writing about learning russian

iulie 30, 2011

i read this book that i liked a lot, sometime this spring – beginning of june, i guess – i started it on a cold rainy weekend, amidst some stress, maybe that`s why it made so much PERFECT  sense to me. the book is by caroline adderson, it`s called ‘the sky is falling’.

things this book can be said to be about:

– vancouver!!! the house the heroine rents in is on trutch! and she studies at UBC. so many places and things where i jumped up and gasped as in ‘i was there!’

– the ’80s, the Cold War. this is what the title refers to. of course i know nothing about that, because i`m a)too young, b) from the other side – but for the same reasons i`ve always been curious. though it still sounds very abstract to me. i can`t understand what people were afraid would happen. nowadays we have global warming, and our brand of terrorism, and a response of permanent terror is still weird.

– first love / considering lesbian attraction. what the narrator`s thoughts and feelings and problems are is so removed from sex and couplehood that it endears her instantly. and she`s 20. mmm, i was like YEAH  all along, although of course i realize she didn`t uphold herself as a standard of normality.

– and the name of her love object is sonia. i giggled about it and couldn`t help telling sonja. vancouver and sonias, it`s a thing!

– RUSSIAN. now we`re talking. although this could be split in 2 parts: the literature one and more importantly, the language. i don`t care enough for chekhov, on which the narrator is writing her thesis…but book-wise, at some point, she develops a short theory about kitty`s attachment to and fascination with other women in ‘anna karenina’. on the other hand, language….maaaaan!

i know more russian than her now. which is totally beside the point. the author admittedly speaks no russian at all, and did all the insertions in the text with the help of friends. but the sense of adventure in starting the study, of the doors it opens and the mysteries it entails, and how, without knowing at all what you`re doing you can go around renaming each object automatically – this is so well written. i don`t often envy people for having STOLEN MY THINGS  and written them down, but this is it; one of the cases of, damn, i should have written that, not her. i don`t even mean the whole book, just the interwoven language parts. i realize also that for westerners russian has a different sort of mystique than for me (although i`m questioning that now a bit: it can`t be that different. i come from the west of this language too, and was too young to suffer OF it. if anything, my take on it is americanized, as compared to my parents`…..).

anyway: i have been there, done that. the russian learning. the impressing-people-with-the-strange-alphabet-i-can-write; the letting-them-think-i-am-more-fluent-than-i-actually-am; the instantly-translating-things; the doing-my-homework; the wonder of language acquisition which i had been unable to theorize with either the english or french while getting the basics of them.

the narrator doesn`t choose russian; i don`t even think she says she likes it. she just ends up taking it, passively, where russian is a metaphor for…everything: for the age and times she grows up in, for the actions and plans she gets dragged into, and the general atmosphere – the ominous thrill of it.

so yeah, in spite of the not-so-plotty content, i loved this book from cover to back cover and am recommending it warmly. not only it gave me a huge russian-learning boost, it re-sparked my reading interest and, again, made me miss vancouver.

Reclame

(pitching my unwritten posts)

februarie 15, 2010

happy new year, people! well – it’s happy new chinese year by this time, but you know what i mean.

a vicious combination of busy+ lazy+  good weather+ impending changes vibe has unfortunately prevented me from ranting on here in 2010 so far. (i ranted in my diary instead – whatever works – also, haha, with good reason: you DO NOT  want to read that). but , before the ‘see you in montreal’ day, i’m thinking of trying this:

i’ll ‘pitch’ the things i would have written about, ~ twitter-length, for whoever is interested. and i promise to develop on them in a separate post each, but only upon request. (mmm actually very transparent way of checking who the hell is still reading this blog.)

okay: my topics.

1) again, why do we write? and, what to write about? addressing the impact ‘precious’ (the movie, and the sapphire book) has made on me, and tied in with dave eggers’ „what is the what”. how do artists as relatively privileged people get away with addressing painful issues from the point of view of the pained.

2) pro and anti olympics. yes, both. guilty and entertained, righteous and exploited and joyful and proud. lining up for free concerts, mouthing the canadian anthem. arguing about shane koczyan’s poem. attending protests, and blackout poetry projects, whatever that is. cheering for gold. ogling speed skaters.

3) sweet encounters – bacon cake, donut birthday cake, new year’s leftovers, bake sale as haiti benefit, and MUFFINS. desserts from the aching perspective of someone who finds it too hard to cook and too easy to overeat. obesity, balance, and having a good heart.

