56░50′ North 53░11′ East
What terms were you on with geography at school? No, I don’t expect you to reach for you handy globe to locate the place. So, unless you find other means to track my whereabouts down, let me keep it secret until my next posting. Am I being childish? Maybe… But I am doing all right, given that I was only born a couple of days ago! On January 29th, to be precise. The BBC Learning English team must feel very confident if they put so much trust in a two-day-old girl. Okkkay. Let’s face it. I am (two days and) 25 years old, in fact.
I got this nice bouquet of roses for my birthday and I would like to share it with you all. Thank you for choosing me to be February’s blogger (even though it is the shortest month). Cheers!!!
I must also welcome Trudy, the English language teacher. I have a feeling that I have got something in common with her. Can’t say what, as I am not sure yet. Maybe it is a shared love of double-barrelled surnames? With your help, Trudy, and my determination this blog will become for me another step towards sounding more natural while writing in and speaking English. And it will be GREAT fun too! :)
Where I live can make you feel both claustrophobic and agoraphobic. This is to give you an idea of what stays behind the coordinates in the blog’s title. In the meantime, I haven’t even told you my name. My name is Anastasia. It's me.
How d’you do? And how d’you do? And how d’you do again? I am pleased to meet you. What percentage do you think the BBC Learning English audience makes up of the 6 billion people inhabiting this planet? Whatever the answer, the chances of me meeting all people in the world in my lifetime have increased significantly.
Apart from being the shortest, the month of February is also a very romantic month. Remember St.Valentine, the patron saint of lovers? He doesn’t like dirty dishes so remember to do the washing-up before you go to bed on the 13th of February. AND (very important) this year those who were born on February 29th will be able to finally catch up on all the missed birthdays!
I am afraid my introductory posting is grinding to a dead halt. But I will talk to you again very soon.
It is the beginning of the weekend, don’t miss it!
With best wishes,
posted on Friday, 01 February 2008 | comment on this post
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 ú450 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
posted on Saturday, 02 February 2008 | comment on this post
I am being prodded into changing my initial plan of not telling you everything straightaway. I wouldn’t make a good Scheherazade anyway lol
First, a few words about my hometown. It bears the name Izhevsk. The word “izh” comes from Old Russian and means “water, river”. The history of Izhevsk started back in 1760 when the decision to build ironworks on the banks of the river Izh was made. The task was assigned to count Peter Shuvalov whose portrait you can see below.
It took three long years and a lot of hard work to finish a dam across the river Izh; thus the Izhevsk reservoir was built. At that time Izhevsk was called the Izhevsk factory and there were 56 log houses around it. All the factory workers were peasants, at least so they were called in the Russian Empire and it is still considered that there was no slavery in those days. But they were just a little above the rank of slaves. Many of them were trying to run away, those who tried to come out against the brutal exploitation were whipped to death or condemned to penal servitude. The Izhevsk factory came to the 19th century half destroyed by rebelling workers.
Izhevsk was reborn in 1807 when under the supervision of head of Perm factories, Andrey Deryabin, following an order from Alexander I, a small arms factory was build. I will bulk my blog out with his portrait too :)
Izhevsk was referred to as a settlement rather than just a factory starting from 1867. After the tsarist government was overthrown in 1917, Izhevsk was occupied by the Red Army and the anti-Soviet forces alternately. A year later when it became clear that the Soviet power had settled for long, Izhevsk was pronounced and still remains the capital of Udmurtia.
The republic of Udmurtia is a federal subject of Russia; it has been part of Russia for 450 years now. I myself am only half Russian; 50 per cent of me is Udmurt, because my Mum is Udmurt. There are two official languages in Udmurtia (as in most other republics within Russia) – Russian (of course) and Udmurt. In case you wonder, the Udmurt language is not in the least similar to Russian and it belongs to the Finno-Ugric language family. Udmurtia is situated on the European side of the Ural Mountains, about 900 km away from Moscow.
February is considered to be the most snowy winter month, while January is considered to be the coldest. Normally we have cold winter and hot summer with spring and autumn separating them. It’s me wearing my winter-coat. Luckily, there are no Greens around in Izhevsk.
Like you, Trudi, I spent my weekend among children. Not mine. My Dad and me went to a sauna where there were many little children. Here is a photo of people looking like roosting hens (that are being roasted) in the sauna lol Having sat like this in a temperature of +140║ Celsius, they all go to a swimming pool which is normally only a few meters away.
So, let’s deal with my mistakes.
1. “a rime of frost” must sound weird. Should have I used the word “frost” instead?
2. “plain ticket”. Certainly it should be “plane ticket”.
3. “that makes me feel shut up in from time to time”. Not quite sure about this one. Well, there is bound to be something wrong with “shut up in”. Will “isolated” be a better choice?
4. “There I, an eighteen years old girl, get impressed by my second cousin…” Poor choice of word. I should have written “become impressed”. Right?
Trudi, there is still something to work at, as you see. You also mentioned some small errors. Do you think you could be really petty as to point out even small mistakes, say once a week (and only from one blog at a time, or I will be discouraged :))?
You ask what I meant when I said ‘I write it out and use’. While reading a book I always pay attention to the vocabulary, i.e. words whose meaning I don’t know but which look interesting to me. Then I write out the whole sentence with the word I am interested in and read my notes later to remember the word and the context of use.
By no means have I given up reading “Wuthering Heights” completely. I know I will read it one day, perhaps not in English, but still… Once I have started something, I never leave it half done. It took me half a year to read “Germinal” by Emile Zola, don’t know why I had chosen to read it in the first place but I did finish it. When I was little I reread “The Chronicles of Narnia” three times at least; “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” maybe two times and there were another two books by Russian writers I reread a few times too. Now I don’t reread books I finished reading some time ago. I tried doing it once, but it felt like going on holiday to the country you were in last year – nice but not exciting. “Fahrenheit 451” does ring a bell, but I haven’t read it. Do you recommend it? I don’t belong to the type of person reading a few books at the same time. I get too attached to characters in a book, so I feel bad about betraying them :) Has anybody read “Captain Corelli’s Mandoline”? If you have, what do you think of it?
Details of my travel to the UK in further blogs. The only thing I can say now is that I loved it.
I am delighted to have received such nice comments from you all. Please do ask me about whatever interests you, and I will do my best to answer in next blogs.
With best wishes
posted on Monday, 04 February 2008 | comment on this post
A Wonderful Sunny Wintry Day
Yesterday’s snowstorm blew over and nice sunny weather has settled over Izhevsk. The air is crisp and so is the snow. Not wishing to waste such a good opportunity I went for a little walk and took a few photos earlier in the afternoon. Without meaning to offend Mother Nature, I wish there were more green colour in winter… and more flowers too… and more bird singing… To put it another way, I wish it were summer now. Christmas and birthday presents were all opened and enjoyed so… I am now all ready to greet the new summer season, only it won’t happen until late May.
Naheed asked what my name means. First of all, like many other names in Russia, Anastasia is a Greek name. Greek names came into Russia along with the orthodox religion in the 10th century, when pagan names were replaced with biblical ones. The literal meaning of the name Anastasia is “resurrection”. And what does your name mean everybody? Do you know the origin of your name and why your parents gave you this name? I have seen in the comments quite a few names looking somewhat exotic. MercÚ from Spain, Enea from Italy, Ibrahima from Guinea, Mashuskin from Zaire and Trudi and Teah (the last name must have something to do with “goddess” by the looks and sound of it).
