Monthly Archives: January 2011

Jason Statham is Loved

One of the things I noticed in the fall, when I was frequently watching B movies dubbed into Russian, was that Jason Statham is really popular here. Seriously, I felt like he was in every movie I watched. I never expected to watch Crank 2 or Transporter 3, but things happen. While I feel kind of indifferent about him, I can understand why he appeals to Russian audience – his characters are always super macho and reckless, kind of the ultimate man’s man. Anyways, I was looking up movie times at our main movie theater yesterday when I came across the ultimate proof that Jason Statham is loved in Russia. Whereas most movies are shown 3 or 4 times in one day at this movie theater, his new movie The Mechanic is being shown 13 times today. Thirteen! No other movie is being screened that many times in one day. To me that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jason Statham has really made it, at least in Russia.

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Nighttime on Pushkinskaya

So.  Back to work.  Today was my first real day back at work, and despite the stress of working after such a looong break it was fine, and it’s nice to have something to occupy myself with after being at home and in Moscow and generally not being very productive.

It’s still winter here, surprise surprise, and I think it will be winter forever.  Today I had to break out the super warm rabbit-lined coat because it was just cold.  The trudging through the snow never gets easy.  At about -20 Celsius I feel like my face is going to freeze off or explode. You know what I’m talking about.  Luckily for me, Voronezh is not a very extreme place weather wise – other Fulbrighters who are actually in Siberia and other places have experienced the horrifying phenomenon that -40 Celsius = -40 Fahrenheit, which I cannot even begin to imagine.

Other than that, there’s not much going on here except for what I’ve come to regard fondly as one of the charms of my apartment.  I really like my place, the location is great, my landlady is really sweet, the neighbors keep to themselves…Mostly.  I would never even notice the family that lives on the same side of the stairwell as me, if it weren’t for the fact that every evening at around 1o or 11 a freaking symphony begins coming from the wall I share with them.  Nothing bad, just lots and lots of noise.  The dog starts baying (yes, not howling or barking, he really starts baying), whoever sleeps on the other side of the wall starts having fits of coughs, someone’s on the phone for Katya (actually), someone decides it’s a good time to practice the accordion for a bit and someone else starts banging on the piano.  Add this to the upstairs neighbors jumping around or dancing or something and at once I am reminded that although I live alone the others are very very very nearby.  It’s weirdly comforting to know that whoever is having the coughing fits on the other side of the wall is most likely also trying to get to sleep, probably at most 2 feet away from the couch where I sleep.

Maybe all the nighttime activity from my neighbors is part of why it’s never bothered me to live by myself here.  Come to think of it, I can only imagine that my neighbors are equally perplexed by the nearly continuous stream of loud indie music or the occasional shouting conversations (hey, I get really excited talking to the fam!) that come from my side of the wall..

Moscow

Because I got back to Russia on the 6th and went back to Voronezh before going back to Moscow 10 days later for the mid-year Fulbright enrichment seminar thing, I am feeling very competent about getting to Moscow.  On my way to the station in Voronezh I did not have a repeat of the taxi fiasco of December, although the cab driver was convinced that I was from France (I told him I wasn’t) and then felt bad about taking very much money from me (he only made me pay 100 rubles) and then called his friend who was going to be on the same train so that I would have someone to talk to on the 8 hour express train (his friend was tired and so declined).  Anyways once I got to Moscow it took me no time at all to make my way through the metro to the wonderful Holiday Inn where we stayed and learned and ate all week long.  That song that goes “we at the hotel, motel, Holiday Inn” was playing in my head on repeat the whole time.

We had a ton of meetings but lots of free time, so I’ll give you the overview of my week in Moscow.

Sunday: arrival.  A bunch of us went to Red Square because it’s pretty and holiday-y, complete with a big skating rink.  We ended up having dinner at the cafeteria in GUM, which was funny because all the stores there are super super expensive but you can still get a decent meal in the stolovaya for less than 200 rubles.

Monday:  I don’t remember, just because it was so long ago.  I think we mostly just hung out in the hotel after we were done for the day, eating bacon chips and playing Russian scrabble.

Tuesday: After the day’s meetings, a few of us ventured off to Gorky Park to look at the statues and take pictures.  This is when I realized that taking pictures outside in January in Russia after the sun goes down is just plain stupid.  Our hands froze, so we stopped in a little cafe in the park for mulled wine.  Hot drinks are becoming my favorite thing about winter.  Then later I met up with my friend from Yale for dinner at the most delicious Georgian restaurant.  As always it was great to see her and compare our teaching experiences.

Wednesday:  I went with a buddy to check out the Bulgakov house museum.  We opted to not to go on the tour, so it was a pretty quick trip, but I was still glad to have seen it.  Then we decided to visit the recently opened Dostoevsky metro station, which opened in June and which some people were unhappy about because of the murals depicting some of the, uh, more violent scenes from his works.  It was, in one word, stark.  I really liked it though, it’s really beautiful even if it’s depressing.  After that we met up with some of the other Fulbrighters at a pretty cool bar/cafe near the Kremlin.  It turned out it was swing dancing night there, which we didn’t know, so all of a sudden this kind of quiet place exploded into a mess of really talented Russians swing dancing intensely.  We also made friends with the cat that lives there.  Because of course this cool cafe/bar has a resident cat named Liza.

