Jennifer Dahnke

(Aspiring) Nuclear Wonk, Constant Explorer

March Madness à la russe

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jennifer Dahnke at 8:44 pm on Sunday, March 24, 2013

For those of you out there celebrating the start of spring, here’s a little spring-related Russian humor for you.

New game: "Find your car"

New game: “Find your car”

December, January, February, March

December, January, February, March

The Russian Postal Service is delivering spring.

The Russian Postal Service is delivering spring.


I hope there will be less snow come summer.

I hope there will be less snow come summer.

February, Febrarch, Febrapril, Febray, Februne,...

February, Febrarch, Febrapril, Febray, Februne,…

Let's help spring find Russia. (no, I don't know why Kazakhstan and Belarus are also highlighted)

Let’s help spring find Russia.
(no, I don’t know why Kazakhstan and Belarus are also highlighted)

I love January at the beginning of March.

I love January at the beginning of March.

Hi Spring, I missed you so much.

Hi Spring, I missed you so much.

I love January at the beginning of March.

I love January at the beginning of March.

March, you're drunk. Go home!

March, you’re drunk. Go home!

Spring... a little hindered by a meter of snow.

Spring… a little hindered by a meter of snow.

Hooray! Spring is here!

Hooray! Spring is here!

Giddy over Propaganda

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jennifer Dahnke at 11:37 am on Monday, March 18, 2013

This last week marked Maslenitsa, the week of celebration before Orthodox lent. It’s similar to Mardis Gras in that respect, though celebrated very differently. I always look forward to Maslenitsa when I’m in Russia because it’s a great cultural experience and an excuse to eat blini for a week straight. This year I celebrated with colleagues from work at a board member’s dacha just outside of Moscow, where we enjoyed the fresh air, clean snow, enormous amounts of blini, great conversations, and a Russian banya. One particularly exciting aspect of the trip – I came across some magazines that are published and distributed by North Korea’s Embassy and are chock full of wonderful propaganda. Seeing as the US doesn’t have diplomatic relations with North Korea and therefore they have no embassy in Washington, I’m not sure if these exist in the US (they probably do and I just haven’t seen them). Therefore, what follows below is a selection of some of the more interesting parts in my opinion:

Successful launch of artificial satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2

“Successful launch of artificial satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2”

On December 12, 2012, North Korea launched a satellite into orbit. “The satellite is a domestic product of the DPRK, from its design, manufacture, assembling and launch to the monitoring after its take-off. The news of the successful launch has thrown all the soldiers and civilians to boundless ecstasy, and a festive mood now pervades the whole country.” Clockwise: images of the launch; Kim Jong Un overseeing the launch; Kim Jong Un et al celebrating the launch.

Considering People's Conveniences to Be Absolute and the Highest Priority (touring a tile factory)

Considering People’s Conveniences to Be Absolute and the Highest Priority (touring a tile factory)


Testing the water of the wading pool

Testing the water of the wading pool

“It is [Kim Jong Un’s] revolutionary creed to consider the people’s conveniences to be absolute and the highest priority… He felt the water in the wading pool of a kindergarten to know how warm it was and went up to the top floor of a high-rise apartment building under construction to examine if there was something imperfect…”

First Mother's Day Celebrated

First Mother’s Day Celebrated

“The DPRK designated November 16 as Mother’s Day last year and celebrated it as a holiday. Stamps and cards specially designed for the day were newly issued. All mothers across the country visited the statues of the great leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il… and the portraits of their beaming images to lay baskets of flowers and pay tribute to them…”

Evidence of History

Evidence of History

The crew of the USS Pueblo was taken hostage after purportedly entering DPRK territorial waters on January 23, 1968. After many deliberations and lots of posturing between the countries, the US finally signed a letter of apology in December 1968. The article then touches on various points of tension between the US/South Korea and North Korea since and how the aim of US foreign policy is to dominate the whole Korean peninsula. The article ends with, “The entire Korean nation, with a burning hatred against the US, is steadily building up its national defence capabilities to achieve victory in the anti-US confrontation.”

I will try to get some higher-resolution photos up later, as well as more information about the USS Pueblo (what’s here is taken from the magazine). Until then, happy reading!

The Requisite Weather Post

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jennifer Dahnke at 9:00 am on Tuesday, February 26, 2013

You may recall my post a few weeks ago, where I mentioned that, contrary to popular news stories, it was in fact rather warm and slushy in Moscow.

