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It’s cold! Like -15 Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit)! Winter is having its last hurrah (I hope). Granted, we occasionally had temperatures colder than this in Upstate NY when I was a kid, but unlike in the US, here most people don’t go right from their house to their garage to their car to their office — to do anything, one has to walk outside.
I suppose I shouldn’t complain; this has been a relatively mild winter for St. Petersburg, and I had steeled myself for much worse. Nonetheless, going outside is very unpleasant right now.
Aunt Kelly and I are going to Venice next week for a mid-winter break. According to the weather almanacs, it should be about 10C/50F there. At first I was kind of nonplussed by this. If we’re going to go somewhere for a dose of warmth, let’s go someplace really warm! But right about now, 50 degrees sounds absolutely lovely. (Still, I’m secretly hoping for a March heat wave in the Adriatic.)
Sergey: Next one.
Me: “You had a record player.” “I didn’t have a record player.”
Sergey: Yes, but it’s a question. Say it like this: “You had a record player?”
M: You had a record player.
S: No. “You had a record player?”
M: You had a record player.
S: No. “You had a record player?”
M: You HAD a record player!
S: No, that’s insisting, not asking.
M: You had a RECORD PLAYER?
S: OK, but that sounds really obnoxious.
M: You had a record player.
M: Look, I can hear how I’m saying it wrong. I just… can’t…
S: Try again. “You had a record player?”
M: You had a record player?
S: Oh! You did it! OK. Next one. “You had a television?”
M: You HAD a TELEVISION!
Sergey: So, this is how much vodka we have.
Me: That’s fine, that’s enough for two.
Sergey: Yes, it’s even enough for one.
I’ve been noticing lately that being here is no longer entirely novel, but normal, in a nice way. I don’t wake up in the morning and go “Whoa! I’m still in Russia!” I get up, I go to work, I do the shopping, I have a social life that doesn’t consist solely of other foreigners. I feel like a real person rather than a tourist.
I’ve also noticed that my passive Russian vocabulary has really improved, although I still speak like a fucking idiot, and am starting to realize that I probably always will. But it’s nice to be able to read and listen to the news on the radio and so forth.
Please click on the banner above. I’m a bit behind the curve and missed yesterday’s big day of action, but this is a long-term struggle:
The Committee to Protect Bloggers is devoted to the protection of bloggers around the world. In a host of countries around the world bloggers are routinely imprisoned for their activities. The blogging community should not leave the responsibility for their well-being in others’ hands.
The Committee has four primary spheres of activity.
CPB will serve as a clearinghouse for information on incarcerated members of our community, as well as those whose lives have been taken from them because of their enthusiasm for the free exchange of information that blogging allows.
CPB will serve as a pressure group to force unrecalcitrant governments to free imprisoned bloggers, and make restitution for tortured and murdered ones.
CPB will bring to bear the formidable communicative power of the blogosphere to keep pressure on governments to stop
CPB will act as direct agents in negotiations to free imprisoned bloggers.
We are driven by our enthusiasm for knowledge, by our affection for the possibilities of blogging, by the love we have for our fellow bloggers and by our belief in the free exchange of ideas.
We are guided by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Я: Поздравляю с праздником!
Грэьем: Спасибо, товарищ! Костю тоже поздравила?
Я: Можно так сказать. :)
Грэьем: [girlish laughter]
Dawn over the sleeping districts, rust-box houses looking transcendently beautiful in the early light, a snowy lumberyard, people starting their day.
Vegetables and cheese and a song so good it almost made me cry. Tea. Contentedness.
Waiting for a tram. Crisp air. Clear sky. Absolute zen.
Tying a weeping little boy’s hat under his chin. He, homesick in the middle of the day.
Chasing two- and three-year-olds around a playground, giggling. Brushing snow off their boots. Holding hands walking up the stairs.
Bright sunshine and the best kind of big fluffy fairy-tale snow, a square bustling with people.
First out the metro door, first in line for the escalator, no pushing or shoving.
