No pennies from heaven here.

The book store near the university has one room for selling/buying books and another room for pole dancing lessons.

 
After classes yesterday, I had a meeting with Sasha, a Russian philology major who wanted to help me with my folk music research. He came in and plunked two seemingly half-century-old books down on the table that were exactly what I needed. Book binding is an example of something that the USSR never really seemed to understand: the books appeared to have been made in the 1950s, but in fact were hardly older than I am. One was the theory of folklore research (not only song, but also dance, stories, and ceremony), and the other was a huge book of song texts divided into various genres. There’s a whole big lexical study right there.  
 
It started pouring rain right around the time that Sasha mentioned that he had been instructed to take me on an errand: I needed new photos for my new visa (I have to renew it in December). The picture is deeply horrifying, as a) you still can’t smile on a visa photo, and b) I was drenched from running all over the city in the pouring rain. If I were using this visa to enter the country, I’m sure they would turn me away at the border.
 
When I finally came in from that, completely drenched, I was ready to eat and fall asleep. But not only was there no supper, but there was nothing to make supper out of. Except an onion. And half a head of cabbage. And some frozen cherries. Since I’m not a wizard, we set off for the grocery store. 
 
Again and again, I find ways that my Russian Culture textbook was out of date, if not outright wrong. There are many western-style grocery stores, although they’re more of the German variety (small, with lots of security and crap fruit) than the American variety (sparkly-clean, with few physical barriers to shoplifting). This place is like El Dorado. Not only is there a schwarma stand next door, but also inside they sell Concord grapes (aka. jam-in-a-fruit), dried kiwis, fresh cakes and pies, spices, cherry and apricot juice, freeze-dried caviar (beware come Christmas!) and FRESH HERBS! We have a baby basil plant now. It lives in a Tupperware container on top of the fridge. I promised it I’d love and nurture it through the winter…we’ll see. So far my success rate with house plants, including 2 cacti, is 0%. 
 
We finally set about making veggie pasta for supper when Katja, the one that “helped” us with the laundry, came down to invite us to tea. So after we ate, we went up and had bliny that her roommate had made, tea, jam, and chocolate. Conversations are kind of awkward, since Katja 1 doesn’t speak very good English, I don’t speak very good Russian, and Nathan and Katja 2 have only a miniscule knowledge of German to unite them. Nevertheless, the language of bliny is universal, so we had a good time. The Katjas are both from Velikij Ustjug, the city that, in 1999, Putin arbitrarily assigned to be the home of Grandfather Frost (Дед Мороз). They invited us home with them for Christmas break, which is very lovely of them. I just hope they don’t get to mid-November and then go “aw, crap, we don’t like those weird Americans anymore!” We’ll endeavor to be as likable as possible–the sacrifices we make to spend Christmas in Santa’s hometown. 
 
Although, really, it might be wiser to stay as far from Ded Moroz as possible. You see, Ded Moroz is in some ways different from Santa. Santa brings gifts to the good children and coal to the bad ones; Ded Moroz just freezes people to death at random. Russian folklore is only sometimes charming.
 
This morning, I was supposed to talk to the PR department and the German department about me and my life and other things I’m tired of talking about. The first class was a bit of a disastrophe because they had nothing to say. No questions. No answers. It was torturous. 
 
The second class went better. I think I’m more talkative in German than English. 
 
Also, I got put into a Russian philology class! Unfortunately, there are exactly 3 foreigners in Cherepovets (Nathan, me, and some Welsh guy that works at a language school (personally, I’d feel ripped off if I paid good money for English lessons, and then my teacher taught Welsh English, but the school seemed not to care), which means that there are exactly 0 classes for Russian as a second language. My colleagues seem to think that this philology course will be a good match for me because it’s a freshman class. I think otherwise, because my classmates are Russian freshman. Anyway, it’s an opportunity to do academic work in Russian. What doesn’t kill you makes you smarter…doesn’t it?
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