One Last Plea [Kickstarter]

There’s one day left in our Kickstarter campaign. We’ve passed our original goal. We’re $56 dollars away from our stretch goal of covering unexpected printing costs. And we’re beyond ecstatic about the amazing 25 sponsors we’ve gotten so far!

But 25 out of all the people who are friends on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, stalk this blog? If all the people who read the magazine donated, it would have taken less than the minimum donation of $1 to have reached our original goal. At $1 each, the project would have needed 2-3 days worth of readers on this blog to reach our original goal.

So I’m throwing out one more plea to the blogosphere: if you’d like to show some monetary support for our magazine, there’s still time. For even $1 you’ll get to order us around the planet like the mini-dictator you are. For more you could get some awesome postcards from the far-flung corners of the world or even a hard copy of our magazine!

Any extra money over our original and stretch goals? It’ll go right into a bank account to sit and wait patiently to be doled out to future contributors. While we hope to eventually be self-sufficient in paying our contributors, we haven’t found the perfect partners yet. And where we’re going (for Like a Local isn’t likely to being doing a London or Paris edition any time soon) that payment to our future contributors can mean a lot. For example: in our issue 2 location, our stipend of $30 is a bit more than 10% of local monthly salary – so even small donations can make a big difference!

All of the money for contributors will be documented on the Like a Local site so you can see exactly who your contribution went towards. Isn’t that cool?

Donate here

anti selfie 2

Download this App: SLMMSK

As you can probably see, I’ve redone the blog a little. I felt it needed some freshening up and I missed a good sidebar. Anyway, onto the good stuff…

A quick note for future Friday shenanigans: try out this new SLMMSK app (for iPhone and Android).

I was really excited to see the release of the anti-selfie app for Android several days ago; I’d been reading about it online as iPhone users posted their strange photos online from the mysterious app by Glitché. Called SLMMSK, the app takes a typical selfie and distorts it into something equally interesting and creepy. There are ten different filter options ranging from emoticons to blurs to censor bars, as well as a CCTV-style grain and timestamp on the photo. SLMMSK is being marketed as an alternative to the over-indulgent selfie culture and as a critique of surveillance society. All in all it’s bound to be something that’s interesting to artsy, hipstery folk.

Overall, I thought it was pretty neat although not necessarily an app I’ll be using every day. Also (I can’t comment for the iPhone) but the Android version is pretty slow and crashes occasionally, but works just fine for the most part.
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Russy + 4 leaf clover

Russian Superstitions: Four-Leaf Clover

I love my husband a lot even though sometimes we forget that we’re married and he’s basically an extremely tall five-year-old. Also, we’ve gotten to the point where occasionally it slips our minds that we’re both foreigners to each other so when something really culturally bizarre pops up, we’re doubly surprised. Here’s a quick story about one of the Russian superstitions that caught me by surprise.

This particular incident happened during our month-long stint at my parent’s house in America. We have a good-sized front and back lawn which I’m always more than happy to enjoy when I’m home from life in the big, lawn-less city of Moscow. During our America month we spent a lot of time outside when it wasn’t too unbearably hot.

One such day, we went out only to be repelled almost immediately by the classic sticky heat of a Virginia summer. We quickly decided to cancel our outdoor lounging plans and retreat back into the air conditioning. I was heading into the front door with the Russky trailing behind, eyes to the ground in search of an elusive four-leaf clover. If there is grass, you better believe that he is paying more attention to his search for a four-leaf clover than anything you might be saying.

Hand on the doorknob, a victorious cry caused me to spin around. I came face-to-face with a four leaf clover, wilted from the heat but nonetheless very much lucky. ‘I finally found one!’ he crowed proudly. I’ll admit I was a bit surprised – the sheer number of clover popping up on our sprawling lawn made the chances quite minuscule. I congratulated him and prepared to grab a large book to press and the clover into a keepsake.

However, there wasn’t even enough time for that.

Immediately after the proclamation came an event that made me 1000% sure I do not want a child any time soon. Children (those sticky, messy little creatures) are prone to danger thanks to poor motor function, undeveloped brains, and, yes, sticking any and everything in their mouths. The Russky, my very own overgrown man-child, was no exception. After a cursory glance at the verdant little miracle it went straight towards his mouth. As swiftly as any mother might, I slapped the four-leaf clover away from him in shock. ‘What the hell are you doing?!’

He looked at me, offended. ‘I have to eat it. Or I’ll lose the luck.’

Alright, share: what’s your weird superstition that would cause others to look at you like you’re a lunatic?

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Travel Dreaming: Pyatino’s Trinity Church

(All photos in this post are by av_otus)

Do you ever come across something online that you just have to see? I hear this a lot in relation to Pinterest, although I don’t quite get it as I use Pinterest as a necessary evil, rather than something that strikes me as fun. Regardless of my (lack of) love for Pinterest, the phenomenon of finding amazing travel discovery online happens to me all the time as it’s basically my job to be on the web looking for interesting things to share. Also, I’m easily swayed by a pretty picture and a small hint of adventure.
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a day in the life

My Day: Writing a Guidebook

As some of you caught in a previous post, I am indeed writing a guidebook. As a surprise to no one, it will be all about the fair city of Moskva. While there are many guidebooks out which are far superior, I hope to add some things that other guidebooks miss when their authors have only spent a few weeks in the city. This is not a self-published deal: I was hired by a small but seemingly well-established guide publisher to produce one for them. To be honest, I’ve long considered the self-publishing route but know I don’t have the self-discipline to finish or ability to sell my brand in a way that would make the whole thing worth it.

