Language Purgatory

September 26th, 2009

Suzdal ChurchThis will be a short post, as the past few weeks, aside from our day trip to Suzdal, has been relatively quiet. We are preparing to take off on a cruise down south on the Volga river, which promises better weather and the chance to see a lot of Russia. Needless to say we’re all very excited.
We did get the opportunity to visit what is quite possible one of the world’s cutest towns, Suzdal, last week. Suzdal has something like 15 churches/cathedrals/monasteries, all of them in very good condition and very striking. The weather the day we visited was rather dramatic, which just lent everything in Suzdal a very dramatic feel.
I have hit what we jokingly call the language wall (everyone in an immersion environment eventually hits this), where my ability to understand and my ability to respond (all things in Russia being very not equal, it is far easier for me to understand conversation than it is to respond) have finally frustrated me beyond belief. This has also pushed me into what is referred to as “Language Purgatory,” I cannot speak Russian well (the bench mark being a native speaker, of course), and I seem to be forgetting English as well. However, towards the end of this week I’m gradually regaining my Russian skills, and the sun is out today (things are looking up!!).
I’m going to end this post with a few cultural (I use this word loosely) observations that I hope you find amusing:
-How to spot a Russian: They (and there children) are often wearing shirts with English phrases that are either A) Completely nonsensical or B) Surprisingly lewd
-You know you’re on a Russian bus when the maximum capacity is 60 but there are 80 people on the bus
-You also know you’re on a Russian bus when the driver is frequently engaging the emergency brake with his erratic braking
-You know you’re eating lunch in Russia when they yell at you for not eating soup (soup is a traditional lunch time meal, and the woman at our cafeteria has made it very clear that we must have soup).
-Men at the gym are always wearing sandals and what, to many Americans, looks exactly like underwear in lieu of shorts…. But don’t call it underwear, the Russians are very sure they are wearing shorts.
-Everyone thinks your German (I don’t correct them)
-There is no such thing as chicken, pork, or beef in Russia. If you ask what you are eating the response is always, “Meat.” I have also learned it is best not to press the issue, you often don’t want to know what kind of meat it is.
-Russian women are constantly afraid everyone around them is going to catch cold and die… As a consequence they take it upon themselves to dress everyone they can in ridiculously heavy winter clothing when a tshirt would have sufficed.

That’s all for this week! The post-cruise post promises to be exciting, the South should be quite an adventure!

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