Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Russian is done, Man!

I never can resist a throwback to Don't Tell Mom the Babysitters Dead.  

So, even after changing the name of ye olde blogge to reflect my current location, I have not written a word for about six months. Sorry about that. But now that I have successfully mastered the Russian language* and completed this year's fantasy football draft, I have some free time to catch you all up on the ATKs' exciting 6 months in Arlington, VA.

First, let me address the critical question that I know is on your minds, How awesome is my fantasy football team? Well, it's not too bad, though I'm always apprehensive. I got a B from ESPN and a passing grade from them is usually the kiss of death. I always forget that the people in my league draft back up tight ends, so I got stuck with Antonio Gates as, like, 24 TEs went off the board before I even picked one.  I just hope the RGIII returns to 2012 levels** and this is not the year Frank Gore turns to dust.

So, anyway, back to Russian class. Well, we started in late February and by late March we had had three snow days! THREE! I grew up in Wisconsin and don't remember getting three snow days in one month, pretty much, ever. It was crazy because it seemed every week the weather would get progressively warmer until it was 50 degrees on Friday and then by Sunday night it would drop back down to freezing and a blizzard would roll through town Sunday and Monday there would be no school.  Hilariously (in my opinion anyway), after that first warmish weekend Mr. ATK packed up pretty much all of his winter outwear, including hats, gloves, and coats, and strongly encouraged me to do the same, but I refused because I know what a fickle mistress the weather can be.  In Mr. ATK's defense, we do have a small one bedroom apartment with a tiny coat closet and winter clothes are bulky. I also have approximately seven winter coats and a large assortment of hats and scarves (none of which I got to wear in India) so I can see why he was in a hurry to vacuum pack those things up ASAP. But in the end, I had a winter hat when the blizzard came back and he did not. He tried to tough it out, but eventually ended up wearing my Green Bay Packers cap, much to his chagrin.

Wait, that wasn't about Russian class. Okay, back to Russian class. For realz this time. I swear. Mr. ATK and I started class together in February with one other woman.  Classes were five hours a day with just the three of us in the beginning, but then Mr. ATK got bumped up to a higher class, leaving me and and the other student, who I have affectionately nicknamed the "самая интересная женщина в мире." For you non-Cyrillic readers, that means "the most interesting woman in world." I say that in all sincerity. You see in these five hour classes you learn a lot about your classmates. A lot. I mean you are telling this other person (and the teacher) about most of the details of your life, albeit in broken Russian. So in the early days we talked a lot about ourselves, our families, previous jobs, etc. I swear everyday I learned some new fascinating fact about this person's life. I mean, one of the neat things about the State Department in general is that many of the people who work there have had really interesting lives prior to joining. I've met former lawyers, CEOs, merchant marine officers, engineers, missionaries. All sorts of people. Lots of former Peace Corps folks, too. (Represent!)

Anyways, I found The Most Interesting Woman in the World to be the most interesting of all the people (obviously).  I mean, I've met lots of former lawyers and they are all very interesting and eloquent people, but I never met a ballerina before.  Like where that was someone's actual job. Let me share a few other tidbits I found especially interesting:
  1. Gave a TED Talk on women's rights. Very cool.
  2. Former ballerina. (As someone with no rhythm or flexibility, I am super impressed by dancers)
  3. Former singer/songwriter who released an album back in the day
  4. Receives royalties because one of her songs was sampled by Earth,Wind, and Fire
  5. Was an extra in "You've Got Mail."  And apparently a noticeable one. I've never seen the movie but when I inevitably do (since I now have a recent to watch it) I will know where to look ("the party scene with the dip.")  She was in some other movies too, but I forget which ones. I mean, I didn't ask for a complete filmography.
  6. Was an extra in several episodes of Seinfeld! Which is probably the coolest thing ever. Strike that. Working on Golden Girls would have been the coolest thing ever. I honestly think my head would have exploded.  I would have done nothing but ask her questions about Bea Arthur for five straight months.)
Her husband is also a well regarded sportswriter who has written several books with people like Phil Jackson and Sugar Ray Leonard, among others.  I really should call them the "самая интересная пара в мире".  And I feel I need to reiterate all of these subjects came up organically, you know, because we had to talk about ourselves for hours a day for months. When I re-read this list, I feel it may come off as pretty "name-drop-y" or "humble brag-y," but it's not like that.

Anyways, we studied Russian together for about five months until we were split up and went our separate Russian learning ways. I finished it up about a month later and think she has class until October. Sunrise, sunset, y'all.

Learning Russian for 6 months was a great experience--challenging, but fun. Now that I'm in my mid-30s I've fully embraced my inner nerd. Dude, I just love school and studying, I guess. I really love studying languages. I reserve the right to change my opinion on all of this if we get stuck with Mandarin or Arabic next.

This is normally the part where I would share hilarious stories of misunderstandings or other misadventures in language learning (like this classic ATK post) but, you know, I've been out of Russian class for a while and when I look back on what I considered to be humorous situations at the time, they probably have a touch of the "you had to be there" humor about them. Give me an example, you say? Well, if you insist....

 So everyday in class we talked about the news and one day (not that long ago, actually) I was trying to talk about the little girl in Arizona who accidentally shot her instructor with an Uzi at a shooting range. Well, the word for "shooting range" in Russian is "полигон" ("polygon" if we use the Latin alphabet.)  So I'm trying to tell my teacher and my new classmate (neither of whom had heard the story yet) about this shooting. Except instead of "polygon," I said "pentagon." (Which in my defense, a pentagon is a polygon. Honest mistake.) So I'm telling this story about a little girl who killed a shooting instructor at the Pentagon. My audience was horrified. "How did she get to the Pentagon?" they asked. "Her father brought her," I replied. "How did we not hear about this? When did this happen?" they asked. "Just recently, I think," I said. "Yesterday, maybe."  "How did she get an Uzi?" they asked. "Her dad gave it to her," I replied. "WHAT?!"  Finally, I stopped my Russian and said in English, "By pentagon, I mean shooting range. That is the word for shooting range, right?" Turns out, it was not. I couldn't remember "polygon" though I swore it was a shape of some kind.  The teacher was like, "Nope. Pentagon means pentagon. Or Pentagon.  Not shooting range."

It was hilarious. And very much like this:

Looking back over this post, I see I did not really talk about our time in Arlington outside of Russian class.  I guess I'll need to end this post with "to be continued...."


*I have not actually mastered the Russian language. Not at all.
**The first game was not promising. I actually picked up Jake Locker as a backup. Jake Locker!

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