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the colours in your head


In which Alex rassles death-- and wins!

Firstly, I would like to apologise for the title of my last post. I was singing that quietly in my head all the day of the show, or not so quietly when I didn't give in to my ordinary lightyear-a-minute chatter.

Secondly, I would like to say that I just got my HIV test for my multiple entry visa thing done, and despite the ENORMOUS bruise the stupid nurse left on my arm, and all the messy sloshing-around of blood that was done in the clinic, I am 100% HIV-free. Not that there was any doubt, but at moments like these there is always the running stream of stupid things I have done running through my head and the "well, what if...". I started inventing imaginary scenarios in my head. I was figuring out how to tell my mother. Should I wait until she comes to Russia, I wondered, or should I tell her right away? Re-testing would probably be necessary. Perhaps I would be deported. By lunchtime today I had convinced myself that the mosquito bites on my legs were new, special kinds of AIDS lesions and that I was going to die right then. My friend was treated to an umbrella dance when we went there and the nurse handed over my negative slip oh-so-casually like I wasn't sitting next to all my former lovers in a hospital, in my imagination.

Oh the happiness of having lucked out. Not that there's a fear, or like I go around sleeping with everyone who looks remotely in my direction, but... when you have to get tested, the Health class litany always comes back into your head. "It could be anyone," Ms. Watkins the Wombat intoned. "You never know unless you see their tests."

If you'll excuse me, I have a lot of sleeping around to go and do.

I'm clean!

I'm clean!

Farukh, farukh, farukh is on fire

Ok, so going over the past week, part the very first.

So... Tuesday was the long-awaited performance of Farukh "Sex in Ballet Tights" Ruzimatov. I paid all of five hundred rubles (about $17) for these tickets, so I was expecting QUALITY, by jove. I wasn't disappointed.

I've loved this man for years, watched endless ballet videos where, yeah, I'm supposed to be watching the pretty ballerinas do their twirly gorgeous flitting things, and I am, but it's hard to concentrate wholly on that when dancing right next to them, generally in his bare-chested greasy-haired glory, is Farukh. I know it's too cheesy to fall for the description I have just put up, but combine that with a skeletal system of rubber and muscles of steel (rather interesting body image coming up there...) and an ability to jump higher and farther than any human being rightly should, and you've got a lust object. It's not actually the kind of thing where I actually imagine having any contact with this fellow-- god forbid, in real life he might be short (the perils of being a 5'9 female... but I think he could get away with it) or have an ugly voice, or, god forbid, be stupid. He can be as vain as he wants. Also, I think he would just be far too bendy for me, and would laugh at the fact that I lost all my flexibility somewhere when I stopped being jocky.

Anyway, the show was surreal in its beauty. He only actually performed three times, but the in between acts were amazing as well. They started with The Dream of the Rose, which was a rather dubious choice, and I feared for a second because I had dragged along two ballet virgins, and a man in a pink bodysuit with a floral headpiece might not have been the best introduction. Luckily, though, it quickly went to more normal pieces-- a rather lovely scene from Corsair, and an exquisite pas de quatre, featuring the leggiest ballerina I have EVER seen. The first act culminated with a modern piece, featuring Farukh at long last, pretty much having tantric sex with a ballerina barely covered in red spandex to the sound of tabla drums. As I picked my jaw up off the floor after aerial split number four, I started quietly praying for atonement of my soul for all the nasty comments I've made about modern dance.

It's rather hard, not to mention tedious to anyone reading, to sit and describe the rest of the show. I don't know enough about ballet to make actual critiques about anything, and don't really have anything to contribute beyond naming the piece and trying to piece together a description from the vague memory impressions I have of a twirling skirt, or particularly graceful arms. The second act was just Farukh and another woman playing "Le Jeune Homme et la Morte". The piece may as well have been written for him-- images from it are seared into my head, somewhere right behind my eyeballs. I literally might not be able to watch it again without feeling vaguely cheated. The third act was collected pieces again-- a splendid black and white modern piece that seemed like some take on a Pygmalion story, then the leggy ballerina as the Black Swan, a scene from Evgeny Onegin that literally brought tears to my eyes (Tanya rejecting Onegin! Hah!), because I am a sap, and then finally, Farukh solo. All. Alone. On. Stage. Glorious dark-muscley-sinousness. It sounds like I'm exaggerating when I say I had to remind myself to breathe, but... I caught myself forgetting to do it sometimes. I'd gasp and then never let it out. So beautiful. I was saddened when it ended. The applause was nice for them-- they ended up taking 9 bows, but at the same time it meant we had to go out and face reality again and go away from the construct world that had grown up around us. While waiting for the bus, we saw the leggy ballerina-- taller than me-- limping home carrying her tutus and with her hair up in a scruffy bun. It was incredible that an hour before she had been an enchanted bird-woman creature, and now she was just a normal, if rather tall, thin and gorgeous, human being in sweats.

