Friday, December 24, 2010

Только Локо! Только победа!// Only Loko! Only Victory!

So not too long ago, sometime early this month? We went to a hockey game in Yaroslavl, this game being my first hockey game ever, sadly since Midd has a hockey team. I don't think there's too much to write about the game but I want to put some pics up of the night. The two teams were Локомотив (Lokomotiv) the home team from Yaroslavl, Russia. And yes, like Locomotive! And Северсталь (Severstal') from Череповец (Cherepovets), Russia. I learned a few things this night, hockey games have cheerleaders (in Russia at least), in Russian when you're a fan of something the verb you use is 'to get sick'. So you would say I'm sick for this/that team, and fans are referred to as 'sick people', which I think is pretty funny. The game was pretty good with some good scores and our team ending up winning 8-2!! One of our players did lose one of his teeth and there was blood on the ice and all, kind of creepy for a first game.

Its so crazy that they skate so well, I've gone ice skating 1-2 times and its not really my thing since I never actually learned, but to be able to skate, and go after the puck definitely takes talent in my opinion! I ended up buying a Локомотив scarf with the city's and team's emblems. And I finally heard the Russian National Anthem which is very patriotic (Aren't all anthems patriotic?). So yeah, it was a pretty cool experience and the rest will be pics, I won't ramble on any longer!

PS- Только Локо! Только победа! (Tol'ko Loko! Tol'ko pobeda) is one of the "sick people's" chants for our team. Only Loko! Only Victory!

The sign says "We're all one team", so then why 
do they play against one another?
The really intense cheerleaders with synchronized
dance routines and frequent outfit changes.

Russian bears can do it all!

Friday, December 3, 2010

BRRR… It’s cold in here! And...Russian Rhetoric

This week began with and spend most of its days in the negatives. And I don’t mean -1 or -2 but rather -13 and -15 Fahrenheit, not Celsius people. So I made sure I was bundled up with two scarves, my gloves and my hat that has fur lining in the inside which kept my ears and face pretty warm, thanks to my brother for the Christmas gift last year!
Snow Fall in Yaroslavl, Russia. There's usually a path here.

Luckily I also live about 7 minutes of a walk away from the university so all I have to do is quickly walk until I’m in the building, no buses, no trams, no waiting. Yesterday’s classes were canceled due to the cold and the amount of students getting sick or getting there. I myself had a sore throat for the most part this week and luckily its clearing up now after constantly taking medicine. And to jump from the topics of cold to my Russian class, today was pretty warm (warm being like 4 degrees) when I left the house and so the walk to the Philology building of the university which is about 15-20 minutes away wasn’t too bad. 

My Russian Rhetoric class which I kind of jumped into without looking has turned out to be a great class. The students do their homework, participate in class and have been friendly to me which I can’t ask for anything more. The girl who speaks as quickly as the wind is becoming easier to understand and I find myself laughing along with the students as they joke with the professor or amongst themselves. The last past two classes have been debates, the first which was my side of the classroom, which I was a part of was whether or not Russians are tolerant people (I was placed on the ‘yes’ side) and today’s debate was whether or not Russia should legalize the use of a medical drug (Эвтаназия /euthanasia) which is given to patients who want to die. I asked a question during our debate to the other team last week, and even though I choked a bit on the grammar trying to get my question out I was proud that I contributed to the discussion.

Today as we waited for the other side of the classroom to prepare the girl who speaks like the wind, Ксения (Ksenia) apparently Xenia in English, who’s really nice to me asked how to say in English the word for пряник (pryanik) which sounded like panic to me but ended up being gingerbread. One of the other girls asked me which language I thought was pretty (I guess between Russian and English) and told her that Spanish was prettier to me. One of the guys who sits in my row shakes my hand when we get there and leave, which here is done only among guys, and it’s a gesture of hi and bye, which I appreciate. So I’m feeling more and more like one of the students which is bitter sweet since the semester ends in December so I won’t be having class with them anymore.
I have a paper on the history of Rhetoric for this class, a short 5-minute monologue about whatever topic I choose, a quiz where we analyze a text and finally a written exam part which seems like a lot now seeing it written out here, especially now that December is here. I’m hoping all these things don’t overwhelm me and I’m kind of afraid because I don’t know if I’ll get a dumbed down Russian version of the test and quiz cause if not, it’s going to be… interesting, to say the least when I take the exam. Things have been going pretty well so far but Christmas is really just around the corner and I know that’s when I’ll miss the home the most. 

