The first session of my Russian class was FUN. It was fast; I had to write really quickly to keep up.  And the teacher–Katya–calls on us individually and then we have to speak out loud in front of everyone (everyone being three people). She corrects us, kindly, but it still makes me a bit nervous. It also means that soon, once I become educated, my Midwest friends David and Jen and I will know longer be allowed to refer to Russian letters as “the backwards Z” or “the backwards double K.”

I should be studying Russian right now. I know this. Already, after only one 1.5 hour class, there are so many rules to memorize. And soon! But, they say that teaching someone something is actually the best way to learn it, so my theory is that instead of studying, I will: a) write a poem (in process…) and b) write a short blog entry with an abridged version of the rules. I’ll be learning. Teacher friends agree? Good. Let’s go.

Section 1: e ё ю я

The characters e ё ю я make two sounds (e [jэ] ё [jo] ю [jy] я [ja]) in these situations:

1) at the beginning of a word, like in елка [jolka]

2) after another vowel, like in моя [maja]

3) after a hard sign or soft sign, like in друзья [droozja]

but after consonants, they’re pronounced as just one sound (e [eh] ё [yo] ю [00] я [ya])

Section 2: O A E

When under stress, there are no changes to pronunciation for O A E. But

1) an unstressed O sounds like [ah], like in OHA [ahna]. This is where my favorite phrase что это comes into play. Since the о in это is unstressed, it sounds like [ah]

2) an unstressed E sounds like [ee], like in PEKA [reekah]

3) luckily, the A never changes, regardless of stress

Section 3: Voiced and Voiceless Consonants

This blew my mind.

These are the voiced consonants: б B г д  ж  з

And the voiceless consonants: п ф к т щ с

They match up: б goes with п, B with ф, г with  к, д  with т, ж with щ, and з with  с.

But…

1) At the end of a word, voiceless consonants, like in лог [look] or олег [Alek]

2) Before voiceless consonants, voiced consonants become voiceless

3) Before voiced consonants, voiceless consonants become voiced, like с братом [zbrahtom]. For this example, you also must know that prepositions are simply connected to the next word (so the с is just added directly to братом).

And actually, though that’s only 1/3 of tonight’s lesson, I think I’ll stop. You got all that?

Now presenting the 2nd video blog:

Again, the writer in me must self-edit:

1) “a 5 gallon liter of water” What is that? It’s 5 liters of water. Obviously…metric system.

2) It is harder to stay on track in a video blog because rambling is real easy when I am just talking. I had like 4 other stories to tell you all. I hope you don’t mind my ramblings.

3) I don’t even care that much about Heinz ketchup.

4) I forgot some things about the metro. I should have mentioned these:

a) I’m getting comfortable making my way around underground. I still couldn’t tell you cardinal directions from like…anywhere…but when I’m in the metro, I can usually figure out which corridors I should go down to come out at the exit I want to come out at. Not always, but usually. And that’s cool.

b) What helped the most with the metro was practicing/learning my Russian alphabet. Initially, I would stand in front of signs and stare for a long time, matching up each letter of the station names and then hoping I’d catch the pronunciation when they said it on the train. But then, at the suggestion of a friend here, I practiced my alphabet over and over. And I wrote the names of my stations over and over again on legal pad paper (where I do my best work). Профсоюзная and Конькова. And others that I see often. And things got a lot faster. Literacy helps.

c) They sell everything underground–cigarettes, pastries, chips and cookies, magazines, eyeglasses, underwear. I haven’t bought anything yet, but I think very, very soon.

d) Some people stand right in front of the doors waiting for their station. They just stare out and they don’t hold onto anything for balance/safety. I can do that now too.

e) One day last week, I saw my train coming but I wasn’t on the platform yet. I ran down the stairs and slid through the door right as it was closing. That felt SO Moscow.

Video Blog #1: New Apartment.

September 6, 2012

One friend–a certain Samantha Lyons–said that doing a video blog in Russia would be cool. I agreed.  I decided to give it a try today.

I moved into my permanent apartment this morning. My first real home in Moscow. I love it. I was really excited when I moved in. And since I was excited (and I can’t really call anyone in the States to tell them about it), I thought a video blog would be the best way to show that. My other idea was to type only sentences that ended with exclamation marks. Plus, I’ve been video chatting with people a whole lot lately, and now I really like the idea of incorporating a bit of video into the blog. As weird as it was initially to talk to people in Missouri/Kansas/Florida/wherever over the internet, it feels comfortable and normal now…a part of my life. I don’t know if I’m good at video blogging…I guess we’ll all find out.

For now, I’m internet-less at the permanent apartment, though, which means that unless I write them ahead of time, my blog entries are going to be kind of short and kind of sporadic since I’ll be posting them from coffee shops or before/after work.

After I recorded this, I realized a huge downfall of video blogs: I felt the need to edit. Like…instead of saying that things in Russia are “ugly,” I really meant that sometimes the apartments and the decor are kind of wild and/or tacky (I’m thinking cheetah print couches and red neon lights that run around the ceiling…not that I’m speaking from experience or anything). Many things in Russia are beautiful. So, the writer in me feels the need to apologize for that slip and others like it.

I can’t wait to show you photos after it looks a bit more settled.