Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Bin ballet, talent shows and depressed bears.

Ok, I feel I should write in more detail about what has happened this past month, however, I am ill, on some wonderfully exhausting new pills and I just can't be arsed. So.

The first thing people seem to ask when they talk to me, is not how I am, how I'm coping or how I've remained out of hospital for this long, but what the weather is like. Being English, I can accept this, but really people, a full 5 weeks with no hospital, some acknowledgement please!

The heating came on a few weeks ago, when we were still easily into double figures temperature wise. Russia is keen to show off it's heating capability, clearly, only we can't control the radiators, so we boiled for a while. Sleeping with one window open as a precaution to avoid death by roasting was not approved of by my host. Firdaus now attributes every little cough and sneeze to the fact that, in 17 degree heat, with radiators on of a higher temperature, I dared to let in a bit of a breeze.
Russia is a nation of hypochondriacs-there's a chemist on every corner to deal with all of their non existent ailments. For example, if one happens to sit on a concrete floor, you will become infertile. If, in 30degree heat, a drink stored in the fridge seems appealing, think again, because you'll promptly be struck down by pneumonia if you fall for that one. Of course, everything can be fixed with tea. So my host was not exactly pleased when I failed to give in to her constant pressure to drink tea and close the window. She even seemed to take pleasure in the fact that I was having nightly battles with mosquitoes that had got in. One night I swatted one, and MY blood exploded from the bloody thing. God I hate them so much. However, the insect guards have been removed from the windows now and replaced with very thick nets and curtains, so I guess they've all been killed off in the cold.


Anyway, it's cold enough for me to have the window closed at least 50% of the time now. It's generally around 4degrees during the day, which is fine so long as there's no wind, in which case I don't fare too well. The nerves in my face dislike cold wind. Must buy a balaclava. I rarely go anywhere without a massive scarf and hat anyway, just in case. The first snow fell on Saturday, although I missed it, being in Moscow freezing in Park Pobedi instead. Apparently the snow might not settle until mid December, if that. So there you have it people, Russia is not just one big blizzard all year round. Sorry.


The topic that crops up after the disappointment following the revelation that I'm not frolicking around in Christmas card scenes and making snow angels 24/7 (like I ever frolic anywhere), is class. I started out getting up at 7am, and we'd be out at 8.30. Nowadays, I tend to set the alarm for 7.30, skip breakfast and roll out of bed somewhere around the 7.50 mark. Still manage to get out for about 8.30...ish...only it does mean that mornings are turned into something of an obstacle course attempting to dodge Firdaus when she yells at me for not eating again. Then there is the daily bin run on the walk in. Russian flats don't seem to have bins. It's an issue when your room is full of pepsi cans, crisp packets and (in my case) several 5litre water bottles. So in the mornings we cross onto the long island which runs in the middle of the road-just has trees and benches, a couple of bins, and in a beautifully synchronised display, we each branch off to either side and place our bags into the bins. We do have to be a bit careful because, although we're doing nothing wrong, we are doing nothing wrong in front of a police station.
Howevs. One day last week, there was a woman with a face like a duck watching us. I was not in a good mood. So we did our olympic standard synchronised bin ballet and rejoined in the middle, and she decides it's her place to whinge at us. Waited until we were a little closer of course, so as not to strain her duck bill, and then launches into an aggressive rant about why we couldn't just have done that in our own houses and blah blah blah. I could have responded by telling her that we'd done nothing wrong. Bins are bins, we'd only put in small bags, even in Russian law she'd have a hard time finding something against us. But I didn't. I responded in English, and kept it very short and to the point. Shan't repeat, but I think she understood.

On to the walk in, we pass a jail, and that's the only road we don't dare to cross without the nice little green man telling us we can. Then eventually we reach uni. It's generally tropically heated, so it is necessary to strip your layers off as soon as you've tackled the masses of stairs, and then classes start at 9.10.  Or they would do if, tragically, the teachers gained a better sense of timekeeping. I'm not complaining. 4 lessons of 50 minutes, some double. Translation is dire, Russian Media (SMI) is just bleh, Analytical reading is ok, so is grammar and Speaking is awesome. The teacher is pretty much the definition of cool and I think I may have a girl crush on her, as do many people apparently. She looked a bit like Peter Pan the other day, and that's all I see now, but still. I like the blue in her fringe.
Translation teacher longs for a return to the Soviet Union and will go off on one for most of the lesson if you ask the right questions, hates supermarkets and loves fish. Did you know you can tell a good fish from the colouring under its....well....that bit under its, the chin bit?
No, neither did I. And you can only possibly know that if you lived in Soviet times because there was no other meat and ingredients were extremely limited (and obvs that's a great selling point)But I can't stand fish, so clearly I wouldn't have done well in the good old USSR.

