Archive for November, 2009

Winter

November 28th, 2009

I really can’t believe it’s been another week again.

This Wednesday it was -16 and on Thursday, -25. Wednesday night was the worst…within two minutes of leaving work I was sure my nose was going to fall off. Thursday wasn’t as bad (perhaps because it wasn’t windy) but I’m not looking forward to colder temperatures. Everything covered by my coat, hat, boots, etc is ok, but my face and the part of my legs not covered by coat and boots are very cold. Even with panty hose, long underwear, and jeans, my legs completely freeze. I can’t imagine -30 or less. I think in the Midwest last January it was briefly around -20 or maybe even -25 (remember the Celine Dion concert, Mom, Kelly, and Maritza?). But I hardly need remind you that this is November, not January. Since Thursday, though, it’s been around -8 to -10, though, which is totally comfortable. 😉

Friday was my Thanksgiving English club meeting, which didn’t go super well. It wasn’t bad, but not a lot of people came, I didn’t have much to say, and it was a bit awkward. I think they enjoyed the Gilmore Girls episode though. In a couple weeks we’re having a Christmas Vacation movie night.

After the English club meeting last night, things got much better. Well…first they got awkward as Nikita, the same first-year student I’d hung out with alone before, announced that he was going to walk me home. I didn’t have time to go home before the VIP English club meeting, though, so instead we went to Russian Subway. It was very similar to the American version, except that they have beer on tap and an air hockey table, and in the little cookie case, instead of cookies and chips there are pastries and sukhariki (like little croutons to eat with beer). I got a sandwich called “Surprise”, which was chicken and cheese with the usual Subway vegetables. Eh.

The VIP English club (which, in this case, was me and Nadya and two of her friends) was a lot of fun. We sat in a coffeeshop and just talked in English for several hours. After that, I went home and napped for almost an hour before meeting Oleg and Yuliya to try out Planeta one more time. It was a lot better than Halloween. I know O and Y better now, and the music was tons better, and I was in a dancing mood. They were a little disappointed that I went home at 3, but even though I love dancing, staying out later than that is just not my style. I like to sleep at night and wake up in the morning. Plus I am old now and my knees hurt. 😉 Oh, and by the way, I’m happy to report that the men in Ukhta clubs bear no relation to the obnoxious specimens to be found in Moscow.

Right now I’m boiling potatoes to mash. I made bacon bits and bought some “spices for potato dishes” (couldn’t find chives) and I’m quite excited. After I eat I’m going to Sosnogorsk (about a half hour from Ukhta) to visit a girl named Kristina. While I was making the bacon I met a man named Sergei who’s staying in the hotel while he refs some basketball games. Although I have a super busy weekend, he was insistent on having coffee and talking to me sometime. So I guess after I return from Sosnogorsk I’ll be hanging out with him…I’ll let you know how it goes.

Oh, and I finally put more pictures up! So look at them!

Russian Birthday Week

November 22nd, 2009

Dear friends,

This week has been very busy. Tuesday I went to the lyceum (elementary/secondary school) for the first time. I talked to a few sixth- and tenth-grade classes, which was surprisingly fun. The tenth-graders speak quite well and the high school kids are much less shy around me than the college kids. They asked tons of questions, and some sixth-graders asked for my e-mail and phone number after class. I said I didn’t have a phone because I don’t want sixth-graders calling me at all hours of the day… Anyway, I’ll be actually teaching a class there on Tuesdays, and on Thursdays I’m leading a conversation club.

                The other event of this week was wiping my computer, once again, to install Windows. When several programmers spend hours with your computer not being able to make it work consistently, that is a problem. It’s easier for everyone if I just use a normal OS. Haha. Anyway, my little Dell Inspiron 700m has been through a lot in its time…Windows, Ubuntu, and now a Russian version of Windows that can’t be changed to English and has strange generic versions of programs that I don’t recognize.

                Wednesday was my birthday. Lots of people congratulated me, and in Russian you can’t just say happy birthday, you also have to wish the person love, happiness, all good things, luck, and so on and so forth. I’ve gotten lots of presents, including two Russian cookbooks, a stuffed, talking crocodile from a well-known Russian cartoon, eyeshadow, flowers, a big picture frame, a Led Zeppelin CD, wool socks, a balloon, chocolate, and a couple cakes.  On Wednesday we celebrated in the international department, on Thursday a class threw me a surprise party during their lesson, on Friday I had some friends over and then went to an unrelated party with Nadya’s friends, and on Saturday I went out for pizza with some students. It’s been fun.

