Russian Trains Are Legendary… Try One Some Day!

“Please, book me a flight. I am not going anywhere by train, I’ve had enough the previous time!”

vagon_001

During my long career in international relations and tourism-related projects I have heard these words thousands of times! Many foreigh visitors to Ukraine and Russia had to deal with local railroad simply because it is the most developed (sometimes the only) way of transportation between cities in this part of the world. Our automobile roads are not as good as the western highways and even those which are available may be out of work during the winder period in some areas; travel by air is still too expensive for the locals, and thus it is still quite undeveloped. Since the first half of the 20-th century people in Russia (and all former Soviet territories) have been traveling by trains, there have been many attempts to romanticize train travel due to the tradition to talk and share the most sincere stories with people who you have just met, but even the most romantic people finally feel bored when they have to ride many hours in a very tiny compartment with a bunch of people they hardly know.

vagon_002

The distances in Russia are really large, so it is hardly possible to avoid an overnight trip if you need to cover, say, 600 miles or more. For example, the train trip from Moscow to Vladivostok takes 7 days. There are modern and faster trains connecting cities in the European part of Russia, but still, most of the long distance trains are the traditional, slow overnight trains.

Here are some interesting facts about traveling by trains in Russia:

  • You can travel by one of three classes: luxury car (1-st class), compartment car (so called купе [kupE]), where you will find three other passengers besides you in the compartment, and the 3-dr class (so-called плацкарт [platskArt]), where compartments have no doors, and there are berths on the side along the aisle along the whole car.
  • The trains have no special cars or compartments only for women or only for men – you just buy your ticket and wait till the moment you get into your car to see who your fellow passengers are (you are lucky if no one travels with a very little child or with their favorite pets).
  •   There is a restaurant car in every long-distance train, however, food there will not be delicious, but will be quite overpriced, so traditionally most of the people take their home-made food with them. Be prepared for a rich variety of smells coming from every compartment on the way.

vagon_01food

  • The berths in compartments have standard length, and if you are very tall, you may be uncomfortable there.
  • Many people complain of being unable to sleep because the train moves, and of course you move all the time, too. This shaking may be quite irritating for those who are not used to such kind of travel.
  • Some trains are a bit faster than the others because they do not have too many stops. They are called fast trains (скорые поезда) and their numbers are usually from 001 to 120 or so, the bigger numbers usually identify so-called passenger trains (пассажирские поезда), which go slower and may have long stops in really many towns on their way. If you have a choice between a #64 train and a #360, choose the #64. It will get you to your destination sooner.
  • In summer time, riding in the train may be quite unbearable because of the heat (air conditionning hardly ever works), while in winter… it is also very hot and stuffy, because the car assistants have a habit to test your limit of bearing the heat. But Russians prefer to suffer from heat rather than to be freezing to their bones, so they rarely complain if it is too warm in the car.
vagon_01too-warm

too warm in the train

  • The tea in 2-nd class cars may still be served in traditional Russian glasses, but today, more and more often you will see modern glasses or cups rather than traditional ones.
  • Sometimes trains may be late to arrive. Passengers are often upset about it, of course, but no one ever tries to sue the railroad, because it is a huge monopolized and the passenger’s chances to win the case are very unrealistic.
  • The train assistants (usually women, Russians call them проводница [pravadnItsa]) expect you to tip them when they bring you tea and bisquits, but you will hardly get other services from them, even if you are willing to tip them (they will usually refuse to lay your bed or provide any other services).

vagon9

Well, there are a lot more little things that can make your Russia train trip unforgettable, but we will wrap it up here. We will gladly publish more information about Russian travel if you are interested. Please, do not hesitate to ask for more information in the comments.

A Russian Spotlight on Great Britain: the Way We See It

If you are a Russian who had English classes among other subjects at school, you certainly remember worming through the texts about Great Britain in your course books, and I bet you must remember your teacher of English! My memory still keeps the sound of my teacher’s voice, reciting with a terrible accent: “London is the capital of Great Britain…” Our teachers, who had never been to any of the English speaking countries and hardly ever met an English-speaker in person, did their job of teaching us about the British culture so well that many grown up Russians and Ukrainians today still have an unbreakable image of a typical Britisher in their heads: a neat, skinny man wearing a bow hat and a cane, walking around the Houses of Parliament, whose manners and face bear elusive, but reappearing features of Sherlock Holmes, Margaret Thatcher and Mr.Bean at the same time.

