Weeks 21-23: Getting back in dodge

Posted: February 19, 2010 in Иркутск
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

At the gate to my flight from Berlin to Moscow, again surrounded by the fur-donning crowd of Russland, I’ll admit, there was slight dread of going back. That was the closest to home I’d be for another five months. Landing in Moscow and re-arriving in Irkutsk four days after that, though, were happy enough meetings of Russia, that old friend, that one….

Russian birch on a pathI remembered the Irkutsk bus numbers and all the useful parts of life, but apparently had forgotten declension endings. That’s the revenge of the language pledge after two weeks of breaking it, I suppose. It was vacation.

Romany and I spent a good deal of time together the first half-week/weekend after my Wednesday arrival. One day, we traipsed around Irkutsk in the falling snow (meaning slightly warmer-feeling temperatures). I totally spaced on bringing my camera, and I want to revisit a lot of these places, too, so pictures of these places will come eventually.

First we hit the Officers’ House (Dom ofitserov), rumored to be a cool building with schizophrenically interesting and/or open exhibits through its halls of random offices and businesses. The rumors are true. The interior was all art nouveaux with some great Soviet stained glass work of Lenin and the proletariat, plus nice mosaic floors.

As for the schizophrenically interesting exhibit, there was a widely advertised “Moving-themselves Giants of the Ice Age!” exhibit (fake models of mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, &c.) but proved to be too expensive ($8) for Romany’s and my budgeting of our Middlebury cultural reimbursement $50. I have no comment regarding the schizophrenically open exhibit, as it was closed. Soviet army memorabilia I think.

Next was the City Museum (Muzey goroda), which a nice babushka showed Romany and I through, perhaps quicker than we’d have done ourselves. It’s a new museum in a beautiful new building with a lot of new-looking Buryat mannequins and recently found archaeological artifacts, and we’d already been exposed to a lot of the information during our first 5 months, so neither of us was too put off by being hurried along. We were probably the day’s only visitors, and our twenty rubles a piece probably didn’t come very close to offsetting operating costs.

After a quick browse through the Aritsts’ House (Dom khudozhnikov) next door, from which our Russian American Irkutsk expedition had taken off, Romany and I found a random art gallery advertised on the side of the street. The gallery was in a cozy attic, and rotates exhibitions every month. January’s was about 30 paintings by a Bratsk (a few hours north of Irkutsk) artist who had received a two-year grant to study art and produce this exhibit. For the twenty ruble admission ($.60), I’m excited to see what February through June have in store.

We tried going ice skating on the Angara, but the rental place wasn’t open until later, so we decided to get out of the now blustering snow and go home to take the naps we so wanted on the overcast Irkutsk afternoon.

On a freakishly warm day (around -5 or -10 deg. C.), Romany offered to give me a cross-country ski lesson, being the pro that she is (she’s placed first or otherwise highly in a handful of important competitions in Irkutsk already). I fell decidedly fewer times than my first downhill skiing less two winters ago with Ben and Sophie in Vermont, but overall, was successful, including me being sore the next day. A workout at last…

I also, at long last, found out what Yevgenii Yevgenievich does in life. It took a while to figure this out, but when people are retired, as in “pensioneri,” they tell you that that’s what they do, as in their occupation. Additonally, they still have some sort of work, but they don’t tell you this when you ask what they do. So, Yevgenii Yevgenievich’s absence during the day was unexplained for most of my time here, until he extended an invitation back in December to come inner tubing down the ski slopes next to the MezhFak, where he works at the rental desk. He said he’d call when it was a good day (few people).

That was a few weeks ago. The number of people, though, is directly related to the temperature, meaning it was -29 deg. C. when I was sliding down the tube track at breakneck speeds as a part of a train of happy sledders. A fun afternoon nonetheless.

I spent most of Week 22 (the first week of February, for those of you not counting my every week away from you…) taking it easy around the house, doing some cleaning, and also updating my resume, writing cover letters, and looking for summer employment. Take a look at the site I finished putting together to get in on the “personal marketing” front.

That Saturday, Elizabeth accompanied Ryan back from Moscow for his semester with Romany and I, so I met them at the airport to welcome them back to Siberia. All last week, that is, the first week of classes, was busy as to be expected with starting grammar and speech practice courses in medias res, figuring out the details of my independent study course, finding a mainstream, and floating in the abyss of not knowing what the semester will look exactly like. More on that in Week 24’s post.

Wondering if this, to a Russian, says "good cell phone signal" or "buy more matryoshkas."

My next post will finish up my Europe travels in Saxony (Germany) with Dieter and Eveline and Bohemia (Czech Republic) with Ashley and Marek–with pictures! That will be followed by a “Holiday” post for the mid-winters’ celebrations of Russia, and then a week 24 update. Stay tuned for those and more.

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