                For the past few days there has been a dance contest in the sport center next to my dorm. Yesterday afternoon I went to see the hip-hop portion, which was pretty cool. The boys were a lot better than the girls (most of them just looked like they were spazzing out), but it was fun to watch. The costumes (baggy sweatpants, glittery baseball hats, headbands, etc) were funny, and there were little kids there too, some of whom were really good. Tonight I’m going to see the ballroom competition, which I’ve heard is even better, and then I’m watching the Colts game with a student. Woot!

                Other than that, I have to plan my lessons for tomorrow and Tuesday, which I’m kind of nervous about, and I’m also trying to write an article in Russian for a newspaper about my impressions of Ukhta…not my favorite topic. Oh, speaking of which, I also gave an impromptu short interview for the UGTU TV station yesterday at the dance competition. It was pretty sucky, since it was in Russian, and I would be bad at speaking off the cuff about “youth movements” even in English. Oh well. I hope it serves their purposes anyway.

                Until next weekend. It’s supposed to be -20 C here by then, so I’ll let you know how that goes. 😉

                Michelle

Наблюдения

November 15th, 2009

So this week I was supposed to be going to a bunch of classes, but we had quarantine starting on Wednesday due to the high percentage of ill students at the university. So I got to sleep in for a couple days and just come into the office in the afternoons to do a bit of work. On Friday we had our video conference with Wooster. Few students came because of the quarantine, and we had technical problems, meaning the actual conference only ended up being like 10 minutes, but we all had a fun time speaking English together anyway. Someday we’ll actually get the video conference thing together. After the conference I went to the apartment of some students from Vorkuta, the next town north, above the Arctic Circle. They served me okroshka, a cold soup made on a base of watered-down kefir (similar to plain yogurt – also popular in France) with potatoes, cucumbers, dill, parsley, and ham. It was interesting, but not my favorite example of Russia fare. I enjoyed the bliny (like crepes) much better – served with plov (rice with meat and spices) or sweetened condensed milk or strawberry jam. Mmmm. We had fun talking, and they gave me a keychain and pen from Vorkuta – written on the pen, for some reason, are the words “Vorkuta: Capital of the World.” They also showed me a hilarious video of people trying to walk there in February, but the wind is so strong that it’s impossible. A grown man tries for a while and gives up, and then there is a little boy who tries for twice as long, but he just can’t move! If he goes forward a couple steps he is then immediately knocked over and slides back three times as far on the ice. The only successful people were a group of four adults with linked arms moving together.

Yesterday Masha (third-year student) came over to teach me her recipe for borsch. I know several of my readers are cooking enthusiasts, so I’ll go into detail here. If you’re not interested in a recipe for beet soup, skip to the next paragraph. 🙂 The first thing we did was to boil a boned chicken breast (usually ham or beef is used for borsch, but we were short on time) and two beets (separately) – the beets for 1-1.5 hours and the chicken for 2. While that was happening we drank some tea and then chopped up three or four raw potatoes into small cubes and thinly sliced about the same amount of cabbage. When the beets were done we let them cool and then peeled and chopped them into matchstick-sized strips. We also chopped up a third of a large carrot, half a tomato, and half of an onion. These we cooked in a frying pan (carrots, then onion, then beets and tomatoes) and added a bit of water to let them sit for a few minutes. Masha likes to fry these together to add flavor, but traditionally they are just added to the broth like the rest of the veggies. When the chicken was done, we removed it from the broth, which we then salted and added in the potatoes and a bay leaf. When the potatoes were almost cooked, we added the cabbage, and when that was almost cooked, we added the fried veggies. We cut up the chicken, removing the bones, and added that back into the broth. Then we let it sit on low heat for half an hour, and when serving added fresh dill and parsley and a spoonful of sour cream. It doesn’t taste exactly like borsch I’ve had in the past, probably partly because of the chicken and partly because I think we should have had more beets in relation to the other veggies, as well as more salt. But it’s still good! Pictures to follow.