Feel free to disregard that. I mean, I didn’t lie – it was rather warm and, often, slushy. However, for two weeks following, it was quite nippy and more like what you would expect of a Russian winter. Well, not quite the blizzard conditions and bears roaming the streets that I imagine you might be thinking right now; it hasn’t snowed for a while, and I have yet to see a bear in Russia (ever). But the daytime temperatures were in the low 20s, and overnight it would get into the single-digits. Yay! (really). I mean, I didn’t drag my snow boots and down jacket out from two years of storage to then have them go unused in Moscow. After a number of years of practice (4 in Maine + 1 in SPb), I have figured out that this is the best way to prepare for the cold:

How to properly dress for cold weather. Very conducive to burying your face when the wind suddenly picks up. Recommend taking off glasses before going out in the cold...

How to properly dress for cold weather. Very conducive to burying your face when the wind suddenly picks up. Recommend taking off glasses before going out in the cold…

If you find yourself in a cold climate, you can easily copy this fashionable yet practical style by zipping up your jacket all the way, wrapping a scarf twice around your neck so that is covers both the collar of your jacket and your chin, and put your fur-lined hood on (trust me, the fur is more than just a fashion statement – it makes a difference. Promise.). Voilà! You can not only survive, but thrive in a Russian winter.*

Alas, as I was finishing this post and getting ready to publish it, the weather turned warm again. Seeing as it’s essentially March now, the weather may have turned warmer for good. Then comes slush and mud season…!

Thanks for tuning in, I hope to get a more intellectual post up next time ;)


*If you’re wondering how to dress the other 90% of your body, here’s the trick: LAYERS. Including a winter jacket that goes past your bum, tights or thermals under your pants, and tucking your pants into your boots. Once again, voilà!

It go BOOM. Twice.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jennifer Dahnke at 9:59 pm on Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Most of you probably noticed one of the major news stories last week – North Korea’s nuclear test. BOOM. In case you missed it, here’s the short version: Monday/Tuesday (depending on what time zone you live in), North Korea conducted a nuclear test, to which the entire international community – China included, to many people’s surprise – issued strong condemnation of the country’s behavior, the UN Security Council met and tightened sanctions on the country, and the international security community (academics, experts, etc) went to town analyzing what exactly happened and the consequences.

How does this relate to my week? Well, for starters, it’s fascinating from an international security standpoint and from an international relations/policy standpoint, and the PIR Center is home to some of the experts in the field. However, the most immediate impact this test had on my life – I very quickly got over my fear of talking on the phone with Russians, since I was working the reception desk that day as various media outlets called for comments. For all the time I have spent studying Russian and living in Russia, you would think I wouldn’t dread speaking on the phone. But I do. Or at least, I dread(ed) having to field phone calls at work. Most of the conversations were some variation on (in Russian, of course):

“PIR Center, Jennifer speaking, how may I help you?”

“Hi, this is ?????? calling from ???????? can I please speak with [PIR Center expert]”

“What are you calling in regards to?”

“I would like to get some comments on the situation in North Korea for an article.”

“[PIR Center expert] is not available right now, shall I connect you with the person in charge of comments for the press?”

“Oh sure, that would be great!”

“Perfect! Now, before I do that, would you please repeat who’s calling?”

As in any situation in any country, there is proper telephone etiquette that should be followed when answering and directing phone calls, and it was about 2.5 weeks ago that I became familiar with Russian etiquette. They say practice makes perfect, in which case I should be well on my way after last Tuesday. Even if that’s optimistic, it doesn’t seem like I caused any major international incidents, and I got over my fear of speaking to Russians on the phone, so I would call it a successful day.

The other BOOM this week occured in Chelyabinsk on Friday morning. A fascinating scientific event – a meteorite came flying into Earth’s atmosphere and burned up along the way, creating a huge streak through the sky and, eventually, an explosion. The spectacular sight was accompanied by an intense boom. Some attribute the boom to the object’s supersonic speed, while others attribute it to the meteorite exploding (maybe both?). Either way, it was intense and caused a bunch of windows to break, doors to fly off their hinges, and car alarms to go crazy. Which is why I feel  a little guilty being so incredibly fascinated and enjoying all the memes and jokes circulating online. However, most injuries were superficial, so I’m not losing sleep over my moral dilemma.

On the same topic, one of the good things to come out of rampant corruption in Russia is the plethora of dashboard cams that many Russians have recording constantly while driving, which therefore recorded for the benefit of all the meteorite streaking through the sky (and, in some cases, the boom that accompanied). For pictures, comments, and videos of the event, check out this link. I apologize for those of you who don’t speak Russian, but this is the best compilation of videos and pictures that I have found yet (a satisfactory solution if you want to read the site is to paste the url into Google Translate, which gives you a rough translation of the entire site). If I find something better in English, I’ll update the post :) Happy Reading/Watching!

