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I don’t know if it’s because 9 years old is a typical age to start becoming aware of the world beyond one’s own city, or whether it’s because so much happened that year, but I remember very little of current events before 1985-86, and so much of what happened that year, when I was in the fourth grade. I remember horrifying my teacher, Mrs. Kupiec, with all the tasteless jokes I had overheard about the events of that year: Gorbachev’s rise to power, the US bombing of Libya, the space shuttle Challenger explosion, and Chernobyl.

The 20th anniversary of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is tomorrow. Many CIS-related blogs are posting links and stories about Chernobyl, and ordinarily I wouldn’t be too interested in duplicating the efforts of others, but as an environmentalist, a CIS-ophile, and a kid whose global consciousness really emerged that year, Chernobyl has been a source of special fascination for me, so I don’t feel like I’m just jumping on the bandwagon.

By far the most powerful site I’ve come across is this one:
Watch the trailer, it’s incredibly haunting.

The best site for information and lots of pictures:

A moving introduction and links to the poetry of Lyubov Sirota, a Chernobyl victim:
A Voice from Dead Pripyat

A well-known hoax which nonetheless has some good photos and commentary. As I understand from reading critical websites, the hoax is that the woman didn’t actually ride her mortorcycle through the zone, but took a guided tour*:
Ghost Town
So like, don’t contribute to her PayPal account or anything, but it’s nonetheless some good reading.

There are lots more, of course, and every major news outlet is saying something about the anniversary, so there’s no shortage of interesting reading. Furthermore, it’s important reading. Chernobyl isn’t just an event of recent history, but an environmental catastrophe which continues to affect those who were and are nearby, which is most of Ukraine and Belarus.

*which I really, really want to do someday

Aaaah! This week has been ridiculously busy!

Aunt Kelly leaves this week. I moved most of my stuff to Kostia’s yesterday and will move the rest on Thursday. And for some reason I agreed to teach a group of adults English a few nights a week for the next few weeks. And the kindergarten has been pretty chaotic, and I’m getting a little burned out and am really looking forward to the end of the school year. And Kostia’s birthday is tomorrow and I haven’t had time to plan anything nearly as special as I would have liked to.

Speaking of Kostia, he always complains that I post only crap pictures of him on this blog. So here’s a nice one, in honor of his birthday:

So there’s a boy I’ve been teaching since I started working at the kindergarten last year. He’s half German and half Russian, a very beautiful child, and incredibly smart. He’s also kind of wicked. He was always stubborn, but lately he’s been saying some disturbing things.

He’d been really bad one day and when his mom came to pick him up, I asked her to come in for a talk. Among his offenses was that he had hit some other children. His mom said “You can’t hit people. They don’t let such children go to school.” Without a trace of remorse, he said, “I like hitting people.”

Last week he brought a toy chain saw for show-and-tell. When I asked him to say what it was for, he said, “It’s for cutting down a tree, or somebody’s house.”

And today, we were talking about his family’s upcoming move back to Germany. I said that a friend of mine was moving to the same city soon. He said, “I’m going to shoot him.”

His parents seem like really nice people; I don’t know where he gets it from. I hope this is just a phase he’s going through, because with his good looks, intelligence, and charm, he could wind up as some kind of evil dictator or something.

Last night Aunt Kelly and I threw our final party in our nice centrally-located St. Petersburg apartment. Aunt Kelly’s moving back to Boston at the end of the month, and next weekend I’m moving to Kostia’s more modest dwelling in the sleeping districts.

The party was an amusing mix of people: some Russian and British colleagues of mine, our American neighbors, a bunch of Kostia’s friends, and assorted other friends and associates. Some people didn’t speak Russian, some didn’t speak English, but many bonded over the drinking of the variety pack of Swedish aquavits that I had got Aunt Kelly for her birthday last summer, which we were determined to finish off.

This morning I had one of the top-five worst hangovers of my life. And we had tickets to the circus this afternoon. I wasn’t really looking forward to the circus anyway, and with this hangover I was pretty much dreading it. But it turned out to be really well-done. The laser show at the beginning exacerbated my queasiness and the horribly uncomfortable seating could do with some remont, but the show itself was impressive. It was a new show, the “Circus on Water“. There were contortionists in frog suits, trained sea lions and poodles, smoking clowns, and other stuff I couldn’t even begin to describe. I was glad to discover that there is work for synchronized swimmers after the Olympics are over.

After that we got some “Mexican” food (oy, sometimes I really miss American Mexican food), we walked home in the nice spring weather, and I passed out for another three hours.