Elena, apart from English I am also learning (or rather trying to learn) Spanish and Italian. Learning a language is akin to discovering a new world. How would you describe it? It is a continuous process too. As long as I know there are errors in my written or spoken English, I won't stop learning it and trying to improve it. I got a degree in accountancy two years ago but have never really worked as an accountant. For a year I worked as an economist for a pharmaceutical company where I was responsible for the translation of all foreign correspondence conducted in English and I even had to act as an interpreter a couple of times (!). Then there followed a three-month holiday when I went to the UK. On my return from the UK, in August 2007, I got a job as a translator at a big factory. Guess what I am doing at the moment… I am unemployed. I am tutoring a few little children but it doesn’t take a tenth of the time spent at work. This gives me plenty of time to prepare for my wedding in May. In fact, I have already bought a very beautiful wedding dress and I am being tempted to show a photo of it to you all. Much as I want to do it, I can’t. Yes, because my fiancÚ will see it too. And it’s bad luck. It would also ruin a surprise for him :)
Oh yes, I nearly forgot to mention that I also worked for a building company on the Yamal peninsula; it is the north of Russia. That was a very interesting experience (with deer, indigenous people, northern lights, cold and blizzards). I promise to tell you more about it later and now I must love you and leave you with one of the photos I took today.
With best wishes,
posted on Tuesday, 05 February 2008 | comment on this post
A “Washout” of a Summer
I hear the notorious spam filter has gone haywire again, but some of you still manage to get your messages published. Thank you all for your patience and determination; your comments have now become twice as precious to me.
I have been keeping a record of all the questions you ask, so none of them will be left unanswered. Today I will be telling you about my UK experience, a few things that impressed me the most about the UK and in what ways Russia is similar to and different from the UK.
Misled by extremely nice and hot weather in England in April, I packed my suitcase tightly with all the summer clothes I had and headed southwest to the wonderful city of Bristol in early May 2007. I was to discover later that it had never been the summer’s plan to stay in the UK for the three month I had been going to spend there. Sad,.. but true. However, every cloud has a silver lining and now I feel absolutely fine when it’s miserable outside and I no longer need an umbrella for a drizzling type of rain (and all other types of rain in fact, excluding only total showers). You’ve guessed correctly, I had left my umbrella behind in my flat in Izhevsk.
Wildlife in Britain is amazing, amazing, amazing. That’s the first thing that springs to mind when I hear about the UK. In Russia you would have to try very hard to see in the wild something more exciting than a hedgehog. Even though I did see an owl (once), a fox (dead), a moose (big and scary) in Udmurtia, I think animals here, in Russia, are much more subtle and they hide from people deep in the forest. Just to name, in the UK I saw hairs, squirrels (in abundance), foxes, bats, reindeer, seals and rabbits. There was even a slightly embarrassing occasion when yours truly broke into a chase after a rabbit family when she spotted it in the front yard of a B&B in Fort William in Scotland.
In the UK everything is about the safety of British citizens and visitors to the country. In Russia a manhole might stay open for a week or two with no warning sign on it.
I also learnt that the famous British politeness is not at all exaggerated. The word “sorry” is probably the most often used word there. If in a shop somebody comes 20 cm close to you when passing you, they will say sorry. In Russia, if somebody pushes you in a shop, they won’t even notice it; and the thing is you learn not to notice it either. As a result, when I was back home in August I was overly polite to people around me and expected to be greeted by cashiers in shops, which they never did. It was a bit of a culture shock with the difference that I was in my mother country.
Oh, and I shouldn’t forget to mention how I wasn’t able to speak proper English for the first couple of weeks - so extremely self-conscious I felt! As soon as I convinced myself that I was not the only foreigner in the country and that my English was much better than that of some people actually living in the UK, I started to relax and my English kind of did the same :) On my plane back to Moscow I found with a start that to say something in Russian I needed to translate it from English first. My Russian remained very strange for a few days after I had flown from Heathrow.
There were quite a few amusing episodes too. One of them included me riding two full rounds in a bus around Bristol in an attempt to get to Bristol Temple Meads train station. It was all going really well until I realized that I was coming back to where I got on the bus. It wouldn’t have happened if the stops had been announced by the driver, as they do it here. Because how was I to know that that beautiful red-brick building with pretty hanging baskets on it the bus had just passed was the train station?
So where in the UK did I go? Bristol, Cornwall, London, Scotland. This photo was taken on the Hebridean Isle of North Uist of the western group of Scottish islands, if I am not confusing anything.
I have realized that I can’t think of anything Russia has in common with the UK. Can you? While I was there the only thing that reminded me of my country was a night club in Bristol that was called “Mumu’s”. Mumu was the name of the deaf-and-mute peasant Gerasim’s dog in the book of the same name by Russian writer Ivan Turgenev. The placard on the night club said that the entry cost three rubles and beer – two pounds.
More about Izhevsk and Udmurtia next blog.
I hope you all have a good week,
With best wishes,
P.S. One of the men in the photo below is my fiancÚ, guess which one.
posted on Wednesday, 06 February 2008 | comment on this post
How are you everybody reading this blog? Here is a little task for you. Find a funny mistake I made in my last blog “A “Washout” of a Summer”.
As Russian poet Fyodor Tyutchev said back in the 19th century, Russia can’t be understood with the mind. He didn’t say that Russia can’t be understood, but that it can be understood with one’s heart and soul. Bear that in mind if you are considering a trip to Russia. Remember also to take with you a Russian phrase-book. The staff at your hotel and good restaurants will speak English, but there is no guarantee that a person you turn to for some help outside these two types of facilities will be able to understand you.
Where I live, in a typical winter, snow falls in November and starts to melt in March. There is still some snow remaining in early April. Snow is nice as long as it doesn’t melt. Due to it the streets don’t look dull and drear in winter months. It also provides all sorts of winter entertainment. Skating, skiing, snowboarding etc. There are a few ski resorts in Russia – one in Sochi (where The Winter Olympics 2014 will be held), one near Novosibirsk in Siberia and a few other ones. A smaller ski resort was recently built 10-15 km away from Izhevsk. Haven’t still managed to take advantage of it.
With all respect for Russian winter, my advice for you will be to come here in the summer season :)
Trudi, how are you there? Happy Chinese New Year! How did the celebration go? I did hear about IELTS, how many are there such centres in China? Worldwide? You asked a few questions about the Udmurt language. The Udmurt ethnic group only makes up 30% of the republic’s population. The Udmurt language is spoken mainly in villages and it is only common to hear Russian spoken everywhere. There is an Udmurt TV channel and all the stops in the city have names both in Russian and Udmurt on them; but Udmurt is not taught to children at schools (by the way, the standard set of TV channels only includes Russian channels and all foreign films on TV and in the cinema are dubbed into Russian rather than subtitled). Even though my Mum does speak Udmurt, she never taught it to me or my brother. So I don’t speak Udmurt and, consequently, it doesn’t help me in my study of other languages. But my knowledge of English definitely helps me to learn Italian and Spanish more quickly. However if you ask me, I don’t think knowing your Mother language(s) is of much help when you are trying to learn a foreign language. The reason for that is that you learn your Mother tongue(s) instinctively, on the subconscious level, rather than as a structured system.
The city centre is the oldest part of Izevsk and it is situated near the Izhevsk reservoir. The further you go from here the more modern the buildings become. You can get to any point in Izhevsk by bus, tram or trolleybus. There are four universities: Izhevsk State Technical University, Izhevsk State Medical Academy, Izhevsk State Agricultural Academy and Udmurt State University. Most people live in flats of four-, eight- or fifteen-storey buildings. It’s what buildings look like in the city centre.
Anita, you are quite right, –ova, -ov are typical endings of Russian surnames and –ina and –in are equally common (e.g. Putin). So, in Slovakia, what happens to your surname if you choose not to have the –ova or –ov ending?
Eugeny, I have been to your lovely little town a couple of times. The best of luck in your exams!
Tanya, yes I believe in God, but let’s not take it any further from here, shall we?
