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Cristina’s travels TAC 2015 Team Pushkin

 Language Learning Forum : Language Learning Log Post Reply
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Serpent
Octoglot
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Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 4965 days ago

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Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Danish, Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Slovenian, Catalan, Czech, Galician, Dutch, Swedish

 
 Message 249 of 297
14 August 2015 at 11:12pm | IP Logged 
You mean you've never heard of Rubin Kazan? ;) The city is also hosting a swimming championship now, and they hosted the Universiade too.
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Solfrid Cristin
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Winner TAC 2011 & 2012
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Norway
Joined 3702 days ago

4143 posts - 8863 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, Spanish, Swedish, French, English, German, Italian
Studies: Russian

 
 Message 250 of 297
16 August 2015 at 9:44pm | IP Logged 
@Iversen @Serpent: My teacher insists that him killing his son is also a myth constructed by his enemies. So
perhaps Ivan the Kind would be more appropriate?

@Expugnator: Thank you!!! Feedback like that is what keeps me going and writing my mini-novels :-)
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iguanamon
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Virgin Islands
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 Message 251 of 297
17 August 2015 at 2:34am | IP Logged 
There is a reason why Cristina is the heart and soul of the forum... and this is it:

   
Solfrid Cristin wrote:
...And this is precisely why I learn more languages than English. Because I can sit and have a deep, meaningful conversation with a Tatar woman, in what from a Euro centric position is in the middle of nowhere, and understand almost everything she says. And once again realise that the female condition is pretty much the same all over the globe. ... I love Tatarstan. They have the sweetest, most open and honest people ever. And I say that based on an extremely limited selection, but still :-) ...


This is what makes all the study, the long hours, the frustration, the effort worthwhile and why many of us learn languages in the first place. Thank you, Cristina. I hope wherever we end up, that we can take you with us so you will continue to take all of us along with you on your travels.

Edited by iguanamon on 18 August 2015 at 2:29pm

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Solfrid Cristin
Heptaglot
Winner TAC 2011 & 2012
Senior Member
Norway
Joined 3702 days ago

4143 posts - 8863 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, Spanish, Swedish, French, English, German, Italian
Studies: Russian

 
 Message 252 of 297
17 August 2015 at 6:40am | IP Logged 
iguanamon wrote:
There is a reason why Christina is the heart and soul of the forum... and this is it:

   
Solfrid Cristin wrote:
...And this is precisely why I learn more languages than English. Because I can sit
and have a deep, meaningful conversation with a Tatar woman, in what from a Euro centric position is in the
middle of nowhere, and understand almost everything she says. And once again realise that the female
condition is pretty much the same all over the globe. ... I love Tatarstan. They have the sweetest, most open
and honest people ever. And I say that based on an extremely limited selection, but still :-) ...


This is what makes all the study, the long hours, the frustration, the effort worthwhile and why many of us
learn languages in the first place. Thank you Christina. I hope wherever we end up, that we can take you with
us so you will continue to take all of us along with you on your travels.


Dear Iguanamon, thank you for those beautiful words, and of course I'll be with you. If I must choose between
hanging out at a library with all the best books in the world, but no friends, and a new struggling library where
all my friends hang out, I'll go to where all my friends are. People will always be most important to me. But I
am hoping to be able to stay at the old library, after a makeover and with all my friends :-)
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Solfrid Cristin
Heptaglot
Winner TAC 2011 & 2012
Senior Member
Norway
Joined 3702 days ago

4143 posts - 8863 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, Spanish, Swedish, French, English, German, Italian
Studies: Russian

