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Cristina’s travels TAC 2015 Team Pushkin

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Serpent
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 Message 217 of 297
26 February 2015 at 3:55am | IP Logged 
Haha oops :)

About toilets, it was more of a problem a few years ago, and it may still be an issue if you get far enough from the commercial/mainstream/etc stuff. Like my university (state-funded) only started dispensing toilet paper in my final year, and it was never quite enough by the end of the day/week. But previously you could only be 100% sure in McDonald's, so that's an improvement :D (I think some companies were reluctant to provide enough because people would take some spare tp with them :D)

It can also be a problem in any place where people drink a lot of beer, but this happens even in Finland.
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vonPeterhof
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 Message 218 of 297
26 February 2015 at 6:47am | IP Logged 
tarvos wrote:
Well... part of the Caucasus is in Russia. Dagestan has six main languages I think - one of my friends speaks Lak! I know one word :D
Yeah, I should have probably mentioned that Dagestan is technically part of Russia. As for the number of languages, it's a bit complicated. The total number is somewhere between 20 and 40, depending on how you count. The constitution of the republic defines "Russian and the languages of the peoples of Dagestan" as the official languages. If Russian Wikipedia is to be believed (there's a link to the website of a Dagestani university, but not to the exact source of the claim), just 14 languages are standardized and used in local administration, of which between three and five (Russian, Azerbaijani, Chechen and possibly Tat and Nogai) are more widely spoken outside Dagestan than inside it. The remaining nine are apparently, in the order of descending speaker number: Avar, Dargin, Kumyk, Lezgin, Lak, Tabasaran, Rutul, Agul and Tsakhur. Tsez has more speakers than Tsakhur (and, arguably, more noun cases than any other language in the world), but since the former's native speakers are officially considered to be ethnic Avars their language isn't standardized.
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Solfrid Cristin
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 Message 219 of 297
04 March 2015 at 1:13pm | IP Logged 
@ Serpent: Well I am happy, anyway :-)

@von Peterhof: The things you know :-)
@ Cavesa: I saw your nice post, but it seems to have been lost in space. Thank you anyhow! I think the book will probably come out in English - it seems to be my language of choice these days :-)

MOSCOW PART 2 FEBRUARY 2015

Monday

On Monday I got a late start due to the late evening before, but I had set my mind on seeing the Gorkij park. It was cold, but I had five layers of clothes on (totally willing to rock that homeless grandma look:-) so I was ok. There was almost no one there, but I think that if I had been there the day before, Sunday, it would have been packed. There were some kiosks open, and because of the cold I got a couple of drinks while I was there. A non-alcoholic glühwein sort of drink, and citrus tea with honey and a TON of ginger. I felt flames were coming out of my mouth after having drunk it. Really good though, and the perfect drink for a winter's day. I am so coming back to the Gorkij park if I come back in the summer. It must be absolutely wonderful then, and I could see my daughters absolutely loving it. I took pictures of menus at all the restaurants - I am happy they have not arrested me for industrial espionage yet:-) When there was someone I could ask I did, though.


The next stop of my itinerary was Ostankino towers. The first time I went to Moscow I had asked one of my colleagues for recommendations for things most tourists did not get to see. Ostankino towers was one of them, but my initial reaction was that although that would have been lovely, it would not be possible. My vertigo has for the last 25 years been so severe, that it would be out of the question. I have had experiences both at the Holmenkollen in Oslo and in the Eiffel Tower in Paris which were really negative, and for years I have struggled just to take a glass elevator. Sitting curled up in fetal position on the floor really is not the best point of departure for sight seeing. My vertigo has however become less severe over the years, so I decided to try. I had found the right metro station, but saw that the tower was a bit far and started walking. Unfortunately my capability of judging distances is as bad as my spacial sense in general, so I walked for about 45 minutes before I got there. The fact that my ankle is still hurting when I walk, after the fall I had at Christmas, and that I am still wearing a bandage on my foot, did not help either. When I got there I had to show my passport and there were no less than three further passport checks before I got to the tower. It is a TV-tower, so I suppose it is considered critical infrastructure. And we have a lot of understanding for the security needs of that in my line of work :-) There were two groups I could chose from: A Russian one and an English one, and deciding that I was there for the views anyhow, I decided to go hardcore and just listen to the Russian. Not that I actually understood much, but enough to be able to smile and laugh at the right places :-) The view was breathtaking, and I got pictures of a few really nice sunsets. And I even stepped out onto the part which was only covered by glass. And looked down. Still can't believe I actually did that. On my way back I found a bus, which helped a lot, and I was almost jumping up and down due to the joy of having overcome one of my worst fears. I'll try the Eiffel Tower next. If I can do that, I can do anything.


