Archive for the ‘Иркутск’ Category

I’m sorry for being away. But here’s something exciting to make up for it!..

Listen and watch “Beryozovye sny” (“Dreams of Birches”) and another choral piece performed by my choir at the 2010 Student Spring Festival today.

Can you find me below!? Answer posted at the end, along with a video of the first one, and the sound file of the second one.

Basically, I’ve been really busy. Six hours of choir practice a week, ten hours (more…)

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Our longest ride of the week–40 hours–came next: Chita to Khabarovsk on the Irkutsk-Vladivostok train. Most of our wagon-mates were on ’til the end of the line. More notably, nearly a third of the car consisted of a band of Uzbek migrant workers.

They were spread out through the car, but it seemed that the “main” guy was one of the two sitting across from us, since the others came to him for tea, bread, etc., for which it seemed they had pooled their money together.

Most of them had made the early spring journey from Central Asia to the Far East coast to work during the warm, shipping season before. The main guy/our neighbor told us that he owned a grocery shop back home with several employees, but still needed the extra money from summer work–a fate to which he seemed to measuredly resigned. (more…)

Commemorative monument to Chita's founding in 1653 (other pictures at end of post).

If they made shirts that said “I <3 Chita,” I would buy one and wear it all the time.

‘NICE’ & ‘TRAIN’. Two words that up to now I hadn’t considered being utterable in the same sentence. Nevertheless. The train was nice (that is, from Ulan-Ude to Chita). Relatively speaking, of course.

Yes, the Russian men still smelled, and the beds were still 6 inches too short for my legs, which, hanging out into the aisle, no matter, people walked through as if they weren’t there at all. But, the windows were able to be opened, and the wagon was clearly not of Soviet production (a personal first). We took off from our UU hotel at 4 a.m. (in an 80 ruble taxi!), slept ’til midday, ate, and began to see the outskirts of Chita a few hours later, around 5 p.m. local time.

Coming in from the west on the south side of the Chita River, you see the city stretches along the north bank, as if back into time: (more…)

"Art belongs to the people," says Lenin. On the UU Opera House

Russians have a word (“trevoga”) for the spiritual qualms that you experience before traveling until you’re safely seated on your train/plane seat. I call it stress. Whatever it is, I feel it.

The day of our departure, I went straight from classes to my internship, and then straight to choir rehearsal, leaving early around 8 p.m. to inhale my dinner, grab my things (packed the day before), and run to meet Ryan at the station to catch our 9:40 overnight train to Ulan-Ude. The guidebook says it’s nickname is “UU,” but I’ve never heard that in real life. (Prophesy from the future: more “the guidebook was wrong” moments to come).

Regardless, we got in at 6 a.m. and bought the last of our train tickets (the ticket lady in Irkutsk had advised us to hold off on getting a few of them, since better seats opened up in the end).

MISTAKE ONE: Not booking the hotel. (more…)

Spring is coming... slowly.

I don’t know why (and neither does our coordinator), but Midd decided to give us half a month of vacation: our trip to Severobaikalsk (posts coming soon) and an 11-day spring break.

Two weeks in between–just enough to recover from the first trip and getting ready for the second–have left me stressed a bit, and busy: classes, choir, internship (see post on my site-resume), and craziness in general.

So, I’m more than happy that within a few hours I’ll be on a train to Ulan Ude, Chita, Khabarovsk, and Vladivostok for a week and a half of relaxation, with some playing catch-up squeezed in there.

I promise posts on Severobaikalsk and the rest of March, plus photos and updates while on the road, as much as Internet time allows.

SURPRISE #1. Since I was unopposed, I have won my election and am excited to have been named president of Sputnik for the 2010-2011 year. Hooray! Thanks for your support (?). Note: No bribes were involved in this. I swear.

"Party of the people." Photo AP.

Photo AP.

SURPRISE #2. Since Irkutskites, so they say, are heirs of the revolutionary spirit of their Decembrist predecessors, Moscow-administration chosen candidate Sergei Serebryannikov did NOT win the Irkutsk mayoral elections yesterday, and the other (independently, self-nominated) United Russia/KDFR candidate (Kondrashov) will take his seat as mayor soon.

