Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Protests, Movies and English

I went to eat lunch in Campus Center yesterday. I happened to be sitting by the window reading a book and when I looked up, there were people gathering on the plaza outside. I watched them set up speakers and people hanging out. Naturally I had to go see what the hubub was. It was an anti-war protest. Okay, and I'm not going to lie. I knew it was going to happen and that's why I chose to eat lunch there and to happen to be sitting in that particular spot.

I wanted to see a protest because I'd never seen one, and besides, my brother saw the Republican National Convention riots. I was behind. (Up until that point I'd been ahead because I sat jury duty) Plus, SPU is a hippie school so might as well go watch them right? What else are you going to do when you have homework to procrastinate?

When it looked like they were getting started, I went outside and about laughed. First, they had this guy play a song on a guitar and sing about how horrible it is that we're in a war and how we shouldn't support the troops or whatever. Then, this girl got up and read this whole thing about what they all did at the aforementioned riots at the Republican National Convention. I really really wanted to interject a few comments, but I kept my thoughts to myself. To be perfectly honest, the whole protest thing was rather disappointing. I don't know what I expected to see, maybe something straight out of the 70s but it definitely didn't happen. After a few more little speech thingies, they all grouped up, grabbed signs and started chanting about how we shouldn't be in Iraq. They then went marching off across campus. The Campus newspaper today said that there were about 100 people, but there was no way there were that many unless they picked up people along the way. There were maybe maybe fifty people. Generally, I just shook my head and supressed a laugh at the whole thing. Yeah, if you ask most of the students on this liberal campus, they will tell you that they don't support this, and we should get out of Iraq. Yet, do they care enough to do something about it? not really. The hippies do though. This event was sponsored by a group on campus called "the Anti-war commitee" My question is, what do they do when there is no war?

Last night was Russian movie night. The movie was called "The Barber of Siberia" it's really long (i.e. 3 hours) and it's typically russian (i.e. Rather depressing) but there's enough good stuff in it to definitely make it worth the watch. Plus, it's mostly in English and there are some well known people in it such as Julia Ormond and Richard Harris. The best part was when I went into the room where it was being held. I asked the grad students (in Russian) if it was a good movie, and they were like "yeah, but it's long" and they spoke slowly and they said one word for long and then decided I may not know that and so used another (Understood both) I nodded as they spoke and said something about how I'd heard it was a good movie, and then one girl randomly goes "How do you know Russian" because this is America and these are grad students from Russia and they teach beginner courses and so most Americans they know don't speak Russian. And so I said "I lived in Russia last year" and they asked me my name and I don't know it just made me feel special. I miss rapid-fire Russian.

The only other news really, is how irritated I was in my English class today. Not that that's news, but this time it was at the students, not the professor. We've studied some books on the ideas and theories of Postcolonialism and now we're reading fiction. So today we're sitting in class and he's just about to let us go. "Any other questions?" And people start asking the most ridiculous things ever! like "Do we find out about this in the book?" And I'm like just sitting there thinking "why does this matter? Read the book and you'll find out" and then someone else asked a question about something really insignificant like "Is such and such important later?" I'm like "are you all idiots?" At least we're reading fiction now which is more along my lines. I get into the whole analyzing the symbolism thing and stuff, so I'm going to be enjoying the rest of the semester. At least, I hope I will.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Goals and Dreams

I remember how excited I was the first time I dreamed in Russian. It was such exciting stuff. I then went on to tell you every time that I dreamed in Russian. I've sort of slacked off because since I've been back I've had several dreams in other languages.

I can't remember exactly when the first one was, I don't think it was too long after I got back, but in it, I had to go back to Yakutsk for some paperwork or something and I was in my third host family's house. Instead of my little host brother though, a little girl from my church was there and she said something to me in Russian and I answered back. Odd.

The second one was not long after I met Puppy. We were wandering around campus and I was speaking a lot of Russian. That night I dreamed that I was speaking Russian on a cell phone and my family was freaking out in English, trying to figure out what I was saying, or wanting me to stop or something. I don't really remember.

Finally, last night I dreamed in Yakutian. Yeah. I know. that's really odd. Especially since I don't really speak Yakutian. What was weird about it is that the people in the dream were speaking to me in Yakutian but when I said that I didn't understand, instead of speaking to me in Russian, they spoke to me in English. Complete with accents if I remember right. That's probably the strangest dream I've had. I don't typically dream in languages that I don't really speak.

