Saturday, 5 December 2009

The story so far...

I'm back. It's cold. And I've still got a long way to go...

For the last eight weeks or so I've been buried under the Oxford routine. Thankfully its not been as intensive as my undergraduate degree but its still been enough to make me realise my progress in the Russian language is not going to be even across the disciplines of speaking, listening, reading and writing.

There the focus in the classroom is on getting prepared for archival research. Lots of translations, lots of vocabulary building on the fundamentals of the Soviet system, population migration, the industrialisation of the Stalinist period, etc, etc. Pretty specialist. Unfortunately with the amount of gaps I have in my learning the improvements I've made haven't been as tangible as I would hope. I think some stuff has sunk in, just don't ask me what exactly. (Besides getting faster with the dictionary...)

That said, I was worried I'd managed to forget more than I'd learned when it came to my speaking and understanding. I might have been wrong on that one. The drive with Sasha from the airport gave me my first chance of 'conversation' and I have to admit I think I performed admirably. To think we touched on - ahem - the 'fundamentals' of Russian grammar (and its relation to English, given he's trying to learn my native tongue) during the course of the chat gave me hope that I'm not still sounding like a five year old in my sentence constructions. (I probably am though...)

My intention is to make sure my teacher, Katya, is strict with me for the next two weeks and even if we don't make much progress in the aforementioned grammar, at least I'll come away with something approaching a competant level of speaking to build on. Other than that its business as usual now I'm back. I should mention my flight though before I sign off. Thanks to a tip from Bart, the course co-ordinator, I found 'Rossiya Airlines' were in the middle of a special offer. I managed to secure return tickets (DIRECT! No circumnavigating Western Europe via Germany and Lufthansa!) from Heathrow to Pulkova 2 for about £160 (Lufthansa were quoting about £280).

Service was relatively faultless, though in the typical Russian manner, brisk and without any frills. One the other hand the meal was a mini feast and the important thing is we arrived early. (Surprising given we were half an hour late taking off and the time it took to taxi across Terminal 4 in Heathrow, I thought the pilot planned on driving most of way there...) Reading their in flight magazine they also offer the rather novel opportunity to buy 5 tickets in the course of a year and claim the sixth free. If the visa system weren't such a pain in the arse, I might have had use for this.

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