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Monday, June 20, 2005

photos

some photos that never got posted:


and that about wraps up the photos that weren't posted that will be posted. if something's missing, let me know.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

st.petersburg, going away parties, moscow, home

i'm home. i'd like to share stories and pictures from the last week, but i'm not sure i'm going to get the energy up to do it anytime soon. i guess pretty much everyone who's reading this has already heard about most of my last week, or taken part in it in some way or another. so that's all for now. this blog is taking a creative hiatus, for the time being. maybe a few days. maybe a few weeks. ..

Friday, June 03, 2005

petersburg

i'm leaving tonight for petersburg. should be there tomorrow morning, barring certain disaster. white nights, hermitage, venice of the north. if for some reason i decide to leave, it'll probably be monday night. hopefully stories and (selected) pictures on tuesday.

Friday, May 27, 2005

hail, minesweeper, babushki...

I had probably the best view of the first real lightning storm to hit yaroslavl this summer. from my ninth story apartment, the entire historical center is visible, and the view is even better than from the kremlin's clock tower. so i am going to boast about it and enjoy it for the next two weeks. anyway i was watching out my window and on the horizon i could see blue skies to the left, this tremendously dark cloud over the middle of my view of the city, and jokers to the right. actually, just blue sky over there too.

so there's this relatively small storm cloud over the middle of the city and i can see the sunshine on both sides of it. beneath the cloud it looks like smog had enveloped the city. i stupidly stood out on my glassed in balcony and watched the lightning hit all around the center for a good two hours. it hailed as hard as i've ever seen hail, and for an unusually long time. there were accidents all over the city because of flash flooding. it was great.

other good things: last night i spaced out while studying for the oral exam i was supposed to take today, and, as is often the case, started a game of expert minesweeper. i wasn't even really paying attention, and when i finished the game the little 'enter your name' window popped up, which meant i'd broken my record. now, this might not seem like a big deal to you, but odds are there is some minesweeper reading this, already wondering if it was better than his high score. i should also add that i attained my previous expert high score of 89 seconds during a 7 hour playing binge during a rainy day at russian school. i was so excited that i wrote lelia an SMS to tell her about it. and she called me back to tell me how hard she was laughing at me. new score: 81 seconds. hah! HAA!

finally, what you were all waiting for. another wacky babushka story. i was walking down the flowery little side street toward the internet library, just enjoying the weather and the humid flowery air. i said hello to the two grandmothers who always sit outside for as long as twelve hours a day and just watch who's coming and going. one of them was cutting branches of flowers from one of the trees, and she turned around with a big smile and said hello back to me. the other, who was standing near the door took three steps toward me and started yelling:

"THOSE ARE OUR FLOWERS. WE PLANTED THEM. WE'RE ALLOWED TO DO THIS BECAUSE THEY ARE OUR FLOWERS."

pause. the agitated one obviously took my gaping jaw stare of disbelief, as, well, just that. disbelief. and started in again about how they really were her flowers. i ended up just stumbling backward and saying something about how pretty they were. only now i've realized that the only real course of action was whipping out my phone and telling her i was going to call the cops, just in case.

actually, the moral of the story is giving people the benefit of the doubt. i don't relate to them because i didn't grow up when or where they did. when you walk around a city seeing old, old women collecting bottles and eating out of trashcans you have to put aside the soviet bashing for a minute and stop to wonder what went wrong...at the very least it puts a little perspective on all those numbers you catch in the news about older russians missing the soviet union.

on a lighter relating-to-people-note, i met 3 people from nebraska and the one that seemed interested in talking to me was OK. there are some good people in red states! except for kansas. you can't count dorthy, she died a long time ago.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

beginning of the end

i was recently writing to comrade garner in moscow (re: eventual trip to moscow, if you're reading this calvin - how about 3-4-5 or something in that ballpark? i don't really know when all of my exams are supposed to be yet) about the state of the i and i realized that i really haven't written anything here at all lately. good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

this story is coming to an end. it's author is tired of the dreary and unoriginal black template he chose.

i could stay here (yaroslavl) for the rest of the summer or, just as easily, pack tonight and be on a train/plane for home tomorrow. i've got a little less than three weeks left in yaroslavl. i am a lame duck exchange student.