Elena, I haven’t had a chance to read "The Wind in the Willows" yet. My favourite book is “The Return of the Native” by Thomas Hardy (a bit depressing though, like all books by him, but I kind of relate to the main character). What grey hair?! I am never going to have grey hair (or wrinkles!).
Kirsty, don’t get me wrong here. Certainly, most people in Russia are polite and they do not act in a rude way towards all and sundry. It is just commonly accepted among many people here that in some situations it is not necessary to bother saying anything.
I will talk to you again soon,
With best wishes,
It’s a view of the city from the Izhevsk reservoir. The black marks on the white are fishermen.
posted on Thursday, 07 February 2008 | comment on this post
Ballet And Rat Tale
Hi everybody. How are you? What’s your attitude towards Mondays? Hope my Rat Tale will cheer you up and now prepare to hear what little I have to tell you about our ballet and theatres.
We do have theatres and ballets, it’s fact. There are theatres and a ballet in Izhevsk too. The Bolshoi ballet is famous world over and you know it. Err… Now. God, how embarrassing. I have never been a big fan of either theatre or ballet. Not to the extent where you know all the important names. Here. I have said it.
But maybe there is still something interesting I can tell you about. You might know that there is a dessert called Pavlova. You might also know that it was so called in honour of Anna Pavlova, the famous Russian ballet dancer. The dessert was created by an Australian chef who described it as being airy like Pavlova. But it is not at all the only thing named after her. Chocolates, perfume, soap, special types of roses were all parts of the obsession with naming things after this ballerina. She might have made ballet look effortless but being in training for ballet is never easy and it wasn’t easy in the Imperial Ballet Boarding School she studied at. She was winning hearts all over the world and once she even gave her performance at a bullfight stadium in Mexico. She wanted to dance everywhere and for everybody. It is considered that it wasn’t her perfect technique that made her famous, but that it was her charm and ability to “live” during her performances. Is anybody reading this blog acquainted with a ballerina or a ballet dancer? If so, then you are luckier than me.
In her blog “Challenge Anastasia!!” Trudi challenged me to write a couple of paragraphs including the rat expressions/idioms she gave. Let’s see how I fared :)
… It was midnight by the time he had made it to the front door of Mr. Rabbit’s house. He knocked twice but no answer followed. He could hear parts of a lively discussion that had obviously been going on for some time. He knocked again but this time with more force. The voices suddenly hushed.
“Who is there?” asked a worried voice.
“It’s me, Mr. Badger”, he replied.
He walked in past nervous-looking Mr. Rabbit and looked around at the assembled company. There was everybody: Mr. Pine Marten, Mr. Rat and Mr. Rabbit, and they were all staring at him, aghast.
“Where on earth have you been and why are you looking like a drowned rat?!” Mr. Pine Marten was the first to react.
“I had to spend hours sitting under Mr. Wolf’s window in the rain but at least I managed to get a hold of some very important information. Apparently, Mr. Fox has got very tired of his life in The City and has decided to quit the rat race. Personally, I think that somebody ratted on him about his dark affairs downtown and now he is trying to save his hide. He is moving back to The Forest in a couple of days.”
“Oh rats! Not now when we have got lots of other things on our plate!” Mr. Pine Marten exclaimed both with fright and annoyance in his voice.
“Mr. Badger, you aren’t in the know yet but this ratbag Mrs. Owl has introduced a new law today in accordance with which all small rodents living in The Forest must give away half of their winter stock to Hares. Hares are all panicky, they say that it is all part of Mrs. Owl’s cunning plan to make them fatter to the enjoyment of other Owls, Wolves and Foxes,” said Mr. Rat.
“I agree with Hares. Now Mr. Fox’s return makes all sense. And when they knock off all the Hares they will switch to Rabbits!” said Mr. Rabbit.
“Shut up, Rabbit. We are now talking about the safety of our winter stocks!” said Mr. Pine Marten.
“Mr. Pine Marten, Mr. Rabbit is out mutual friend and his safety is just as important. We are all having are nerves on edge at the moment but it is no reason to work off your ratty mood on poor Mr. Rabbit”, Mr. Badger pointed out wisely.
“I smell a rat”, said Mr. Rabbit.
Everybody turned to face Mr. Rat, who immediately became red about his ears.
“Not that kind of rat. I think Mrs. Owl has been bribed by other Owls”, continued Mr. Rabbit.
Mr. Rat relaxed visibly. He knew that he had taken a shower this morning…
Hope you like my Rat Tale :) I quite liked making up a story with the expressions you gave, Trudi. I played them in my mind so many times that I will not forget them soon, if ever.
How was your weekend? I spent mine meeting up with my friends and my relatives. A friend of mine had a baby recently so now my friends and I spend at least one evening a week at hers enjoying her and baby Alexander’s company. So far I have only seen Alexander in three states. When he is not asleep, he is being breast-fed, when he is not being breast-fed, he is crying, when he is not crying, he is asleep. This sequence of events has been repeating itself since October when he was born. We all look forward to the time when he starts smiling, gurgling and laughing. By the way, baby Alexander is my fiancÚ’s namesake. Thank you for all the guesses you made; I am still smiling at how most of you think that he is the second guy from the right. Meanwhile, he is the second one from the left :)
I and my friends went skating today in the afternoon. It is a photo of me and one of my best friends, Olya. We look happy in this photograph, don’t we? In spring we will not be looking half as happy… Why do you think? First answer the question what happens to snow in spring. It goes all soggy. Then it starts to melt excessively. Then there appear brooks and puddles everywhere. And only then does everything start to bloom and blossom. The spring period I (and most normal people) like doesn’t last long and when you think “Yeah, I like this spring” you realize that it is actually summer already :)
With best wishes,
Trudi, below I will try to correct the sentences from my two previous blogs:
1) I was to discover later that it never was the summer’s plan to stay in the UK for the three months I was going to spend there. (I am looking forward to your explanation about this one in particular, because I am not sure I have corrected it rightly)
2) Just to name, in the UK I saw hares, squirrels (in abundance), foxes, bats, reindeer, seals and rabbits.
3) – so extremely self-conscious did I feel!
4) This photo was taken on North Uist, a Hebridean Isle of the western group of Scottish islands.
5) I haven’t taken advantage of it yet.
6) I did hear about IELTS, how many such centres are there in China?
7) My advice to you will be to come here in the summer season.
8) It is what buildings in the city centre look like.
P.S. No, Trudi, I never told you what we have in common! When I was writing my first blog, I thought you were part Russian (because of you surname) and I thought that it was what we had in common (na´ve). But stay intrigued, there is bound to be something in common between us and I am working on finding out what it is.
posted on Sunday, 10 February 2008 | comment on this post
A Villain, a Pirate And an Epicure
Sport is ubiquitous nowadays. There is a proliferation of newspapers, magazines and sports channels throughout the world. Are Russians into sport? Some are and some are not. The fact that Russians really belong to the sports nation becomes more obvious in the winter season when the city is dotted with skating rinks, when you notice people carrying skis on their shoulders and young men with bulky looking holdalls that are filled with hockey equipment. However, as far as jogging and biking are concerned, we are definitely outdone by the British (and probably by some other nations too). I learnt it for myself last summer. I didn’t risk biking in England as I am a bit scared of riding a bike along a road with the flaw of vehicles, moreover here in Russia we drive on the other side of the road. So probably my decision was the only right. However, while in England I went for a run more or less regularly and progressed from a nine-minute run in the beginning to over thirty minutes at the end. Talking about exercise, I am starting to go to the gym tomorrow. Like most people, I want to look fitter by the summer. Hm, I don’t find watching all sports tedious. But then, I don’t watch sports very often. The thing is that there is always some sports event on and you risk spending all your spare time in front of the telly.
