Week 12: Almost-the-end-of-the-semester blues

Posted: November 29, 2009 in Иркутск, Student Life
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Finals, papers, exit testing. . . it follows us student folk anywhere and everywhere.

I had this unfortunate revelation at the beginning of the week as I drew up a calendar for myself with the rest of the semester planned out in black and white (with some red exclamation points). Mild depression sets in.

This week, I’m tackling issues of development in hydropower-rich areas and the related political, economic, and environmental pros and cons. Namely, on Friday I am (supposedly) participating in the “Economic conference” of the MezhFak, giving a 10 minute presentation based on my microecon paper on the Irkutsk provice electro-energy market. But I might back out, if I can think of a good excuse. Then next Tuesday, I am presenting and handing in my Baikal studies paper, which is tentatively going to compare the Angara and Colorado River cascades. Fun, but work.

Starting next weekend, I’ll gather my last energies of what have been about 6 months of non-stop language learning to prepare for Middlebury semester exit-testing on Friday the 18th: grammar/syntax, listening, speaking, reading, writing. Boom.

But that’s not it. Then it’s on to studying for finals in my actual classes (grammar, speech, Baikal studies), writing final essays (literature), and making last good impressions on profs (econ) to get that lucky number 5 (the Russian “A”).

But amidst the stress, I’ve found that it seems to magically disappear if I simply procrastinate, so I’ve made sure to get my daily dose this week:

Monday: Slept in til 1:30 p.m. and didn’t go to the pool to exercise.

Tuesday: Went over to Vova’s to study and ended up watching half of a bad Eddie Murphy movie dubbed in Russian.

Wednesday: Went over to Vova’s to actually study econ, which ended up meaning I re-taught him basic algebra, thereby learning somewhat useful mathematical vocab.

Thursday: Hunted every corner of Irkutsk for celery for my Thanksgiving dinner addition.

Friday: Irina Meletievna showed up to class and asked Romany and I (she figured Patrick would already have plans with his friends) if we could go to an Irkutsk Philharmonic event (the symphony’s 70th birthday jubilee) in place of her and her husband. Uhh, chaaa! She made sure to make it very clear that they weren’t tickets that she was giving us, but an “invitation.” Basically making sure we understood they were like donors or something. Fine, you’re loaded, no one cares. . . .

The music was pretty good: the instruments, acoustics (mind you, a rather thin wall separated the audience from the main street of downtown, Lenin St., obviously, so car horns, stereos, and trains rolling by every few seconds took away from the ‘atmosphere’), and much less attentive/silent audience all took away from the typical environment of a Phoenix Symphony or Midd classical music outing. Romany and I were trying to figure out whether it was the dry climate, the building, or the general unhappiness of the musicians with such an awkward program that made the horns sound a little out of tune, the piano pretty tinny, and the strings too loud. But we assessed the musicians as objectively being on their game.

Unfortunately, the director of the Philharmonic either read a “greeting,” i.e. unnecessarily long, lauding, and creepily identical letters, from different supporters/governing bodies of the symphony, in between every piece, gave out an award, or yielded the floor to a variety of important figures or performers to speak before we got to the next piece. And flowers. Always lots of flowers given, of course, with a little speech.

At one point the conductor, now performing in the string quartet with piano, couldn’t find the music backstage, so she came out and read a poem about the symphony she had written herself.

Or someone else read a poem that all the teachers of the conservatory linked with the Philharmonic had written. Or the son (rather funny–came onstage with a trench coat still on. . . I appreciated him) of one of the symphony’s famous figures came on stage and read a couplet (apparently funny–everyone laughed. . . Romany and I were busy laughing at other quirks of the high culture of Irkutsk) and then played about 10 seconds worth of about 5 chords on the piano and gallantly took a bow, and said that he’d let the program continue, since, in his opinion, the program was rather long.

He was right. Romany and I left after 3 hours in order to make the last marshrutka ride home.

I want to go back and see the symphony in a normal/real performance when their patrons and sponsors aren’t swarming about. Just music.

Saturday: After the symphony, I became involved in researching my January travel on the Internet, thinking that since it was after 2 a.m. (until about 4:30. . . oops), the Internet was uber cheap. Well, the sly Russians, them, they change the schedule on the weekends, so that it’s all moderately expensive. Oh well. Burned up about 2 dollars of MB usage. But, nonetheless, there’s nothing better than avoiding work by thinking about vacation.

But what do you think: up to 6 nights in Moscow (perhaps with Sophie), 3 nights in London, 3 nights in Paris, 5 nights in Germany with my Grandpa’s cousin (tentatively), a week in Prague/the Czech Republic (with Ashley and Marek), a few days in Petersburg, maybe a few days in Yaroslavl, including transportation to and from Irkutsk, plane- or train-travel and housing included all for under $1,100 (meaning food, museums, and shopping would be additional)?

And if the dollar keeps up it’s good work. . . .

  1. “She made sure to make it very clear that they weren’t tickets that she was giving us, but an “invitation.” Basically making sure we understood they were like donors or something. Fine, you’re loaded, no one cares. . . .”

    Haha I laughed to myself when I read this, cuz I read this with your voice in my head. Glad to know you’re doing well, despite the end-of-the-year stress… I in the midst of the same thing, minus the whole Russian thang.

    Your vacation plans sound wonderful! And cheap… I’ll look forward to your photos.

    Take care of yourself, Case. Bye! :)

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