4) „i don’t care” is the most hurtful sentence in the english language. discussion, with concrete illustrations, and reflection upon how i use it to hurt others. possible translations/equivalences in romanian.

5) popcorn at the movies. this one’s about routines, cultural or otherwise. but mostly personal. how i laugh at others’ small addictions but i would freak out so fast to be deprived of mine. (on a second thought, i think it’s about that primarily: seeing a stranger’s tics with an unforgiving eye. the opposite of kindness – the opposite of topic 3)).

6) new place. moving out and moving in. testing squeaky floors:). plans for a new start, from wild hopes to resignation and back to color samples and garage sales. trying to sublet sight unseen. going with insight versus trying rationality. this is an ongoing ~thing and too close for comfort, but funny.

* walking on air as the most (over)used metaphor for my own life. every step forward in a relationship is taken through a leap of assumption that the other person already likes me. if it weren’t for hubris i would never talk to anyone ever. (insert cartoon of scooby doo or whoever walking over the edge of the cliff and keeping walking, and only falling once he becomes aware.) (on a second thought, i think this really is everything i have to say on this topic.)

7) jd salinger and howard zinn and how their deaths (as a double-impact shock) affected me even if salinger was 91 and i’d never heard of zinn before. concluding again that i want to be a storyteller rather than a historian.


partying „in the pacific northwest”

ianuarie 1, 2010

– once i said „on the west coast” in reference to something vancouver/portland, then i realized i was talking to matt who’s californian and i basically have no idea about california things, i.e. where it’s sunny all the time and people really.can. not. live. without.a.car. so i stand corrected.

– the first thing to keep in mind, my parties here have all been house parties. (intelligence from matt again: in NYC no one’s space is big enough for partying haha so they have to go to bars) and i’m not counting readings as parties, even if at points people were drinking hard – a reading is a cultural event, so there. of course they were drinking. that’s the way to imbibe culture. but seriously i don’t think i’ve been in a ‘club’ in vancouver. i’ve seen line-ups on weekend nights downtown though, and weren’t they a pretty sight. i’ve also seen young people stumbling and staggering and puking all over granville and the b-line. so it must be cool.

-but wait. a party is a cultural event too. more than anything else.

-i’m writing this because i’m getting a bit anxious for the NYE party (last one at sonja’s) and i basically have 6 hrs to kill and it’s raining like crazy and i don’t feel like plucking my eyebrows, which would be the alternative right now. also because i’ve been pounded stupid w the phrase „xxx of the decade” these days, and all my facebook feed by now is full of happy new year wishes and  it’s already 2010 in romania, which makes no sense, romania is one year ahead? haha old joke. but, you know. all this stuff.

– i never know what to take to parties, except for myself and my willingness to cry and argue. it could be argued (and cried) that this willingness has served me well  to some extent…and of course, on the other hand undermined my efforts at being taken seriously, except…what were those efforts? oh.  so  i think i usually take a bottle of wine. no one will open mine anyway . i mean any party is supposed to be BYOB (‘bring your own booze – i had to google it oct ’07) but it’s not strictly so…because…it’s a party, not a workshop for drunks. i always hope someone does open my bottle, my poor generic wine bottle, randomly chosen based on name, country of origin or amount of money i have to spare – in the end…i feel a bit bad for it (~her) to abandon her in a foreign fridge. a box in a box. as lonely and befuddled as me.

– then i mingle. well no i don’t, i go straight to the buffet and sample. i remember autumn ’07, trying not to wrinkle my nose at the spectacle of two dozen kinds of dips. ok, dips still don’t make much sense to me. so on the one hand i want to see the difference. on the other hand, i keep liking the familiar for a long long time. unless it’s cumbersome. or unless the familiar was the reason that pushed me to move. mingling is harder than it seems; it involves doing your own thing in a way that keeps stuff homogenous. (cue „dip in” and all sorts of corny follow ups.) mingle. ok.

– well instead of mingling what i normally do is talk to mostly one person the whole night. or at least focus on them. it’s easier. it helps that people are polite, and in ’07 it helped that i was a bit of a rare species(i still am to some extent bc i keep meeting new people, but already vancouver seems a bit small, i dunno:) ). and it’s not that i start off as very interested in that person, but it’s just comfortable to…be following someone, to gravitate around them. back in cluj i always ended up DJ-ing…but here i’ve accepted my inferiority in matters of musical taste so there – ground ceded, that’s that.