I don't think I can quite deal with humanity in people like that. Terrible habit.


Voglio fa' l'Americanu

I think there's a giant sign posted in the housing department of my dorm here saying "Sketchy Romans? Put them on the 11th floor. Alex'll take care of THEM." Just a week after Lucas moved out (he is now apparently living in sin with a Russian nymphomaniac druggie... gotta love him) who should move in but Felice. "Happy".

Felice accosted me in the hallway the other night, as I was running out the door to the film screening (which will be discussed later). We talked... he told me he had seen me the other night "in the red miniskirt." I was vaguely creeped out and indicated that I had to go. He called my room three times that night.

Oh, and yes, he was in his underwear when I met him. Lovely.

After my long rant about how I was going to avoid all future phone calls on the room number, I made the mistake of picking up. On the other line-- the siren tones of Mr. Happy! He informed me that he was bored and my mission, of course, was to entertain. Alas, I had homework, but he insisted I stop by afterwards. After much bitching and moaning, I decide it won't kill me, so I go next door, and there he is in his underwear again! He finally clothed himself somewhat, leaving the belt conspicuously undone, and proceeded to regale me with such topics of conversation as:

- His military past. His drug addict / dealer (still not sure which) past. His messed up family. His war experiences.
- The horrid state of the world today and how half of Asia should be blown up-- "a good start".
-How he fell in love with a Croatian prostitute, but you know, slept with her a few times just because she was in the business anyway.
- "You have very sexy hands. Why do you wear nail polish? Here, let me take it off for you."
- "Your legs... in that miniskirt... You must do a lot of sports. Those are good strong legs. You could take me down. We should wrestle."


I demurred, pointing to the half of the ashtray I was responsible for, but he insisted, "You say you're not athletic anymore, but with a body like that..."

What the hell?


I need to somehow fit in an account of the past week, as it has been so utterly full of experiences, but alas I may not be able to do that, as the scary lady at the desk is intimating that my time may soon be up. A quick rundown of the events, to be filled in when I get a chance:

Tuesday-- Farukh at the ballet.
Wednesday--Creepy encounter with a fifty something year old at an internet cafe, meeting the most beautiful girl in Petersburg, and going to the militsia station with Volodya.
Thursday-- Tea and lounging with my crazy Greek friend.
Friday-- Swan Lake at the Mariinsky, "Prom Night"
Saturday-- The Junists: an accordion-playing falsetto-singing band from Belgium.
Sunday-- Documentary festival at the Pushkinskaya art centre. Literature discussions with Russians.

Accounts are coming. I must run, however, because the woman said something threatening


I just thought I would come online for a second and say that I just revised Russian vocab for four hours. FOUR HOURS. That was just this week's worth. And I haven't even gotten started on the verbs.

You have to love the fact that my rasgobor teacher throws in things like "organised killing" and "service industry" into the mix, though. Sure breaks up the tedium of "cabbage", "Autumn", "colourful" and such.

Yesterday I went to the ballet to see Don Quixote. I dragged along one of my friends (with the enticement "He tilts at windmills!") and turned her into a ballet addict just like that. The whole thing had originally started as a fake excuse to avoid having to spend too much time with Volodya, who wanted to take pictures of me with these two random girls, and even though I flaked at the last minute in favour of watching television! In English! at my friend's apartment, we decided the ballet would still be a lovely event to talk about in Russian class tomorrow.

Oh, it was beautiful. I hadn't been to a good production in years-- when I was little it was always Nutcracker at Christmas and then Sleeping Beauty sometime in the spring, and I would get all dressed up in my little velvet dress (there were a whole series of these, ranging through all shades of dark. They were worn with black patent mary janes and thick white stockings. The earliest ones had lace collars and made me look adorable. The later ones still would have been adorable, had I not gone through a rather unfortunate stage from the age of 9 to about 12, featuring a plump apple-shaped face and hair of an androgynously short length,w hich for some reason I kept cutting short, even though I knew I look awful with short hair. After that, I was too old for adorable velvet dresses and alternately favoured clothing of the skaterish or skankyish variety. Oh, the tightness of my jeans!) and trot down to the Teatro Regio with my mom and my stepfather and assorted other relatives, and sit up in one of the boxes, leaning my chin on the velvet-covered railing, and sucking on the fizzy lemon candy my stepfather kept in his pocket. The theatre itself was gorgeous, all gold and red velvet, left over from the times when Turin was the capital of Italy. There supposedly was an underground tunnel leading to the royal palace for when the weather was inclement. We were shown the entrance on one of our many school trips there.