After Masha left, I went to a concert of two sisters named Anesh and Eka Dzhanelidze. They are from Ukhta but are of Georgian ethnicity (thus the last name in -idze), and they are famous. Apparently they went to Los Angeles and won some awards and stuff, as everyone keeps telling me. Anyway, the concert was pretty cool. I was super creeped out when it opened with a recording of Queen’s “The Show Must Go On” to cute pictures of the two sisters growing up and performing on stage. For those of you who know that song well, you’ll recognize that besides the chorus, the lyrics are not at all appropriate for this purpose. Anyway, then when they actually came out I was a bit nervous about their singing abilities – they began with a back and forth series of “ooo”’s where I really couldn’t tell if they were in tune at all because it was so strange. Later it got better, though, and in a way I appreciated the realism of the show. They clearly have amazing voices, just not 100% consistently. Also, they are both incredibly beautiful, but the older sister does have kind of a pudgy stomach and wasn’t always wearing the most flattering dresses. But they sang quite well, in Russian, Georgian, and even in English with really good American accents. The younger sister did Regina Spektor’s “Dance Anthem of the 80’s”, just her and the keyboard, which was amazing. They also randomly sang “Merry Christmas Baby” with “Auld Land Syne” as a lead-in, and at the end of the concert, just as at the First-Year Students’ Show, they released a whole bunch of confetti and little paper streamers onto the stage and crowd. Must be a bitch to clean up.

Other random stuff that’s happened lately:

During our walk in the woods, Pasha and I were talking about different places we’d traveled and ended up getting confused about the definition of a country and who handles all the paperwork when statuses are unclear:

Pasha: “I was in Abkhazia not long ago.” [Abkhazia and South Ossetia are breakaway regions of Georgia. Russia recognized their independence after the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia.]

Me: “Before or after the war?”

P: “The war between South Ossetia and Georgia? Before. We left, literally, right as it was starting.”

M: “Wow. Did you need a visa to get into Abkhazia?”

P: “No, no, we didn’t.”

M: “But do you need a visa to go to Georgia?” [As far as I know, all former Soviet states except Belarus now require visas from Russian travelers.]

P: “I don’t know, Georgia’s a little further than Abkhazia, you see…”

M: “But before the war, Abkhazia was a part of Georgia.”

P: “I don’t know, maybe officially, but they’ve always ruled themselves, they have their own president, …”

M: “Well, some regions of Russia also have their own presidents, but they’re still part of Russia.”

P: “No, we have regional governors, it’s different.”

M: “When I was in Kazan the sign on the government building said ‘President of Tatarstan.’”

P: “Oh, well, yes, but Tatarstan’s different. It’s its own thing…”

M: “But it’s a part of Russia, if Americans want to go to Tatarstan they need a Russian visa.”

P: (Laughing) “Ok, well, I don’t know. But Abkhazia is fully independent now as I understand.”

M: “Well…not exactly. Only two or three countries have recognized it.”

P: “Really? Hmm…”

I’m surprised at the amount of birds here. Pigeons are all over the place (and they don’t even fly out of the way when you walk through groups of them on the sidewalk), as well as sparrows and some other small birds with yellow breasts. When we walked into the woods we immediately got a surround-sound burst of chirping. Strange in the fall, with snow all around.

For the past week or two, the brother of our university’s rector (president) has been staying in the hotel where I live. I met him one day while I was sitting in the kitchen reading, waiting for my bliny to be done. He found out who I was and now always talks to me when he sees me. He’s very loud, and I always hear him talking on the phone through the walls at night. So one day I was on my way to the kitchen when he came in the hotel door from the dorm lobby. He saw me and immediately cried out “Oh! What a beauty!” I just chuckled politely, and as I readied my things in the kitchen, I could hear him locking the door, still saying, “Beauty, beauty, beauty! What a beauty!” He poked his head in the kitchen and said, “What a beauty! You’ve lost weight, I think.” It had maybe been two days since I’d seen him. “We’ll talk later,” he said as he went to his room. This type of man, in any language, makes me uncomfortable. I guess they think they’re being nice and flattering, making women feel good, but it’s just super awkward, and whatever they’re saying is quite obviously more for self-gratification than for the sake of truth, so it’s not flattering at all. Anyway, next time I saw him he acted more normal and just joked with me about the weather, which I get all the time. He lives in Sochi, though, so he’s even less accustomed to the cold than I am. Last night I saw him while finishing up the borsch, and he was boiling some frozen pelmeni (Russian version of ravioli) and clearly has never cooked anything before in his life. I thought I was bad, but seriously. He put them in boiling water that was almost to the top of the pot. “Too much water, right?” he said, “What should I do?” Soon he had the bright idea of spooning some out. Then he kept leaving the kitchen, upon which the water promptly boiled over every time, and I had to make sure it didn’t spill everywhere. Every time he came back he asked me if they were done, since I, being a woman, would obviously know instinctively. He seemed truly clueless and kept saying, “What to do? Just leave them a bit longer?” Then, when I finally told him they were done, he poured them into a big bowl without draining the water and took them to his room to watch the soccer game.

