Ohhh Russia

April 18, 2010 at 5:16 pm (Uncategorized)

This weekend was no less strange than any other week.  We went to Ispensky Cathedral and Dmitrievsky Cathedral on Friday for our excursion, the two biggest, most important monuments in Vladimir.  Ispensky Cathedral was very beautiful inside because it was completely decked out in gold.  There is a tomb for Alexander Nevsky, one of the famous, early Russian tsars, inside the Cathedral.  It contains his finger.  Apparently people chopped up his body and distributed it among the big cities in Russia.  I am not remotely surprised.  So I got to see the finger of some royal dead guy.  We also saw the tomb of another 900 year dead king.  Our guide told us to step up on a platform to get a better look at it.  I was only minorly surprised to find that the top of the casket was glass, and we could see the decrepit body.  It must have been really well preserved because it was 900 years old, but still retained a body shape.  Its hand (missing a couple fingers) was clutching a giant, gold sword.  It was pretty cool.

Springtime after Easter is apparently a very popular time in Russia to get married.  As I said before, couples in Russia go to famous landmarks in their city to take pictures after their wedding ceremony.  On Friday, by the Golden Gate, we saw a grand total of eight wedding parties.  You’d think that it would somewhat ruin the experience, to have three other brides in the background of your wedding photos, but I guess it’s tough luck.  We saw one wedding party taking jumping action shots off a hill.  Anyway, Fridays in Vladimir have become hellish days to be in a car or a bus, because there is a lot of traffic due to these caravan wedding parties everywhere.

On Saturday Erin’s tutor found out that a free movie was going to happen that night.  Emily, Sarah, Erin, and I all invited our Russian friend Misha as well, and went.  The building where the movie was played looked like an abandoned hospital.  We got there rather early, and a “concert” was still in full swing.  They let us sit in on the concert while we waited for the film to start.  We are still unsure what the heck it was, because the “concert” consisted of one man, who was wearing a flashy gold shirt, singing, reading excerpts of his books, and showcasing magazines.  We were the youngest people there, apart from a boy in front of us, who was playing a game on a gameboy-type thing.  Emily and I spent most of the time watching the kid’s game.  So did his father.

Finally, the Renaissance man finished (late, naturally), and they started playing the movie.  The movie was an old Russian comedy, which had a strong resemblance to “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”  In the movie, a geeky-looking man built a machine that melted his wall, and revealed Russia hundreds of years ago.  Of course, the tsar got stuck in present time, and two people from the present time got stuck in the tsar’s time.  It was absolutely hilarious, because it was so strange.  There were lots of cat moments also, because it wouldn’t be Russia if there weren’t cats in every aspect of life.

Speaking of cats, Zosya is just as bizarre as ever.  She likes to claw the bathroom door open in the morning while I’m doing my make-up.  Then she sticks only her head in, meows loudly, and then leaves.  It has become a daily ritual.  The other day, I was reading in bed, and she came in and jumped up on the bed.  I was too lazy to make her go away, so I said, “Ok fine you can stay.  I’m allergic to you though, so just don’t come near my face.”  Of course, she immediately smashed her face into mine, and began rubbing it all over my nose.  Thank you, devil cat.  This morning, Tanya brought Zosya into the kitchen, and she looked very wide-eyed and innocent.  I thought, “Aww you’re actually cute today.”  Five minutes later, when everyone had forgotten about her, I looked over and saw her glaring at everyone evilly, with an expression on her face that appeared to be, “I will terminate you all.”

This afternoon, I got the first healthy food I have ever gotten at home.  Iya came into my room and asked which would I rather have on my salad, oil, mayonnaise, or sour cream?  I immediately sprinted into the kitchen, telling her that I didn’t want ANYTHING on my salad.  She didn’t understand, and kept trying to put globs of mayonnaise on my beautiful, healthy salad.  I literally had to guard the bowl with my body to keep the mayonnaise out.  I won.

Right now Volodya is disassembling his couch.  I don’t know why.  The living room (which I call “Volodya’s space”) is a mess.  He is humming gleefully to himself, while prying nails out of the couch.  The other day, Iya wasn’t home when I returned, so Volodya served me dinner.  He set out my tea, potatoes, and meat, then began wiggling his hips and swirling his wooden spoon in the air, and asked me if I “required” anything else.  When I said no, he informed me that his bath was ready, and he was “Going to go swimming now.”  When he finishes baths, he likes to wrap a towel around his head, like women do to dry their hair.  Except Volodya doesn’t have much hair, so he looks ridiculous.


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Things That Really Aren’t Surprising Anymore

April 16, 2010 at 2:08 pm (Uncategorized)

On the drive back from the city Myrom, in the middle of nowhere, I saw a boy paddling across a pond on a broken door.

On the same drive, we saw, at the very least, thirty bonfires outside people’s houses.  People were throwing their things into these fires.  We continued to see them throughout the weekend, all over the place.  When I asked a Russian friend why they were doing this, he replied, “Oh people burn the grass, so that new grass can grow better.”