Yevgenii Yevgenievich shared this news with me yesterday with a great deal of excitement. He didn’t know the name of “other candidate”, but just knew he wasn’t the guy that Moscow wanted.

On the other hand, Tatyana Eduardovna was disappointed with the results, as she and her boss (city duma deputy) were pulling for Serebryannikov. She was all aflutter last night, (more…)

I agree, and pledge to act as follows: The Deputy is at the service of the people!

Today from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Irkutskians (Irkutskites? The Irkutskese? …”Irkutyanye” in Russian…) are taking to the polls to vote for their mayor. Unfortunately for believers (such as myself) in a free, democratic process, the fact that Moscow administration chose (and probably funded) Sergei Serebryannikov to the top of the contender list, pairing him in countless ads next to the incumbent Irkutsk Oblast’ governor, there’s little surprise expected for the results.

Again — the city duma elections last fall were equally unexciting, too.

POLITICS BACK AT MIDD. A flashback to the good ol’ high school days of running for student council, and with hopes of this one being more fair than the elections I’ve seen in Russia, I’ve got a campaign of my own underway — Casey Mahoney for “Sputnik” President! (Sputnik is Middlebury’s formerly-named Russian and Eastern European Society.)

My campaign points will be emailed to group members within the next day or two, at which point I’ll post them as an addition to this post. Let me know what you think. Tell your friends!  If you’ve come to my blog to learn more about me as a candidate, (more…)

1st semester: were told our grammar was "dirty." 2nd semester, were offered the "Clean Grammar" text.

In grammar class, we are learning about how using passive voice and impersonal expressions is a good thing. In the Russian language, you are supposed to put the blame on an invisible, mystical (neuter gendered) something. The Star Wars “Force,” if you will. (And no, it’s not God, for God is male in the Russian language).

For example: don’t say, “I’m cold,” but rather, “[Mystical neuter something] is cold to me.” Likewise, not “I didn’t finish my homework,” but “[Mystical neuter something] didn’t let it get done for me to finish the homework.”

(Get more facts–there’s no pun in that–about Russian grammar from a colleague in Yaroslavl on her blog. Otherwise, my life story (of sorts) is continued below.)

This was supposed to be the week that we got settled in to our firmed-up schedules and caught up on work. (But this assumption was wrong. More proof that when you “A S S (of) U (&) M E” in Russia, you just get it handed back to you.) (more…)

"You're stronger and bolder from year to year, army of the Soviet people!"

"You're stronger and bolder from year to year, army of the Soviet people!"

Since the holiday began a many year ago when, of course, men defended the country and women stayed home to have babies and cook, I’ll save the discourse on sexist discrimination for another day.

The abbreviated history: the day was started under Lenin to honor those in the Red army, but once “the Fatherland”/USSR fell to pieces, they decided to call it “Men’s Day,” to balance Women’s Day on March 8. Or read the long history.

But, old names stick. Ryan and I went to a concert at the Philharmonic, bearing the name of the former holiday, attracting the age group of people most attached to such a name (i.e., seniors). It was also free, attracting a larger than normal attendance, as well as two poor American students, yours truly. (more…)

Call me crazy, but I like it: this week every day, I’ve come home tired, slightly stressed by the evening’s to-do list, sometimes sore, and sometimes cold. But unfailingly ecstatic about it. Woohoo!

I even got to reorganize my desk, which means moving the once hugely useless and in-the-way computer monitor to a closet, adding its speakers to my laptop, and using the keyboard tray as a dictionary holder. Hoorah!

The semester’s finally taken off to the start I’d wanted it to. My classes are lined up with about 99% confidence they won’t change, I’ve got a nice selection of extracurricular gigs with a few more options promised to be on their way, my classmates are awesome (the Americans and the Russians), and (shh, don’t tell the feds) I might have found a way to bring in some moolah. Here’s the schedule. (more…)