Tag Archives: spare time

Pictures from Sochi

This is the official countdown to the Olympic Games 2014. It’s hard to see but I think it’s at 983 days here. My friend said they had a huge party when it was 1000 days. It’s right by the Maritime Terminal, which is basically the sea port that has boats going to exciting places like Turkey.



We got to take a fun gondola ride to get into Dendrarii, the Sochi Arboretum. My friend’s friend works there so we got to go in for free. They had lots of interesting trees and paths and pretty fountains, as well as some ostriches and peacocks and some other birds.

Notice the fountain and my clown feet.


This is a tower on the top of a mountain from which you can see really beautiful views of Sochi and the surrounding areas. As you can see it was super foggy, and we could barely see from the top of the tower to the bottom. Soo there were no panoramic views.

Stunning view from the top – can’t you see the Black Sea? No??


Me with a really small waterfall. There are bigger ones but by then it was raining and so we couldn’t really trek onwards.


за Воронеж, за победу..

Things are winding down, in four weeks I’ll be in the U.S. In the past week I’ve been to two football (soccer??) matches (games??) at Voronezh’s stadium to support the Voronezh team, Fakel. Fakel means torch. The first game I went to was last Saturday, when Fakel was playing a team from Moscow. We were a little bit worried about how it would be, due to one of those May thunderstorms, but luckily it only drizzled for ten minutes in the second half. Though our team came pretty close to scoring a few times it didn’t really work out, and the final score was 0:0.

Tuesday’s game was a little bit more exciting, goal-wise. On Tuesday Fakel played Baltica, from Kaliningrad. We ended up losing 2:3, but it seemed like it was going to be close a few times, and there were some bad calls by the refs. The stakes were a little bit higher on Tuesday because both teams were fighting to keep their rankings..towards the bottom of the First Division League. So it was really too bad that we lost, because now Fakel is 18th out of 20.  : (

Still, going to matches is more about the atmosphere than it is about the sport itself. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not really a diehard sports fan (though I can, on occasion, proudly root for the Dodgers and the Lakers), but I do love people watching, which is fantastic at these matches. Some of my Russian friends were surprised that I had gone at all, because most spectators are a) male and b) imbibing a ton, and the few women are usually youngish girlfriends/wives who are being good sports for their men. While the match especially on Tuesday got pretty exciting, I also just love hearing the commentary among the Fakel fans (who are all die-hard fans actually) and the, uh, shall we say, colorful expressions used. There’s also a ton of chanting and group cheering that goes on, like “For Voronezh, for victory,” “we need a goal,” “onwards, Voronezh,” and other less printable slogans for when the refs made a bad call. I do like rooting for a team, so.

Maybe the greatest thing is the special fan group called “The Ultras” that have a special section in the stadium and who perform synchronized chants, cheers, and hand motions throughout the whole game. Imagine a group of men not wearing shirts and singing and jumping around for their team. It’s incredible. Even better was on Saturday when the fan group from the Moscow team was also present: every few minutes there would be kind of a cheering war back and forth, as the Torpedo fans and the Fakel fans tried to be more vocal for their respective teams. A few times, when the cheering war started to verge on antagonistic, one of the groups would start a new chant: “Русские вперед!” – Onwards (forward? ahead?) Russians! This would go on for a few minutes, with both sides shouting this at each other, until everyone broke into applause. I really like that, it’s this reminder that although your team might not be the best, and might be suffering a terrible defeat, in the end everyone’s on the same team.. the Russian team.

Other than starting this new phase as a football fan, I’ve been mostly finishing up classes and figuring out what traveling I’m going to do in this last month. The last month! Ah.

Today I also re-watched the Woody Allen classic Love and Death, which is a parody of 19th century Russian everything. I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t watched it in a long time, or maybe because I’ve been living in Russia, but in the first five minutes I was crying from laughing too hard. All my other ETAs, if you haven’t watched it you should immediately, I think it’s on youtube. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite exchanges, between Boris (our hero) and his father:

Father: Remember that nice boy next door, Raskolnikov?
Boris: Yeah.
Father: He killed two ladies.
Boris: What a nasty story.
Father: Bobak told it to me. He heard it from one of the Karamazov brothers.
Boris: He must have been possessed.
Father: Well, he was a raw youth.
Boris: Raw youth, he was an idiot!
Father: He acted assaulted and injured.
Boris: I heard he was a gambler.
Father: You know, he could be your double!
Boris: Really, how novel.

