Thursday, February 26, 2009

International Ennui

Last weekend I went to Riga... again. I think it's interesting that international travel has now become slightly blase. My new work visa was ready for pick up, so I got on a train on Thursday night and, miracle of miracles, understood most of what everyone said and was able to ask questions (and I was understood!). I arrived in Riga with some time to kill, so I headed to my hotel, which let me check in early, and napped until the afternoon when I needed to go pick up my new visa. I passed the evening going to the movies, which were in English with Latvian and Russian subtitles. I saw Frost/Nixon. I think it got an Oscar nod or two. I can't think why, to be honest. It wasn't a bad film, maybe a little uninteresting. I could tell there were a lot of other Americans in the audience because they laughed at the appropriate times. My ticket back to St. Petersburg wasn't until the next day, so to pass the time, I went and saw Yes Man. Not exactly Oscar material, but, hey, it did make me laugh. There were more Latvians in the audience because I noticed I would usually laugh a second or two before the people reading the subtitles would. Also, there were a few subtleties that non-native English speakers wouldn't get that went unnoticed by the audience. On the train ride back to Russia, I didn't understand a single word of any Russian spoken to me.

We had a three day weekend because Monday was Day of the Defenders of the Motherland (usually translated as "Men's Day" because of conscription). Russian men celebrate by drinking all day. As my friend Sveta put it, "Never is Russia more defenseless than on the Day of the Defenders."

I was reading this article by an American that had been living in China for several years. I found this quote to be particularly relevant: "We had crossed the shadowy line that divides strange from stupid."

As I walked to work this morning, I noticed how light it was for this time. I also noticed that it was going to be sunny. Also, the temperature was hovering just below freezing (warm, relatively speaking). Ah, I thought, could we be getting a little bit of spring!? Nope. I ended up walking home in heavy snowfall. The sunny promise of springtime gave way to the icy reality of winter. Wake me up in May, will you?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Another reason why I am an idiot...

...because I am studying a language that has 70 forms of the verb "to walk."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I'm an idiot

This was probably one of the dumbest things I've done in my life. The team I play with had a match on Saturday. I was ready with all my winter gear for my first game in the snow. But there was one thing I wasn't prepared for: it turns out that underneath the 2-4 inches of snow is a layer of solid ice. I should have brought skates, not cleats. After one particularly nasty fall, someone on the other team asked if I was alright. Maybe, I responded.

And I still have not found Sitro anywhere.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Interesting Conversation

I was looking for this drink they have here called "Sitro" in a few different shops around here, but couldn't seem to find it anywhere in my district. While in one of the shops I had a conversation that went something like this:

Shopgirl: blah blah blahblah you blah?
Me: Sorry, I'm a foreigner and don't understand Russian very well.
Shopgirl: (Smiles) Oh?
Me: Yes, it's a pity, isn't it?
Shopgirl: Why?
Me: Because I'm not able to understand when someone speaks to me.
Shopgirl: Maybe it's good! blahblahblah blah blah to understand blah blah blah, right?
Me: Right. Do you have "Citro"?
Shopgirl: "Citro"? What's that?
Me: It's a drink. Like ginger ale.
Shopgirl: What? (looks very confused)
Me: Well, it's not important. Thank you (I start to leave)
Shopgirl: Where are you going? (looking confused)
Me: What? (confused as to why she would be asking this question, maybe I didn't hear correctly)
Shopgirl: Where. Are. You. Going.?
Me: Home, of course.
Shopgirl: Of course. (smiling)
Me: Thanks
Shopgirl: You're welcome. 

I can't tell you why, but I found this whole encounter very bizarre. 

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Watching Rambo III dubbed in Russian on TV. Life is strange, no?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Super Bowl

I'm not a big football fan. In the last 10-15 years I've only watched about 2 Super Bowls. However, when I found out a bunch of Americans were getting together and watching the game, I thought, why not? It is an important cultural event. A way for me to assert my heritage. Because of the time difference, the Super Bowl is an all night affair. We were watching the game on a Russian sport channel, so the coverage and the (30 minute) pregame was in Russian. The game began at 2:00 AM and finished around 6:00 AM Monday morning. Because it was aired on a Russian station in the middle of the night, there were not many people willing to pay for commercial airtime. In fact, there was only one company willing to pay: Swiss Air. There was only one commercial and they only played it at the end of each quarter. So, after staying up all night watching the game, I went home, got a shower, and went to work. Was it worth it? Yes, because I won the pool; I predicted a 28-21 Steeler victory and won 500 rubles.