Wednesday, April 30, 2008

In The Navy

I had a bad day today. First, I thought that I was supposed to do my Rotary presentation because Maria told me last week that I would be doing my presentation about myself. So last night I double checked my power point, and I got my stuff all together and I even wore my Rotary jacket. And then we had different speakers and so I didn't get to give my presentation. And so by the time I got home, I was in a bad mood. I was in a bad mood because I didn't give my presentation, and I had to haul my stuff around, and the waitresses at the restaurant sniggered at my jacket, which looks much better than it did when I left by the way. And I was tired. Tired of slush and mud and wet puddles that are basically little lakes. And I was tired of having a bad accent when I speak, and my friend telling me not to say "Чё" Because it's not really a word. Even though basically everyone says it but her, and I was just irritated and tired in general. And restless again (But more about that in my second philosophy post)

So I got home, unloaded my stuff, changed and immediately decided that if I stayed in the house, I would die a slow and painful death of suffocation. Okay, not really, but that's how I felt. So I threw some stuff in my bag, called to Oksana that I was going to take a walk and headed outside.

The first thing I did was buy some ice cream. I love Russia. I can get a decent sized ice cream cone for like 6 roubles. What a great country! Anyway, so as soon as I started eating my ice cream cone, I started feeling better. Russian ice cream is amazing! I then made my way to Ploshad Pobedy which is Victory Square. I've decided it's a good place to be. I enjoy sitting there and just watching the people. Now that the weather's warmed up, it's pretty busy and so fun to be there. In some ways, it's more exciting than the other squares though I can't really explain why. So I'm walking along, eating my ice cream, and at the far end, there's these millitary guys all marching around, and I'm thinking that's cool, they're probably practicing for May 9th. May 9th for those of you who don't know is a big deal. It's "Den Pobedy" or "Victory Day" big millitary demonstrations and whatnot. Anyway so these young guys are marching around and I decide to watch them while I'm eating my ice cream.

Okay, I'm going to be perfectly honest. I was hoping to see some eye-candy. Mostly it was the fact that they were mostly ethnic Russians. When you see so many Yakutian people, you get a little desperate. So I'm standing there, eating my ice cream and watching the boys march past and I was rather depressed because they were all like 12. Fine, maybe a little older, but still too young. That was depressing, but it was fun to watch them march. I finished up my ice cream and wandered around a bit. By this time, the marchers had a break and they're all standing around having a smoke and chatting. There's space on this bench where an old guy's having a smoke, so I move toward it but and cut off by some twelve-year olds in unifom. This irritates me and so I wander around a bit more, feeling rather awkward when the old guy vacates his spot. I plot down own the bench next to the boys, pull out my paper journal, dig for my trusty pen and begin to vent my frustrations. I was writing away, only paying slight attention to the boys next to me, when all of a sudden I hear "Americans, English" The Russian word for "americans" is like a buzzword. Everytime I hear it, it catches my attention. So I look over at the boys, one of whom begins to act like and idiot and talk about all kinds of random stuff about america. I chuckle at their silliness, and give an ironic smile. After a few minutes, they went back to line up. On the way, the silly boy was like "I am Russian! I am Russian!" I thought about answering with "And I'm American!" But that would've involved screaming across the square and that would've been neither attractive nor appropriate. Probably would've offended people.

So I go back to my writing, feeling better about my day, when all of a sudden a column of boys marches over and stops right in front of me. It took me about ten seconds to realize that this column of boys contained the boys who'd just been sitting by me. Ah, the irony. I happened to make eye contact with the silly one from before, and that got them started. The silly one goes "America!" really loud and I look up, and go "yeah? and what?" in Russian. A moment later I hear in german "Do you speak german?" I don't know German, but this is one phrase I do no. So I look at them and in Russian I go "No, I speak English." Then, realizing that I'm speaking to them in Russian I add hastily "And russian." Well that got them started. It's like a rule in Russia that as soon as someone knows you speak English Natively, they start practicing all their english phrases with you. It's especially fun when you get a group of boys. Today, I got everything from "What's your name" to "Kiss me" I just laughed.

Then, I hear one kid talking to another and I didn't hear the whole conversation, but I think the one asked how they knew I spoke English. The second kid was saying something about me writing in English. Ah, that explained it. So them starting to talk about America wasn't a coincidence. The kid who wanted to know how they knew then gets out of line, comes over and glances at my journal quickly before returning to his place. I go "Hey, look, it's in English" and hold up a page. The silly guy asked me what I was writing about and I'm like "you guys." They then started asking me real questions. They wanted to know if I was British and I said that I was American. Then someone asked what I was doing in Yakutsk (Always a fun question) but before I could answer they got yelled at by a superior and went off marching again. I continued my journaling.

The next time they had a break, I was surrounded by basically the whole company since those who hadn't participated in the last conversation had at least heard it. They asked me a bunch of usual questions. What I thought of Bush, Why was I there, What was my name, Why did I come to Russia, How long would I be in the city. I asked why they were marching around (though I thought I already knew) and they told me because of May 9th. They also told me that they go to this Navy Training School thing and when they get done, they go on boats. I didn't quite understand it, but it sounds like a millitary school and then they just go right into it. One unusual question they asked was if in America our navy wore the same kind of uniform and how many stripes were on it. I said I was sorry, but I didn't know. One guy handed me this little pin that says "Yakutsk River Flot." I thought it was really cool and it found a special spot on my Rotary Jacket when I got home. After a little bit, they had to go back to marching. I finished up my journaling and by the time I did, they'd gone.

I guess the point of this story and all the details is that I felt really happy after this encounter. It's one of those stories that I'll keep close to my heart and is hard to tell when you get back because to be sitting there with your friends and go "One time in Russia I talked to these kids from the military school" Doesn't make much of a story. And really it's not that exciting of a story, but the reason I'm telling it here, and telling it with such detail is so that you all back home can understand. This is what it's like being an exchange student. It's having a completely crummy day, and then having something as small and insignificant as a 10 minute interaction with some boys, make your day 100% better.

1 comment:

Mr. Faust said...

Wonderful! Even though I've never done the exchange thing, I feel like I know the essence of it after reading this entry. One of your best!