Forget the globe… and the atlas
Hi Trudi, hi everyone out there! Thanks to you all for your warm welcome and birthday greetings. I guess now it would only be fair to let you in on more specific information about myself; and I will be doing this in a second.
I’m Anastasia and my surname is not Petrova. In saying this, I would have broken the only common ground I had with Trudi, were it not for her revelation about (was it two?!) chocolate bars she ate while she was writing her blog yesterday. My surname is Nikulina, and it is quite common in Russia.
Now I will explain what I meant by the feelings of claustrophobia and agoraphobia in my yesterday’s blog. Being a vast country, Russia spans 11 time zones. If you were to come up from the most southern point of Russia to the most northern one in one second, you would probably end up having an icicle hanging down from under you nose and a rime of frost on your eyebrows and other facial hair. Be prepared to spend seven days and nights on a train if the need arises to go from Moscow to Vladivostok. Alternatively, you could spend £450 on a plain ticket to shorten the travel time. Russia is situated on two continents, Europe and Asia. The European part of Russia stretches as far as the Ural Mountains.
Above is a photo of one of the monuments lining the border between Europe and Asia, which goes from the north to the south of Russia along the Ural Mountains. The inscription on the left side of the monument says “Asia”, on the right side – “Europe”. No, they didn’t confuse anything; it is just that the monument faces the north.
Living in Central Russia, you are surrounded by hundreds of miles of open space in any direction. Thus feelings of agoraphobia; but at the same time it feels like claustrophobia. There is a cluster of republics near the Ural, I live in one of them. The city I live in is not huge but it is not that small either. Anyway, I am not inhibited about the size of my home town (it is about 650,000, by the way). It is the remoteness from all other countries that makes me feel shut up in from time to time. Some events happening in the world seem to lose their significance because they are very unlikely to affect you in any way. However, it seems to fire me up and I want to know what’s going on even more :)
Trudi, I was amused when you mentioned Chinese New Year. Every Russian, with the only exception of baby ones, knows what animal they are according to the Chinese horoscope and what the next Chinese New Year animal is. I could only guess what the explanation for this is. In fact, here, animal fever breaks out every December with the regularity of the tide. I myself am the pig. I can’t suppress the wish to add a photo of pigs I took at an agricultural show near Bristol in the UK for your amusement. I knew that it would come in useful one day :) Are there any more pigs out there? lol I can't wait to hear more about Chinese New Year.
OK, settle yourself comfortably in your chair and prepare to hear the touching story of how I started learning English.
August 2001 My family and I go on summer holiday to Crimea, Ukraine, where my mum’s relatives live. There I, an eighteen years old girl, get impressed by my second cousin who is not only stunningly beautiful but is also capable of speaking in fluent English.
October 2002 I break my little toe on the left foot and get stuck at home for a few weeks. Having plenty of time to kill I resolve to take “English for Little Ones” from a book shelf…
I found that I was actually enjoying the process. And it wasn’t that hard at all; in fact, it was so much easier than my school teachers had made it look. But the real progress was made when I started attending English classes. Our English teacher created a very competitive (but friendly!) ambience in the class and, naturally, I wanted to be the best. We had to learn loads of new words before every class. During a class we were asked to speed-translate Russian sentences into English. I would say that it was Spartan training. If you were not good enough, you left the classes and never came back. Scary? No, it was one of the best experiences in my life.
After I had been learning the language for some time, I felt that it would make sense to start reading books in English. Nothing too clever or complicated. And I started with “A Pair of Blue Eyes” by Thomas Hardy! Just because there was no modern English fiction available. I have read many books in English since then, and I thoroughly enjoyed each of them, except for “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte, which I never finished as it is written in a very old-fashioned English, to such an extent that sometimes it didn’t make any sense at all or I had to reread a sentence a few times and look some archaic words up (you can imagine how useful they are in the modern world) in my dictionary. I gave up on page 90 promising myself I'd read it in Russian later. It was two years ago. Now I am reading modern writers. Whatever I like – I write it out and use. As my teacher says, learn from the professionals, writers, or the people who made the language their profession.
I guess that’s all for now. I’ll add another photo for you to have a look at. It was taken looking from my room window over our city reservoir.
With best wishes,
P.S. Somebody asked me who the flowers were from. They were from my Dad xxx
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