Or rather, she did, but at like 3:30 in the afternoon, just after the chicken had gone into the oven. She had brought milk (along with instructions to use it for kasha–apparently this milk is conditional), some yogurt that I don’t like but I have to eat because once upon a time a Russian decided that This Is What Westerners Eat, and some bizarre cheesy chocolate bars that I am going to miss real real bad in about 6 weeks.

Not wanting to entertain Tanya for an hour and a half while the chicken baked, I thanked her for bringing the things I didn’t need and would have procured myself if I had wanted to, and then sent her on her merry way.

Five minutes later, she called with an important question regarding the milk: “Do you know how to make kasha? If not, I can come make it for you.”

FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE PLEASE JUST GO HOME.

Two days later, she texted me (she calls and drops by every morning–I try to be gone by then–and texts every evening) to tell me she’d left some cutlets in the fridge. On the one hand, that was really thoughtful. On the other hand, I have no more intention of eating cutlets this week than Scarlett had of ever going hungry again.

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“I’ll never eat cutlets…until December 5 at the earliest!”

On an unrelated note, Zukhra (my private tutor) asked me a while ago to participate in a poetry recitation project she and a friend are doing. She thought it would be interesting to have a foreigner with “not bad” pronunciation reading (…thanks?).  Could I pick my own poem? No, it had to be one of theirs. I told her that I am really really really not the person for acting-type things, since, as my family has reminded me since a young age, I’m “dead inside.” But since Zukhra had been so great, I felt obligated to try — if she was really sure that she could deal with me. Then she didn’t mention it for a couple of weeks, and the hope that I was off the hook began to flutter in my shriveled heart. Not so. Last week, she gave me the poem, apologetically noting that all of the poems left were sad love ones, so she had just picked the shortest one to save me some time. Memorized it during grammar class without missing a beat when I was called upon (#likeaboss), and Zukhra and I agreed to hold her funeral–I mean, record the poem– today.

 

The space where we recorded it, a “cultural center” (the catch-all Russian word for everything from “theater” to “community performance space” to “uh, we don’t know…ex-warehouse…thing?”) was called “Smena,” meaning “shift” (suggesting that this is in the third category of cultural centers), is a long, brick building with one entrance– on the backside, up a metal staircase that looks like a death sentence. Inside it’s plain and clean–ideal for such spaces, I suppose, as it can be used for basically anything. There’s a gift shop, a welcome desk staffed by some old guy, a coat closet (there’s always a coat closet), and then a lot of space. We were in the back room, which features unfinished wood floors and brick walls painted white. Banners advertising various tourist destinations (part of a graphic design exhibition?) covered the walls, and a podium and a few scattered chairs in the center suggested that at some point, someone had gotten halfway through holding an event and then said “Ah, forget it.”

The director/camera guy was a tall, not-very-Russian-looking hipster type by the name of Bulat. Our first encounter was rather unfortunate–I was pacing the lobby of this cultural center (ex-warehouse-thing). Bulat was standing there talking on his phone, but since Zukhra wasn’t there I didn’t think to poznakomit’sya with him. At some point he started talking to me, but there’s this weird thing where when someone’s speaking on a phone in a foreign language, your brain goes into resource-conservation mode and doesn’t make even the slightest effort to understand (I hope it’s not just me). After all, unless there’s a phone on your face, too, they couldn’t possibly be talking to you, right? Even if they’re looking at you and saying your name…over…and over… and over?

Sometimes, your brain is not very smart.

I spent the next hour standing with my back to a white brick wall, telling the camera about my pigtails and heartbreak or whatever. Periodically I would be told to have more feelings or to slow down for goodness’ sake, which is basically a metaphor for life. Once I finally displayed the correct combination of characteristics, it was rinse, wash, and repeat at each angle that Bulat might possibly want to include in the video. Then “fun shots” (Most things, including trigonometry, are more appealing to me than “fun shots”), then poka-poka (ciao!).

I take great pride in the fact that this whole process only took about an hour, and at no point did anyone try to plant the tripod in my head.

Zukhra promised to let me know when the video is ready–a week or two, she said. I said that really wasn’t necessary, as I have no intention of ever watching it or showing it to anyone. Ever.

 

I will, however, show you a picture of my Tatar class!

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