Note: This post is from my fifth week in Kazan. Whoops.

(1) Your professor hands you an entire textbook and asks you to make eleven copies of the entire book–one for each student.

(2) You decide to just print all of your textbooks at the local copy shop and keep them in a big binder together.

(3) That is clearly the best option, because when you asked where to buy the book, the professor replied, “Moscow.” Which is 13 hours away. This has been the response 4 out of 5 times I have been foolish enough to ask (the exception being when the book was a samoizdat, or self-printed edition, written by one of our professors and printed right here in our department).

I have a feeling that this theme will come up again in future posts, but for now we’ll stop there and keep it to the academic sphere.

   s s s ,
c\ ~ ~ /

(I tried.)


Today, I put my foot down.

“Come here, I’ll boil some pel’meni for you.”

“Thank you, Sveta, but I already ate in town.”

“That’s alright. I’ll just make 10 or 15.” (Sidenote: 10 or 15 pel’meni is a LOT of pel’meni. Would you eat 15 wontons in one sitting?)

“No, really, I just ate, and my stomach hurts a little bit.”

“Well it’s just a little! Come on. It will give you strength.” (Strength to resist you, dumpling temptress?)

“Thank you, but I’m really full.”

“Well then have some tea.” (“Tea,” you may recall, is a Russian code word for “multi-course meal made mainly of sugar”)

“I’m not hungry.”

“It’s just tea! There’s not even any meat! You hardly even have to digest it!” (“Just tea” was a lie, as you probably guessed. There was bread, halva, and these wonderful batons of sesame seeds stuck together with simple syrup.)

I consented to tea (thinking I could keep to tea only–oh, how naive I was), and was alarmed to see Sveta spreading four thick slices of bread with sweet Russian butter (it is a truth that should be universally acknowledged–but isn’t–that Russia has some of the best dairy products in the world).

“What are you just drinking tea for? Eat! What did I butter that bread for if you’re not going to eat it?”

Well, maybe today is the day we learn an important lesson about consequences, I thought but didn’t say.

As I rationed out a slice to make it look like I was eating a lot without actually doing so, we talked about fermented dairy products, international adoption, and a girl who got abducted nearby this one time. Oh, and the psychics who were used to find the girl (‘s body).

One strange phenomenon that I have yet to understand is that I hardly see Sasha at all. He leaves before I get up in the morning (possibly Sveta will too, once she goes back to work), and although he and Sveta arrived home together this evening, he was doing something else while Sveta and I talked and feasted, and he came and had his tea sometime after that. I don’t know whether it’s just a coincidence of his schedule/way of doing things that has prevented our teatimes from overlapping, or if this is some weird family/gender role thing that I hadn’t been exposed to in previous Russian interactions. Will report back.


DEBRIEFINGS (for my records)

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On the research front, very little has been happening. My Tatar professor, who is a great ally (of whom I have yet to make full use), signed me up for the two-month intensive Tatar classes that are required of civil servants and others who (theoretically) use both languages in their work. Unfortunately, I appear to have written the room number down wrong (she ambushed me at the end of class yesterday, when my brain was so overwhelmed after the 90 minute barrage of Tatar that it couldn’t understand any language), and wound up missing the first day. 😦 If that hadn’t happened, the whole tea thing wouldn’t have ever taken place anyway.

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Tomorrow is the first day of my voluntary and completely legal arrangement to give lessons at a local English school. I’m to teach the advanced class, and was informed today that the old teacher, who was well-loved, left suddenly, and the students have not been informed. The director of the school warned me that I would be fighting an uphill battle at first, until “the students learn that [old teacher] is not the only best teacher.”

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Just yesterday I complained that it had been too hot, for too long. It had been in the 70s for weeks, and although that sounds beautiful (and was), I simply did not bring the wardrobe for it. I have wool socks, long-sleeved shirts, and knee-high insulated boots. Frustration was mounting with the constant dehydration, stuffy transport, and all the laundry always being dirty. Yesterday was the first time I allowed myself to express this frustration. Not 10 minutes later, I went out to pay my cell phone bill. The air had turned crisp, the temperature had dropped probably 15 degrees, and a stiff wind had kicked up. Today was an Atlanta January, except that the sun set at 5:30. There you are, fall. We missed you.