Week 7: Midterm rush

Posted: October 22, 2009 in Иркутск, Student Life
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

There’s not really a midterm season here. Or, there is, simply by the fact that it’s “midway through the term,” but that’s about its only defining characteristic. But for the sake of preserving traditions from the homeland, here’s my exam schedule and otherwise busy schedule. . . .

Exam schedule (“exam” in the singular). I had my first test that counts for a grade of my Russian life on Wednesday. It was in Microeconomics, that is, the class from which I was absent for 5 weeks. But since I met with the professor for about an hour on Monday (which she’s offered, and I’ve accepted, to make it a weekly thing), I felt caught up. Part of that was the fact I read about 60 pages of the econ textbook for about 4 hours one night, and then then did everything in the little course workbook/pamphlet that I had missed.

So in preparation for our 5-question, short answer vocabulary test (i.e. “midterm” “exam”), I just went back and re-read all the definitions a few times. Basically, turned out to be the easiest midterm of my college career. And the only reason I give said accomplishment any credit is the fact it is one of 3 factors of our grades, which are even more subjective than college grades anyways (a test, a paper, and participation/showing up). And the fact that I did it all in Russian. Yay me, right. . . ?

Taking the test with Russians was also an experience. First off, when I walked into the class, everyone was frantically tossing notebooks and asking each other definitions (including “What does ‘economic efficiency’ mean?” which I assumed was one of those terms, where even if you didn’t know it was the “relationship of input to output,” you could theoretically write anything dealing with either “economy” or “efficiency” and basically get it right. . . I guess they’re only freshman, right?).

Second, the Russian ideal of the “collective” doesn’t stop when tests begin–the constant murmur/talking went right on through the test, even right on through when the teacher was reading the next question. I could mayyybe understand how this might be acceptable in the culture, etc., but I was thrown off by the fact that there were two separate lists of questions that the teacher read, one for each form of the test. Hm.

Afterwards, I was talking to one of the friends I’ve made in that class, Vova, and asked him how it was. He laughed and said, “Not that great,” but shrugged it off: apparently, you can also ask to re-take tests, no questions asked, well. . . bad choice of expressions.

Otherwise busy schedule. So on top of a freak phenomenon of us actually having slightly more homework this week, I also had my two English lessons to help out at on Tuesday and Thursday in the center, as well as had a date or two to keep, which included one on Wednesday to the theatre, since I and Romany each had 2 tickets to the theatre from our grammar prof.

The performance was great, as my companion Nelli (a Petersburger who frequents the theatre there and who also acts) and I agreed. The show was “Starshii syn,” (The Older Son) at the Irkutsk Dramaturgical Academy Theatre, directed by an ex-student of our professor’s, who had especially given her 6 tickets (Patrick and his date didn’t show) to share the Irkutsk theatre scene with her Americans. It was staged in the small side theatre of the main theatre downtown, which I loved, seeing as it reminded me of all the intimate Hepburn-Zoo-like theatre spaces on campus back at Middlebury.

The set was very cool: it perfectly recreated a courtyard outside of a Soviet period apartment building built over a train station, broken concrete, puddles, sandbox, bench, under-used trash can and all. At first I was under the impression it was a sort of modernistic, deconstructionist set/production, eerily predicting a strange urban future of the world, but then I realized it was more or less just Soviet.

The plot involved two students, Vladimir and Vasilli, who missed a late-night train home in the early fall, got cold, and decided to crash in an apartment occupied by a 17-year old kid waiting for his father to come home. Vladimir decides to make up the fact that he’s also the son of the kid’s father, and the plot unfolds with the new “son” and his friend having to keep to their lie, falling in love with the father, and then with the already-engaged “sister” and the neighbor, whom the younger “brother” is also trying to date. Oh, and the father has bad nerves and breaks down right before he learns the truth, and his two real children are about to leave him at home alone with their marriage and studies. When he does learn the truth, he closes his eyes to the deceit and takes Vladimir as his son.

Even though the too-happy (Soviet) ending disagreed with my taste for the potential tragedy of the situation, I appreciated the depiction of the father’s love for “his children,” as was displayed in a tender scene when he interrupted his daughter’s fiance’s toast to his health, and instead made a toast to “his children,” which included everyone on stage, and in a sense, it felt like the audience too, for no other reason but the fact that he loved them and wished them the best.

. . . Generally, I’m not sure how I feel about the fact I haven’t been held accountable (i.e. testing/grading-wise) for any of the material out of my other classes, i.e. the ones that I’m paying for to actually help get rid of grammar and syntax errors every other word or three. Nonetheless, even if the midterms at the IGU Mezhfak aren’t as formidable a stress-fest as Middlebury’s, I had a busy enough week to feel like a 10-day adventure to Mongolia and back is deserved enough.

Check back here on Mon., Nov. 2 when I’ll return from abroad-abroad. ‘Til then, I’ll be on a train or camel or in a yurt, journal and camera in hand.

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