Archive for October, 2009

Working

October 23rd, 2009

Well, this week has passed much more quickly than last. I’ve had classes every day, where I have talked a little bit about myself, where I come from, what I studied, what I am doing in Ukhta, and about the Fulbright program. Then I answer very difficult questions from students, like “What do you think about teenage problems?”, “What are the most prestigious careers in the United States?” “What is the public relations profession like in the United States?” “What are your impressions of our town?” and “Why did President Obama get a Nobel Prize?” The students are very shy about speaking English in front of me and with some groups, it’s difficult to keep the conversation going. I have a set schedule of classes for Wednesday and Thursday, which I received last week, but for the other days things come up pretty last minute. The week after next, when I start going back to classes I’ve already seen, things will get more difficult. I’ll have to think up specific topics to speak about and research them beforehand. The public relations students especially want me to do something related to their field, which I don’t know anything about.

When I am not in class, I am often sitting in the International Department office. I enjoy being there, since Nadya, Lera, and Vanya are so nice and fun. Sometimes they ask me to edit things in English for them, and otherwise I am writing my own material. Georgii, my boss, wants me to write some materials that the school can use in future years. Since foreign textbooks are so expensive, the university usually uses textbooks written by its own professors, whose English, while good, is not perfect. Most of them have never been to an English-speaking country, and they have very few opportunities to talk with native speakers. Georgii didn’t really get any more specific with his request, and he is very busy and not around much, so I’ve been improvising. I have thought of two big topics and am attempting to compose something fitting about them. The one on the US education system is growing into a monster that may consume me alive, and I am afraid the one on freedom of the press and current issues in mass media may do the same. This promises to be the most difficult part of my job. I want to do a really good job and have more analysis and up-to-date information than the boring, generic essays they usually read, as well as including personal information from my own experience. However, it’s difficult to give a broad, accurate cultural view of these topics that stays in the middle ground in terms of length.

The third part of my job is helping to run the activities of the Language Lovers’ Club. At our first meeting, I talked about myself and about the university system of the US and showed some pictures of Wooster, then answered questions. Our next meeting is the Halloween party on October 30th. (The 31st is “First-Year Students Day” at the university.) We’re trying to organize a Skype conference with Wooster students, then a party in the cafeteria with costumes, candy, and pumpkin-carving. I’m also going to talk a little about American traditions and show pictures, and we have a hand-out about the history of Halloween. I hope we can figure everything out with the technology, coordinating with Wooster, and getting a hold of enough pumpkins and knives…and I need to improvise some sort of costume!

In one of the classes I visited this week was a very energetic girl who suggested that their group organize a trip to a Komi village with me. She herself is Komi and grew up near this village. She got everyone together very quickly and planned out this trip. That evening she came over to tell me the details, which involved taking a 3-hour train, then a 3-hour bus, then, if this one bridge was still in operation, we could take a car to the village, but if it had been taken down for the winter (?) we would have to take a boat and then a car. There would be a press-conference, a Komi dance/show, a dinner of Komi dishes, including reindeer meat, and a party. She got the international department involved, and everything sounded wonderful, but unfortunately we found out that for some reason I have to notify the government a month before traveling. I was disappointed, but I hope we can take this trip some other time.

Today I had dinner with a first-year student. I hadn’t met him before, but he was in the same group as another bunch of students I’d talked to. I was under the impression that his whole group would be there, and in fact he said he’d called some others, but they couldn’t come, so it ended up just being me and him. He spoke English quite well, and we had a nice but awkward dinner. He was very polite, offering to pay for my dinner (which I refused) and he walked me home. He was obviously very excited and proud to be with an American girl.

Tomorrow I’m hoping to hang out with some students and go to the night club next to my dorm that I’ve heard so much about – “Planeta.” Last Sunday I went to a singing class at the apartment of Pavel’s friend Irina that I had met on Friday. It was a lot of fun and I’m planning to go again this week. I also enjoyed yoga last week – although it totally kicked my ass – and want to go regularly. I didn’t sign up for this week because I thought I’d be gone, but next week, definitely.

