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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.