This entire digression was simply to show how much I truly love ballets, and how much I've missed going. The performance was at the Mikhailovsky theatre, which is rather gorgeous itself-- tiers of white and gold balconys with orange velvet seats. We managed to get quite good seats for about ten dollars (hurray for student tickets and the festival!) and the show itself was just magic. I had never seen the entirety of Don Quixote, and it was my friend's first time at the ballet, so it was a novelty to both of us, and it was just amazing how the dancers managed to create a whole magical world on the stage. There were at least 6 scene changes, and considering they do a different production every day, and as I've been to this theatre twice before and none of the scenery was recycled, I would pretty much kill for a look in their scene shop. The dancers were utterly amazing. The leads flitted and sprang and-- oh, I can't describe it without getting trite, but my mouth was hanging open the entire time, and the rest of the audience seemed to agree, from the amount of applause at the end of each section.

I was sad when it was time to go but tomorrow I have tickets to go see Farukh Ruzimatov perform, and I am very much looking forward to that. The lady sitting next to us is going as well. She told us he is nicknamed the Black Panther, a fact which sounded so much cooler when she was describing it in Russian and we realised we understood, but it was still lovely talking to a stranger about theatre in a language you've only been studying three months. Wahee!


In which I use the word Piantastic

I went to a jazz concert last night with some people, following bad directions until we found an amenable Russian and followed him down a creepy little street to a creepy little children's theatre. There, the cashier lady quickly hustled us in for free, shouting in Russian to her colleague down the hall, "Don't ask for their tickets! They're foreigners! They don't know anything!" We walked into a dark theatre, found seats and watched, mouths gaping, as we were treated to the greatest spectacle of Fat Russian Man Dancing I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. He shimmied. He wiggled his hips. He did crazy chicken things with his arms while grooving on his saxophone. His combover flopped forward and plastered itself to the sweat on his forehead. His bright red Hawaiian shirt clung to his potbelly. I'm afraid that I fell in love, a little bit.

The piano player was also... a precious precious sight. He was introduced as "Composer. Poet. Artist. Reason for our life and salvation." and his piantastic stylings were just... too much. He was too cool for school, and boy did he know it, long balding hair, tight pants and ALL. He was responsible for such songs as "Sahara" and "Yellow Moon" (Or perhaps it was "green moon"... I get the words mixed up.) I have never been so relieved while a concert was over, but I've never had so much fun just watching the people involved. Oh crappy jazz, how I love thee.


When I left the house today, I looked at my shoes and thought "Should I change them?"but then the evil stupid part of my brain just shrugged and ran.

So... I don't understand females, even though I am without a doubt a card-carrying member of the species. What on earth entices us to go "Huh. It's a thin pointy structure with a stiff angled platform attached to it.... Why don't I attach it to my feet by means of tiny little straps that bite into my flesh and rejoice as I watch my toes dangle over the edge of them? And while I'm at it, why don't I wear a tiny little tube of fabric shorter than it is wide that forces me to cross my legs to preserve any sort of modesty? And hey, now that I'm on a roll here... my face isn't good the way it is... Pencils! And brushes! And wands! And strange torture-instrument looking things! All next to my eyes! Wax pastes on my mouth, so that everything it touches has tell-tale lip marks! No need to show my real skin-- a layer of tinted crud will do instead! But as for my breast-- no covering! They must be on display, pert, alert and ready for action.

I sit here, in an interenet cafe on Nevsky waiting for my friends so we can go to this jazz bar already, and somehow my evening out clothes look like an awful awful idea in the daytime. And I'm not even wearing anything particularly risque by St. Petersburg daytime standards (then again, I could probably dress in a lace bodystocking with crotch cutouts and nobody would bat an eye) but at the same time, when I stop and actually think of what I'm wearing and the original purpose-- it doesn't so much work together. Shoes-- they are feet coverings. Fine, but mine cover about 30% of the top half of my foot. High heels-- useful for short women. I'm 5'8, 5'9 (around 175 cm, I think) on a good day. Now I'm touching the 6 foot mark. Maybe it's just the blisters these fuckers have given me that are making me grumpy but it does kind of piss me off that guys can gleefully cavort into bars and clubs wearing perfectly ordinary daytime wear, but girls have to be all dolled up before they can even vaguely consider presenting themselves out for an evening of drinks or dancing or something. Natural skin? Not even Cindy Crawford could dare. It's quite annoying.

Regardless, my friends are now here, and I'm going to ignore my blister and teeter sedately out and strut my stuff among the Peterburgians, towering above everyone in my wake. Wish me luck on not falling over.


Dead Babies. In Jars.

Today we went to the Kuntzkammer, a fine old building which houses the anthropological collection and... Peter the Great's collection of oddities. The anthropological exhibits were not so great-- rarely labeled and pretty small, but they were still cool and made me forget for a minute that I'm already in Russia and long oh so desperately to be back in China or in India or Indonesia or Yemen or anywhere at all, mostly involving mental images of myself with really great hair, clad in bohemian-y garments and gorgeous jewellery, wafting through foreign lands. I came back down to earth and realised that I'm in Russia, and though my hair is not so great, my buddy Simon told me I wear... flowery... clothing the other day, so I'm going to translate that to the bohemian-y garments and gorgeous gems. Poor poor Alex. Tough life, I know.