Today was noticeably chillier than it has been so far. Until now, it’s been comfortable outside – with my coat, I am almost too warm – but today there was a cold wind that froze my face and ears. Soon I’ll have to break out my winter hat with the furry ear-flaps, instead of my “fall” hat. I’m getting used to wearing panty hose, high heels, and makeup every day, and to the sporadic availability of hot water in my apartment. I haven’t been very ambitious with cooking yet. My cookbook hasn’t been much help because I can’t find most of the ingredients it calls for in the Russian supermarket. I mostly make scrambled eggs with veggies or vegetable stir-fry. I did try a pasta recipe with eggs, meat, and cheese the other day. It turned out ok, but I had to guess on the types of cheese and meat I was getting. I think I ended up buying pork when the recipe called for lamb bacon, but it still tasted all right.

Finally, my modem is now working! It’s not the fastest internet but it definitely works. I was looking forward to having internet access in my apartment so I could more effectively work on research and writing here, but so far it has only led to exceptional amounts of wasted time – as I probably could have predicted. Anyway, if you want to Skype, let me know. Weekday evenings are probably best for me (and I’m 8 hours later than EST), but I realize that’s not so convenient for most of you, so Sundays could also work, although I’ll be in high demand. 😉 I hope everyone has a good weekend and to talk to you soon!

An American View on Ukhta

October 17th, 2009

I wrote this article for use in our English language club and for publication on UGTU’s international department website. People here are quite apologetic for the run-down buildings and roads, small apartments, weather, smallness of the town, etc etc. I have a hard time convincing them that all of this doesn’t bother or shock me at all and that I like living here better than Moscow. The only thing that gets to me, so far, are the toilets at the university. They’re always filthy, you can’t sit down, you have to bring your own toilet paper, and then you can’t flush it, you throw it in the trash, which makes it stink. And then, usually, there’s no soap to wash your hands and never any paper towels to dry them. But other than that, I really am enjoying myself so far. Anyway, here’s the article:

The road from Indianapolis to Ukhta is long. While I was waiting for my Russian visa to arrive, I had plenty of time to think about the year ahead. I read everything I could find about Ukhta and tried to imagine what life would be like here. Americans in general have very little idea of what life is like in Moscow, let alone anywhere else in Russia. It is a completely unknown, unimagined place for them, and to me, it is a place that can only be experienced, not explained. Upon learning I was going to Ukhta, Russia for a year, everyone’s first question was, “Where is that?” I explained it in relation to Moscow, the Urals, and the Arctic Circle. And then, “You’ll be cold!” People were surprised to learn that there is a city of 100,000 people up here.

The websites I read also didn’t get me much further than “it’s cold.” I learned that Ukhta had been a Stalinist work camp, that the city mostly depends on oil and gas exploitation, and that there are reindeer, bears, ducks, and many different types of mushroom in the area. I looked at pictures and saw storefronts, birch trees, the facades of buildings. All of this was useful and interesting information, but I wanted to know about everyday life. Where would I live? What were the people like? What did they do for fun? Those questions could only be answered upon arrival.

From start to finish, it took me more than four days to get to Ukhta. I left Indianapolis on a Monday afternoon to fly to Washington, D.C., and then to Moscow, where I spent a day and a half retrieving lost luggage, and then got on the 30-hour train. I was so happy to get to Ukhta Friday evening, to unpack my bags and settle in for a whole academic year. My first impression was that the buildings seemed more run-down than they had been in the pictures, but my apartment was much nicer than I expected, and now that I have seen a lot of the university’s campus, it seems to me that Ukhta is a city in transition. Some buildings are run-down, but others have been redone inside, and the university has a lot of technology that mine in the US didn’t have. Everyone in Ukhta seems to be aware of this city’s importance and potential, and despite the remote location, there is an active interest in making Ukhta a more international city.

I have also been impressed by the people here. In the US, I live in a region we call the Midwest. It has a reputation for being nothing more than corn and soybean fields, but also for being the place where the nicest, most polite people live. (And, by the way, we do have cities there.) The north of Russia, I think, also has a reputation for being far away from urban modernity. However, the people are much warmer and more inviting than those in Moscow, in my experience. Additionally, the people I have met here are by no means country bumpkins. They are worldly, open-minded, and informed about current events and cultural topics.

After all that, I will say that I am not looking forward to the coldest months here. But so far, the weather is not worse than, say, December in Indianapolis, and my new heavy-duty coat is keeping me nice and toasty.