In a so-called English school, where I had classes of English during the whole 10-year cycle, we were taught even more: we had known the disposition of forces in the Battle of Hastings and such vital facts for the Soviet citizen as the dates of life of King Richard and the average weight of the Stonehenge stones. My teachers, both at high school and later in the English language department of university acknowledged the London accent as the only correct and legitimate, and thus the only accent acceptable in the classroom (you can imagine that accent in their performance, right?), so I remember myself sitting in the “lingua-phonetics” classroom (that’s how they called it) with a small looking glass in front of my mouth, trying to keep the “typical British smile” (that’s also the way they called it) and repeating after the tape recorder dozens and dozens of times: “She sells sea shells on the sea shore…”

At the same time, our teachers never taught us simple things like the names of little objects which surround us in everday life: door handles, buttons, road bumps, cracks on plaster, and so on. Our teachers had a very artificial vision of the western lifestyle, and I believe many teachers of English still have it now. So even now, after decades of learning about English cultures and lifestyles, I am still surprised every time I find out a fact which I should have known since school, but I’d never heard it from anybody.

Just recently I found out that “the United Kingdom does not have a constitutionally defined official language (thank you, the UK Guide! http://www.commisceo-global.com/country-guides/uk-guide) It appears that English is the main language being spoken by more than 70% of the UK population and is thus the de facto official language.

The Guide I just mentioned above, provides very good sets of information about various cultures, and I believe their description of traditionalBritish etiquette and customs is quite correct. Anyway, I enjoyed reading through the paragraphs about the UK, and am now moving on to read about my own culture. Who knows, maybe I am going to learn something new there, too!

P.S. This is the famous Starkov and Dixon’s school coursebook of English which we used to have in the Soviet time as the main and the only book of English. This one was for 8-th graders (13-14 year-olds), and we were always called pupils, sometimes just comrades, but never we were called students.

en_textbook_soviet1

Relationship Danger Alert for Men

Like every other occupation, communicating with women has two sides: it may be most exciting and pleasant with some women, but with others it may turn out to be quite an opposite experience. Girls are beautiful, intelligent, funny… but still there are women you should avoid dating if you want to stay safe emotionally, physically, and even financially. Let us look at the most common traits of such women, which can (and should) be regarded as red flags at the very first stage of a new relationship.

1. Some women – probably the most popular type among men – can be called “gamers”, and gamers they are. Such woman will charm, seduce, and eagerly date the man, but she will never give him her heart. She is simply not a good material for a relationship, she prefers to move on from one guy to another and avoid long term affairs. A woman-gamer doesn’t care about the man’s emotions, she will turn him into her toy without doubt. Quite often, she is smart, educated, and knows very well what she is doing. The tricky part is the difficulty to identify a gamer, because she is quite experienced at fooling guys. The other thing is: she never opens up to anyone, so she won’t tell the man what kind of plans she has for him. A gamer plays her game as long as she is in the mood for playing, then she turns her back to the man and leaves. These qualities are quite common for this type of women:

  • She flirts with every guy she meets

  • She doesn’t give straight answers when asked about her dating history

  • She sends you mixed messages

  • She is charismatic, smart, and very good looking

  • She doesn’t always respond to calls/texts and often looks quite preoccupied with some of her chores, about which she speaks very little

If she flirts with a man, she is really charming, so it takes lots of effort and character not to be fooled.

05_party_girl

2. Another quite distinct type are women who love partying. They are perfect for short time flirting or having fun in a company of friends, but every talk about taking the relationship seriously scares the party girl away.
These women are simply not ready to take any serious responsibility, besides… they love partying too much! If you aren’t much of a party guy yourself, this can cause some problems down the road. It is not difficult to identify a party girl, because

  • She goes out practically every night and she always parties on weekends

  • She loves drinking, so her stories usually start with: “Oh, I got so drunk last Saturday that I…”

  • Logically, she’s frequently hung over

  • She knows every bartender in town and knows all liquor stores in quite a large radius from her home

With such a girl, the man should be prepared to deal with the side effects of her lifestyle. While intoxicated, a party girl can make decisions which could devastate even the strongest relationship. She may be very beautiful, funny, humorous, communicative; very probably, she is always provocatively dressed and flirts quite skillfully, but all of her positive traits will inevitable be negated by her love for alcohol and general levity.

