The Squeaky Robot

A Meddling Robot in a Human's World

Posts tagged “russia

On an Edge with a Fire Behind You

Posted on February 27, 2013

In Russian, voicing the word “Murmansk” properly would mean to voice it intensely, with the accent on the “u” and a pitch that naturally deepens. The tongue should roll with the “r”, and it should conclude definitively with a crisp “k” click, allowing the word’s powerful phonetics to ring in pulsating waves emanating from the speaker’s vibrating throat. The name Murmansk was born from the local Sami word murman, meaning “the edge of the earth”. My friends and I stepped out of the train station into a thick fog produced by our own heavy breaths. The immediate city was gray and coated with a crust of dirt, apart from the sea foam green façade of the station, a circular building with a garish obelisk…

An Ethnography of American Hockey

Posted on February 11, 2013

My passion for hockey begins at the stadium entrance and dissipates at the exit. Other than tennis and soccer, most other sporting events are simply that – an event, a primeval gathering of people watching the few chosen to perform and put on a good show with tact and sweat and skills beyond the average denizen. The universality of sports is an infectious and powerful thing: it is the tangible manifestation of good and evil, a time when you have no choice but to be dangerously on edge, your mood subject to more fluctuations in half an hour than a manic depressive person off their meds. When your team approaches the goal, you feel something bubble up inside and you’re dizzy with excitement, or…

Living in a City I Once Backpacked Through, or Plants and Animals

Posted on January 14, 2013

The frame of mind needed for backpacking isn’t calibrated to place, but to time. When you’re not sleeping, you’re going, somewhere, anywhere that will have you. Consequently, the eyes of a backpacker are never quite the same as those people who carry purses or briefcases, people I enjoy calling Plants – rooted, sedentary people (these are not inherent lifelong traits, but rather a state of being. I’m a Plant right now in Washington DC, for example). Consequently, you see the world differently as a backpacker, as an Animal whose vision is so sporadic and fast-changing, constantly adjusting and focusing on ephemeral stimuli, that everywhere you go becomes one large and beautiful blur. It’s difficult to get the full picture when you’re on a steady,…

You Can’t Go Home Again

Posted on December 26, 2012

My purse pocket was the place I’d scavenge to make the bus fare. Now, finding shiny two-ruble pieces and old bus tickets in every crevice, I’m reduced to a whimper. Suddenly nothing is garbage anymore and every photo is precious regardless of its quality. Suddenly it feels like I’ve been in the US for twenty years, not three days, and Russia is nothing but a distant memory stored away in the farthest corners of my prefrontal cortex. Accurately describing the feelings, the anxieties, the general haziness of heart and mind when arriving Home from a long trip is a feat beyond my capacities. But if you don’t know the heart-wrenching despair you may experience when you step on that place heading home to comfort,…

Finale

Posted on December 20, 2012

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Mikhail toasts to my health, my happiness, our times together and those to come, just as Gemma the Wiener Dog bursts in through the door wearing a pair of my black lacy underwear on her head.

One adventure must end for another to begin. More on this later, more on Peter and Russia later, as I have vodka to drink and tears to shed.

Mikhail

Posted on December 10, 2012

“Have a good time. Don’t communicate or stand next to boys.” * * * When I decline tea: “Americans. So uncivilized.” * * * After failing to answer a simple addition problem: “I’m a philosopher, not a mathematician! Let’s drink.” * * * Mikhail: “What did you do last night?” Me: “I went clubbing with a few friends.” Mikhail: “What’s clubbing?” Me: “Dancing.” Mikhail: “Oh! What did you dance? Tango? Foxtrot? Waltz?” Me: “. . .” * * * Mikhail: “Do you want seconds?” Me: “No, thank you.” Mikhail: “I’m going to call your mother!!” * * * While I’m eating, Mikhail is on the phone with Larisa (his wife): “Larisa asks how is the food.” Me: “Delicious!” Mikhail to Larisa (smiling deviously): “She…

A Single Story of Soviet Russia

Posted on December 3, 2012

“I don’t know what hunger is,” said Mikhail: teacher, father, product of the Soviet Union. It was strange hearing that from him, even more so with a bright smile in his eyes and overall jovial demeanor, as if he were discussing a recent hockey victory and not a supposedly sore subject. Rather, as an American it was strange hearing that. I think of the USSR, and I think of tanks, grayness, secrecy, scary and impenetrable Cyrillic lettering, looming misery, and long bread lines in inclement weather; the depressing and immoral yield of a communist machine; the enemy of capitalism and, consequently, freedom. So how could Mikhail even utter the words: “I was a teenager. I didn’t have problems”? Of course you had problems! The…