Новоселье (Move-in/Housewarming)

October 17th, 2009

So far, my time in Ukhta has been spent getting acquainted with the town and university. It seems my hosts are afraid to leave me alone for any significant period of time, lest I get bored. I am grateful for their attention and efforts to make me feel welcome, but it has also been tiring and has made it difficult to get simple things like grocery shopping or laundry done.
On Sunday, since Vanya, Vika, and Lera were all busy, they enlisted a guy named Pavel (Pasha) to entertain me. As far as I can tell, Pasha recently finished some graduate work at the university and works there in some capacity, and has also designed websites for a number of organizations in town. He took me to his friend’s dacha (country summer home) not far from the city for a birthday party. The attendees were all members of his graduate “group.” When Russians enter a program of study at a university, they are placed in a group and take all of their classes with this group until they graduate. Pasha and his group apparently gelled quite well, and they were all really nice, fun people. Most of the people there were married couples, around 30 years old on average. Pasha and another girl were the only single ones, and I felt a bit awkward because everyone (including Pasha) was sort of treating me like his girlfriend. It’s also a lot more difficult in large groups to understand what everyone is saying and get a word in edgewise. So many people are talking at once, and by the time I’ve understood what’s going on and formulated a Russian thought of my own, they’ve moved on to something else.
The dacha, however, is one of my favorite parts of Russian culture. The little dacha neighborhoods are adorable. Most of the houses are pretty small, bare-bones, wooden constructions, heated by wood-burning stoves, but they’re more spacious than the apartments Russians live in in the city. This dacha was entirely constructed by its owner. The larger space makes the dacha perfect for parties, with tons of home-made salads, plates of herbs, shishkebabs, and potatoes. Here, Russians dress more simply than on weekdays in the city, and tromp through the muddy gardens to the outhouse. And yes, every dacha has its own vegetable garden. In any case, we ate, drank, talked, and played games for hours and hours, and when I got home I found that Vika had called several times (there was not much reception out in the countryside). She came over, and we went to the pizzeria and tried to get my modem working, which is an ongoing exercise in frustration. The damn thing was expensive, too. Vika offered to take me to a yoga class with her on Saturday, which should be fun.
My university experience began on Monday. In the morning I met with Georgiy Korshunov, the assistant to the rector (president) of UGTU. The rector himself is currently away on business. Georgiy talked to me a bit about the town and university’s history and about the university’s international ambitions. Apparently the rector is very eager to develop any possible connections with other universities and to have student exchanges with US universities, or perhaps summer study camps for international students. He’s also trying to improve the university’s humanities programs. UGTU is a technical university, and most of its programs focus on various aspects of gas and oil production, but it also has departments for foreign languages, translation, public relations, architecture (one of its best programs), and more.
I got a bit of a tour of the university and then met with a few of the English professors. The university has a few different parts of campus spread throughout the town, and the buildings (called ‘korpuses’) are all quite different in terms of modernity. The main corpus is of course the nicest, and it has clearly been heavily redone very recently by the major companies in town. There are displays of Russia’s gas lines and about the histories of Gazprom, Lukoil, Transneft’, and so on. In this part of campus they also have very high-tech classrooms and nice offices. The rest of the buildings are more like what I saw in Moscow…much older, Soviet structures. The architecture hallway, though, is pretty cool since it has been completely painted over in murals by the students.
Anyway, since then I’ve been attending a couple classes and talking to teachers about what my responsibilities will be. They aren’t completely sure what to do with me, since they’ve never had a Fulbright ETA before, but so far it seems I’ll be attending lots of classes every week, helping the teachers, maybe doing special segments in class, and outside of class planning presentations, holiday events, and tea hours for the “Language Lovers Club.” I need to learn some specialized English vocab in the public relations, economics, and business spheres. Georgiy also wants me to do a segment on the university TV station once or twice a month and write some supplementary reading material for future use in the university. So I’m not teaching my own classes, but I definitely have plenty to work on! So far I’ve gone to two classes, met with one group of students outside of class, edited a few English publications of the international office, gone to a belly-dancing class, and gone twice to register my passport (the first time, the office was closed unexpectedly). Yesterday I had a conversation hour with one group at 1:00 (they are great – first-years, and very excited about speaking English with me and generally hanging out and showing me the town), a meeting with some professors at 2:30, and Language Lovers Club at 5:00. All of that went pretty well, but I hope that our next club event – Halloween – will get the members (and me) to relax and feel more comfortable speaking English together.
After the club last night I went with Pavel to dinner at his friend’s apartment. It was great to be in a small group of people where I could carry on a conversation (although the friend talked most of all), and then we watched a movie that was super-badly dubbed, so that I watched it half in English and half in Russian – but I understood the Russian parts completely. It was a new movie with Jennifer Love Hewitt, very sad – the Russian title translates to “If Only.” And today I’m just chilling out, finally doing laundry, and getting some research and work done.
Other random things about life here:
– There is a cat who lives in the lobby of my dorm. His name is Boris, and he sleeps on the windowsill and during the day plays with balls of newspaper or hides under one of the several baby strollers that are in the lobby (I’m not sure if they belong to students…). Apparently he was wandering around the street and the dorm ladies took pity on him. No one, however, takes pity on the many homeless dogs to be found here (as is typical all over Russia). They run around, dirty and looking panicked, sometimes on three legs, with the fourth, injured one tucked up behind. I don’t understand how they survive the winters here…
– A propos, yesterday I saw a man walking a dog dressed in a sweater with a fake fur-lined hood.
– On Wednesday there was snow on the ground when I woke up, but it melted pretty quickly, and today’s weather wasn’t too bad.
– I’ve seen tons of mothers walking cold-weather baby strollers, complete with metal frames, insulated carriages, and big rubber tires. One even had a sort of insulated sack for the child (the material was like that of insulated lunch bags) where he hung suspended, his entire body kept in a straight line, arms pinned to his sides.
– There are absolutely ginormous holes in the streets and sidewalks. I wouldn’t want to drive here.

