Thursday, June 17, 2010

Кальян : Hookah

По моему, я очень классная девушка, с кем кто-нибудь хочет подружиться. Иногда, я болнуюсь, что в России будет трудно подружиться с новыми друзьями. Почему, я - пессимист? Я улыбаюсь, поболтаю, и так далее. Но, знаю что в Европе и Китае, всех людей курят! На улице в барах люди поболтают вместе и курят. Мне кажется, не удобно стоять на улице без сигареты или напитка... Я надеюсь, что это не доставает мне много хлопот!

Что надо сделать? У меня идея! Давай мы курим кальян!

Я началась курить кальян в Беркли в вечеринках. Мой первый раз, не знаю почему, но после того, что мы курили , я не чуствовала хорошо. Было страно, но сейчас мне очень нравится кальян! Я даже могу дунуть «О» с дымом!

Мы с Джеймсом нашли бар кальяна в Мышине в Сан Франсицко. Там мы уже курили два раза, и так я решила пойти там пятницу. Мы с друзьями (Нат, Марселос, Оля и Тайлор) погуляли в Оз Кальян после обеда. Я думала, что Яша, человек который там работает, меня будет узнавает, но когда я пришла, он забыла как меня зовут. Он даже забыл, что я пришла там в понедельник! Оля сказала, что это потому что он обкуриный. Его глаза медленее, и он говорил много с руками. Я надеюсь, что это не случается если я много курю кальян.

Итак, это мой планн. Когда я не чуствую быть пьяная, лучше курить кальян. Это как я буду подружиться с новыми друзями.

Ну, знаю, что все будет в порядке!

Мы с Олгой : Olga and me

In my humble opinion, I am a very cool girl that anyone would love to be friends with.  However, I often worry that it will be hard to make new friends when I am in Russia. Why am I such a pessimist?  I smile, I chit-chat and perform other such social interactions with ease. But, it is my understanding that everyone in Europe and China smokes! On the streets outside of bars people make friends as they stand around and chat over a cigarette.  It seems to me, that it is very awkward to plainly stand around on the street without a drink or cigarette in hand.  I really hope this doesn't cause me too much trouble

What ever will I do? I have an idea! Why don’t we smoke hookah instead!

I started smoking hookah at parties while I was studying at Berkeley. The very first time I ever tired it, I am not sure why, but I felt very sick afterwards.  It was very strange, but now I really love hookah!  After years of practice, I can even impress people by blowing smoke rings!

James and I found this hookah bar in the Mission district of San Francisco. We have gone twice and since it was a pretty neat place to hang out, so I decided to go there last Friday. So I rounded up some of my friends (Nat, Marcelus, Olya and Taylor) and we walked over after dinner. I thought that the owner, Yasha, would have recognized me but when I arrived, he didn’t even know my name! What’s worse is that he had no memory of me, even though James and I were there on Monday. This is of course, slightly embarrassing and depressing, since James and I always chat with him in Russian.  Olya says this is because he was stoned or on drugs. I suppose his eyes were a little slow and he talked a lot with his hands, making the suspicion not too far off.  I really hope that I don’t suffer a similar fate if I smoke too much hookah.

So there, that is my plan. When I don’t feel like being a drunk, I will switch to hookah. That is how I will make new friends.

Well, now I know that everything is going to be just fine!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Осторожно! : Be Careful!

  My theory is that even in the 60s, when almost the entire population of Berkeley and San Francisco had delusions of grandeur and dreams about joining their fellow comrades in Mother Russia against the evils of Capitalism, the people of SF and Berkeley were notorious Jaywalkers.  Therefore the activists who direly longed to fight for the international struggle were actually saved by their in ability to leave the country due to their commitment to domestic social causes, music and a mild amount of drugs.  The Americans who supported my good friend Mels (Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin) probably fantasized about bringing international attention to their cause by becoming a martyr after a demonstration gone awry involving tear gas, police dogs, or even starvation after a hunger march.  Death via motor vehicle accident?  Probably not the glorious finish to a life of fighting for change.  Especially today, it seems that everyone from the homeless San Francisco crack-head to the iPod-consumed Berkeley student completely lacks the fear of death as he or she meanders into oncoming traffic. I don't get it some times, have these people no idea that in the battle between steel car and fleshy body, the car will always win? Unfortunately, the people of Russia have had to learn this lesson the hard way... again...and again.

