I can't believe that a month has already passed in Moscow, and the amount of things I've seen and explored in this month has been truly amazing. Back home, I just got notification from my Air Force ROTC detachment that we will be hearing about our AFSC selections (job selections) this week. I am hoping and praying that I get my number 1 choice, Intelligence. If so, I'd be able to utilize my Russian language skills acquired during this study abroad and at American University. Secondly, I've been growing a beard for the first time in my life! Its really my only chance to do so as I'm on a leave of absence from ROTC for the only semester in college.
This week, we had to miss our first day at school due to our train arriving from St. Petersburg in early afternoon last Monday. Other than that, this week at the university was productive. I attended two Russian-American seminars. The first was a weekly meeting of the Russian-American club, where only 2 Russian students showed up, but we covered a ton of cultural questions. I remember one issue in particular, we discussed alcohol culture in Russia and the United States. Russians were perplexed about the American concept of "pre-gaming" or getting drunk early in the night before even getting to a club or bar. Moreover, how we will hardly show empathy to our friends who have drank too much. Russians hardly ever intentionally binge drink (much to the surprise of Americans). If they happen to get drunk, they always offer to walk each other home.
Yesterday, we had a 4 hour seminar on "the Russian mentality," which was required. We got to speak with 8 or 9 Russians (mixed gender) about a myriad of cultural questions. The major point was the concept of the "locus of control," where Americans possess a more internal, individual locus of control. Meaning, we are strict about our personal space, and we are more concerned with ourselves over others, but we are willing to take blame for our personal mistakes. While Russians possess a more external, collectivist locus of control. They have no concept of privacy/personal space (there's no word for privacy in Russian), they always rely on each other to get by, and they never take blame for their own mistakes. In addition, we discussed the concepts of "yes" and "no", or "да" and "нет" in Russian. While "yes" in the United States can mean "yes" or "maybe," it is always 100% confirmation in Russia. If you tell a friend you will meet in the future, you are always expected to follow through.
My next topic was our trip to MosFilm (МосФильм) on Friday morning. This excursion took us to the largest and oldest film studio in Russia and Europe. It's cinematic output possesses some of the most widely-acclaimed, and Oscar-winning films in history. The studio began its operations in November 1923. We got a behind-the-scenes tour of the production rooms, makeup areas, and even a few sets.
In front of the MosFilm Poster in the basement
"Old Moscow" (Старая Москва) Set
MosFilm (МосФильм) Production Logo
MosFilm is essentially the "Hollywood" of Moscow. It doesn't necessarily compare in size and notoriety of Hollywood, but its cinematic production and influence definitely does. I've had the pleasure of watching some MosFilm movies for the Initiative for Russian Culture at American University, and in my classes in the US. I'd highly recommend watching "Ballad of a Soldier" (Баллада о солдате) - 1959, a love/war drama about a Soviet soldier during World War II. Another favorite is "Moscow Doesn't Believe in Tears," (Москва слезам не верит) - the 1980 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, which is about three women who move to Moscow from three rural provinces. There are hundreds of other films I'm neglecting to mention, but its a way to experience Russian history and culture, without having to come here. The majority of the films have English subtitles as well!
Screen shot from "Ballad of a Soldier" (Баллада о солдате) - 1959
Production set in MosFilm
The adventures only continue - next weekend we will be starting our weeklong trip on the Volga River. We are taking a cruise and stopping everyday at a new Russian city - from Nizhny Novgorod to Kazan to Ulyanovsk to Samara, then finally, Volgograd. I'll make sure to update the blog before I leave. Thank you all for reading, I hope its been an interesting blog so far!
Countdown to returning home: 80 days