– For now, it gets light before I wake up (which is usually between 8 and 9) and dark around 5-6 PM.\

– Thursday night I had no hot water and couldn’t take a shower. Luckily, it came back Friday morning, but soon after my shower, the electricity went out for two hours. Oh, Russia. 🙂

Pictures

October 13th, 2009

Just FYI, the link to my Picasa photo album is now in the sidebar. Check out my apartment and the train-baggage adventure!

The Journey North

October 11th, 2009

Moscow

First adventure…not finding my luggage.

When I was waiting at baggage claim, I had the sudden realization that there was a distinct possibility my luggage hadn’t made the 40-minute flight change in Washington as easily as I had. This turned out to be the case, and in spite of my brain’s sorry state (addled by the long flights and the seven total hours of restless sleep I’d gotten the two previous nights), I managed to convey the right information to the right people and was told I could come back the next day, when my bags had come in on the next flight from DC.

Second adventure…having just missed the hourly express train and worried that Alisa was waiting for me, I took a cab to her apartment for 2,000 rubles (~$66) and over 2 hours of driving. Awaiting me were several pleasant things: Alisa, homemade Russian fare, and a shower (but unfortunately, no new clothes to wear).

Third adventure…finding the cleverly hidden Fulbright office to talk to Rebecca and pick up my train ticket, which I then exchanged at the train station, since I wouldn’t be able to make my scheduled time after getting my bags.

Fourth adventure…the big city life.

Metro rides (and transportation in general) eat up more of your life than you tend to notice in Moscow. After I exchanged my train ticket, it was about 6 PM – i.e., there was no point in going back to Alisa’s, since we were meeting her friend downtown for dinner at eight. So instead, I went to the designated metro stop and, through a combination of brisk walking and espresso, managed to stay awake until Alisa arrived. Upon finding her friend and the restaurant, we discovered it was full. Thus, another metro ride and loooong walk later (at least, so it seemed to my jet-lagged body), we found another place. It was quite nice and hip, but so far I’m glad to be living in Ukhta, where anywhere worth going is pretty much on one street (and if not, it’s still not far).

Fifth adventure…finding my luggage.

After a fantastic full night’s sleep on Alisa’s host’s couch, I left at 10 AM for the airport. With perfect timing, I arrived at the Paveletsky train station at 10:45 and took the 11:00 train to the airport. I found my bags (a 50-pound rolling suitcase and a 34-pound duffel) easily and carried them back through the airport to buy a return train ticket, then halfway back again to a small cafe, where I ate a pretty disgusting sandwich and waited. I already felt extremely gross in my 2-day-old clothes and sweating from carrying heavy bags while wearing a sweatshirt and raincoat. The train back was uneventful, and then came the metro, which was an experience I wouldn’t ever choose to repeat. Rolling suitcases + huge crowds trying to stuff themselves onto one escalator = bad news. 84 pounds of luggage + multiple staircases also = bad news. No one offered to help me until the last set of stairs, out of Alisa’s metro stop. A guy took hold of one handle on my rolling suitcase while I took the other (still holding the duffel, of course). By this time I’m drenched in sweat and my arms barely work. “Is it heavy?” the guy asked. “Very,” I said. He gave me an incredulous look and said “What are you talking about! It’s light!” Jesus. In any case, I was soon back in the apartment, and this time the shower felt even better, especially since I got to put on clean clothes afterwards.