Wow! All caught up on blog posts! Ура!! (Ura) The Russian version of Hurray!

День Благодарения// Thanksgiving Day

This was the first time spending Thanksgiving away from my family and instead being in Russia. Our group decided to have a thanksgiving dinner together at the university where we would bring in something to contribute to the dinner. Me being me and wanting to have a piece of my family with me at the dinner, I decided to go up to the challenge of making a flan. It really wouldn’t have been a challenge had I not been in Russia of course, but as I made my way down the aisles of Globus, one of the supermarkets in the outskirts of the historical center where I live, I noticed that the chance of finding evaporated milk was becoming less and less. One of my professors said “Yeah, I’ve never seen that before in Russia. Who would drink milk like that?” And that pretty much sealed the deal on finding evaporated milk. One of the replacements for evaporated milk I found online was cream which here is сливки (slivki) and or trying to use coconut milk, so I bought both and enough to make two flans in case one or the other failed. I went for the сливки replacement first which the flan ended up coming out like water but the center of the flan was pretty good. So I used the coconut milk and to make the story short, the flan was pretty damn good for being a Russian made flan. But I wasn’t sure the flan was good so I didn’t bring it in for others to try until this week. But this post I’ll use to post up a list of things I’m thankful for in my life back home in the spirit of Thanksgiving (even though its December 3rd) already, it’s the idea that counts!

  1. Living and studying in states (New York and Vermont) where all four seasons come and go. Russia does not have four seasons, only two: winter and summer. Feel free to argue with me… once you’ve lived in Russia.
  2. Having the sun in my life, I’m glad I won’t be here when the sun dies billions of years in the future, cause seriously… the sun’s rays are so important and its crazy how you’re mood can change based on this celestial object.
  3. The use of salt to remove ice. Omg, I walk around and it feels like I’m walking over a lake as the ice either cracks under me or I slowly walk over a patch making sure to not slip.
  4. Not being called a foreigner at home, read the post about it if you haven’t.
  5. Being able to drink tap water. I hate having to drink boiled water and only once its cooled.
  6. Having a real phone contract/plan, MTC I hate you… and I hope you know that. (I asked to turn off the extra 100 minutes plan on my phone, not the SMS plan!!)
  7. Having real internet… okay this should be #1 or completely its own list. The internet here through the modem is so ridiculous, I can’t wait to be with WiFi again, sometimes I consider selling my soul to the devil for real internet… but then I think of the repercussions.
  8. Not having to live through -15F degree weather three days in a row… and it’ll just get worse from here.
  9. The convenience of a supermarket which you don’t have to take a ½ hr trip to get to, God bless Wal-Mart, K-Mart, C-Town and every other supermarkets I’ve ever set foot in.
  10. And lastly, the American education system. Even though my Russian class is good (I’ll post about that in a bit) I appreciate the system I was educated in where schedules don’t change every other day for the first few weeks. 

This picture is for everyone that laughed when I talked about my internet and how weird it acts. In order to get some decent internet I had to buy a USB-USB cable which allows me to hang my modem off my lamp in order for that little light to constantly stay blue (good signal) instead of red (bad signal).

    Meet the... Wait, I don't know my host mom's last name!

    So I’ll dedicate this post to talk about my host family which I realized I haven’t really gotten to do. So I live in an apartment with my babushka Людмила (Lyud-mi-la), (who might not really be a ‘babushka’ (grandmother) besides having the age) and her sister Наташа (Natasha), who I didn’t know lived with my host mom so I was scared the first day that my host mother went into her room to talk to herself. On occasion, other members of the family come along to visit, I’m still confused about who’s son (Ivan) it is but I’m pretty sure it’s Natasha’s son by now. There are two grandsons, who visit on the weekends. For the most part, the older grandson Даня (Danya) comes to visit and stays over. He’s five years old and full of a lot of energy. He calls me Дядя (Dya-dya) which means uncle which I find really cute. Everyday during the weekend he’s over and I wake up he immediately tells me “Доброе утро!” (Dobroe utra) as I leave my room or as I walk in from being out he tells my host mom “Дядя пришел!” (Dya-dya pri-shyol) which means “Uncle’s here!” (This is probably turning more into a Russian lesson for you!)