Speaking of dreaming in other languages, as I was getting ready to write this post, I remembered that several years ago, when I started this blog, I had several goals for myself. I went back and looked at them, and realized actually, I've completed many of them. For those of you who are too lazy to click the link, here's what they were.

1. Learn Swahili
2.Go to France
3. Dream in another language
4. Read "Le Petit Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in French
5. Speak Fluent Russian

I can now cross the following things off the list.

1. Learn Swahili
2.Go to France
3. Dream in another language
4. Read "Le Petit Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in French
5. Speak Fluent Russian

The only one I haven't done is learn Swahili. I went to France right after I graduated from high school. Went with Madame, and a group of classmates. Spent two weeks there and it was a very eye-opening experience. Number two I've mentioned several times so you know about that. In my AP class we took care of number 4. Number 5 is the only one that I might not technically cross off. Technically, I'm not fluent in Russian, but I speak it well enough to survive day to day situations and such. So while, I've realized since the time I wrote these goals, that I'll never be fluent like a native, I would say I'm conversationally fluent. Or almost.

I made those goals in 2005. It took me what? Three years to complete four out of five? Not bad if I do say so myself. I think I'm going to have to work on coming up with some new language goals for myself.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Social Time

People I know tend to hang out in my room. I'm not sure if this is because I'm very hospitable and easy going about people being in there, ("I don't care how long you stay, just be warned that at some point I'm going to bed") or if it's because I don't have a roommate and so it's pretty easy to just come in and hang out. Perhaps it's a bit of both. Generally it doesn't bother me, and when it does, I just don't invite people in.

Last night Zhin and I got together and made brownies and cookies in the dorm's communal kitchen. We got rid of most of the cookies and some of the brownies. To get rid of the rest, we wandered up and down my hall randomly asking people if they wanted one. It was pretty entertaining. She then came back to my room and we just talked and she bounced some ideas around for a paper she was writing. A little after nine, Puppy got a hold of me and wanted me to help him go over some German for a test he was having today. I reminded him that I don't know German, but to come over and I would help him however I could. So he came over and the three of us sat here and had a good time. Around 11, Puppy decided that he was hungry and I wanted a milkshake. I convinced Zhin that she should come with us and we went to the Diner which is cafeteria food but it's open 24/7. Oh and they have really good milkshakes among other things. So we walked across campus and got our stuff and then we walked back and said goodnight. It was a really fun time. This is another example of reasons why College is great. More of that random hanging out stuff.

In Russian, we're watching a movie called Brat or Brother in English. It's a pretty good ganster movie, but my teacher decided that it would be really fun to pile on the homework for that class over the weekend. Not only that, but I have a test in "We Come From Monkeys" on Monday and several other assignments and things for other classes. Needless to say school-wise I'm pretty stressed out at the moment. I did find out that there's going to be a Russian Movie night on Monday. I'm pretty excited and definitely planning on going.

Other than that, I don't really know what else to say. Russia's been in the news a lot lately. Seems, they've been making deals with Venezuela about Nuclear Energy and working with the United States on keeping Iran's Nuclear Energy under control. It's something I'm going to have to keep my eye on over the next several days.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Medvedev On Georgia

Several days ago, I came across This article in which the president of Russia, Dmitri Medvedev, comments on the Russia-Georgia conflict. I encourage you all to take a look at the article. While I don't agree with everything that he says, I personally thought that Medvedev had some very interesting points. In particular all of the things relating to prejudices that the United States has against Russia because of the Cold War. Let me quote a few things.

" In a put-down to Miss Rice, who wrote her doctoral thesis on the military of the USSR, he said: "The world needs fewer Sovietologists and more experts on Russia." "

Personally, I agree with this statement. Many people here in the States still think that Russia is still a communist country that is still out to get us. While I don't know all of the things going on in either government I know that many of America's views of Russia, many of the sterotypes are wrong. I also found this particularly interesting:

" "Some think that not only are we the legal successor to the USSR, but we are also the ideological heirs. This is simply not true. We have a completely different set of values." When Russia offers mediation or peace-keeping, its motives should not be called into question. "We have no messianic ideals." "

This is also a good point. I've felt for a while that one of the main reasons relations between Russia and the United States are not as they should be, is because there is a trust issue. Neither country really trusts the other.

And that is my little view of the political world for the day.

