Notes on my Russian life…
1. My flatmate is a garlic Nazi. All you have to do is think about cooking with garlic and she practically comes running from her room, asking “чеснок?” and wanting all the windows in the house open. Never mind the fact that I learned long ago to always open the window before making garlic bread, she still has to come check on it anyways.
2. This country never ceases to amaze, amuse, intrigue, delight, bewilder and fascinate me. It can also frustrate me at times. I have never before been to a place that can totally frustrate you one minute, and then inspire and amaze you the next.
3. I have spent time in 13 different countries over the past 9 months. Pretty sure that’s a record for me.
4. Overnight this country transforms itself into a beautiful winter wonderland and the change is simply amazing. It’s breathtaking what one simple snowfall can produce!
5. When completing a successful grocery shopping trip to Auchan brings about as much a sense of accomplishment as completing your graduate degree did, you know there’s something to be said for the intensity of the shopping experience here. I have a whole new appreciation for the ease and simplicity of the American grocery shopping scene.
6. I now consider 30 degrees (with no wind) “good” weather. It’s even enjoyable when walking home accompanied by huge falling, swirling snowflakes.
7. I can’t even count the number of marshrut, bus, metro, trolleybus and train rides I have taken since coming here. I wonder if I will even know how to drive a car again when I get home!
8. Since arriving back in Russia the beginning of June, this is the longest period of time I have spent outside the US (6 months) and I think also the longest single stretch of time being away from CA – even counting the 2 years of grad school.
9. The travel bug has NOT gone away and I can’t keep up with my daily-growing list of places to see. I think this is a serious addiction.
10. Living in a Soviet apartment isn’t as bad as I thought it could be. Or maybe I’ve just adjusted and I’m really crazy. (Having Russian roommates, well, that’s another story ;P)
11. Today I rode in a “gypsy taxi” for the first time since coming here. (Gypsy taxis are just people who pull over at bus stops and pick up people who are waiting for the bus that hasn’t come yet. If the bus is taking a while you can give 100 rubles (3xs the bus fare) to the person who will then take you to the agreed upon destination (usually the nearest metro). I was always intrigued when I’d see people wave down gypsy taxis, but never wanted to pay 100 rubles myself when I knew if I waited long enough the bus would come eventually. Today, however, I JUST missed the regular bus and knew it would be a while before a marshrut came. I still wouldn’t have waved anyone down, but a lady came up to the bus stop and soon waved someone down. She asked if I was going to the metro and if I wanted to pay 50 rubles to split the car with her. I told her/showed her I only had 30 rubles out for the bus and then said sorry. She made the arrangements with him and then gestured me over to come with her. So I got in, gave her my 30 rubles, she gave the guy 100, and away we went. Ended up working out nicely for me. =) I won’t ever do it by myself though, or with anyone who seems a bit shady. She was a very nice Asian lady and I felt quite safe with her along.