actually it's really not that bad. the weather is superb, and i've got time to kill. since i've last written i've spent time at my friend's dacha, had drinks with a norwegian pornographer, broken into and slept on the roof of an abandoned building, eaten шашлыки all over the city, read a good book (Камера Обскура - Набоков) and started another.

i know it sounds glamorous, but really it'll be nice to get home. relax and read a book by the ocean. do anything by the ocean. i'm flying home on june 10th. a bunch of the americans have already left. paul went to mongolia. barring some sudden realization that he's actually of mongolian (and not russian) blood after all, we expect to see him back in yaroslavl for den' goroda.

so that's about all. the fellas at the hole are waiting for me.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

день труда, пасха, да жив я....

so i'd been planning a big comeback/oh-that's-good-he's-still-alive post for a while now, but i always get to the computer lab and...space out. i read the technology section of the ny times. i didn't even do that when i got the damn paper in my mailbox every day. did you know that cell phones are bulking up!?

so what haven't i been telling you about, in 10 minutes or less?

may 1st was Easter/May Day/Labor Day/Communists marching early in the morning beneath my bedroom window Day. They got about twenty kids from a high school marching band and a couple hundred grandmothers with their grandchildren in tow. This was the big holiday in the Soviet Union, and so I was more or less expecting a lot of festivities. but no. my unassuming town of some 10,000 people in southern maine has bigger parades. just never with the red flags and komsomol grannies.

also it was orthodox easter. i'm not going to get into why their easter came a few weeks after the rest of the world's easter, but it has something to do with the orthodox church being backward in its own special way. despite a few invitations, i resisted the urge to go to a midnight service and stand around for 3+ hours listening to a service in old church slavonic. maybe this makes me a bad person and a disinterested student-abroad. maybe not.

in other good news, roman "the man" arhkangelskiy is coming to visit for the weekend. the beer tents are opening all over the city. this is in reaction to the (alleged) passing of a law banning beer consumption in public. my informal polling in yaroslavl shows the people to be either confused, or disbelieving. or knowing and disregarding. in any event, if public alcohol consumption and urination were the two big things pushing you toward studying abroad in russia, don't lose heart. they don't seem to be going anywhere fast. people are out walking, all the time. everything seems to be winding down. my host mom is more often at her dacha and at work than at home (ergo) i am cooking for myself and eating all the better for it. this is a good time to be in yaroslavl. also i think i was interviewed last night? no pen or paper. a bunch of stupid questions about world war two. or the great patriotic fatherland war, depending on where you bought your history books. some journalist trying to bait me into saying all the idiotic things that russians grow up assuming americans think. So when did the war start? you probably think it started in 1941, huh? so who won the war? you probably think it was america, huh? shut up, you. you would have been fighting the war with shovels and pitchforks if it weren't for lend-lease. and i know how many russians died in the war. also i know how many of them died because of stalin's ineptitude.

so there might be a picture of me in one of yaroslavl's biggest tabloids throwing a can of fish at a poster of a fascist. really not sure how all that will turn out.

but one minute left. adieu. maybe pictures next time, if i get over to netzone.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

american culture days

yaroslavl state university is hosting 'american culture days' all this week, with (mostly) professors reading papers about various aspects of american culture and life. for whatever reason, they asked me to talk about "key questions in contemporary american political life." i've never been nuts about preparing speeches, but i've had it up to my ears with russians' ideas on american politics, so i consented. and i did have an interesting conversation today with a guy who things the democrats wanted to lose in 2004. and so here's what i had to say, for my russian readers. i decided to go for impartiality because there's no other way i could have gotten through it without tears and vulgarity. also, sorry about the mistakes. i'm also leaving in all the goofy introduction stuff, so you can get the full feeling for how silly it was.

Добрый День, Дамы и Господа!
Меня зовут Скотт Роуз. Я студент Американского Миддлбери Колледжа и в настоящее время обучаюсь в Ярославском Университете на историческом факультете. Свое выступление я хотел бы посвятить вопросам взаимоотношений политических партий в США. Это связано с тем, что за год обучения в России мне часто приходилось участвовать в политических дискуссиях и я понял, что представления русских о политической ситуации в Америке очень приблизительны. И я хотел бы в этот вопрос внести некоторую ясность.

