Sunday, May 20, 2012

Many Victories

I usually start out with a complaint about the weather. For the past two months, I really can't do that. April had been, on record, the warmest and driest the South Urals region has experienced... and the good fortune has continued into May. Even so, many Russians warn me about how it can still snow in June, and that I should STILL dress warm, because in the morning it can be colder, and if the wind blows, I may catch a cold.

Even so, Chelyabinsk has come alive for me in the spring. Not that this city has ever lacked life... it is that I am more enthusiastic to go for long walks around the city when the sun is out and I don't need a coat... it is not the same repetition of home-class-meetings-home. I walk around different roads home every day, sure to see the most in my last month here. For a city with a "severe" reputation, the center roads are certainly magnificent... especially at night, when everything lights up, with the decorated trees and fountains.
One of the reasons for this decoration was that Chelyabinsk just hosted the All-European Judo Championship, and of course, hosted a LOT of foreigners. Some of my students had the opportunity to volunteer at the hotels where the athletes were staying, and I heard many stories about how good looking they were.
From what I hear, both Russia and Georgia performed well in the matches.

Another reason, was that last week, May 9th, was one of the most important Russian holidays- Victory Day. This day honors those who fought in World War II (The Great Patriotic War), on the day recognized as the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. In theory, that Wednesday was supposed to be the only day free from work, but many classes that whole week were canceled as some people like to take trips with family out of town.
I was in town, even though most of my friends had left. I spent the holiday rather low-key, but was sure to attend the parade and the concert on Revolution Square.
Never in my life have I ever seen so many PEOPLE just walking around. (And smiling! In Russia!)  It was also, again, unusually warm, about 85 degrees Fahrenheit (Nevertheless, I saw a Russian girl in a pukhovik and another wearing tights under her jeans. *head shake in disapproval*)
In the evening, I watched the fireworks display from the banks of the Miass, joined by a random Tajik with (surprise) another marriage proposal.
Just another day in Chelyabinsk.

The rest of the week, however, became rather irritating. My students had all caught a severe case of Spring Fever, and absolutely NOBODY was in the mood to work. My lesson plans were just not catching on. This past week things turned around a bit, but I still get the sense that everyone is just tired of school.

Last Saturday, in another effort to "see as many of my favorite places in the city before I suddenly have to pack up and leave it" I took a walk with my students and friends from the Music Institute, just to take pictures. (And in Russian, "сфотографироваться", to take pictures, usually requires a minimum of about 300)
As I said before, when I talked about the marshrutka mixup,  I am finally beginning to get a better layout of the city. I recently took a few trips to the dreaded, infamous "Leninsky district", where everyone says to avoid. As it turns out, in the daytime, most of Leninsky is fine... the bad reputation is simply because it is a residential district for the working class, and is home to a few ugly looking factories. I took a run around the bank of a big lake there (it wasn't as pleasant as I had hoped though... the running path did not go very long and I ran into more than a couple naked old men) I also visited a truly state-of-the-art health clinic there. I help a woman, Natalya Borisovna, with her English sometimes on the weekends, and she happens to be the boss of the clinic. Because it is against the Fulbright contract to receive extra money, she decided that as a "gift" I could get a free doctor's checkup at her clinic. It sounded good to me (and they check things that I usually don't get examined at home... like the weird gooey stomach roller thing and back roller thing and different kinds of cardiograms etc) The only thing is, I'll have to translate the documents once I get the results.

To add yet another "win"... I expanded my passport and now have room for another visa, and it only took one more 6:30 am bus ride to Ekaterinburg, a hundred dollars, four traffic jams, and one marriage proposal from an Uzbek.
That day though, happened to be National Museum Day, so I took advantage of it and went to an art museum in Ekaterinburg after my consulate appointment.

Finally... last night, was truly one of the most fun nights I've had this spring. One teacher I work with, Anna Spiridonova, invited me to go with her to a concert called Student Spring. We had VIP seats right on the floor of the arena, because her husband was the sound technician.
Student Spring (Студенческая Весна) is a nationwide contest that begins within universities, then expands to cities, federal districts (Russian republics, oblasts, krais, etc etc etc) and then ends with one final competition. It just so happens that this year's contest is hosted in Chelyabinsk, and I got to go.
The winner of the competition was Tyumen Oblast (they had several acts in the finals), followed by Kemerovo and Novosibirsk.
Some other acts worth mentioning:
Rock&Roll Yakut throat singing
Chuvash robot techno I'm-not-really-sure-what-that-was (dance? mime? some kind of skit, set to techno and robot costumes?)
Kalmyk Buddhist folk music and dance
a Cossack band from Stavropol performing Lady Gaga and the infamous song "La gente esta muy loca ALL DAY, ALL NIGHT, WHAT THE F..." (a techno song that has seriously PLAGUED all of Europe in the past year) on accordions and balalaikas
and a dance performance of four different nationalities (Russian, Kalmyk, Bashkir, and Dagestani) integrated, to a medley of songs.

There was so much positive energy, that after this concert, I arrived home and had nothing left to say except: Я ЛЮБЛЮ РОССИЮ! 

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