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This is the obligatory this-is-what-I’m-doing-and-why-you-should-care post.

I’m going to Russia in September on a Fulbright ETA (English Teaching Assistantship). I’ll be splitting my time between working in the Foreign Language Department at Cherepovets State University (Череповецкий Государственный Университет) and studying folk music in the haphazard, take-a-train-somewhere-and-hope-you-hear-someone-singing manner that has characterized my musicological adventures so far.

Why Russia? (If there were a font designated for incredulity, I would use it here, and you would know exactly the attitude with which I’ve been asked that question for the last year.) Well, lots of reasons. Here are a few:
1. Let’s start with a list of some of the ways people have referred to Russia in conversations with me lately. “Scary-land.”  “Germany.” “Wait, why aren’t you going to Germany?” “That frozen wasteland.” “Siberia.” “The Soviet Union” (don’t even get me started on that one). In conclusion, Americans tend not to have a clue what is in Russia other than scary people and their scary lives.
2. The attitude of Russians about America is pretty similar. My host in Russia last year informed me over breakfast that life in America (bearing in mind that he’d never been there and didn’t speak a word of English) was “not tasty.” He feels that the cold consumerism for which America is known has rendered many countries’ cultures into meaningless blobs of advertisements and plastic surgery. Whether the influence of America abroad is good or bad is up for debate; what isn’t is that many aspects of American culture are ubiquitous in a host of countries around the globe. So yes, that aspect of his opinion is reasonable. But to say that American influence is entirely bad, and moreover that American culture, even America, is tasteless …well, today I stopped at a roadside stand and bought some boiled peanuts to snack on while chatting with farmers, and I thought my life was pretty darn tasty.
3. Stuff like this.
4. There’s little I hate more than sucking at something, and right now I suck at Russian. Going to Russia is the #1 way to fix that.
5. I love teaching language, and the accent and mistakes of Russians learning English are impossibly endearing. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.
6. Compare the results from this Google search to this Yandex search (spoiler alert: Russian culture is more than demotivational posters and gifs of crazy traffic).

As I said before, the city where I’m headed is called Cherepovets (Череповец). It’s a city of about 300,000 people, and, according to the expat forums, it’s “definitely not on the tourist trail.” The main industry is a steel refinery named Severstal’, also the name of their hockey team.

This is Cherepovets: http://www2.luventicus.org/maps/russia/vologda/cherepovets.gif

And sometimes it looks like this

and this.

But sometimes it looks like this

or this.

I’m just hoping that when I leave, my lungs don’t look like this.

That’s about all I know right now. More to come in September!