 
 Message 253 of 297
17 August 2015 at 7:28am | IP Logged 
TO IVANOVO AND SUZDAL

Those of you who have followed my log since the beginning, may remember that in 2012, right before I went
to St. Petersburg, I met a Russian woman on the train, Irina, who became my very first Russian friend. She
is incredibly sweet and friendly, and the kind of friend that is always there for you, is always ready to look at
the bright side of things, and to have fun when there are good times, and support you when there are bad
times. She had initially invited me to go to Russia with her and our respective spouses, but of course those
plans had to be cancelled, as thing turned out. When she heard I was going to Moscow this summer, she
wrote me that her husband was going to visit his mother, in Ivanovo, and that he wanted to invite me to their
home and to show me Suzdal and a real authentic private sauna. Obviously I jumped at the possibility of
both, and booked my tickets to Ivanovo. As some of you may remember, I went to a 'banya', a Russian public
sauna in Moscow the last time I was here. That was amazing. But as it turned out, going to a private banya,
was a life changing, out of body experience. And not only a physical pleasure, but a spiritual one as well. But
more about that later

Now on the train to Ivanovo there was a possibility to go with 'platskart' or the most simple sort of sleeping
wagon, but I am afraid I chickened out. Since I was going to a place with no running water, I figured it would
be nice to have as much comfort as possible on my way there, so I took the best category they had, which
on this particular train was 'kupe' where 4 persons of either gender share a compartment. The train left after
midnight, and as I got to the train station it was dark, the train did not look particularly promising and people
were running in all directions, and before I knew it I had crossed myself. I was a bit surprised at that, but it
was a gut reaction. People often ask if I am not scared traveling alone, as I usually do, and the answer is no,
I am never scared. I have traveled alone since I was 14 years old, and I am perfectly fine with that. In fact I
prefer it. There are however times when I feel a tad uneasy, and a railway station after midnight is never the
best place for a single woman in any country. The train was considerably older than the previous one I had
taken, but I was again fairly lucky with my traveling partners. A middle aged couple and a single woman. All
nice and quiet, and mercifully none of them snored. Since the train left after midnight, and we would be
woken up at 5.25, then as soon as we had settled in, we went to sleep. Or tried to. Not before I had had my
customary battle with the duvet, though. I like the fact that they have duvets in Russia, just like we do in
Norway. I hate blankets. But the duvets on the trains do not agree with me. I do the process every week with
three sets of duvets at home, so you would think I had enough experience changing the sheets, but it always
seems like I am trying to fit a square into a rectangle here. Of course when I had spent 10 minutes trying to
get the duvet to cooperate, I realized why the others were not fighting. There was no air condition, so they
just used the cover, and simply put the duvet away...   

After a night where I had again slept next to nothing (I'll get a kupe with someone with a lot of vodka next
time, which will presumably make me sleep) I got to Ivanovo at 6.30 in the morning, where Irina's husband,
as the perfect Russian gentleman he is, stood ready at the door of the train to take my suitcase and with an
outstretched hand so I could get out of the train without breaking an ankle.


As we got to Aleksander's home, I met his mother, Nina Fjedorovna, and I think I have met few people in my
life who to such an extent radiates goodness and kindness. She had prepared oat meal porridge, syrniki
(cottage cheese fried buns) Russian black tea with home made strawberry jam, two kinds of sausages, bread
and cucumbers, and after a sleepless night on the train, a solid Russian breakfast did me a world of good.
They told me of an old Russian custom of drinking tea, not out of a cup but from the saucer. They would pour
the boiling water from the Samovar out on the saucer so that it would cool down quicker. And they were very
surprised when I told them that this was also an old Norwegian custom in rural areas. In fact I am discovering
how there are quite a lot of similarities in old Russian and old Norwegian rural customs. It makes sense. We
are neighbors, we live in Nordic regions, and there has been considerable cultural contact across the
boarder.

The house they live in is an old, traditional Russian house, with beautiful wood carvings. There is no running
water, which means that you have the toilet in a little house in the garden (another thing Norwegians and
Russians have in common - I have never seen that anywhere else) you wash your hands out of a bucket of
rainwater, (you incidentally also drink rainwater) and the sauna is not a fancy luxury thing, but a very practical
device in order to wash yourself properly. It is the closest you get to a hot shower :-) I am a city girl and a
creature of luxury, and generally prefer warm showers in a bath with heated floors, but I have absolutely no
problem adapting to another environment, and between living in a house in Spain with no hot water for a
year, and having been to the Norwegian version of a datcha, the 'hytte' a few times, I was fine with
everything. In fact I loved everything.