-i sort of have a record of losing earrings on couches, which is funny and of course not as dirty as i tried to make it sound.

– i don’t think i’ve ever had to dance. oh, i danced once at the oddball – not a house party but an eastside one so not your standard club fare. i never remember anything about dancing – my memories of parties are always of talking and drinking. yes i drink at parties. it’s fun. i mean even if it’s not fun it becomes fun after 2 glasses. which is the obvious point.

– things that can happen at parties: biographies in a nutshell/having your palm read/starting a crush and getting over it by the end of the night/watching fish and stealing toys (that was the most memorable party of ’07 – i’ll come back to it over and over again)/ overdose on cheese/ mixed tapes/ listening to people reminisce/discuss their childhoods or their common background vs. yours. anger. desire. breathe in, breathe out, go out on the porch, or in the street, or on the balcony where a circle has gathered to share a joint. join in for a puff, cop the feel that you ARE joining something, that you are present. rinse, repeat.

– extra things that can happen at writers’ parties: someone starts actually detailing the subject of a book. someone asks for feedback on a specific point, and an impromptu workshop flares up for 10 mins. the dialogue jumps around very quickly because there are always people wittier than average. or young and easily bored. or both. you learn so many names and titles in the easy flow of just words that you feel maybe you should take notes. you feel the need to sting, scandalize, pull them back with you. say something sudden. you usually shrug and wait to get drunker.

– extra things that can happen at east side parties: people talk about social work all night. people bring foods that they’ve cooked or baked from scratch, everything is organic and vegan. people talk about how organic and vegan things are a great deal. at one point you are convinced you are paranoid. and mean. and uninformed and parasitical. all your good impulses are choked and conflicted. you feel like wide is narrow and all-encompassing is shallow and that you’d rather smash a bottle against a pole.

– when i look around the room and start asking myself how much every one earns a year i know it’s time to switch to juice for the night.

– knowing when to leave is essential. leaving in groups is what vancouver does, because public transport is lousy and because taking joint rides is environmental, or something. people send a text to check when the last bus is. people hunt for cabs. then they get home and add you on facebook before they forget. then they forget.


what-actually-happened (nice things nov/dec)

decembrie 7, 2009

– late evening at elena’s before she went to the maritimes. i passed by hers and washed her dishes, after my tutoring+french. that was a completely booked day, man! when i arrived, 9+pm, i was all soaked, that was the rainiest time of nov., before it actually got cold…i was all in arms with backpack and laptop w/ adam’s newly downloaded music…so we jammed to that and my virtual elena dance mix (it’s gonna happen!) and we tried on hats and scarves (ok she was packing) and everything was loveliness and i got so little sleeeeepppp those days…

– one culture crawl night. like, nov. 20th? i love vancouver! this is such a cool thing it’s got going. the studio venues were awesome…i went with yael &birgitte, at one point it was raining sooo baddd, like, the worst night of the fall…lightning and that, which for vancouver is a rarity. also. previously at sonja’s, me getting ready for the cultural immersion carmen style, i.e. yeah, a joint? why not? and scotch? sounds quite good…huh it’s even drinkable…yay i’m getting tipsy…alright, now on to the crawl. it’s not bad of course (i mean not extreme), just kind of silly. and i sobered up real quick. most of the night spent at the parker 1000 studios, where i’d been once before, but not in a crawl crowd. watching yael interact with the artists, ogling the smallest objects of each exhibition, coveting buttons and affordable small pottery and woollen toys, not even thinking about the rest of the stuff. all in all a mess of colors and awesome snacks. (i named myself responsible w/ sampling every snack…that was a good deal)

– mmm have i ever mentioned the infamous joyland reading night? perhaps not. that was me publicizing the joyland readings just bc. my 2 favourite people-i-envy (rachel and alex) were reading. the reading itself was not as interesting as the friday night outing that…encompassed it. picture me arriving at sonja’s with the firm intention of getting drunk. wooops. now picture kevin egging me on. wonderful. and then…we went downtown, and because lora was at the reading too, there was a slight attempt of creating a „posse” …next we went to an art gallery where there was an exhibition of some sort…we ended up in a curtained-off empty room (like, a projection-type of thing, only nothing was on), me watching lora make friends with my former classmates…then actually, hilariously, having them tag along with *us* in search of a place to drink more. but it was only the 4 of us in the end, and i drank ginger ale and sulked gradually esp. after midnight because it’s fucked-up when everybody has a weekend the next day so they can’t sleep in and i don’t/can’t (remind me why friday nights are not a good idea -). but it ended up ok, i.e. i did not cry. i think i might’ve been close? what! we were talking about important things.