Anyway, the Chamber of Horrors-- Oddities-- was... interesting. It actually would have been very interesing, had the deformed fetuses had their own section instead of Staring. At. You. From. Everywhere. Hundreds of tiny eyes, coming from conjoined twins and babies with shrivelled bodies and a baby with a brain outside its head and just... too much. And all the tiny skeletons too, with the heads so much bigger than the bodies. Nightmare fodder for days to come. Curse my overactive imagination.

I think the worst part of it was the fact that looking at all these babies in jars made me feel rather dirty. I mean, what with the eyes and all that-- they're babies, even if dead ones. They shouldn't be in jars, preserved hundreds of years. It was really interesting to see the deformities, though creepy, but I just felt like they should be buried somewhere and given some sort of respect, even though they had to be oh so very misshapen. I don't know. The official reason he put together the collection in the first place was to educate people and to not give rise to thoughts of witchery and such when such a birth occurs, which is a laudable sentiment, but at the same time being there just disturbed me, rather. I don't know what I would do if I should happen to have a child like that. Dear lord.

And I also don't want to think what kind of search hits this post is going to get me. Lovely.

For the love of nerdy Russian hippies...

Just a quick thing to describe the internet room in my school-- it's a typical classroom in this glorious building, with beautiful high ceilings, cracking paint in institutional shades and flourescent lights posing as pretty light fixtures high up on the wall. Seven or so computers line the walls, and there is the big bad momma server computer on a little altar of a desk, flanked by signs in BOLD SCARY RUSSIAN warning you to not even ever THINK of touching ever, THIS MEANS YOU!!!! (apologies for the caps) At least, that's what I think it says, because all I understand is the "Ne", but then the glares the guy gives you are indication enough that this is prohibited. The guy himself is a trip, probably literally-- grey hair carefully swept into the sort of bowl cut that might be ironic were he not a Russian in his fifties, Lennon (not Lenin, hyuk hyuk) glasses, and a large dangly gold hoop. Every time I look at him, it surprises me he doesn't have a weedy little braid poking out of his hair somewhere. He might, I just don't fancy checking. The music he likes to subject us to tends to run the very far gamut from twangy Indian meditation music to even twangier bluegrass. He sits beakily at his MASTER MONITOR and mutters to himself, and looks so cute and defenceless behind his glasses, and is swallowed up by his giant shirts. Jura, I apologise. I've found an even cuter geek than you. I'ma have to marry this guy, if he'll ever tear his eyes away from his screen long enough to talk to me.

Oooh! he just spoke for the first time ever! His voice is just as feeble as his shoulders! I'm in love!


A night at the opera

Yesterday, after a failed attempt to go see Peter the Great's collection of oddities in the Museum of Natural Sciences (deformed babies in jars! hurrah!), an extended period of lolling in the grass with friends while babushkas looked at us and whispered to friends, an overpriced yet yummy dinner at Cafe Idiot, complete with complimentary vodka shots and an overly slow waitress (we had to bolt because I was bad and snagged a couple Louis L'Amour books from their bookshelf... not sure if I was allowed to do that, or if the cowboy books were worth it) and an extended hunt for ice cream, we decided to go to the opera, where they were putting on one of the great pieces of Russian literature / drama, Evgeny Onegin.

I haven't read it, and it was in Russian, but as far as I gathered, the story goes: There are two sisters, Olga and Tatiana. Olga is a prankster. She has a beau, who I believe is named Vladimir, and he has a friend, Evgeny Onegin. Vladimir brings Onegin over to meet the girls, and Tatiana falls in love with him. They stroll through the garden, while Vladimir sings his love to Olga. Later that night, Tatiana is besieged by her love for Onegin and writes him a letter. He gets it, and then tells her something along the lines of he is too worldly, and can only love her like a sister (he was singing Mozhe Bit a lot, which means maybe, but I'm not sure what that referred to.) She is in despair. There is a ball. Tatiana avoids him. He flirts with Olga. Someone comes and sings to Tatiana, and I'm not sure about what. Vladimir calls Onegin out on the flirting with Olga and challenges him to a duel, which they both very sadly participate in, but Vladimir is shot and dies. Lament. Years later, Onegin comes back, finds Tatiana married to a prince, is like "What have I done?", goes to her, professes his love, she resists, then confesses, then runs off. Curtain. Applause. Very beautiful. Music by Tchaikovsky and lovely singing.

Problem was, in the ball scenes, there were random ballerinas that came on and danced. That would have been fine, except... there was a male dancer among them who was SO tall and SO proud looking and had the TIGHTEST, most translucent tights I have ever seen. It was actually distracting. I generally like to get to know a guy a little before I find out length, girth and religious orientation. Wah. My friends agreed on this. The whole audience tittered whenever he came out. It was still bad when he was wearing pants, and the fact that he was a whole head taller than the rest of the dancers didn't help. Eegah.