    The younger grandson, who’s name I can’t figure out, is about two years old and he’s either terrified of me or hasn’t gotten used to me. Today, he mainly stared at me anytime I passed by him. I was eating breakfast and he came in with my host mom to get an apple and once he saw me he turned into the corner. Then when I finished he was on the piano playing which scared the crap out of me because this was the first time I’ve heard anyone use it, and by use it I mean bang on the keys. Once I came into the room, he immediately stopped playing and put his head down; it wasn’t until I left the room that he started ‘playing’ again.

    The father of these kids is Иван (Ivan) who I finally got to meet this week and then talk to yesterday. His wife I haven’t talked to except said hello once as I made my way out of the kitchen and they were getting ready to leave, her name might be Светлана (Svetlana) but I could be making that up. I’m usually in my room and I tend to feel like Harry Potter when they come over since I never come out and we don’t cross paths. But I finally got to meet him yesterday as we explained to my host mom and her sister, the new 37 inch plasma he got them, which was pretty funny because my host mom once said “Why is everything in English? Put it in Russian!” And then Natasha asking, “Okay, so this turns it off, and this turns it on” as if they were dealing with a spaceship rather then a TV. Ivan is 32 years old so I can’t really call him my host brother or cousin for that matter. He offered me a seat on the couch to show me his pictures of a trip they took to Turkey which then turned into an explanation of how to use the TV in case my host mom and her sister came across problems and finally ended with him, Danya, and me watching Soviet cartoons for about an hour and a half. He explained that to get to know the Russian mentality, you have to watch these cartoons because this is where children learned. We watched a Tom and Jerry style cartoon called “Leopold” except there were two Jerrys who I would say were the bad ones while the cat was good. In one of the episodes the cat tossed a brick out the window the mice left on the table and Ivan turned to me and says: “You see; only a Russian would do that. Toss a brick out the window he doesn’t need. That’s why you need to watch these shows. Don’t need the brick? Just toss it out the window,” and we both laughed at the childish humor from the show which I hope didn’t really happen because I’d have to start making sure I don’t get hit with falling bricks anytime soon.

    I really like my host mom and the family that occasionally stops by. My host mom refused to call me Лёня (Lyonya) which was my Russian nickname all through my Russian education and mainly because Luis was similar to Люся (Lyusya) her nickname so she liked my name. Its funny the first week she asked what kind of food I liked and didn’t because she’d respond with “You don’t like that?! That’s weird, all the Americans I've had loved it!” So I’d explain that my taste was more Puerto Rican and less American and she’d later admit that she herself was the picky eater of her family and so I didn’t need to worry about not eating for example tomatoes.

    I’m glad I haven’t clashed with her and we pretty much agree on everything and so that’s good. And since she’s not my real mom she always tells me to sleep in late on the weekends and or this conversation: Host mom: You look tired. Me: Yeah, I am. Host mom: So go back to sleep, go to school late. Me: I might not go to school at all (staring at the window and the snow falling). Host mom: Okay, so sleep then. Me: I’ll brush my teeth and eat breakfast first and then sleep. (Since I knew she had breakfast ready already) and I slept wonderfully most of the day.

    I’m definitely going to have to come back and pay a visit!

    Иностранец// Foreigner

    Since I’m done traveling for now, I’m going to post about a few random things and experiences here in Russia. The first is about my FAVORITE word… or the lack there of. Иностранец (I-no-stra-nets) meaning foreigner is a word I’ve heard being thrown around by Russians since the first day I stepped into Russia. I don’t have a problem being a foreigner, I know I’m not a Russian and don’t plan to be one anytime soon but for some reason this word just bothers me. I guess being from New York, you don’t have to point out there are people around you that don’t look or talk like you because since the day you’re born, that’s the case. You walk around going about your business and occasionally when you’re downtown you see the ‘foreigners’ or tourists who crane their necks up to see the skyscrapers which calls only for a chuckle because even though they are obviously tourists, I never get tired myself at looking up at the building with what seems to be a never ending roof. I never have to turn to someone on the subway, who mind you I don’t know, just to say “foreigners” as a group of [insert ethnicity] tourists make their way around Manhattan.