(the most hurtful thing anyone’s said to me this fall: „all make-up and ambition, no talent” – sonja on adam :)) )

– omg dinner with john!!!finally after months and months. well he’s had a tough year, but i sure hope to catch him again before i leave. this was pre-my second showing of „after homelessness”

-!!”after homelessness”!!! david diamond’s project, with actual actors from the DTES playing a script written by themselves about homelessness and related issues. with a follow-up where the audience interacts and can steer the conflicts…so wonderful. i’ll just say that i sent 3 people to watch the play…i went twice with yael (anfd joan), i listened to a webcast, so a third time, with alex l., and it’s been different and touching every time. so i’ll…put the link up?

http://afterhomelessness.blogspot.com/

– I WILL NOT TALK ABOUT THE AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS – I MIGHT BE SCARRED FOR LIFE.

but, on a 2nd thought: tommy joe ratttttlifffffff!!! you know what i mean???!?!?

http://www.afterelton.com/askmonkey/12-07-2009

– ok, last friday night, elizabeth’s concert @st augustine’s on the drive. finally. i haven’t been on the drive in the daytime in quite a while i’m realizing…duh, it gets dark at like 4.30 so by the time i’m off work, buh-bye daylight. anyway. it’s been fun. big table w/ lora and juliet and an early-days-internet friend of e’s straight from calgary. after which quite unexpectedly sonja, kevin and sean o. crashed the party. as in, really crashed the party. after they came it was all of a sudden less about the concert than about flirty written notes back and forth across the table. i mean, good fun, but uh-oh my attention span and range of interests.

that’s it.


fun timeline

septembrie 9, 2009

apr 29 – hand in thesis

apr 29- may 20 – moping post-thesis/ waiting for potentially interesting guy to call. (in case you’re curious about that development: he doesn’t. end of story)

may 20- rest of summer and continuing: OMG ADAM LAMBERT

ADAAAAM

(?   !    ?  !   ? yes, i know, wtf)

july 31st – start collecting papers for extension of stay in canada (realize i could send application in same day if only i had a credit card. shrug.)

aug. 5 (ok, there was the long weekend in between) – papers collected

aug 6 – send application

aug 7- fuck! application is incomplete! have to wake up early to catch human person on phone at CIC, with instruction on how to send the missing paper; afternoon =send missing paper. breathe.

aug 10-17 – early mornings try to call CIC and find out if file is complete/when they’re dealing with it; fail to engage with humans

aug 17 – human on the phone from CIC (= immigration canada) says file will take around one more month in line, as at the moment they’re just opening files arrived first week of july. „please inquire again one month from now.” same human says she doesn’t know if a work permit would allow me to work in quebec. she says call quebec and gives me a number: it’s robots!

aug 17  – half an hour later – i give notice at my job

aug 18-30 – i tell everyone (including creepy person on the bus, AEGEE friends, random chat interlocutors, regular customers and co-op neighbours) bits of my sad story.

aug 19 – plane ticket bought for cluj

aug 19-28 – bits of random packing: bunching up clothes i want to give up; tearing papers; inventorying books. making lists.

aug 20-23 – i take online quizzes to determine my points for immigration from romania to canada/quebec (i have different scores for different quizzes. at least some of them look hopeful. i need french. i need a job offer.)

aug 27 – last day at work

aug 28- morning leave for seattle

aug 30 – arrive portland

aug 31 – email from ef. telling me work permit arrived in mail

sept 1 – i want to go back to cluj and visit; but then i want to return. this is plan A. i like it.

sept 1/2 – back in vancouver; plans A through D written down neatly. work permit turns out to be for 3 YEARS! SHIT!

sept 2 – morning – phone CIC. human voice!!! realize once i leave canada i need a visa for re-entry. complicated. but visa is formality. phone quebec. the person in quebec does not know whether i’m allowed to work in quebec or not. suggests i call CIC. i’m like, forget about it! i have fun day out, all serene and shit.