After breakfast we went to the market, after a recommendation from my hostess. My host assured me that it
would be of no interest, and that it was junk, and not like markets in the West. I suspect he has not been
around that much in the seven years he has lived in Norway, and that he has mostly been busy with his work,
because it was almost exactly like a good old Norwegian flee market, or a Spanish rastro. I made a mental
note of bringing him and his wife to see more parts of Norwegian society, so that they do not just get to see
the glossy parts.

We then went to see a museum of textiles. Ivanovo used to be the textile center of Russia, (and known for
the beauty of its women) and it was interesting to see the process of how the textiles were printed and
produced. My host would rather have gone to a military base which had an open day, but partly I am not that
interested in military equipment, partly I was a tad uneasy going there as a foreigner, but afterwards I felt
really bad for not going to the one thing he would have liked to see. I'll make it up to him when I get home. I
found out that he and and Irina had not been to any of the museums in Oslo, and that is one thing that I can
help out with, since I am an Oslo guide. I have not worked as an Oslo guide for 25 years, but I still remember
quite a lot. Coming to think of it, I should probably round up my friends from Rumania, Peru, Singapore,
South- Africa and England and take them along as well. My friends used to compliment me on being the one
who would always organize everything and take initiatives, but the last years I have been so overwhelmed
that I have not had the energy. Perhaps it is time I start again :-)

When we came back my hostess had prepared a lovely lunch for us, with the best borsch I have ever eaten
and a yummy chicken with fresh vegetables from the garden and sweet, juicy watermelon for dessert. Then
my host gave me a quick introduction to the banya, to make sure I got the basics. He explained that first you
got properly heated up just lying down and enjoying the heat - taking turns between the warmest room and
the slightly cooler room if need be - then you would give yourself a beating with the veniki, which it was
important were kept wet so they did not hurt, and then you would mix boiling water from the oven with cold
water from a container in the corner and starting the washing/showering process. I was still a bit hesitant
about the veniki - I have incredibly delicate skin- but I figured that as long as I was doing the beating myself, I
had total control. I was a bit worried by getting burned by the hot water, but as it turned out, Nina Feodorovna
had taken care of that, as she went into the banya before me and mixed everything and made everything
ready for me. There were two leather straps hanging down from the ceiling, which my host had said were to
rest your legs in, so I lay on my back with my legs in the straps and just closed my eyes and relaxed. It was
lovely to feel the heat penetrate every pore, and just feel all your worries, your frustrations, your sore muscles
and anything else unpleasant just slide off you, as you just lied there getting hotter and hotter. The scent was
absolutely wonderful. The sauna was heated up by birch wood, and the veniki are made of fresh birch
branches which also had a lovely scent, and since my host had already been through the process, there was
a lovely scent of the birch leaves in the banya. My host had been a gentleman and gone in first - so by the
time it was my turn it was still hot but not intolerably so, and I am pretty good with saunas. It therefore took
about half an hour before I started to feel the taste of salt in my mouth, and thought that I was sweaty enough
to continue with the next item on the program: Beating myself with fresh birch branches and leaves.

I started fairly conservatively, with just very light strokes, but as I felt that it did not hurt, I put more strength
behind the beating. It was actually quite difficult to beat really hard - probably partly due to a psychological
barrier- but also because apart from the legs, the lower part of the thighs and the back, the rest of my body
was too close to my arm for me to get any really strength behind it. I suddenly understood why this is often
done by another person, and I promised myself not to be a chicken and accept the offer of a good beating the
next time it came up. I made sure I dipped the birch branches in water before every stroke, and even though I
hit so hard that the leaves started falling off, it still did not hurt. Yet:-) My sensibility may have been a tad
dulled down by the heat, because later, my legs, which were the only part I had been able to hit with full
force, felt pretty raw, but there were no marks or penetration of the skin, so it was a lot better than I had
feared. And before you now all think I have developed a masochistic streak, I can assure you that this is not
the case. I am as averse to any kind of pain as ever and scream blue murder even when I receive a foot
massage. Veniki, however, I discovered had a real function, and was actually really pleasant ( I may change
my opinion if it is done by someone else who hits harder), but so far I have become a total fan.

