Monthly Archives: December 2011

Siberian sunset / Закат солнца в Сибири

First of all, Merry Christmas to all of my readers who celebrate the holiday!

The past few weeks have been very busy and smeared with streaks of bad luck, most of which are personal. But today I went out for a walk in the city center for a while and then came home. On the way back, I was looking out the bus window and I saw the most beautiful zakat solntsa [sunset] I had ever seen in my life. The contours of the gorod [city] and the gori [mountains] around it were backlit by a nyebo [sky] set on fire. The colors were so incredibly brilliant. My regret was that I didn’t have a camera with me. Once I got back to my apartment, I ran to get my camera and went quickly back downstairs to take a photo. This was the result:

Siberian sunset

The foto doesn’t really do it much justice, but I’m glad I was able to capture even a moment of this.

Besides my bad luck, I am highly conscious of the fact that it is the holidays and I am not with my family. Admittedly, it makes me feel lonely. I do have friends here, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss my loved ones back at home, either.

Tonight will be about taking care of myself. I’m going to make dinner, drink tea, and watch Pride & Prejudice (yes, the 2005 version with Keira Knightley). Pride & Prejudice is my favorite novel of all time. Even at the times in my life where I’m bitter towards romance (the present time included), I’m somehow always able to read the book or watch the film and feel all right again.

Also, that reminds me…I am hereby announcing to the world that I am, in fact, a brony. When things started to get bad recently, I started to watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic to see what all the fuss was about. I used to watch the show as a kid, so I was skeptical that it would be as good as I remembered it to be. Turns out it’s BETTER.

Besides, how can adorable little talking magical ponies learning about the magic of friendship NOT make you feel better?

So in any case, this zakat solntsa came at a time when I needed it. It has given me nadyezhda [hope] that vsyo budyet khorosho [everything will be all right].

I wish you all a Merry Christmas, moyi druz’ya.

Take care and be well.




Vacation / Каникнулы

Before I begin, I want to wish a Happy Hannukah to all of my Jewish readers!

It’s been crazy since I last wrote. A lot of things have happened. Things with Mac were not working out, so we have broken up. I knew long distance would be hard, but I didn’t know how hard. I guess it was harder since we didn’t really know each other that well. I’m working on graduate school applications (one down, four to go). And I have many, many papers and tests to grade because the end of the semester approaches quickly.

I am looking forward to seeing what the holidays are like here in Russia. Christmas is not as popular here in Russia. It pales in comparison to how they celebrate the New Year. I don’t have many details on that yet, but I’ll be sure to let you know soon.

The snow falls thickly on the ground as I write this. It’s not terribly cold right now, at -11 degrees C (+12 degrees F). It’s kind of nice. It’s beautiful, watching snow fall.

Lately I’ve been talking with some of my friends here about where to go for vacation. We’re looking at a few places, mostly in Africa! Madagascar is the one we’re looking at closest. Interestingly, the veterinarian we go to back in Florida started a not-for-profit called Friends of Madagascar. He goes there frequently to build schools and help with other social and physical infrastructure. I’d like to go there and offer my help, if I can. When you get the chance, check out the organization’s website:

I’m also quite interested in possibly going to Namibia to visit Katie, another Fulbrighter I know who hails from my college. She’s doing an amazing project…studying giraffe conservation! My friend Max is interested in seeing many of the animals in Africa, so this would also be an ideal place.

But in any case…the holidays are here and it’s very cheerful. The city is beautifully decorated with lights. It really is like a winter wonderland. I need to update my photo gallery on here…heh heh…

So vacations aren’t here yet, but I have most of January off. We shall see what happens.

I must go. Take care, moyi druz’ya, and be well.



To give and take / Давать и брать

I apologize, moyi druz’ya, I have been so incredibly busy these past few days. Graduate school applications are due soon…between that and the upcoming end of the semester, I have had very little time. I have not forgotten you, faithful readers.

I have noticed yet another aspect of Russian culture that is not easy for me to reconcile with on a personal level, because of who I am.

I see that there is a system of giving [davat’] and taking [brat’]. Well, more of taking. But I notice that many seem to rely on those who are, well, reliable, particularly when it comes to money. They tend to borrow…and often not return or pay back.

I’m not saying the Russians are bad people for this. This is how it is in a lot of places, I know. It’s just a pattern I’ve noticed that seems to be more prominent here than in the U.S. In the States, it’s usually expected that if you borrow money, you pay it back in some way. Here…it seems somewhat different.

This is not to say that I’ve lent money. It’s in the little things, such as paying for a dinner being split two or three ways or using cell phones. (In Russia, you pay for cell phone minutes at ATM-like machines, 1 ruble per minute. So you can receive calls if you have no money on your phone, but you can’t make calls.) I seem to always be the only one who has money on my phone, so my friends are constantly borrowing my phone. Not that they talk for long—usually no more than a minute or two at a time—but it still adds up.

Unfortunately, I am a giver in a world of takers. I really do try to limit the amount I lend monetarily. I try to make up for what I don’t give monetarily in other ways, with my time and energy.

Sometimes I can’t decide when I’m giving enough and when I’m giving too much.

I knew that when I came here, people would be consistently demanding my time and expertise. I knew, accepted, even embraced this. But when is it too much?

I always keep in mind that my priority is anything having to do with my teaching at the university. There is no question of this. I make sure nothing detracts from that. But beyond that…I don’t know when I’m doing too much.

The amount of stress I have been under lately is, quite frankly, a lot. I know this from the fact that little things have been bothering me.

Tonight, for example, was Elya’s birthday, so I went to her party. We were singing songs, often taking turns singing solos. Often, though, Elya would try to sing along (which is normally fine) but sometimes I just want to have my own voice heard. I sometimes get the feeling she tries to dominate the song, which would fit with her loud personality. But towards the end of the evening, she began to sing a song I really love, but she hushed me and indicated she wanted to sing alone. I felt angry. Why is it she can sing along with the songs I’m doing but I can’t sing with hers? Like I said, it was a little thing, but a really telling thing. It made me realize how high my stress level is and also how much I don’t speak up…I just give in and give up. Give give give.

I’m not saying takers are bad and givers are good. There needs to be a balance, though. I need to find that balance.

I must go, my friends, ya ochen’ ustala [I am quite tired].

Till next time, vsyevo dobrovo [be well].