sept 2 – evening – mum agrees with anything, as long as i go home ; i say i’d have to resign from sincai, she’s like ok, whatever. then suddenly : „your father’s not very happy here” BOOM

sept 2/3/4 – argue; break for sleep; argue; break for lunch; argue; break = can’t sleep; argue; break for a nap (nightmares); argue.

sept 4/5 night: sort of an ultimatum. „flip the coin” moment. i do not flip the coin. because i do not fucking need to flip a coin. ok?

sept 5 – morning – yes, i catch another human voice at CIC. human voice says yes, an open work permit allows you to work in quebec. any other questions you had? NO! THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU!

sept 5 – evening – write resignation email to school/send it.

sleep

eat. sleep.

walk. eat. read women’s mags. throw torn papers. sleep.

sept 8 – got shitty job back.

the future is ours.

STAY POSITIVE

= one more week of holiday. actually staycation but who cares

= no jet lag

= cancellation of all possibly teary goodbye drinks&such : replacement with non-teary non-goodbye drinks

= sonja gets to buy me the hat! yes i hereby demand the hat. hat hat hat hat hat

= writing!! readings!! writers’ festival (i get to see richard ford !!!! <3)

= montreal ’10. wait: matt in montreal ’10 🙂


vancouver says goodbye…to summer

august 26, 2009

– 2 days at wreck beach- one swimming and suntanning with lora, the other a picnic plus hardcore gathering blackberries w/elena &sonia

– when i was the most *heartbroken* – 2-3 afternoons, straight off work – i’d just go to jericho and sit next to a log and watch the ocean and try to write. one day i had a huge coffee thermos. omg, energy drink buzzz, by the way!

– sam , on and off commercial one sunny day

– sandwiches and milkshakes with yael&co. on their ‘porch’

– salads and indigequeer shorts with lora one night – walking alone downtown at night, never fails to…impress me. it’s so alien.

– twilight. with e. and lora. and commentary by ovidiu online

– romanian dinner w/ nadia at ‘transylvania’ restaurant. haha, i couldn’t have left without it. (also, when nadia returned from europe she was *accidentally* on the same plane/almost same class w/ matt damon!! i freaked out!!)

– planning. forever smiling and planning. explaining to people that i’m not sad. except i’ll have to give a lot of books away. oh well, bygones

– following: goodbye parties (trying not to think about) aaand my last US trip for a while. what’s not to like??


seagulls at 5 a.m.

august 11, 2009

i.e. WHAT IS GOOD ABOUT VANCOUVER:

– a bunch of people (not more than 10 all in all), close enough to be thought of /remote enough to be obsessed about – plus their partners, pets and own weirdnesses

– a bunch of places: desk by the window view yay; 99 bus route (got the timing down by heart); the freaking campus (SUB/ library); table at ‘our town’; main broadway to 30th; commercial broadway up to napier; false creek waterfront; wreck beach, jericho, spanish banks, kits; lora’s downtown bit; 1067 granville

– weather between the *presumed* seasons: no seriously: the no-thick- coat-in-winter, the fog, some rainy days when rain is a relief (about 1/20 of all rain that occurs but w/e), late nights in summer, the awesome blooms in spring

– bookstores, literary journals, free magazines (mag boxes), newspapers available in cafes – that is the way to go – not having that will be fucking crippling!!(i’m almost crying, so moving on…)

– readings: the blenz/rhizome grouplet, the pulp fiction/montmartre one.

– along the same lines of ‘people read the books i read’ – although the statement is blatantly false and the situation far fuzzier: my ‘current news’ being closer to canada’s current news than to romania’s. i guess they’ve always been. and yes, it is a matter of being left-inclined and of going global in order to flee the bleak reality under my nose blah blah. sue me. (i am in pain over possibly not being able to read ‘dilema’ at home any more…i’ll freaking get into political arguments all the time with people i do respect…hell.)

– i’ve got monopoly on righteousness (of the outsider who’s had it worse in the other place)

-from far enough away, i’ve been told i might look glamorous. only in vancouver/on west coast, though. i have too much respect for montreal to presume it would work there

-close to U.S., i.e. i can use my visa for cheaper (not that i wouldn’t go cluj-new york as soon as i get the money lined up…that visa is too precious to waste)

[under construction]