Monday, September 06, 2004

i'm starting this post without a title, which should serve as some indication of its likely direction. i have another almost entirely free afternoon and evening to explore the city, which i'm liking more and more as i get to see it. we toured the old part of yaroslavl, which is a tiny relatively open park and walkway where the city's two rivers merge. apparently the city is planning to rebuild a church there that was destroyed at some point during the 70 years of communism, and although i have no real right to be telling a city of 700,000 some odd natives what to do, it is a very nice park and they should think longer and harder about it.

i'm quickly realizing that i still have some essential shopping to do. i ducked into Женскии Мир (the woman's world) long enough to buy some laundry detergent so that i can do laundry in the bathtub tonight while i have the flat to myself. that worked out well as it was on the way to the internet cafe, and easy enough to find. Walking around in a fleece vest isn't going to be ideal for long, however, and in the next few days i'm planning on finding a coat or jacket of some sort at one of the big market areas in the city. this will be better because the weather will probably turn for the cold and rainy soon, i won't stick out so sorely, and i'll have better pockets to carry my wallet and papers. also looking for a bookbag of some sort and a water filter. the water here smells and tastes distinctly sulfurous, and while it's more than safe to drink after it's been boiled, it's not a taste i'm particularly eager to get used to.

which leads me to something i am ready to get used to. at dinner last night the woman i'm staying with offered to make coffee for me and her dinner guest, and asked me to advise her on the process as she said she rarely makes coffee (russians drink a lot of tea). to make a long story short, she was asking me for advice on making coffee without a coffee maker. i explained to her that we usually make it with this machine that runs the water through the ground coffee and into a pot, etc etc, whereas she dumped a bunch of old ground coffee (the beans had been sitting in an open bag in a cupboard for who knows how long) into a pot of water and set it to boil.

i felt bad about the whole thing because i couldn't really convince her that i thought the whole thing was fine. she assumed that because it wasn't the way that i was used to, i wouldn't like it or i thought worse of it, and she even made me promise not to tell anyone back home that that's how she makes coffee. i think i more or less succeeded in explaining to her that i really did like the coffee because it was a lot stronger than most americans make it, and that's how i prefer it. however, it wouldn't really be a tolerable cup at, say, starbucks, which again is fine by me. anyway that's the worst of cultural imperialism - when other people automatically assume that their way is worse because it's different. the whole thing made me feel rather crummy, in the long run probably because i drank about a cup of coffee (which is to say a pot of coffee and a cup of coffee grounds) to make her feel better.

so that's what i'm up against. tremendous hospitality, and at it's absolute worst, food and preparations that i'm just not used to. i think i'm going to get along well here. anyway that's it for now. i might come back later tonight after dinner if i'm out wandering and if i don't decide to watch a dubbed bruce willis movie on the TV. i'm sure there will be one, i just know it!