Wednesday, May 16, 2007

So this is it then.

The good byes have all been said, the last beers consumed. Souvenirs purchased.

This. Is. Wierd.

Everything I've done over the last few days has been the "last time I'll do that," or "the last time I do this." It's a very strange feeling knowing that such an adventure is rapidly ending. Of course there have been times I have hated this county and everyone who lives here, but who hasn't felt that way about America from time to time.

I leave Vladimir at midnight. I then fly to Frankfurt, followed by DC. From there, I will drive to SLC and rock out there for a few days. This all starts today, but it sure doesn't feel that way.

I think the feeling I have most right now is just one of total acceptance. If I have learned anything in Russia...besides would definitely be humility in the face of that which we cannot control; be it some bitch who doesn't want to attempt to understand what I'm saying because I'm foreign, or be it having such an Odyssey come to a close so quickly. Of course I've been waiting for this day since sometime over Christmas break, but you know what? No matter how much it may bother me, I somehow really ended up loving this place. Even if mst of our time was spent bitching about it, it really is something else to live in Russia, like a Russian.

that being said...


This is DanInRussia, signing off.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Wow, as always, it's been a long long time since I posted here.
I figured I should update at least twice before I head home so here is the first of (at least) two postings.
Before I start talking about Sochi, where I spent last week, I'd like to briefly mention what's been going on. Not too much really, life before we left for Sochi was business as usual with one large exception. Our friend and compatriot Matt, one of the best people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, had his visa cancelled before we went to Sochi for doing nothing but being in the the wrong place at the wrong time. It is not my place to give all of the details, but suffice it to say all he was doing was asking questions for a very in depth and impressive term paper he was writing (in Russian). We all saw first hand just how fucked up Russia can be as we watched helplessly how the situation unfolded. As far as I know he's back in 'Bama right now, kicking it, but Sochi just wasn't the same without him. Hope all is well Dude.

Now for Sochi. Well after a 36 hour train ride, we arrived and walked to the hotel. Most of our time was spent sitting out on the balcony of our hotel room in the sun, drinking beers and talking. It rained several days wile we were there, but it was still fun to sit around and watch movies. We also went to a place called the 33 Waterfalls, the name of which kind of tells all. However, to get there, we all had to pile into the back of what appeared to be an old Soviet troop transport (kind of like a big pickup truck with a bed that could have been covered in some kind of cloth, but wasn't). This thing was massive. We drove up into the mountains, then back down into the river valley, and then...into the river. This monster truck just barrelled up this river basin, I swear to god the driver was aiming for the water when he could have been driving on shore. So we get up to the waterfalls and climb up these sketchy wooden planks to get up to the top. I'm not sure if there really were 33 of them, no one counted, but there were many, and they were all spectacular. At the top one, some of us stripped down to our skivvies and jumped in. It was COLD. Those of you who will see me in America will get to see the pictures, there are many.

The other highlite of Sochi was, "The Baltika Challenge." (I hope you're reading this Tom)

In Russia there is a brand of beer called Baltika. They produce a series of beers, each named only by a number (0-9). The numbers do not really correspond to one another in any logical way except that 0 is non-alcoholic and 9 is very alcoholic (around 8% I think). Everything in between is pretty much just different types of beer, though several of them are very similar, different only in alcohol content. So the challenge is quite simple: 0-9 in an evening. 5 liters of beer (Russian beer usually comes in .5L bottles). Well, didn't seem so bad at first. We've all had that much to drink before, I alone drank about 5 liters of Baltika 3 on the train ride to Sochi, no problem right? Wrong.

Something went horribly, horribly wrong.

Aparently mixing 10 different types of beer in your stomach is a bad idea. It only took about 4 of them before people started to lose it. There were 6 gladiators in the ring that night, only one finished, and it was not me. I quit half way through my number 9, so close, but unable to complete it (9 tastes like ass anyway). The Whitmer finished his and passed out. Kush would have finished but was cut off after puking out of a window. My memory is grainy, but I was sane through all of it. Some of us walked to McDonalds for a late night snack before tackling the 9. I think this helped me, but in the end prevented me from finishing.

The next morning our room was a disaster area. 60 bottles littered the floor. A garbage can stood full know. One bed had taken a pretty nasty gastro-intestinal beating, it's sheets and pillows tossed out on the balcony to prevent the smell from causing more problems. The cleaning ladies stopped by in the morning, but were thankfully prevented from entering the room. Andy just passed bags and bags of bottles through a crack in the door, the maids aghast and mildly amused.