3. A very well-known type of Russian women, who frequently take a fancy of dealing with dating/marriage agencies, is a so-called gold-digger. Women gold diggers will go to great lengths to find and date men with money, because their idea is to live a life of luxury without having to work for it. Gold diggers are usually very shallow and value money more than anything else. If the girl who you just met seems to be only concerned about the money you make, the relationship will go the wrong way from the very beginning. Such women are never satisfied with your gifts, attention and efforts to please them. A typical gold digger can be identified by the following behavior:

  • She expects you to pay for everything

  • She’s very disappointed when you don’t spend money on her

  • She pursues you more aggressively than you pursue her

  • She is obsessed with living a lavish lifestyle but can’t afford it

  • She is shallow and materialistic

05_psycho_girl

4. Another quite “dangerous” type of women is a so-called psycho girl. Dating them inevitably brings men to very serious challenges. Psycho girls are quite insecure, and at the same time, controlling, manipulative, and needy. Quite often, they are very selfishly motivated. If that isn’t bad enough, they’re the most difficult type of girl to break up with. If you try a serious relationship with a psycho woman and she becomes dependent on you, breaking up with her may turn into a real nightmare. She’ll kick and scream to the very end and might even make threats against you or herself. This is where things can get really dangerous for your emotional and physical well being. To identify a psycho at an early stage of acquaintance, pay attention to these little signals:

  • She calls or texts you constantly to see what you’re doing

  • She discourages you to hang out with your friends, especially other girls

  • She never seems to trust you

  • She cries or throws tantrums to get her way

  • She is emotionally unstable

Dating a psycho is a surefire way to make your life a living hell. Even if the sex is awesome, it comes at a very high price. You’ll feel like you’re on a leash and won’t have enough freedom in your life. If a girl you’re dating starts exhibiting behaviors of a psycho, consider carefully wrapping up the relationship before things get really troublesome.

The Challenges of Dating a Mama’s Boy

Relationship Tips for Girls

dating-a-mamas-boy

A mother’s boy (also mummy’s boy or mama’s boy), is a man who is excessively attached to his mother at an age when men are expected to be independent. Here are a few signs of a mama’s boy type:

  • He can’t survive unless someone is around all the time. This type of guy always needs attention on himself. Whatever he does, he needs someone to help him, assist him, or simply be around.
  • Usually, he relies in his household chores on his parents, and heads over there a few times a week for a square meal. Don’t be surprised to see his mom in his home, she probably comes over once in a while to clean his apartment.
  • He speaks with his mother many times during the day and never fails to exchange messages with her via social media… you can clearly see that he loves it.
  • He never makes a decision without consulting with his mother.
  • One thing he is sure about is that his mom can’t do anything wrong. He always takes her side, no matter what she suggests.
  • Though he has his own place, he still keeps his room in his mother’s home and finds reasons to visit his mother’s home pretty often.
  • His mom is all-knowing. She always knows about everything, including the details of your relationship with him, especially about every single time when you hurt his feelings.
  • When his mother is around, he kind of goes back to being a child.
  • He expects you to be like his mother. His mom is the “acme of perfection”, so he measures all women against her.
  • He’s pretty spoiled and he takes advantage of it. He takes everything he needs out of his mom. You don’t know whether he pays his bills on his own or his mom does this, and you’re afraid to ask.
  • He is okay with his mother being around all the time and even if she shows up unannounced.
  • His mother tends to manage your behavior and decisions every time she gets a chance to do this.
  • If you and your boyfriend have done something silly and it has come up, his mother will always find reasons to justify her boy and make you responsible for the whole situation.

It is good to keep these tips in mind when you are about to start dating a man who has some of these qualities. In fact, hundreds of couples have been through these challenges and found ways to deal with them. It is up to you to decide what kind of relationship you want to build, so be yourself and do what you think is right.

Love is a Priceless Gift… the Only Thing One Can Give Out and Still Have It

These words by Leo Tolstoy have been coming up in my mind lately. There are thousands – maybe even millions – of people in this world who have never known what love is like, because their parents did not know it either and never taught their kids how to love.

Like many other things, love can (and certainly should) be taught, because a person deprived of love since childhood has very poor chances to be happy. So I have been asking myself: what can I do to help people learn how to love? Being a teacher, what can I do to assist people in lerning the art and science of love? In a perfect world, a teacher is the second closest person (after parents) to the student, so technically, teachers might do a part of the job, which parents fail to do… but alas! Love is not taught at schools!

Today, when the world has become so frail, learning how to love each other is the only answer we have. This is why my personal motto has been: “Share love, educate, inspire.”

love_kids

“Любовь — это бесценный дар. Это единственная вещь, которую мы можем подарить и все же она у тебя остаётся.” – Л.Толстой

The Infinitive Is a Verb, Taken Naked from Its Dictionary Page…

“Берём глагольчик – голенький, из словаря. Это – инфинитив.” Такое объяснение действует на студентов гораздо лучше, чем сухой текст правил: яркий образ обнажённого глагола (без окончаний) врезается в память, как сцена из любимого кино. Теперь, когда всем ясно, что за словом “инфинитив” не кроется ничего особенного, можно поговорить о его функциях в  английском языке.