The next point on my agenda was to meet up with Serpent, espejismo, vonPeterhof and Mark. I could not help but laugh at the fact that I have actually seen those four more often that I have seen 95% of my Norwegian friends the last 6 months, and I suspect they mostly only meet when I am there. Or as Serpent said: 'Cristina, connecting people:-) ' I have seen them between three and nine times (depending on the person) and there are very few of my friends in Norway that I have seen as much as three times since last summer. I have been traveling so much since August, that sometimes it has felt like I have barely had time to change the content of my suitcase. Anyhow, it was really great seeing them again - obviously the more you meet people, the more comfortable you get, and as always the conversation covered a number of subject, though some tend to pop up more often than others :-) And Mark stood still while I gave him a hug this time :-)


I have been going through the French, German and English newspapers in Moscow which has proved quite interesting. The two first appear to be pro-government, the third, Moscow Times attempts to be neutral. And all sorts of tidbits are to be found. An article claimed that 24 % of Russians are positive to extra-marital affairs. Another way of presenting that is that a whopping 76% are against, which is quite respectable. Particularly given that a French book I bought in France in November, called 'Vivre la Russie' claimed that it was practically considered a national sport, looked upon as natural by virtually everyone. Given that the book also made claims about Russian women which I found so offensive that I will not quote them, out of respect, I also took the first claim with a bucket of salt. In a country with such a deep religious vein as Russia, and so many conservative people, it is inconceivable that this could be true. Of course, if you look at literature and films, where I do not think I have seen a single story which does not include extra marital affairs, you might wonder, but I'll trust the statistics.


A more worrying news was that 76% of the US population regards Russia negatively, and it does not exactly help that 81 % of the Russians are of the same opinion regarding the US. Even worse was that Russia is currently viewed as USA's main enemy, before Iran, North Korea and China. I mean, seriously? I think we all need to take things down a notch or two. Being old enough to have lived through The Cold War, I thought I would never see anything like that again. And even in Norway there was a report last month which identified Russia as one of our biggest national security threats. The difference from last year's report, which stated that relations between Norway and Russia had never been this good, and described cooperation within all fields, including commercial, technical and military fields is staggering. All that trust destroyed in a year. It is right before I start crying. Or praying. On the positive side, there is a considerable amount of people to people cooperation within a range of fields that are not covered by the sanctions, in particular research and commerce in the North. Some basic facts do not change regardless of political circumstances. Russia is our neighbor. Russia is huge. And Russia and Norway have lived in peace with each other for 1000 years. The Russians (or the Soviet Army, to be more specific) were the ones who liberated the North of Norway in WW2 before their troops returned to the Soviet Union and the single nationality with the highest death rate in Norway during that period, way above the Norwegians, were Russians. In periods when things get tricky, I try to remember that who is your friend and who is your enemy changes over time. Sweden, England and Scotland have all been our enemies at some point in time. But it is always good to remember that challenging periods pass, and that there is never any good reasons for people to be enemies even if their governments may be experiencing difficulties.


I read in 'Russia beyond the headlines' that Russia has set up a monitoring of the media all over the world and has established a 'hostility index' for each country, which is calculated according to the amount of negative articles written about Russia. I looked at it and it appears that Norway is the fourth least 'hostile' country in Europe. I can live with that. It is important to me that we stand up for what is right, and that we show through our actions how we think relations between free, sovereign countries should be, but that does not include a need to demonize any individual country. I am becoming a big fan of RBTH by the way. It is sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta, which is the newspaper of the Russian governments, but it is not a propaganda tool, or at least not blatantly so. I think the intention is to show foreigners other sides of the Russian society than what turns up in their daily newspapers, and since newspapers in general focus more on conflicts, having a newspaper which actually teaches me more about Russian society and what goes on in Russia in general suits me perfectly.



