Monday, September 24, 2012

Мне Нужно Купить Будильникa

I need to buy an alarm clock.

Last night, I set the alarm on my iPod for 7:00AM.  I planned on waking up early, doing some yoga, showering, and eating breakfast with my host mom before going to the Academy for orientation.  It was going to be a grand первое утро в России.  But, the alarm never went off!  Instead of waking to the first rays of солнце, I woke up to my host mom's knock on my door.  Her usually forlorn eyes were wide with surprise at having found me still asleep in bed.  Frantically, she began tapping her watch.  It was 8:30!  Я опоздала!  In order to meet my orientation leader at the Metro platform near the academy We needed to leave our apartment by 9:00!  I don't think I've ever showered so quickly in my life.  All my years of rolling out of bed in order to make it to high school classes on time are finally paying off.  In a half hour, I managed to get ready for my day, gulp down some coffee, and eat my каша с йогуртом (Russian porridge with yogurt), which was delicious.

The stairwell in the apartment
After breakfast, I threw on my trench coat and watched as my host mom showed me how to lock the doors to the apartment.  There are 2 doors to our apartment.  The first is a padded outer door with two locks on it.  The inner door is some form of metal and also has a complex system of locks.  Once we sufficiently locked the doors, I followed her down the stairs to the front door of the apartment complex.  Then, she instructed me on how to enter the building using numerical pass codes.  She laughed as I scribbled the numbers down, then we took off towards the Спорти́вная Metro station, which is across the street from our apartment.

Escalator in Sportivnaya Metro Station
Sportivnaya Metro Platform (photo taken after the rush)
I had heard great things about the Moscow Metro system -about how each station is a work of art and how efficient and expansive it is.  The Спорти́вная (Sportivnaya) Metro station is no exception.  After buying me a ticket in a domed rotunda, we stepped onto a large escalator that descended deep into the Moscow underground.  I wanted to stand and watch each of the lanterns go by as we made our way to the platform, but my host mom said <<мы гуляем>> "we walk."  Right, we were late.  Like the rest of the station, the platform was a beautiful marble filled with people rushing about their daily business.  Unlike the stillness of yesterday, the Moscow of a Monday morning moves at a hurried pace and I immediately felt out of place with my adopted Californian saunter.

The train pulled up to the platform and we stepped on board.  In a matter of seconds the doors closed and we were off, through the darkness of the Moscow underground.  At one point, we emerged over the Moscow River and my host mom pointed out the main building of the Moscow State University that we could see in the distance.  As I'm not studying at the Moscow State University, rather I am at the graduate institute called the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, I will have to visit the "МГУ" at some point during my time here.

When we arrived at the Metro stop near the Academy, we met with "the greeter" from yesterday and another Stanford student with the BOSP program, Kyle.  I found out that "the greeter"'s name is Kostya, or more formally, Konstantine.  He puffed on another cigarette as we made our way to the security gate at the Academy.  Since we were running late, I didn't take any photographs of the Academy today since it was raining; however, I promise to take some soon!  I have to say that Stanford's perfectly landscaped suburban campus has spoiled me.  The Russian Presidential Academy is a rough cluster of buildings ensnared by security gates.  Beyond the gates are seemingly abandoned buildings with broken windows and eateries such as the ubiquitous Старбукс (Starbucks) and МакДоналдс (McDonald's) among other unfamiliar cafes.

While the outside of the Academy leaves much to be desired, the insides of the buildings were surprisingly pleasant.  Some had marble floors and chandeliers.  Kostya showed us to a well-equipped classroom where Kyle and I met with Stephanie and Kevin, the two other Stanford students who did not attend the intensive first-year Russian program prior to the start of our Autumn Quarter, and our program directors and staff.  They discussed logistical matters and will hopefully help me purchase a phone and Metro pass tomorrow!

After our initial orientation, Kostya brought us to a Russian eatery, My-My (Moo-Moo) to have lunch and meet with the other Stanford students on our program.  Meeting up with everyone was great!  We're going to have so much fun traveling and getting to know our way around the Moscow area.

We returned to the Academy after lunch for our academic orientation.  Our professors introduced themselves and distributed syllabi.  I'm not sure which classes I want to take!  They all sound so interesting.  I will certainly take advantage of shopping period now in order to decide among Space, Politics, and Modernity in Russia; Economic Reform and Economic Policy in Modern Russia; and Post-Soviet Eurasia and SCO: Society, Politics, Integration.  In addition to my internship and language class, I have room for only two of the aforementioned classes.  I'm leaning towards taking Economic Reform and Economic Policy in Modern Russia, since that class is taught by the head of the Academy and it pertains directly to my interest in studying the reemergence of Russia in the business world, and Space, Politics, and Modernity.

After orientation, I attended an introductory lecture from Professor Medvedev, the professor of the Space, Politics, and Modernity course.  He discussed the very interesting notion of Russia as a land of movement, but "a land that moves in directions, not roads."  I'm still mulling over many of the concepts he brought up in class and am considering taking his course to continue to analyze the complex, paradoxical, and sometimes absurd country that I'm now living in.

We dispersed at the end of class.  Some went back to their home stays to take a nap after such an overwhelming day while others opted to attend a science course.  I returned home briefly to check in with моя мама, but upon finding the apartment empty, I decided to use the last bit of sunlight to explore some of Moscow on a rainy dusk evening and take some photographs.  I hopped on the Metro and rode the train to the Lenin library.  I didn't consult a guide book before leaving, so I have no idea what I took photos of, but I will certainly return and embrace the tourist in me soon!

Lenin Library