1. Инфинитивную форму глагола используют в предложениях как подлежащее или дополнение.

To know me is to love me. (Знать меня – значит любить меня)

To live in Hawaii is my lifetime dream. (Жить на Гаваях – мечта всей моей жизни)

2. Инфинитив также используют как дополнение, которое традиционно следует за определёнными глаголами, которые вы найдёте ниже, в таблице

I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated your gift. (Я хотел сказать, как высоко ценю ваш подарок.)

He hesitated to ask the embarrassing question. (Он колебался, задавать ли затруднительный вопрос.)

3. Инфинитив используют в качестве сокращённой формы для фразы in order to

*in order to означает: чтобы / для того, чтобы / с тем, чтобы

You must take this medicine (in order) to get well. (вместо “ in order to get well” можно просто сказать “to get well”

I went to the bank (in order) to cash a check. (Я пошёл в банк (чтобы) обналичить чек)

Частенько инфинитив работает так же, как наши сложные сказуемые:

We hope to find the person who did this. Мы надеемся (что сделать?) найти человека, который это сделал.

I was asked to make a dessert for the dinner. (а тут ещё и с пассивным залогом, но в целом – всё то же самое: Меня попросили (что сделать?) приготовить десерт к обеду.

*А вот и список (неполный, но более, чем достаточный для жизни) глаголов, после которых традиционно используют инфинитив. Например, afford to buy (a car) / agree to sign (papers) / arrange to meet (her), и т.д.

afford

beg

decide

forget

intend

mean

prepare

seem

threaten

agree

begin

demand

go

know how

need

pretend

start

try

appear

care

deserve

happen

learn

neglect

promise

stop

volunteer

arrange

choose

desire

hate

like

offer

refuse

struggle

wait

ask

claim

expect

hesitate

love

plan

regret

swear

want

attempt

consent

fail

hope

manage

prefer

remember

tend

wish

Love, Sex, Trust… What Comes First for a Slavic Woman?

This question often comes up when I talk to foreign men about Russian/Ukrainian traditions and family life. Interestingly, the westerners and the Slavic people’s traditional approaches to dating are strikingly different, especially if we look at relationships between the western men and Slavic women.

To majority of Slavic women, love (or deep affection) comes first. It is the first necessary condition for a serious relationship with a man. If a woman does not feel that discomforting, burning excitement deep inside her chest, she will never open up to the man, and very soon he will find himself in her “friend zone”. Forever.

Trust is another condition, which usually precedes a woman’s decisions about moving on toward a more physical stage in the relationship. To a Slavic woman, even in the 21-st century, a sexual relationship is the highest stage of intimacy, which is only possible when her love and trust to a man is complete and unconditional. This is why it often takes months before a man and a woman move on to a “physical” relationship.

woman_guessing

About Pink Hatters, Pussy Hats and More…

pink-hatter2

No need to say, the DC March impressed everyone around the world. Here, in Ukraine, we kept following the news minute by minute over the last weekend. Having lived through a series of most emotional elections, revolutions, and even a war, we can comprehend and empathize with the events happening in the USA these days. When I first saw crowds of people wearing pink hats, I realized that it was connected with a female movement for human rights (pink color is internationally recognized as a “female” color), and I had an immediate and quite logical intention to call the demonstrants “pink hatters”. But, interestingly, the term had already been engaged by a different social group some time before. Here is a definition of a pink hatter from Urban Dictionary (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=pink%20hatter):

Pink hatter – one of the new-found “fans” of the Boston Red Sux who has limited to no knowledge of the game of baseball, and who buys expensive and scarce tickets to the ball game because of the frat-party like atmosphere, and so he or she can brag of their allegiance around the water cooler. The pink hatter is so named because their team apparrel purchases are unconventional in color, and are merely chosen in an attemp to call attention to themselves and their amplified hipster factor. Pink hatters can be found in the ballpark taking the seat of a more interested and less casual fan that was unable to get a ticket.

pink_hatter2 Well, this made me realize that I could not call the D.C. March participants “pink hatters”. I resumed my search and found this page of The PussyHat Project: https://www.pussyhatproject.com/ (the picture above was taken from their page), so now I know how the activists prefer to name themseves. Their mission statement says that they aim to “provide the people of the Women’s March in Washington D.C. a means to make a unique visual statement which will help activists be better heard.” I feel very supportive of their initiative, because I have learned on my own experience: democracy cannot be achieved by sitting quietly and doing nothing.