I’ve decided to teach at the kindergarten five days a week. I’ll also keep my lessons with the eight-year-old and tomorrow I will ask the IT company guys if they’re willing to switch to late afternoons. This decision is right for so many reasons. I feel happy.
Disclosure: This post started out as a comment on Bell, Book, and Kaselholmen.
Relocating from from 40 to 60 degrees north latitude has affected my sleep patterns in surprising ways.
Back home (that is, actually, everywhere I’ve lived from college onward) I was famous for falling asleep at midnight no matter where I was — parties, bars, rock concerts — and I preferred to wake up at 8 a.m. or so when the sun was safely in the sky regardless of the time of year. Although, I would always experience a “spring fever” of sorts and get by on four or so hours sleep for a few weeks in May. Come winter, I would reclaim all that lost sleep. Really this all seems very natural to me, a biological imperative.
When I first got here in November, predictably I wanted to sleep until 10 a.m. every day, but once I got used to the idea that I was going to have to get up in the dark if I wanted to be a functioning member of society, I find myself able to get up as early as 6 a.m. on a regular basis. That would be pretty much unthinkable for me in the US.
I also find that midnight doesn’t mean anything anymore. I can stay up til all hours, and, left to my own devices, 2 a.m. seems more or less normal now. Of course, there are days when these erratic habits come back to bite me in the ass and I have to sleep til 11 a.m.
But I’m really looking forward to the White Nights, and not sleeping for a couple of months on end.
The real issue that I was getting at in my last post was this: Pretty shortly I’m going to have to decide whether I want to work at the kindergarten five days a week (provided they’ve liked me as well), or whether I’ll keep working at the “grown-up” language school, with my various students all over the city. Ideally, I can work it out to do both, but if not, I’m going to appear flaky to one party or the other, and possibly burn a bridge. So it’s kind of important that my decision be the right one.
Today has been a lovely relaxing day, I didn’t work at all. I slept in, re-organized my room, did yoga, made “Indian” food with Russian ingredients, worked on editing a paper for a friend, and exchanged an abnormal number of SMSs.
Yesterday during my drunken Russian lesson I was trying to say “send a text message” and reflexively made a wiggling motion with my thumb over curled fingers, and Sergey laughed and said “Posilat’ SMS?” Yup, exactly. So now there’s an international hand signal for it.
Texting isn’t as popular in the US as it is in Europe, though I personally did my best to increase its use back home. I think one of the reasons for its popularity here is that it’s so much cheaper than a mobile phone call. In the US, we usually pay a flat fee for a certain number of minutes of air time per month that far exceeds the amount of time a human being ought to spend on the phone. Here you pre-pay and when you make a call the money drips out of your account with each second you talk. I need to keep that in mind — last night I actually called a friend rather than SMS-ing and was indirectly admonished for costing them money.
Damn you, Blogger, for eating the last thing I tried to post.
No philosophical treatises today, just recovering from a nasty cold, being frustrated with my slow progress in Russian, and being indecisive about work.
As I was stuffing a three-year-old into his snowsuit today, I envisioned doing it every day for the next four months and possibly the next year and a half, and it freaked me out a bit. I mean, spring will come eventually and dressing the kids will be less complicated, but still.
I like working with kids, but I also like teaching adults. It’s much more intellectually stimulating to discuss the finer points of English grammar, debate politics and share curse words than to say “It’s a horse!” twenty-seven times and hope that some of the tiny people I’m talking to remember it next week.
I also simultaneously crave and reject routine. Running all over the city to teach lessons at different times can be exhausting and unsettling, but going to the same place (early) every morning can get monotonous. All of my “regular” jobs in the US became kind of boring before too long. (I have a terribly short attention span.)
Actually it would be ideal if I could maintain my current schedule for awhile: a couple days a week at the kindergarten and a couple days bustling around the city. Plus my Wednesday afternoon drunken Russian grammar lessons/classical music criticism sessions at my friend Sergey’s. He lives right near the kindergarten so it works out perfectly.