So... You're in a foreign city. It's a Sunday. What do you do with your free time?

Certainly not blow off your friends to go into the city because (SOB) you're siiick and it's raaaaaining and you're too lazy to leave the dorm and walk the fifteen minutes it takes to get to the metro. Certainly not spend 3 hours on the Internet.

And having done that, you certainly don't live on chocolate and tea all day long because you're too lazy to do anything but fill the electric kettle.

And you most certainly don't spend the day in the top half of your pyjamas (having only changed out of the bottom half because they have a large hot pink HOYT emblazoned across the ass and you have a little shame) having not approached a washing implement.

I am HOT. Angelina Jolie had better watch out.

I am also done with the trashy fantasy novel I was reading. This saddens me very greatly. 800 page books aren't ever actually allowed to END. Especially not when they have bazillions of sequels that I can't access because I'm in a foreign country. Ahime. All the books I have now are semiserious, which does not make for a happy Alex, but might make for much studying of the Russian tongue.

Ach, I'm off to go lie in bed some more. What an exciting life I do lead. It's raining though. That's excuse enough.

I think my roommates are actually afraid of me. I haven't yet figured them out. They are three little Japanese girls, Yuko, Rieko and Mei. I haven't yet figured out which is which, as they speak no English, so conversations are always limited to my grasp of the Russian language, which, however much it is increasing, still doesn't really make for chill nights talking about the state of the world and literature, or alternately shoes and boys. (Though we have had conversations where I go, in Russian, "I very much like..." and then point desperately at whatever item of clothing it is that mne ochen nravitsa. I apologise if I mispelled that.) They tend to giggle a lot, and have cute Japanese boys over for tea a lot. They're really nice, though, as far as I can tell, though for all I know they might be saying "Oh, how it displeases me to have to live with you, evil Italian trollop" through their giggles, and I would just be smiling and nodding along and pretending like I understand. I think I live with Yuko, though the one I think is called Rieko has occasionally taken phone calls meant for Yuko, so I don't know what's going on. I'm not really sure what Mei's deal is. I think I saw her once at school, with Yuko and Rieko-- they waved and said "Privet, Alexandra!" and I waved back and said "Privet!" and then we all turned around and ended our social interaction for the day. I haven't actually seen Mei in the suite, though, though I think I've heard her giggling from the next room and the couple times I've peered into the other room, only one bed appears to have been slept in. I don't know. It's amazing for my Russian that I can' t communicate otherwise, but the results are very very amusing, and I end up feeling bad for them when they try to inform me of simple things that involve 4 or 5 retellings and a dictionary before I figure out what's going on. I also really hope I don't get Yuko sick, sharing a room with her. I've been hacking and sniffing all night long, but she has somehow, miraculously slept-- or if she didn't, there was no way of saying "shut up and die!" to me.

I think they're leaving in a couple weeks, which is actually kind of sad. It's surreal living with them, but I do like them.


Hot water is back, at long last!!!!

I showered today, occupying the shower space for about 45 minutes, not leaving the water on the whole time because even *I* can be a concientious person when I think about it, but it was so amazingly beautifully warm and lovely and womblike and... ahhh. I had been strongly considering the kettle option, but then I looked at our 2-liter electric and i looked at our little pot, and I realised that i would probably end up sitting in two inches of lukewarm sludge, or throwing out my back in an attempt to position myself in our two-foot square bathroom so as to pour water on my hair and render it not-disgusting. Waist-length hair is such an enormous pain in the butt at times. The bath idea also kind of vaguely creeps me out-- if you saw the tub, you would understand.

But there was no need to worry, because the water is back! BACK! Hurrah! I am clean clean clean, complete with washed hair and shaved legs. I am fit for human society! Wahee!

Problem is, I also managed to become as pathetically sick as a dog in the intervening time, and while in America going to a drug store and obtaining Nyquil/Sudafed/other drugs for when I finally give in to my hidden hypochondriac, doing so here is not so easy. I have figured out that an Apteka is a pharmacy, and there is one around the corner. As for getting something that will make me better, I may have to go there and sniff my nose frantically at them, pointing wildly. I think bolit' is something along the lines of to be sick, though I think you can use it with reference to bones as well, so as far as I know, I might end up saying I broke my throat. An interesting proposition, that. Asprin and tea with honey it will have to be, then. Eternal cure-alls, I always fall back on them anyway. Mmm... honey.


A thought.

So, they decided to turn off the hot water in this district, a few days ago, which happened without warning and is really not cool, as it was still not on as of this morning. I have bathed myself, but my hair is trying its best to become one giant oily knot, so hopefully the ominous rumblings I heard when I tried to turn it on will be promising. I'm too chicken to wash my hair in cold water.


