Spotted in Russia: Michigan Starter Jacket

Looks like we got a Fab Five fan here…



First name Sergei. Last name Techtonic. : Halloween SPB Edition

Yesterday while shopping for her new apartment, Lindsay and I were lamenting our lack of Russian friends. The intense nature of our training course and the timidity that comes with moving to a new country had kept us from being bold in our social acquisitions. Luckily, this was about to change.

We started last night off at our favorite, dirt-cheap chain bar, SPB. After ordering our second round of $2 pints, I decided to visit the restroom. Naturally there was a line but I must mention that lines in Russia are not like lines in other countries. There is no rhyme or reason to lines. Instead of standing in the order of arrival, the lines ebb and flow and it’s not obvious who is first and who is last. It was in such a line, when a girl named Anne asked “кто послендний”, that the tides turned. I started chatting with her in Runglish and said I was from Chicago. “Wow, Chicago?” she exclaimed in her heavy Russian accent, ” You’re American? You look Russian!”

Just then the bathroom freed up and I entered. While in the bathroom, I heard chatterings in Russian from the outside. “Who is from Chicago? Wow she is from Chicago. She’s American!” Now, this is the first time that being American has been seen as a plus since moving here. When I studied in Ecuador, being American gave me a certain cache but here it isn’t as intriguing, or so I thought.

I emerged from the bathroom to see a man with zombie face make-up waiting to ambush me outside the bathroom. “You American?” he asked. I replied that yes, indeed I am and we proceeded to chat. Soon his two friends joined and we started making quite the commotion in the small hallway to the bathroom. They were very intrigued to know why I was in Russia and if they should study at Michigan Tech…? We stood in the hallway drinking our beers (they kindly brought me one) until we realized it made much more sense to move to the table.

From there the ball got rolling and soon with our three new Russian friends in tow we made our way into the street in search of a club. As far as I can tell Halloween is still an emerging holiday, reserved for giving 2o year olds a reason to get even drunker and wear zombie face paint. (Fortunately, the trend of using Halloween as an excuse to dress and act promiscuously has not yet arrived here).

Yet people still got into the holiday spirit. For every costume I saw, I saw ten more people wearing street clothes with Kiss-esque makeup and thirty people in their regular clothes. We unfortunately, were the latter. As every club we passed showed signs of a long wait and face control, we made our way to my new favorite bar– Radio Baby. As we were walking there Sergei started showing me his Techtonic skills.”First name Sergei. Second name Techtonic.” he kept saying as he threw his arms above his head and wiggled his skinny butt. And right he was. As soon as we got into the club he made a beeline foe the dance floor, stood on a table, and there he remained, techtonicing to his hearts content, for the next three hours.

Clearly, I had picked winners out of the Russians hanging out at SPB last night. After Sergei took the stage, Andrei had his shirt off and was gyrating with the closest female he could find. Only Antoly seemed to be well-behaved. But hey, they were down to get rowdy on the dance floor and if there is one thing I love… All signs point to an eventful friendship.

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U of M on the Cold Front

Under the Cultural Exchange Agreement between the U.S. and the USSR, many artists were able to travel to the USSR and perform. The idea behind the program is that the exchange of cultural elements would create a middle ground on which our two societies at odds could interact. I love the idea of using art/dance/music to foster relations between countries and is part of the reason I want to work in foreign relations one day.

And so to my delight, yesterday I received an e-mail from UofM commemorating the Symphony Band’s 1961 Tour of Russia. Cool! Link below…

Cold War Memories

And Now I’m a Teacher

Yesterday was the last day of my Teach English as a Foreign Language Course and now I can officially teach English in Saint Petersburg. In honor of this occasion, I want to share two examples of the enigmatic and fickle nature of the English language.

The first is an excerpt of the poem Chaos by Gerard Nolst Trenite:

I take it you already know

Of tough and bough and cough and dough

Others may stumble but not you

On hiccough, thorough, laugh and through.

Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,

To Learn of less familiar traps!

Beware of heard, a dreadful word

That looks like beard and sounds like bird,

And dead: it’s said like bed, not bead —

For goodness sake don’t call it deed!

Watch out for meat and great and threat

(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).

The second is a video made by NYC based production company Collabo!  depicting a Borges poem

Argumentum Ornithologicum

I may use this one for my lesson on countable and uncountable nouns….