my apologies!

I’MSORRY.

it’s been far too long.  like a month too long.  what happened, you may ask?  I’m not sure. Well I am sure. I lost myself for a bit.. you know those small time-frames where you just fall out of your element and you don’t realize it until afterwards and you’re sitting and reflecting on what you did and didn’t do and BAM it hits you that you just weren’t quite you.  That was me last month.

Perhaps this short clip will make up for lost time:

I’m currently home.. as in the United States of America and to be honest I’m not sure what to blog about.  Well there’s lots to talk about, but its stuff all of you already know about.. except for perhaps my Russian friends and readers who maybe are interested in life in America; or I could do some comparisons, but I feel everyone does those and they have already compared what there is to compare.. sigh.

And so, I will reflect on one interesting experience I had last month: a trip to the Northern Caucasus.  I posted my departure on Facebook and I got lots of “be careful’s” and “oooo really?! isn’t that dangerous?!”  and stuff like that.  No, it wasn’t dangerous.  I do believe there were a few car bombs there back in the “war years”, but since then there has been little violence.

okay so the maps a little small, but there it is... Astrakhan to the upper-right, sort of cut off by the white speech bubble; Georgia to the south.

So I went there with Angelika, her son, and two other girls for a language camp in coordination with an American who lives and works in Pityagorsk.  They were supposed to do three days of language and Angelika and I were there to watch, take notes, and participate with the goal of creating our own camp in Astrakhan in the spring.  We had a horrible twelve hour bus ride, leaving Astrakhan at 7 pm and arriving in Pityagorsk around 8 am the next day, and I experienced my first dose of good ole’ Caucasus corruption.When one, as a foreigner checks into a hotel in Russia, one must always show their passport, thus making it obvious that one is a foreigner.  In this instance, I had to show mine.  The lady then demanded that I pay 1000 roubles for a registration.  As a foreigner in Russia, I am well aware of these regulations and so I started arguing.  “This is not necessary. I am not going to pay; I don’t need to register.”  She insisted that I do, it’s policy, and I kept fighting.  “no, I know I don’t need to register. I stayed for almost a week in Piter without registration and the hotel asked me if I wanted it.  I have seven days; I’m here two, and even if I was here for longer, it’s a weekend you can’t even process my registration!”  She then went on to tell me some bullshit story about this American guy who had been there before without regisitation and how he got charged 100,000 rubles, as did the hotel and I just shook my head and thought whateverrrr.  Perhaps this really did happen, but I’m sure it was some other circumstance.  I walked away and as typical, left my passport at the front desk.  Accordingly, Angelika later went to gather our passports and they asked not one question nor did they again demand money for my registration.  VICTORY CORRUPTION, VICTORY.

Our “students” went to day one of sort of a “language camp”.  Meanwhile Angelika and I got on an Elektrichka, or local communter train and headed in the direction of Kislovodsk, a small town near Pityagorsk, though located deeper within the foothills of the Caucaus Mountains.  We had a gorgeous afternoon walking the town, touring an amazing park, eating a fantastic meal in a azerbaijan restaurant and drinking great red wine:

Pityagorsk was great too, don’t get me wrong, we just only had an afternoon of exploration time.  The camp was interesting.  I was really tired, making it very very difficult to focus on language, though I did attend an interesting lecture on teaching American English and we played some fun games.  On our last day we took a hike up the local mountain, which I suppose is truly a very big hill. However, to give Pityagorsk the credit it deserves, it is a very hilly city and you can see Mt. Elbrus, the tallest Peak in Europe, which is still located in Russia but very near the Georgian border.  Pityagorsk was quaint but not so different than any other smaller Russian city.  The people there had an accent, enunciated through their intonations.  I was expecting it to be very different, a whole new world.  In fact, it was not.  I’m sure if I stayed there long enough I would notice many more differences from Astrakhan and St. Petersburg; however, when Angelika and I went to Kislovodsk, I really noticed darker features, especially in women. The architecture in Kislovodsk was also a bit different and more caucasian.  Though, what else would one expect – we were only kilometers from Georgia!

the view from our hotel. Elbrus is somewhere out there.

Okay so that’s it!  Well I mean I suppose there’s lots more to add, however I’ll probably be going back in February and can hopefully provide more interesting details then.

Also, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to blog twice a week.  BE PREPARED.  However (disclaimer) I will still be in America for a bit, so perhaps once a week until I return…

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