1. Introduction
  2. The Diary (22 June 1994 - 13 July 1994)
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23 June 1994

When I woke up this morning, I could hear church bells. I went back to sleep, and when I woke up again, over the sound of the traffic and people walking, I could hear a band playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" of all things! It was weird.

I slept till 2:00 PM, but not straight through. Olga took me to the market to buy things for dinner (soup). She knew the store manager, and talked to her for a while. It was strange listening to this conversation and having no clue about what anyone was saying. Oh, but I did learn the word for cheese. Olga's friend came over to make the soup for dinner. She brought her daughter, Suzanna, and Suzanna's friend Shasha, who got me with the snapping gum prank. I can't believe I fell for it! That is one of the oldest tricks in the book!

Olga tried to make popcorn, but it didn't work. It just all burned up. Her aunt and friend were supposed to visit at 4:00, came after 5:00, and since Olga left for the tailor shop or something, they decided to come back at 6:00. They left a cat here. He's real cute and craves attention. I think maybe it's Olga's cat. His name was something like Listik.2 Meow.

At 10:00 pm, it's still afternoon. I went with Olga and her friend (Yala?) and Suzanna to the park to play tennis. Suzanna and I played paddle ball, and every time she missed, she said "OY." It reminded me of Mr Maxey: "Doh!"3 It was fun, even if the ball inevitably landed in this puddle like iron to a magnet. On the walk home Olga was trying to teach me Russian words, but it didn't work, because I do better when I see something. She said tomorrow if it's not raining, we will go to a palace.

Pushkin is a verdant place. There are lots of bright green plants growing everywhere along the sidewalk. It looks as though someone was building a city in the forest and forgot to clear all the trees, or maybe someone was trying to plant a forest in a city and forgot to clear all the buildings. Everything looks kind of old.

Pedestrians are moving targets for both cars and other pedestrians, even. People walk along quite quickly, and don't really move out of the way, just enough to barely clear you and not even that sometimes. It's weird, because in California, everyone seems to move as far away as possible when they walk by.

2 There were lots of semi-feral cats wandering outside Olga's flat, which I remember looked out over an undeveloped plot of land, overgrown with grass and weeds. One of the first Russian words I learned was the word for cat (kisa), because Melanie would look out the window of the tiny shoebox kitchen, point, and say, "Kisa!" every time a cat was skulking around. I learned a lot of Russian vocabulary through a four-year-old's perspective, which was actually fun and a good way to learn. I remember, late at night, thrown off by the time difference and jet lag, looking across the dark bedroom at Mom-mom trying to settle down a restless and squirmy Melanie, saying, "Spat, spat" (sleep, sleep).

3 Mr Maxey was my math teacher sophomore year of high school ( and also my driver's ed teacher later). In between expounding on incredibly boring algebra problems (which he'd try to enliven by drawing little stick figures to illustrate certain concepts-- "See little Jimmy Slope? There he is! Hello!"), he had about a three phrase vocabulary that consisted of school spirit chants ("Here we go Cougars, here we go!"). He wasn't a particularly bad person, nor even a bad educator, but my small group of intelligent, cynical adolescent friends and I were none to impressed.

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