Russia celebrated Men's day on the 23. of February by the way. Technically it is the Armed Forces's day, but is is commonly referred to as Men's Day, to counterbalance the 8th of March, Women's Day. Most men have apparently done their military service anyway. I was quite surprised to find out that both holidays are public holidays in Russia, and I much prefer the Russian way of celebrating the Women's Day rather than the Norwegian one. In Norway it is spent demonstrating for women's rights - or some political issue which is not necessarily women related - while all the Internet trolls scream about how women's rights have gone too far. In Russia apparently it is much like Mother's Day in Norway, just that it is for all women, so they receive flowers and chocolate etc. Of course given the fact that according to a Russian I met on the conference on Tuesday there are no feminists in Russia, and that people who are not married at the age of 30 are considered losers, I should perhaps just be happy for our Norwegian variant. For some reason, Russians generally do not set off my feminist alarm, which is actually a bit strange given that I am a feminist through and through, but they are generally so sweet and kind that they go totally under my radar. On Tuesday I had to use all my self control to remain detached, though, and reminded myself that my interlocutor was very young, and that I was supposedly old and wise, and he was entitled to his opinion. I spent so much energy keeping my emotions under control that I almost started twitching, though. Old feminists die hard :-)


I was actually reminded of my more rigid days last night. I have updated my profile on LinkedIn, and have gotten in touch with some of my old contacts. In some cases I send a short e-mail to hear how people are doing, mostly with girls or occasionally with guys I knew fairly well. One of the guys I sent a message to however, was a previous French colleague, who is someone I did not know well at all. We just met once, 20 years ago, at an official dinner in Rome, during which we had the most epic three hour fight. He had never met such an unabashed feminist in his entire life, I had never met such a male chauvinist in my entire life. French senior officials are among the very worst chauvinist even today; 20 years ago it was beyond my comprehension. When I said that we had a fight, I do of course not mean a physical fight, I do not think we even raised our voices, we were both civilized people. We were however also both extremely stubborn people, who stood our ground and did not give in as much as an inch on either side. I do not think he had ever experienced a junior official, (he was two levels above me) and a woman into the bargain, daring to disagree with him. He was probably always surrounded by people who either agreed with him, or who did not dare to tell him if they did not, so someone who openly challenged his views must have been a shock. And I was 6 months pregnant with raging hormones, and took no prisoners. To say that our words flew like daggers through the air, was hardly even a cliché. At the end of the meal we were presented with a bottle of perfume, as a gift from the Italian railways, which I was unable to open, so he offered to help. At that point I was however so furious with him, that I would not have accepted his help to save my life, so I refused, and did not give up until I managed to do it myself. I never saw him again. I had my baby, and by the time I was back, he had moved to even higher positions.


When I saw him on LinkedIn, I could not help but smile at the 20 year old memory of the young super stubborn me, so I sent him a message, saying that he probably did not remember me, reminding him of the incident all those years ago, and saying I was still as much of a feminist as I used to be, but that today I would probably gracefully have accepted his help with the perfume bottle. 10 minutes later I had an answer, saying that of course he remembered me, and that he had always kept in his heart the letter I had sent out to my colleagues after the birth of my child, telling them about my experiences as a young mother and my love for my little daughter. And I assume that 'kept in his heart' is a French euphemism for 'still not recovered from the near heart attack I got when reading a letter where someone used words as explicit as giving birth and breast feeding'. Being a bit in my own bubble after the birth, I forgot to take into account that I was writing for an international audience of mainly male bureaucrats, and wrote much like I do here in my blog, or that I would have if I were writing for a Norwegian audience. Direct, personal and always trying to find a funny side. I have however never had as much positive feed back as I did after that letter. High fliers who I thought hardly knew who I was, had evidently also seen a copy of it, so I got phone calls, letters and even telegrams from the most unexpected people.


