Tuesday, January 09, 2007

What Gwannie did at school

My personal favourite amongst the Novodevichy graves - "Sorry, could I call you back? Now really isn't a good time" - wtf?

Khruschev's grave



Weird gladiator grave at Novodevichy



The walls of Novodevichy convent


That post title makes no sense, but I couldn't resist. It would have been perfect if I actually had teaching-related things to blog about, but I don't, what a wasted opportunity. Instead, you're going to find out what Gwan did at the weekend.

Friday - it was back to the Pushkin to check out the 19th & 20th century building. Room after room of 'big names'- Van Gogh, Matisse, Monet, Gaugin, Rodin, Picasso, Degas etc. etc. but they mostly weren't really for me. I can see why people like, say, Monet, but like all things that are merely pretty, I find his paintings rather monotonous. And then some of the 20th century rooms which may actually have contained the sort of art I do like were closed. C'est la vie...

Saturday Melani and I headed out to the Novodevichy Convent, which I have heard great things about, but was really rather dingy. Granted, we didn't actually go inside any of the buildings, so there's quite possibly hidden treasures within. It also has a large adjoining graveyard, full of the over-the-top sort of graves that I also saw in Prague (photos to follow). It is also supposedly jam-packed with Russian celebs, but could we find them? No. The only one we stumbled across (not literally, thankfully) was good old Nikita Khrushchev, the only Soviet leader who isn't buried in the Kremlin walls (well, other than Lenin who of course isn't buried at all). Don't know why he was banish-ed to Novodevichy, though? Plus as a bonus I learned how to spell his name in Cyrillic, which suggests a rather different pronunciation than I would habitually say it. The 'kh' is the Russian letter 'x' which is something like the 'ch' in 'loch'.

On Sunday, I got up later than planned, so couldn't make it to see Lenin in his tomb (was to be a grand weekend of dead people) but I thought I'd go in to the centre and try to go to the Armoury Museum at the Kremlin. Mistake! I suppose in honour of Orthodox Christmas, there was some sort of carnival type thing in the centre - have never seen so many Russians milling about above-ground. And there was a nice long line for the Kremlin into the bargain. Maybe tomorrow I'll manage to make it...

So instead I decided to go out to Ismailovsky Park, which is a big souvenir market. I picked up a bracelet make out of kopeck coins (yeah, I 'could' make that myself, but would I?), a Killers CD which was only 100 roubles - sweet, that's about $5.50, and a set of Soviet propaganda posters. Yeah, I know I have Soviet propaganda posters gathering dust at home, but these are way cool. Once I have me own flat again, they will be on the walls, oh yes, they will be on the walls. I also got to practice my best bargaining skills - in Russian, no less! All the people I actually purchased from spoke Russian to me, which I enjoy. Whether they were just humouring me, or whether they didn't speak English, I don't know, but I speak Russian well enough to have a simple conversation, so I appreciate when people don't just automatically go into English with me. For one thing, what if I were French, or Spanish or Greek etc. etc. ??

I did have one unpleasant incident at the market, however. Melani had warned me that the marketeers get somewhat grabby, and try to physically pull you in the direction of their stalls. I was prepared for this, therefore, and I would just side-step such attempts, of which there were several. But then I came across this guy in this narrow little market alley. He tried to take my arm once - I stepped aside. He tried it again. I again shook him off and moved out of the way, this time saying "Don't touch me" (maybe he didn't understand this, although he was talking to me in English the whole time - 'goblin fruits, come buy, come buy' etc. - but I'm sure he could grasp that his attentions weren't welcome). I then tried to walk past him. He moved and sort of put his arms out so I couldn't get buy. Yes, at this stage I probably should have turned and walked back the way I came, but I suppose the red mists descended, and so I just kept walking and put both my hands out and pushed him! Hereupon he decides to try to grab my arm again. Apologies to readers with delicate sensibilities, but here I really lost my rag and screamed "FUCK OFF!" at him (this I don't know how to say in Russian, alas - I can say "go to hell" in Czech for some reason - 'do predele' for those still in CZ, but my Russian swears are sadly deficient) and with a final push, managed to get past. But I was really quite shaken for the rest of my time at the market, and scrupulously avoided that area. Why he would think I would EVER do business with someone like him, I don't know...

Yesterday and today it's all been business. I have interesting news, but it will have to wait for another day so I can make sure to have everybody's attention...

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