Monday, July 9, 2007

First week - Friday, 6/29

It was decided that on Fridays, in lieu of a lecture, we'd have an "airing of grievances" in English. The best part of this was as follows:

Andrew: "That first lecture, the economics one, that Nikita Maslennikov--"
Anna Maslennikova: "Yes, he is my husband"
Andrew: "--was absolutely great, I enjoyed it a lot!"

This was of course the lecture that I mentioned from Monday which no one really understood very well. After the laughter died down we more seriously discussed the difficulties including grammar, which evidently was a difficulty for all the groups.

After the meeting we had a tour around Peter and Paul Fortress, and inside the Peter and Paul Cathedral, which was nice, as it was something I didn't get to see very much (except insofar as it's a large landmark, visible from most of the city), and after the tour we went to a concert there by a male choir which I enjoyed. It was actually in a room inside the fortress wall (it was moved, to hilarious effect, at the last minute). It was packed, and as I left, they handed out these small laminated placards (the size on the order of a few postage stamps) which read "АНТРАКТ" / "ANTRAKT" in Latin and Cyrillic. I thought this was the name of the choir, until next week when we were at the theater, when I asked someone how to say "intermission," and, you guessed it, it's "antrakt" is Russian, at which point I realized that it was probably a reentrance ticket. Why they felt the need to write the Russian word in the Latin alphabet, rather than giving the English word, is beyond me.

First week - Wednesday, 6/27

Today we were going to watch a film with Polly Gannon, but the sound wouldn't work. Our cultural excursion of the day was to "watch"/listen to Verdi's Requiem at the philharmonic. I like Mozart's better but I nevertheless enjoyed it; it's very different to listen to music by oneself than to sit and listen to it performed). After that, I walked around a bit near the dorms where I lived last year, eating dinner at the bliny place where the same two guys still worked. It was bittersweet to see the familiar sights/people but being there just by myself.

Random note: the mullet is strangely in style here now

First week - Tuesday, 6/26

Today we started our Russian-language classes; they run from 9:30 to about 1:15 in two 1:30 sections (пары). My first class was grammar; this went well, as everything was in Russian in spite of the fact that about half the group doesn't know any grammatical terms in Russian. We spent about 10 minutes figuring out that we were talking about adjectives (the teacher doesn't speak English, but rather only Russian and German, so we had to talk around everything that was unclear). I didn't learn much grammar (I'm quite familiar with adjectives by this point) but at least it was good practice in listening and speaking. We were given a handout on participles to read for the next class, so that at least held some promise. Of course, the handout (evidently from a textbook) was only mildly useful, as the excerpt explained everything about participles (types, endings) except when to use which type, which was kind of the important part.

The second class was phonetics, which was fairly interesting. We were given a booklet of songs (Не фонетика - песня! / "Not phonics - songs!"), each of which goes over some sort of phonetic device; this one was called "Shi-Zhi-Zhi". We listened and sang it to the tune of the teacher playing the guitar. The chorus goes "A zhuzhi zhuzhat: zhu zhu zhu zhu zhu" (The beetles are buzzing: zhu zhu zhu...etc) and so on. For me though, the hardest thing is rolling the "r" in various places.

After lunch, John Bailyn gave a lecture on Russian which was fairly interesting, and went over some interesting interactions between various letters vis-a-vis softness/hardness (e.g. in English: due vs. do have soft/hard 'd' sounds), and spelling rules.

After this lecture we watched a film (introduced by Timur, who introduced many films last year), called "Man with a moviecamera" which was a silent film which was sort of about everyday life. When that finished we split off and went to various restaurants; I went with the Sbarro group, not surprisingly.

Writing the English takes enough time, so I'll just skip the Russian journal entries

First week - Monday 6/25

On Monday we took a placement exam, obviously to determine into which groups we would be divided. Last year's test was a short one, maybe an hour or so (if that), but this one was a fairly grueling 3 hours, with 130 questions, including 3 listening sections (given via short video clips). Participles (причастие) were the last things we looked at (but only briefly) in class at home, but they were the main thing I remember not knowing here; it felt like half the questions involved them. The room was also hot, so all-in-all it was quite exhausting.

After that we had lunch, which was tough because they just brough a soup, salad and main dish (no choice) and I am very picky. This it "бизнесс-ланч" ("business lunch") is offered to us every day after morning classes (пары) but I've stopped bothering and go to another cafeteria in the building.

After lunch, we had a lecture given by Nikita Maslennikov, who had given a lecture last year in English (the "cannonball" lecture, if you were there). This year he gave a lecture on economics. It was in Russian: fast, terse, Russian, with lots of economic terms. This was hopeless for me to understand (and few others had much better luck). I was already sort of worn out from the test, and this didn't help. After that we were to have an excursion around the city but that didn't play out due to rain.

We're "obliged" (recommended) to keep a Russian journal, so here is that rendition of the day's events:
Сегодня мы написали эксамен, который был очень трудный. Вообше я знал мало о причастиях. Я очень устал, но после обеда (который мне не очень понравился, потому что, я, к сожелению - разборчив), у нас была лекция на русском языке по экономике. Этого было очень трудно понимать. Я очень устал. У нас было бы эксурсия, но она не состоялась, потому что, шёл дождь.