Today we use all sorts of fancy contraptions to keep clean, hemp cloths, regular washing cloths, sponges,
which all have to be bought and some can even be pretty expensive. Now if you are somewhere with no
shops or spas around, living with a few million trees around you, what do you do to keep clean and have a
nice massage? You take what you have around you! You build a hut of wood, ( how they originally built the
ovens I do not know, but I intend to find out) then you heat it up with birch wood, and you cut off a few birch
branches with leaves on, and beat yourself with them to both give your muscles and skin a good massage,
and to remove dead skin cells and whatever dirt you have picked up during the week. Incidentally they told
me that you would typically use the sauna on a Saturday, after the work week, in order to to be clean for
church on Sunday.   I smiled and asked them if they happened to know what the word for Saturday was in
Norwegian. The word is lørdag, which comes from the old word laugardag which again means washing-day -
since that was the day of the week they all washed up after a week's work to be clean for church on Sunday...
We tend to think that we are so different, but people's lives were regulated by many of the same mechanisms
(work, church), and I suspect that if I go into the countryside in France or Italy I will discover that there are
many similarities there too. The only bad feeling I had during my stay was that I loved the sauna so much that
I probably used up a month's supply of water. They did not say anything about not spending too much, and
since I come from the country with most water resources in the world, I just indulged and spent water like it
was going out of fashion, and it was not until my daughter pointed out to me that if their main water source
was rain water, then spending that much water was probably an inconvenience to them.

But lying there thinking of anything and everything, I felt a peace of mind like never before, and decided to
forgive and forget. One of the guys who work for me calls me Saint Cristina, and says I am way too kind for
my own good, but that does not mean that I do not harbor ill will on occasions. There is someone who has
committed what in practically every culture in the world is considered the ultimate betrayal, and who still says
she wants to be my friend. I could not find it in my heart to forgive her, I did not want to see her or anyone
close to her. But there in the heat, breathing in the scent of the birch wood, and the birch leaves, and with my
skin still burning from the veniki, I decided that it was time to let go, and that I did not have a place for
bitterness or resentment in my life. I had already forgiven everything else, but this last person was still on my
to-forgive-list. So in addition to a well massaged and very clean body, my little banya experience also gave
me peace of mind. Not bad for an afternoon's work :-)

Through Russia Today I found "Russopedia" - a site destined to explain all things Russian - where they had
the following explanation of the phenomenon :

----------------

"Better than sex"

There is a story about an American who once came to the Russian banya . He was horrified to see Russian
men in the steaming room beating each other with veniks. He hastily closed the door and asked with his eyes
turned to the ceiling: “Do I really want this?” “Yes” – answered the hospitable Russians.
They took him into the steaming room and worked his body with veniks for about three minutes. After that
they made him jump into a pool of cold water. The American was pleasantly amazed: “You know, in some
ways it is even better than sex,” he said.
As you have understood by now veniks are used to pump up the heat to give your body a good massage. It is
considered very healthy, and despite the fears of many foreigners it has nothing to do with sex. However,
some argue that the benefits and pleasure one gets from being beaten by a venik is just as good, if not
better.

For bath and body
Experienced banya goers use venik as the second part of their bath procedure. First, they go into the
steaming room to open all the pores of their body and cleanse themselves from toxins. Afterwards they take a
shower.
During this time veniks are soaked in a little tub of water (you don’t have to soak them if you use venik made
of fresh branches). Then, after a short rest, men go back into the steaming room and start the beating.
It is recommended to keep a horizontal position in the steaming room during the venik massage. This way the
hot air will distribute evenly through your body. When you stand, access heat to the upper part of your body
can cause heart problems.
When you massage somebody with venik, try to hit them smoothly along the spine, legs and chest. Pros
recommend making circular movements before the strike – this concentrates the heat around the body, which
enhances the effect of the massage.
Please note that to avoid skin burns, one must not hit hard with a venik, especially if the temperature is over
90 degrees Centigrade.