I spend quite a lot of my time in class doodling. The workbooks here are all checked rather than lined, and they're just screaming to be coloured in. But I get by. I'm certain I haven't made any progress at all, and my memory is akin to a sieve, which makes it difficult to retain any new vocab, but the class here is so much nicer than my class in Birmingham and the teaching is different, which does seem to sit well with me.
It is, of course, all in Russian, too. Depending on the day, lesson and my mood, this is both a good and bad thing. Overall, it's all good.

The talent show

You'd have thought, after Uglich, we'd learn. However when Firdaus burst in to tell Hannah that she had an invitation for her to take part in a 'festival' in which she'd dress up as a 'traditional english girl' (fake burberry and pregnancy stomach sprang to mind), Hannah did not say No. She said maybe, which, with a personality as strong as Firdaus', is a yes. It started off that she'd just stand there in a pretty dress which we'd find in the theatre. Then it progressed to cooking a dish from your country. Then there was talk of writing about your home. We had a little talk with Firdaus, who convinced Hannah that it was worth trying, and she'd be there the whole time.
So we went along to some offices where possibly the most beautiful women outside of the airbrushed magazine type we'd ever seen, were gathered to have their pictures taken, representing their individual countries. Naturally, Firdaus left us. She said she'd be with us. Such lies.

She isn't even from London...

So we take a look at the form that was shoved under our noses for Hannah to fill out. Education, achievements....talent....we looked at the top of the form, and there it was. The word 'Competition'. Not only that, the words 'Miss International Russia' were above the word 'competition'. Nice one Firdaus.
No choice but to go along with it, Hannah filled in the form as best she could, and we waited forever to have her pictures taken. Everyone else was seeeriously dressed up, and it didn't help that the Russians are the biggest posers ever-they seem to have an inherent ability for it. But finally we were called outside, and dragged around the estate we were on, Hannah made to pose ridiculously and throw leaves over herself because, apparently, that's what makes a good photo.
Chucking leaves at her face

When it was finished, we ran away and went to McDonalds. Lols.
A second little talk with Firdaus resulted in her lecturing us on 'the lessons of life' and how we musn't be scared to do these things. Plus, it was ok for Hannah to do it because last year's winner wasn't even pretty, she only won because she put lots of international flags in her cake!
Of course. She even asked if I wanted to do it. I indicated that I would rather not, thanks all the same...
So we agreed she would try and if she really didn't want to do it, that would be it, no questions asked
Firdaus is a MASSIVE liar.

We went to a rehearsal one night with all the other girls. Firdaus stayed this time. I sat there loling to myself whilst watching everyone being assigned positions and reading out their pieces (Hannah didn't have one-Firdaus hadn't told her this) and practising their walks and god knows what else. At the end of this, we were introduced to the man in charge of everything. Somewhat bizarrely, he said, 'Oh, you are english?! You speak english?! Let's undress!' and proceeded to pull at his collar as if he was going to strip.
Russians. Who knows.

That night, Hannah had resolutely decided there was no way she would be doing this competition. There are many reasons behind this, but fear was not really one. She simply didn't want to. So, with carefully rehearsed speech, she went to Firdaus. Who laughed. And said that she hadn't tried. Then blamed me for Hannah not wanting to, and asked what I'd said to her, and told me it was between Hannah and herself when I pointed out that actually, Hannah just didn't want to do it.
I may not have the best Russian, but it doesn't stop me getting massively pissed off at people and showing it. Hannah eventually left the room practically crying, while I stayed to deliver evil looks and tell Firdaus that she wasn't scared, and well done because she'd made her upset.
Hannah and I then ate cake. Quite a lot of cake.

It was unfortunate timing that Firdaus decided to offer something of an apology as I was sat with my roll cake, knife and fork in hand to cut a slice, looking like I was about to nom down the entire thing.
But she did say that if Hannah really didn't want to, she didn't have to (adding in some things about how disappointed her family would be blah blah) and that was that.
Except she does fully blame me, apparently.

Then Hannah and I went to Moscow for the weekend so I could see a horribly expensive private doctor. But it's too much effort to write about that right now. Maybe next time.

Must make my room resemble less of a tip now.

Here are some pictures from a depressing zoo I went to. Just to make up the picture count.

Depressed bear.

Don't do it.

So not a fan of zoos.

No comments:

Post a Comment