Современная американская политическая жизнь отмечена серьезными противоречиями. Это противоречия между двумя главными партиями Демократической и Республиканской. И это противоречия между этими партиями и их избирателями. Президентство Джорджа Буша углубило раскол между партиями. Отношения между Демократами и Республиканцами стали более враждебными. Стороны практически неспособны идти на компромисс. Главные вопросы, которые стоят перед Америкой и ее политическими партиями сегодня – как готовиться к выборам в Конгресс в 2006, как восстанавливать объединение партий с их сторонниками, и как предотвратить падение американского правительства в пропасть.

Долгожительство двух политических партий в Америке долго было стабилизирующим фактором в американской политике; политические деятели в такой системе считаются более ответственными за свою политику, потому что политические партии считаются ответственными, если у них плохие кандидаты.

Главным элементом этой политической последовательности является то, что политические платформы Республиканцев и Демократов редко изменяются, и если они изменяются, то. И Республиканцы и Демократы изо всех сил пытаются прямо сейчас реорганизовать себя и свой образ, но это сложно сделать, и чтобы не испугать их традиционных избирателей и новых избирателей, которых они надеются привлечь в партию. Кроме того, такие слова как "либерал" и "консерватор" теряют свое значение в американской политической беседе, потому что обе стороны имеют очень либеральные и очень консервативные позиции, в зависимости от проблемы и исторического контекста. Демократов, например, можно называть консерваторами в дебатах по изменению процедур Сената по вопросам судебных назначений. Разнобой в понимании между словами либерал и консерватор, наблюдается и при обращении к экономическому предпочтению, социальному/моральному предпочтению и даже в традиционном академическом смысле слов: стремление к изменению (либералы) и стремление к status quo (консерваторы). Само собой разумеется, очень немного людей могут быть строго классифицированы как консерваторы или либералы.

Республиканцы, традиционно "консервативная" партия, которая одобряет небольшое правительство, финансовую ответственность и независимость штатов, переживает трудное сейчас время, из-за огромных военных расходов администрации Буша. Аналогично, многие в Республиканской партии не хотят изменять очень старые правила Сената о назначении судей, потому что в самом ближайшем будущем Республиканцы могут оказаться в меньшинстве. Защита права меньшинства в правительстве важнее чем краткосрочные политические победы.

Демократы, традиционно либералы, «которые представляли работающих американцев», теряют поддержку своих традиционных избирателей из-за позиций по поводу абортов и однополых браков. В то время как демократы работают на увеличение социальных расходов (медицинских, образовательных, и т. д.) они теряют свою социальную базу, потому что их взгляды на вопросы контроля оружия, аборта, однополых браков и других социальных проблем непопулярны у религиозных консерваторов и других категорий населения в южных и центральных штатах. Во многих случаях, работающие американцы голосуют за Республиканских кандидатов даже при том, что это в определенной степени вредит их экономическому состоянию, потому что они оценивают социальные проблемы (аборт, однополые браки) выше чем экономические проблемы как например медицинский обслуживания, пособия по безработице и т.д.

Таким образом, наиболее важной в американской политической жизни является проблема: как изменятся эти две партии до 2008, когда придет время выбирать преемника Джорджа Буша. Достигнутый успех в Ираке может проложить путь к другому Республиканскому президенту (как, например, Джон Макэйн из штата Аризона), который популярен и среди избирателей придерживается умеренный взглядов.

Экономические проблемы, увеличивающаяся цена нефти, длительные военные операции, и провал реформы социального обеспечения могли привести демократов к победе.
Ключевые показатели будут выборы в 2006 в Конгресс, когда обе стороны должны будут выбрать представителей в Сенат и Палату представителей. Демократы, особенно, должны будут решить, поддерживать ли они по-прежнему право делать аборты, чтобы за их кандидатов голосовали в южных и центральных штатах.

