Saturday, February 2, 2013

No down, no feather. To Satan's minion.

There is a transition at work right now. Many classes are ending and students will soon start their next level. My upper-intermediate class will soon be in advanced, but thankfully I will not be teaching them. While they deservedly have their reputation for being a difficult class (I was their third up-int teacher after they “fired” the first two and weren’t happy with me because apparently none of us are exactly like the teacher who taught all their previous courses – no duh, every teacher is different), I am more thankful that I will not be spending 12+ hours every Tuesday and Thursday with a schedule of: teach – Russian class – teach. My intermediate class (T and T evenings) took their final test on Thursday and I’m proud to report they all passed. My pre-intermediate class takes their test on Wednesday and I’m confident they will also prevail. We had to rush through their last few lessons to cover material in the book, but they seemed to grasp the concepts quite well.

Sadly one of my pre-int students will not carry on (actually he hasn’t been to class since the holidays) because he is in France for a semester abroad. I was glad that he and I, along with a couple other students, were able to grab a farewell drink before his departure. His personality will surely be missed in class. One of my intermediate students will also not be joining us for upper-intermediate due to time constraints and she wants to spend more time with her family. Completely understandable, but she will also be missed. Luckily we will still see her at the bar.

As noted last week, we had frosty adventures in Tavrichesky Cad. Sunday those adventures took us to a park where we went cross-country skiing. The park’s name translates to Central Park of Culture and Relaxation, but it is often known by its acronym, Ц П К и О, which sounds similar to “typical.” It’s not exact, but enough for me to remember the name of the park. Like Friday taking us onto the ice of the pond and canals, we skied on canals and depending on where you draw the line of the Gulf of Finland, we skied either on the Gulf or part of the river. It is certainly brackish water under the ice. Unlike English, Russian does not have a verb “to ski.” Rather you ride skis, кататься на лыже. That last word sounds similar to “luge” in English.

After an afternoon of skiing we went to the Philharmonic with Daria’s grandma and her free tickets. Once again I had to pay, but a whole 100 rubles, which is about 3 dollars. It's hard to believe that we can listen to Rachmaninoff (with an American soloist on the piano), and a later Russian composer whose piece was written in the 1970s.

Daria and I also started to read 2 pages a night in a Russian book to help me practice my Russian and to learn new words. I read aloud and she corrects my pronunciation (almost every word). I had wanted an abridged version of something like Dostoevskii or Pushkin, but their abridged works were still too difficult so I am currently reading a sci-fi/fantasy titled трудно быть богом, Hard to be God.” It is about an historian from earth in our future that travels to another planet that is more like our medieval era. Overall it’s not terrible and actually still discusses some good philosophical issues. He is like a god to the people on the other planet and his role is difficult as he also tries to study them from a humanist, scholastic perspective.

It has also taught me a good phrase that one says when one is departing on a journey. Person 1) ни пуха ни пера.   Person 2) К чёрту. It literally means “no down (like goose down), no feathers” followed by “to the devil.” Oddly however, it’s a phrase for “good luck” on the journey. Perhaps a little more demonic version of “break a leg” (something bad meaning something good). And devil may not be best translation. Rather the figure is more like Pan from Greek mythology and has taken the role as one of Satan’s minions. When you speak of чёрт on its own he’s the minion, but in the phrase it carries none of the negative connotations, or at least none that I know of. However, in my mind all I can think of is some of the characters from Dante's "Inferno."

Lastly, I’m glad today got cooler. It warmed up the past few days and when the temperature sits around the freezing point it’s very bad to be on the street. Enough water melts, but then it still freezes and people fall everywhere. I took a spill on Friday and while mine wasn’t bad, I hate to think of all the elderly trying to walk on that stuff. The current temp is -7C, so I’m glad for that.

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