Venik massage boosts blood circulation in the body. Moreover, it produces a substance that kills harmful
bacteria. After the steaming room with venik there’s nothing better than dipping oneself in a cold-water pool.
The difference of temperatures will give you an immediate blood rush and will keep you in high spirits for a
long time afterwards.

-------


I must be particularly unimaginative, because the context foreigners are attributed to giving to the veniki had
not even occurred to me - I just thought of it in the context of pain, and being extremely pain averse, I was
certain that it would not be my cup of tea.

An American who was a banya-aficcionado, wrote the following: "Russians ascribe curative powers to the
banya. Beyond simply cleaning, they say, it purges the body of accumulated toxins, stim­ulating the circulation
and calming the nervous system. All the poison leaves your body,To some, its effects are almost mystical."


When I finished the banya I regretted not having spent more cold water, as my body temperature felt like 45
degrees. Since that means I would be dead, it probably wasn't, but I looked desperately around for some
snow to roll around in - which I obviously did not find on a hot summer's day. Had this not been a residential
area, but a Siberian wood, I think I would have just run around in my birthday suit or jumped into a lake until I
had cooled down, but there were apartment buildings all around us. I am eager to explore every facet of
Russian society, but seeing the inside of a Russian police station because I had gotten myself and my hosts
arrested for flashing the neighbors, was so not on my to-do list. So I went inside and got dressed, and was
told that after a banya it is customary to drink lots of tea, so we went for tea at Alexander's cousin, Larisa.
She was a super friendly and very knowledgable lady, and we had a long conversation about venikis. She
had experimented using eucalyptus and laurels, and was quite happy with that. After many cups of tea, lots of
laughter and talking and home made jam and other sweet delicacies, we headed home, where I got a bed in
Nina Fedorovnas room and slept the sleep of the dead for the next 9 hours. I have been sleeping an average
of 3-5 hours per night in Moscow - too much noise, not enough fresh air, too hot - and particularly after not
having slept at all in the train the previous night, a good night's sleep felt amazing. When I got up she told me
that there would still be warm water in the banya which I was welcome to use. This time it was without the
heat and without veniki, it was just a matter of pouring warm water over yourself, but it was still so lovely that I
stayed there so long that she came looking for me, fearing that I might have passed out on the floor.
Breakfast was a lovely rice porridge, the juicy chicken from the day before and bread with cheese and
sausage and cucumbers.

We left Nina Fjedorovna with hugs and expressions of mutual appreciation, and had walked for about 15
minutes when I realized that I had forgotten my iPad at her home. We returned, and found the iPad, and I
was about to go out the door, when I was told to sit down. I was a bit confused since I felt so guilty over
making us lose half an hour already, but I was told that if you return home right after you left it, you must sit
down for a moment and then look in the mirror before you go out again, to avoid bad luck. It is a Russian
custom. Love it :-)

Suzdal turned out to be absolutely wonderful. The first vehicle I saw there, was a copy of the pumpkin
carriage from Cinderella, which was very appropriate, as the whole town had a fairy tale quality about it. Lots
of beautiful, traditional, Russian, wooden houses, lots of small shops, lovely restaurants, a beautiful Orthodox
Church, and a whole lot of really old wooden houses, which looked almost exactly like the ones we have in
Norway, stave church and all. I am so taking Alexander and Irina to the folk museum in Oslo when I get
home, because I think they will recognize a lot. We also saw traditional Russian folk dances, which actually
looked a lot like their Norwegian counterparts. It looked like a lot of fun, and I would have joined in if it had not
been for the fact that I was wearing sneakers, which are not ideal for dainty dancing, plus I think my host
would so not have joined me in that. In the Orthodox Church I was told that it was not strictly necessary to
wear a head scarf, but I did so anyway, out of respect. My host smiled at me and said, "Now you really look
Russian". I smiled back and did not tell him that the reason was that I had tied the knot under my chin, exactly
like my mother would wear it when I was a little girl. I normally do not wear a head scarf like that, since it
makes me look a 100 years old. But yes, it also makes me look very much like a perfect Russian babushka :-
)

