Category: "Uncategorized"

Return to Russia, return to Kazan

by Don  

I'm excited: I'm gearing up to return to Russia. Another batch of students... another set of amazing experiences... If there is one thing I would recommend to Americans, it would be to travel. Once you have traveled outside of the US, you understand… more »

Glorious news

by Don  

Today I ordered a plane ticket for Barcelona! I'll get to spend three days there before I go to Russia for the summer. more »

Invitation irritation

by Don  

Damn. The procedure for my getting to Russia this year has become more complicated. Last year I put together all my paperwork and sent it off to Travel Document Systems. This year I have to do it in two batches. What's changed is that this year… more »

Where is Tatarstan?

by Don  

Nowadays Russia is properly called ?The Russian Federation? «?????????? ?????????», which is made up of 83 ?federal subjects? «???????? ?????????? ?????????». One of those federal subjects is… more »

Just a little adjustment

by Don  

I have reservations in Barcelona for the Torre Catalunya. My initial reservation was through Expedia. Then I noticed that they wanted an additional 15 ? a day for wi-fi, and I won't even tell you how much they wanted for a cable connection to the… more »

Barcelona webcams

by Don  

Le Méridien Many views Old harbor more »

My invitation to Russia has arrived

by Don  

Now I get to go through the process of applying for the visa. The consulate has now outsourced the processing of the visa, so the processing time now has an additional day added. It also has an online component. Guess that's what I'll be doing this… more »

Visa app away

by Don  

Just sent off my visa app for Russia. Previous feedback about the new online part of the visa application process had been negative, mostly involving slow server times. As far as I could tell, it worked pretty well. Alas, the hint sheet provided by… more »

Visa

by Don  

My Russian visa arrived today. Whew! The whole visa process is always a bit tense. Now just have to get all the work on my to-do list done before departure. more »

What I'm taking to Russia/Tatarstan

by Don  

One of my friends in Russia asked me to bring her a few items. What, you may reasonably ask, does a Russian citizen who has previously been in the US want me to bring her? She wants: An iPad 3. iPads are significantly more expensive in Russia.… more »

Last minute shopping

by Don  

I rarely shop for myself, but when a trip is coming I do a quick eyeball of my wardrobe and ask, "Which of these would make my acquaintances most ashamed?" Then I buy something to replace them. So I now have new shoes, new shirts, new pants, and a new… more »

Weight

by Don  

Last summer in Russia I lost ten pounds. Of course, I gained it all back and more when I returned to Whataburgerland. I'm curious what will happen this year, so my official starting weight for the summer is 198 lbs. Embarrassing. more »

Transit

by Don  

My travels today have been mercifully uneventful. Phx-Chicago: 3.5 hours. Slept most of the way. Very short layover. Didn't even bother to eat. Chicago-Frankfurt am Main: 8.5 hours. My seatmate on the left was Ardi, a dentist of Persian descent… more »

City impressions

by Don  

One of the things that first strikes me about Barcelona is the trees. Streets often are lined with them, and the ones that seem the most common are the planteros (sycamores), with their spiky seed pods. They give a green-gold shade to the pedestrians… more »

Frankfurt airport

by Don  

I returned to the Frankfurt airport in transit from Barcelona to Kazan. First I took some time out to see if I could find some free wifi. No go. In the meantime I glanced over at some recliner chairs, and a young father was nodding off. His daughter… more »

First full day

by Don  

My first full day in Kazan. In some ways it didn't feel very productive. Slept till a bit after eleven... still doing the jet lag adjustment, but not too bad. Had lunch with Aygul and Ildar at a restaurant I had not been to before. It offers halal… more »

Graffiti

by Don  

Well, if one has to have graffiti, this is hardly the worst. more »

Seduction

by Don  

Some entrepreneur stenciled this on the main entrance to my apartment building which I first read as meaning "temptation training." That sounded odd, so I used the dictionary to look it up and discovered it more likely means "seduction training."… more »

My bachelor breakfast

by Don  

Hmph. I wanted to cook this morning, but the gas was off. So instead I had a glass of katyk, a chunk of salami, and a hunk of Adygeizski cheese, which is probably not quite so visible in the picture. more »

