Novosibirsk November 12, 2008
Success! The internet is now working in the flat. I may never turn the computer off for fear that I won't be able to connect again. I have returned several emails, and made several calls via Skype (the greatest invention since CD's).
As previously noted, the internet connection at the flat needed to be fixed, so I got to the University early in order to go online via wireless. There are outlets not evenly spaced along the corridor walls, but nowhere to sit (ergo, the floor last night). I finally found a space at a small table next to a rather glum looking young man playing with his phone. I made hand gestures asking if it was alright to sit next to him. After a few seconds of staring at me, he nodded his head ever so imperceptibly. Great! I could go online. Wait. The outlet doesn't work. Packed my bags and went looking elsewhere. Nothing to be found, so it was back to the computer lab to fork over 30 rubles for one hour.
Ian had asked me to speak to his English language class about the educational system in America, as well as opportunities for scholarships and research. There were 7 women in the class. The classroom was on the outer wall of the building, and as it got cloudier, it got colder. I spoke for about 20 minutes, as they all scribbled notes. One of the things I mentioned was my admiration for their ability to speak more than their own native language. Then, because learning a language is more speaking it than listening to it, we decided to engage them in conversation. First question: "Do you have any questions?" Heads down, turned away, nothing. Okay. Second question: "How long have you been studying English?" "From the age of seven." Quick mental calculation: 12-15 years. "What other languages have you studied?" All were learning Japanese. One woman also speaks French. If I say it once, I'll say it a hundred times: there ought to be a law. There ought to be a law mandating the mastery of at least one foreign language in the US.
Anyway, several of the students expressed a desire to live (permanently) in Japan. Two of them had been to Japan, but one hadn't. I thought either that's pretty brave, or the grass looks greener . . .
After our conversation, Ian had them write a one and one half page essay on what they learned from my talk. They write VERY small here, so they must have had a lot to say (or they said it in several different ways to fill up space).
After that, we picked up my passport from the registration office, and Ian allowed me to use his office to go online. He had some business to attend to elsewhere. After about an hour, he came back and we chatted. I learned that in addition to his duties at the University, he has two other jobs, at least one of which is teaching English classes elsewhere (see! everyone wants to learn).
Dinner would be early, and quick, because I needed to get back to the apartment by 7:30. Ian had arranged for an IT guy to try to get me connected here. I went to a small (very small) cafeteria upstairs in the trade center, where I announced to the server, in Russian, that I am a vegetarian. I then pointed to the mashed potatoes, kasha, and vegetables. All for 89 rubles ($3.23).
Trudged back to the flat, and passed out on the bed waiting for the IT guy, who arrived at 9:30. But he got it fixed! The proof will be if I turn it off, and it comes back when I turn it on again. We'll see now.
It worked. I am a happy man. I can go to sleep now. It's only 1:30 am. For those of you who know me, that's the most unheard of thing I've ever heard of (props to Dad). My body clock may have to change to keep up with this new opportunity to simultaneously connect, rather than wait until the next day.