Много Демократических активистов, которые одобряют право аборта, понимают, что эта часть платформы национальной стратегии демократам дорого обошлось. Аналогично, Республиканцы недавно сделали оплошность. Я имею в виду прохождение через Конгресс непопулярного закона, о попытке спасение жизни женщины находящейся в коме, у которой муж решил прекратить обеспечение ее искусственным питанием. Обе партии и их политические стратеги часто неправильно понимают американское общественное мнение.

Главные вопросы останутся тем же самым: Ирак, социальное обеспечение, аборт, однополые браки, и процедуры назначения судей - самые большие проблемы сегодня. С недавними успехами в Ираке, Республиканцы могли бы пользоваться поддержкой, несмотря на длительные военные операции и невозможность найти оружие массового поражения. Администрация Буша недавно предложила, большого числа военных солдат из Ирака уже 2006. Это будет большой поддержкой для Республиканцев перед выборами в Конгресс.

Джордж Буш сделал реформу системы социального обеспечения главным приоритетом для его второго срока, и он теперь оказывается перед сильней оппозицией демократов и прохладной реакции части Республиканцев, потому что проблема в настоящее время непопулярна среди американцев. Есть также проблема назначений судей. В федеративной судебной системе Объединенных штатов, судьи назначаются президентом и затем утверждаются Сенатом. Это было чисто техническим процессом, и Сенат обычно подтверждал полномочие президентских кандидатов с незначительными дебатами или вообще без них. Однако недавно, из-за важности Верховного Суда в решении случаев о социальных проблемах, таких как права аборта и однополый брак, и либералы и консерваторы пробовали назначить судей, которым они доверяют, и поддерживают их политические взгляды.

Вице-президент Чейни предлагает изменить правила в этом процессе, чтобы разрешить простым большинством (50 из 100) сенаторов подтверждать полномочия судей в противоположность традиционным 60. Республиканцы первоначально назвали это «ядерной угрозой» и теперь называют это угроза конституции из-за общественной обратной реакции в очевидном игнорировании конституционной процедуры. Несколько важных Республиканских Сенаторов, включая Сенатора Маккэйна заявили, что, в то время как они поддерживают назначение судей, Президентских кандидатов, они точно будут голосовать против изменения конституционных процедур, потому что это - важная защита для политического меньшинства. Маккэйн мог использовать эту и другие проблемы, по которым он расходится с Белым домом, чтобы начать кампанию по выборам президента в 2008 (он был кандидатом в 2000, но проиграл Джорджу Бушу).

Возможно самые важные политические/социальные проблемы в Америке сегодня - права аборта и однополый брак. Начиная с 1973 решения Roe vs. Wade, когда Верховный Суд решил, что право аборта не могло быть ограничено федеральным правительством, христианские религиозные лидеры вели очень активную и хорошо организованную кампанию против аборта. Аналогично, много штатов за последние несколько лет издали законы, чтобы «защитить брак», которые точно определяют брак только между мужчиной и женщиной. Это проявилось как обратная реакция в ответ на решении Штата Массачусетс позволить однополые браки и «гражданские союзы» штата Вермонт, которые дают равные юридические и экономические правила для этих пар.

Наконец есть вопрос кандидатов в президенты в 2008. В то время как предполагаемые выдвижения кандидатов давно начались, все еще слишком рано действительно знать, что принесут следующие два года. Нет никаких очевидных преемников Буша в его администрации, и много людей обращают свои взоры к другим Республиканцам, таким как Маккэйн в поисках возможного преемника. Аналогично, Демократы изо всех сил пытаются после их поражения в 2004 сформировать новый национальный образ; Джон Керри предложил, стать кандидатом снова, но многие Демократы им до сих пор не очень довольны. Сенатор Хиллэри Клинтон (жена Билла Клинтона) также считается возможным кандидатом от Демократической партии, как и другие ведущие Демократические Сенаторы. Победа несомненно будет на стороне тех, кто предложит лучшие реформы, чтобы быть в контакте с избирателями. Обе стороны оказываются перед необходимостью начинать работать в компромиссе, и важным первым шагом было бы мирное разрешение конфликта по назначению судей. Возможно самый многообещающий признак сближения - постепенное отступление Республиканцев от очень агрессивного и все более сомнительного лидерства Тома Делея, наиболее важного Республиканца в настоящее время. Если Демократы и Республиканцы позволят их умеренным лидерам сотрудничать, многие из самых неотложных проблем страны решатся.