Whenever I’m near the main building for classes, I eat lunch in the cafeteria there with the International Department staff. They disparage the quality of the food there – it’s probably on a level with Wooster’s cafeteria – but I love eating there anyway. I usually don’t get the main dishes, just soup and salad (salad: chopped-up vegetables and meat in mayonnaise, usually), and some sort of pastry “for tea,” as they say. Russian soups are my favorite, especially borsch, with shchi and solyanka a close second and third, respectively. They are much more flavorful than most broth soups that we eat in the US, and it’s nice to have something light but warm for lunch – which is probably why soup is the dish of choice for Russians.

The attitude towards alcohol here is, as far as I have seen, very different from that in Moscow. People do talk about drinking a lot and about the Russian penchant for beer and vodka, but they never seem to actually drink a lot. The first weekend, when I was at the dacha, everyone was drinking, but nowhere near enough to be drunk (except three huge guys who came later and drank two whole bottles of vodka among themselves). At the bar with the third-year student Vika, I had two drinks, and she and her friends each had one. When I was at Planeta, the students I was with also had one drink or none at all. At the bar with the first-year students Nikita and Sasha, I had one beer and they each had a Coke. Sasha said he didn’t drink at all. When I was walking with the third-year student Masha last weekend, she seemed shocked that American students get drunk every weekend and many even drink to the point of blacking out or throwing up. When talking with a student named Kristina, I asked her what she did over the weekend. She said she hung out at home with her family and friends. “Like all students, probably,” I said. “No,” she answered, “most students whore around the clubs and get drunk!” I said that I hadn’t seen that and that everyone I’d been out with had barely drunk at all. “You were just lucky with your company, then!” she said. I have several possible explanations for this disconnect: 1. Men drink much more than women – especially middle-aged and older men – so I haven’t been exposed to it.. 2. Students are shy of drinking too much in front of me. 3. The drinking culture here, as in Europe, is different, since the drinking age is younger. People may drink more but get drunk less; getting drunk is not an ‘event’ like for underage/recently of age US college students. 4. The younger generations (younger than me) are more aware of the problems alcohol has caused in Russia and avoid getting drunk. 5. Or maybe I just haven’t been invited to the real parties yet, and people don’t drink in clubs because it’s too expensive.

Scenes

November 8th, 2009

So, last week I forgot to write about the День Первокурсников, or First-Year Students’ Day, that I saw last Saturday. The closest analogy at Wooster would probably be the Culture Show. On First-Year Students’ Day, all of the students (mostly first-years, but others as well) put on a show in the Culture Palace – the main theater / show venue in town. Each department has its own slot in the program. The ones at the beginning mostly just had one or two of their most talented students do a dance or sing a song. The bigger departments at the end, though, did longer skits about why their departments were the best. One was done like an awards show where students from the department performed and won awards over actual famous artists, and another told the story of first-year students learning to be stylish in the Gas and Oil Industry Department, only to find, to their dismay, that they couldn’t actually dress like that on the job site. It was pretty funny. The whole thing was MC’d by two older students who had won “Miss UGTU” in 2008 and 2009. It’s difficult to explain, but the whole thing was pretty sweet. I was impressed by the effort that had gone into it – making videos, recording all of the songs that the students sang, learning dances, and getting together all of the intense costumes and fancy dresses. At this show I also (briefly) saw United Bit perform for the first time – that’s UGTU’s modern / hip-hop dance troupe that has won tons of awards all over Russia. They’re pretty amazing – YouTube them to see some dances.