Sixth adventure…nostalgia.

All in all, it was quite surreal being back in Moscow. Alisa’s apartment was very similar to mine from two years ago, and it especially smelled the same. Russian food has a very distinct smell…which is probably mostly oil and dill. Alisa and I spoke English together, and I would occasionally forget to speak Russian to waiters, people on the street, etc., when we were together. Speaking English in a foreign country is strange to me. On Wednesday night I decided to check out my old hood in Moscow…Novoslobodskaya, what what? I ate at the chic Italian cafe near the metro, where of course there was a fashion show on TV, then walked around the university and the entrance to my apartment and up and down Novoslobodskaya street. Not much has changed there; all the restaurants we used to go to still exist. But I was especially looking for the Butyrki, a famous prison I’d read about in The Gulag Archipelago. It’s been around since tsarist times, was infamous in Stalinist times, and is still in operation today. And it’s only a few blocks north of my former apartment. I did end up finding it; there’s no sign, but it’s the only portion of the street where there are no storefronts. Some of the windows at street level had bars on them (would they really keep prisoners in rooms looking out on the street?), and in another I saw grey linen sets, wrapped in plastic and stacked to the ceiling.

Seventh adventure…the train ride, Russian men in various forms.

The next morning, I said good-bye to Alisa and her khozyaika (host) and boarded my 12:30 train to Ukhta. I wanted to get there early enough to put my rolling suitcase in storage under the train, but unfortunately I did not, so I had to take all my baggage with me to the compartment. When I got there, I found I was sharing the compartment with three Russian men, which, combined with my still-rusty Russian, made me nervous right off the bat. However, they were all quite tame, and one in particular was very nice; he came up with a solution to my luggage problem, which was of course to use the straps meant to keep you from falling off the top bunks to tie my (50-pound, remember) bag to the ceiling (see pictures).

It stayed like that all 30 hours without budging. Ingenious. Ours was, in general, quite a quiet compartment. Two of the men were traveling together, and they mostly talked to each other, drank a good bit of vodka, read auto magazines, and took long smoke breaks. Nikolai, the third one, made a bit of conversation both with me and with the others, but mostly kept to himself and spent a lot of time sleeping and looking out the window. All three of them were going to Vorkuta, which is the end of the rail line, right on the Arctic Sea.

After he had helped with my bag, Nikolai said, “You have a somewhat not-Russian pronunciation.”

“Yes, I’m American,” I explained.

“Okh! First time in my life…” he said, “Sixty-three years and for the first time I’m seeing an American. And where are you going, if it’s not a secret? To a friend’s, to your parents…?”

“To the university. I’m working there for a year.”

“As a teacher? And here I was thinking we had an athlete probably traveling with us. From the Baltics, I thought, by the accent, and you’re so tall, I thought probably anathlete going to a competition or something. And here we are, with a pedagogue!”

I did have one unsavory experience on the train. I was standing outside to get some fresh air at one of our stops when a short, red-headed man, obviously drunk, came up to me and said “Are you going with me?” I gave a short shake of my head and looked away. He stepped up even closer to me and said “Girl, I asked you, are you going with me?” “No,” I said distinctly and gave him my best withering look, whereupon he left. Nikolai, who was standing next to me, said, “He forgot who he’s traveling with. Doesn’t know where he’s going or who he’s with.” I had my doubts about that, since he had used the non-vehicular verb of motion, but I decided to trust the native speaker. Perhaps I had been hasty in assuming that, just because the guy was drunk and rude, he must also be lecherous.

Later that evening, however, my assumption turned out to be correct. I met the guy again in the narrow train corridor, where he was blocking my way to the bathroom. “Come on,” he said, “come with me, we’ll work something out…” In my least amused voice, I said “Excuse me” and tried to pass. As I did, though, he leaned over and kissed my chest, a little below the collar bone. (I was wearing heels, and his head came up only about to my neck, so he didn’t have to lean far for this maneuver.) Shocked and horrified, I pushed him away and scampered off to the toilet. I wish I had the Russian skills to tell him off properly. But I didn’t see him again, and fortunately, like I said, the men in my compartment were perfectly polite.