What College is About

I'm settling in nicely. I feel like I actually have friends now. Actually, to tell you the truth it's only been the last week or so that I really feel like I've got people. Some of them are closer than others, but you'll have that. I've got a group of people I talk to in Comparing Governments, I've got people in The Sisterhood, which is a women's service organization I've joined, and then there's my dance class. The people in these places I primarily interact with in said setting. I might say hi to them if I see them "out of context" but I don't usually hang out with them otherwise.

I do have some tighter friends and I'll get to them in a minute but first I want to tell you one amazing thing about college. The randomness. An aquaintance of mine who I met during Orientation week was having a game night. I wasn't going to go, but I felt like I needed to get out of my dorm room for a while. So I went, and had a good time. Played Mafia and Uno attack, and then a few of us went to the field behind the dorm and played hide and seek followed by a discussion that covered everything from politics to religion to cheese whiz and ended up in me not getting to bed until like 2 a.m. It was a really good evening. I love that about college. How people are on generally the same level and you can just hang out randomly with people. College, the great equilizer.

Now, on to my friends. I figured I might as well tell you about the people I hang out with on a fairly regular basis since I might be mentioning them again.

The first is Zhin I met her randomly during Orientation week. SPU had all the freshmen read a book and then they showed the movie version of it. I wanted to see the movie version but at the time couldn't get anyone to go with me. So I went by myself and plopped down in the middle of the theater where I'd have a good view. A few minutes later, this girl comes by and asks me if the seat is taken. I say no and she sits down and we begin to chat. It takes us about thirty seconds to realize that we're both in the honors program and that our dorm rooms are pretty close to each other. Pretty cool. So we watch the movie and walk back and go on with life. Except I kept running into her. I stopped eating at one of the main cafeterias because it was too crowded and started going to a smaller one, where I happened to run into her. So we ate dinner together and I invited her to join our dance class. From there, we just kind of eased on into the friendship. Probably the major turning point was the one night after dance, we had a "study party" we didn't get much studying done, be we got to talking and had a good time. Zhin and I usually meet for dinner at that little cafeteria twice a week and we are actually planning on hanging out some this weekend since we're both staying on campus.

I met Puppy through a girl I'd met who is taking Russian here. She and Puppy had both participated in a summer language academy that SPU has for high school students and they are now taking Russian here. Puppy and I exchanged phone numbers and he is now my "I feel like doing random things at random times" friend. He's into languages and though German is his main thing, he doesn't mind when I sit and randomly speak Russian to him and he'll speak it back. He also doesn't seem to mind my constant references to what life in Russia is like.

As I mentioned above, there are other people I talk to and interact with on a regular basis, but these are the ones who are closest at the moment. Even though I get frustrated with college at times, I really do enjoy meeting new people and learning new things. Both inside the classroom and out.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I should be studying which is what my life is now that I've started college, but I'm home this weekend and felt like telling you about a movie I saw yesterday before I hit the books.

Downfall is the story of the last ten days of the Third Reich from the point of view of Hitler's secretary. It's a German made movie and is therefore all in German, so you'll be reading subtitles, but it's definitely worth seeing. They've done a really good job portraying the mood that hung over Hitler and those closest to him during the final days of Hitler's reign. You get a sense of how hopeless the situation was. The movie is a little scary because it brings the end of the war to life in very vivid detail. I definitely reccomend that you see this movie.


In case you haven't noticed, I've been playing with the template, fonts, and so on. I figured that since I hadn't really updated the look of the blog since I started it in 2005, it was about time that I did, so please just bear with me as I'll be playing with various things over probably the next couple of weeks until I decide on something I like. Do not worry, neither the quality nor the Frequency of my posts will be affected by this. It's just something I feel I need to do. Need something different for a while.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Monday was my group's presentation on Great Britain in "Comparing Governments" It went as well as could be expected for something we sort of randomly threw together. It could've been a lot worse and thankfully wasn't. I think the best thing we did, was try to ask questions and stimulate discussions. I've only just now come to realize how difficult it is to get college students to interact with you. I should make a note of that to get more into my classes.

