Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Catching Up...

I knew that there would be some point in the semester where my blog posts would end up taking the back burner, for which I apologize. But! I will at least try to fill in some of the gaps now....

I can now say I have seen more movie-theater movies while in Russian, than I did the entire 4 months of my summer in Flagstaff. And, on the whole, I think I can say the whole Russian movie going experience is much more enjoyable. For example, it is exciting to not even know what movie you are watching until 20 minutes have pasted and you are able to put two and two together- which is exactly happened when I saw Taken 2. Moreover, the seats are, for some reason, ten times more comfortable than any movie theater seats I have sat in before, save the living room theater couch style movie theaters in both Portlands.  And the 3D glasses in Russia are also are ten times weirder looking than one could imagine, and weirdly enough they reuse them.

I have now finally seen a circus that I will never forgot. Apparently, my parents did take me to a pretty big circus many years ago, but my younger and wiser self promptly put the whole experience out of my mind. The Russian circus, I think unfortunately, will always be a dear memory of my time here.
So it was kind of funny in the beginning because all my American friend and I were by far the oldest people there (this is discounting the babyshkas and other parents that had to be there because of their kids). And when the circus first started, the music, the crowd, and the old Soviet style lighting illuminating the dusty red carpeting was all very exciting. However, the minute the different animal acts were brought out...we all kind of wanted to cry. In fact, there was one point where a few tears did escape my eyes before I had to turn my head away. Let's just say that all of their camels looked like they were staring death in the face, and the fact that their act went on longer than any of the other animal acts only made matters worse. At least the elephants didn't look too bad...

A few weeks ago, Ithaca and I had our first 'getting lost in Vladivostok' experience, as well, which I think is pretty impressive. First of all, I was not the one that got us lost (To my family: I know you won't believe this, but it's true). Secondly, we had a pretty long run of not getting lost here, especially considering the fact that all the city planning here is so confusing. And lastly, we made a new friend, which resulted in a free (very long) bus ride.
Basically, Ithaca and I got adventurous on our way back from the supermarket in the center, and we decided to take a different bus back to campus. It wasn't that we chose the wrong bus, but it was just that at the spot we should have gotten off at (as per my suggestion), we thought the bus would stop closer to the entrance to VSUES, so we continued on. Soon however, I realized that it kind of looked like we were on our way to a small town just outside of Vladivostok, in the complete wrong direction. Hope was regained when the bus finally turned around and started going back the way we came...until everyone but us got off the bus and the bus pulled up to a dead end and the bus driver shut everything off.  Seeing as how we obviously didn't know what we were doing, he turned around and asked us where we wanted to go. After explaining that we were studying at VSUES and just needed to get back there, he introduced himself as Yuri (I think) and started asking us all these questions. During all of this some of his other friends got on the bus and they started speaking in a completely different language. I forget where he was originally from, but when we finally had to give it up and tell him we were from the States, he (like everyone else we meet here) started to asked us clarifying questions about differences between here and there. His only question, though, was about when girls and guys usually get married (thank goodness Ithaca and I had just discussed this in our speaking class the day before...). From this conversation we learned he had a wife who was wayyy younger than him and they had a baby and were trying to make their way in Vlad. I finally asked him if he knew when we would be getting back to the school and he said he thought it would be 30 more min. At least point Ithaca and I were ready for a long evening, especially since 30 min in Russia could mean a lot of different things.
In the end however, more people got on the bus, and we started getting back into territory that we knew. And by the time we finally made it to the correct stop, when we tried to pay our 15 rubles, Yuri was so kind and let us go for free.
All in all, an unplanned success.

Other interesting things include, of course, more Russian nature adventures. Something I really didn't expect to love about the Russians is their extreme, but somewhat warped, love of nature. Our one Russia friend Jenya is always wanting to go out into the countryside for shashlik (Russian BBQ) or out to the sea to watch the waves. The reason I say it's a little warped is due to the fact that Russians don't tend to treat nature with the love that they actually feel for it. Example? A few weekends ago when we went out into the forest to make shashlik again, we just made a small fire in the middle everything. Jenya was just going to pile some sticks in the middle of the leaf ridden ground and call it good. But thankfully for us Americans, the Russian forest lived to see another day, and we did our best to make a fire pit, clear leaves away, and then extinguish the fire before we left. Without that very illegal fire, however, I can say we all would have been actually frozen. It might be getting too cold for these nature adventures.

As far as the sea goes, yesterday I went out to lunch at the same beach spot were we got in our first and only Vladivostok ocean swim,  only this time it was overcast and the strongest coldest wind possible was blowing. Russians are, however, prepared for this and have created these little one room dinning room cabins that have little heaters and a huge window that looks out onto the sea. It was wonderful being able to sit inside, eating very tasty Armenian food, and just meditate on the waves crashing down in the wind. I want something like this to exists on the coast of Oregon.

Lastly, I will end with an account of my first authentic Russian family dinner. The back story as to how I got roped into this is a little too long and complicated, but last weekend I was invited to go with my friend out to dinner with his extended family to celebrate the christening of his cousin's new born baby. Needless to say, I was extremely nervous because I knew that I was going to be overwhelmed by Russian and I didn't know if I was going to be able to communicate. Thankfully though, my friend quickly informed everyone we met that I was from America and so his family thought it best to seat me next to another one of his cousins, who is 11, so that maybe I could communicate with someone on my own level...
Everyone was very friendly to me, and the baby was absolutely adorable, but I still couldn't believe all of this was happening at like 8 or 9 at night in a Chinese restaurant. My disbelief also stemmed from the fact that I was immediately taking toast after toast with the family. Had it just been a normal dinner, with no celebration attached, I think I could have been ok. As it was, however, I hit a point where I was unsure if getting out of my chair would look as smooth as I wanted it to. I got lucky though, because my friend went off to talk with some of his family member and I was able to just talk to the 11 year old, while hiding my vodka shots at various spots on the table where no one would notice them, until I sobered up enough to gracefully leave. All the Russians thought it was sooo funny that Americans just don't toast that much. But, I thought it was funny that at the end of the evening the, now more drunk, uncles were coming up to me and inviting me to come along with my friend to their houses sometime for dinner. One of them even took me aside and said "I Russian...,' which I really appreciated.

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