I may be encroaching on Russian Marketing Blog’s territory here, but this merits some discussion regardless. Foster’s Beer ads are known for their borderline offensive machismo, but I wondered if this one was unique to the Russian market, because I can’t imagine it in any civilized country:

It says: You have to give up your (metro) seat to women/you can put the attractive ones on your lap.


Taking this photo was not cheap. I know that photography in the metro is in theory forbidden, but I’ve never heard of anyone getting in trouble for it. This morning I noticed this ad, and because I didn’t want to freak anyone out by possibly including him/her in the photo, I waited until the train and I had reached our destination, the terminating stop Primorskaya, and everyone had exited the train. I snapped the picture, and when I stepped off the train, a young policeman informed me that photography was illegal and there was a fine. He waved over an older policeman, who told me the fine would be 100 rubles (a little less than $4). I said “Oh, I’m so sorry, I’m a foreigner, I didn’t know.”

I looked in my wallet and saw that I had 80 rubles in 10s and a 1000-ruble note. There was no way I was showing them the thousand, so I pulled out the 80 rubles and made a show of counting it and saying “This is all I have.” They said, “all right, the fine is 50 rubles then”, and gave me a ticket/receipt that had “50 rubles” preprinted on it.

Why they didn’t just pocket the other 30, I don’t know. I guess they fell for my “I’m just a silly foreigner” act. The older policeman gave my my ticket, I apologized one more time, and he said “shastlivo” which is like “have a nice day” but kind of friendlier. Weird.

Anyway, the no photography in the metro rule is just stupid. I think they claim it’s some kind of security/antiterror measure, but it probably mostly provides an excuse for policemen to extract more fines and bribes from people.

Oi. I am exhausted. Attendance at the kindergarten has been high the past two weeks. We used to have 10-13 kids each day, and now it’s 16-20. It’s like all the parents decided that for the last two months of the academic year they would really make the effort to bring their kid every day. See, some parents see the kindergarten as day care, some as an educational program, but they’re all affluent enough either not to work or to hire babysitters, and since the kids in our group are still quite young (3-4), the parents don’t see daily attendance as compulsory. That is, until now.

I really want to write something funny or substantial, but I haven’t got it in me at the moment. I’ve got to go to bed now.

This morning it was overcast and warm, then it rained, then there was a snowstorm, then the sun came out and all the snow melted, then back to rain again. There’s mushy dog crap and trash everywhere and lots of puddles. Ah, spring.

“I think the reason I haven’t got any working-class pride is because I detest manual labour.” – Kostia

In case anyone else was feeling put out that their blog or site isn’t linked on mine (see comment on this post), I thought I ought to explain my editorial policy…

The deal with my links is, I kinda think it’s silly when a blog has a link to every single other blog in the universe. I think the point of links is to say to the readers, if you’re interested in my blog, here are some related blogs and other sites that I find amusing or useful. But if you have eight million links, then how the hell do people sort through all that? They don’t. They just ignore them. Which makes it pointless to have any links at all.

I used to have links to all the blogs I read on a regular basis, and try to link to everyone who linked to me, but then I felt like I had to have links to all my friends’ blogs, even the ones that were rarely updated, and doesn’t that just waste my readers’ time? And I know it’s Netiquette to link to someone when they link to you, but there are actually a couple of blogs that link here that I consider really vile, so to hell with that rule.

So I decided that I would only link to a handful of Russia-related blogs that really caught my fancy. I change them up every now and then, add new ones, delete ones that have gone stale. And most of the blogs that I’m linked to have links to every other Russian site on the web, so why do I need to duplicate that?

Anyway, why does every Russian blog have to try to be a clearinghouse for all things (even tenuously) Russian? I don’t pretend to do that. This is my silly little blog about my silly little life, which happens to be proceeding in Russia at the moment (and I write it mostly for my friends and family, though I’m super glad that other people find it interesting too), so sometimes it’s about Russia and sometimes it’s about whatever’s going on in my head.

Kostia and I went to his hometown of Slantsy yesterday. It’s a town of about 30,000 inhabitants, the main industry is (was) slate mining (“slantsy” are slates), and there isn’t a whole lot going on there, but it’s always a nice break from the hustle and bustle and grime of St. Petersburg. Of course, I’ve been there plenty of times before, but this was the first time since I got my digital camera.

The Slantsy Coat of Arms

Kostia’s RodDom (the maternity hospital where he was born)

Slantsy’s main street

About This Blog

I'm an American who started blogging when I moved to Russia in 2004. Eventually I moved to Sweden, where life is pleasant but uneventful, and stopped blogging for lack of interesting things to say. And then I joined Facebook, which further destroyed any motivation for blogging. Maybe someday I'll start blogging again, but for now, this blog is dormant, an archive of The Russia Years: 2004-2008.

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April 2006