a big beautiful mess

A Little Russian in the Afternoon

I had a marvelously Russian afternoon today! I met another teacher at the university at noon. She has a broken arm, so I am teaching the seminar sections of a course on American Studies for her. Something for which I should be uniquely prepared, no? NO! I am going to have to work my butt off for this class. But she was extremely nice and well-organized and gave me everything I need. It should be a fun class to do, if I can take advantage of this time now to prepare for it adequately. It’s with second-year students as well, so the language factor will be a little more dynamic.

After meeting with this professor, I went into town for a coffee and a chocolate croissant. But there were no chocolate croissants left! When I learned this, I asked, “Is there something with chocolate?” which made the barista laugh! I have been to this cafe a dozen times without seeing her smile once. Victory!

Then, I went to meet Zhenya, the high school student I met at the library that one time, remember? He invited me to his apartment for tea, where he made me tea in his real Russian samovar, taught me the names of several new berries, made me try real homemade Russian pickles, and lent me a postcard. Then, we went to the post office together to mail our postcards off to America, speaking English and Russian as we went. I fell on the ice on the way there.

And then, we went to the Arkhangelsk City Cultural Center, which, as I understand it, is really more of a youth center, to see a show about living with AIDS. The show was put on by the Red Cross, and was called “Just Live Just Love.” I learned about the show from an ad on my table at Blin Haus on Tuesday, and Zhenya kindly offered to go with me, since I had no idea where the place actually was. I was interested to go, since Arkhangelsk has this law against publicly promoting homosexuality, and I was curious to see if the show would portray AIDS as a scourge of homosexuality the way it has sometimes been portrayed in the States. As it turns out, homosexuality was not mentioned once. All the HIV-positive characters were either heterosexually active or intravenous drug users. I guess the fact that there was a show at all is important, since I’m told HIV is not discussed in schools at all, and clearly the government at least thinks HIV is a problem in Russia, since it makes people get tested before granting them visas. It seems like maybe the show could have been done in a more accessible, more broadly-reaching way. But I’m not sure I know Russian well enough to say that definitively.

When I got home, I found that the tip of my nose was not actually just numb with cold, but sunburned? Not sure how that happened, or what I can do about it, seeing as I already cover every inch of my body apart from my face with at least two layers of clothes, if not more (Today I wore tights, leggings, jeans, and thick wool socks under my fur-lined boots). I’ll let you know how this situation progresses.


  1. 27 January 2012    

    Hey Ruth,
    What you’ve got going on with your nose is probably frost-bite not a sunburn. A mild frost-bite looks a lot like a sunburn, what with the peely skin and all. I see a lot of that out here in Yakutsk. Keep warm and keep your nose covered.



    • 27 January 2012    

      Oh dear. I was worried about that. Thanks!

  2. 27 January 2012    

    The whole country has that stupid law against open displays of homosexuality, which to me signals a disturbing step back towards criminalization of homosexuality. As to AIDS, it is a pretty big problem, but the state has traditionally done a terrible job of dealing with it. For one, people coming to study or work there aren’t the problem, so the whole HIV test for visa is just nonsense, but the real culprit is, like everywhere else, a lack of education. During the late 80s and early 90s not only were condoms nearly impossible to get in most places, but sex education didn’t even exist in most of the country. Nobody knew what the hell was going on and AIDS started spreading, like it does.

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