В заключении хотелось бы сказать, что когда Российские политики обращаются к опыту США и пытаются что-то перенять в частности вопрос об усилении роли партии в общественной жизни, хотелось чтобы они это делали учитывая наши ошибки.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

onion, haircut & a free wednesday morning

first and foremost, the onion. you should be reading it weekly, but if you're not this is a good week to start. headlines include:

  • Pope John Paul II, Longtime Owner Of Popemobile, Dead At 84
  • Heaven Less Opulent Than Vatican, Reports Disappointed Pope
  • Cost Of Living Now Outweighs Benefits
  • French's Introduces Antibacterial Mustard

and so forth.

so i'd last cut my hair back in august, and it had gotten to that point where my golden locks were impeding my vision. russia, more than most places i've been to, is a good place to have unimpeded vision. and so it was time to cut the hair. i've gotten in the habit of cutting my hair once or twice a year, and cutting it all off, usually doing it myself. granted it's a long experiment, but if you've never given it a shot:

just let your hair grow. it's not like you enjoy going to that crappy hair salon, and all the good barbers are dead. you're going to have to pay someone to cut your hair in a way that you don't like, and for a really nominal investment in a pair of clippers you can do it yourself. it's actually a really liberating/cathartic feeling to stand in front of the mirror and cut your own hair. think royal tenenbaums, only don't slit your wrists at the end. or if you do, get better like he does.

anyway, the point of the story is that my clippers didn't make the packing list, and there was no way i could hold out for another two months to do the cut at home. so i set out around the center looking for a barber, to no avail. and then i dropped in at a few other places, but i was turned away with infinite disdain by girls, who apparently have their next three months of appointments booked. knowing that i wasn't the sort of celebrity clientele that these (literally) back alley haircutters were used to, i headed for the only other place i'd seen around - Ruslan & Ludmila's.

Ruslan & Ludmila is located on pl. volkova, right before ul. kirova, and for those traveling to yaroslavl' for more than half a year, this would be a good place to get your hair cut before you go. it's a мужская парикмахерская, which is to say a salon-y sort of place that only men go to. you'll need a certain courage, not because you're in any real danger of getting a bad haircut - everyone seemed to leave smiling. which reminds me, this monster of a guy with a completely shaved head came in right after i did and walked right into the main part of the salon. i was waiting patiently in line in the little entry way, with a few other pretty young guys. this guy was completely decked out in new russian finery, and i was already sort of eying out escape routes, as this looked like a classic movie hit job. one of the women inside laughed at him and asked him if he was in for another hair cut or something. it turned out they 'missed a spot.' and he left without incident.

but courage. you're probably not going to see any mob hits, but you'll definitely see some mob characters. you'll also see scissors flutter around your head and ears like completely mad silver butterflies. the best thing for this is to pretend you have hair in your eyes and keep them closed. or if you're really cool, make like you're sleeping. this won't work if you're grimacing and clenching the stool handles. also don't try to explain what you want in any great detail. a few gestures, maybe, and when she says "oh so you want the sport cut," just say probably, and let her do it. also another quick word of warning - if you're getting the sport cut and at the end she goes to put some guck on her hands (which i thought was some sort of hand soap or something) protest loudly. you really don't want that crap in your hair.

so that was yesterday evening, and my haircut passed without incident. today is wednesday morning, and on any other wednesday morning i would be sitting in on a 3 hour lecture about the history of southern and eastern slavs. i got to the university out of breath this morning, and took my usual seat toward the back of the classroom. a few of the girls turned around to make small chat, and told me, by the way, this isn't the slavs class today. that professor's at a conference. but, uhm, you can stick around if you want to hear about the history of the yaroslavl region.

the last word might have been region, i'm not really sure. i was already redressing and shaking hands and wishing everyone a good morning. i don't remember descending the three flights of stairs, but in an instant i was back out on the street, and after another few handshakes with the last minute cigarette smokers, i was walking down the street a free man. the weather here is wonderful. there is an army of grandmothers with those old fashioned stick brooms that you thought only exist in antique stores sweeping up a winter's worth of candy wrappers, kefir cartons and cigarette butts. an army of grandfathers has already collected the bottles. and i think i'm going to go take a walk. if the weather isn't as great wherever you might happen to be, you know what to do

