Because Russia

Well, I’m a teacher again, for better or for worse. As of today, I even have a schedule—which, without Russian classes to flesh it out, seems pretty bare for now. In the meantime, it looks like I’m just waiting for something meaningful to drop out of the sky to occupy my time.

It’s bird… It’s a plane… No wait, it’s grechka!

Folks, Russia is responsible for turning me on to a long list of foodstuffs that, while I didn’t exactly dislike before, I never really thought I’d come to truly appreciate and обожать. In the beginning (here’s looking at you, St. Petersburg), it was simple staples like tea and cabbage. Now my parents will be surprised to learn that my list has grown such that I now cook with onions and peppers and persimmons and chak-chak (ok, I don’t cook with chak-chak… I just ate all the chak-chak in Kazan) and mutton and liver and foods all mixed together.

And then there’s grechka (that’s buckwheat, for anyone who doesn’t know). The super-est of super-foods. Americans just don’t eat grechka (again with my sweeping generalizations, but just roll with it, please). When I first tried it, I found it kind of horrid. But, like my affair with tea, I was determined to adopt grechka—not only eat it, but love it—not just as a part of my diet but a part of my life. And I have! (one hundred percent concentrated power of will!) Grechka is delicious, and it is also probably the healthiest food on the planet—everybody says so.

I bought a box of instant grechka recently, and I have never seen a more self-righteous box of food. Seriously holier-than-thou. I’m talking happy-family-sunset-mountain-power-stance-springtime-flower-yoga-in-front-of-radiant-tree self-righteous. I’m talking five-paragraph-essay-accompanied-by-a-series-of-flowcharts-outlining-health-benefits self-righteous. Apparently, health, beauty, energy, happiness, confidence, and love are all at my fingertips, ready in just three minutes! My grechka thinks it’s hot stuff. [pun intended]

But seriously, though, it might take a little more than grechka to fill those gaps in my schedule. I’d like to see about auditing a real course in Russian—like cultural studies or political science or something. That’s just a matter of summoning my nerve to march in to their headquarters and declaring my intentions. Easier said than done.

Also, something about Russia, with her revolutionary and philosophical overtones, and Ulan-Ude in particular, with its inherent spirituality, combined with large expanses of time spent in solitude (sheltering from the nose-biting, bone-sublimating winds blowing down from the mountains or up from the circles of anti-hell or wherever they come from) leaves me prone to pondering the Big Questions. The ones that have no real answers anywhere—especially not in Russia, where sometimes even the simplest questions can only be answered with,  “волшебство” or “что делать??” or (personal favorite) “Because Russia.” These Big Questions are my favorite way of avoiding those pesky bugaboos of “What Next?” or “How Do I Make Them Talk?” or even “Why are all the bowls gone?” But that’s another story. Which I will tell now.

I like to call it “Signs that you have psycho-terrorist gremlins living under your sink.”

It began with an electric tea kettle, months ago. Gone, never to be seen again. Fortunately, we had two to start with, though the gremlins of course nabbed the nicer one with less rust.  The next victim was a frying pan– my favorite frying pan, of course. I never realized I was capable of developing such an emotional attachment to kitchen appliances until my favorite frying pan went missing. Barring emotional scarring, though, it was ok– we had two. I’ve moved on. (A saucepan also went missing at this time, but I never used that particular pan, so joke’s on you, gremlin!) Next, it was the saltshaker (filled with my own personal salt). Fortunately, I’m the kind of free-spirit that doesn’t mind putting salt in the pepper-shaker. Then it got really personal: when I returned from Mongolia, my tea-mug (which I had selected for its optimal mug-size and mug-shape and lack of creepy teacher-bunnies on it) was gone. That blow cut deep, and my creepy teacher-bunny replacement is just not as satisfying– plus there’s always the fear that one day I will wake up to find that it too has disappeared! And finally, I recently realized that this was more than absentminded or inconsiderate gremlinery: this was full-fledged psychological terrorism! I woke up one morning to discover that every single bowl was gone. Not just my favorite bowl (because, unlike most kitchen utensils, I don’t have a favorite bowl). Every single one (for reference, we had somewhere between 4 and 12 bowls). Zero bowls. I am perfectly capable of eating cereal and grechka out of saucepans and teacups, but… WHY, GREMLINS??? WHY?

(For the record, I’m not seriously suffering any psychological pain from any of this. I’m mostly only puzzled and perplexed. It’s just more fun to tell as a tale of psycho-terrorist gremlins)

Fortunately, I’ve got a hoard of holidays heading my way to keep me busy—starting with my first Sagaalgan on the 11th. (Believe me, I’ve checked: they don’t make “Baby’s First Sagaalgan ornaments)

Basically, I guess that was the main point of this unsubstantial, meaningless post: to remind you to brace yourselves—New Year is coming… again.

About Arielle

I am a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Ulan-Ude at the Buryat State Agricultural Academy.
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