The school year is winding down and my excitement is building up as summer arrives, and with it new and exciting adventures. Gotta make it through two more weeks of classes, on more day of Russian language testing, and then nothing will stand between me and the sweet freedom of summer vacation!
Here’s what’s new with me… you know, if you’re interested or whatever…
Today I took the first half of my qualification exam in Russian. Today I had the writing, grammar, and reading comprehension tests – all of which went tolerably well – and on Wednesday I take the oral and listening parts. So wish me luck!
A couple of weeks ago I partook in the celebration of a very important Russian holiday, Victory Day, which marks the end of World War II. This day is celebrated here as the Russian victory over the German “fascists”. In Russia in general there is a tendency to downplay the role of every other country who fought in the war and to see the “victory” as a feat of the Russian army. Surely, Russia does have the right to claim a large amount of credit for the defeat of Nazi Germany, with much of the war being fought on it’s own soil, and with Russia losing more soldiers and civilians than any other nation which was involved in the war. However the downright rejection of the role of the allied troops, and the effort of all the countries involved is sometimes a bit alarming here. The war itself is one of the most commonly met themes for Americans living in Russia. So many times I have been asked the question “who do you think World War II”. My diplomatically neutral response is almost always met with a scoff and the steadfast assurance, that no, it wasn’t the allied troops who won the war, but Russia. Many times I have been told that the U.S. only joined the war when it became clear who would win, and under different circumstances would have just as soon joined the side of Nazi Germany…
All such complications aside, the holiday is a cool one and I thoroughly enjoyed the festivities of this day. I would compare it to Independence Day in the United States. It’s an incredibly patriotic holiday which includes all the makings of a true summer celebration – parades, fireworks, music, flags, and consumption of alcoholic beverages. I went to the early morning parade on the central square to find that about 50,000 people had come to watch an event at a place where there are probably no more than ten good spots for viewing. So I basically stood for two hours, in a veeeeeery crowded crowd, and barely saw a thing that was happening. All the same it was neat. Russian parades are the exact opposite of our parades back home. Rather than floats, fun music, smiling and waving people, and candy, here they have a bunch of military dudes march around for a long time and then roll through a bunch of huge tanks and then call it a day.
The best thing about this holiday is that all of the center was closed to cars and the streets were packed full of people. It’s been really nice the last couple of weeks to see the city come alive as the weather heats up. People have come out of their winter hibernations to walk around at night, hang out in the parks, play soccer, drink beer, play guitar, etc… At night there was a nice fireworks show and I think just about the entire population of Novosibirsk came to the square to watch. O
n Sunday I went to the Novosibirsk zoo and saw a LIGER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (zoos suck)
Big news for those of you who don’t know – next year I will be living and working in Vladivostok, the major seaport on the Pacific coast. The city is very close to the borders with China and Korea, and is also just across from Japan. I hear that it is a hilly city, with a mix of historical and industrial buildings. It’s not as cold there, but certainly a bit more rainy and gray. I’m majorly stoked to have been placed in this city for my second year of Fulbright teaching and I really hope to have the opportunity to do some traveling in the nearby countries. It’s great that I’m getting the opportunity to see so many wildly different parts of Russia. I’ve already lived in the European part (Petersburg) as well as Siberia. Now I’m off to the far east.
Of course, before heading east, I will be taking a couple of months to enjoy the sweetly familiar embrace of the motherland. I’ll have approximately two months to soak up as much America as I can.
(Why is it so difficult to upload photos?????????????)