(AHH how many references is that? More than I even thought at first – 10?? Even if you’re groaning because it’s too punny it’s so great. Watch it. Now.)

Best and Worst Things

The past few days have been weird, full of things that either made me smile or made me want to shake my fist at the universe.  Here’s the short list, see for yourself which things fit into which category.

  • saying goodbye to international friends who are leaving Russia
  • gasps of delight from students I had last semester when I walked into the classroom on the first day of classes
  • having to ride the bus during rush hour when it is super crowded and the heat is on full blast
  • having to ride a bus off-peak that has no heater and watching the snow fall through the roof onto your lap
  • only having to ride the bus to the northern district once a week
  • not falling down at the ice skating rink because of my own clumsiness
  • falling down at the ice skating rink because some guy who was a little tipsy plowed into me (and he was still better of course)
  • feeling the tip of my nose freeze when I go outside
  • missing my university choir’s 150th reunion
  • getting a recap of YGC’s reunion
  • putting on my gigantic bunny-lined coat and feeling like I’m wearing a sleeping bag but also not feeling cold
  • making summer travel plans
  • realizing that it’s already halfway through February and that it’s impossible for winter to last forever

So not the most exciting but hey, I worked for four whole hours today, I’m exhausted! And for those of you who are wondering what I did for Valentine’s, I ate delicious pizza and watched Match Point.

Taking Stock

So, for those of you not in the loop, I was working all of last week but I get this week off to relax before my classes with students start next Monday.  Everyone keeps asking me, what are you going to DO with a whole week off?? And I’m just realizing that it’s past midnight on Wednesday, which means it’s already Thursday, and I’ve managed to do more relaxing than planning for the semester.  Of course.  But I’ll get to that tomorrow.

What have I been doing then? Well for one, I’ve been getting enough sleep.  “Enough sleep” for me equals not less than 8.5 hours, which can be difficult during the workweek, but this week I’ve just been killing it with lots of nighttime and daytime sleep.  Awesome.

I’ve also had enough time to read in Russian, which takes a significant amount of time for me.  A perfect morning for me is sitting by the window/radiator, slogging through some Russian with a big cup of coffee and my laptop open to an online dictionary, and watching my notebook of new vocab fill up (more quickly than it should, I don’t know anything).  I made a promise to myself to read more this semester and so far it’s happening.  Also there’s nothing more satisfying than not having to look up a word in a text message because you already read it that morning in Собачье Сердце and remember what it means.  (for the record, the word was морда, which Reverso tells me means “muzzle” when talking about an animal or “mug” when talking about a person.)

I’ve also been able to see friends and do fun things.  Or do “fun” things.  Yes, the dreaded ice rink again!  It was the third time, and at first I just felt like I had never even been once.  It’s worse than bike riding I think.  This time I was mostly by myself, because I didn’t want to bother my friends too much and they are also not experts, and while it was a little frustrating to be moving so slowly I could actually move by myself.  I could get all cheesy about the difference between the time I went in November and this time, and make it all metaphorical and deep and significant, but I’m not going to.

Well.. No.  The thing is, I’ve realized in the past week or so that I am not going to be in Russia forever.  Everyone’s thinking, duh smarty, but really.  In the fall,  especially when things were a little more difficult with getting my students motivated or when I was homesick, I felt like the whole 10 months stretched out endlessly before me.  Going home at Christmas helped a bit, and certainly our seminar in Moscow, but now I am realizing that it’s already practically the middle of February and time is rushing onwards.  I think the two things that happened to make me realize that are that the new American cadets who are studying here this semester just arrived, and one of my closest friends in Voronezh is leaving next week to go back and start her last semester of university in Germany.  I can’t believe she’s already leaving, and of course it’s sad for me, but it also makes me realize that I’m also not going to be living in Voronezh forever.  In fact, I have about four months left before I leave Russia.  I’m over halfway, and it means that now I can really enjoy things, because I know that time is only going to go by faster once classes start next week.

Plus, I have lots of things to look forward to! There are more holidays this semester, for one. Also, my favorite mother (ha) and my oldest sister are coming to visit me here next month, which is incredible.  I’m also hoping on visiting another ETA who’s in Sochi at some point this spring, to experience the Hawaii of Russia.  And I’m keeping my fingers crossed that possible other travel plans for June materialize (ahem, Blessing!).  The outlook is good.

Finally, I’ve realized in the past week or so that there is life after Voronezh, and different possibilities are emerging.  It makes me that much more enthusiastic for everything in the next four months, because I have the perspective now that this is an incredible but limited time in my life and is one that is rushing to a conclusion.