One day I will face this monster again, but I was beaten this time. Readers who are familiar with Russia take heed: the Baltika Challenge is not for the timid and faint of heart, you will face your worst demons and end up with a video on your camera of some asshole whipping his penis out.

On that note, I prepare to face what is essentially my last week of classes. I will have exams of some sort I think, but I'm not too worried. I'm looking forward to going home, but I will do everything I can to make this last week count.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dude, what a miserable fucking week this has been.

Petersburg was great, but I think by walking around too much, drinking too much, and smoking too many cigarettes, I may have caused damage to my health. On the train ride back things really started to get sour. By Monday night I was running a 102 degree fever and wanting death, quick and painless. Spent the rest of the week in bed, feebley trying to fight off my host mother's home remedies, all of which tasted like ass. Watched a lot of TV though, which was nice. This week is going to be a real shit show, trying to catch up on all of the work I missed.

But in better news, went to the banya yesterday to sweat this shit out, and that was fun. Afterwords we went out for some terrible Chinese food.

The weather is getting warm, the snow is all gone, and there is almost no mud to be found anywhere. Life is good. Starting to have to think about housing lottery for next year which should be interesting form a zillion miles away. My return home gets closer and closer every day, and it's pretty wierd to think about. What an adventure this has been.

But it's not over yet, lot's to do, so I'm not going to get retrospective...yet.

All for now.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Man, got to update this thing more often.

Not too much earth shattering news to report, but I did have an amazing weekend, and am headed for another this week.

Thursday (International Women's Day) I went out and danced the night away at a club, which was mostly shitty, with a few really kick ass moments. Also, they had a ridiculous comedy show that was mostly gay jokes and fart jokes, so naturally, I was enthralled. Got home way later than the club was worth, but that's ok, I got to talk to a toothless drunk on the street trying to hail a cab. When Russians don't have teeth, which is often, they're much harder to understand. Especially when every word out of their mouth is a horrible slur. It was pretty awesome. He was drinking a beer called "Goat." Having tried "Goat myself," I can say that it's not bad, it just needs more goat flavor. Sadly, I know what goat flavor is now.

Ok that's enough on that tangent, Friday we went to the Banya, which went very much as usual, though was puncuated by a few class moments including Bren in his "asstastic" Speedo. As usual we sweat a lot, drank a lot, danced a lot, and sang a lot. I also played my first ever game of Beirut using beer, which was fun, even though I lost. So I've got that going for me now.

Saturday night Andy and I went to a concert, which was awesome. They plaнув some Russian songs, and a whole bunch of covers of American rock songs, it was pretty sweet. Again, ended up staying out way later than I should have, drinking way more than I should have (though not as much as Andy for once). I thought I had more to say about that, but that's really it.

Other than that, things are good. It's still pretty melty, I don't fall as much, but I do step in ankle deep puddles full of dog shit and motor-oil, which sucks. Going to St. Petersburg again this week, it's going to be сuh-RAZY!

As a punishment for his alcoholism, my host mother is preparing a "repression," which will include a removal of the computer from the apartment, so I'm going to be in communicado for a while. I hope all is well all around the world.

one of the cats just yacked on the floor. I miss Moe.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Ok, so seriously, I'm ready to stop falling on my ass every day. This is getting ri-goddamned-diculous. I don't know how the Russkies do it, particularly the women in stilettos.

Not too much to report from the Eastern Front. I got another ear piercing, much like the older one, just, you know, a little lower. I like it a lot, but I am super sketched out about having gotten a piercing in Russia, and have never wanted a blood test so bad in my life.

I also finished The Master and Margarita today, I'm a little ashamed that I hadn't read it earlier, frankly. I'm not going to write a book report on it or anything, but it was food for thought, especially given the topic of thought that I've been dwelling on a lot lately while on the toilet or trying to sleep...or both at the same time. The conclusions are few, but worthwhile. And, if nothing else, it has given me a reason to go back to Moscow in the spring. I have to see Patriarch's Pond now. If you've read it, you know what I mean.

