Rabu, 28 Oktober 2009

Living in a world of stereotypes…

One of the things I love about studying a language is that you meet so many interesting people from so many different countries and cultures. And one of the things I love about studying Russian is that all the people you meet are just a little bit weird. I mean you have to be a bit weird to study Russian!!!

Living in a different country has been teaching me so much to not be scared of other cultures. I HATE it when people think there country is superior to others. Of course Britain has a very special place in my heart but I can accept that Britain has its problems, just like other countries! I love it when I meet people from certain cultures and they completely eradicate all the negative stereotypes I had of that place. However I love it even more when I can see how all the hilarious stereotypes of that country are totally true!!! Let’s face it, there must be some truth in all stereotypes – or they wouldn’t exist!

Take my class for example… (I know they read this so I’m sure they will be thrilled to get a name mention!)

We have Sanna who is from Finland. She’s blond, an exercise freak and super beautiful.

We have Christopher who is from Paris. He loves literature, keeps his secrets well and when he speaks French all the girls swooooon.

We have Herbert who is Dutch. He is very smiley, always happy and really clever (he wrote a scary sounding dissertation about politics in Russia)

We have Kyle who is American. He goes to Harvard, plays football (American style. Not the inferior British ‘soccer’) and is called Kyle. Enough said. (He also taught me that in America a tap is called a ‘faucet’ – never have I heard this before! Crazy Americans)

We have Tom who is from Yorkshire (sigh, yes, I go all the way to Russia and STILL meet people from Yorkshire). He is loud, likes to save his money and needs to learn to think before he speaks!

And then there is me. I am starting to worry that maybe I am a stereotype too :-/

Senin, 26 Oktober 2009

Another week in the life of Sarah (dunno why you’re all still interested really!)

Last week we met the big boss of the company who organise our courses in Russia. It was the first time we’d all met him and we had to have a meeting with him for him to check that we were all ok/alive. I thought this was just going to be a 10-20 minute thing, ‘Oh so you’re all still alive, good.’ The end. It was not. It was a meeting of epic 2 hour long proportions. We had to go through EVERY lesson for EVERY group and discuss it. It was ridiculous because I had to sit and listen to another 3 groups talk about their lessons… why they did not split this meeting into 4 separate ones is beyond me… Anyway so this meeting went on for 2 hours and was basically just one massive moan for all us students (we are British – moaning is what we do best). At the end of it I realised that hardly any positive things had been said. This confused me because I really enjoy my course – obviously I was finding pointless things to moan about. Afterwards everyone was in a massive mood which just amused me even more because we were all happy before the meeting of doom. To be fair we had brought it on ourselves after all that moaning!

After the meeting I went to volunteer for Maria’s Children. A couple of the children asked me if I could teach them some English the last time I went so I taught them the alphabet and a couple of words but I thought they’d get bored after that. How very wrong I was. They turned up with exercise books ready to learn more English!! At first I thought – ‘Oh no, I cannot speak English properly myself never mind attempt to teach it!!’ But then I remembered – that is silly. They want to learn! So the last couple of times I’ve been doing English with a couple of children. They seem to really love it! It made me feel so guilty for moaning and moaning in the meeting I had had just one hour before. I have access to amazing education. I have NOTHING to moan about.

The last few weeks I’ve been coming home really late and not really seeing much of Vika and Tzala, I thought it was because I was actually really busy but when I stopped and realised that I was infact just sitting in restaurants for 5 hours at a time I had to question why! I realised I was scared of going home. Not because Vika and Tzala are mean! But because if I went home I would have to speak Russian!!! This may sound ridiculous as I live in Russia – but speaking Russian still seems to be the scariest thing. So I decided I would make myself go straight home after school. This has made me feel better for two reasons:
1. I’m actually doing my homework properly and therefore am less lost in lessons!
2. I’ve been having some really good chats with Vika. We’ve got into the routine of cooking together in the evenings... because I made sure I was always in the kitchen when she got in from work! I can feel how my Russian is improving so much just by having 30 minute conversations everyday… I just needed to face my fear and launch into conversations with her!

I did some more Moscowy things this week as well… trying to explore more places! I went to a jazz club on Thursday night which was really nice. The musicians were amazing and it was just such a chilled place. I drank peppermint tea and felt cool.
Then on Friday I went to watch the tennis (Kremlin Cup) at the stadium. It was only £4 and it was so much fun! The fact that I enjoyed watching tennis worries me. I’m turning into my parents.