It was scorching hot the day we were in Suzdal, 30 degrees, so after a day where we had been too busy sight
seeing to think about food, it was lovely to sit down for blinis and my favorite drink - meduvucha or honey
beer. Not having eaten for 8 hours I ordered two portions of blinis, with caviar and jam, which turned out to be
4 blinis altogether, which were considerably thicker than the blinis I have seen before, so even though they
were very tasty I was not able to eat them all. My host was a tad worried that I might not be able to get back
to the bus on my own two feet, because I gulped down half my glass of honey beer within the first 30
seconds, and was consequently tipsy within the first 60 seconds. Fortunately I get drunk in 1 minute, but
sober up again within 5 minutes, so with the exception of having to put up with a very happy Cristina for a few
minutes, he was fine. Most of the Russians I know seem to drink even less alcohol than I do, which is a tad
unnerving. I do not know where they hide all the Russian, heavy drinkers you always hear about. Either they
are a total myth, or they are extremely discreet about it.

Since taking a bus from Suzdal to Moscow would have been uncomfortable, I took the bus to Vladimir, and
then the train from there. The train was very new, very clean, and very comfortable, so even though I was
sitting in a seat with people on both sides, I was fine.

I loved the banya, and Suzdal was amazing in every way, but what impressed me the most over the week
end is the attentiveness of Russians. Russian mothers are definitely doing something right raising their sons.
My host advised me to chose the traveling options which gave me the maximum comfort, even though it gave
him the maximum discomfort. It did not happen a single time that I got off a bus or a train without him
stretching out a hand to assist me. He wiped off my seat before I sat down, carried my suitcase the whole
time, and even kept it next to him on the bus, even though that must have been uncomfortable for him, just to
make sure it was comfortable to me. When we walked back from his cousin's house it was pitch dark, and he
lead me through the dark and did not let go until he was sure I was perfectly safe. He even noticed that I
cannot drink my coffee or tea very hot, in order not to burn myself, so on the second day he made sure to
pour it before we started eating, so that it would be just the right temperature by the time I was ready to drink
it. I rarely get pictures of myself, because I am usually too busy taking pictures of other things, but he took
pictures of me taking pictures, plus a few really good ones. I usually look awful in pictures, I need to feel safe
around the photographer to relax enough to have a good picture, but I got a couple of really good ones from
Suzdal.   He also brought extra water for me. And instead of just putting me on the bus in Suzdal, he came
with me all the way to Vladimir, and made sure I was on the right platform at the railway station, before
excusing himself for having to leave me alone for 10 minutes, since his bus back to Ivanovo left before my
train came, and asked me to let him know as soon as I reached Moscow, so he would know that I was safely
home. I was deeply impressed.

In Norway you do not get that level of attention even when a guy is madly in love, and you definitely do not
get it just being a friend of the wife. If this is what Russian men are like, I want a Russian for Christmas in
2017 :-) I have had similar experiences with my other Russian friends, who also have a consideration for girls
they are just friends with, which far surpasses anything I have ever seen before, and when I got back to
Moscow and told my teacher how impressed I was, she just looked at me uncomprehending and said, "But of
course, that is how a man is supposed to behave towards any woman he is around". Hmm. It may be obvious
to Russians, but it sure is not obvious to everyone else. I have dated men from six different countries, and
they were all wonderful in their own special way, but the only one who was this attentive was Polish. And I
have friends from 20-odd countries, and even though they are all great, I have not experienced such
attentiveness from any of them either. The other day I went on the metro, and a huge guy who looked like his
nose had been broken three times, got up and took a step towards me. I automatically took a step back, not
knowing what to expect, when I realized that he had only stood up to offer me his seat. I first assumed he
was getting off at the next station, but he stood for the next 6 stations, just so I could sit. Everyone finds that
totally normal here. My teacher said she would never get into a car unless the guy opened the door for her.
Yeah, she might not want to try that in my neck of the woods, or she'll be standing there until she was ready
for retirement. I am seriously thinking of adopting that attitude when dating in the future, though. Getting used
to treating you as a lady is never a bad thing for a man, and after having spent some time in Russia I have
really come to appreciate it.

