escape nightmares that night though, oh no. After the stuffed animals, dead babies and cut up chicken bones, I knew that I wouldn’t have a good night sleep. But what did I dream about, after all that? The chicken. I dreamed that I was living in a place where the only meat you could find had this gravelly texture, and it was horrifying.