Half-way point. Testing times and a departure

(Friday 23rd September 2011 written Sunday 25th September)
The homework last night was in two parts. I struggled with it a bit. I’m still trying to understand the “cases” situation. I feel I’m making progress but there is so much to remember. So often the thing I want to remember seems to be “just out of touch”. It’s frustrating but I suppose the answer is to keep on trying. Things do stick, and then there is one less thing to struggle with, so I can give more attention to something else.
Then I had a test. It was a comprehension piece about a Russian celebrity. Naturally I hadn’t heard of her and the only bits which I remember now are that she is a singer and she has red hair. I don’t know how well I did yet. I found it a struggle, but I think it was intended to be a challenge.
There have been three students at the school: Charles, a French skiing instructor who lives in Switzerland, Jardina, a Spanish IT manager from Barcelona, and me. Today was Jardina’s last day. She leaves for Spain at 07:00 tomorrow and has an early taxi booked. The school gave use a small “tea” (buns and biscuits and tea). The school awarded Jardina with her certificate, giving the level she has achieved. Actually, they gave her two certificates, one in English and one in Russian. I’m pleased about that. I don’t expect to achieve the same level as Jardina (she has been doing this for years), but it would be good to have some semi-official recognition of accomplishment. I keep on thinking of the Scarecrow and his diploma from “The Wizard of Oz”.
After the tea, and sending a few eMails, Charles, Jardina and I went to the pub. The one we chose was “St Patrick’s Corner”. It’s an Irish pub. Novosibirsk has several. It’s quite a reasonable place (but it is not on a corner!). It’s strange how close you can feel to people after only two weeks. The three of us have really only shared lunches and trips, but we feel we have shared the experience of being here in Novosibirsk. I hope Jardina had a good trip home.
One very funny thing happened. For the past two weeks, naturally, one of the topics of conversation between the three of us had been “language”. The other two had asked me about the Irish Language. I had confessed to knowing very little and said that it was quite different to English and that they would probably find the spelling a challenge. I did say that one of the things I had been warned about was the labels on toilet doors: in Irish M (for “Mna” means Lady) and F (for “Fir” means Man). I didn’t think about it any more. During the evening, Charles went to the toilet and said with a laugh that he had remembered what I had said and gone through the right door! The toilets in “St Patrick’s Corner” are labeled in Irish! Russian toilets are usually labeled M for “Man” and a different cyrillic character for “Woman”. You can probably see where this is leading. We wondered how the Russians would cope with this. The answer is, it confused them. It would probably confuse most English speakers as well. During the evening, we (the three of us, two men and a woman) encountered a number of confused Russians: men exiting from the Ladies’, and a Woman coming into the Men’s. So, the international pictorial lavatory signs do serve a useful purpose.
When I got home, I met my landlady, who announced that she had to make an unexpected business trip to Tomsk, and that she was leaving NOW! That was alright. I know now that I coped!

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