Verbs, a Mammoth, Films and Pizza

(Thursday 15th September 2011, written up 16th September 2011)
Now that was a busy day! There are no photographs because, although there were some interesting things to see I didn’t have my camera with me at the time. I didn’t have time to write things up at the time, because I didn’t finish working until nearly midnight, by which time I was well and truly ready for bed.
The internet connection in the flat isn’t working at present, so there may be some delay before this actually gets recorded.
At breakfast I was told that I was going out to dinner. I was told that the place we were going was “Rimski Caniculi”. At the time I was told this meant “Roman Holiday”. I have to confess that at the time it took a little time for exactly what I was being told to sink in, but I got it in the end. By the time I left for school I knew where the restaurant was, and what time I was to be there (Krasny Prospect 42a, for 19:00). Fortunately the address is near the school so I was able to find the building and the restaraunt on my way there.
The morning was spent with lessons on verbs. Lots and lots of verbs. I think at the time I was told there were about twenty. Even a day later it has become a bit of a blur. There were lots of new verbs, and before they had time to settle in my mind, lots of exercises requiring me to find the correct conjugation for a verb in a particular situation (I run, She runs, They run…)
This was followed by a game where there was a standard sentence and using cards drawn from the 3 different piles (Subject Gender: Masculine/Feminine/Neuter/Plural,
Verb and Location) I had to provide a “Subject”. The objectives of the exercise were to put the (new) verb into the correct conjugation, provide a suitable subject, put the subject into the “Accusative Case”, and put the location into the “Locative” Case. There’s also another little wrinkle, in that you have to be “in” some locations and “at” or “on” others. There are a few which can be both (you can be both “in” and “on” the sea). Don’t worry if you read this and don’t understand it, I not sure I do either! If you read it and _really_ understand it, explain it to me some time.
As you can imagine, some of the results were a little strange, if not surreal. One that has stuck in my mind was:
  • “It” (=Subject) “waits” (=Verb) “toilet” (=Location; this is the room by the way)
  • to which I added “Service” (=Object), so after some changes to the component words we got:
  • “It waits for service in the toilet.”
  • I really don’t want to dwell for too long on what that might possibly mean!
The result was often a bit like David Bowie or Brian Eno lyrics. Sometimes it made real sense, sometimes it was complete nonsense and sometimes it had a slippery quality which made me think that perhaps there was some peculiar message hidden in the sentence.
(by the way, my landlady has just come it. It’s 22:00 and time for dinner!)
Homework was a comprehension exercise. I had to translate a passage and answer questions on it. I was given the passage as a sound file for my computer, and the passage text is in my textbook. The teacher made sure I understood the questions before we finished.
After this, it was time for lunch (thank goodness). Lunch was our now favourite (only) restaraunt, “Vilka-Lojka”. Apparently, not only is there a chain of Vilka-Lojkas, but there is a class of restaraunts known as “Staloviya” (dining room).
After lunch, there was an opportunity to visit a museum in town with one of the teachers. I wanted to visit the museum but that created a possible problem with the homework, because of dinner.
The museum was the “Novosibirsk history and natural history museum” (I’m not sure of the correct title. I may update thisket). It’s situated in a hundred-year-old converted metro station just off Lenin Square. Admission is cheap (For us. 200 rub = 5 Eur). Like many Russian public buildings, you are expected to leave your coat and bag in the “garderobe”. The first thing that meets you when you enter the exhibition proper is the skeleton of a mammoth. You’re probably already aware that from time to time they did up mammoths in Siberia. The museum contains sections on:
  • Natural history
  • Native cultures – Siberia has a number of peoples somewhat like the native americans and inuit.
  • The way people lived at various times the Russians were colonising siberia.
  • The Revolution
  • The Second World War (or Great Patriotic War)
  • Artistic material
The contents are interesting, but it’s difficult to explain the intensity of the experience of really trying to understand what the labels of the exhibits say in a foreign language. At least I was able to tell the teacher who was acting as our guide that the motorcycle in the middle of the “Revolution” section was a Norton and that it was made in Birmingham, England. And that was before I read the label!
After the museum we returned to the school and so I go stuck into the comprehension. Rather than listen to the passage (which was difficult at the school), I decided to translate from the text first and then listen later. It was a good job I did, because otherwise I would have run out of time. In the mean time I attended a presentation on “Soviet films” (which was pretty interesting). I had completed about three-quarters of the translation when it was time for the school to kick me out, and me to go to dinner.
The restaurant (“Rimski Kaniculi” (Roman Holidays), use your web browser to translate) was only a short distance away. I spent a little while trying to look inconspicuous waiting for my hostess to arrive. My hostess is my landladies employer (I think) she was accompanied by two of her sons: Ivan (12) and Anton (9). They arrived just a few minutes late. My landlady was delayed. I was struck by Ivan wearing a military uniform. He attends a “Officer School” and the uniform was for the “Siberian Cadet Corps”. Wikipedia has an article of the historic Siberian Cadet Corps. I’m not sure about any associations between the modern and historic organisations, but I know that “the cadets” are significant in Russian history. Both sons spoke a little english and we were able to converse, me speaking Russian, and them speaking English.
Dinner for me was an extremely good lasagne. As we dined we were entertained by an Italian chef (named “Fabio”) demostrating how to cook a couple of pasta dishes. Later he demonstrated making ice-cream using liquid nitrogen. Later still, he demonstrated tossing pizza bases to the music “Love, Sex, American Express” (?!). The Russian word for show is “spektakl” and this was certainly spectacular! All we drank all evening was several different varieties of black or green tea. At the end of the evening my hostess gave me a lift home at about 22:00. It was a thoroughly good evening.
I got home and had to get down to work. I had the translation completed before midnight, and so to bed.

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