By the way, I suddenly remembered that I had promised to give you an update on my dinner appointment in
May with the French colleague I had only met once 20 years ago, and with whom I had had an epic three
hour fight. I told a mutual friend about it, who strongly advised me against going. Apparently he had a
reputation of being absolutely vicious and horrible, and particularly arrogant and unpleasant to women, a
French misogynist of the very worst kind, and I could not possibly have a nice dinner with him. And if I did, it
might become inappropriate. I was of course aware of the fact that our views on gender roles were slightly
different - to put it very mildly - but the language he had used in our communication strongly suggested that
he had mellowed over the years, and he is a married man, and he knows that I know that he is a married
man, so I decided that I would go, and if I was uncomfortable for any reason, I would simply excuse myself
after 30 minutes and leave. And then I had one of the loveliest dinners ever, which ended up lasting for 7
hours. He could not have been sweeter or funnier or kinder, and although we had different opinions on a lot
of matters, there was not an uncivil word between us. We talked about philosophy and history and gardening
and culture and languages. In French. All 7 hours. He gently helped me out when there were terms I was
uncertain of, but otherwise he showered me in praise for my French. And there was not a word, not a touch
or even a single glance that I would have deemed inappropriate. I had an amazing time, but he did not flirt
with me at all. And the morning after our dinner I received an e-mail from him where he thanked me for
accepting his dinner invitation, and said it was a pleasure to reconnect with a lady who the Gods had covered
in qualities: beauty, erudition, intelligence and generosity, and that he would love to invite me out for dinner
again.

When I the next day told our mutual friend, the response was that if I still did not consider that he was flirting
with me, then I needed to have my antennas recalibrated. And I admit that the written communication is a bit
beyond what I normally get, but face to face there was absolutely nothing. Two weeks later we went out
again, and ended up walking around the Latin Quarter (which is my favorite part of Paris) for two hours, while
he took me to a church where they still follow the old rules of service, and showed me all kinds of cool places
I did not know, before we found a cosy little restaurant where we sat and talked for the rest of the evening.
With him still being an absolute perfect gentleman. I have had so many guys who have been just friends over
the years, that for me it is a perfectly normal thing, but our mutual friend is obviously less familiar with the
concept, and has less faith in it.

I think I generally have fairly good antennas. One of my current colleagues, who is also French, (I think I
have mentioned him before) is so blunt that I do not even need antennas. In fact I would have needed ear
plugs and an eye mask not to notice. I have tried to be polite, ignore him, avoid eye contact and smiling,
answering in monosyllables, pretend I do not see him, and nothing helps. It just get worse and worse. He
maneuvered himself into taking me to lunch, much against my will - I had made the appointment with a
female colleague - he kissed my hand, asked me how old I was, suggested that our lives might have been
different had we met when we were both 14 (we are the same age), when I later tried to pretend I did not see
him, he came over to me and complained in front of a whole bunch of people that I preferred the company of
my female colleagues to his ( and why do you think that is, wise guy...) and exclaimed that I should write a
book about my exciting life, that he would translate in into French and write a poem to me in the introduction.
Sweet Jesus. I have admittedly gotten a lot of positive attention from men lately, but REALLY?!

I think I have found the solution to my little French predicament, by the way. I considered to ask him to marry
me, since that is usually the fool proof way of getting a Norwegian guy to run a mile in the opposite direction,
but in this particular case I did not take the chance. I think the risk of acceptance would have been fairly low,
since if his words are anything to go by, he has a solid, though passionless, marriage. But he might very
easily have taken it as a sign that I was interested in him, which would have been a catastrophe. Since he
was visiting Norway together with some some other colleagues, the need for change was urgent.

