Today (Wednesday evening) I met Galina’s daughter, Olya, son-in-law, Zhenya, and grandson, Artyom (Tyomich). They are all simply delightful! Olya works out a lot and is in really good shape (as in, bulging triceps and abs you can see through her shirt. damn!), so next time I see her I’m going to hit her up for fitness vocabulary. Zhenya was really great about making conversation with me, and is convinced that Iowa is famous for something other than corn, soybeans, and hogs. And insurance companies in Des Moines (I learned the word for headquarters!). It’s news to me, so as soon as he remembers what else we’re famous for, I’ll be happy to pass it on to you.
Artyom is pretty much awesome. He’s almost twelve and will be starting 5th grade on Monday. I think he was flirting with me a little bit, or at least trying to impress me, because Galina said after they left that he’s usually not so energetic and rabbity. As soon as he’d decided that I understand Russian pretty well, he was off talking a mile a minute, and found it utterly hilarious every time I didn’t know some word or another, or when I completely fell off the speeding language train. At one point he was telling a story and said the word for “duck,” but he was talking so fast that I didn’t hear it. When I asked him, “wait, what was swimming/sailing in the river?” he said, “you know, a duck. A duck! That thing with the wings that quacks that swims in the river and quacks and goes like this….” on and on. Then he found it funny to explain in minute detail lots of common words, like “hill” or “green.” The kid’s a riot, seriously.
Generally speaking Olya’s family speaks pretty quickly, but I pick up on most of what they say. With a little more training for my ear (i.e. hopefully within the next month or so) I’ll be able to mostly quit saying “What? What? I didn’t hear you.”
In other home-stay news, our water heater died on Monday (boo), so we’ve been without hot water for a couple days. The mechanic (plumber? electrician? who does water heaters?) came today and said that it had died completely (what? You mean this 50-year-old gas heater won’t last forever?), so I came home to a brand new kolonka! It’s swank. I’ll post a picture if I remember. Too bad, really, that I didn’t take a picture of the old one for comparison’s sake.
Also, the renovation work on my room should be finished tomorrow or Friday, so I’ll hopefully be able to move into my permanent room over the weekend, and Galya will get her living room back.
Kennon and I found a great little Georgian cafe today, a little on the pricy side if you’re just going for tea or coffee, but it’s close to school. I’m so there for Ajara-style khachapuri!
Today we got our group assignments and our schedule for next week. My week starts with phonetics. Joy. Don’t get me wrong, I love phonetics, they’re really necessary and helpful, and I want to sound Russian when I talk, but dang, first thing Monday morning? In addition to our core classes, which include phonetics, literature, grammar, speech practice, writing, and daily work with tutors, we will each be auditing a regular university class – as in with Russian classmates and teachers lecturing in Russian on specific topics. I’m really excited about picking a class, although I’m a bit nervous about my ability to follow lectures, especially if there’s a lot of specialized vocabulary. But what a great learning opportunity! We don’t even have the full list of classes we can take yet, but so far I really have my eye on “Conflicts in International Relations;” I’m interested to see if the professor will mention anything about the war in Georgia. However, I’m also interested in “Ethnoconflict,” “The Social and Economic History of Russia,” “Social Movement and Political Ideas,” and “Russian Foreign Policy.” And those are just from among the classes available from the history and philosophy departments! We’ll be getting a list from the philology department soon, but those will mostly be literature classes, and I think for once I’m going to give literature a rest. We’ll have a lit class in our core sections, and I’d like to do some exploring outside my usual field of study.
Thus, my weekly schedule for the fall semester is starting to take shape. I’ll be in class 9:30-2:20 every day. Once a week I’ll have my audit course for one and a half or three hours (why is it that my top choice class is a three hour one? boo that.). I’m hoping to fill in some more time in the evening at the gym; I have my eye on a few different classes, but I still haven’t gone to ask for info about cost yet. I’ll also have my internship, which, although it doesn’t start officially until January, I’ll probably start working at in the fall. Between all those activities and having a social life, being in Petersburg is going to resemble life in the US in many ways. At least I’ll be busy!