TROIKA

Apologies for not updating this for a while: the last couple of weeks here in Perm have not been as busy and exciting to read about as the first one was! However, I will have been here for three weeks tomorrow and I now consider myself more or less settled: I can now unlock the apartment doors (I think); my shelf in the freezer is full of frozen home-cooked meals; I have done several lots of washing; most of the major tram and bus routes are now familiar to me and embarrasing lapses in language are – thankfully – getting fewer and further between (fingers crossed).

The weather continues to fluctuate while the overall temperature steadily declines. Having had a haircut yesterday, my ears berated me for leaving the house without a hat this morning. A coat, which I purchased this week, hangs next to my bed in preparation for temperatures of about -10C before I leave. It is filled with feathers and down, so wearing it is like wearing a fitted duvet, ie. excellent. Irina saw me looking cold one day and bought me some gloves and lent me a scarf to match my current, lighter coat.

Language classes are still enjoyable and going well. The only downside is the lengthy tram ride in to the university which means I have to be organised and alert in the mornings, an idea which many readers of this blog will no doubt be happy to scoff at. The daily commute is often still filled with amusing occurances, such as attempting (and failing) to stand upright while getting out the fare, or being spoken to good-naturedly for about 20 minutes by the ticket lady after you helped her pick up her dropped change, and understanding only about 20% of it. Nodding and smiling has never been more useful. Until, of course, Irina complains that her legs hurt and you nod, grin and say “good” before realising what she actually said. After lessons, I visit the handy coffee kiosk just outside the university entrance, which improves my life no end. The barista inside already knows my order:

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In addition to my language classes, Lyudmila has organised complimentary literature classes for me, which I am trying to tie in with my work at Oxford. I have been introduced to my teacher and we have discussed what I want to do. She has since been called away on a trip, so our first lesson will be in a week or so. She has said that she wants to take me round town and tell me about the influence that literature has had on Perm/and vice versa. I am generally ignorant, but I think that Boris Pasternak (the author of Doctor Zhivago) is strongly connected to the city.

I continue to read mainly in English in my down-time to give my brain a rest. However, I did venture to the cinema to see Bridget Jones’ Baby with one of Alla’s friends – another Irina. I managed to understand most of what was going on, and very much recommend the film. The popcorn here is good too! I also watched part of an old Jennifer Lopez noughties drama, which is apparently quite popular here in Russia, and have had a look at a sitcom called (in rough translation) The Eighties which is all about the amusing quirks of late-Soviet life. Irina often has the television on while she is cooking or eating and I can hear it from my room, which is probably helpful even if I’m not fully tuned in.

I reunited with the girls from the quest round the city the other night, and we went out for dinner. I found talking to them fairly easy: they’re really lovely and fun, so I had a great time. I’m hoping to have them round to the flat and to cook for them, maybe with my fellow language students too (Irina has consented to this). Next week, the university is celebrating its centenary and there’s a huge festival, which I’m looking forward to attending, hopefully with the girls. I promised you all a better picture of the university, so here is one of the main corpus:

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Several tutors from Oxford – including mine – are also visiting next week for the centenary, and I have plans to visit the nearby Gulag museum with them and go back to the opera theatre, this time to see the Russian classic: Evgeny Onegin. One of them is also doing a literature workshop on a satirical author – Evgeny Zamiatin – who I am studying, so will have to make sure I get to that too. My dutch friend from language classes has invited me to to go the theatre to see a play by Gorky. This isn’t the opera house, but rather a very small theatre called The Theatre by the Bridge (known as the first ‘mystical’ theatre in the world) which everyone I’ve spoken to raves about. Hopefully it will be a good experience – I don’t really know what to expect…

As mentioned above, I had my hair cut yesterday. This was something I was quite worried about, due to a general lack of vocab in this area, but the results were fine:

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I was struck again by the kindness of Russian people by the attitude of my hairdresser, another Lyudmila! We chatted away quite happily about the pitfalls of language learning, how much she loves Italy, what England is like and what I’m doing here. By the end of it we were firm friends and she asked me my name, which – having answered everything else fine – I failed to understand. I feel that this sums up how up and down the language-acquisition process is here! I mentioned that I wanted to see the Kungur ice-caves  (click to see pictures) and she introduced me to her daughter who is going on Sunday, and who was equally friendly. They have offered to take me with them, so hopefully I will see them this weekend and make another friend. At the end of my appointment, she gave me her number and told me to let her know if I need anything. That would NEVER happen in England.

Having posted the above, presentable selfie, I feel rather inclined to show you what I looked like when I woke up on Tuesday morning. On both Sunday and Monday night I was kept awake by a mosquito in my room. I had no repellent and couldn’t find the thing. Thus, my face ended up looking dishevelled to say the least:

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This in itself didn’t cause me too much disquiet as I found it amusing that I looked like I’d been in a fight. I was also able to get the swelling down with water and vinegar. However, I didn’t want a repeat with another sleepless night and irritating bites, so I went to the four pharmacies on my street in turn to find repellent. They all looked me right in the eye and told me the mosquito season had finished and they didn’t have any repellent or recovery cream. Scroll up and look at my face again. Imagine how happy I was to be politely informed that the mosquito season is over. I’ve encountered Russian mosquitoes before and they do seem to be particularly vicious – Irina says they are cruel in the cities and bite and bite and bite and don’t fly near lights so they’re not easy to dispose of. Luckily, she had some repellent left over from the summer and I’ve been able to use that for the last few days.

There’s probably much more that I’ve forgotten to tell you, but I’ll leave it there for now and write again if inspiration strikes me. Do skorogo!

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