And I will end with a funny moment of this week (just one, I don’t want to write every time I embarrass myself):
Tzala has been asking me for ages to change the sheets on my bed but she always asked when I was leaving the house so I kept forgetting. Yesterday she stormed into my room and said ‘Sarah I don’t understand why you haven’t changed your sheets, do you not understand me?’ I replied, ‘Yes, yes I do understand, you want me to change the sheets. Sorry I forgot. I will do it now.’ To which she said ‘No, you don’t understand me’ and proceeded to give me a half an hour master class in how to change my bed sheets despite me saying, ‘I know how to do it!!’ Dunno if the funniness of the situation has come across in me retelling it but heyho.

Minggu, 18 Oktober 2009

A Weekend of Culture.

Every Monday at school at the beginning of the day we have to share what we've done over the weekend - yes it's like show and tell at primary school, but we only have the language of primary school children! Every week so far I've been like... 'errrrr I saw friends and went to church.' Pretty boring. I live in Moscow. I should be doing things! So this weekend I actually DID some touristy things here.

Firstly I went to Tsaritsyno, one of Catherine the Great's estates. It is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen in my life! And I went on a scarily sunny day so it was gorgeous! It's like a National Trust park - but Russian. So far I think my favourite place I've found in Moscow. Here's some photos (the first one is me modelling the poetic Russian photo pose)...

Beautiful, da (yes)?

Then yesterday I went to see Lenin in his mausoleum as I’ve never actually seen him. There are many skeptics as to whether he’s actually real or whether he’s just a waxwork. Hmmm. It’s hard to tell. You have to literally go into the room where he is, walk round without stopping and walk back out. So kinda hard to get a good look! My thoughts are he probably is at least a bit real but all that preserving him has made him into a bit of a waxwork! All the ‘Soviet Heroes’ grave’s are behind Lenin’s mausoleum as well so I saw where Stalin is buried as well (and resisted jumping on it. Just.). Obviously I don’t have any photos as cameras are STRICTLY forbidden, but it was interesting. Worth going to if you go to Moscow!

And I’ll end this blog with two more Moscow observations...

Remember fruit flavoured chewing gum? Either that doesn’t exist in the UK anymore or I’ve ignored it for years because I haven’t seen it for ages. There’s loads here… At the moment I’m enjoying strawberry flavour.

Also it dawned on me today that I haven’t seen one chav in the whole 7 weeks I’ve been here. Another point to Russia.

Rabu, 14 Oktober 2009

Finally it has come: this is the longest I’ve ever been in Russia!

Yes as of tomorrow this will be the longest I’ve ever spent in Russia! How exciting! It’s weird because I feel like I’ve only just moved here. But at the same time I feel like I’ve been here forever! On my journey to school now I don’t have to pay attention anymore – my body seems to know when to stand up to exit now. Weird.

I don’t feel like a Muscovite just yet though! I’m still stared at most days. It’s so weird. People just seem to KNOW I’m British… I’m yet to find the sticker that is clearly on me that says ‘I AM FROM BRITAIN’. Apparently in Russia it’s not rude to full on stare at people. Before I realised this I was so paranoid that there was something majorly wrong with my appearance. Or that I’d left the house without my skirt on (seriously one day I got Anabelle to check that I was in fact fully dressed). But I’m used to it now. I just stare back… Or sometimes I scare them with a smile. That’s always fun. :D

So this week the major news is that I’ve started volunteering with a charity. They are called Maria’s Children and run creative arts programs for disadvantaged children. Their studio centre is right behind my school – I’ve walked past it everyday for the last 6 weeks and not realised what it was! Every day children from a different orphanage go to the studio and get to do art and music. I’m definitely going to be helping out there on Fridays and Saturdays (my days off school) and maybe other weekdays. It’s so near to school it will be so easy for me to pop in whenever! I’m so happy that I’ve found something to get involved with in Moscow. :)

Winter is definitely a coming. It’s getting colder now but at the moment it is the RAIN that is the problem. It’s so wet! I’m from Huddersfield, I KNOW how to handle the rain, but seriously the other day was ridiculous. I arrived home and looked like I’d been swimming! Still not had any snow though. The coldest it’s been so far was around 3°. One of my major stresses of the moment is deciding how many layers to wear in the morning and how thick they should be! No matter how cold it is outside it is still BOILING in the metro, so I get in and literally strip down to my t-shirt. However for some reason Russian’s do not appear to feel the heat and all manage to stay in their huge winter coats. I don’t understand – do they not sweat?!?! Maybe this is why they stare at me?