Oh, I shouldn’t forget to mention that I am a newly converted football supporter. Maybe not of an extreme type, but a fan nonetheless. On the right you can see Wembley stadium in London – Bristol Rovers played Shrewsbury in May’07 there and Shrewsbury were beaten, 4:1, which earned Bristol Rovers promotion to League One! The guys in blue are all Bristol Pirates fans.
I wonder if each English football team has got a fright-inducing nickname. If Bristol Rovers are Pirates, Aston Villa (and their supporters) are Villains, then what is the nickname of Newcastle team? Perhaps, Newcastle monsters? Wait a minute… does it mean that little Teah is a Villain?!
What do you think of Russia’s National football team? I think they are hopeless. I was certain that England would rout Russia in the Euro 2008 qualifier held in Moscow. I promised to walk naked across Izhevsk Central square if Russia beat England. Guess what? I had to do it and Izhevsk television made a programme on me.
So, what is your favourite national dish? I have several. Today I had chebureki. It is deep-fried dough with minced meat filling. Yummy but not healthy. See the photo below. In the next photo there are a few dishes that are quite popular with Russian people. I am sure that many of you have heard of borsch or pelmeni, have you ever tried it? Do you have something similar in your country? Read more on the topic of Russian national cuisine in my next blog.
Two days to go to St. Valentine’s Day and I keep checking my post-box. I have an inkling that I will find a letter in there (hopefully in time for the 14th). Flowers and intimate dinners are nice, but it is not something I have always associated with Valentine’s Day. I favour the idea of finding a romantic valentine in an unusual place and reading it in private afterwards. Or maybe I am just being old-fashioned. What do you normally do on St. Valentine’s?
Did you know that a sledge ride is a typically Russian thing? Of course, nowadays you will not see sledges on the roads as they are not allowed to go beyond park boundaries. This year sledges have started to catch on once again and I hear that sledges from Gucci are now available, they are said to be incrusted with Swarovski crystals and to be made of genuine leather. Watch for them when you are at a European ski resort. They must cost a fortune. It’s not a Gucci sledge in the photo – it’s an Izhevsk one I saw yesterday in the park.
Abida, Ana Paula, Irina, Yumico, Adriana, Naheed, James, Katea, Marichel, MercÚ, Angela, Nizhama, Elena, Marina, Anita, Niaz Ali, Silwal Kishor, Jarco, Pary and others, thanks a lot for your comments :) Hope you continue enjoying my blogs.
Leila, thank you so much for your kind words. I agree with the BBC LE team that your blogs were filled with warmth.
Kirsti, what a nice name for little girls! :)
Cheikhna, you have my support. Russian is not that difficult. Remember, there are people who manage to master Chinese! All you need to do is study regularly.
Hyoshil, traditionally, the wedding season in Russia is autumn, but people get married in other times of year too.
Chandra, our tap water comes from rivers, lakes and reservoirs. Izhevsk is supplied with the water from the Kama River (it is the largest tributary of the Volga River) and the Izhevsk reservoir (the River Izh).
Antonio and Ricardo, thanks for your advice. I’ve noticed that Spanish is a bit more difficult than Italian.
Jeronimo, we were taught at school that there are about 80 languages in Russia and many of them are on the brink of extinction.
Alexey, there are so many Internet resources for learning English and they are all different… have you tried BBC Learning English? :)
Tanya, yes, it looks like the ugly construction will be built after all. Personally, I think it is a very bad idea to try and attract tourists by something that looks like a weapon.
Have a good week everyone,
P.S. I was joking about crossing the square nude. However, it means that my bet was never settled and that you can never trust girls!
posted on Monday, 11 February 2008 | comment on this post
St. Valentine’s Day
If you are in love, I wish you to spend this wonderful day with your loved one. If you are stuck in a hopeless relationship, get yourself out of it immediately – everyone deserves real love and there is the right person for you out there. If you are not in love yet, I am sure you will find your Mr./Ms. Right very soon. All you need to do is to believe in it. Happy St. Valentine’s Day!
For those who are desperate to find their love today: shut your eyes and walk out the door. The first person you bump into will be your love. For the best result it is strongly recommended to peep whilst walking. Good luck!
As I predicted, I have received from Alex a really nice valentine with a poem written entirely by him! Even though he says this poem is rubbish, I think it is the best poem ever written because it is about us and because he wrote it for me :) And guess what else? The most beautiful flowers have just been delivered to my front door (see the photo). There is a note with no signature in the bouquet, but I think, no, I am sure, I know, it is from him! Thank you honey, I … you too. A million times so… xxxxxxxxx
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I have separated the love part of the blog from the rest of the blog with asterisks so that the more trivial subject of food will not mix with it.
Ssso. F-O-O-D. Do you live to eat or do you eat to live? You might leave this rhetorical question without an answer as I know that most of us eat to live, not vice versa. You must know that traditional Russian cuisine is far from being exotic; it can be explained by the fact that the major part of Russia is situated above the subtropical zone. Traditional Russian cuisine is very different from that in the south of Russia as that region is densely inhabited by the peoples of the Caucasus (Armenian, Georgian, and Azerbaijani) who brought with themselves culinary traditions typical of their national cuisine.
No Russian table can do without soups. Russian soups are not pureed so basically they are water with meat and vegetables in it. There are a few types of soup of which I will name the ones with the most character in them: borsch (red beet soup), solyanka (saulty soup), harcho (smoky-flavoured Armenian soup) and rassolnik (pickled cucumbers soup). There is another type of soup which is normally eaten in summer. The main ingredient in it is kvas. Kvas is a beverage made from barley, brown bread and sometimes honey. The taste of it could be compared to the taste of beer but it is a bit sweeter and is considered non-alcoholic (but it might contain a very small percentage of alcohol sometimes). This soup is called okroshka and it is eaten cold, you don’t even need to boil it or cook the other ingredients. As I like okroshka very much I will tell you more about it. You just need to chop cucumbers, spring onions, dill, parsley, boiled eggs and sausages; then you add kvas. Your okroshka is ready to be eaten; but remember to put some grated horseradish and sour cream into your helping of okroshka. Okroshka has a rather strong taste (it also depends on how much horseradish you put into it) and you might not love it straightaway.
If you are on a diet, porridge will be your watchword. Porridge is made by boiling meal (oatmeal, buckwheat, rice, millet etc) in milk or water until thick. It is served with butter.
Another dish you might have heard of is pelmeni. You will find them on everyone’s New Year table. Pelmeni are similar to ravioli with the difference that they are shaped differently (they resemble ears, if you ask me). The filling can be minced meat, minced cabbage or mashed potato. Pelmeni with minced cabbage or minced potato are called vareniki and are shaped a bit differently. Pelmeni are served with sour cream or khrenovaya (sauce made from tomatoes, horseradish and garlic). You can also flavour them with some black pepper or weak vinegar.
Dairy products are very popular in our country. They are baked milk, kefir (basically it is soured milk), cottage cheese, sour cream (it is added to practically every type of food), ryazhenka and others.
Let me finish with the least healthy but the most delicious pirogi. Pirogi can be big (the size of your baking tray) or small (the size of half of your palm), open (i.e. without the upper lay of dough) or normal. Pirogi can be filled with absolutely anything: thick jam, fruit, berries, mushrooms, cottage cheese, potato, meat, chopped boiled eggs with spring onion, grated carrots, minced cabbage, fish etc.
Hope this gives you an idea of traditional Russian cuisine. I haven’t mentioned blini and red (or black) caviar yet. (Was it Anita who said that she didn’t like caviar?) Well, any type of caviar is not a common sight on one’s dinner table as it is rather expensive and is considered a delicacy. It is eaten with bread and butter; however you need to remember that too much caviar will ruin your sandwich.
