September 22, 2009

Be My Editor. Please?

So, I'm a senior. That means college application time! And that means college application essays! Yay?
I realized that I know a lot of people online. A lot of smart people. A lot of smart writing people. And I thought, why not tap into this base?
And so, I am asking you all to be my editors. I will post my essays, and I would be grateful to you all if you would comment with corrections, suggestions, reactions, etc.
And so, the second draft of the first essay:
Russia is exactly like America.

Or, so it seemed as I settled into daily life. Beyond superficial differences like housing and, well, language, daily life is daily life in any country.

Until you start trying to actually do things, like pay at the café, or get directions, or even give a compliment. Then, language, that superficial difference, gets in your way. And yes, it got in my way in Russia. It was a little difficult to ignore, being there for two months. So, I grew, and developed strategies to combat my cultural ignorance.

Everything in Russia outside the major cities is in Russian. It may seem fairly obvious, but it wasn't to me until I actually sat down in what would be my bedroom during the duration of my stay. Only then did I realize just how pervasive the Russian language is in Russia. I would have to pay attention constantly.

On our first week, my group of American students went to eat in a cafeteria. I picked out what I wanted, slid my tray down the line, and reached the cashier. She totaled my check, and then rattled off an incomprehensible rush of what I assume was the price for my meal. I'm fairly certain that all I managed to muster in response was, "Huh?"

The next time we ate at the cafeteria, I made absolutely certain to be ready to listen extremely carefully when she told me the amount. I concentrated to a painful extent. And this time, did I understand?

Well, no. It takes some time to comprehend a mumbled language of which you are not a native. But, by the 6th or 7th time we ordered there, I understood the price. I understood because I kept listening, I kept concentrating.

And beyond that, I kept engaging. I didn't understand a word? I asked for an explanation. No talking was necessary in a transaction? I practiced my chit-chat. Someone asked me if the bus goes to Karl Marx Street? I apologized for not being able to assist, and noted the bus number to check later. I took advantage of opportunities to review, to learn, to live.

Though I may still not be able to give anyone directions while speaking Russian, I know how to attempt, and through that, how to eventually attain that goal, or any goal, language-related and not.

September 2, 2009

Oh, hi :)

I have about one thousand photos from this summer. Between the eleven of us invading Kirov, I can only imagine. We have many photos. And these photos can probably give a much better picture of our little Russian city than we can in words. All of my photos are on facebook.

If you would like to hear stories, I have stories.

I have an album of Russian toilets. Let me explain. In the bathroom of the Yaroslavl train station in Moscow, we encountered a squat toilet, quite dirty, without toilet paper in the stall--you had to take some from the roll at the door before you went in. It was an experience. From then on, though I was unable to do so for this first bathroom, I took a photo of each toilet I used in Russia. It makes for an interesting set.

School starts on Tuesday. I'm a senior. That's pretty neat. I'll let you know how it goes.