While walking to school, I saw a naked man taking a steam bath in an open pipe near my school.

It has been over sixty degrees for the past two weeks.  Russians are still dressing as though it is ten degrees.

In the past two weeks I have seen not one, not two, but four machine guns out in the open.  One of the guys who had one was an average Joe.  Sun’s out, guns out boys.

When I won a game of hangman with the word “Medvedev,” my teacher told Erin and Jeff that they should physically beat me.

We are all slowly losing our English.  Innocent sentences such as, “I feel gross today” have been warped to “I feel myself grossly today.”  To be fair, that would be the literal translation for how you would say that in Russian.  It has also gotten extremely hard to write in one language.  Oftentimes I combine letters from both languages, and then honestly can’t figure out which language I was going for.

When we were reviewing directional verbs, I realized that I was relating each verb to Frodo’s journey in Lord of the Rings.

My grammar teacher told me today, “I don’t like you today because you seem sad.”

One hundred percent see-through shirts are acceptable.  Women may as well wear lace curtains.

There is a show on TV called, “Let’s Get Married.”  A man or woman goes on the show and meets with three bachelors or bachelorettes.  At the end, the man or woman chooses one of three.  They get married.

There is another show on TV that is a skewed version of “Wheel of Fortune.”  The show involves very little spelling, and the guests all sing to the host.  We haven’t figured out what the point of the show is yet, but most of the prizes are things like onions, and the contestants seem ecstatic to win them.

Many Russians wear T-shirts with English writing on them.  Many Russians have no idea what these T-shirts mean.  I will not list examples, because they are all very inappropriate.

Russians all wear USSR paraphanalia.  I see so many shirts, belt buckles, and such with “CCCP” stamped across them, which is the Russian spelling for USSR.

My Russian friend told us that Moscow was very safe during the Soviet Union.  He also told us that Vladimir was “like a mini Soviet Union.”  We have no idea what he was talking about.

When the Polish plane crash happened this weekend, I was watching the news with my host family.  I asked my host mom lots of questions about it because I wanted to know details about it.  Her response to all of my questions was, “It’s because of the War.”  What the WHAT are you talking about?

Speaking of which, EVERYTHING is about “The War” here.  “The War” is WWII.  Russians will all tell you that they were immensely important in the war, and America helped too.  Everyone else put in an inadequate effort.

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Russian Orthodox Easter

April 16, 2010 at 2:06 pm (Uncategorized)

The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Easter for a week.  Russians all make what we named, “Jesus Cakes,” because they often write “Jesus” on them.  They make at least seven of them.  Russians tell us that these cakes are made out of a special bread that lasts seven days.  It does not.  By the end of the week, these cakes could have been used as weapons.

On Easter Sunday every church started ringing its bells every hour beginning at two a.m.  There are over one hundred churches in Vladimir.

In the afternoon on Easter Sunday priests, monks, and nuns come out of the Cathedral and Monestary and give sermons at the Golden Gate.  They then have a procession back to the Cathedral or Monestary.  Jeff, Emily, and I saw the Monestary procession.  They started at the Golden Gate, but the military messed it up because they were marching too fast for the old priests.  One priest came tearing out of the Gate yelling, “STOP!  STOP, STOP.”  He halted the procession and they had to start again.  We watched the parade file out, and then we all followed them into the Monestary.  Then we left.

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April 1, 2010 at 12:38 pm (Uncategorized)

I woke up Sunday morning to find that five hundred eggs had been delivered to my apartment.  Happy Easter.

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Just Another Weekend in Vladimir

April 1, 2010 at 12:37 pm (Uncategorized)

We went to another club for Erin’s birthday.  This one was much more crowded than the previous one we had gone to for Emily’s birthday.  It turned out to be quite interesting.  There was one guy wearing aviators the whole time, accompanied by jeans and a sweater.  I named him Maverick.  The whole night I kept thinking of hilarious Top Gun jokes.  For example, when Jeff asked, “Where did Maverick go?”  I replied, “He’s on the highway to the danger zone, man!”  He came back in no time, and fervently began dancing AT people.  He failed to land anywhere.  Another guy, who looked like a heavyweight wrestler, stood by the bar alone all night, and repeatedly punched the air.  He was obviously trying to raise the roof.  It looked like he had seen too many episodes of Jersey Shore.  Meanwhile, the DJ was playing strange English techno.  My favorite song was one that repeated the lyrics, “Don’t be shy, it’s Halloween” over and over again.

Yesterday, Tania (my host mother’s granddaughter) had a dance recital.  We were extremely late, so Olya drove like a bat out of hell, two blocks down the road.  We arrived five minutes before the show started, and Tania was supposed to have been there an hour before the show.  Olya parked, threw the keys at Iya, and took off running toward the dressing rooms after Tania.  Meanwhile, I saw the first attractive man that I’ve seen in Russia.  Sadly, this was the man Iya threw the car keys at, while yelling, “YOUNG MAN CLOSE MY CAR.”  While the poor soul showed Iya how to lock the car, I walked off, pretending that I didn’t know Iya.  Meanwhile Volodya (wearing jeans and a jeans jacket) was wondering off giggling to himself about God only knows what.