Sabantui

by Don  

Sabantui Danila and his mother picked me up at 11:40 a.m. They had invited me to Sabantui and to their home for the weekend. Danila had said that it was also a weekend cookout. They picked me up at my apartment in a Hyundai Santa Fe. Nice vehicle.… more »

Feeding #2

by Don  

On the way home from Sabantui we stopped at the store for some groceries. Here's what we bought. In the upper left and far right are some bags with fruit. Then there is a bag of dried bread slices, which are called sukharí. So what do you think… more »

Feeding #3 ? shashlyk

by Don  

Every patriotic Murrikan owns a grill on which testosterone-gifted men grill hamburgers, steaks and brats. The Russian/Tatar equivalent of the that event is making shashlyk, i.e. shishkebabs. Every family owns a set of shampury (skewers) on which they… more »

Banya

by Don  

Y'know, all this blogging takes a lot of time. While the shashlyk were cooking, the banya was being fired up. Danila's brother Sasha and I used it after dinner. The banya is sort of the Russian version of a sauna, except that they actually use it to… more »

Feeding #4 ? pelmeni

by Don  

Obviously we haven't eaten enough today, so Flyura prepared pelmeni, which are sort of a Russian ravioli equivalent. Basically they are dough wrapped around meat. Instead of tomato sauce they are usually served with butter or sour cream. These ones… more »

Picnic

by Don  

Had a picnic in the afternoon. Details later. more »

House

by Don  

Danila's family have a really large house. I'll add the description later. These types of brief notes probably seem weird, but if I don't make them now, I'll forget to add the content later. more »

Monday stuff

by Don  

Had a meeting today with two vice-rectors of the Institute. Looks like things are going well with our second group's invitations. Toured their classrooms and facilities. Amazingly nice. The student cafe in their new multipurpose building was done up… more »

Roaming

by Don  

While I was in Spain I decided to charge my Russian cell phone so it would be active as soon as I arrived. Then for kicks I turned it on. To my shock, it had connected up in roaming mode with Movistar, a Spanish phone company. I was amazed and… more »

Tuesday stuff

by Don  

Met today with my new language partner. He taught me some slang like: ?I don't like to dilute my alcohol.? «? ?? ?? ???, ??? ????? ????????». ?I drink my whiskey straight.? «? ????? ???… more »

Wednesday stuff

by Don  

Today was the day I was supposed to register with the Federal Migration Services. (Any foreigner staying more than a few days has to do so.) My landlady and I went to FMS only to find out that they don't offer that service on Wednesdays. Glorious.… more »

Google doesn't trust me

by Don  

Every day or two here in Russia when I make a search on Google, I get a message saying they are detecting strange activity on my computer, and then American Google makes me do a little security protocol, and then Russian Google does the same. Kind of… more »

Once you go yeti

by Don  

?Are those chocolate?? I asked. ?They are mumble mumble potato mumble,? she replied. Potato, huh? They kind of look like yeti testicles covered in brown bread crumbs, but what the hell, I'll give 'em a try. Home. I chomp. OMG! These are a… more »

Happy

by Don  

This last academic year was pretty tough. Fall semester was difficult. At Christmastime I went to my sister's place in Canada, and after a few days to my surprise I found I was suddenly happy again. And then it kind of vanished as the equally intense… more »

Swimming in the Volga

by Don  

In the morning I did some shopping. Handsoap Garlic A garlic press A splatter guard Double-A batteries Khinkali Lastochki, a type of chocolate candy Jack Daniels (for a friend, not me) Some writing in the early afternoon. Around 4:30 Flyura and… more »

Swimming in the mouth of the Kama

by Don  

Breakfast with ????? (Russian pancakes) from scratch by Flyura. Cabbage pie. Potato pie. Jam. Tea. Homemade kefir. Danila has taken it into his head that he wants to visit the mouth of the Kama river. That's the area where the Kama enters… more »

Rain

by Don  

We've had lots of hot, muggy days recently. Now it's 7:40 p.m. and we are getting rain. It's kind of like the monsoon rain in AZ once the initial thunder and lightning part is over. more »