Today in Comparing Governments, we got to listen to a presentation on Japan. It was okay, except I couldn't help but noticing that one guy in the group kept talking about how the United States "Forced" Japan to do things like adopt a constitution and "Forced" them to keep military only for their self defense. Several people echoed that they agree with this and that basically it was horrible how the United States forced Japan to give up what they had and adopt a different sort of government. I have the curse (Or the blessing?) To be able to see different sides of issues. I enjoy playing devil's advocate and things like that, and it feels like since I've come to college everyone is always on one side and I'm on the other. My point though is that Hindsight is 20/20. You cannot judge those who were in charge during and after WWII for what we know and don't know now.

What I'm saying is that, yes, perhaps the government at that time was wrong for what they did to Japan, but if you think about where they were coming from, their perspective, Can you really blame them? I mean Japan was responsible for what was then the biggest and worst attack on American soil by an outside force up to that time. The attack on Pearl Harbor (Unprovoked for those of you who know history and know of the isolationist attitude the U.S. was persuing at that time.) was a huge jolt to the American people. So naturally we wanted to stop Japan from taking over the United States. Can you really blame the government upon Japan's surrender for making sure that Japan would never try something like again? Would never be that kind of threat again?

I should've brought this up in class after several comments about the U.S. and the bad things they did to Japan. But I didn't. Now I'm regretting it. The people and that class can be pretty agressive and stuff and I think my problem was that I didn't feel like trying to defend my viewpoint all by myself. Next time though, when I come up with a thought like this, I'm going to try to state it. If nothing else, I will at least show that I'm thinking about stuff.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Little More Positive

Okay, forgive me because my last two posts were rather...uh...angry? You have to understand, it's not that I hate america, or am anti-american or anything. In fact, being in Russia showed me just how much I love my country. It's just I get frustrated with people who are ignorant about things when, what with all our modern information systems, there's no reason to be. Having said that, on to the news.

College is tough. I'm not going to lie. There are a few classes I strongly dislike, but some of them aren't so bad. My Russian class for example. I'm taking a Russian class called "Speaking and Writing." So we write essays and have conversations and stuff, but the best part about this is that we are using MOVIES for the basis of our writing and speaking. Which is pretty awesome if you ask me. The first movie we're watching is called Tsirk which means Circus. It's about an american circus star who has a black child, gets run out of town, meets a German guy and goes to the Soviet Union. This movie was made in 1936 and the most interesting thing about it (in my opinion anyway) is that this is one of the Soviet Union's answers to Hollywood. Apparently, they sent spies to Hollywood to find out about the movies and when they came back, this is the result. I thought that was pretty cool. The good thing about this class is that there's no textbook but we are going to have to buy a few movies which can be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it :)

Another interesting thing occured in my "Comparing governments" class. As part of this class, we are required to get into groups and do a presentation about a country. I bet you can't guess what country I wanted?...Do you know what country I got? Britain. How did this happen? Well, mostly it has to do with the fact that because of the way in which the sign-up sheet was passed around, I was the very last person to sign up. (Yet I was sitting in the front of the room. ironic no?) as a result, by the time the sheet got to me, there were already six people signed up for Russia. (For some reason it's really popular right now. Gee, I wonder why. heh heh) I'm a flexible person so I looked at my options, or rather, I looked at the countries that didn't have a lot of people signed up for them. The countries were India with two people, North Korea with one, Britain with one and the U.S. with none (Even though the presentation is the last week of class) I thought about picking India, but the teacher recommended picking Britain. I eventually went with that. Why? Well at first it seems really stupid because 1. I know nothing about Britain's political system and 2. We're going to be presenting a week from Monday. But actually, I went and signed up with it because of its distinct advantages.

First of all, knowing next to nothing about the political system, this will give me a good opportunity to learn more and broaden my horizons. After all, I get mad about ignorant people in the United States, but in some ways, I'm one of them myself. It should be especially interesting because the one guy in my group (There are now three people including myself because another woman switched to ours) is originally from New Zealand. So that should be interesting.

Now to my second craziness of having to present this a week from Monday. The first advantage is that I get my project over with early in the semester. This is great because already thinking ahead, I know as the semester goes on I'll just get busier and busier what with mid-terms and finals a possible job and all. Another advantage to going a week from Monday is that as the first group to go, we set the standard. Also as the first group to go, if we mess something up, it might be more easily forgiven because we don't yet have a standard.

So, there you have it. I'm actually looking forward to the presentation. Now, if we could only get our group together and work.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Things You Overhear

I was walking back to my dorm yesterday. I can't really remember from where and these people were talking as they went past me. I wasn't really paying attention until the guy goes. "I know where all the little Russian ones are, like Czechoslovakia and those." I continued to watch them pass me with my mouth hanging open. I really really really wanted to say something but I didn't. I let them go and I sort of fumed about what he'd said for a while.

