Week 2 – 8 April: On immersion, caviar, chicken and snails

So I’m here! I arrived for my three week stay on Tuesday and took part in a conference at ITMO university from Wednesday until Friday. (Watch my Moodle blog for two posts about that excellent event.)

When I arrived at the entrance on the first day, I was surprised and slightly anxious to discover there were no big signs pointing to the conference. I hung around looking and feeling lost for about ten minutes and then realised I only had one option: I’d have to ask the guy at the reception desk. In Russian. So with my carefully rehearsed “I’m here for the conference” and my improvised ” but I don’t know where to go”, I crossed my fingers in the hope his answer would make sense to me. It did. He hadn’t heard of the conference. Fortunately his colleague had, and told me to go down the corridor and up to the next floor. I happily walked off towards the stairs and then it suddenly dawned on me: I actually understood!!

I haven’t had a Russian lesson for two weeks although at the ITMO conference evening reception I was grilled in an intense but thoroughly satisfying way on all possible A2 oral conversation topics by the lovely Ludmilla when she learned  I am taking the TORFL/ TRKI in two weeks. I’m surrounded by Russian, on the streets, on the TV, in the shops – and of course, my phone and laptop are clearly aware I’m in Russia. So in this first week of immersion, what have I learned?

  • It takes twice as long to go around the supermarket (‘Perekrestok’ supermarket chain here) because I have to read every item, letter by letter. You can’t rely on the pictures because they can sometimes be misleading. I thought these were fruit purées until I realised Russians simply love  mayonnaise…

  • When you first approach the till with your UK ‘bag for life’ and they ask you in a single word if you want a bag (пакет?) reply with a curt, monosyllabic нет – at least, if you want to emulate the Russians ahead of you in the queue. My son thinks I should do it the English way, with an apologetic “No thankyou – I’ve brought my own bag to be environmentally friendly” – but I think it will just delay the people after me.
  • There’s an awful lot of caviar-based products! I don’t particularly like caviar, but I eat anything. Which is fortunate because on the second day I bought a pot noodle and upon eating discovered it was oyster flavour – a new one on me. But OK
  • My language skills did extend to realising that my pear (груша) yoghurt did NOT include chicken (курица) but I had to wait until I’d checked the actual word to discover its extra ingredient (корица) was in fact, cinnamon. But now I’ll always remember!
  • I thought snail repair was a misprint for nail repair until my friend Google told me it is actually A Thing:

From tomorrow (Monday) I will be working for Moodle in the morning and evening and studying in the afternoon. Wish me luck, or as  Viktor Tsoi said (sort of) , пожелай мне удачи

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