Trudi, what’s wrong with me?! Why am I making such silly mistakes all the time? Hares-hairs, are-our, flaw-flow etc. lol Maybe one day I will find my “hairs” in a book of funny mistakes made by learners of English. Have you started to keep a record of amusing errors your students make yet? Anyway, here are the sentences you picked from my last two blogs I have tried to improve:
1) We do have theatres and ballets, it’s a fact.
2) Not to the extent at which you know all the impostant names. Here you go. I have confessed.
3) We are all having our nerves on edge at the moment.
4) My friends and I went skating today in the afternoon.
5) Then brooks and puddles appear everywhere.
6) I didn’t risk biking in Egland as I am a bit scared of riding a bike along a road with the flow of vehicles.
7) So probably my decision was the only right one.
With best wishes on St. Valentine’s Day,
Anastasia (aka Yoda)
posted on Thursday, 14 February 2008 | comment on this post
Hi everyone, how are you? Have a look at this photo before you start reading the blog. It is a statue of one of the Soviet leaders, Kirov. Actually, it is not important who he is as I just want you to laugh at his new winter hat and fur collar :) I took this photo in a park the day before yesterday. As you can see, it was snowing quite heavily on that day :)
As you know, there was another task from Trudi. This time I needed to write a story with the use of love-related expressions. I must confess that this time I racked my brain, trying to use all the expressions given.
… It was a glorious early morning. The tops of the trees were waving in a warm breeze. Invisible birds were chirping away happily in the bushes. Various little forest creatures were scuttling in the grass between the roots of the trees. Some unusual atmosphere seemed to have enshrouded the whole forest and Mr. Rabbit’s burrow was literally oozing amorous waves.
“Rabbit, Rabbit… You can’t stay in all day. Get your fluffy bum out of the bed. Honestly, you are acting like a lovesick teenager,” tutted Mr. Pine Marten.
“What are you talking about? It’s just this migraine is killing me…” groaned pale-looking Mr. Rabbit.
“Uhuh. Migraine. Listen, Rabbit, I know there is no love lost between us but since it was me who found you nibbling bitterly on a carrot (and everybody knows that rabbits can’t nibble on a carrot bitterly whatsoever) under the full moon in the meadow yesterday, I feel somewhat responsible for you,” said Mr. Pine Marten.
“Just of the love of our old school days, will you kindly leave me alone?” said Mr. Rabbit faintly.
“Oh, no, Rabbit. You are loved-up. You will not feel better until you tell this ephemeral Ms. Doe-Rabbit everything about your feelings. She really is very pretty, isn’t she?” Mr. Pine Marten gave a wink.
“I will not dare tell her everything for love or money. She despises me and will start despising me even more after she knows how I feel about her.”
“Rabbit, are you really this stupid or is it just a result of what happens when puppy love hits you at the age when you are not an adolescent any more? I think you are a typical example of a late bloomer. Mr. Rat can help us solve your little problem. I am sure he won’t refuse as he is now at the hate stage of his love-hate relationship with cricket; so he’s got plenty of spare time“.
“What’s your plan?”
“As far as I know, all girls are scared of mice… And you will save her! You will be her hero. Does the idea of it appeal to you? Come on, you must agree, all fair in love and war.”
… It was another wonderful morning. Birds were chirping away happily… Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit were in the middle of a lovey-dovey chat in their garden when Mr. Pine Marten announced his presence with a delicate cough.
“Hello Mr. Pine Marten,” said Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit in unison.
“Hello, how are you?” replied Mr. Pine Marten.
“We are fine, thank you,” said Mr. Rabbit and added as an afterthought, “Listen, Marten, I owe you a favour”.
“It was a labour of love, Rabbit. Be happy!” said Mr. Pine Marten and left murmuring something under his breath.
Oh, Trudi, I am not the best poetry analyser in the world. We had to do it at school and I loathed it. Anyway, I’d better stop whinging right here. The present the poet is giving to her lover is an onion. I think the man she is giving it to is not her first love and she has got in her head a very clear image of love and how love develops. The onion is supposed to represent her idea of love. She compares the onion to a moon in brown paper. This is to mean that in the beginning love attracts by its mystery, the further you go the fewer layers of wrapping paper is left; the brighter the light, the more involved you become. Love, like an onion, can make you cry and it is also shown in the lines. As you cut an onion, i.e. as your relationship progresses, the rings become smaller and smaller and at some point they become the size of a wedding ring and people get married. The last line suggests that marriage is the last stage to which love can progress and that people will live by the feelings they experienced before their married life ever after, it might also mean that their feelings will never be as strong as before. Only scent. She might be right. But it all depends. It is also unclear from the last lines how long the period between “a wedding ring” and the word “lethal” is.
Trudi, you asked to shed some light on the reason why Alexanders in Russia usually go by the shortened name Sasha. Well, it’s easy. Lots of Russian names are too long and they sound too formal when you say them aloud. Most people use their full name only at work or in other formal situations, but they will call everyone by their shortened name when interacting with friends and relatives. Each Russian name can have quite a few shortened versions of which normally only one is used universally. Like it is in the Alexander case (“Alexander” is pronounced as “Alek-sun-der” in Russian, so I guess the “sun” or “san” bit is used to form the following names), Sashik, Sashulya, Sashenka, Sanya, Sashok, Sashka, Sasha are all derivatives of the name Alexander, but Sasha is the most stylistically neutral one, so it is used by everybody. The most common endings of shortened names in Russia are –ya, -sha, -ka. More examples, Maria – Masha, Olga – Olya, Konstantin – Kostya, Mikhail – Misha, Anna – Anya, Stanislav – Stas, Anastasia – Nastya etc. How do you like my shortened name?! I certainly like your nickname :)
Hm, I can’t say that I got a shock when I saw the prices in the UK. I couldn’t have expected them to be less than very high if one British pound is exchanged for fifty Russian roubles and London is considered the most expensive city in the world :) Meanwhile, football ticket prices here are certainly much lower than they are in the UK, but not by 50 times - by three times at the most.
Now to some of the comments you wrote.
Anita, thank you for such a detailed explanation about the –ova ending in your surnames. What about your middle name? How do you get it? Is it normally one’s father’s first name, as it is in Russia?
Rosa, I saw the Disney cartoon called “Anastasia” and it was about the “lost” princess Anastasia. The story was romanticized because the princess’s body was not found after the whole royal family was killed in 1917. However, her remains were discovered near a country road in Ekaterinburg oblast last year.
MercÚ, yes, I know paella :) Alex and I even cooked it following blogger Silvia’s recipe in the New Year holiday :)
Pary, see, your comments do appear! :)
Paco, will you believe me if I say that I even saw snow in the UK in July!?
Christine, I don’t think I have ever heard of Russian writer Vladimir Sorokin. He must be a modern writer.
Eugeny, I know what resort you are talking about. There is also Abzakovo centre near it. Maybe their hotels aren’t that good, but their ski-slopes are definitely better than those in Nechkino. I must sound unpatriotic...
Angela, as Trudi said, my knowledge of ballet is sketchy. (In wisper) I know nothing about Polina Semyonova. But I promise to tell you about Russian wedding traditions in my next blog.
Hope you all have a good weekend,
With best wishes,
posted on Friday, 15 February 2008 | comment on this post
Ballet Again or Where Russian Gas Comes From
I have changed my mind regarding today’s blog as I haven’t got enough photos to accompany my story about Russian weddings. Hopefully, I will have got them by Sunday evening. Tomorrow I am planning to call on a friend of mine who got married a couple of years ago (the one with the baby I mentioned in one of my previous blogs) and I am sure she won’t refuse to share some photos from her wedding with you.
Do you remember me mentioning my work in the north of Russia? I thought I would write about it now, otherwise I might forget to do it later.