A bit about this deal: yes, I will finish the book because I have actually signed a contract! Also I’ve received a (very) small advance that is now very much mine and I have no intention of giving it back. I was initially hesitant to go ahead with the project as the money-time ratio is very obviously skewed in the wrong direction. However, I ultimately took it as a way to practice my self-discipline, find out if producing a book is something I’d like to continue to do, and – what really swayed my decision – I’ll have my name on a book. Yup, this is not just a guide to Moscow by ____ Publishing co. It’s officially and forever by Polly Barks. So that’s basically the coolest thing ever.
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Pavilion of VDNKh

VDNKh [and a live chat!]

We recently spent a day wandering around the weirdness that is VDNKh (AKA Soviet Disneyland). The sprawling complex holds pavilions in honor of the former parts of the USSR (now turned into weird, labyrinthine shopping centers), a mildly terrifying amusement park, and plenty of restaurants with outdoor seating. It’s a strange, fantastical place to wander around and have a bit of medovukha – honey mead. With a bit of sun still left in Moscow’s summer, it’s the perfect place to while away a few hours.

Dom Sovetov VDNKh

Ukraine Pavilion VDNKh
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[Moscow Day Trip] Sergiev Posad

Moscow’s unseasonably chilly weather over the last few days has incited a weird, frenetic yearning for winter. The heat and stuffiness of the city in summer really gets me down so I’ve been feeling a little anxious and overwrought lately. I’m going to blame it on my reverse SAD (seasonal affective disorder) – as soon as the air cooled off I felt like I could breathe easier. Never underestimate the therapeutic nature of putting on a cashmere sweater, my friends. Sorry to all you summer-lovers out there, but I’m anxiously awaiting winter. Sure the constant cold gets you down after a while, but I’d take a frozen nose and winter coat over sunburns and shorts any day.

Anyway, all of this has gotten me thinking about some of the lovely adventures I’ve had over the years during the long, long winter months.
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Moscow Moments [Part V]: Kindness

This is part five of my indefinite series called “Moscow Moments”: part writing exercise, part an attempt to remember my time living in Moscow. You can check out the previous installments here:

Part 1: An indifferent proposal
Part 2: A Russian Halloween
Part 3: Dead Bodies
Part 4: Marshrutka Adventures


It’s hard to feel excited about being in Moscow when you’re living outside of it in the oblast. Not only does the physical landscape make you feel like you’re in another world entirely, but the constant crush of humanity pressing in and out of the city makes Moscow center seem a million miles away. Every commute becomes an immense feat of mental strength – or some sort of insanity. After all if you’re already found your future husband on your cramped, sweaty commute, there’s not much more to be had from the beastly machines that make up Moscow public transport.

Unfortunately there’s work to be done so… we trudge on.

One day recently the Russky and I headed into the city together. Let’s just say it wasn’t a very good time. The political news is becoming more and more disastrous, meetings aren’t as fruitful as hoped, and it’s just too damn hot to be pressed intimately against anyone – much less a complete stranger. Suffice to say the two-hour commute into the city hadn’t felt worth it and the way back seemed even more impossible to contemplate.
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lal launch

Like a Local is Live!

Yes, it’s finally that time – Like a Local Issue One: Moscow is finally up and ready to go! We decided to host the magazine on Issuu so the magazine can be found there or, of course, on the Like a Local website.

Thank you all so much for your support so far – we hope enjoy :) Enjoy!


PS. A print-on-demand option will be available in a few days if you’re interested in purchasing a hard-copy. Stay tuned!

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The Real Russia

One of the first things you’ll inevitably hear when traveling to Russia is the phrase “there are two Russias: Moscow… and the real Russia”. Depending on who you talk to, this may be delivered with a typical Muscovite’s pride or a very different, disillusioned grimace. No matter the tone, it’s absolutely true.

Moscow with its wide streets, (relatively) western sensibilities, and new skyscrapers is nothing one could really call Russia. Maybe Russia on cocaine. Maybe Europe-lite. Decades of intense centralization has ensured that Moscow is a glittering, vibrantly prosperous city while, aside from a very few exceptions, the rest of the country remains lost in decades past. Saint Petersburg and other smaller cities provide a certain old-world, aristocratic charm but fulfil few 21st century city expectations. Beyond those few…

The most frightening thing about the massive chasm between Moscow and the other is how quickly the real thing emerges. The sharp divide makes it impossible to hide the country’s dangerous, untenable reliance on the singular behemoth that is Moscow. Go fifty – hell, twenty-five – kilometers outside of Moscow and all the sudden you’re in a different world. Idyllic fields and dark pine forests. Wooden houses with modest fences and wild gardens. No indoor plumbing. No way to survive except making the pilgrimage to Moscow. While the decay is in some ways magnificently romantic, it’s also difficult to imagine how living through Russian winters in these places aren’t an automatic death sentence.
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