    Me being a foreigner at the monastery in Yaroslavl, Russia
     But none the less, I’ve heard the word whether I’m speaking Russian or English, walking or sitting, whether in Yaroslavl or Moscow. And it feels like I’m whining in this post, but I dunno, the word sounds like nails on a chalkboard every time I hear it. I just want to turn around and answer in my best possible Russian, “Yeah so, I’m a foreigner, who also speaks Russian”. Sometimes if I’m speaking English and I hear someone say my favorite word I’ll switch over to Russian to let them know I heard and watch as they stare in awe. Once while we were shopping for souvenirs, we were talking in English and the lady in the next little tent said foreigners to the lady we were trying to buy from, but she had heard us ask “How much” in Russian so she quietly murmured back in Russian “yeah but they speak Russian” and I just had to laugh it off.

    I’m done thinking about the word but every time I hear someone say it I automatically get this scenario in my head. [Insert a Russian person addressing everyone on a bus] “PEOPLE OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION! Becareful, there are non-Russian speakers among us. We don’t know what they’re capable of since we don’t understand them. The boy might possibly have a bomb, we heard him mimic the sound of an explosion going off. Please, exit the bus or walk quickly away from them. We’ll try to negotiate with them, this is not a drill!” So I just end up laughing because only my imagination could come with things like that. But, once in Moscow on the line of a Burger King, I talked in English and two guys in front of me looked back with such wide eyes that I thought they were capable of making this scenario happen in real life.

    Being a foreigner, I also wonder what people think of me every time I walk by. I wonder if they write me of as an American or come up with outrageous assumptions like the lady at a kiosk. I was by my apartment and I stopped to buy a Snickers since dinner wasn’t for the next two hours. So I asked in Russian for a Snickers and this is the conversation that took place in Russian, mind you nothing to deal with Snickers or candy: Lady: Are you an Arab? Me: Me? No, why? Lady: No, well you just look like you could be. Where are you from? Me: I live in the United States, but I’m Puerto Rican, my family is from Puerto Rico. Lady: Oh! You’re such a handsome young man. Me: Thanks (As I pay from my snickers, grab my change and walk away).

    I have no idea where the idea of being an Arab came from, being that I am no where near the color of an middle eastern especially being in Russia these last few months. Just as funny, my host mother has given compliments about my hair and how I have such nice, straight, dark hair and once she asked, “It comes from your people right?” but I wonder if she knows who my ‘people’ are, she’s know I’m Puerto Rican but its interesting to see how people think and what they see.

    Enough about being a foreigner, we’ll see if I crack one day lol!

    Back to Russia… Oh wait! 4 DAY WEEKEND!!!! Москва, Россия

    So I was reluctant to leave Spain and in reality I didn’t want to face the cold I would return to. When I got to my town and got onto the bus my body was literally SHAKING as the weather was a shock switching between warm and cold cities, but now what I would give to have a 30-40 degree day.

    What was really nice though was that after Fall Break; we only had three days of class and then a 4 day weekend thanks to the Day of Unity. So a girl from my group and I decided to head over to Moscow where she would meet up with a friend of hers I had meet earlier in Kazan, Russia. I decided why not, I’ll get to see Moscow which I hadn’t gotten to do since I got into the country; only seeing things in the city from afar. We ordered two beds at a hostel, bought our tickets for the train from Yaroslavl to Moscow and headed out Wednesday night giving us Thursday to go around Moscow since we would head out early Sunday back to Yaroslavl.
    Bolshoi Theater
    Despite the weather and some closed things due to the holiday (cough cough, Lenin’s tomb) Moscow was pretty fun. I meet some cool people and was able to see finally Red Square, the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral, ГУМ (which is a big mall), Tretyakovskaya Gallery, the outside of Bolshoi theater, and some cool metro stations. Moscow allowed me take in both American and Russian cuisines which I was thankful for. My favorite station in Moscow would have to be “Revolutionary Station” which has a dog which if you rub his nose you can make a wish but also the architecture and statues are pretty cool. Though since the stations are so deep underground it feels like you’re riding forever on the escalator and heading straight down to the center of the Earth.