Monday, April 04, 2005

tales from the kitchen, rats, etc

so i learned how to make оладьи, which are little fried pancake things, and one of the better things that's ever come out of a russian kitchen. up there with fried bread, if you've been reading along. the recipe, again, is not precise. dump some kefir (ie soured milk, as nearly as i understand it) in a bowl. then dump flower, an egg, some salt, some sugar and some baking soda in. proportions here - ни при чем. wing it. if there's anything lying around, you can dump that in too. then stir it up and fry it in oil. if you burn them, do what my host mom does. call them "gypsies" and "dogs." she really likes gypsies though, so i don't really understand the mentality. she watches some russian/gypsy soap opera religiously, and to a point where i already have a passive understanding of the plot. from, for example, sticking my head in the living room to say i'm going. or my head in the kitchen in the morning to say i'm going.

what else. there was something else from the kitchen. oh yeah. my host mom recently made me a soup. she got me to eat about half of it, and then asked me how it was. it was ok, and i told her it was good. so far, nothing new. then she started to tell me about the ingredients. beans, vegetables etc etc. and four types of kilbasa. oh, wait just kidding! three types of kilbasa and one type of tongue.

i'd never made it known to her that i'd rather not eat anything's tongue, but some things go unspoken. as a feller says. anyway it was too late to protest and i finished the tongue soup. there's something to be said for vegetarian's in that blank refusals to eat meat things is a good defense against unfortunate body parts ending up in your chow.

i guess the rats is a pretty quick story too. it's spring and rats are showing up. to eat the garbage that's melting into view. i saw one (for the first time) on the first floor of my building, and one (for the second time) in the hole. in the past few days. i also recently read that rats can laugh. and that prairie dogs talk and magic scorpions dance in parisian bath tubs.

i just don't know

oh, and for the record, go ahead and mourn the pope, but take a minute to think about the people dying of HIV/AIDS in Africa and starving in Latin America because the catholic church told them using condoms is a sin. i'm sorry dear readers, but that's a tough one to forgive the favorite father. the catholic church should be looking out for its faithful.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

spring.

the new york times gets a big high five for reminding me that it's spring. clocks set forward, stories about minority christians celebrating easter in far off places...at least three stories about people being kept alive by god's good will and respirators. kind of cuts the theme a little, but i guess it's news.

and even the hole is in a state of revival - last night they had their first party in a month. wish you could have been there flash, it was a good one. you'd think after all the noise problems zhenya and sergei wouldn't choose 11 pm for hammering nails into the concrete. shrug. all the pictures are on zhenya's camera, but they'll probably find their way here at some point.

winter here is in its death throes. we've gotten a lot of snow lately, although it's been relatively warm. spring in yaroslavl is a period of involuntary sport, for the young and old. i've spent my time pretty evenly between swimming and skating as the city melts and refreezes. standing long jump comes in a close second. for some reason the city's drainage systems never really seem to work, and so several key points on my route between home and the university are under water. or under that layer of frozen slush that you might be able to walk across, but you'll only find out for sure once you're in the middle. russia's courteous drivers haven't managed to hit me with any mud yet, but it's not like they're not trying.

the best part is just trying to get around on the sidewalks. a lot of them are just roped off altogether because of the huge snow/ice slides off the roofs. so you're either walking through a foot and a half of snow on the side of the road or trying to keep your balance on the sidewalk while listening for falling snow/ice. i never really thought falling snow or ice would be a real problem, but twice in the past two days i've missed being hit by seconds. and these are soccer-ball sized chunks of ice, once they've broken all over the pavement. (also, while we're on the topic(s), consider this my living will or whatever - i don't want to be kept alive on life support. should i be crushed by ice or anything else falling from the sky.)

