I am utterly apologetic and sorrowful in reporting that nothing even potentially life-ending has happened to me recently. In fact, I am actually really enjoying my latest foray into Russian cities; this time it’s Novosibirsk. After my previous 4 months in Siberia (see earlier posts for Tyumeeen) I had expected Novosibirsk to be a slightly larger and more dangerous version of my ‘Tyumen experience’; after all I am the furthest East and the deepest into Siberia I have been. It really has been quite the opposite. Spring has pretty much arrived here (although people say it is the worst Spring they can remember) and so I can’t even really complain about the weather too much. How boring.
I am living with a 65 year old Russian couple here, Mikhail and Tatiana, and they are genuinely two of the nicest people one could ever hope to meet. Tatiana enjoys cooking a variety of soups, meat dishes and deserts which suits me brilliantly. I often have to refuse food to the point of being rude. Last night I commented on how much I enjoyed her Blini (Russian pancakes), so she then proceeded to cook me Blini until I refused to eat anymore. And by refusing I mean that I said I was full, she made me eat two more, then I stood up and said I was full whilst gesturing to my belly, and then I had to eat one final one. Life has been harder I must admit.
Mikhail on the other hand, is absolutely hilarious: absolutely nothing excites him more than the thought of some beer or mead, and a cigarette. When I first arrived here he’d often disappear for a quarter of an hour or so and I only recently discovered what for… (see picture below). On Fridays he buys himself a little bottle of beer, sits at the table and gleefully knocks it back. Even a mention or the thought of this weekly luxury is something to behold; the stupendously gleeful look on his face reminds me of a child’s expression after being given an ice-cream or sweetie (not something I do too often I’d like to add). Coincidently, he also has the same number of teeth as a child.
During my free time here (i.e. when I’m not researching my Year Abroad essays on Youtube or ‘other’ websites) I meet up with Charlotte and Maria. Charlotte is another Bristol student and has already been here two months hence her account of Novosibirsk below. Maria is lovely in every possible way; she is training to become a teacher of Russian as a foreign language and so is great for forcing Walters and I to talk in Russian together.
To celebrate Easter I was told to invite some friends round for tea. Of course I invited the girls and Marc, a Parisian who studied with me (more about him later). Tatiana and Mikhail pulled out all of the stops, laying out an absolute feast of food and drink. It was the only time that I have ever seen Mikhail not topless indoors and he constantly muttered about the “absurd heat” during the dinner to himself. Us men all drank Cognac and toasted about various things; from friendship between our countries to, quite simply, Easter. After the meal Tatiana excitedly announced that she had a video to show us. Expecting to see some sort of classic Soviet film we were suitably intrigued. Well, the film we were shown was certainly classic. A two-hour long unedited home video about a women’s-only trip to Israel in inaudible Russian is, maybe somewhat unsurprisingly, not the blurb for a recent Oscar winner. After 40 minutes of riveted watching Marc had begun to play a strategy game on his iPhone (we were both thankfully sat behind Tatiana and so could continue to eat/ignore). Charlotte and Maria, however, were sat next to Tatiana and so had to watch (and enjoy) the highlights of Israel such as: ‘Three 60 year old woman go bathing’; ‘Three 60 year old women comment on beach’; ‘Three 60 year old woman sweating profusely’; and my two favourite scenes; ‘Thumb in front of screen for 2 minutes’ and ‘Wall’ (Wall is either an abstract symbol for the repression of the Palestinian people or a minute-long recording of a plain wall whilst on a bus- not too sure which). Either way, it was a lovely meal and I shall certainly remember it.
My quest for a Russian girlfriend sadly still remains just that. The slightly magical and unattainable connotations of the word quest suits my case perfectly. I am confident in saying that the girls here are some of the most stunning I have seen in Russia (which says a lot), if it wasn’t odd I’d take some pictures to prove it. Whilst in Tyumen I had the idea of making a ‘Babushkas vs. Babes’ Tumblr page; the contrast between the two is very evident here. I still have a few weeks left so who knows- it could be a great way to meet some 6ft models. Or get the shit kicked out of me by a fat babushka.
Marc, the Parisian, was great fun to have around although he lived up to a few stereotypes we have of the French; namely, he thought of himself as an utter romantic. He, so very kindly, let me know some of his secrets: Only ever drink one drink so you are always understandable; never face the girl, i.e. approach from the side and lean on the bar backwards; and to grow some stubble. I have tried out most of these (apart from the stubble- I still look like a goat when I try to grow a beard) and I can honestly say that there is only one reason why any of them would work- the French accent. With a French accent any compliment sounds like exactly that, a compliment. Whereas in an English accent, a compliment sounds either mocking or just vaguely perverted. Or maybe it’s just me…
No, no that can’t be it.