Russian Hands and Roman Fingers

Italians abroad are easily distinguishable by their pack mentality and loud braying voices. These vocal signals they emit serve a very useful purpose, alerting similar people to their presence and warning others away. My mother and I have noticed that when Italians describe a fun trip somewhere, the phrase "Eravamo in venticinque... abbiamo fatto un casino!" always manages to work its way into the conversation. An equivalent would be something like: "There were twenty five of us, and boy was it a riot!" but that is a far more pallid interpretation of the situation. The implication is that of a strong, united group of twenty-five GOOD BUDDIES, and they made a CASINO! A mess! The way it's said, you can just see the platters of pasta consumed, the rows of bottoms pinched, the volume of hot air spewed.

This all leads up to me saying that I made the acquaintance of the ITALIANS ABROAD here in St. Petersburg. And I do mean the only ones, the core group, because once established, all other instances of Italians daring to venture out of their fair land into the hinterlands of THE REST OF THE WORLD, even as far as-- Dare I type it? Might it shock too much?-- RUSSIA, will instantly locate this group on their secret antennae and track it down. With a vengeance.

So anyway, I heard Italians speaking at my school, and noticed particularly a particularly loud, brash, pop-eyed specimen. I was being cool and aloof just then, so I didn't approach. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to do the Italian thing here, as it carries many obligations and secret handshakes. However, on running into this fine gentleman in my hallway, I said hi in Italian and conversation and making of pasta ensued from that point. An invite to go to Red Lion for free shampanska (note the shampanska, do not confuse that with Champagne... they may look the same but they are very different beasts) ensued and so I trotted obediently to my room, put on my hooker makeup and death heels so as to try and blend in with the crowd, and prepared to go out.

It was a fun evening all in all-- bad dance music (Oh so very cheesy, but oh so much fun to dance to), French sailors milling around in their cute little sailor suits, and free drinks for the little closet lush that is yours truly. Being underground made it possible to forget that it was still light outside. I met a lovely Belgian girl who would be my partner in crime had I not decided to take the route of actually wanting a liver at the end of my stay here. I left her chatting intently with a sailor. There was a delightful girl with an unfortunately Florentine profile (by which I mean with the kind of enormous nose and chin found in portraits of Renaissance gentlemen of the homeliest variety... I'm going to rot in hell for this, but it was true! True, I tell you!) and a guy who looked creepily like an even swarthier version of my ex at his skinniest and cutest.

Dancing was done, and I managed to take myself out of the clutches of Luca, my popeyed hall-mate, until i realised the time and that it was time to race home in the gypsy cab with him to beat the bridges opening to let the ships pass and hopefully get into the dorm without hammering on the window.

Once back at the dorm, he cajoled/dragged me out on to the balcony, where he proceeded to ply me with hash and his views on life, neither of which I really wanted anything to do with, so I managed to wriggle out of his clutches-- clutches indeed! He tried to give me a footrub, and then discussed in great detail how I'm better than Russian girls because I have some MEAT on my bones... BEST way to try to get into my pants. To that thought, I shrug and point out that after childbirth, they no longer look straight off the catwalks. I showed him a picture of Jura and then made some good little girl excuse and BOLTED, waking up my roommates when I struggled with the enormous door. I'm planning out methods of hiding from the whole cult of the Italian thing. We shall see.


Manos: The Hands of Fate

I was reading R.K. Milholland's new webcomic, Midnight Macabre, and the tv show the strip is based on reminded me of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, so I went snooping around for it on the internet, only to discover that even the re-runs have been taken off the air! So so very sad! Ahhhh no more Mike Nelson to have a bizarre crush on. Terrible.

Never Never Gonna Give You Up

They're currently playing Barry White in the internet cafe I'm sitting in. I think Russians have some weird fascination with Barry White-- the only time I've ever experienced it being put on as, ahem, "mood music" it was by a Russian and I had to fight hard to keep from rolling over and braying laughter.

Also have been keeping careful count of how many times I've heard "The Final Countdown" played. I'm up to seven now, including a live performance by a cover band in Yaroslavl. Dear lord.


People! I met PEOPLE!