12. In other news today…sigh…I managed to mangle the tiny little bit of Russian I tried to string together in my head while on the marshrut. Usually I don’t stray far away from the set phrases I know, unless I first preface my sentence by telling them that I don’t speak Russian. Then I continue on, knowing they have been forewarned and hopefully will be kind enough to try and understand me. Well, this time I didn’t do that. I got on the marshrut and there was only one seat left. Instead of waiting up front for my change and then finding a seat, like normal, I decided to grab the seat and wait for my change to be handed back to me, like they normally do. However, my change never came, and we were quickly approaching my stop. I made my way up to the front and told the driver I needed the next stop. Then I mustered up enough courage to continue on. I said, “Excuse me please but where is my 20 rubles? I paid 50.” Simple enough, right? I mean, I knew all the words to say it, so I was hoping it came out ok even though I had never used that exact phrase before. I mean, it was only 8 words in Russian. He handed me 20 rubles and I got off the bus. And realized I was shaking slightly. Ok, I do tend to get nervous when I have to use my Russian in front of an audience. I don’t mind one on one conversations too much, but when a whole bus full of people is just sitting there listening, it’s a bit nerve wracking for me. Because I just know they are listening to everything, and trust me, they do. As soon as I speak, even if I say the correct words, my pronunciation will always give me away as a foreigner, something I try to avoid when possible. Anyhow…I made my way to my destination and was glad I had worked up the courage to at least get my money back instead of just cutting my losses like I do sometimes. It didn’t hit me until an hour later that I had NOT told the driver, “Excuse me please but where is my 20 rubles? I paid 50. ” I had said, “Excuse me please but where is my 20 rubles? I paid 15.” Big difference. Now, in English if you mix up 50 and 15 they sound similar enough that most people might not even notice. Unfortunately they sound quite different in Russian, so everyone on the bus clearly knew I was a crazy foreigner who told the bus driver she paid 15 rubles for a 30 ruble fare and wanted 20 rubles back. Ha. At least the driver understood what I meant. Jen, Jen…this is why you need to work on your Russian! Seriously, I always mix up the teens and 20s when it comes to numbers. I haven’t actively studied them at all, just picked them up, so that’s my problem.
13. Yesterday while walking to the metro, I reached up to fix something (my hat? I forget…) and when I started to bring my hand back down, it was stuck, and it yanked on my earring, hurting my ear. What in the world? I tried again and my gloved hand was clearly stuck on my earring. I couldn’t figure out how it had gotten stuck (they are leather gloves!) or how to untangle it! I finally managed to free my hand from the glove, leaving the glove dangling from my earring (classy, I know) while I worked with both hands to free it. I was still walking, and trying to carry my heavy bag while doing this. I am sure I was quite the spectacle along the sidewalk, but I was too busy to notice. Ok, in hindsight it would have made sense to TAKE THE EARRING OUT, JEN. I realize that now. But at the time, it didn’t cross my mind. Somehow I managed to get it untangled and only then I realized how it had gotten stuck in the first place. The gloves have three tiny little decorative buttons on the side of them, with little loops to hook through, and one of the tiny loops had somehow caught my earring as I passed my hand by it. Painful lesson to learn – keep your gloves away from your earrings. My ear was sore after that!
14. Yesterday I had a drunk guy (I am assuming he was drunk) sit down next to me on the metro after I accidentally looked up and made eye contact with him (big mistake). He then proceeded to lean into/over me and look at my phone to see what I was doing. I immediately just shut off the screen and closed my eyes to ignore him. He continued to lean on me and talk to me. It was SO annoying. At the next stop I jumped off and ran down to the next car and got on. Bleh.
15. I am getting tired of Russians always thinking it’s funny to talk about “fat Americans.” For one, we are NOT all fat, period. But two, I have had enough fat men and women squeeze in next to me on the metro (where there is clearly not enough room for them) that I want to tell them all, “Sorry, but there are a LOT of fat Russians too, so stop saying Americans are fat. Russians are fat too.” Because, seriously, there ARE a lot of fat Russians here. I feel better just getting that out in the open.
16. Can anyone, ANYONE tell me why I keep attracting guys I am NOT interested in? Or maybe I don’t want to know the answer to that? Sigh. I should tape Tom’s “you can’t date a Russian” contract to my coat. What do they think I am, a green card dispenser? Sheesh. I’m not flattered, people. I’m not. Amused, yes.
17. Tonight while on the 17th floor of a building I started hearing loud popping noises and thought I saw a flash of color. I looked out the window and yep, there were fireworks! (Only about 20 total, and just medium sized ones) I have no idea what they were for, but it made me smile anyway.
18. This entire year has been one amazing gift from God and He has proven over and over again just how faithful He is and how AMAZING He can make something. I’m still in awe, daily. Really, I am sure people get tired of me saying this, and I probably sound like a broken record, but it’s true…I really am awestruck.
19. I hope I get to spend the rest of my life doing something amazing like this.