    St. Basil's Cathedral inside the Kremlin
    And the sun made an appearance for about 10 minutes which really brightened up things for a bit, which thank you sun… I truly appreciated. I think this summer I’ll spend it somewhere under the sun absorbing all the rays I missed while being abroad. But after this trip means back to Yaroslavl and no breaks until after classes end in December so I’m glad I got to enjoy Moscow now and also got to speak some more English.

    The Kremlin from the outside; St. Basil's nestled in between

    Fall Break: Rome, Italy// Roma, Italia

    Going to Italy I feel was where I felt the most like a tourist, just because everywhere I went I was amazed by the sights. Once I got into Italy, I immediately went out and did some touring, mainly because Ellie wouldn’t be in her apartment after classes and why waste a morning right? So I headed first to the Trevi Fountain and then to the Spanish Steps. I had some gelato by the Trevi Fountain which was AMAZING but not as amazing as my second gelato which was Banana, Strawberry and Oreo flavored. Having a Russian phone in Italy made nothing easier, I could receive texts but couldn’t call or text back because I had run out of money and I’m pretty sure there were no MTC kiosks randomly around Rome like in Russia. I tried calling from a payphone but that really didn’t help me out so I went to Ellie’s and sat at a park until she came home which I didn’t mind since I was able to sit and relax. That night I got to see the Piazza Navona and the place were Julius Caesar was stabbed which is currently taken over by abandoned street cats. 

    Fontana di Trevi
    The next day made me feel even more like a tourist; I got up early and headed over to the Roman Colosseum which Jesus Christ is so old! (I didn’t know this but originally it was the Flavian Amphitheater… whatever that means.) I’m glad I got my tickets online because I was able to avoid the line and go straight in. With the ticket, I was able to see the Colosseum, the Palatine and the Roman Forum which pretty much took up all of the morning and afternoon. After everything I sat in front of the Colosseum waiting to meet with Ellie and the most interesting part of the day. Not only because I got to see the fake gladiators essentially force and guilt tourist to take pictures with them but also I was able to help out other tourists. I called upon all four languages to help tourists, French really was just an exchange of Merci and De rien which left the couple kind of shocked as I handed them their camera (but this was inside the Colosseum). 

    Roman Colosseum
    Roman Senate
    I helped a family take a picture in Spanish, as they explained to me that their camera broke so they had to buy disposable cameras. And even better I got to help a Russian couple, which probably was the most interesting exchange. They walked by and I heard them speaking Russian as they took pictures of the Colosseum, and then the woman approached me obviously going to ask if I can take a picture but instead of English or Russian coming out her mouth she asked me in Italian and I responded with “Да” (Yes) which left her confused (I assumed she’d ask me in Russian). I then said “I can take the picture if you want” which confused her more since she didn’t speak English so she turned to her boyfriend and said in Russian “Tell him in English if he could take our picture” which I then responded to with “I speak Russian, yes I can take the picture” which finally brought all the pieces together and left her with an exclamation of “oh” as she and her boyfriend posed for the camera. Also there was another couple getting a tour by a Russian speaking tour guide which was kind of creepy because I felt like I was being given a tour as well since I understood her. In part this helped me understand most of the things I saw since I able to pick up English, Spanish and even Russian explanations along the way, guess it pays off to be multilingual. 

    Tempio di Saturno
    My last day of the trip I got up super early and headed over to Vatican City, in order to see the museum and luckily attend mass with the pope himself. I made my way around the museum which was deserted except for the last exhibit, the Sistine Chapel. I was amazed by how the room was so detailed and of course the ceiling where God and man touched fingers; but unfortunately you couldn’t take pictures in the room. I then made my way to where St. Peter’s Basilica is and got to attend an about 3 hr mass which consisted of Latin, Spanish, French, Portuguese, English, Polish and one more language I’m forgetting. I was amazed by the mass and Pope Benedict XVI passed by in his pope-mobile really close and so I got a good close picture of him. After mass, I got some souvenirs and then headed to the San Giovanni church which would be my last stop while in Rome. The church was really pretty and the way the sun shined in made it seem so much more majestic. 

    Pope Benedict XVI
    I’m definitely going to have to come back to Rome again, hope that coin in the Trevi Fountain brings me back!
    Inside the San Giovanni church, my favorite picture from Italy b/c of the intensity