Tuesday, October 14, 2008

In my embarrassment over my self-reflective post, I want to push it further down the page and give you updates on some of the more ridiculous aspects of my life in Russia.

Yes, MC Hammer is coming to Petersburg. I really should stop this blog entry here, because this is the only thing that really matters about my time here. I am doing my best to get tickets.

2. I joined "Planet Fitness" a couple of days ago, which is the Russian equivalent of an upscale fitness center. I decided that walking around the city wasn't cutting it as far as exercise goes, and bliny are not the most healthy of foods. I was anticipating a normal gym where I pay and am then let go to exercise how I see fit. I found out this was not true with the Planet Fitness family. Before being allowed to exercise, I had to make an appointment with the on-site sports doctor. This meeting, which was held in a mixture of his broken English and his broken Russian, was the most intense physical I have ever received, the highlight of which was the doctor diagnosing me with "mild scoliosis" (these were two of the random English words he knew). After all of my various diagnostic tests, he recommended me certain exercises that I should do to target my overall health goal. One of these is pilates. No thanks, Dr. Slav, I'll stick to the treadmill and weights.

3. The other day, I ate bull tongue. My house mother walked in my room and said, in Russian, that she was preparing something. I say "something" because I couldn't make out what she said in Russian. When I asked her what she said, she simply pointed to her tongue, smiled, and said "tasty." It all happened so fast. In actuality, it wasn't too bad. Just imagine a very tender steak, except that it is bull tongue.

More to come, but I have to go jog and lift weights at the gym.

Seems Vaguely Appropriate

To My Friends

The chain of golden days and nights
Is still your heritage from Deity,
And, still, the languid maidens’ eyes
Are turned to you as well intently.
So, play and sing, friends of my years!
Lose very quickly passing evening,
And, at your heedless joy and singing,
I will be smiling through my tears.
-Aleksandr Pushkin

The Russians are crazy about this guy.

1.21 Giggawatts of Self-Reflection

I have come to a very painful realization. I am currently on something that could be described as an "existential journey."

I am very averse to describing periods in those kinds of terms. I have never enjoyed the feeling that to be considered a part of the American Intelligensia you have to be painstakingly self-reflective and read Vonnegut over your morning granola. Despite this, I have done what many people have do in challenging times: I have become that which I hate the most.

While I have been in Russia, I have been very aware of...myself. Seriously, it hurts me to say that. I would usually chalk sentences like that up to English majors and their ilk. None the less, I have found myself learning more about myself here than I have about any other topic, though I think that I may be saying that simply to attempt to justify to myself why I still can't speak this absurd language.

Since I have devoted myself unwillingly to the concept of my having an "existential journey," I will do it justice by saying that this is not limited to me simply learning that I really miss grilled meat (which I do) or that I long to shop at Wal-Mart (the American dream, in my mind). I feel that by existing in Russia's society as an outlier and, at best, a novelty, I have really learned more about how I exist within my home society. I realize this is all very abstract, and I expect very few people to read this and truly understand what I am saying (not because I think I am thinking on some higher plane, but mostly because I am rambling).

To be frank, I feel that the best aid in me becoming acquainted with myself (друг, not, знакомый (After reading this, I realize this is a very niche joke and that there may be, at max, three people who read this, understand it, and barely laugh.)) has been to get away from the society that I have existed in that has helped make me the person that I am. I am thankful for the people in my life that have influenced me and I fully embrace the cultural and societal oddities about Mississippi that have made me the person I am.

With that said, to get away from those people and influence, to leave behind my structures of support, has left me with the task of supporting myself, which is a big chore. It has been very beneficial for me, though. I feel I know more about myself now, and, as they say (to be truthful, I don't know who says this), knowing is half of the battle.

Where I think that I differentiate from our culture's popular obsession with self-reflection is that I am not in an existential flux or having a crisis in which I have found a new me that I can't reconcile with the previous me. Far from it, to be exact. At the end of the day, the Harrison that was in Oxford is the exact same Harrison that is in Russia, just nine hours ahead of time (Back to the Future?).