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Russia Breaks My Brain
I don't understand this place, I just live here.
#07: And now I live with...Will Farrell?
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Hi everyone, time for another update on some bizarritude from Bizarro-World. Things have been going pretty well lately, although there's been some significant changes in the supporting cast. Starting with my roommate...3 weeks ago.

Now, perhaps some of you had noticed the quasi-ominous references to "whatever happened to my roommate" in previous emails. This is because for the past 3 weeks there's been a decent amount of confusion concerning Rinat, and it was only this last Saturday that things were resolved. So now that the story has an end, I'll share it with you.

Rinat, as you remember, was from Turkmenistan, and was here in St. Petersburg doing graduate work in Arabic. He was supposed to finish his gigantic translation project in the middle of October, defend his thesis, then go home. He was even mentioning how he was hoping his mother could come up to Petersburg to be there when he went before the panel of professors. But none of this happened.

I came back to my room one Monday, and rather than find Rinat in his only shirt sipping instant coffee at his desk, I found a note. It said something in Russian, then in English: "Wolfe, I'll be back from a week. Don't worry. Bye-bye!" At the time, I was thrilled. It had been a long time since I'd had any sort of space to myself, so I promptly started jumping on the beds naked. Well maybe not, but it was still nice to not have any weird "meat from the windowsill" issues for a while.

The next week rolled around though, and he hadn't come back. I didn't think much of it, until the third week started and notes started showing up on my door. As best I could translate (or get them translated for me) they all said things like "Call your advisor," "Talk to the dorm Administrator," etc. One morning the cleaning lady on our hall knocked on the door, and via a slightly confused conversation in Russian, I was able to explain that my roommate was gone, but that his things were all still here. (Oh yeah- he took all his clothes naturally, but all his books, plus a suitcase full of gifts sent from his sister in Canada [don't ask], were still in the room.)

After this conversation, I went to the dorm office to talk to them about the notes. I did my best to recite a little prepared speech I thought of in Russian, and finished by showing them Rinat's note. (Thank god he wrote it in Russian too.) The woman looked at me, pointed at his last name on a note demanding that he speak to an administrator, and asked if that was my name. I said no. Then she "then why do you care?" That was it. It wasn't me, so I wasn't supposed to be involved. It was fairly unsettling.

Because if you dissapear right before finishing a thesis, it's probably not for good reasons. There's also an issue here with people of non-white ethinicities being in greater danger for "dissapearing." But I didn't know what I could do to help find him. Or even if I could really take responsiblity for his belongings if they threatened to throw them out.

Finally, last week, Rinat's cousin who lives in St. Petersburg, arrived to take his bags. Quite a relief. I asked where he'd gone, and managed to get "home" out of a lengthy answer. Just to make sure, I asked if Rinat was ok. He was. So I'm not quite sure what happened, but at least my ex-roommate is still alive and accounted for. Only afterwards did I realize that there's a good chance that he had actually tried to contact the school, but due to poor communications his message never reached the people it needed to. Who knows. But it sort of helps justify why Kristin and I check in with each other regularly.

Anyway, this all left me with my own room, which was pretty sweet. More jumping on the beds. But this Monday, when I came home (don't you wish coming home was always such an unpredictable situation?) there was a new set of suitcases originating from...Simi Valley? Yup, they'd sent me a Californian to be my new roommate. His name is Owen. He quickly identified himself as a Libertarian (apperantly this was quite important. I haven't asked if he knows how to translate it into Russian yet.) The strange thing was that he identified me as "Patrick."

When Owen arrived this last weekend, he was told that he'd be living with an Englishman named Patrick. Apperantly someone even stopped by asking for Patrick to help another Englishman get around. Was I reassigned to a new room without being told (or issued a new key?) Probably not. I'm guessing this little mix up is due to Owen's lack of Russian langauge skills (it's so strange being able to speak more Russian than someone else), and they were trying to tell hime he'll be with someone that speaks english, rather than is English. Why that involves the name Patrick though, I have no idea.

The last little tidbit about Owen, who does resemble a pudgier Will Farrell, that I should mention right now is that he's a little apprehensive about staying in Russia very long because he recently started dating a girl (seriously, I assume) back in the US and he's not sure if he can do the long-distance thing. Especially since casual visits are pretty tough when they require visa applications a month in advance. But the neat part of this situation is that there's a clock ticking on their relationship. In February the girl, who is from Nepal, has an arranged mairrage to contend with. It's great! I made Owen promise that if come February he has to jet off and break up an arranged Nepalise wedding that he'll take me with him, because it's too much like some sort of 80's comedy to pass up.

There's been some shake-ups in my classes as well. We traded in our Korean guy that never understood anything, the narcoleptic Chinese girl, another Chinese guy and that lame-ass Dutch kid, Bart, for a Swede named Ole, two more Chinese kids and a Canadian named Ted. Hearing the word "Ted" was so strange, and somehow foreign. But now we've got 2 native english speakers in the class, so I can sort of hear another version of how bad my pronounciation is. Score!

One more thing about Ole- aside from being the stereotype of a Swedish guy (tall, short blond hair, etc.) he's here as a representative of his parents. His dad is retiring soon, and they bought an apartment in Petersburg, since Stokholm is "too boring." But for the last 2 years, they've been trying to get the apartment rennovated. Every couple of months, they'd come visit and next to nothing would be done. Maybe a day's work since their last visit. So Ole is now here to put pressure on the Russian contractors by coming in every day asking when he can move in. Otherwise he parties a lot and is trying to pick up Russians, er, Russian. Well, both, really. Nice guy though.

I think that's it for this one. Next time I'll try to have a bit more to say about Russia, rather than the weirdos who have come here.

-Angry Giant