I was trying to fall asleep a few nights ago when suddenly out of nowhere my heart gave a little leap, and I thought, “Oh my God! I’m in Russia.  I’m living in Russia.” I want that feeling – that feeling is my motto for the rest of my time here.


Ok I promise I will try and be more concrete and less reflective next time. But did you really think you would get by without an ooh-we’re-halfway-there entry? Hmm??


летучая мышь

Or, Die Fledermaus.  Or, The Bat (the flying mouse in direct translation ha).  However you like.  My students took me to see it on Friday evening.

I really enjoyed it.  It was the first time I had ever seen it, so I was surprised by how many of the choruses I knew.  Of course, it was all in Russian.  Yes.  There was also a surprising amount of dialogue for an opera.  The plot synopsis of what I saw didn’t really match up with the synopsis on wikipedia or the one on the Met’s website.  Apart from that, the soloists were quite good, one of the sopranos was just amazing.  All in all I really enjoyed it, and as always it was fun to hang out a bit with some of my students outside the classroom, when they’re less stressed.  When we came out of the theater, it was snowing! Perfect.

So much to do, so little time…

So, briefly:

1. I continue to forget how to speak in English correctly.  The trickiest thing is probably prepositions.  I’m misusing them all over the place.  And just losing my feel for the English language in general.  Linguistic intuition, where are you?

2. I still can’t believe how cold it was last week.  Luckily I took my mom’s advice (when are moms ever wrong?) (rhetorical question) and went ahead and bought a really fantastically warm coat even after it warmed up a little.  I’m sure it’s going to get cold again, or even colder, but now I’m ready and even looking forward to it a little.

3.  It’s already December?? I’ve been here for 95 days.. or 13 weeks and 4 days if you prefer.  Don’t worry, I used a website counter thing to do that, I didn’t count the days myself.

4.  Christmas is just around the corner – two weeks from tomorrow I’ll be on my way to Moscow and then to CA.  So SO so much to do before then.

At times like this I like to refer to Edna St. V. M.  This seems especially appropriate for how I’m feeling these days (aged, aged, aged):

Grown Up (1920)

Was it for this I uttered prayers/And sobbed and cursed and kicked the stairs/ That now, domestic as a plate/I should retire at half-past eight?


And 1920 makes Edna only 28 years old.. so I guess this how it goes..


When shall we three meet again..

So I mentioned that this was week was particular of fun events.  After Wednesday’s activities, and going out for a nice dinner with the other Americans and some friends on Thursday for a mini-Thanksgiving celebration, on Friday I went with some friends to the ballet, to see “Macbeth.”

I didn’t really know anything about this particular ballet at all going into it, so it was a bit of a surprise.  I’ve since googled it and I will tell you that it was originally choreographed in 1980 by Vladimir Vasiliev to the score (can you say that about a ballet?) by Kirill Molchanov (who was also the composer of the music for the Soviet film “The Dawns Here are Quiet”).  I always enjoy ballet, probably because of the 15 years or so that I danced, but this one was a little off for me – not classical, but not quite modern.  The choreography was a bit repetitive, but what bothered me more was how far the story in the ballet strayed from Shakespeare’s version…especially the portrayal of Lady Macbeth.  Whereas in Shakespeare she’s a conniving but very confused lady, in the ballet she’s presented as some sort of bloodthirsty seductress.  In the ballet, she starts out as the Queen, married to Duncan, and somehow entices Macbeth into an affair and then convinces him to kill Duncan.  She danced more with a knife than anyone else.

Apart from that, the other huge change in the plot was that the weird sisters somehow convinced Macbeth to commit suicide!  None of the forest-coming-to-the-castle or man-not-of-woman-born stuff, just bam! The ending came as a bit of a shock to me.  It really makes you think about the what-ifs in Shakespeare, though, and I guess a reinterpretation is not always a bad thing.  Maybe it’s better if Macbeth is more remorseful and confused and puts himself out of his misery.

The one part of the production that I absolutely loved was the weird sisters/witches/whatever you want to call them.  Their choreography was the most interesting, the three dancers were really together and in sync, and their costumes were visually just great.  They all had really heavy skull makeup on, so it looked like they were wearing masks, but they were also wearing skull-masks on the back of their heads, which led to some really interesting moments in the choreography.

Anyways I’m really glad I got to go, because it was different than what I had expected and of course interesting.  Maybe I should try something a little more standard next time, or be more prepared.  There will be a next time though.