I found a bear!

Posted: November 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

Mother Russia has decided that I am an invader and is doing her best to freeze me to death. Dear Russia, I am not bent on conquering you, please warm up a little. Actually, it’s not that bad yet, but I’m worried about when it will hit-40 (that’s when the two temperature scales converge, so I don’t need to specify Fahrenheit or Celsius) as this is the city of the seven winds. Once you factor in the wind chill the temperature will be an approximate really effing cold.

Thanksgiving in Russia wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Not being home, I really could not care less about the holiday. I almost forgot that it existed. I also treated myself. Near my dormitory there is a little stand that sells roasted chicken and Caucasian bread called lavash. It wasn’t quite turkey and stuffing, but it was a nice dinner. Sadly, I did not know of the existence of this place until a few days ago. When one of my students told me about it, I was quite surprised and happy, then sad because I have been cooking for myself when I could have been feasting on yummy roast chicken. The same student later told me that I can also get delivery food to my dormitory including shashlik (kebabs) and sushi. I doubt I will do much cooking in the future. I think I have found my new version of Wok n Roll and Taco Express, except that these places do not serve Chinese or Mexican food. I can also get pizza, but I still have issues calling the product that is served in Russia “pizza.” Don’t get me wrong, it tastes good, but I have an obsession with a good New York style pizza. I guess you get spoiled when you come from a suburb of NYC.

In other news, my Russian class keeps getting better and better. For the literature portion, I am now reading “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkiban.” I’m so happy that my teacher caters to my interests. It makes up for the annoying grammar books that I have to use, which are very boring. I’m still reading one book and an article about the Russian automotive industry before 1917. This is still not the time period of my interest, but I’m now finding more sources in Russian, which supported my thesis research. There really was no indigenous Russian automotive industry. The automotive firms before 1917 really just assembled foreign vehicles under license in Russia. I also had a huge nerd moment when one of the teachers in the department brought me a few old copies of the Russian magazine “За Рулем” (Behind the Wheel). I didn’t know the publication still existed. When I was doing my thesis research, I saw many references to issues from the 1930s.

Harry Potter and car magazines. What more could I need to be happy? They all have Mercedes on the covers!

And, once again, I had an awesome weekend in Ulyanovsk. On Friday night, I went to the movies with two of my students and their friend. We went to see the film “Immortals,” which I expected to be terrible. I was pleasantly entertained and happy that I understood what was going on in the film. Although, one’s Russian doesn’t have to be great to understand stabbing and fighting. The more fight scenes, the better, because that’s less dialogue for me to have to understand.

Saturday, I went to the resource center and once again headed out with George, Julia, and Irene after class. We tried to get into the new Irish pub in town, but there was no space, so we went to a coffee shop next door. After sitting and talking for a while, we walked Irene to the bus stop and then strolled around the overlook of the Volga. The view of the bridges and the other side of the city at night is simply beautiful. The shrubs spelling out Lenin are also nice to view now that they are surrounded by snow.

Night by the Volga.

While walking through the streets, we saw a poster announcing the concert for the Belorussian ska/punk/rock group Ляпис Трубецкой (Lyapis Trubetskoy) that I love. They’ve gotten into trouble recently in their home country for critiquing the government in their lyrics. They also have some of the coolest music videos ever. Here’s a clip for their song Capital with English subtitles (and German).

We went to the major shopping mall in the center to inquire about the tickets for the concert. The contract with the club and the place selling the tickets had run out, but was supposed to be renewed on Monday (maybe) so I’m not sure about actually going to the concert at the moment, but I’m pretty sure that at least two of us will go provided we can get tickets.

The mall was an adventure after 10PM. On the main floor of the shopping mall there is a coffee bar in the center open space, which turns into a pseudo-night club later in the evening. It was playing the obligatory house music that Russians seem to really love. There was also one go-go dancer. I thought those went out of fashion in the 1970s, but maybe that’s naïve me who never has been to a club. After leaving the mall we went off to investigate a display of large toy animals in front of the adjacent building. Naturally, I had to have my photo taken with the polar bear. Please note that this is the only bear that I have seen in Russia this year.

I will always love polar bears. I can't wait to be reunited with my beloved Mr. Polar Bear when I go home.

We checked the time and realized it was 10:15PM. I have a slight problem in that the dormitory has a curfew of 11:00PM. Generally, I can get permission to stay out later, but I have to ask the woman by the door in advance. I didn’t think that I would be out so late, so I didn’t ask her earlier. We decided to go to the Irish pub to try it and then we would call a taxi and hopefully I would get to the dormitory in time. The pub was fun. In an odd episode of multiculturalism it seems that if I want to enjoy a German Weißbier in Russia, I must go to an Irish pub. Also, the Irish would be very upset because the Russian bar tender did not properly pour the Guinness. After quickly enjoying our drinks, we called a taxi. I arrived at the dormitory maybe two minutes past curfew, but there were thankfully no problems. All in all, it was an awesome evening and we made plans to meet up again later in the week to get dinner at the former Subway (now known as Manhattan because they could no longer afford the franchising) and to head to the pub again when it is less crowded.

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