W O W Z A I went to Moscow!!
the language: Before we left for Moscow, we had a couple of Russian students come to our class to teach us cyrillic. It was so fun! Reading cyrillic was like solving a secret code: B = our ‘v’ sound; H = our ‘n’ sound; ж = the ‘ch’ sound in challah. Here are some words we practiced:
ленин = (sounds like l-ye-n-ee-n) = Lenin
ресторан = (sound like r-e-s-t-o-r-a-n) = restaurant
София = (sounds like s-o-f-ee-ya) = Sophia
Спасибо = (sound like s-p-a-s-ee-b-oh) = Spacibo (means thank you)
I also brought The Language of Food: a Linguist Reads the Menu to read on the plane, and it made me remember how much I like learning new languages. I’ve enjoyed learning Danish (it seems technically harder than Russian though!), and I really got into Dothraki over winter break (the fictional language in Game of Thrones–so cool!).
the school part: We were in meetings for most of the trip–we met with delegates from the EU in Russia, an analyst from the Russian Ministry for Industry and Trade, people from the Carnegie Think Tank in Russia, and analysts from ING Bank and the Central Bank of Russia. The speakers informed us that the Russian economy is doing poorly because of the oil surplus, but that Russia isn’t really looking to lessen their supply. Additionally, Russia isn’t interested in exploring renewable energy or diversifying export sectors. Some of the speakers were critical of Russian policy and were happy to take our prying questions, but many gave rehearsed answers. Our speaker from the Ministry of Industry and Trade even shut down a question on the Russian government simply with “politics has no influence on economics.”
the food: Since we were a tour group of about 40 people, we usually ate in tourist-y restaurants, shuttled off into the basement, with three or four set courses. BUT we did have some cool food: really great Armenian style beef stuffed in peppers and eggplant, yummy borscht, and this delicious blueberry tart! For our first dinner, we also had a vodka shot. I think they’re the worst! Our Russian guides told us that they don’t chase or mix with soda, they just take a shot and then eat. None of us were super into it, but it was an interesting cultural lesson. Also, check out this banana the size of Julia’s forearm!
the architecture: The buildings were way more Eastern looking! It was a nice change of scenery. Also, there were skyscrapers. And also blocks and blocks of tall cement apartments that looked very Russian. Mouse over the photos to see their captions!
Also, to get into many of the buildings, we had to walk through metal detectors: the mall, the subway, restaurants–it was crazy! Also also, we went into Moscow’s deepest subway, which was 12 stories under ground! The escalator took 3 minutes!
the people: We had dinner with Russian students! I was in a group with Lydia, and these two girls named Alex and Alana. We were assigned to these two Russian guys–we were supposed to get groceries (with DIS money) and make dinner. Instead, one guy’s grandma had made us dinner, so we bought water, wine, and vodka. We stayed over at the grandma’s house from 6-10:30! And I think they smoked cigarettes from 7:30-10:30. It was crazy! But we learned about their culture, so it was worth it. They’re unhappy with the current political system and they would like to try living somewhere else, but they still want to come back to Russia to raise families. They’re not religious. They don’t go out to bars often because it’s expensive. They sometimes use the darknet to get drugs, but they don’t very often because they could serve 10 years for a small amount of even just weed (or something, i’m not quite sure the specifics). They are familiar with Tinder and the hookup culture. They support gay rights, kind of (they think two men or two women could raise a kid better than an orphanage, but they don’t really understand the love part).
DIS also bought us drinks with them for our “final party.” Alex, Lydia, (Alana didn’t want to come), and I went out with the two guys and a bunch of their friends. I had a Moscow Mule in Moscow! But they hadn’t ever tried it, so I’m not sure how Moscow-y it is. But one of the other Russian girls had a White Russian! So at least that’s legit.
I’m glad I chose the study tour that went to Moscow–it was a neat experience! But I’m really happy I’m back in Copenhagen!
I’m also really excited for my mom and dad to visit me here. I can’t wait to show them around!