Friday, October 13, 2006

This week has been a fairly busy week. Last Saturday/Sunday, while in Yaroslav, a fellow student and I went out for drinks with our Resident Director. Tom (the RD), is a great guy. He is a tremendous resource on how to get things done and how to live a decent life in Russia. Ontop of that, he is incredibly personable.
Tom suggested (as I had heard before) that we spend as much time speaking to Russians as is possible. Additionally, he pointed out that everytime that we speak English (while in Russia) we are wasting our time and money. This was a good reminder.
To further this point, during our weekly group meeting, Tom announced that our teachers would begin to strictly enforce the Russian-only rule on school premises from 0900-1420. Ontop of that, Tom has quit sending us notices/text messages, etc in English. They are now only in Russian.
All of this, hopefully, will help me reach my goal of more than a 1 point gain in language proficency during my year in Russia.
On Wednesday I met with my Russian language tutor. This tutor is a free, optional part of the ACTR program. The tutors are usually students working on the college degrees in the area of teaching Russian to foreigners. My tutor is a really helpful and nice Rusisan girl finishing her degrees in Foreign Languages (namely German and English).
On Thursday evening I went out with a Russian friend for a few hours. We (as is the normal activity here) walked for a couple of hours, before going to a cafe. The temptaion to speak English is tremendous. A lot of the Russian you meet, such as my friend, have been studying English for twelve or more years. Though if you resist the desire to speak English, and speak only Russian, the pay-off is tremendous.
I woke up at the unnatural time of 0430 this moring. And, seeing that the sun had not yet risen, I studied grammar. I didn't feel in the mood to do the prefixed verbs of motion from class. So I considered where my continuing weak points lie in Russian. I realized that I still fail to appropriately use the cases (which are crtitical). This lead me to take out my copy of Schaum's Guide to Russian Grammar and to begin reading. I went to Chapter 2: Nouns, and dug-in. I got through most of the cases before I finally took a break to come to the internet cafe (at 0930).
My greatest regret in my previous two years of studying Russian, is that I had never paid close attention to the declentions, or to the appropriate case endings. I had always skipped over the third declention nouns (as they are more rare than first or second declention nouns).
The best advice that I could give to current students of Russians is to learn the cases as you cover them in class. It is hard to really have them solid. It takes a good deal of work (or it takes me a good deal of work atleast). But it will save you so much time and aggrevation later.
Other than that, I feel that I probably have another couple of hours of studying before I rest.
Hope all is well,

Monday, October 09, 2006

Life in Russia is coming along well. I have been keeping busy with all of my usual activities. I just got back last night from three days in the beautiful city of Yaroslavl. It is probably my favorite city yet in Russia.
One of the interesting things that I have noticed is that many costs here are listed in US dollar. For instance, car billboards are listed only in $ amounts, not in roubles. Equally, my cell phone minutes are deducted using dollars and cents, not roubles and kopecks.
I would assume that the large corporations (ie car companies) don't have much faith in the rouble. As it is, if you are a Russian buying a new car, you probably don't deal very often in roubles. It is much more likely that you do business in USD.
Well, everything else here is well!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

First Test

Today I took my first test in the Russian Federation! I had prepared for it to be incredibly difficult, while it proved to be just very challenging. The theme was verbs of motion in my Russian grammar class. We only had to prepare for the fourteen most common (un-prefixed) verbs of motion. Next are the prefixed verbs of motion.
Life is coming along in Vladimir. Not too much is new or exciting.
Last week Tim Oconnor, the ACTR representive, came for his field visit of Vladimir. He stated that while life is going on as usual in Vladimir, St Petersburg is having problems.
There has been a steady increase in the number of hate crimes against foreigners. What makes these crimes so suprising is that: 1. They occur in broad daylight, and 2. They occur in well traveled, tourist areas.
It should be noted that, all of the hate crimes have been against non-whites (predominantly Orientals). This does knock-down the threat level for me, but I remain a foreigner.
The police in Vladimir picked-up one of our students last week. During a random document check, they concluded that his papers were not in order. Well, his papers were in order.
It just happens that the student bears a striking resemblance to a Chechen (though he is actually Jewish). He even jokes about how much he looks like a Chechen! So after a trip to the police station, and some brief interogation, he was released.
The fact that he carries an American passport probably contributed to his rather rapid release.
Well, keep emailing me the questions! Thanks!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Entertainment in Russia

Russians are less varied than Americans in entertainment. They don't go to the movies often, or go to try new bars/restaurants. Rather, they do the same few activities over-and-over again.
A couple of weeks ago, I was curious as to what young Russians did for fun. So I sent a text message from my mobile phone to a Russian. I asked my friend "What do young people do for fun around here?" The response that I recieved was, "ha-ha. I'll tell u what they do. They drink!"
Now, beer is replacing vodka as the drink of choice among young people.
Of course, TV is also very popular. Unlike in the US, Russians don't readily invite people over to their houses. It seems rather uncommon (as the ACTR explained during orientaion), to go to a friends house and rent a movie/watch a program. It is unimaginable that a mixed group, of guys and gals, would ever congregate in a home.
Instead, roaming the streets is popular. Hours-and-hours of walking. It is cheap, and allows you to socialize. I would easily say that I have walked more than 6 miles in one evening, "for fun". There is no fixed destination, just walking.
I only get 2-4 TV channels, but they have relatively varied programs. There is the news, (lots of) soap operas, (many) (lousy) American films (dubbed into Russian), and they have the equivalent of Candid-Camera that is very popular.
Soap operas are my favorite. They are easy to follow. The themes aren't very deep. And they don't use very complex vocabulary. A student of Russian can readily understand what is going on in a soap opera. Alternatively, the news is nearly impossible. I have never seen a newscaster speak so fast in the US. There lips look like a humming birds' wings. It is really remarkable how quickly they speak. If I don't understand a word that the newscaster uses, they are already on the next story before I figure it out.
Russians also seem to appreciate reading. It seems that the most popular genre is detective novels. Everyone reads detective novels. They are also probably one of the easier genres for students of Russian.