My French colleague also excused himself profusely if he had come across as chauvinist during the dinner in Rome, and insisted on taking me out for dinner the next time I was in Paris to make it up to me, and said that he very much wanted to see me again. And this is where I had to take a little walk around the room and ponder on how the same words can have different meanings according to the cultural context in which they are uttered. The exact same words, say a compliment, spoken by a Spaniard, a Russian, an Italian, an Englishman a Norwegian and a Frenchman mean different things to me. I do not put anything into a compliment given by a Spaniard, a Russian or an Italian. They have a wonderful culture of giving beautiful compliments without it meaning anything, which is extremely pleasant and relaxing. The same compliment given by a Norwegian or an Englishman makes me slightly raise an eyebrow, because it is a lot less common. And a Frenchman saying the same thing makes all my alarm bells go off. I probably need to recalibrate and put the French in the first group, because if my last couple of experiences are anything to go by, they are either flirting outrageously, or they just have a very flowery language which I need to tone down, minimize and translate culturally and not just linguistically. I am working hard on convincing myself of the last variant. So I reminded myself that I was the one who had written to him first, told myself to stop being so paranoid, and accept his kind invitation. There is in principle no downside in meeting up in Paris with a very highly educated, polite and well read French native speaker who after only having seen you while you were in your absolutely least pleasant mood ever, still wants to meet you and take take you out to dinner. What really killed me was the following statement from his e-mail: " I am afraid that I did not at that time sufficiently differentiate between men and women. An error of the youth, I assure you". Wait, what?! You think the problem was that you were not chauvinist enough? Boy, you really do not remember the content of our conversation, do you! Well, well, this should prove to be highly entertaining.   I will be so out of my depth linguistically, though, because although I got fantastic feed back on the video I did with Richard Simcott, where most of the native French speakers said I sounded native, I am very well aware of my shortcomings. I learned French as a 14 year old, and have always felt that I sounded like a adolescent when I spoke French, and even though one of my last French taxi drivers assured me that I sounded like an educated adult, I know just how impaired I am in French after hardly having used it for decades. I can say anything I want and sound good, but I cannot be anywhere as specific as I can in English, where I usually trust my ability to find the exact term I need. I can't do that in high level French. Anyhow, it is not a date, it is just a dinner appointment. And since I hate eating alone in a restaurant, the alternative is mostly to skip dinner altogether. I am sure I will have a great time. He knows that I know that he is married with five kids, and he does not know that I am single again, and I plan to keep that tidbit out of the conversation for as long as I possibly can. I have not listed my civil status on LinkedIn. It is probably better if most people think I am still married.


The funny thing is that over the years I have been to dinner with lots of male colleagues, both Norwegian and foreign, and I have never even given a second thought to whether they were married or not, they are just colleagues, and age, gender or civil status is of no consequence whatsoever. Going out to dinner with male colleagues is a perfectly normal and common thing to do. The reason why I am a bit hypersensitive in this particular instance, is the combination of this being someone I do not really know, who is on a considerably higher level than me, and some of the extremely flowery language which was used. I suppose it is just French politeness. I am really hoping it is just French politeness. I'll find out on May 20th. Another old contact who found me on LinkedIn also said he wanted us to meet for dinner in Paris, but I just found out that he is a philanderer, and that his last known conquest was a rosy cheeked Norwegian woman who I know. So I sent my warmest regards to his wife, and promised to let him know the next time I had an available evening in Paris, and an available evening to have dinner with him will happen in the second part of two thousand and never.





Edited by Solfrid Cristin on 04 March 2015 at 1:17pm

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Serpent
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 Message 220 of 297
04 March 2015 at 6:03pm | IP Logged 
If someone tells you there are no feminists in Russia, you can tell them that you know one ;D And she knows other feminists.

There's indeed not much activism, perhaps because there's more benevolent sexism, like the idea that women have a better work ethic etc (coupled with the fact that many men drink). We're in no hurry to get rid of the perks unless we can be absolutely sure it will be worth it.

It also has to do with religion, I think. The west gradually removed the church's control over everyday life, and some traits still remain. For example, it's inevitably brought up in the rhetoric against abortion and LGBTQ+. Here at least the former is mostly a religious topic on which men won't have an opinion until it concerns them directly.
And in general I think often the divide is really between women and women, rather than between the two (main) genders. Progressive women vs conforming women, kinda.

Of course men may well have a stereotyped view of the women they don't personally know, and prejudice against the ones they meet for the first time (including men in a position of power, like at job interviews etc). I think people (especially men) often fail to see it as a tendency, and blame a specific boss or a specific single man with unrealistic demands. Same with things like getting groped in public (and worse).