On Tuesday this week I was helping teach a class on gerunds. The students were doing translation exercises out loud, and there were two sentences in particular that caused some trouble. The first sentence we had was “Excuse my being so breathless. I’m not really breathless, it’s just the excitement.” This is an awkward statement in English anyway, but the Russian students didn’t understand the word “breathless.” The first translation went something like, “I’m sorry that I’m not breathing. (Извините, что я не дышу.) I actually am breathing but I am just emotional.” Everybody laughed. The teacher asked me if I thought it was correct, and I said, “Well, I don’t think you can say that in Russian, can you?” I asked the translating student what he would say if he ran up the stairs and was out of breath, and he said “задыхаюсь,” so we used that. Later, that same student got a sentence that said something like “He felt almost a gloomy satisfaction at the thought of all these disasters happening at once.” This time, nobody could get their heads around the phrase “gloomy satisfaction.” They were trying to translate it as “He did not receive satisfaction,” but I tried to explain that he did feel satisfaction, but it was gloomy. Of course he would not be happy that a lot of very bad things were happening, but maybe just the fact that there were so many at once was exciting in a way. Or maybe he had predicted these disasters and felt satisfied that he was right. Or maybe it was Schadenfreude – maybe he didn’t like the people to whom the disasters were happening. However, they still were baffled (even the teacher) so either they didn’t understand my English, or you really just can’t be gloomily satisfied in Russian.


In another class this week, I was given some insight into student dorm life. The teacher asked the students to talk about their living situations and asked who lived in the dormitories. Only one student said she did, and the teacher asked if it was comfortable for her. She said yes, but another student who lived at home said that, although he didn’t know from personal experience, he thought it would not be comfortable to live in the dorms. When asked why, he gave the reason that the dorms have a curfew. They close at 11 PM and don’t open again until 6 AM. (Luckily I’m special, so the security-woman will let me in at any time.) The teacher agreed that she considered that an inconvenience. She often tries to get students to recognize and try to solve the seemingly entrenched problems of the Russian education system, so she turned on the girl who lived in the dorms and said, “How can that be comfortable? I think it is wrong, what is the reason for keeping students out of their rooms? That is where they live, it is their home. Why don’t you try to change this? How can it be comfortable for you?” The girl explained that it didn’t matter, that students always find ways into their rooms, even if it means climbing up a bed sheet into a third-floor window. So apparently there’s no motivation to try to change the rules…

I’ve mentioned the singing class that I go to on Sundays. The people there are quite interesting, so I’ll try to describe them a bit. The woman who hosts them I’ve mentioned before – her name is Irina, and she reminds me of a younger version of my host from Moscow. She has a similar face and the same dyed-blonde hair, although hers is longer, and she talks in much the same way, quickly and surprised about everything and trying to make people laugh and exaggerating her own emotions. But, just like my host, she is actually a very spiritual and artistic person, always searching for new outlets. She’s interested in painting, singing, ceramics, Eastern philosophy, and anything meant to calm and open the soul. Also, I believe that she’s divorced, like my Moscow host. She has two children who live with her and she has mentioned a husband from time to time, but I’ve never seen him – I’m almost certain he doesn’t live with them. The other girl who comes regularly is named Natasha. I think she’s about 25 but she may be a few years older. She is married with a son about 5 years old. I think she’s a conservative Orthodox Christian…I know she goes to church regularly and sings in the church choir, and she looks different from most other Russian girls. She usually wears handmade dresses and hand-knit shawls in very simple fabrics and styles, and I noticed last week that she doesn’t shave her armpits. She’s extremely sweet and soft-spoken, and her husband and son are both very nice and good-looking. They came for the walk in the woods with us on Wednesday and brought a box with a crow that they had found injured, healed, and were ready to let go. Our singing teacher is a woman named Valya. She has one of those extremely skinny figures with disproportionately wide hips and wears her hair down to her waist, with thick bangs. She always wears pants that come up to her waist and have zippers on the side, but the zipper is never done up all the way, which is visible to everyone because her sweaters only come down to the top of her pants. She seems cool but is more reserved than the others. She always makes us do crazy amounts of warm-ups that involved mimicking what our voices are doing with various body parts. Those are the regulars, but this past week there was another couple who came. They were older (maybe 60s?) and both missing enough teeth that it interfered with their pronunciation. I think they are Natasha’s acquaintances from church. The man, Sergei, seemed nice and looked a bit like Uncle Andrew, and his wife was strangely girlish – she giggled a lot and clung to Sergei’s arm.

