Numbers, Poetry, Hurling, Ice-Hockey and Rain (and Cucumbers)

(Wednesday 5th October 2011, written and posted same day)
I took a different route to work this morning. On the way I passed the “Academy of Water Transport”, which is an impressive building and I assume has something to do with moving people and stuff around the inland waterways (after all, you can’t get much further from the sea than Novosibirsk) and the offices of “Sibir Telecom” which have this interesting sculpture at the front. Notice the blue “phone box”. It isn’t a GPO original, but it is a close copy. Isn’t it strange, how that design has acquired “icon” status.
A substantial bit of yesterdays homework was sorting “things” into groups and then writing the sentence “I have many …things…” for each of the “Things”. The sorting was fine, but the sentences are harder than you might think, because for technical reasons the form of the word “things” (which is in the “genitive case”) changes. I did alright, but believe me, it isn’t easy.
Another part of the homework from yesterday was to write a “Recipe for happyness”. For a while this had me stumped, and then I decided that I know a “Recipe for Paradise”, which for technical reasons fitted the bill. This “recipe” is a poem by someone called Omar Khayam (translated from Persian by Edward Fitzgerald in the 19th Century). Here’s the poem:
A loaf of bread, a flask of wine,
A book of verse, and thou,
Beside me singing in the wilderness,
And wilderness is paradise (e)now.
To my amazement, I almost got away with it. “Beside me” got a bit mangled and “Wilderness is Paradise” needed adjusting, but I did pretty well (in the English, Fitzgerald tacks an extra “e”, in front of “now”, to adjust the rhythmn). And that led us on to a question and answer about poetry.
Another part of the lesson today was conversation. Diana (my teacher) asked me about what sports I was interested in. I said that I wasn’t a “Sportsman” but that I watched some sport. I explained that Ireland has some special sports which are restricted to Ireland. Specifically “Hurling” and “Gaelic Football”. For anyone who doesn’t know, Hurling as a very fast field game played with sticks and a hard leather ball. To someone who doesn’t know it (like me), it is a little like hockey, but only a very little! Then I have to explain to Diana what Hurling is like. I don’t really understand Hurling, but we finish up with a Scotsman, explaining an Irish game, to a Russian, in Russian in Siberia! There was lots of arm-waving and a few diagrams (for the goal posts). I don’t know if Diana is any the wiser.
After lunch, I set out on a expedition. I have been commissioned to buy a “Novosibirsk” Ice-Hockey jersey. Up until today, I had no luck but I finally succeeded. The expedition was to a part of town which I hadn’t visited before. It took me a one trolley-bus ride and a bus ride to get there. The stadium was a little non-descript, but it is an indoor sport. There was a banner advertising “wrestling”, but I’m not sure what sort of wrestling. It took me a little while to find the merchandise shop. It wasn’t marked at all well. And then the negotiations started. There were two men in the shop. Both were helpful, but neither spoke any English. My Russian has improved, but this was entirely new territory, and I don’t even know anything about ice-hockey (By the way, if a Russian refers to “Hockey”, they mean Ice-Hockey). They didn’t accept plastic, but they did direct me to a cash-machine. I wasn’t that hopeful, because I haven’t had very good luck with cash-machines, but I went and tried. We were in luck! I short while later, I left. Now the proud owner of a rather attractive Hockey Jersey (Front and Back). The journey home was a little bit of an adventure. I spotted a trolley-bus which said it was going to a suitable place. Then it took a turning I didn’t expect! After frantic map-reading, I decided I was going in the right direction. A little later, the bus turned onto a road that I knew and eventually I got off very close to the school. I actually had an easier journey coming home, than I did on the way out.
Once I was back at the school, I got stuck into the homework. I hope I’ve understood it properly, and if I have, then I’ve done all I needed to.
At 5:30 today we had a presentation on the work of a film-maker called Alexander Petrov. He’s an animator, and I’m afraid I hadn’t heard of him before, even though he has won an Oscar. I don’t even understand how he does what he does. The pictures are drawn somehow, but have a distinctive “grainy” appearance, like chalk, charcoal or pastels on a rough surface. We were told that it takes Petrova 2 years to make 20 minutes of film, so it’s in the same area as “Wallace and Gromit”. I will find out more about his work. The films we saw were:
  • “The Cow”
  • “Rusalka” (which doesn’t translate, but I think is a bit like an mermaid in a river)
  • “The Old Man and the Sea” (based on Ernest Hemmingway’s story)
  • “First Love”
I think the weather has finally turned. On the way home, it started to rain. It was only a few spots to begin with but then it started to rain pretty hard. A proper “April shower”, except it is October. Even though it was raining a bit, I popped into a local shop to buy a bottle of beer. One has to have priorities. By the time I got out of the shop, it was raining a lot harder (by the way, the Russians use “verbs of motion” to describe weather). When I got to the courtyard of the group of blocks where I live, I was greeted by loads of red and white plastic tape. I hope it is there because someone is planning to re-tarmac the car-parking and access road, because if not, I’ve just crossed a crime-scene!
supper this evening was pork cutlet (minced, battered and fried), fried potatoes, and a fried egg, accompanied by cucumber. I wish you could experience how good the cucumbers and tomatoes are here. The cucumbers are short, 3 to 4 inches long. The kind that you might see as pickled gherkins in a chip shop. Only these are fresh. I can’t get over how good they taste. My Landlady served them sliced thinly, lengthways. They’re almost sweet, like melon! Either on their own, or with just a little salt, they are delicious.
The internet has stopped working (again), so I don’t know when this will reach the internet. I have an exam on Friday (you didn’t think I got off scot-free, did you?) and then I fly out of Novosibirsk a little after 07:00 local time on Saturday. That means there will be a taxi for me at 5:00 and I’m getting up at 04:00. Nice! Even if this gets posted, you may not hear too much more from me this trip.
Addendum 1: Try eating blini (pancakes) with melted butter. Zap the butter in the microwave.
Addendum 2: Just been taken on a trip to the shops at 22:45. It was a place called “Lenta”. It’s enormous – 35 checkout lanes, and open 24 hours. The stock is stored on racking above the shelves. Aldi/Lidl meets Wickes. Sells everything from car tyres to groceries.
Addendum 3: And a tour of Novosibirsk by night. This really is a 24 hour city, and not just for the clubbers.

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