Posts Tagged ‘Sovietism’

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…)

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…)

"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…)

I regress: Saxony (the most southern province of former East Germany) and Bohemia (the western half of the Czech republic) were my next destinations on my January European tour after Berlin. Apart from being great destinations in central Europe, somewhat distant relatives who’d visited Arizona a few years ago and friends from Middlebury awaited me in both (and, not to mention, were offering housing).

Nepperwitz town signNepperwitz. The evening of January 9, I was received at the Leipzig Hauptbanhof (main train station) with wide open arms by my relatives Dieter and Eveline (avid readers of the Bablefish translator version of this blog!).

After the first of many very nice meals out, we drove back to Nepperwitz about an hour away, where we celebrated my coming with a bottle of wine and picture taking next to the Christmas tree they’d left up especially for my coming. So sweet! We established that my great grandma (my mom’s mom’s mom) is Dieter’s grandmother’s sister, whatever that exactly makes me to him (apart from an even too well-received guest!), and looked at each others photos, and made great use of English and Russian as semi-common languages. (more…)

The somatic triggers of late-winter rain’s smell and the gymnastics of skipping over the slush-puddles of Prague got spring on my mind a few weeks ago.

The disappointing irony of the fact is that I’ve returned to the hard freeze of winter in Irkutsk. Night temps are comfortably below -30 deg. C. and not going anywhere.

By chance, my host mom, perhaps also suffering the same mid-winter lassitude as I, has been bringing home the taste of the tropics lately: hard-to-peel oranges and green bananas fill our evening table most nights now.

Ah, yes. Green bananas.

The back story: during the Soviet union, the central committee was hardly concerned with managing the import of bananas from good-willed buddy nation Cuba. As a rule, the Committee had bigger problems on their plate.

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To properly describe my experience in the realm of the Russian “holiday season,” if such a concept actually exists as a period defined apart from the general conception of everyday life in this country, then I should go back to my Thanksgiving holiday here.

Walking out of a delightful evening of intercultural dialogue (conversation over wine with Russians) on the last Thursday of November, passing the central market, my cohorts and I noticed that within the past few hours, a gargantuan “Happy New Year’s” light-up sign with accompanying fir garlands had been hung on the face of the main shopping mall. That may have made my Thanksgiving more complete than the sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie had.

I don’t consider myself a total minion of the U.S. of Consumerism Culture that I left behind in order to spend the holidays abroad. But, I won’t lie, the probably coincidental Black Friday start of the Russian end-of-the-year shopping season with the Irkutsk central market’s sign-hanging and Christmas-tree construction really did touch my little heart, somewhere between my conviction that Christmas is the “Season for Giving” and my capacity to get an adrenaline rush when I see big red signs including the symbols “-” and “%.”

Thanks to the Soviet reconstruction of, well, everything, (more…)

On Tuesday night, I ran into another extra-curricular “committment” to keep myself well distracted from the significant, but shrinking, pile of work I have ahead of me this weekend. Hooray!

Irina Melentievna (grammar teacher), that wonderful woman, her, got her hands on tickets for the Irkutsk Dramaturgical Academy Theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet for us. I should add that “get one’s hands on” is a good Sovietism expressed in the verb “dostat,” which she seemed especially intent on inculcating in us with some “practical meaning,” so to speak, behind it. I like that teaching style…

Patrick had tried to tell her that the show was sold out. She would not stand for this. Barely asking whether or not Romany and I wanted to go (which we did, but still…), she stopped class, picked up her cell phone, and “made a few calls.” Five minutes later, Romany and I were promised 2 tickets in our hands the next day. Irina Melentievna concluded, slightly ironically (“not ironic” isn’t included in her understanding of communication), but totally seriously, “Guys. Just look at how great Russian corruption is.”

The show was advertised in cyrillic as “Romeo and Dzhulietta,” so it was obvious it wasn’t going to be in the original. Great, we were thinking. It’s hard enough when companies do Shakespeare with British accents, let alone Russian ones.

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