Once inside the theater, Volodya and I were assigned the task of finding seats.  We saw some in the middle of one of the rows, so we squeezed our way past people to get there.  The lady promptly informed us that the seats were reserved.  Volodya demanded to know why, and she replied that she was saving them for her son and husband.  Volodya vehemently said, “I don’t care!” And sat down.  While she started yelling at him, I started easing my way back out of the row.  Volodya finally followed me, and marched straight up to one of the ushers, saying, “This is your job isn’t it?  Good, I can’t find seats.”  The lady pointed out the two seats we had just tried.  “I already tried there!” bellowed Volodya.  Finally, the usher opened the balcony for us.  Volodya shoved me through the door, hurting a small child in the process.  We finally found seats just as the performance was starting.

The performance was very interesting, and Tania danced very well.  However, Iya kicked me out at intermission, despite my protests that I wanted to stay.  She promptly told me that I couldn’t stay, and dragged me out of the auditorium.  She led me outside, and said, “There’s your bus, go!” before heading back into the theater.  I still don’t understand.

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So You Think You Can Sing?

April 1, 2010 at 12:36 pm (Uncategorized)

Last Sunday, we met several Russian university students at a round table discussion.  One of them, Misha (short for the name Mikhail), called me and offered to give me a tour of Vladimir State University one day after school.  Emily, Erin, Courtney, and I all went, assuming that we would simply have a tour of the campus.  We were wrong.  Misha brought us to a Journalism class, which was bizarre because he isn’t even in that department.  The teacher and her students were delighted to see real live Americans.  They asked us who we were, and whether or not we liked Vladimir.  Without further ado, the teacher popped in a video, and made us watch several short films, none of which remotely related to journalism, or anything for that matter.  The first of these short films, depicted a bunch of women walking together in a line.  The camera only showed their naked legs, all wearing high heels, model-walking in a dance studio, to the song “I’m Pretty Fly for a White Guy.”  The second short video showed a bunch of cats in slow motion.  My favorite of all of these, however, was a video that showed clips of Putin, to the song “I’m Too Sexy.”  It also showed a man who had painted Putin’s face on his leather jacket.

After we finished watching the bizarre, random videos, the students in the class asked us questions about journalism in America.  The question sequence went exactly like this:

“Do universities in America have their own newspapers?”

“Are your school newspapers any good?”

“What do you think of Medvedev?”

“Are you planning on getting married soon?”

Reflecting on this, we probably should not have been surprised.  After they finished asking questions, Misha told us that all the dorms of the university were competing in a battle of the bands that night.  Naturally, we had to go.  Misha himself was playing in the competition with his band.  We heard them warming up before the competition started, and we all thought, “Oh no, they suck, now we’re going to have to lie to his face, and tell him they were great.”  Shortly after, the concert started, and it was absolutely hilarious.  There were three rounds, and each dorm had a band or singer represent them in each round.  One dorm sent one guy up every single time.  He changed into a new sparkling, shiny shirt each time, and sang pop songs in front of American-idol style flashing lights.  He sang one song in English, the lyrics being, “Love and emotions make me so tender, give it to me in sweet surrender.”  Two girls, clad in “dresses” that hid absolutely nothing, got up on stage and sang a pop song.  One of the girls couldn’t sing her way out of a paper bag, but she thought that she was Mariah Carey, and sang the “Oohs” with oomph.  We couldn’t believe her friends actually allowed her to think she could sing like that in front of hundreds of people.  One girl sang a song from the movie “A Walk to Remember,” and she was actually very good, but I could have done without the Walk to Remember montage she played.  In the end, Misha and his group got up, and we all thought, “Oh Lord here we go…” They turned out to be absolutely amazing.  I want the song they played on my iPod.

It is also worth mentioning that the backdrop for this performance was Garfield, wearing a tux, and holding a microphone to his mouth.  He was giving the audience a seductive look, that clearly said, “Come hither.”

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Concerning Marriage

April 1, 2010 at 12:35 pm (Uncategorized)

It should be noted that Russians, especially women, are very preoccupied with love and marriage.  When I first told my host mother that I have a boyfriend in America, she said something to the tune of, “Oh wonderful, you’re on the right track.”  She demanded to see pictures, and when I showed her one of him, she said, “He’s tall.  He’ll make a good husband.”  I tried to explain to her that twenty-year-olds in America don’t think about things like that, and she looked at me like I was off my rocker.  There are many superstitions in Russia about marriage as well.  If you break certain rules, it means that you won’t be married for another ten years, which is catastrophic here.  When Iya’s sister came over for the first time, she told me, “You’re very beautiful.  You’ll find a good husband.”  Young women, as well as the old are like this as well.  We spoke to sixteen-year-old girls about the matter, and they were horrified that women in America get married as late as thirty.  I told them that my aunt was only just getting married for the first time at the age of forty-four, and their eyes got really wide, as they said, “What did she do wrong?”  It is yet another reason why Russian culture is so different from American culture.

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