Quiet day, Turandot

by Don  

Quiet day in Kazan. Saw a musical performance of Turandot tonight (no staging). It was just the parts written by Puccini, without the additions by Alfano. Talk about a cliff hanger. more »

Careful!

by Don  

The other day when we went to the Volga, Flyura was driving. As we backed into a parking space, a pedestrian got out of a car nearby. ?Careful!? I said. ?Let him be careful,? snapped Flyura. ?There?s a woman at the wheel!? I died… more »

Students have arrived

by Don  

All of our CLI Kazan students have now arrived safe and sound. more »

First day of class, mental barriers

by Don  

First day of class here in Kazan. The students here are pretty great. Twelve of our students have had only 8 weeks of Russian, and even buying a bottle of water at that stage is pretty intimidating. So great to see them go through that process,… more »

Our first local press

by Don  

Here's the first local press release about the CLI Kazan program, along with a translations. It's obviously a blurb that was prepared in advance by the institute and released today just after our meeting with Igor Izmailovich Bikeev, the Institute's… more »

All is well

by Don  

I got a note from a colleague in Kiev concerned about "massive disturbances in Kazan." I'm not sure where that idea comes from. Aygul tells me there was a demonstration somewhere, but I can't even find a good news story on that. All was calm here… more »

City tour

by Don  

All is well in Kazan. City tour today for CLI students. 14 of the 16 had never been to a mosque before. Very neat. I'm really proud of this group. They are out exploring and trying their Russian. Not every American has that type of courage. My… more »

Kazan Kremlin

by Don  

CLI Kazan students today visited the Kazan Kremlin, which includes a visit to the Qul Sharif mosque (stunning) and the Blagoveshchenskiy Cathedral (impressive). We were pleased to be joined by Marina Akins and her family. I had to laugh. I wore… more »

Colleague, classes, cooking, contact

by Don  

My colleague Marina and her family are in Kazan for a couple of days. Last night they stayed at my place. It's so nice to be in a young family environment. Son Henry is 7, daughter Naomi is 9. Kids are freaking wonderful. I'm always grateful when… more »

Snkxkxkxkxkx

by Don  

Marina and her family had a long day with the Osipovs at Raifski Monastery and other places. They came home. The kids played peacefully, then fought like cats and dogs, then played peacefully, then fought like cats and dogs, then played peacefully,… more »

Human rights lecture

by Don  

Our students had a lecture today on human rights and indigenous people's rights in Russia. It's the third time I have heard the lecture over the years, and I'm still interested. It's actually a great introduction to the bases of human rights in… more »

Museum of Socialist Life

by Don  

Our students today visited the Museum of Socialist Life, a place that shows what life was like during the Soviet years. I was stuck at the institute responding to e-mail and didn't get to go. Y'know, I'm going to have to visit that place. more »

Grades

by Don  

In the past when a Russian student has received a test, they have received a grade on it on a scale of 1-5. Five is an A. Four is a B. Three is a C. Two, theoretically, is a D, but it's actually a failure. They didn't assign ones all that often.… more »

Paratroopers day

by Don  

Today was Paratroopers Day, which means the city was filled with paratroopers in telnyashki, which are blue-white striped undershirts. In a spasm of testosterone, alcohol and tribal thinking, they wave their "Nobody but us" flags around, break bottles… more »

Wore you would like to monastery

by Don  

We had an excursion to Raifa monastery today. Two years ago I was a photoholic in Russia. This year I can hardly force myself to take a picture, but here are a few. First let's start off with the rules of the monastery. Here is student Ken… more »

To market, to market

by Don  

Did some market shopping this morning. I bought three types of cooked or smoked meat. When I wanted samples, the women at the counter cut off a chunk for me and made sure to include some of the fat with it. Glorious! In the US when your try meat… more »

I like it here

by Don  

Y'know, I like it here in Russia. It's probably because I'm not day-to-day panicked with busyness like I was over the last year at ASU. Still, I'm ready to live here for a year or two. more »

Flashback

by Don  

Folk art

by Don  

When I think of Russian folk art, I think of intricate wooden carving along the roofs and windows of peasant huts, of haunting Slavic folk melodies, and of kitchen knives made in political prisons.¹ Everyone else thinks of ????????, the… more »