I worked on the Yamal peninsula, the literal translation of the name “Yamal” is “I am small” and the peninsula really isn’t that big. Most gas fields in Russia are situated in the north. The company I worked for builds all the facilities necessary for people working for “Gazprom” to be able to live and work there. The only way to get there is by helicopter (tiresome three-hour journey from the closest city of Nadym) as there are no roads there; in winter time it is also possible to get there by lorry. Spring, autumn and summer seasons are not suitable for driving as you risk getting stuck in mud. It’s tundra. There are trees there but no tree is taller than 30 cm. The navigation period is very short. I was said that the bottom of the only river on Yamal is never free from ice.
Above is a photo of the builders’ village I was living in. Below is a photo of what the builders live in.
Living there is not actually that scary as it might seem at the first sight. The coldest it got when I was there was - 43░C. I was staying in a room on the second floor of the two-storey wooden hostel. Even though I was living in the tallest building, I couldn’t see much from my only window as it was soon snowed under.
I learnt that northern lights appear in the sky on the night before a snowstorm. Snowstorms can be very strong there and sometimes it is impossible to discern an object that is only a meter away from you, and I was told about the cases when people left the canteen to go home in the evening and ended up actually straying away from their home. The food in the canteen was not too bad, you could always have some simple vegetable salad, meat (normally venison), soup, most types of porridge, sometimes blini and lots of buns that were all shaped differently but tasted absolutely the same. There are no shops there so you are supposed to bring with you everything you need or might need. I remember that I brought loads of chewing gum, chocolate and shampoo.
The canteen was supplied with venison by native people (the Hanty). It is worth mentioning that the Hanty’s only occupation is breeding reindeer. They might have herds of an impressive size of up to a few hundreds of heads. They live in yarangas a photo of one of which you can see below.
Nowadays the Hanty tend to use snowmobiles to move across the snow space but if you are lucky you might see them in a little sledge pulled by a few reindeer.
The Extreme North is a very strange place and the realization of the fact that you are literally in the middle of nowhere is a great feeling. It’s the only place where you can see two or three (or maybe even more) rainbows one above the other in the sky. Once I even saw a completely round rainbow around the sun.
There is another similar builders’ village on Yamal. It is situated on the very sea shore and, as a result, they have polar bear problems from time to time. Apparently, a little polar bear cub (a height of two meters is not a great height for polar bears) once got inside their canteen causing loads of chaos and panic. The canteen was evacuated and, having satisfied his curiosity, the polar bear cub left the canteen a bit later. :)
A few months on the Yamal peninsula were a great experience for me which I will never forget. Sorry if my story lacks any logical sequence, but I tried to give a short account of the most interesting facts.
Meanwhile, forget everything I told you about my ignorance about the ballet. I was just being shy. I was actually quite good at ballet dancing about six years ago (and who knows, maybe I still am!) and I think this photo speaks for itself. Trudi, I have finally hit on what we have in common. I would have never believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself. It’s our hairy armpits!
Let me finish my today’s blog with this wonderful news,
With best wishes,
posted on Saturday, 16 February 2008 | comment on this post
The good news is that ten to one my computer will be back from the repair's, where it has been since Sunday, today in the evening.
The not-so-good news is that I am now sitting in an Internet cafe crowded with mad teenagers playing computer games. By the way, what do you think of computer games? Personally, I consider all sorts of computer games to be a huge waste of time. Once people get hooked on them, most of their spare time will be spent on sitting in front of their computer with their eyes glued to the computer screen while typing away or moving the mouse around the mouse mat.
There used to be many little children playing in the yard in winter: they were building snow caves, having snowball fights etc. Now they are all gone; I suspect they got stuck in their flats busy playing computer games. When my younger brother was undergoing the period of obsession with computer games, it was impossible to make him stop for a few minutes to have lunch.
Maybe I misunderstand something? Maybe there is more to computer games that I fail to notice? What do you think?
How was your weekend? Mine was very productive. On Saturday I went to see my grandparents. On Sunday my Dad and I picked my wedding dress up from the shop and now it is hanging in my wardrobe :) Then I did a little shopping for jewellery, a pair of white shoes and other accessories that a bride is supposed to wear.
I am going to follow the old tradition of wearing something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue on my wedding day even though we don’t have such a tradition in Russia. I have already got lots of “something new”, I have also got “something old” and a little bit of “something blue” to wear to my wedding. Any ideas what “borrowed” I can wear??? Will a hair pin do?
Yesterday I met up with a designer to discuss wedding invitations. Maybe you could help me choose the best one out of a few draft versions?
I thought I would tell you about a new Russian wedding tradition I find laughable that is starting to catch on in Izhevsk (I can’t say in Russia as I don’t know for sure). It is a parody of the throwing-of-bouquet tradition. According to this so-called tradition the groom is supposed to throw the bride’s garter into the crowd of his unmarried friends! There is no way I will let such a thing happen to mine!
It’s –18’c behind the window again. I thought the spring was coming a couple of days ago but it seems to have changed its mind. :( I think it is perfect time for solyanka. The salty soup solyanka is made from smoked meat and pickled vegetables which inevitably make the soup taste quite sour/"salty" even without any add of salt. The root "sol" of the name "solyanka" means "salt" in the Russian language so the word "salty" is probably the most appropriate word to describe the tang of the soup.
Thank you for your positive feedback :) I don't tnink I mentioned that I had worked for "Gazprom". I worked for a different company which builds for "Gazprom". I worked as an accountant there. You won't believe me, but it can get much colder than -43'c on the Yamal peninsula (even -60'c). And yes, the Hanty normally have many children because where would they find contraceptives there? Moreover, the more people the warmer! There are trees in tundra. But they are tiny, as I said :)
Have a good week ahead,
I will talk to you very soon (hopefully about Russian wedding traditions),
With best wishes,
posted on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 | comment on this post
Hi Trudi! Greetings Everyone! Hope things are fine with you. All Russian men are waiting for Saturday to come with bated breath. The matter is that the 23rd of February is a national holiday in Russia. It is called Defender of Motherland’s Day. On this day women give cards and small (or big) presents to their fathers, husbands, sons, grandfathers etc. Talking about presents, Trudi, do you know what you will give to your grandmother for her birthday yet? People of her age need to feel loved and needed. What about a photo of you, your daughter and your husband smiling happily at her from a nice photo frame? Or maybe a nice cushion? Or a picture of a place which is important to both you and your grandmother accompanied by a card with the words of love and care?
Now’s the time for me to tell you about the way a typical Russian wedding is organised.
In accordance with an old Russian tradition, on the wedding day the bride is supposed to wait for the groom at her parents’ house. While the bride is having her hair and make-up done at her parents’ house, the groom and his friends decorate their cars with flowers and ribbons, the groom’s car must be the most lavishly decorated one. When the groom and his entourage arrive by the door of the bride’s parents’ house, they announce their presence by sounding the horns of their cars. They are met by the bride’s girl-friends. It is the beginning of a wedding tradition which is called Redemption. During the redemption the groom is expected to demonstrate his intelligence and other skills and his friends must help him answer tricky questions and perform various tasks.
The redemption can be described as an act of exchanging the groom’s skills for the bride. It is a trial the purpose of which is to see whether the groom is good enough for the bride :) The questions and tasks are not at all difficult and even if the groom and his friends fail to do a task properly, they can make up for it with some money which they give to the bride’s friends. The bride’s friends task is to get as much money as possible :) Originally this tradition was used to raise some money for the newly married couple; now it is done to pay respect for old traditions. "Redemption" is carried on in a light-hearted manner with lots of jokes until the groom finally reaches the front door of the house (or flat) where his wife-to-be has been waiting for him.
Then the groom gives the bride her wedding bouquet. Inside the flat there will be a table with champagne and snacks for everybody as another Russian tradition says that a daughter should be given to her future husband from behind a table with food. After this, everybody gets into the cars and follows to the church (or registry office).
