Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas party!

Dear readers,

So my work for the semester is over, apart from a pesky oral exam in Russian literature that I'll have to take on Monday. I've almost recovered my hostage visa (still waiting on a copy of one last train ticket), so I might actually be allowed out of the country. We foreigners are in full holiday-celebration mode. We did Christmas Eve at a friend's apartment and Christmas at mine. We exchanged gifts, baked cakes, cookies, and what not, and I made an extra-large batch of eggnog, which was very delicious. I've substituted out rum/whiskey (way overpriced in Russia) for Russian "Balzam", a sort of spiced, berried liquor that goes well with the spiced nog. We have a lovely tree decked in all sorts of decorations that somehow accumulated over the past few days, along with some really finicky chinese Christmas lights. We put out some socks, cookies, and milk for Santa Clause, and on the first day he just ate the goods without leaving anything. He made up for it last night and slipped us some fancy "Cote d'Or" chocolate.

Up next: a few days of extreme, Russian New Years celebrations.

Anyway, enjoy the pictures.

Merry Christmas to all my loved one back home!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter in Tomsk

At long last I've managed to get together an album of pictures of Winter in Tomsk. Pretty beautiful, I think. Here's the link:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Siberian news/blues

Dear faithful readers,

I guess there's not a whole lot to report here. The weather's warmed up, and we've had some wet snow lately that's really starting to pile up. A lot of the little old wooden houses are really starting to look like a cottage out of a fairy tale, with a foot and a half of snow piled on top. Some New Years decorations are starting to come out, my students are starting to panic about "zachet" and the exam week (I won't even pretend to fully understand how zachet is different from exams... it's just before New Years instead of after). I'm doing a unit on Christmas, which is proving to be a lot of fun. My parents sent some Christmas songs for me to show my students, I'm teaching them to sing Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer (including the light bulb/George Washington bits).

I've been pretty exhausted lately. I don't know how it works out this way, but I never manage to get enough sleep and I just keeps adding up. I've been busy with applications, e-mailing professors, and directing my dad on where to send which form for which university. If I get into grad school I'll have buy him a nice present for doing half the work for me. Anyway, I turned in my first application, for Harvard, and now I'm really starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I've talked with my friend Sveta about the possibility of getting a class in American-literature during the next semester. It would be so wonderful to get to do some work that is in any way related to my studies, instead of talking about AIDS, globalization, religious diversity, the financial crisis, global warming, and other natural disasters all the time. My grandfather is currently scouring all sorts of books for the best selections from American literature, which is planning to scan and then transfer to text, so that I can use them in the classroom. Needless to say, I'm pretty excited and grateful.

In other news, today we're organizing a forum on "Englishes", featuring myself, Michael from England, and Cate from Canada. It's shaping up to be very interesting. We're going to cover the history of English, the divergence of the different dialects, grammatical, phonological, and lexical differences, as well as local dialects in each of the countries. We've been preparing a bit, and I think it is just as interesting and surprising for us as it will be for them. If it's a success, we may give the forum at a few of the other universities as well! I'm practicing my NY accent, as well as a handful of different southern ones. I've even brought a recording of an old folk song performed in Cajun French.

We watched Life is Beautiful in our American film club this Sunday, which I had never seen and really enjoyed. The students had a lot to say about the movie, so it worked out well. One guy listed four things he liked, but then added that he didn't like that there was an American flag on the tank that came to liberate the camp. Since it's common knowledge that the USSR won World War II, there should have been a Soviet flag, evidently. This is, of course Hollywood's bias, he explained (Hollywood, Italy). Oh well.

So yeah, I have about a week and a half of work, and then it's a well-deserved vacation for me. I just have to figure out how exactly to sneak into the forest at night to chop myself a "Elochka", since there are no tree farms here.

Best wishes,

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New personal record low

-29.7 degrees Celsius.

I'll keep you posted as winter rears its ugly head.

At -30 your eyelashes turn white and you start to feel a really awful pressure on your forehead and eyes. Also your legs go numb after only a few minutes.

I don't know how all these Russian writers survived in those Siberian camps without heat. JEEZ