There's also less awareness of subtle sexism, like jokes or representation on TV. "It's just a joke" and "nobody forces you to watch this programme". There's definitely less of a reaction, so things change very slowly. And women watch foreign series or football instead :) (and there's a female commentator now, yay. still haven't listened to her because I generally don't watch football in Russian ;))

BTW, did you see the Motherland statue in Kiev? Such a powerful feminist symbol for me. I'm still struggling to accept that there have been some positives in the Soviet period, but the view of women as competent workers rather than sexualized objects definitely counts. (and even now the tendency to objectify the female body is seen as something American/Western, I think)

Oh and about compliments... not sure if you meant specifically men, but giving compliments easily doesn't mean they're never sincere! Quite the opposite; the way I see it, we're not afraid of expressing our current and very subjective views, even if later we might sober up (literally or metaphorically), look at it more objectively and change our mind. And of course you may need to tone it down mentally. So for example "your Russian is amazing" doesn't mean "your Russian is horrible but you're a lovely person" but "your Russian is good/okay" :) Also, I personally try to be more reserved with my compliments, as I know you'll sense anything insincere or unrealistic immediately.
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Serpent
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 Message 221 of 297
13 March 2015 at 3:41am | IP Logged 
Clare posted these stats. Apparently in "senior business roles", Russia has 40% women, which is the highest number worldwide.
I think this is related to what I mentioned. I'm too young to remember but it seems like in the USSR limiting the power to men was seen as something all religions do, and naturally that's a handy way to show half the population why socialism is better :) Besides, the service industry barely existed, instead there was more of a demand in what became traditionally male industrial jobs in the west. (my grandma worked as an engineer for example) Of course certain jobs were seen as objectively too hard for women, but not so many I think. The Stahanov movement possibly also contributed, as it focused on the objective numbers and made it easier for women to compete with men. Besides, our men permanently have drinking problems ;/
And of course with more female bosses there's less discrimination. Men probably also perceive women as more competent when they're in a position of power.
The article also mentioned the demographic factor, which applies to other things as well. Women might not love putting so much effort into looking pretty, but many do it out of a simple fear of being abandoned by a boyfriend/husband.

About February 23rd, I believe the point was that in the USSR all men went to the army, so this became men's day. Nowadays it's not so anymore, but the tradition remains, and this holiday is celebrated in schools too (and probably even kindergarten nowadays). It did always have a military theme to it. Some years ago March 8th was a day off and February 23rd wasn't, but someone probably decided that it's discrimination against men ;)
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 Message 222 of 297
13 March 2015 at 12:00pm | IP Logged 
Thank you for another interesting post, Cristina. Lots of things I could comment on, but I'll just limit it to a couple of points.

I agree with you about the relations between the West and Russia, it is really sad the way things are going. I won't enter into the politics of it (that's a NO-NO on this site), just say that if more people in the West were learning Russian and engaging with "ordinary" Russians, then they might not be so easily influenced by the Hawks on either side. By the way, do you have a link to that "hostility index" in RBTH? I would be very interested in seeing it.

On a lighter note, I really laughed when reading about your exchange with the senior French official. About the meaning of compliments, it is true that French men, especially of a certain age, are far more likely to give compliments to a woman than a Norwegian man would be, without there being anything nasty implied, but one can't deny that there is still a lot of sexism in French society, espcially in "circles of power". The Cécile Duflot dress incident in the French Assembly a couple of years ago is just one example. And I won't even mention DSK, as he is luckily enough not representative of the average French male. Anyway, good luck with the dinner, I hope you will tell us how it goes.

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Марк
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 Message 223 of 297
14 March 2015 at 7:23pm | IP Logged 
About "shortage" of men. Here's the official data
ЧИСЛО ЖЕНЩИН НА 1000 МУЖЧИН СООТВЕТСТВУЮЩЕЙ ВОЗРАСТНОЙ ГРУППЫ 1)

   в том числе в возрасте, лет:
0-4         &nb sp;         &nb sp;         &nb sp;  948                               
5-9         &nb sp;         &nb sp;         &nb sp;  954
10-14         & nbsp;         & nbsp;         951
15-19         & nbsp;         & nbsp;         954
20-24         & nbsp;         & nbsp;         962
25-29         & nbsp;         & nbsp;         981
30-34         & nbsp;         & nbsp;         1004
35-39         & nbsp;         & nbsp;         1047
There are more men than women under thirty in Russia
http://www.gks.ru/wps/wcm/connect/rosstat_main/rosstat/ru/st atistics/population/demography/#
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Serpent
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 Message 224 of 297
14 March 2015 at 7:39pm | IP Logged 
Okay, thanks for the stats. But honestly my programming course was the only environment in my life where there were more men than women. And you know I'm not exactly a "girly girl" :)


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