Thursday: Like Monday I don’t think we did anything except for watch MTV and think about everything we learned that day.

Friday: It was our friend’s birthday!  She really wanted to go to a karaoke club but we had trouble finding a good one, so we ended up walking around for a long time.  The evening culminated in having something called stardogs, which is a Moscow hotdog stand.  Others opted for this kind of terrifying hotdog – wrapped in a tortilla, with mashed potatoes, pickles, ketchup, other things – but I went basic and still felt a little ill afterward.  Really who is surprised?

Saturday: Got up and schlepped back to Voronezh.

Now that I don’t have any other trips on the horizon, I feel like I can reallly get settled back in.  Although now that I know the other Fulbrighters better I must admit that it is tempting to start planning trips to visit them in their cities..

Resolutions

Of course the new year is a time of reflection, and in the past week or so of transit and recovery I’ve been thinking almost nonstop about my goals for the next few months, both big goals and kind of mundane ones.  I’m almost halfway done with my time here in Voronezh, which on the one hand seems impossible because I feel like I’ve been here for much longer than four and half-ish months, but on the other hand feels just about right.  The things I’m listing here are pretty general and mostly not very deep but I think will really improve quality of life and make me feel more like a real person (“adult”) in the next little bit.

1. Keep my apartment cleaner.  As in, could-welcome-unexpected-guests-at-any-time clean

In the fall, about once every 3 weeks I would look around and notice that things had gotten really messy and subsequently take a whole morning and clean everything reallly well.  This is stupid and time consuming.  It would be better to keep things clean all the time.  I really really mean it.  My friends from school know that I tend to be on the messier side (not dirty – there is a difference) but I want to change.  This all became painfully clear to me on Thursday when my landlady’s daughter and her husband had to come over to fix the curtains in my room and everything was messy.  Terrible.  Luckily I had an excuse – that I just arrived – but I don’t want to be that way anymore!!!!

2. Do the dishes more frequently

This is obviously part of resolution number 1, but I think it is so fundamental that it deserves its own resolution.  I realized this year, while washing dishes in my little kitchen, that I hate hate hate washing dishes by hand.  Next year I will have to have a dishwasher.  I suddenly understand and respect the typical division of labor in the Perkins family where one person cooks dinner and the other person washes the dishes.  Cooking and washing is too much for me.

3. Don’t be lazy about cooking

As it turns out, (wo)man cannot live on boiled brussel sprouts alone. I’m over it. Moving on to broccoli.  But seriously, I want to spend more time cooking and enjoying it, despite the lengthy cleanup, because I know it will definitely make me feel like more of a real person.  Also I noticed yesterday that they sell miso paste at the supermarket, so if nothing else I am going to start by making lots of miso soup to counteract the January cold.

4. Keep my shoes cleaner

Does anyone notice a trend?  Not that my shoes are usually dirty, but shoes get dirty very quickly in the snow and slush and everyone else seems to have a handle on it.  Whenever I’m about to leave the house and I notice that my shoes are not shining with polish my heart falls a bit.  Must change.  (I actually just got up from writing and went and polished my shoes.  Well done.)

5.  Say yes to invitations

I did pretty well with this one at first but by December I had fallen off the wagon a little bit.  Just have to renew this one in my mind.

6. Read more (English and Russian)

Since I’ve been back, I finished Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro, which I never read, and am now in the process of re-reading for the billionth (fourth) time The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Kundera.  Reading, especially in English, is one of the few activities I’m really excellent at.  But I’m planning on also reading more in Russian, particularly since I’m not going to be taking Russian lessons this semester.  Suggestions of material, either English or Russian, are very welcome.

Well I kind of hate to stop there, because 6 is a weird number of resolutions, soo I do have one more important resolution, which is to post more pictures!  Unfortunately, when I went home and installed the new software to my computer I failed to also install the software update, which means my evil little laptop will not let me open iPhoto.  Hopefully I’ll get that fixed in the next week or so.  My concrete resolution on this topic is to post at least one picture a week, which seems like so much to me but I know is totally doable.

So!  Onwards 2011.  I think it’s going to be a good year.  I already have lots to look forward to.

Back to Voronezh

Ok, so, I’m back in Voronezh.  I had a really nice time at home, though I can’t really qualify it as a vacation due to a few factors.  Number one, it was actually pretty wintery as far as Southern California goes – rainy! – which prevented me from really taking advantage of the whole beach/ocean thing as much as I would have liked.  Unlike here in Russia, where people know what “winter” and “weather” mean, Californians have a harder time dealing so it made everything a bit more difficult.  The other main reason that it wasn’t super relaxing was that I had a terrible time getting over the 11 hour time difference between LA and Voronezh, and refused to take naps, so I got maybe 5-6 hours of sleep every night for 14 consecutive days.  Add that to the 40ish hours it really takes to get from LA to Voronezh, and you can imagine that when I finally got back on Thursday morning I was exhausted.  But it was so great to be home, see the family, see some of my other friends from high school and college, I’m really glad that I went.  Not to mention that my English got wayy better by spending two weeks in the states, so I now feel once again well suited for my job as a native English speaker.

So, this week is like my real vacation where I get to relax.  I’m heading back up to Moscow for our mid-year meeting thing on Sunday, but until then I’m just resting up, seeing friends, and getting ready for the year.