It was fun to get to know all this. I also feel bound to add that, being a foreigner, I have to check up every word I come across, and even then I am not guaranteed from surprises. I checked up Urban Dictionary for what pussy hat means, and itgave me gave me a bit unexpected response! (Here: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=pussyhat).

Yeah, I thought to myself. Sometimes, just knowing the definition isn’t helpful, either. The context is really important! 

So I stopped searching through the dictionary and returned to watching the news.

 

 

 

Gerunds Are Quite Friendly, They Only Have a Scary Name

In fact, gerunds are just the -ing forms of verbs.

gerund

Герундий – страшное слово, которым пугали нас школьные англичанки в средних классах, на самом деле совсем не страшен и не сложен. Это просто-напросто общий термин для глаголов, к которым приставили окончание -ing.

Read – reading; hike – hiking; see – seeing и т.д.

Зачем его приставили? Для того, чтобы создать значение процесса или длящегося действия. В русском языке, произнося слово “чтение”, мы подразумеваем определённый род занятий, навык (“чтение – полезное умение”) или процесс, протекающий во времени (“старайтесь не отвлекаться во время чтения” = “старайтесь не отвлекаться, когда читаете“). Англичане делают то же самое, прибавляя к глаголам окончание -ing. Дальше – примеры использования герундия в английском языке.

В этих примерах герундий использован в качестве подлежащих и дополнений, а по-русски мы скажем то же самое так, как привычнее всего нам:

Skiing is my favorite sport.  Катание (сущ.) на лыжах – мой любимый спорт.

Seeing is believing.   Увидеть (гл.) – значит поверить (гл.).

Глаголы с окончанием -ing нередко стоят после предлога и придают всему предложению значение процесса, их можно переводить на русский язык либо существительным, либо глаголом:

Thanks for helping my children. (Спасибо за помощь моим детям или: Спасибо, что помогли моим детям)

The job consists of typing, filing, and answering the phone. (Работа состоит в наборе текста, составлении файлов, приёме звонков)

Чаще всего герундий встречается в сочетании определёнными глаголами (так сложилось по традиции).

The children enjoyed watching the parade.

Ms. Terrell avoided paying her taxes until it was too late.

Roland is afraid of making mistakes. (обратите внимание: making mistakes – тоже традиционно используемое цельное словосочетание)

Sandy is considering leaving New York.  (а тут вообще два окончания -ing подряд! Это потому, что в слове considering это окончание является одним из признаков продолженного времени (present continuous: is considering), а вот слово leaving – это уже герундий Если уж совсем переводить его на русский лад, то можно задать к слову “leaving” вопрос: “что делание?”. Сэнди продумывает (что? Что делание?) отъезд из Нью Йорка. Вот и всё, что нужно знать, чтобы не смущаться при виде герундия.  

Ниже – небольшой список глаголов, после которых традиционно следует герундий. Не стоит зазубривать их целым списком. Просто постройте с ними словосочетания и предложения (“He wanted to avoid meeting Jane, so he took a different way to school that morning”), и многие из этих слов со временем запомнятся сами собой:

admit

begin

discuss

hate

love

practice

regret

stop

advise

can’t help

dislike

hesitate

mention

prefer

remember

suggest

anticipate

complete

enjoy

imagine

mind

quit

resent

threaten

appreciate

consider

finish

intend

miss

recall

resist

tolerate

attempt

delay

forget

keep

neglect

recollect

risk

try

avoid

deny

go

like

postpone

recommend

start

understand

OMG! Leo Tolstoy Never Stops Tweeting!

I keep finding more and more twitter-long quotes of the great writer! Here are a few more. I can’t help sharing them, they are wonderful!

tolstoy_prokudin-gorsky

Happy is the one who is happy in his home. (Счастлив тот, кто счастлив дома.)

The strongest people are always simple. (Сильные люди всегда просты.)

It’s better not to do anything than to actively do nothing (Лучше ничего не делать, чем делать ничего.)

The best people are always among those, who are being condemned by the world. (Ищи лучшего человека среди тех, кого осуждает мир.)

While doing good, be grateful for this (opportunity). (Делая добро, будь благодарен за это.)

To be happy, one’s got to believe that happiness exists. (Надо верить в возможность счастья, чтобы быть счастливым.)

He who does not do anything, always has numerous assistants. (У того, кто ничего не делает, всегда много помощников.)

The only condition of success is patience. (Единственное условие, от которого зависит успех, есть терпение.)

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