After the service is finished, the newlyweds need to cross seven bridges. It is considered to bring happiness for many years ahead. All modern couples just drive across seven bridges while to do it properly the groom must carry his wife in his arms! I wonder whether my Alexander will be able to do it with his broken wrist :/
A few superstitions: it is bad luck to get married in May or in a leap-year. How crazy am I to be going to get married in May and in a leap-year at the same time!? Rain on the wedding day is a good omen. Traditionally, the wedding season in Russia is autumn. In autumn the harvest was finished and peasants didn’t have to work very hard until next spring, so people got married in autumn.
After the bridges have been crossed and photos have been taken the newlyweds are going to the restaurant where they will be met by their parents, friends and other guests. Now the bride and the groom need to take a bite of the bread offered to them by the groom’s mother. The one who takes a bigger bite will be the head of the family. Or at least this is what another Russian custom says.
Then a normal wedding reception follows with music, dances, drinks, food and speeches. After the reception, the groom and the bride go home and it is important that the groom carries the bride across the threshold in his arms (yes, again!). And then they’ll live happily ever after….
…until next day. The second day of the wedding is also celebrated but, of course, it is a rather quiet event compared to the first day. Some people even chose not to have one all.
Before I leave you today, have a look at the photo of some of the members of my extended family. They are my Granny, Grandfather, my uncle’s wife and my two little cousins, Masha and Anya. It was my Granny who suggested that Alex and I get married in a church, she is very religious and she has got such a big heart :)
James, I didn’t say I didn’t like the idea of throwing the bouquet. I meant throwing another thing.
And the last thing for today, have you noticed that the wedding rings in the first photo are on the fingers of the right, rather than left, hands? In many Orthodox countries (including Russia) weddings rings are worn on the ring finger of the right hand.
It’s a photo of St. Michael Cathedral where Alex and I will be married. It was rebuilt a year ago after it had been destroyed completely by communists in 1937. There are two such churches in Russia, the first one is in St. Petersburg.
Hope your week is going smoothly,
With best wishes,
posted on Wednesday, 20 February 2008 | comment on this post
Nastya’s Nasty Errors
Trudi, you must send my compliments to your Nan. Are you sure you are not getting anything confused and she really is 85?
Now back on to St. Michael’s Cathedral, we really booked it a few months in advance, but we needn’t have done it well in advance (I was just being paranoid that somebody might book it for the same day as my wedding’s) as there aren’t many people willing to get married in a church – the majority of couples get married at a registry office. I think it is a result of the many years during which the church was not favoured by the soviet governments. There are not pews in Russian churches and St. Michael’s Cathedral is not an exception. The interior of the cathedral is spacious, it is gilded and decorated with the pictures of different saints.
There will be about 50 people present at both the church ceremony and the reception. We still haven’t chosen a venue so we don’t even know where to invite guests yet!
Trudi, I find “minor and infrequent” errors aggravating and they are difficult to get rid of too. I am a bit of a perfectionist so the knowledge that there are (and probably will always be) some sneaky little errors in my writing is somewhat upsetting.
Abida, I read in some book that there are so many phrasal verbs that it is not worth your while trying to learn them all as you might never even come across some of them in your lifetime. Good English-English dictionaries will give you clear definitions and examples of the usage of phrasal verbs. I think that student books with exercises that ask you to replace highlighted verbs with offered phrasal verbs are very useful and in student books they make you learn phrasal verbs that are frequently used in contemporary English. Hope this helps.
Kirsti, yes, there are the Nenetse people living on Yamal too. I suspect they look very similar to the Hanty. Did that actress go there in a summer period? How interesting… I didn’t know that the Yamal peninsula is so famous :)
Leila, you told us worrying news. Hope your husband and you are OK.
Nestor, welcome and nice to meet you. I agree with you that it is a very interesting part of the BBC LE web site. I wonder if every month people bet on what country next blogger will be from :)
Antonio, with teeth! Did the grooms look at least a little upset during the process?
Kuldeep, unfortunately I can’t tell you more about the Hanty and their traditions as I didn’t live among them. Maybe that French actress Kirsty mentioned in the comments shared her experiences somewhere on the Internet?
Ernesto, as you rightly noticed, a few statues of soviet leaders still remain in Russia. I don’t think it would be the right thing to remove them all as they are part of our history, good or bad. It’s a photo of a statue of Lenin, it stands in front of the Udmurt National library where I spent so many hours as a student.
Ecaterina, congratulations! I have never seen archery competitions but I have deep respect for sportsmen of nearly every kind of sport. Here in Izhevsk we have a very good sporting club and our sportsmen took prize places in European championships. Good luck to you!
Talk to you soon,
Have a good weekend,
posted on Thursday, 21 February 2008 | comment on this post
An Old City
Moscow and St. Petersburg are the two largest Russian cities; they are also the most popular tourist destinations. If I were to recommend you somewhere apart from these two cities to go in Russia, I would say “go to Kazan”. I have been there twice. Kazan is not a typical Russian city, not least because it is the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, a Muslim republic within Russia. The Republic of Tatarstan borders Udmurtia (or the Udmurt Republic). Kazan is 400 km away from Izhevsk and about 800 km away from Moscow. It is situated on the left bank of the river Volga and has a population of over 1,000,000 people.
Kazan wasn’t always a Russian city. It is more than 1,000 years old; the first mention of Kazan refers to the 10th century when it was a city of the country of Volga Bulgaria. Then, in the 13th century, when Russia was invaded by the Mongol-Tatars, Kazan became the capital of the Kazan Khanate.
The Mongol-Tatar yoke was shaken off in the 15th century and several decades later Kazan became part of Russia. The mosque you can see in the photo is situated within the Kazan Kremlin walls. It is a replica of one of the mosques that used to stand there. The Kazan Kremlin dates from the period of the Kazan Khanate and consists of a group of historic buildings. The Kazan Kremlin was included in the UNESCO World Heritage list a few years ago. Did you know that St. Basil’s Cathedral (see photo below) on Red Square was built upon the order of Russian Czar Ivan the Terrible (Ivan IV) to celebrate the fall of Kazan after he had seen one of the Kazan Kremlin mosques (which no longer exists) which had captured his imagination.
That mosque was notable for its minarets, rich, colourful exterior and ornate interior. It’s true that St. Basil’s Cathedral is unlike any other Russian church and if you look at it closely, you will notice that it really resembles a mosque.
By the way, I have followed a piece of advice one of you gave me and I am on Facebook now. The reason I put registering with Facebook off for so long is that I didn’t have many foreign friends but now I think it makes all sense and it will help me to keep in touch :) I will certainly upload my wedding photos on my profile, so if you are curious, have a look at my profile after the 4th of May.
As far as the wedding invitations are concerned, I expect to receive them on Tuesday so you will be able to try your hand at the selection of a wedding invitation on Wednesday. Let’s see whether you see eye to eye with each other :)
I am not sure whether we will be able to go on a honeymoon straight after the wedding because Alex got a transfer to London and he can’t start his job there by going on holiday. But, anyway, the plan is to go to Thailand, or Malaysia.
Now I must love you and leave you with a photo of Alex and me. It was taken last summer a few minutes after we conquered Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK. This is where I saw snow in July. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see anything from the summit because of the fog, but there were a few stunning panoramic views in the last third of the way to the top of the mountain; one of them was lakes surrounded by trees that looked like a green carpet. I absolutely love nature!
With best wishes,
posted on Saturday, 23 February 2008 | comment on this post
Am I Expecting a Baby (Or Two)?