Wednesday was a fun day – I went for a walk in the woods, as mentioned earlier, with Irina and her daughter, Natasha and her family, and Pasha with his mother and a friend of hers. It was nice to go walking, and I got to see Russian squirrels, which are frigging sweet. They have winter fur and pointy ears – pictures to follow sometime this week. It was quite cold and my legs froze a bit, but otherwise I was fine. I wore my winter hat, in which, according to Pasha’s mother, I look like a hedgehog, but damn it is warm! After our walk Pasha and I went to our friend Lera’s (from the Intl. Dept.) apartment and had tea with her, which was fun. Lera has a really nice apartment, and we got to look at pictures of her wedding and school days, and I briefly met her son and husband. This weekend I’ve hung out with some students and relaxed. Till next week!

Halloween with Snow

November 1st, 2009

Well, another busy week has passed, much like the last one, except in addition to the normal work, we were also preparing for Halloween. First, about last weekend. On Saturday we had a meeting about Halloween at 12, and after than and lunch, I went to a meeting of the philosophy club at 3. This club combines philosophy discussion with the game Mafia. During the first round of the game, there was some discussion of the differences between the philosophies of Antiquity and the Middle Ages, but everyone was more excited about trying to figure out who was the mafia, so the meeting quickly degenerated into just a game. It was pretty fun, though, and man, they play some intense Mafia. The meeting lasted about two and a half hours. After that, I made myself dinner and then went to a club with a girl who had messaged me on Vkontakte (Russian Facebook). This club was called Broadway and is apparently more chill than the one near my dorm. We sat there and drank beer and cocktails and talked for a while – it was pretty fun, though we didn’t dance or stay out too late. On Sunday (a day I hated at Wooster, but love here) I did about the same thing as the previous Sunday: got up, made breakfast and got ready slowly, walked around town a bit, had coffee and sat in the only good coffee place in Ukhta, and went to singing at 5, where I stayed talking to Irina, Slava, and others until it was time to Skype with the fam at 10.

This week, besides thinking about Halloween, I was frantically trying to get somebody, anybody, to talk to us via Skype for our language club meeting. Sam and my mom were our heroes who stepped up to the plate. 🙂 I don’t know how much the students actually understood of what they said, but those who did understand and ask questions enjoyed it. So, that was Friday night, and last night was our party. And by ‘our’ I mean the Student Council. They were already planning a Halloween party, so they absorbed ours, too, and it was really great! We had it in the cafeteria at the university. There were food and drinks, scary decorations, contests, games, and a “Room of Horror” where you were blindfolded and made to feel a “dead” body, etc. Some people had really cool costumes and scary makeup.

After the party I went to Planeta, the club near my dorm, but it wasn’t that great. It was supposed to be free if you wore a costume, but I was tired of my scarecrow costume…it was hot and the grass in my sleeves and boots was getting annoying and itchy. So I thought quickly at home and decided to put on a side ponytail and some ridiculous makeup and be 80s. That apparently didn’t count as a costume, though, so I had to pay to get in anyway. My colleagues had been planning on going, but they decided not to. I went anyway because I felt like dancing and I had promised some students I’d see them there.

I found the students there, and we sat and talked for a bit. That’s always difficult because they want to find out what Americans are like but don’t always know what to ask, and everyone wants the conversation to be natural but doesn’t know how to get it there…especially since my knowledge of Russian slang is limited. But we conversed some and then went into the dancing room. Dancing was also fun for a while, but the music was all just heavy techno beats, and I soon got tired. I like dancing to music with words, and since I go to bed at 11 every night and wake up at 7-8 usually, I was exhausted by 1 AM. So, at that point, I left and went to bed.

Other notes:
-I’ve discovered that green tea is much more effective than dishsoap for removing black tea stains from mugs.
-I put more pictures on Picasa! Link is on the sidebar.
-It snowed for three days straight this week, and now we have several inches of snow on the ground. It’s much better than wet, dirty roads, and it’s still not any colder out than it has been. Since we switched the clocks last week, it gets light around 7-8 AM and dark around 4 PM.
-I finished my Russian Tom Robbins book and am now reading Quatrevingt treize (’93) by Hugo, and I’ve noticed a strange effect in my mind. Often, when I understand a conversation in a foreign language perfectly, I later remember it as having happened in English, even if I know it didn’t. Well, if I suddenly think of something that someone said while I am reading 93, it always pops into my head in French, and only after a whole sentence has come out do I realize that that was French, and the person I’m picturing most definitely spoke to me in Russian in real life.