russia: day 5

today i got up (again somewhat late), and knew better what to do about breakfast. although i still didn’t eat most of it. i took another hot/cold shower and got dressed. since i’d taken the metro the day before, i wasn’t too concerned about not knowing what to do. i still had metro tokens from the previous day, so i used one of those and took the green line to the station nearest the school. i got to the school and went to the administrative offices to show them i paid everything, and they told me to go to the room for the grammar test.
i got to the room for the grammar test and the door was shut. almost everything on and around the door was in russian. i tried the door and it was locked. i then noticed a post it note on the door that appeared to say in russian they were on a 15 minute break. of course, it was 3pm and it appeared the sign with info by the door said the office was only open until 4pm. i decided to buy something from an automated coffee vending machine. i got a hot chocolate (i knew the words for chocolate, espresso, coffee, etc – so i had a general idea of what i was getting). a few minutes later a lady came up and started waiting, then a few minutes later a guy came up and was waiting. and we waited. i could hear people doing stuff inside the room every now and then. and we waited. it’d been probably 30 minutes. the guy had gotten frustrated long ago, so he finally went up and started knocking on the door. a lady came and opened it, they said some stuff, then the lady who’d been waiting went in. when she came out, the guy looked at me and i said “please” in russian and he went in. then i went in and tried to tell them i needed to take the grammar test. they spoke no english. she sat me down at a table and told me i needed to fill out a paper. she gave it to me and it asked (only in russian, of course) for my name, birthday, where i was from, how long i’d been studying russian, why i wanted to know russian, etc. some of these questions i had to use my iphone to translate words for because i didn’t know them. while i was filling it out, some other lady walked in, saw what i was doing, told them some stuff in russian that i think meant i didn’t need to fill out of that stuff out. they took that paper, then they gave me a sheet of paper and the test, and tried to explain to me in russian that i should write only on the answer page and not make marks on the test. and maybe something about how to make corrections, how to mark answers, etc. i could pretty much figure it out from some examples they had on the paper. i had one hour.
the test was something like 190 questions. right off the bat, everything was grammar related: knowing the cases, knowing conjugation, knowing perfective verbs versus imperfective verbs, etc. mostly sentences with multiple choice answers for parts of the sentence. unfortunately, it was also with tons of words i didn’t know. i scanned through the rest of the test – pretty much more of the same. so finally i just started guessing. i got through about 90 questions i think before they said my time was up. they graded my test, handed me a slip of paper (i got a 39% or something, but i have no idea how they calculated any of it), and told me to go upstairs to a different room to get my class assignment.
i went upstairs and walked into a room and there were a few people in there, all women talking to each other. i stood around awhile, but none of them reacted to my being there. finally one of them – the one i’d talked with in english the first day – asked me to please sit down. i gave my slip of paper to one of the other ladies and she started rattling off some russian to me. there were too many words that i didn’t know, and she was talking really fast (although i’m sure normal speed if you understand the language). i could answer a bit but not much, mostly i just looked confused and didn’t know what to say. finally another lady said something to her and then looked at me and said “kak vas zavot?” very slowly. i said “terry”. she said “otkyda vyi?” so i haltingly said “ya iz america”. so then she said something like “gdey vyi pre-echali?” …except i didn’t know what “pre-echali” meant. i figured it was related to “exat” which is “to go/travel by vehicle”, but i didn’t remember if it meant “came from” or “arrived at” or what. then she started making an airplane with her hand, flying it and saying “samaleot” and landing it. so finally i said “v moskve” because i flew into moscow. this seemed to disappoint her, so she gave up. they talked a bit in russian and then the first lady that was asking the questions gave me my class assignment. the printout was in russian. she started explaining things…in english. classes were tuesday-friday. tuesday and wednesday were in this same building, thursday and friday were in a different building several blocks away. she wrote down the names of the days in english next to the russian names. my first class would be tomorrow.
that whole experience really deflated me. it made me feel entirely stupid, and like i was an utter failure. first i got a grammar test that started off more complex than some of my understanding, and with lots of verbs and words that i didn’t know; then i went into the office and they felt like they couldn’t talk to me, so they resorted to the most basic first questions/statements anyone learns, and i even failed that at the third question they asked; then she felt like with me she needed to write the names of the days of the week in english by the russian ones. it was humiliating, frustrating, and utterly depressing. i walked out of the building thinking “what the fsck am i doing? why am i even here? they felt i was so incompetent they resorted to baby questions, and then wrote the english days of the week on the paper. they probably put me in the class for ‘slow’ people.” man, i was really down. i mean, i knew my russian was weak, and that was part of the reason i wanted to come here (beyond just experiencing “living” in russia for awhile) – but i felt totally incompetent. like i had failed to meet even the fairly low expectations for my russian language skills i’d had for myself. it sucked.
because i was feeling so down, i decided to just walk instead of take the metro or anything. since i was walking, i went ahead and took some pictures of things along the way i walked. i may be feeling like a failure, but it’s no reason to not take some pictures. i walked back to my apartment building, and since i was feeling like a failure in russia i went ahead and went back to the “british” pub. i ordered a guiness, then shepherd’s pie, then i followed those up with a timmerman’s kriek. then i headed up to the apartment.

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