Monthly Archives: April 2011

Let’s Get Rambling

Yesterday was Easter. All of you at home are thinking “Duh Molly! We know!” But this year Orthodox and (what is the correct adjective here – “normal” / “regular”) Catholic/Protestant Easter were on the same day! It’s crazy. In honor of Easter I did some Easter egg dying on Friday night with my friends.

On Saturday night also went for a walk with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Since it was the night before the holiday, and the day had been really warm and beautiful, there were lots of people wandering around. Older couples, little kids with their parents, teens, everyone was out. When we wandered by one of churches in the city, three little girls came running up to us. “Take a calendar please! Happy Easter! Take a calendar!” We of course took the calendars and thanked them. Later I noticed that they were with some women wearing work vests for United Russia, aka Russia’s Major Political Party (Putin’s Party! to put it another way). Sure enough, on closer inspection not only does the calendar show a heartfelt wish to Voronezhians (that is definitely not a word) and lists all the major church holidays and fasting periods, it also clearly displays the United Russia emblem. This is all well and good. I love calendars, especially free ones given to me by adorable little Russian children. It does make me think about separation of church and state here and whether or not it exists. My students have told me it does, I think it doesn’t. I don’t see how it can, or at the very least not in the U.S. sense of the concept. Anyways it was one of those things that first surprised me, and then made me feel a little silly that I was even surprised. Oh Russia, you got me again! If ya dig.

Other than that: it’s hot. There was no spring. It’s supposed to get up to 70 F today. I don’t understand why or how women are expected to wear stockings in this weather. I’m already mentally prepared for a barelegged California summer. After 40 minutes in an un-airconditioned bus in the middle of the day I thought I was going to pass out. Does it get humid here? I hope not. Clearly I am only built for temperate climates.

In other news: in some of my classes we’ve been talking about food (and I didn’t even pick the topic – SHOCKING) and some of my students were talking about how much they love kefir. As long as I can remember I have hated kefir. According to Wikipedia, source of all knowledge, kefir is a fermented milk drink. Imagine buttermilk, or really thick sour milk that is a little fizzy. Not so appetizing huh? Anyways today I gave it a second chance, and found some that was only 1% fat, and I actually liked it. I like kefir. It’s a confession that I never thought I would make.

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All right ramblers

So it’s spring. I realize that this blog has been little more than me reporting the weather and food situations in Voronezh. I think that’s representative of the fact that when you live anywhere for long enough the mundane stuff gets really mundane, or at least becomes typical enough that it doesn’t seem blog-worthy. I will say though that it is spring, wonderful warm spring. 16 degrees Celsius right now – that’s about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Incredible. Anddd as for any news on the food front, I found real salsa and tortilla chips yesterday. Nachos. Late April nachos means that summer is around the corner.

My mom and my sister came for a week-long visit about a month ago (already?!? a month??). It was rad. We had a really nice time, both doing fun things in Voronezh and doing the usual day-to-day stuff. Also having my mom’s delicious cooking in my little kitchen was surreal but still delicious. Homemade mac and cheese, oven-fried chicken, yum. The week went by very quickly.

I was talking to my mom this week, though, and she did say something to the effect that after spending time with honest-to-goodness Americans during their visit my English had indeed improved and I was almost speaking like a well-educated and eloquent person again. Almost. Thanks ma! But seriously this is a problem that I know I’ve had to contend with this year. Usually I’m either speaking in simple English, to make sure that my interlocutors understand, or in simple Russian, because my vocabulary is insufficient. Is it possible then that the actual quality of my thinking has disintegrated during this year? Possible and probable.

And that got me thinking about some of the phrases that have seeped into my daily speech that are not standard English but that no longer jump out at me. I’m not even going to talk about the problems I have with using correct prepositions!

1. “Nowadays” – when do I ever use this word in the U.S.? Never. Nowadays, I use it all the time. And in precisely that situation. Are you beginning a sentence that will describe a current situation in the world or in your city or in your community or in your life? This is a great way to start the sentence. How do people usually say this in American/what do we say instead?

2. “Communicate” – this is often used instead of “talk”, and it makes sense when translating directly from Russian. But we usually don’t say it with that sense in English. For example, if among favorite activities, I were to say “communicating with friends,” you might think we were sentient robots who enjoy sending each other messages in binary, not that we were just normal people who enjoy talking or hanging out. Or another hypothetical example: “Bob and I had a falling out and we don’t communicate anymore.” It sounds like we’re sending each other telegrams. Nevertheless, this type of communication has infiltrated my vocabulary.

3. “Organize” – this one might be a Molly Special. When my mom and sister were here, there was lots of discussion on my part of having to organize ourselves to do one thing or another. I have no idea where this comes from. I still think that getting organized is legit. Lizzie, Mom, please, maybe you can refresh my memory on this one.

4. “Normal” – I think this is another case of mistaken translation. One recurring question in many situations is, “Is it normal?” For example, if I put my jacket here is it normal? Or: is it normal for people to whistle indoors? A common response in Russian to hows-it-going type of inquiries is “нормально,” which looks pretty damn similar to our “normal” even though it’s more like “ok” or “fine.” So now I find myself mostly using “normal” in situations where “typical” or “usual” would be better (the whistling example) or sometimes in situations where “fine” would suffice. It is normal to talk this way, I assure you.

I had another one but I forgot. Other ETAs can probably think of others too. Someday I will talk like a real native speaker once more! Someday in a few months. For now I just have to deal and hope that my family and friends back home are patient enough with my somewhat broken English.

I still exist, don’t worry!

It’s been a crazy month or so I guess..I had my family visitors and then some other stuff. Anyways it’s spring, I’m still working away, but I can’t believe how little time is left. More updates once I get my internet fixed.