It looks like each season has its own glitch depending on the country. Spring comes to Beijing with sandstorms, while in Izhevsk it starts with a mishmash of snow and water under our feet. It has just occurred to me that “sandstorms” happen in Izhevsk too. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happens to the sand that was strewn over some roads during winter before street-flushing machines wash it away in spring. However, poplar tree seed fluff is even worse. Luckily, I am not allergic to it, but still it is very annoying when you get it in your eye and can’t get it out.
Apparently, poplar trees were planted in every city all over the country. It is known that male poplar trees don’t give (fluffy!) seeds, but at the time when the trees were being planted nobody gave a toss about whether they were male or female. It wasn’t until the trees started to seed abundantly that the mistake was understood. Now, every June you will see white fluffy balls that roll along our city roads.
Trudi, Nastya is well but she is not toiling away at your phrasal verb challenge. The matter is that I already know these very verbs, their meanings and how they are used in a sentence. The challenge for me now is to use them all in one blog somehow. I need some inspiration. Alternatively, you could give me some other (perhaps more difficult) phrasal verbs.
Trudi, how do you know about this legend about Ivan the Terrible and the architect of St. Basil’s Cathedral? It’s true that according to the legend the architect was blinded so that he couldn’t build anything like St. Basil’s Cathedral anymore. However, there is still uncertainty as to who exactly was the architect. As one of the theories suggests, he was a Russian man called Postnik Yakovlev, but he couldn’t have been blinded as he designed the Kazan Cathedral later. Anyway, even if Ivan the Terrible did blind the architect, I am sure that he didn’t do it because he wanted to spite Britain (or any other country), but because he was a kind of a mentally unstable patriot.
Did you cry when you were a baby? I didn’t. I am sure. I was perfect as a baby, as a toddler, as a teenager. Guess what? I am still perfect. I never had any problems at school or university, and my parents never had to worry about where and with whom their daughter was. Six years after I was born, my parents decided that they wanted another wonderful child. But the “wonderful child” never came, instead my brother appeared. He had problems at school and now he has been having problems at university. Why am I telling you this? OK. Another example, a friend of mine (see photo) was looking forward to becoming a mother. She had this nice dream in which her baby sleeps peacefully between her husband and herself. In reality, as soon as the baby was born, they stopped sleeping completely because Sasha (the baby) is always crying and is virtually never asleep. You never know what your baby will be like, do you? And what if your doctor says that you are expecting twins!? Actually, twins aren’t bad, at least you can have two babies in one go and they can always play with each other. Anyway, I’d better stop right here. I will answer the question in the title at the end of this week. Thank you, Trudi, for such a good horoscope; by the way, it was you who made me bring up the baby topic.
Talk to you soon,
posted on Tuesday, 26 February 2008 | comment on this post
Me And My Two Favourite Men
I don’t know if you are aware but this Sunday there are the Russian presidential elections. Vladimir Putin has been in power for eight years and is not allowed to serve any longer. Dmitry Medvedev appears to be favourite to succeed Putin. He is currently Prime Minister and belongs to the same party as Putin. He will be running against the communist party candidate Zjuganov and the liberal party candidate Zhirinovsky.
The pre-election poll suggests that they are unlikely to win. I have also attached a photo of Putin and myself taken last year.
You may remember that in the previous blog I had mentioned that I would require your artistic assistance in helping to choose a design for my wedding invitation. Unfortunately, it has become a slightly redundant task and now there is only one to choose from. I have deliberated long and hard with myself as to whether to share the design with you as it is not yet perfected. As the problem is with Alex and not myself, you are in luck and will be able to see it for yourself here. Would you get married to a man with head this big?!
Trudi… You read me like an open book. It is cheating! I just wanted a teacher but received a psychologist too! Wait a second… you are getting a degree in child psychology? How old a child would I make?
It is now quite late in Russia. I was hoping to finish my work on Trudi’s phrasal verbs today but I think it might require a bit more work tomorrow.
Talk to you tomorrow,
posted on Thursday, 28 February 2008 | comment on this post
From BBC Learning English
It's 29th February, and that means it's time to say - thank you Anastasia for your 'perfect' blog! Your pictures are fantastic and your mix of private stories and tales of Russia is truly fascinating. We hope you will come back to the blog again as a commentator.
From tomorrow, we have a new blogger: he is Yanko from Brazil. Welcome Yanko!
BBC Learning English team
posted on Friday, 29 February 2008 | comment on this post
My Bonus Blog
It’s the 29th of February on the calendar and I am going to start my final blog with congratulations to all those people for whom this date means more than just another turn of a calendar leaf. My best wishes go to those who were born, got married or got engaged etc on February 29th. It is a special day, make the most of it! :)
I would like to thank everybody for their kind words regarding my pregnancy although I think that this joke got a little out of hand as I am not actually pregnant with twins or ever one for this matter. I do apologise for my strange sense of humour.
Trudi was right when she said that I am going to answer all outstanding questions in my last blog. So here goes.
The reason I am moving to London is that Alex is English. He currently works as a financial adviser in Bristol but has been given a transfer to London. We are both looking forward to starting a married life in a fresh new exciting place.
Trudi, thank you for your best wishes. It was great to have you as a teacher not just for your help with my English but also to hear about your fascinating life in China.
I would also like to thank the BBC Learning English for the opportunity to do this blog and to all those who have contributed over the past month. Here are a few replies to some of your recent comments.
Tanya, the child in the photo is the four-month-old son of my good friend.
Nestor, I hope you had a great Birthday on Tuesday. I know you are new to this web-site, I hope you enjoy it.
Brian, I prefer triplets! ;)
Hyoshil, earthquakes are not a common thing in Russia, but I heard there was a minor one in Moscow a few years ago.
John from China, I hope you enjoy the Olympics. I was interested to read your comments on parenting. I am sure one day I will get to experience all the ups and downs you mention. And hopefully the example I set will be sufficient to keep m children on the straight and narrow.
Stephen, next time you are in Russia you should come to Izhevsk. Maybe it is not as glamorous as Red Square, but my grandmother will make sure you don’t starve.
Kuldeep, you are absolutely right about our Government’s policy to encourage families to have more children. You may be aware that Russian population is shrinking and it has been estimated that families should have 2.48 children to keep the status quo.
And finally, with a tear in my eye here is my final story.
It was another wonderful day in the Forest. The sun rays were dancing on the smooth surface of the Forest pond and little frogs were jumping from one little lily pad to another in preparation to June’s Best jumper Competition. The tension was mounting up…
All the frogs in the pond had been training long and hard to win this competition. They set aside several hours a day for training. Max the frog was the most determined to win. He had been dreaming for weeks of the pride he would feel when he received his gold medal and would get to hear the froggy national anthem croaking out around him. Unfortunately, Max was not the most athletic of frogs, but what he lacked in athleticism he made up for in ruthlessness. Max had noticed that Jim the frog had been performing particularly well in training. He had also noticed that some of the girl-frogs had taken a shine to Jim so Max tried to talk Jim out of training very hard to go on a date with one of the girl-frogs and therefore he had to cut back on training. He managed to put other frogs down with constant bullying until they pulled out of the competition. He had done away with the hopes of other frogs by hiding their jumping shoes.
The day before the competition Max thought to himself, “Bring on the gold medal”. In fact he had done so well that there was only one competitor left, a girl-frog called Lily. She was so good at putting on an English accent that nobody could tell what nationality she was.
They took two jumps each. Max went first and he started with a mediocre jump, then it was Lily’s turn and her jump was so small that she scarcely made it into the water. Max was now so convinced he would win that he forfeited his final jump. Lily lined up again and this time she managed to produce a better leap that was sufficient to beat Max by half a frog’s toe. Max couldn’t believe he had been taken in by her poor first jump and done out of his gold medal. If only he had not eaten up so much time preventing the other competitors from taking part and had just trained a little bit harder…
posted on Friday, 29 February 2008 | comment on this post