Nettles

by Don  

Russians love plants. Windowsills tend to be very wide in Russia, and they often have potted plants on them. When walking through the hallway, one of our teachers spotted this pot and started laughing. The little plant growing on the left… more »

Advertising

by Don  

Our classes conducted this semester are at the Institute of Economics, Management and Law. The hallways are lined with pictures, documents and a few ads, and this ad made me laugh. Essentially it reads: "Your girlfriend doesn't know how to cook?… more »

Musical memories

by Don  

Often when I go to Russia, it seems like there is some song played everywhere that triggers memory of the summer for me. In 1992 on European MTV, that was available in my hotel room, it was Nirvana's ?Lithium,? a song that you would never expect I… more »

Okay, okay, I admit it

by Don  

Okay, okay, I admit it: I became weak and allowed a tight schedule to seduce me into stopping at McDonald's for an Americano this morning. But tell me this. How many McDonald's in the US would put a bouquet of flowers on your table? more »

Shoes

by Don  

Last night we attended a jazz concert. While I was waiting for the last of our group, a woman wearing an unexpected pair of shoes crossed my field of vision. They flummoxed me. Back in the States I can think of a drag queen or two who might wear… more »

Old new

by Don  

A couple weeks ago on Bauman Street they installed an attention-getter that counts down the days to the Universiade. I noticed that the two columns provide a frame for the church tower behind it. Hence the photo. more »

Sviyazhsk, angels

by Don  

Today we took a trip to Sviyazhsk, the island from which Ivan the Terrible launched his third (and finally successfully) invasion of Kazan. The area is stunningly beautiful, which of course makes a grim contrast to what the invasion meant to the… more »

Observatory

by Don  

To my great surprise, Danila and his family invited me to the local observatory. I didn't even know Kazan had observatories. Before this week neither did Danila. It's just a bit outside the city. We arrived early. Walked around, exploring.… more »

Soccer match

by Don  

This evening I attended a soccer match between one of Kazan's major teams, Rubin, and Moscow's team, Dynamo. I didn't want to go. Organized sports caused me nothing but grief in childhood, and as an adult they have never given me a single moment's… more »

Wonderful evening, approaching departure, sad, happy

by Don  

Another marvelous evening of hospitality at the Osipovs, this time in the company of John, who took an off-sequence Rus 102 with me last fall. Damn, but the kid is doing great with his Russian. It's odd. Mentally I'm already halfway not here in… more »

English lesson

by Don  

Classes as usual this morning for our students. In the afternoon a bunch of them did a community service project by teaching an English lesson at the local American Center. The two-pronged theme of the lesson was being single and inviting people to… more »

Administration, host families, cat

by Don  

Wow, what a day. Various administrative things in the morning, preparing for the next couple days. Then four students came to my apartment to take their OPI-c exams, which are tests to evaluate their oral proficiency in Russian via an… more »

Amanda, institute, exams, families, family, fat back

by Don  

Another day starting with administration. I attended all the final oral presentations of the second year students. I'm so proud of them. There isn't a one that hasn't made major progress in the last four weeks. If I had to pick one today who… more »

What a cutie!

by Don  

Danila's sister, Dasha. If she is not the cutest girl on the planet, I'm sure I don't know who is. more »

Last minutes in Kazan

by Don  

Here are a couple images from Bauman street during my last hours in Kazan. First off, here is a group protesting the imprisonment of the feminist punk band "Pussy Riot." I was not fond of their method of protest, but their imprisonment and trial are a… more »

Funniest line of the summer

by Don  

?I don?t know why I like Jarred. I think it?s because he doesn?t like to talk, and I don?t like to listen.? more »

Heading back home

by Don  

This entry should post at 5:00 a.m. Saturday, Kazan time, which means I should be in the air on my way back to Frankfurt, then Washington, then Arizona. I leave Kazan at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday, and I arrive in Phoenix at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday... which… more »

Ah, back to the land of air conditioning

by Don  

I meant to get a lot of work done today. Alas, jet lag and air conditioning lulled me to so sleep. The heat has been intense here in AZ. It has destroyed my car battery. First thing in the morning I'll have to replace it. Now I'll try to post the… more »