Saturday, March 23, 2013

Скоро Весна или уже весна?

After that amazingly awesome time noted in the last post I'd like to state that things got both awesome and lame.

I had to take a night off work for the one concert, and the following Wednesday I took another night off work to see another concert called "Gregorian." It's a German group who does Gregorian chant styled versions of modern pop and rock songs. You can read about them here and watch some of their videos on youtube here. While they chant, they also have quite the theatrical styled musical accompaniment so don't expect it to be calm. Feel free to click on a number of their videos if you want. Our performance/tour was movie inspired so a lot of the songs came from the cinema such as the opening from "Chariots of Fire" where a filmed version of "gregorian monks" were running on the sand instead. Other songs were from Titanic, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Graduate, James Bond (Live and Let Die, but where instead of an agent pulling a gun and blood dripping for the "opening credit" it was a monk and an arrow). Overall it was a splendid performance. Sadly Daria had to leave at intermission for an interview that couldn't be rescheduled.

The lameness of the past two weeks is that Daria had to fly to Los Angeles on short notice last Friday to interview an agency on Saturday to leave LA on Monday and return here on Tuesday. This caused me to sell her ticket to the ballet at the Mariinksy Theatre (the grandest and most famous here in SPB) and her tickets to a psychology event she had for the weekend. So Friday night I went to the ballet with a student of mine (who bought the ticket Thursday night), and we saw a good performance of "The Little Humpbacked Horse." Quite well done, though I wasn't expecting as many children in the audience as there were. I'll say that I had to laugh because for 23 years of living in SPB this was the first time my student had been to the Mariinsky.

Sunday was a big celebration of Масленица (Maslenitsa), or Shrovetide, or shall we say, Mardi Gras, since in the Eastern Church began Lent this past Sunday and their Easter is the first Sunday in May. Part of the name comes from масло, which is oil/butter (same word here) and there's lots of gorging on pancakes. It's also a time to say goodbye to winter and to welcome spring. Many of the parks throughout the city had some sort of festival. From what I know of how people celebrate Mardi Gras in the US, this festival is much more family friendly and there are lots of events for children. Spectacles performed on stages, people dressed in traditional costumes, and the main thing here is to burn an effigy of winter called чучело, chuchelo, (which is a straw woman dressed in traditional clothing). People burn small individual ones, and then there are larger ones which are lit at night. We, however, left before night fell. I went with colleagues from work, and a few students from one of the other teachers joined as well. Our group fluctuated throughout the day, but a good time was had by all, even though one of the new teachers apparently didn't know Russia was actually cold b/c he was quite ill-equipped with a coat appropriate for September, canvas shoes and cotton socks, and without gloves, a scarf or a hat. Fortunately for him people were able to loan him items and he's still alive and well.

After leaving the park, we celebrated St. Patrick's Day in a pub downtown with legitimate Guinness, which was both delicious and reasonably priced.

One of my students told me Monday that he read this is the coldest March in at least 10 years. After what seemed like a fairly mild February, I was afraid that spring had come soon and all my cold weather would have disappeared. March has taught me otherwise. Many days have been quite frigid. Additionally the days have been getting longer and the sunshine tricks you into thinking it will be fairly warm. Then the zephyr comes from the north and laughs in your face. Well nips at your face really drying your eyes and leaving your cheeks windburned and lips chapped. Monday morning I took Karma for a walk and my thermometer said -11C. I thought, not bad and took Karma out. The wind told me I was unprepared and when I checked upon our return home it was -11 feels like -20. Oh windchill, how unkind you truly are. This is not to say it doesn't feel warm at times and I will admit it's a strange feeling to see your breath in -4 but feel as though you could sunbathe as you walk in the sunshine. The main lesson is not to trust what it looks like from the window.

My title is on this theme. It translates as "Spring is near, or is it already spring?"Officially spring is here, both from the perspective of Масленица and from the vernal equinox this past Wednesday. And sometimes it certainly feels balmy during the middle of the day. Snow and ice melt even when it's below the freezing point. Chemistry calls what is happening sublimation. And then the wind comes biting or the sun goes down and it feels as though winter has returned. The Fontanka is starting to show breaking ice though, and therefore, уже весна или скоро?

Don't be fooled by the blue sky. It was -7C for most of the daytime. Starting Масленица at ЦПКиО.

The first stage spectacle once you cross over the bridge onto the island that is the park.

From a distance you can see some magic games for the kids. And by games I also mean a really cool looking inflatable slide that must reach 10 meters high and many of us wanted to do it too. However, we surpass the height/age requirement.

A horse-drawn sleigh crosses our path.

We played a little frisbee on a pond until my colleague Joey heard some ice crack. I think it was just a top layer (sometimes you can find layers where air was trapped between), but we got off just in case (and played on a different pond later where more people were doing various activities).

Another event for children.

A member of our group (Katya - left) and some unknown person (right) pose with a large чучело.

Traditionally dressed woman on the right and my colleague Alina and I also dress up. Well, sorta.

Later, I demonstrate my machismo by defeating Alina in a pillow fight knocking her off her stump. I'll admit I felt the Russians were judging me for fighting against a woman, but I guess whatever. It's about fun and games and Alina and I were the only ones in our group who were excited about this event.

Our чучело. Someone in the group named her Masha.

Mash is not nearly as festive as this wintry effigy of another group.

But Masha was ours. I don't know what's going on with my eyes, but the other picture of us was not kind to Alina or Veronika. 

And Masha is burning away.

On the way out of the park we crossed the river instead of the bridge. We saw that someone else had made a snow angel so a lot of us decided to as well.
Alina and Veronika do likewise.

Outside the Tower Pub I prove to be a formidable Queen Regent.

Alina proves there's Guinness to be found in SPB.

1 comment:

  1. It appears some cartoonists have had similar thoughts.