I stayed out all night last night. Not in any particularly exciting way, but rather in more of a "Oh no! It's 1 am! The bridges are closed, the subway's no longer running and the door of my dorm is locked! Curse you, deceptive lighting in high northern latitudes!" kind of way. I was with a group of students I met from the University of Kansas-- or rather, I pounced upon a girl I vaguely recognised from school here in the bathroom of the Internet cafe, and then we ended up talking in the bar there for a few hours, frantically chainsmoking (hhhgah) and discussing skin care, Russian literature and the need for a revolution (though preferably one that doesn't involve us having to give up our cushy lifestyles. She's a delightful girl and it was indeed truly lovely to sit around and have pretentious discussions with her. We went to meet some of her other friends at Propaganda, a bar near Nevsky. They were a nice group-- three boys, Connor, Simon and Dave. We ended up wandering around, then Amanda got in touch with her friend Olesia and we ended up at a party on a boat. It was quite chill, nothing too special. Good music and such. I mostly sat on a couch and watched the spastic dancing-- one couple was flaunting their stuff at the railing of the boat, calling out to the crowd and doing moves that looked like they'd been carefully choreographed in some little room. They actually managed to succeed in looking normal in this, because of the simple fact that they were breath-takingly beautiful. Unfortunately, though, they were joined by a middleaged couple with bizarrely matching hairdos, she in skintight (I'm talking OBSCENE) hot pink with cartoon patterns, he in full-on black leather. They were smokin'. And they knew it too-- even went so far as to shout the word a couple times while doing their takes on the most egregious of Richard Simmons' routines.

The top of the boat was stunningly gorgeous-- sunset over the Neva at around midnight, with a fireworks display over by Peter-Paul Fortress. We got to see the bridges open to allow the boats to go through at around one. There was bizarre twilight for a few hours, then about an hour of darkness at some point. We walked up and down Nevsky, looking for an appealing place to eat, which proved strangely difficult. Finally ended up back at Propaganda, where we paid 380 rubles (around $15) for tea, 5 mozzarella sticks and 3 cherry dumplings with sour cream. Terrible. Wandered around some more, marvelling at the fact that it was actually dark and counting down the hours until the Metro / my dorm opened, and then Simon, Amanda and I ended up at Ili, an all night coffee bar, where we marvelled at the surreal thinness of Russian girls and the thuggishness of their boyfriends. The girls are surreal, particularly the fashionable ones. I had never understood what was meant by a handspan waist until I saw them. Their thighs are easily the size of my arms, but they somehow manage to not look sickly. Obviously, overbleached hair and drag queen makeup abound (which fact I am quite enjoying-- I'm currently rocking bright blue eyeshadow and red lipstick because it's fun to wear and nobody's turned an eye.).

So 5:45 came around. I was slurring my words out of tiredness at that point, but as we headed to the Metro it was all I could do to not break into a happy dance at the thought of my bed. We parted, rather abruptly, and scurried off our separate ways, and then i was trapped by the PDA Couple From Heck. He had a full handful of her butt and his other hand was planted on her side, moving in a rather suspicious manner, and she had her groin planted against his and was grinding against him. Her friend was standing to the side, looking at them with a look of utter desolation. I even saw a chin quiver or two. He didn't actually get on the train with us-- apparently this was a heartwrenching farewell, since they gazed at each other through the door until the train took off, whereupon she bounced over to her friend and hugged her. I think she caught a couple of the looks of disgust I gave her... not because of the PDA, but because she was too ugly to be vertically dry-humping her boyfriend when I'm grumpy and haven't slept. Turns out she lives in my dorm... poor girl gave me a terrified look in the elevator. I think she thought i was stalking her.

Out of time... more later


Moscow and onwards

Got into Moscow airport, which name I have forgotten, and immediately tumbled head-first into a group of Italian musicians off a flight from Rome. We chilled in the passport control line for an hour, and I can say indeed it was a blessed relief to find people that actually spoke a language I understood. They were off to play a tour of world music concerts in Moscow, St. Pete's, Yekaterinburg and some other cities that I have now forgotten. Some sort of Italian-Russian cultural exchange.

Got my big pig of a bag (it's large, it's blue, and it tends to weigh around 70 pounds... to my credit, I'll be living out of it until September) and pushed my way out through Customs. Looked around the crowd frantically for Paul, who suddenly loomed up at me, hardcore shirt and all, laughing and covering me with hugs.

Paul and I went to high school together and can't really remember how we became friends. We believe it may be through this girl in my dorm, Lolly (don't ask), but it may have something to do with the fact that we were both people who rowed, yet weren't preppy. Dear lord! We've had our ups and downs, including my blocking him on AIM for six months and screening his phone calls when he was going through some sort of religious experience and I got sick of listening to it for hours every night, but somehow we're still talking three years after graduation. Paul has been living in Yaroslavl all year, methodically sleeping his way through the city and getting drunk, but also getting in touch with himself (or so he calls it... heh) and learning to speak Russian like a true badass.

We bopped through Moscow in a few hours, deciding against snatching a glimpse of Red Square because I'll be back, and because the bag was there (thank GOD he decided to be a gentleman and drag it), and then went straight to the train station and had dinner in a cute little place with the requisite casino underneath it. Halfway through our meal, a bellydancer appears, shaking her thing, and Paul sagely remarks "Yep... Moscow's Babylon, all right," eyes planted on the gyrating stomach.