Classes are chugging a long, it's hard to believe it's almost March. Really, once March ends, the program will sort of drift along until our trip to Sochi in April, followed by the best trip ever; the trip home. As for now, however, I can only look forward to the day the ice starts to thin, and I can walk surefooted once again. Russia in spring-time will be something else, I'm sure of it. After the mud and filth have gone away at least. There's something about spring anywhere that is just so wonderful, but I feel like I will greet this coming one with more cheer than usual. As long as I don't start falling in the mud, anyway.

Monday, February 19, 2007


We went to Moscow this weekend, and it went along rather smoothly I think. We went to the Pushkin Museum of art, which was...interesting. Almost the entirety of their sculpturecollection, whicwas vast, was made up of plaster copies of famous works (think David, The Winged Victory, ENTIRE SECTIONS OF THE PARTHEONON). It was interesting, but in the end pointless, though it was cool to see fake versions of things I've seen in Greece and New York.

The next day we went to the Kremlin Armory. It was wild. The armory contains all of the jewels, gold, and as the say in The Goonies, "the rich stuff." 100 carat emeralds and rubies set into big books, covered in diamonds and pearls. It was crazy. Kushner said it best, "those fuckers had it coming soooo bad." Suc unbelievable excess. It was sweet.

Next wasthe Museum of History. Pretty lame, the highlight was the severed head of a body found preserved in the Siberian permafrost. One of two severed heads I gawked at this weekend, the other at the Pushkin museum, which was thankfully real. They also had a mummified cat and bird now that I think about it.


As far as personal time, it carried on much as usual. A fair amount of beer, a few stupid actions, but nothing too insane. Con-Air was on TV friday night, and we boozed and watched that for a while. Things got a little wild (read: stupid) after that, but that's a story not fit for this forum.

I almost forgot, we ate like kings at a Georgian restaurant. It's difficult o describe what I ate, but it's probably better that way, I personally don't really want to know. But it was delicious. And plentiful. Lots of lamb and wonderful....uhhh green and pink stuff....yeah, it was that kind of meal.

But now I'm back in Vladimir. The snow is falling, the tummy is grumbling, and all is well in the universe. It's Andy's birthday today. We're going bowling later tonight. Sweet.
That's all for now. Stay warm.

Friday, February 09, 2007

So, I finally beat Russia.

After I lost my phone on New Years, I went to go and buy another one. I found the same one I had before and loved, for not too much money, and a "better" one on sale for slightly more. I opted for the "better" one. Turns out it was a total piece of shit. Not only could I only write very small text messages, think 60 charaters, but the Russian letters on the keys were'nt in the right place. Being super lazy it took me about 20 days to gt around to attempting to return it. When I did I found out that I had only had 14 days to get a refund. I bitched about it as best I could but the man at the store said he was sorry, there was nothing he could do about it. Fuming, I bitched at him more, in poor Russian no doubt, and he finally cracked and gave me a piece of paper that would get the phone fixed for free at a service center. I caved at this point, better a shitty phone that at least works, than a shitty phone I can't use. So I hauled my cookies all the way to the service center, which was a terrifying place I hope I never have to return to, waited in line for about an hour or so, and then gave them my phone to fix. A few days later I went back to get the phone. The nice girl at the desk got it for me, said something really fast, and then gave me a piece of paper. I said thanks, and peaced. On the street I put my SIM card in the phone and tried it out. Fuckers hadn't done anything! Indignant I went back inside to give them a piece of my mind, when an old lady, who had been yelling at the service people, stopped and asked me why I was back, probably looking for some support. She explained that the piece of paper the girl had given me meant that the service people couldn't fix my phone, and that under the warranty I was entitled to a phone from the same store of equal value. I was ecstatic. I triumphantly marched back into the store I had bought the phone at, and demanded a new phone. This time I succeeded. Here's the kicker: I had bought the phone on sale, but the balance I had available at the store was te pre-sale price. So I got the phone I knew and loved from earlier, and used the rest of the balance to put more money on my SIM card, essentially getting a sale price on a phone which was way better, but also cheaper anyway.

Daniel:1 Russia: eight trillion.

So all's well that ends well. School is back in session, we've got a new crew, they're all pretty cool, and life is good. It's cold as a bitch, and everything is covered in slippery snow and ice. I fall daily, cursing loudy, sometimes in Russian, sometimes in English, and sometimes a mixture.
That's all for now, hope all is well to those at home, and abroad.