Ukhta

When I got to Ukhta around 8:30 PM, my main university contact, Victoria Evgenevna (Vika), and another person I’d e-mailed, Ivan Alexandrovich (Vanya) met me with flowers, enthusiasm, and very fast Russian. I had expected Vika to be a middle-aged woman and was surprised to find she was only about my age. Vanya is even younger than me – he’s a senior at the university. They took me to my apartment, which is in the “hotel” section of the dorm. It is HUGE, and much nicer than I expected. I have a big couch, a private bathroom, a big bedroom, a desk, a TV, dishes and silverware, and a fridge and tiny electric chainik (water heater for tea). There is also a nice, big kitchen with some pots and pans that is shared among the hotel residents (of which so far I’ve seen one). On a list in the hallway it says my room costs about $66/night – reasonable for a hotel, but not an amount I want to pay for eight months. When I saw how nice it was, though, I asked, “How much is this going to cost?” and Vanya just laughed and said, “Oh, it’s not that much.”

Right after we arrived, Vanya and Vika took me to the pizzeria across the street for food, beer, and free WiFi. Unfortunately, the WiFi didn’t work, but forced conversation in Russian was already working its magic. I had fun talking to them and didn’t feel like a total doofus. I was, however, quite cold in my fleece. I already need my winter coat in Ukhta – it’s at or below freezing after the sun goes down at about 6 PM. Today it snowed a bit.

The next day, Saturday, I woke up around nine and organized my stuff for a while. Vanya came by around 2:00 with another woman who works at the university, Valeria. They showed me around town a bit, and then Valeria took me to this other place where she works selling Nikken products, where she gave me a massage with this back-roller thing they have. It was strange, but extremely pleasant. Afterwards, we went to a show by their most famous local singer, Lyubov’ Roze. She is really something else. She was a decent singer (except on the high notes) and seems to have done a lot, but the songs were so completely unoriginal, with synthetic, typical Russian backup music. It was her 30-year anniversary of being on stage, so after she sang several songs, there was a second half of the show where people talked about what she meant to them, there was a video about all the different groups she had created and led (Choir of Komi Songs, Choir of Russian Songs, Choir of Ukrainian Songs, some sort of children’s choir, etc), and all of these groups and a bunch of local dance groups came out and performed. That part was quite interesting, and the dances were really good. A lot of the thank-you talks were repetitive and cheesy, though, and the cheesiest part was when the woman’s daughter came out to sing a song in praise of her dear mama. This daughter is in her twenties, by the way, and she definitely does not sing as well as her mother. Anyway, the funniest part of all of this was the involvement of Gazprom. Gazprom is big in this city, and apparently Lyubov Roze works for them in some capacity. Anyway, among her more normal CD titles were also “Songs about Ukhta”, “Songs about Gazprom” (!), and “Songs about Gas-Related Work.” Gas, in this case, means natural gas, of course. She sang one of these gas-related songs with a backup choir of six men called the “Gazoviki” – “The Gasmen.” Incredible.

After the concert, Vanya and I went out to eat, which was a bit awkward, but fun in general. Then we went to buy a USB modem for me…after three stores, we bought one and took it back to my apartment to try out. Turns out, though, it’s not compatible with Linux. As with most things, there is a way to make it work in Linux by fiddling around a bit, but we needed to download programs to fix it and had no way to do that. We tried all kinds of stuff, like hooking up to a wired network in the dorm that Ivan had a password for – but that was not recognizing my computer for some reason – and Vanya tried going somewhere else, downloading the needed program to his flash drive, and bringing it back, but that didn’t work either. The instructions he’d found on his phone’s internet for how to fix the problem made no sense to me. So eventually we gave up, and I decided to go to an Internet cafe and try it myself on Sunday. I’m currently in the pizzeria, where I’m now getting wireless, but I still can’t work out this modem problem.

Oh, also, there is no fitted sheet on my bed, only a flat sheet that doesn’t cover the whole mattress, so I told Vanya I was missing a sheet (I don’t know how to specify ‘fitted sheet’ in Russian). He notified the dorm ladies, and one came to check things out. She looked at the bed and said, “There’s a sheet there! I was told you had no sheets.” “I have one sheet, but there should be another,” I said, and showed her how the sheet was not fitted. “What other sheet?” she said, “There’s your sheet, there’s the comforter, that’s it. You want two sheets?” “Uh…no, that’s ok.”

Everywhere else I’ve been in Russia, there have been fitted sheets….but oh, well. It won’t keep me from sleeping.