PS – yes, there were a number of conspiracy theories flying around about whether or not it was actually a meteorite. My favorite one is, of course, that the Americans were testing a new type of weapon (in case you were wondering, the answer is No). It didn’t help that it took a while for people to recover any fragments of the meteorite. However, there is wide consensus among people around the world that this was, in fact, a meteorite.

PPS – Jon Stewart put together a great segment on the event in Chelyabinsk.

Thanks for reading, tune in next time!

I’m Baaaaaaaaaack

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jennifer Dahnke at 10:18 pm on Sunday, February 10, 2013

I am once again in the Motherland! For those of you who don’t know, I am in Moscow this spring for an internship, sort of as a capstone project for my degree. During work hours, I will be at the PIR Center contributing to a project on Russian-American cooperation in nuclear policy. I’m very excited to be working on this here in Russia, where I will have much greater access to Russian opinions and viewpoints on the topic than I would in the States. If last week, my first, is any indication, this is going to be a busy 4 months but very rewarding due to some intelligent coworkers and fantastic location.

Some of the highlights from my week:

Moved into my apartment: After some intense housing hunting, I finally got a “the room is yours!” from a friend of a friend of a friend (literally). My roommate’s name is Masha, she was born and raised in Moscow, she’s about my age, and she has started going back to school while working full time. While we don’t see a whole lot of each other because we each have busy schedules, we enjoy each other’s company when we’re both around. I’m not sure what I have done to deserve such good luck with roommates over the years, but I’m very thankful. The one downside to this apartment – Masha is having the kitchen remodeled starting next week, so we have a microwave and steamer to cook with until it’s done, which will be in 2-3 weeks. However, I have some wonderful friends out there who have sent me links to microwave cooking recipes, so I’m actually looking forward to the challenge (check back in a few weeks and see how I feel then…).

Bathrooms at work: Oh so nice! By this I mean that the stalls have toilet seats and toilet paper, the sink has warm water and soap, and there are paper towels. I realize this seems trivial and almost (or completely) funny to you, but if you have ever been to Russia, you understand my enthusiasm. Public restrooms come in all shapes and sizes, but most (all?) without TP, warm water, soap, or towels; in some places, it’s a porcelain hole in the ground. Even the universities in past trips have not had such nice setups. Moving up in the world!

Weather: Some of you have been sending me news articles about how cold and/or snowy this winter is for Moscow and for Russia in general. After the past week, I have concluded – there are two Moscows in Russia. That is the only explanation. Every day this past week, except last Tuesday, the temperature has hovered around 0C (32F) and my down jacket looks pathetically damp from walking with slush falling from the sky. So there must be two Moscows – the one in the news, and the one I live in.

Food: There’s this restaurant near work. It’s called (transliterated) “Moo-Moo” and has a cowprint background on the sign. I laugh every time I see it. And then I go inside, because the food is pretty good! It’s Russian cuisine, so lots of meat and potatoes and less veggies, but I like it. And I’ve been able to find some good-looking produce at the store to make up for that. Yay! Based on past experience, before coming, I was bracing myself for 4 months of so-so veggies, some good citrus, and plenty of meat/potatoes/oil. I’m so happy to say that I was wrong.

Space: Masha and I went to the Moscow Planetarium Saturday, and it was spectacular. As the short version of the story goes, the planetarium was the 4th such in the world when it was first opened in 1929, it was a part of the WWII war effort, but then fell into disrepair after the fall of the Soviet Union. It was finally renovated and updated, and re-opened to the general public a few years ago. It’s quite awesome. Masha and I took a guided tour of the Museum of Urania, which has a number of fantastic displays and models for teaching about our solar system (including all plaques in 4 languages – Russian, English, French, and Chinese). Then we went to the Grand Star Hall, where we got to watch a 45-minute show about stars, constellations, etc. If you’re ever in Moscow, I recommend swinging by!

Well, that is plenty for now (and hopefully not too much). Until next time, TTFN!

Hello world!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jennifer Dahnke at 8:37 pm on Thursday, January 10, 2013

As I prepare to go on my next adventure, I’m going to try something new – keeping a blog. Yay! In the past, I have sent emails on a (somewhat) regular basis, but inevitably someone gets left out of the recipient list. This way, I only have to send everyone the link once, then I’m good! And a bonus – I get to include pictures this time :) (keep your fingers crossed the tech gods smile down on me)  I will admit that I’m terrible at keeping a diary, which is essentially what a blog is. So, please feel free to nag me if I haven’t posted in a while.

Here’s to a great 2013 and beyond!