Thursday, October 30, 2008

How to Prepare Food in Moscow

It came as a delightful surprise yesterday when I discovered that my local supermarket stocks baked beans. I say baked beans, when, in fact, the were fasol' belaya v tomatnom souse; although the were in cans with pictures of beans and tomatoes on them; so I crossed my fingers, and threw half a dozen into my shopping basket.

Back at home, eggs poaching, toast toasting, and a pot heating to precisely the right temperature for warming baked beans -- and I discover that my flat doesn't have a recognisable can opener. There is something in my kitchen drawer that I recognise as possibly being designed for opening cans, but it wasn't designed in such a was as I recognise it.

I examined the device for some time, held it against the can at various angles, like an excerpt from the Karma Sutra of food perpetration, but I couldn't access my baked beans. I knew that wishing for an instruction manual would be hopeless; if there had been one, it was lost by the time Stalin came to power.

Lunch proved to be lighter than expected. Additionally, I still don't know for sure that what I bought were actually baked beans.

It may or may not be worth noting that I used a certain amount of artistic license with my above description of toasting bread. I don't have a toaster, nor do I need one. I'm sure that the Russian version of Cludo replaces the candlestick with a small loaf or brown bread.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Introducing: Russian Word of the Update

I would like to introduce a new feature of my blog: Russian Word-of-the-Update. If my faith in my readers is warranted, I won't need to go into explanatory detail regarding the details of the feature.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How to Play Classroom Games

One of the highlights of teaching at BKC is the level of supplementary teacher training on offer. For instance: at the moment I am attending a series of workshops on teaching teenage students. Topics covered included: pacing, how to induce discipline, and, last week, classroom games. That workshop was little more than a bunch of grown-up teachers playing a range of children's games.
I questions the personal relevance of a "games" workshop; my teen class only every want to play Emo-Band Hangman anyway. However, most of the games that we played in the workshop were fairly fun, and I'll be trialling them all in class, with one exception.

The exceptional game is played thus: everyone writes down three nouns. Half of the the class lines up along one wall of the room, and the other half along the opposite wall. Each student then pairs up with the student standing directly opposite them, and must YELL descriptions of their words across the room, thereby eliciting the words from their partner.

My partner started.

"__EY GRO_ O_ TREE_!"


"_ES! AN AN_M__ _OU KEE_ A_ A PE_!"

"A dog!"


"A cat!"

"_ES! __E BUIL_D__ IN __E CEN_RE O_ MO__OW!"

"The Kremlin!"


My turn. I chose to start with the easiest word I had.

"You get one of these when a large star exhausts the last of its fuel and collapses under the force its own gravity!"

I'm told that this game is fantastic for shy students. I can personally advise that it is not appropriate for overly nerdy students.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


The man sitting next to me on the Metro this morning smelled distinctly of carrots. It wasn't really a problem; I quite like the smell of carrots, it reminds me of eating carrots. I do, however, have certain concerns regarding the man's health.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An Anecdotal Tribute to Hemmingway


"What mean 'Damn'?"

". . . Whoops. . ."

See also:

I only needed five words.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Autumn Cleaning

I cleaned my flat on Sunday. I washed the dishes, including some dishes from the cupboard that had clearly gone unused for a while, wiped down the shelves and benches, and reorganised how I store both food and crockery. Now I'm left to wonder: "why?"

Cleaning, as an act committed by a randomly sampled person, is not especially surprising. However, the way I view cleaning is similar to the way I view exercising: if one chooses to do it, then one must do it regularly and consistently to enjoy the benefits; otherwise there isn't really much to be gained. I clean like George Lucas exercises. Case in point: a past landlord of mine once described my toilet as "a health hazard".

So what happened? What was going on inside my head that caused me to pick up a bottle of Mister Muscle (known as Mister Muskul in Russia) for, possibly, the first time in my life? And not only pick up, but use extensively.

The only explanation that I can come up with is that I exhibiting very idiosyncratic symptoms of culture shock.

I was told when I arrived in Russia that almost everyone suffers from culture shock, starting anytime from about two to eight weeks after arrival. Tick the box marked appropriate time frame. However, culture shock typically manifests itself as anger, resentment, and even hostility towards ones adopted culture. Nobody mentioned anything to me about short-term OCD.

If I was forced to guess, I could only postulate these two alternative explanations:

Either: I'm such a passive person that I inherently cannot become angry and resentful towards anything much at all, much less abstract concepts such as culture.

Or: I'm so flamboyantly post-modern that I cannot manifest culture shock as anger towards another culture, and this "Shock" must therefore surface as something that could not be interpreted as "culture-ism".

I therefore put the following question to you: what the hell is going on?

Friday, October 3, 2008

How to Finish a Post, a Full Month After Starting it.

Pacific Peso Adventure is finished. At last. If you read the final instalment, you may be able to guess why it took so long for me to write.

Do Enjoy.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

How to not Buy a Mobile Phone in Moscow

I can't buy a mobile phone in Moscow. This is not to say that I can't figure out where to go, or what brand of phone I want to buy, or how to enact a basic customer-retailer interaction. This is to say that I am not allowed to buy a mobile phone in Moscow. Such is the difference between the epistemic and the deontic use if the word can't. I'm not sure what the problem is, exactly, although I think it may have something to do with, either, my interim visa, or my non-Russian passport, but at any rate, I will not be eligible for cell-phone ownership for at least another week, and probably longer; and yet, nobody seems to be able to tell me precisely what it is that makes cellular technology comparable to a firearm.