NOVOSIBIRSK: While in the Siberian capital, I noticed coffee-to-go kiosks at many points in the center of town - perhaps more on a per-capita basis than in Moscow. Several years ago, it was hard to find coffee-to-go in Moscow, let alone in the regions, but the trend has expanded quickly right across the country. Lilia (right) and her friend wete walking around the center of Novosibirsk, holding cups of coffee. I asked Lilia, a university student, what changes she would like to make in her city. While her list was long, the first thing she highlighted was helping pensioners. Lilia said she would incease discounts on goods and services for the elderly, such as transportation and housing communal services. ''I would probably bankrupt the budget with my wishes,'' she joked.
KEMEROVO: Despite its image as a distant cold place, Siberia is home to many of Russia's - and Europe's - best break dancers. Roman, who runs a break dancing school in the coal producing town of Kemerovo, says the number of schools in the town is expanding as his students launch their own schools. There are now about 10 break dance schools in Kemerovo. Twerk is also becoming more popular, he said. Roman credits break dance with keeping him out of trouble during the turbulent 1990s when crime was rampant and drugs were becoming more readily available. Roman says he hopes to work with the city administration to open a proper spot for dance and recreation.
NOVOSIBIRSK: The snow was coming down hard on this December weekend in Novosibirsk as Andrei pushed back and forth the baby carriage on the sidewalk. The site of a the baby carriage in the snow storm caught my eye. His wife had run into a store while Andrei stayed outside with the new born - it may have been difficult to get the baby carriage inside the store and perhaps not worth the struggle if one was just jumping inside for a minute. Andrei, who runs his own hair salon, said his baby was just one-month old. So far, being a father wasn't difficult, he said, and didn't exclude adding another member to the family down the road.
NOVOSIBIRSK: At the edge of the Siberian capital stands a huge housing project that looks like so many around Russia - one row of identical high-rises after another. Within each such housing district are several schools. I went to visit one on a Saturday evening to watch basketball practice. The school was dark as there were only a few people inside on this weekend night. From another room in the school, we could hear music playing and we went to see what was going on. Inside the room, a young man - no older than 25 - was teaching a middle-aged couple ballroom dancing. It was a private lesson. Judging from their moves, this couple had been practicing for a while. The instructor was halting them from time to time to make the slightest moves to their arms or head.
NIZHNEVARTOVSK: A 25-year old IT specialist, Ksenia teaches athletic pole dancing on Monday afternoons during her work lunch break. Her classes is held at a dance studio in a new shopping mall in Nizhnevartovsk, Siberia. Her student today was a 35-year old woman - also on her lunch break - who decided to try something new in life. Ksenia teaches a few days a week after work as well and has 16 students in total. Another pole dance teacher at the school has just as many students. Ksenia said she got into athletic pole dancing over a year ago after randomly coming across a video on Youtube and plans to take part in a regional competition. Pole dancing was more interesting and challenging than just working out at a gym, she said.
NOVOSIBIRSK: Margarita, 13, was walking home to surprise her mom with three red roses on mother's day. Margarita said she participates in fencing and is grateful that her mom has helped her over the past three years with carrying her equipment. Her list didn't end there ... Margarita also appreciates the yearly vacation with her mom as she knows it isn't always easy financially for her parents.
NOVOSIBIRSK: Alina, 22, said she recently opened her own internet business 'Nail Fashion' to offer gels and instruments for nail care. "Fingernails - they are a woman's passport. All men look at а womаn's hands," she said, explaining her decision to launch the business. She mainly sells products imported from China.
NOVOSIBIRSK: "Why not bike in the winter? When you bike, you don't freeze, so there is no real difference from riding in warmer winter," Stanislav, 31, 2nd from right, said as he rode around Novosibirsk with friends late on a snowy Friday night. Stanislav says he rides up to -15c, but if he has to urgently get around town, he will bike even in -25c to avoid sitting in traffic. He hopes that Novosibirsk city administration will create bicycle lanes. The issue has been discussed, he said. "It would signify that we bikers exist as a segment of society...that we exist." Stanislav says he bikes for about 90 minutes in the evening a few days a week. The longest city ride was to the airport and back, covering about 56 kilometers, he said. The number of bicyclists in Novosibirsk has jumped over the past few years, said Stanislav, though the numbers aren't high in the winter. He put the number of winter bicycle riders at around 50-80.
NOVOSIBIRSK: Russians often joke that some Americans still believe bears walk the streets in Russia. While I didn't expect to see any, I also didn't expect to see many people walking around with pedigree dogs. This woman was returning from the veterinarian. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that they are wearing matching colors.
NOVOSIBIRSK REGION: ‘’We had a huge library at home, thus I loved literature from childhood. Mom would bring books home from work nearly every week, so not surprisingly I chose to study philology,’’ said Rostislav, who moved to teach Russian language and literature in a Siberian village. His wife Anna - one of seven children - also teaches Russian in the school. They met at an institute in Novosibirsk region and immediately fell in love. ’’We soon started living together and once we finished university we began to look for work at a school that had two vacancies.’’ They called around to many schools, visited one in a village and were satisfied. Maintaining discipline is the most difficult thing about teaching, Rostislav said. He feels schools give children too much theory and not enough practical learning. "You can't go far with just book smarts."