Monday, May 6, 2013

bar conversations, housing needs, and birth/sources

In addition to writing about our trip to Novgorod I also wanted to write a few thoughts and events about what has happened recently in SPB life.

A few weeks ago I was at the bar with one of my classes and one of our discussions ventured into housing issues, among other things. It began with various questions about why I like Russia and why many Russians are interested in the US and while I have forgotten many things about the conversation I recall a few. One of the complaints my students made is that many Russian apartments are small. This is quite true and many people even still live in communal apartments, an echo from the Soviet era. If they live in a communal apartment, there are usually 4 or 5 bedrooms in an apartment with each having either one person, a couple, or a family, and they share a kitchen and bathroom. Other people live in small one room or two room apartments that have a kitchen and bathroom. Many of my students understandably deeply desire larger living accommodations.

I am blessed in my Russian apartment that we share with Daria’s grandparents because it is relatively large apartment with 5 rooms, kitchen and bath (large for here, normal for US apartments, and small for US houses). You may have noticed how I describe things as rooms rather than bed/living/family/etc because that is how things are described here. The rooms don’t necessarily have a “prescribed” purpose, but one uses as needed.

Compare this to the large houses known in the US, often what I personally find unnecessary and some even cheaply grotesque. I definitely use the term McMansions to describe the often unoriginal cheaply built suburbia filled with many unnecessary items. Perhaps not all of it is as bad as I think, but I do think many US homes could easily go without a lot of what they have. I won’t type up all my opinions, but let’s say my students and I came to the conclusion that Russians need larger living spaces and Americans need smaller ones. I use the word “need” because I think objectively this is true. We need different spaces. As for our desires, I wonder how much of my and their desires come from “the grass is greener on the other side.”

Last Tuesday, April 30th, the day before holiday began, was also the birthday of one of my students. We were supposed to celebrate her birthday along with another student’s whose bday was the week before, however, only 3 people showed up to class. My suspicion is that most people took Monday and Tuesday off work to turn a 5 day holiday into a 9 day holiday or something thereabouts. Not that I can fault them since I took 3 days off between the two to make a 12 day holiday. Well, 2 of those 3, and myself went out to the bar for a short celebration. Unlike previous bar experiences, which span hours, we did cut it short early to ensure we got home at a reasonable time.

The main part of that discussion that I want to share is has to do with linguistic relationships. This began because we were talking about how beautiful the nature of Karelia and Lake Ladoga is. The name of my blog is after all, “De Karelia” for the area around SPB and “Tahodoga” for Lake Tahoe and Lake Ladoga.

Nature in Russian is природа (priroda). This shares the same root “rod” as родители (roditeli – parents), and день рождения (dyen rozhdenya – birthday). Other related words are родить (rodit - to give birth), родина (rodina - native land), родной (rodnoi –one's own like родной брат is one’s own brother) родственник (rodstvennik - relative), родство (rodstvo - relationship), зародыш (zarodysh - embryo), and порода (poroda – breed).

While our word for parents is not related to birth/nature/etc because it comes from the Latin “to prepare” and you may notice the “par” relationship. This is because parents are not those who necessarily give birth you to, but are the ones who prepare you for life.

However, “nature” in English does share the same Latin root “nat” that has to do with birth or source. Many English words that share this root around birth are nativity, neonatal, prenatal; and then more with source like nature, it’s related words like supernatural, preternatural, and naturalist; we have nation, and its relations like national; and we have native.

Long story short, while in English our parents may prepare us for life and not necessarily give us birth, in both Russian and English we are birthed from nature and our nation/native land. And as I was writing this (so not from our bar discussion) I’d say family in English doesn’t share the same relationship to birth that it does in Russian. Aside from parents, the words relative and relationship do not share our “nat” source.

To continue with my update about weather, for the 6th of May, sunrise was at 5.43am and sunset is at 22.08 (10.08pm). The light in the sky extends close to 11.30 into the evening. Karma loves her long walks in the sun during the day and even those at night, even though she’s not bathing in sunlight, she loves the warm temps. Well we’re on the train to Helsinki (currently in Finland as this will post) so you’ll get an update about that trip soon enough, and probably as many pictures as the Novgorod trip. These northern forests are beautiful.

EDIT (sorry those who already read): how did I forget the word for city is город (gorod). I'd also like to say I had the thought that "rod" could also be related to the English word "root." That's all.

кошка - cat graffiti on a city bus

Pascha eggs decorated by the grandma we live with

Spring plants budding near our home that I often see with Karma while walking

Karma and I also often see this tree, but I thought that it was the best embodiment of a spring tree around the house.

Many times while walking Karma I thought of how I needed to photograph this building and the stages of progress considering I watched it get built starting at about 2 meters. Alas, my first picture of it and the exterior is nearly finished, but you can see scaffolding and the covered sidewalk. This street was also closed to cars for most of the winter and had large holes that Karma and I walked around.

The Georgian Church on our corner seen from about a block away.

So that you get a sense of our neighborhood, here is a wall surrounding an auto repair center/junk yard. This wall is in disrepair, ahh the state of our neighborhood.

Our building in the middle. If you see the dark spot in the middle, that is the satellite that Daria's grandpa built so that he could stream TV. I believe a snow sled serves as the dish. While some buildings have quite a few satellites, our apartment is the only one in the building.

And Pascha eggs from the other grandma's house, where we went for a Pascha feast. I won't speak about the pink or yellow, but the dark red have been dyed the traditional way: boiled with yellow onion skins (somehow it becomes red when boiled).

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