Thursday, July 15, 2010

Birthday Parties Russian Style

I've been to two birthday parties in the past two days. So you're probably thinking "A Russian birthday party? That's got to involve heaps of vodka and a bear!"* Well you'd be wrong.

The first birthday celebration was for my teacher, and it was a nice mid afternoon gathering at the American House. A group of us sat in the kitchen and had a bit of champagne and the head of the program here (Galina Petrovna) gave a very sweet toast about how lovely Nelli is. There were a bunch of snacks too- grapes, wafer cookies, some kind of marshmallow brick thing that was creme brulee flavored and probably has given me diabetes from how sweet it was, cherries (Suzdal, the neighboring town is famous for its cherries) and various chocolates. We sat around chatting for quite a while. It was lovely. I wish I'd brought my camera with me so I could have taken pictures of the various treats.

Yesterday my roommate got an invitation to go to a birthday party for a guy named Yura, and she invited me along with her. I should start by saying that neither my roommate nor I knew the birthday boy. That kind of debunks the whole "Russians don't talk to strangers." myth, doesn't it? Maybe it's the smallness of Vladimir, but I'm so impressed by how friendly & outgoing everyone has been so far. Yura didn't seem fazed that two random American girls were at his party. He put the bowling alley menu in front of us, and said, "Have a drink. My treat."

Anyway, the birthday party was at a bowling alley! We got there and donned Russian bowling shoes (they come with disposable socks) and had a crack at bowling. There were six of us at the party, so we had two teams of three and bowled for a couple of hours. This was also pretty tame drinking wise-three of the people drank alcohol free mojitos, one person had a glass of white wine, my roommate had a beer and I had an orange soda.

After we got tired of bowling we decided to go for a walk. Actually, I got pressured into going for a walk because I thought perhaps I should go home and do my homework for the evening. I was talked out of this plan by some of the Russian girls who insisted they would help me translate the story I had to read. This lead to me learning the Russian word for "To seduce." or as the Russian girls told me "How to get a man to have the sex with you." See? I'm learning things here.

Our walk led us to Mister Hamburger where we got ice cream and then to Pushkin Park where we found another group of Americans who are here studying with the Critical Language Scholarship program. They were there with a few of their Russian hosts slacklining. I somehow got talked into it, so the picture above is of me attempting it for the first time.

The night ended fairly early around 9:45 or so, and in true Russian host mom fashion there was a big bowl of borscht waiting for us.

*Okay, you're probably only thinking it involves a bear if you saw the Russian film version of War & Peace from a while ago. Otherwise, you probably weren't thinking it involved a bear, but from now on you will.

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