On the subject of the cold this week I decided it was time to buy some winter boots. I found two beautiful pairs with one crucial difference: one pair had heels, one did not. I was then faced with the biggest dilemma of Moscow so far – to buy heels or not to buy heels? That was the BIG question. I didn’t know what to do, should I try and fit in with the beautiful Russian girls and wear heels? Or should I face the fact that I have never and will never be able to walk in heels? After a whole day of thinking I went for the flats. I am not Glamorous Grace and Trendy Trudy. I will always be Sensible Sarah.

Selasa, 06 Oktober 2009

September turns to October: Winter is a coming.

I haven’t done anything massively interesting in the last week (the only interesting bit of news is that is has turned COLD – literally one day it was 20° and the next it was 5°. Weird.). I guess we’re all used to living here now. The ‘ohmygoodness we’re in MOSCOW’ feeling has worn off a bit. I can now walk past Red Square without feeling the need to take 20 photos from every corner of it. I think because we’re all used to living here now a lot of people have started to count down the weeks until we go home for Christmas. I can completely understand why – obviously everyone misses home but I’m trying really really hard to not get sucked into thinking that we are just temporarily here and that I should be counting down the days until I leave. Obviously I miss things from home, they are all pretty silly though... here’s a few of them:

1. I miss being called Sarah. In Russian my name is pronounced Sara. It’s just not my name!
2. I miss live music. I was thinking the other day how when I was in Birmingham I could go and see bands whenever I wanted but here I just don’t know where to go! And no matter how much internet research I do I just can’t seem to find the Moscow version of the Carling Academy.
3. I miss Redbrick (the student newspaper at Birmingham). I loved being the TV editor last year and I’m really missing it! This blog is the only way to satisfy my inner journalist.
4. I miss being able to just hang out with my friends at home. None of us actually have our own houses – we all live with landladies so now if we want friends over we have to ask permission and we always have to tell them where we’re going and what time we’ll be home. No more running round the street at 3am to see my friends. And this means that every time we wanna hang out we need to go to a cafĂ©/bar/restaurant which means spending money. Annoying.
5. (A less stupid one) I miss my friends!!!! Obviously this is natural but I fear it has made me even more addicted to facebook. I’m now stalking most of my friends every night and annoying them by forcing them to chat to me whenever they are on facebook chat. I should probably stop before I annoy them all so much that they desert me when I touch down in the UK.

OK so that sounded like a bit of a moan – I didn’t want it to! I just want to be honest about what I’m feeling here, or this blog is pretty pointless. Anyway over the past few days I have started to develop a new feeling, it is a ‘Wow. I actually DO live in Moscow’ feeling. I was thinking last night about how when I started my Russian course the year abroad seemed so far away and I don’t think I actually believed it would ever come (and I was terrified every time I thought about the fact that I would have to live in Russia for a year). But it is here. And I’m ok. I must have grown up so much in the last two years! When I started university I didn’t cope well at all. I wasn’t settled and I missed my home so much. It took me about a year and a half to really enjoy living in Birmingham. I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to handle moving to another new place and having to do it all over again, but actually… I really am fine! It has just seemed so natural for me to move here and every time things are a bit hard (as they inevitably are going to be in a foreign country) I can always find reasons to remind myself why I’m here. I’ve been given such a great opportunity to live and study abroad for a year that I really hope I’m making the most of it!

I’ll end this blog with some of the reasons I love Moscow! I’m trying to convince one of my friends to come and visit me so here is the list I gave him as to why he should come. I hope it convinces more of you to come visit me!!! - then the problem of missing my friends will disappear ;)

1. Moscow, Tokyo, London, New York, Paris = best cities in world. Come here and you’ve got 1 down.
2. You can see a dead man (Lenin)
3. There are 2 men that dress up as Lenin and Stalin and stand on red square (HILARIOUS – how could you not want to see that?)
4. So much culture, so little time.
5. Cafes/bars/clubs are beyond amazing.
6. Sushi is cheap.
7. The metro (enough said)
8. The potatoes (ditto)
9. The honesty – some people call it rude but I’m beginning to love the bluntness of Russian culture. In the UK I can never tell if people really mean what they say… here they are (brutally) honest!
10. The people – Russian people are the most generous, honest, loving people. They may seem rude in the street but once you make friends with them you have got a real friend. I love that.