and on top of that, you need to watch out for assertive and experienced grandmothers, who like it or not, are getting where they're going much faster than you are.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

old holidays

This past sunday was масленица (maslenitza), which is an old russian holiday that dates back to pagan times. maslenitza is when every woman in russia makes more bliny than all the men in her family can eat. it marks the start of a fast where you're not supposed to eat butter or fat. i think there are other things that must not be eaten, but no one seems too concerned about it. russia has kept maslenitza, like every other holiday it has ever celebrated, and because it falls around easter every year there are a lot of people who seem to think it's actually an orthodox church holiday.

and so maslenitza in reality. in provincial russia. it wasn't quite like that movie with the american in russia and the carnival, the drunk bear, the glasses of vodka, the fire and the dancing napoleon. nonetheless, that description catches the atmosphere. the entire city poured into the central square to eat bliny prepared by the local government officials (they were hoping to get back in touch with the people whose social benefits they just knocked through the floor). sovetskaya ploshad' was packed, and i didn't even try to get in. i agreed to meet poet on the square near my house, and at that very moment a pack of comrades from the hole was passing through, a few of whom had very visibly been celebrating since yesterday evening. we wandered around the city for a good half an hour, trying to find a store that was empty enough to enter. and then we wandered some more. the days are growing longer here.

and then today is saint patricks day. needless to say, not a traditional russian holiday, but if the stereotypes about the irish are worth a damn, i've found their brothers in russia. the ritzy new hotel in yaroslavl has a very expensive, but very nice 'irish pub,' complete with guiness and kilkenny - a natural spot for the occasion. we dropped in last night, and they had boated in irish musicians and were teaching russian girls in vaguely irish costumes to do vaguely irish dances. i guess tonight is probably going to be the real party, but at 7 euros, the pint of guiness is a little out of my league. and since my closest tie to ireland is living not far from boston, i can't really call it my holiday either.

and an amusing thing at my internship today. i don't know if i mentioned my internship yet, but i'm working at the international investment center, which, among other things, is working on a new website. their main aim, as far as i can tell, is saving the world from yaroslavl oblast' out. but the concrete projects are supporting democratic political candidates, attracting and advising foreign investors, and bunches of humanitarian/social projects (banning landmines, women's political activism, children's drawing contests...). And so i'm there about 20 hours a week doing my part with really wonderful people. today the director, olga vladimirovna, brought me a jar of her friend's bees' honey because i've had a bit of a cold this week. and real honey is wonderful.

and then kind of a funny story, which i hope they'll forgive me for sharing. they had a meeting the other day with someone, who dropped into yaroslavl unexpectedly from the american embassy. they were all set and on their way out when they realized they didn't have a business card to give him. andrei ivanovich came in all red-faced and laughing, and explained for about two minutes about how they had this meeting, and they were hoping to give the guy a business card because they'd like to stay in touch with him, etc etc. and so i was sitting and listening to him, and smiling because he was obviously very excited to be meeting this individual, and i was starting to wonder why he was telling me about the meeting with his coat on and olga vladimirovna waiting at the door. and then he asked me if i still had their business card, and whether i wouldn't mind letting them have it back.

it was all the funnier because he was obviously really embarrassed that they hadn't printed new business cards lately (the one i got had a few handwritten corrections and bent corners). so i of course gave them the one i had, and they were all set out the door again, when he came back in and gave it back. he said something about how he'd like me to have it, and that olga vladimirovna would give him her card.

at which point i'm having a really hard time not laughing. but it's that sort of an organization. they work 7 days a week, and 10 hour days. often longer. it has a sort of encyclopedia brown feel, actually. only half the time they won't even take the 25 cents. they just work on everything that comes in front of them, and miraculously seem to get a lot of it done. it's been a great experience for me on a lot of fronts, not least in a personal way. i've been translating a lot of economic and polytechnic things lately. i know how to say non-ferrous metals. i didn't really even remember what they were. just that it sounds irony.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

the weather's whispering

it's still blustery and snowy here, but gradually growing warmer. the sidewalks are more often that thick would-be-slush snow, and huge blocks of ice are falling off rooftops everywhere. a few weeks ago someone parked a small russian car on the sidewalk for a few minutes and came back to find it nearly split down the middle from a snow/ice slide. or that's what they're whispering.

