The pavement outside Centrin, my dorm/hotel place, was just recently repaved and is now beautiful, clean asphalt; but the sidewalk further up the street, near the Embankment, is falling apart and made out of sand and disconnected concrete blocks. That’s Russia.
Arkhangelsk has made a hero out of Mikhail Lomonosov, who was born somewhere in the Arkhangelsk Region, and was the pioneering academic of Russia. Two universities are named after him–Moscow State University, and The Northern (Arctic) Federal University, here in Arkhangelsk. But nobody really cares about Lomonosov. That’s Russia.
If you aren’t quick enough to hear the cashiers in the grocery stores, you won’t get a bag with your sour cream. But they’ll always tell you, “Thank you for your purchase,” as you leave. That’s Russia.
In the electronics store, before buying our electric tea kettle and iron, Łukasz and I had to observe the guy working there test the appliances, and I had to sign a form confirming that they had been tested for me. But later, when I was buying a computer mouse at another store, and I asked if I needed to have it tested, the man looked at me like I was out of my mind. That’s Russia.
All the students in the English department are expected to know things like the difference between “solicitor” and “barrister” and what “deposition” means, and yet they still say “to my mind” on a daily basis. That’s Russia.
Medical care, including surgery, is completely free to everyone in Russia. But, to get a doctors’ appointment for a surgery, you have to schedule some six months in advance, and you can be turned away on the appointed day if you have a fever of even a few degrees. That’s Russia.