For those of you who don't realize why what he said irritated me, let me enlighten you. Obviously, the guy was talking about Geography. The first thing that irritated me was the fact that Czechoslovakia is not a country. If you don't know, it is now two separate countries, The Czech Republic and Slovakia. Another reason this irritated me is because Neither the Czech Republic nor Slovakia are Russian. They have a different language, they are not Russian citizens. The same goes for any of the other former CIS countries such as Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and so on. Yes, I do realize he was referring to the fact that during the Cold War, they were part of the CCCP (Soviet Union) but it's like seriously people. I cannot believe this. People need to work on their geography and history.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


One year ago yesterday I got off an airplane and started my Russian adventure. I didn't even realize that's what yesterday was until I was sitting in my dorm room journaling at ten o'clock last night. I wrote something about 9/11 and thought "wow, that's this month" then I realized that it was September first and I got really weirded out. A call to my parents, who had just dropped me off ensued.

Me:"Mom, do you realize that at this time last september I arrived in Russia?"
Mom:"Yes, are you sad?"
Me:"No, just really weirded out."

We then proceeded to talk about many things including the Russia/Georgia conflict. I mentioned how hard it is when people ask me what I think of that, but then they get disturbed when I defend Russia. It's like "then why do you ask me if you're going to imply that I'm crazy and don't know what I'm talking about." I think the reason people ask me is because they know I've lived their and they want confirmation for their own stereotypes. I seriously think sometimes that they want me to just be like "Well, I've lived there and you are absolutely right. Russia is evil and power hungry." Honestly, I think it disturbs people at some deep level when I say something like "well, Georgia did start it." I'm probably going to get some nasty comments now for writing that too. I'm currently trying to work out a way to explain how I feel about this whole thing. A way to explain to all of you why it bothers me to hear you say the things you do about Russia.

While we're on the subject of things that bother me, here's a few more. The first one dealt with one of my textbooks. As you may know, One class I'm taking this semester is called "Comparing Politics" Well, I went and bought the textbook for this class only to show up on the first day of class and have the Prof. tell me that we were, in fact, using a different book. But that's really not the point of my story. See, before I realized this, I'd been looking at the textbook since we are comparing various governments I was hoping that there would be a section about Russia. There was. It was put under the section heading "Communist and Post-Communist Governments" along with China. Yeah, you could say that bothered me. You know it's funny though because sometimes the bothering is on a subconscious level and I won't realize how bothered I am by it until later. Why does it bother me? I think because every time we mention Russia in this country it's usually in conjunction with Communism. Like I found it really offensive that Russia has not technically been a communist country for what? seventeen years? And yet in modern editions of this particular textbook it was still being associated with communism. Oh and please don't even start with the whole "Well, even though it's not 'communist' we all know what Putin's doing." Because that will just make me angrier. And yes, people have said that to me. But that's a topic for another post.

Finally, the last thing that's bothered me over the last couple of days. It really has nothing at all to do with Stereotypes or the political situation. I was sitting in church on Sunday, next to a couple with a little girl. She was playing with a magnet set and I was mentally thinking of the words in Russian in case she asked. (We were playing this sort of thing with a sticker book a few weeks before. I'd tell her the words in Russian.) So she's got all the magnets piled up on the chair and I'm refreshing my memory and then I see that one magnet is a pineapple and I just stop. Because for the life of me I cannot remember how to say the word "pineapple" in Russian. I know it may not sound like a big deal. I mean it is only the word pineapple after all. It's not like a hugely important word. But I was seriously really disturbed because I couldn't remember it. I knew if I heard or read it, I would recognize it immediately, but I couldn't remember how to say it. Every time I tried to think of it, I drew a blank. Seriously disturbing. In fact, I couldn't remember this word all day Sunday, and all day yesterday. (I thought maybe if I stopped thinking about it and returned to it later, I would get a memory jog. No such luck) In fact I continued to draw a complete blank with this word until I just now found an online Russian dictionary and looked it up. It's Ananas by the way. In case you care. Ананас would be how it's spelled. I know, it doesn't sound like a big deal, but this was an almost terrifying moment. I'm afraid that I'm already forgetting.