Sunday, August 7, 2011

Internet Overload

I think I figured out the internet cafe that had me so befuddled the other day. I'm referring to the one where a guy who looked vaguely Armenian and was wearing sunglasses indoors charged me 50 rubles, handed me a coke, and told me to use the computers. I am here again today, and I asked the girl, since I now know how to say this, "How much does one hour of internet cost?" She motioned towards the drinks and made it clear that I had to buy a drink, and that after buying the drink I could use the internet, seemingly for as long as I want. So I bought a lemon-flavored mineral water, which cost 50 rubles, and now here I am at the internet. It's actually not a bad deal, and I no longer hate this place. You pay 50 rubles (about 2 bucks), get a drink and get to use the internet for as long as you want. The girl is pretty nice, albeit smoking a cigarette two feet from my face, and the internet is fast!

I think most people come here to gamble online. That's what the girl next to me is doing and also what the patron two computers down from me is doing. I think by Russian standards 50 rubles is a pretty big rip off for internet. This is not, after all, an "internet cafe". This is an "internet club". There is a difference in Russia, and the difference is that internet cafes are cheap and generally well-lit and frequented by young people, whereas internet clubs are expensive, gloomy, usually filled with smoke, and the computers are set up to make online gambling as easily as possible, often with a set of buttons by the keyboard expressly for that purpose. But like I said, I'm not complaining about this place. It might be my new favorite place in Yaroslavi, just after the banks of the mighty Volga, of course.

I am actually starting to learn Russian. I am almost afraid to type those very words for fear I'll jinx it, but I am actually starting to learn Russian. Like I've mentioned, the girl working at the hostel speaks no English. And now that I've started learning some verbs and how to conjugate them, I can say some simple things. I was just now extremely proud of myself because I told her, in Russian, without help, "I'm going to look for internet." This, after my days of silence and frustration, is a veritable novel streaming from my mouth. Like I just recited the Declaration of Independence from heart -- but in Russian. I feel empowered. I can actually communicate. I know the word for "liar" and "crazy" and the verbs "to smoke", "to be able to," "to love," "to hate." Combine these words and you can actually start to make some sentences.

This experience has made me appreciate what it's like to learn a language from zero and also what it would be like to teach someone who has no knowledge of a language. Now I know that if I ever teach Spanish 101 the first verbs I will teach my students will be "to love" and "to hate." Sure, it's important to know things like "to walk," "to give", "to want," etc. But they're not fun to talk about. Everyone, however, likes to talk about what they love and hate. And it opens up new worlds. I love icecream! I hate spagehtti! I love music! I love dancing! I hate peppers! These are things that are actually fun to say, and they are relatively simple. These are the things that little kids say, and when you're learning a language, you're effectively a little kid.

My search for formal Russian classes continues and unfortunately continues to be fruitless. The one place I found wants 600 rubles for 45 minutes, which is over 20 dollars for 45 minutes. If I did three hours of class a day it would add up. So I have a rudimentary plan, though my plans are always changing and could very well change by later tonight. But for now the plan is this: Give Yaroslavi and myself two more days. If by Tuesday night I haven't found Russian classes and I don't feel like I'm really learning, then I get a morning train to Moscow and possibly a nonstop flight to New York. The only cost 650 dollars non stop on Transaero, which to me is a not horrible deal. Then I could fly to Seattle using frequent flier miles for free.

But this is only a very rudimentary idea. I don't want to give up on Russia yet. I'm learning, I'm having a good time. And let's face it: it's not every day you're in Russia. I don't want to leave early and then regret it.

Poka, poka, for now, komrades. Poka, poka.

No comments:

Post a Comment