Russia leads the world in number of motor vehicle accidents, only after Ukraine(!) and Egypt. It is frightening to think that in Russia "это нормально" or not out of the ordinary to casually see the body of a victim just hit by a car.  However, I am happy to report that Russia is finally taking some initiative in reducing the number of deaths that occur due to motor vehicle accidents!  I recently read an interesting Russian article that discusses how the Duma voted in favor of a complete ban on drinking and driving.  In the United States, I can go to a bar, have a couple drinks, sober up and play hero as DD while I cart around my drunken friends after a long night of hitting the town.  In Russia, however, President Medvedev has issued a statement to the effect of this: "Unlike Europeans, once a Russian starts drinking, there is no stopping."  We appreciate Medvedev's bluntness and honesty.
  This Russian movie that I recently watched also comments on the grisly reality of motor vehicle accidents in Moscow.  Blissfully running through the streets of Moscow might produce beautiful cinematography, as well as, a great excuse to wear your tennis shoes, but it doesn't make for a happy movie ending.  Again, why tennis shoes should be reserved for gym use only!  

Alhough I was once a stubborn UC Berkeley student who's favorite line as I darted into a busy crosswalk along Bancroft Way was, "Pedestrians have the right of way, suckers!", I realize now that my common infraction which could cost me $108 from an anal retentive cop in California, might actually be a death sentence in Russia and Ukraine. 

  Friends, when traveling abroad, please do not talk on the phone and listen to your iPod when crossing the street.  Never forget to always look both ways.  You never know when you might have a close encounter with someone who took this beer advertisement seriously...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Heels and Vodka: A lesson on Russian Culture

  Over the long weekend, I had the pleasure of attending another post-semester Russian party.  Although there were only a few people I recognized from my SF City College class, when it was time to leave, I found it incredible hard to pry myself away from the lively party.  I had an amazing time chatting it up with fellow students and Russian significant others.  My evening flew by as we recounted ridiculous stories of our time abroad and experiences while studying this convoluted language.  While at the party, I came across some interesting bits of Russian culture I thought I would share with you.

1. As many of you who know me well might have already heard, during my study abroad period in St. Petersburg, I was sourly met with disapproving stares by the women both young and old of Russia.  Maybe I, like many other Americas, believed Russia really can't get that hot - after all, when we think of Russia, don't we all equate it to Pluto?  A body of mass that is far away, relatively unknown, and bitterly cold?  In July of 2006, St. Petersburg experienced a blistering heat wave that broke many records.  That same summer, I learned a valuable lesson about Russia's weather when I failed to pack more than one pair of jeans and an unattractive pair of long shorts.  Oh, and that myth that Russia is a conservative country was quickly debunked when I found myself standing next to tall, beautiful blonde women in full makeup, heels and sexy jeans with holes down the side.  On the subway, when I looked down at my feet to avoid the uncomfortable stares, my worn out tennis shoes reminded me of my clearly non-Russian fashion choice.  Ah yes, hind-sight is as crystal clear as my  post-LASIK vision.

The concept of why European women are so adamant about wearing evening makeup during the day and stiletto heels in cities that treacherously use cobble stones and metal grates along the ground is explored in Slavenka Drakulic's How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed.  During the Soviet Russia, makeup, nylons, hair dye, heels, and anything else (even tampons!) we take for granted today at Nordstrom's and Walgreen's were as rare as free speech.  Drakulic dismisses the claim that Westerner's have fabricated this need for material products and accessories in order to make a profit, because in her experience living under communism she found women have an inherent need to feel beautiful and sexy.  Her book stipulates that the Soviet Regime was doomed for failure the day it began to deprive women of basic needs and luxuries because this meant it was unable to satisfy 50% of its population.  Looking back, most of feminine culture and fashion was developed in the 20th century, so naturally now Russian women are making up for lost time by dressing up more when they dine at McDonald's than I would for an evening at a 4 star restaurant.

Conclusion:  On your next trip to Russia, pack lots of makeup, a push up bra and a nice set of heels.  Remember ladies: Tennis shoes are for gym use only!

2.    Russians rarely order vodka when they drink at a bar.  This is yet another interesting bit of Russian culture that I am trying to wrap my mind around.  Flash back:  St. Petersburg '06- young Erika Erikovna at a popular local bar, Fidel's.  "Another half pint of Baltika 8??  Common', guys!  We are in Russia, for goodness sake!  Where's the vodka??"  Two hours later... I realize that the threat of terrorist attacks has led the Russian government to remove all trash cans from the metro stations.  Ok, this is what I get for thinking I could understand the mystery of Russian drinking culture.  During my private tutoring lesson with Olya, she let me in on a secret her mother shared with her.  Russians...tend to only drink vodka with food!  This food is known as "Закуски" and include: vinigret, little sandwiches, caviar, pickled spring onions, etc.  If done correctly, this foreign sounding food can be extremely delicious, but as I mentioned only if done correctly.  Proceed with caution. 

Conclusion:  The rest of the alcohol-drinking world should remember that Russians drink vodka over dinner or with appetizers.  Taking shots at a bar on an empty stomach is a bad idea, no matter how Russian you are feeling!