Friday, October 14, 2005

Strange Days…

I’ve never been this close to a terrorists attack before (in distance, I mean), but at the same time I’ve never felt so far removed from it either. This horrific act occurred not far from Rostov, but yet I feel that I know nothing about it. The news programs are of course speaking about it but since I cannot understand the language, I know nothing about it. My only source of information is the internet, which does not always provide you with all the details. What I do know is that life here didn’t even seem to pause when the news was heard. People had classes to teach and places to go, so they went. It’s not like the other events I’ve been a part of. Thinking about 9/11 or 7/7, I remember everything just stopped. Life in America, especially on 9/11, didn’t exist during those hours. Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned their televisions on, but here it is not the same thing. Galina, being from that town, was the only way I found out about it. She was speaking with the others in the department and very calmly explained the situation to me. She didn’t say more than what she had to, which was that terrorists took over her home town and that some had died. I don’t think she knew much at that point other than the basic. Whereas, when America was attacked, we watched it live. Not being from here, and especially not being able to communicate effectively with the people, it is awkward to ask questions. I’ve felt from the first day here that if I need to know something I’ll be told, so I’m not comfortable asking questions about it. I don’t know if anyone will talk or wants to talk about it, but my impression, which is often wrong, is that they don’t. Now it might be that Russians, especially those living in the south or Caucasus, are use to this type of event on their land that, while they mourn for it, they know they must continue to live. As Americans we’re not like that; as a society we must watch the pain unfold and then react, perhaps here it is different. Perhaps the pain is too much for them to bear again, so they choose to ignore it. Either way, I feel disconnected from the world right now with this. If I were home, I’d simply think to myself “oh, that sucks,” but that would be all. I wouldn’t let it sink in or effect my day, but being here it hits home more; yet, at the same time, my surroundings don’t seem to be reacting like I feel they should. Today, especially the last few hours, has been a challenging day for me –at one point I’m afraid, but at the same time I feel safe. I feel that all that is going on around me is so distant that it doesn’t affect me. For the first time in my life, I feel cut off from the physical world and completely focused on my world and existence. Is this bad? I can’t say, but all I feel or know is that the life I lived in Pueblo, before coming here, was never so much apart of me and never so much removed from me. It’s an odd feeling…

Away from that subject now, I’ll write more about it when I know more and I’ve processed it. Today, I held my first lecture in front of a class. Now this was just a guest lecture but all the same it was my first time in front of a class as a professor. I can’t really say it felt any different than just giving a presentation in class. The subject was rather boring for me (the topic was “The American Education System”), so I don’t think I was as enthused as I could’ve been. However, the students and their professors seemed at least to act like they were interested. I felt two different feelings coming off the students, and not surprisingly it was based on the students sex what feeling I got. The females, which were the majority of the class, were all well behaved and paid full attention to me, even though I’m sure at times they didn’t know what the hell I was talking about, and from most of the males I got the look of death. It’s funny because I feel that the males here are judging me more then the females. When I meet a female, she’s normally excited to meet and speak with me (as you know from previous posts) but the males seem to look me up and down –paying particular attention to my shoes, because for some reason tennis shoes are just weird for them to see. I haven’t had an opportunity to really speak with a Russian male much, but I don’t think that they so much care about me. Granted I’ve never really gotten along with males my own age, except a few, so it might just be me being paranoid. Although I feel that they are angry with me being here, because the girls are paying particular attention to me, it makes me laugh. I’ve never thought of myself as any competition for anyone, so this is quite weird as well. My finally thought about this is that if any of the males here went to America they’d probably be a hot commodity, and I’d be ignored like I normally was…how being foreign is such a good thing. Going back to my lecture, however, I think it went rather well and I look forward to taking over my own classes.

Another event in my day today was taking a tour of the public library. I believe I posted a picture of the outside already, if not I’ll try and remember to do that, but the inside of the library is awesome. It is a rather modern “Russian” building, and it blows the Pueblo library away. Inside, you’ll find a rather large fountain and what they call “a winter garden,” which is a place for you to just sit, read, study, talk, whatever. This “study area” looks like the inside of a very posh mall though, it’s freaking amazing! The entire inside looks absolutely beautiful and makes me quite envious…if we had a library like this in Pueblo maybe I’d spend more time there. This one definitely beats the cold, sterile hospital look that the Pueblo library gives. Yet, the building is not the only part I should speak about. The library hosts what is called “America Corners: An American Center.” What this is, is simply a place where students can go and do research on America and experience a little of America’s “culture.” They have books, videos, audio, and so on in here. The biggest thing for me though is that EVERYONE working in there speaks English!!!! Of course they are not native speakers but all the same they can communicate with me, which is always nice. Well today, one of the employees there, and I feel horrible that I don’t remember her name (this has always been an issue for me and is worse here), took me on the tour and was very nice. She is about my age and just recently graduated from the University. Her specialty lies in the same area that mine does, well sort of. She’s a linguistic (boring! –sorry Ted), but she’s also studied literature. We sat and talked for about an hour on many different subjects and she’s offered to take me around Rostov more, if I’d like. I’ll probably take her up on that offer, because I’d like to see more of the city. Anyway, she is just another nice English speaker that I’ve meet here. I’ll probably see her quite often too, because they’ve asked me to come and do some activities for them, like speak with students about America and perhaps even leading some discussions in English. That’s it for now, I have to go and tutor the Rector’s son now… At least he doesn’t look at me like he wants to hurt me, but he probably does because I’m the American his father is forcing him to have lessons with.

So it’s early the morning after the previous paragraphs were written. I need to get ready soon, so I’ll make this last paragraph quick. Last night, I went with Natasha, a student of the University that I’ve hung out with before, to a British Film Festival. You see there is a British Counsel in Rostov and quite often they put on community events, and this time it was a film festival. Galina thought that it would be good for me to go to this and be able to watch a movie spoken in English, plus she thought that Natasha could benefit from it as well. Arriving at the festival, I was expecting to see at least one other person who could speak English, maybe even a native speaker, but the only two people in the entire place, and it was packed, that were speaking English were me and Natasha. Yet, I had fun waiting for the movie to begin because there served food and wine! Plus it gave Natasha and I an opportunity to talk more about everything. However, it was soon time to go into the theatre (look I’m British). Upon sitting down the movie started right away; to my surprise or disgust, the movie was in Russian! Why?! I asked myself, but I sat there and watched it anyway. Luckily, here in Russia they do such a bad job at dubbing movies that you can still kind of hear the English track in the background, and this movie was even worse because often the English track was audible more the Russian…this was good for me. I was able to watch the entire movie and follow along with the plot, because I could hear the English. It was also a little relaxing for me, because I got to hear native speakers of English (okay so they were Scottish, but I could still understand them completely). As you can tell, my day today was quite a rollercoaster…just another aspect of being foreign.


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