So I decided that I needed a new strategy. I figured that if I stopped running, he might stop chasing, and that
if I took the time to talk to him enough, he would discover that I am really not that special, and would move on
to the next flavor of the month. Consequently I did not take evasive action when he sat down next to me
(which was in every single instance we sat down). And every time he came with an innuendo (which was
basically every time he opened his mouth) I just threw it right back in his face. I think he got quite frustrated at
that over time, so the last evening, when I had for the umpteenth time deflected one of his innuendos, he said
" Is this the Norwegian hospitality?!". I just smiled sweetly and said "yes, this is exactly the Norwegian
hospitality". I had taken care of their every need, for lodgings, food, transport, entertainment, even inviting
them into my home, but if he thought I would be included in the all inclusive, he was very wrong.

I also decided that I can not control what he says to me, but I can control how I react to it, so I either ignored
or threw back at him everything he said, and decided that I would not allow it to bother me. I won't know until
next time we meet whether the strategy has been successful, but it seemed to me the last day that his
communication got less charged, so I am hoping for the best. We all got fairly close over the three days, and
that has hopefully put me squarely in his friend zone.

Also I took the opportunity to tell them at the guided tour, that in Norway pushy men were so unpopular that
they had gone extinct. I saw that he was visibly shaken at that, and he mumbled that he said a lot of things,
but he did not mean anything with it. I have decided that I will believe him, as that will make my life a lot
easier.

Sometimes cultural differences can be a challenge. In Norway this kind if behavior would be so outrageous
that it would be unthinkable, but I suspect that he is not even aware of me being bothered. He probably just
thinks of it in terms of it being a compliment. However, if you read on the news about a middle aged
bureaucrat who went berserk in Paris and threw a bucket of ice cold water over a colleague, then please be
my witnesses that I am not crazy, and it did not come out of nowhere, I simply just lost my otherwise
considerable patience.    
7 persons have voted this message useful





Iversen
Super Polyglot
Moderator
Denmark
berejst.dk
Joined 5071 days ago

9078 posts - 16471 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
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 Message 254 of 297
17 August 2015 at 12:48pm | IP Logged 
You probably write the longest messages here at HTLAL, but also some of the most entertaining.

I have also visited Suzdal, but I took a train from Moscow to Vladimir (where I stayed) and then a bus onwards to Suzdal. Fine town, that Suzdal (especially when covered in snow), but even Vladimir has some pretty sights. Tourists shouldn't just stay in Moscow or Peterburg.
1 person has voted this message useful



Solfrid Cristin
Heptaglot
Winner TAC 2011 & 2012
Senior Member
Norway
Joined 3702 days ago

4143 posts - 8863 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, Spanish, Swedish, French, English, German, Italian
Studies: Russian

 
 Message 255 of 297
17 August 2015 at 5:09pm | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
You probably write the longest messages here at HTLAL, but also some of the most
entertaining.

I have also visited Suzdal, but I took a train from Moscow to Vladimir (where I stayed) and then a bus
onwards to Suzdal. Fine town, that Suzdal (especially when covered in snow), but even Vladimir has some
pretty sights. Tourists shouldn't just stay in Moscow or Peterburg.


I imagine that I do write the longest messages on HTLAL, but I am happy that you find them entertaining. A
friend of mine, to whom I have sent my three last entries, said he had converted them to Word, and that it
was a total of 19 pages - just those three entries. Perhaps I should put together everything I have written on
Russia, and start to look for a publisher. :-) There probably are not that many people from the West who have
travelled around Russia and written so extensively about it :-)
2 persons have voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 4965 days ago

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 Message 256 of 297
18 August 2015 at 4:12am | IP Logged 
Just wanted to show you my pics from Vladimir and Suzdal, 10 years ago :)


1 person has voted this message useful



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