my host mom has been consulting with me lately on which tv-advertised products she should by. this morning she confessed to buying some milkshake sort of thing that is advertised to increase your beauty from inside. the ad features 20 year old girls in tight clothes, kind of prancing around and being really beautiful from the inside. i was reading the already empty carton this morning, until she took it away from me for laughing. among the claims that i had time to read were "the only product designed specifically for women" and "improving your beauty from the inside," but there was a whole list of bullet points i didn't get to. she confessed that it actually just taded like kefir, only with a funny color. and more expensive. and i think she might have hit the head on the nail.

the saddest thing about new markets in russia is that you can actually do that. just rebottle, say, milk, and sell it as a cure for wrinkles or something. and literally millions of pensioners are sitting around their televisions all day admiring the actresses on brazilian soap operas. enter the advertiser. she also wanted to know if some kind of magic wand ion clothes cleaning gadget was worth $100 or some ridiculous sum. it's a lot like that robin williams joke in his live on broadway HBO special....where he's talking about the weight loss thing that you strap to your abs and shocks the fat away....i will not...buy...stupid shit!

but you can sell it here, and make your million.

and her son and daughter in moscow tell her not to buy these things, and i did at first too. but i'm starting to realize that's not even really the point. except for the hundred dollar ionic laundry wand. i'm sticking to my guns on that one. but there's no real point in arguing against weight loss tea in a diet that sees a few pounds of mayo weekly. and it's kind of nice that she gets hopeful again and again after each new ad and each new...thing.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

or, i don't know

now yahoo news has posted a story about international women's day. the point was that in russia it's not just a little subscript note on your puppies wall calendar.

international womens day

today, march 8th, is international womens day, likely much to your surprise. although the holiday has its roots in america at the turn of the century, it really only gained international momentum after a few of lenin's girlfriends convinced him to make it a national soviet holiday. in as much as those dastardly commies (who, by the way, extended full suffrage to women two years before the united states and most of western europe at the federal level) beat us to making it an official holiday, enthusiasm dropped off in the america.

i don't really know how widely it's celebrated in the rest of the world, but i get the sense that it's more an ex-soviet holiday that an international holiday, if not in formal status, in actuality. this year it fell on a tuesday, which by old russian tradition, mandated making saturday a (nominally) official working day and giving everyone sunday, monday and tuesday off. another old russian tradition mandates not going to work on nominally official working saturdays, so most people here, at least in the provinces (the глубина, as yaroslavl was described to me recently) had a nice four-day weekend.

this blog's recurring theme seems to be that russians are never really short on holidays, and always looking for new ones. they have even started to pick up st. valentines day over the past few years, despite the pissing fury of the russian orthodox church. i wouldn't be surprised to see fireworks in yaroslavl on july 4th either.

Friday, February 25, 2005

mormons

are in yaroslavl. i've been asked twice in the past week whether i'm a mormon. no, i'm not. nor am i here, courting a russian mail order bride, thank you.

you might wonder why americans have a bad reputation in the world, if you didn't have to meet all the americans abroad. i don't think i've written yet about my acquaintance from nevada, who is over here living with this girl he met through an online porn-chat. who constantly talks about how much he loves her, but how he's worried she's going to get fat on him. he's actually looking for a gym with treadmills so he can "work her out." he said that. and how he hates her language and family and culture and country and friends and religion and cooking. there were other things he hates. and how he got all ripped on steroids and spent a week in tanning booths before he came over. meh. i don't really have the energy to describe him in full today. maureen dowd would have laid an egg. these people really stick out because they don't speak the language and they're not even making an effort, and so russians in provincial yaroslavl, not having met many americans, assume that people from vegas are typical americans.

and then there's the head boob, our dear commander in chief. let me put this whole glove story in context, as i'm guessing the slovakian tradition doesn't fall too far from the russian one.

russian men shake hands all the time, and a lot of times they'll shake hands in passing without a verbal greeting. and regardless of how cold it is outside, they always take a glove off before shaking hands. the embarrassing thing about this bush story is that they were probably all wearing gloves, and probably all took their gloves off in front of bush, just before shaking his hand. and he just didn't notice. you'd think that bush would have realized there's something a little improper about shaking women's bare hands wearing a glove?

i don't really know if it just seems obvious to me because i've been living here for a while, or if it really is just common sense. i can't help thinking it's the latter.