We race down the track to barely make our train and drag the pig to our seats. A toothless gentleman across the way addresses Paul, asking if I'm his girlfriend, apparently shocked by the idea of a guy and a girl travelling together without any sort of official status. Vodka is gotten from the little shop down the passageway and toasts are given. I'm drinking mixed drinks because I'm oh so very tired, but Paulie's pouring his own shots and I laugh as they grow exponentially bigger. Suddenly his eyes POP open and he's trashed, spilling his heart about his ex girlfriend and love and life (this happens normally, but not to this slurred extent) and I finally can't take the jet lag anymore and I slide into sleep.

We get to Yaroslavl at two am. More of that for later-- I have to be a good girlfriend and email my boy.

Aeroflot-- a rather pointless post.

My parents have been joking about Aeroflot since their lovely experience with the airline way back in 1978, when they were flying to Russia for my dad to do research at Moscow General University, if this is what MGU stands for. I'm not sure.

Anyway, my mother had some friend who was a stewardess in Air France, and as they had just gotten married, she thought it would be a lovely wedding gift to give the newlyweds first-class tickets to Moscow on Air France, and a short stay in a hotel that was included as some bonus with the tickets. They boarded the plane in New York, bathing their poor grad student eyes in the luxury around them. Alas, once they got to Orly Airport (Charles de Gaulle was just a twinkle in a construction crew's eye at that point) they discovered that there was a strike of the airport workers, and the line to the check in counter was NOT moving. The mob screamed and pushed, but the one poor picket breaking woman simply could not do the job. They missed their flight.

There was, however a flight to Moscow on Aeroflot, and faced with the prospect of being stuck in Paris indefinitely, they took that. Those were the days before Aeroflot had Boeings-- I believe that the airplane were recycled from the military or something, and the stewardesses were impeccable in maintaining the stereotypes of good Soviet women-- bulging muscles, mustaches and all. (For those of you who took offence, realise that this is just how my parents told the story. For all I know they were tall, slim flowers of the Volga, walking the aisles to kill time in between fashion shows.)

So yes, between that rather pointless story and many other run-ins, my parents have always laughed at Aeroflot. My dad burst out laughing when he heard I was flying it, but quickly quieted after a sharp glance from my stepmother, and said, "Well, I guess they have Boeings and stuff now. You can't go that far wrong."


side note: there is a very ugly, nerdy guy speaking on the phone in English next to me. Part of me wants to talk to him, simply because we share a language, but the other part is scared by the acne and the fact that he looks like Pat from the SNL skit.


Anyway, I boarded my Aeroflot flight 600 in Incheon airport in Seoul. First stumbling block-- Aisle and seat numbers on the back of the seats. A lovely woman took pity on me, and I showed her my ticket. Turned out I was her seatmate. Good. Alas however, no chance of sneaking into Business out of pure stupidity and not-language-speaking.

My seatmate took one look at me and went to sleep, dashing all my hopes for lovely conversations where I could inform her that by jove, I am an Amerikanka studentka, planning on studying v Peterburge (without actually knowing how to say the whole planning on studying part) and yes, I can't really say anything other than that, unless one has a fetish for getting into conversations about soap and blackboard chalk. Ah well. Opportunity lost.

The stewardess gave her safety talk. "Oxygen masks will be in the seatback in front of you, unless you are in the front row of a cabin, in which case they are in the compartment above you." I look up. I am in the front row of my cabin. Solid bulkhead stretches for-- count 'em-- seven rows. Not even one panel for oxygen masks to pop out of. My normal vague fear of taking off-- spawned by Say Anything, and I will curse John Cusack forever for tempting me into seeing that, with his lovely lovely... loveliness-- turns into fervent prayer that nothing untoward will happen. I tighten my industrial-size safety belt-- a hunk o'metal that will double as a weapon, should misguided terrorists decide to hijack the plane-- and cling to the armrests.

The plane levels off, I relax into my seat, note there's no screen for movies, which is actually fine, since I hate airline movies and have a good book anyway, though that is rendered slightly problematic by the lack of overhead lighting, and as the stewardess comes around to bolt the table into my seat, I'm feeling just grand.

Yes, bolt the table into my chair. Fortunately, though, the meal was actually quite good for an airplane, and they had yummy chocolate, and cheap duty-free. Unfortunately, however, halfway through the flight, as the plane convulses through yet another patch of turbulence, I look out the window and think, "You know, I'm sitting above the wing. If it were to fall off, I would die pretty immediately. Let's hope that doesn't happen." I promise, I'm not as paranoid a flyer as I'm coming off.

All in all though, it was the smoothest landing I've ever had. My parents know NOTHING.


Since I have few chances to get to internet cafes, I'll be posting observations/ events chronologically, but not as they happen, if that makes any sense at all. I want to have some sort of memory of my time here chronologically, and am too lazy to write journals, so this'll have to be it, pieced together from scrawled notes on the back of envelopes and my oh-so-impeccable memory.