Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Visit to Dormitory 1 of KGTU

The great chef, Cui whipped up great dish for us!
Trying in vain to picture the food...
From left, Blangadeshi, Vietnamese, Syrian and Blangadeshi. They are future engineers and shipbuilders. Our common language is Russian.
Cui-style fried chicken, good enough to start a restaurant!
The great chef Cui Zhi-hao with his assistant, Gu Li-ya. This is the common kitchen for students.They like to sing for leisure, they both performed a few times in the Kaliningrad region. What a great partnership!

While I am not unfamiliar with dormitory life when I was a student, I have chosen to give dorm life a miss in Russia this time. However I do visit friends in the dormitory from time to time. Most students in Kaliningrad live in dormitory, some of them like me rented flat in neighbouring areas.
Cost of rental of dormitory is extremely low in Russia but that also translate to minimal, if not deficit of facilities. However living in the dorm is a great way to practise Russian, which I have sadly missed out. If I were twenty years younger, I would have preferred the community life.
I will visit them more often before I leave. Speaking to Syrian, Vietnamese, Nepalese and Blangadeshi in Russian instead of English is a surreal experience, which will never be repeated elsewhere.
All the best, my friends in Kaliningrad!

Invited Again to Sing for Victory Day

Rector of Kaliningrad State Technical University, Prof. Victror E. Ivanov spoke at an event to observe Victory Day celeration with Veterans who used to work in the university.
All stood up to sing National Anthemn. This was held in another building of the university.
Veterans are given three stalks of carnation and a commemorative badge.
Gu-Liyu, an Economics student from KGTY together with me are invited to sing for the Veterans.
I sang Russian song "Lonely Accordion" again.
My stage.
Three Russian students sang a Russian song, look at the coloured belts they are wearing, (tri-colour of Russian flag) patriotism is intimately expressed in many ways.
We were given carnations too after our performance! More than three stalks each!
A nice hall in an academic building. Some Veterans behind me prefer to be left alone.
A reception after the peformance and speeches, Veterans alike savoring snacks and a warm gathering.
A teaching staff approached us to tell us how much she liked our singing. Another staff also left me a note and contact number to visit him in the university.
One of the Veterans, she's 90 years old but looking great for her age. She belongs to the first batch of Russians to settle in Kaliningrad after the second world war.
Leaving the hall gleefully with carnation and memory.

After the gathering last week, Gu-Liya and I are invited to sing again at a more formal event to commemorate Victory Day. This time it is a much more official event, where the Rector spoke alongside with a few other Veterans.
Not only students sang, teaching staff also performed during this occassion. After the performance and speeches, I took the opportunity to mingle with the guests and spoke as much as I could at the reception. Besides me and Gu-Liya, none of the students stayed but we had a great time hearing the Veterans spoke briefly about their lives.

A group of pre-school students were invited to dance and present flowers to the elderly Veterans. Awareness of their national history starts early, which is absent in many countries these days. Maybe there is a thing or two the world can learn from Russia.

Kaliningrad celebrates Victory Day

The banner at my university : Celebrating the Great Victory, 65 Years. A pair of huge banners at other buildings opposite my university.
A close-up of the celebratory banner.
My university is also celebrating the occasion in various ways with students' involvement.
A banner in our university's corridor to remind us not to forget about the war.
The fountain season starts May 1, in time to celebrate Victory Day!
Streets are lined with flags and tri-coloured flags before the occasion.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Singing Russian Song "Lonely Accordion"

Most students sang Russian songs to commemorate Victory Day, I chose to sing "Lonely Accordion" or "Одинокая Гармонь" in Russian. Before I sang I also took great courage to give a short speech in Russian why I chose this song.

The first time I heard this song was about two years ago, it was sung in a documentary called Russian bride. It was a painful account of a Russian bride who went to USA only to be rejected by her future husband after a few months. The song was first sung in her boisterous family in Moscow before she left for New York.

When she arrived in New York, her short-lived happiness soon morphed into nightmare when she was verbally abused and neglected. She ran away to a relative in the States for refuge. Once again, she sang this song with her female relative, but only to have lost all her hopes and thrown into an unknown destiny ahead.

The hollowness and loneliness in her voice haunt me to this day, and I actually cried when I heard her sang. However it was more than sympathy of her plight, I felt an intimate and intensity of feelings towards Russia in general, nothing specific. And I knew one day I must come to Russia, for whatever reasons. And thus I came.

The song composed by M. Isokovskiy (1947) beautifully depicts a lonely accordion player looking for his love all night but failed. It begins with a poetic description of the nature where the accordion players is situated. It was translated into Chinese by Mr Xue Fan from China many years ago, recently it was translated into English by American students. Do take note that the translators painstakingly align the translated version to that of the original. However nothing could beat the beautiful Russian lyrics.

It is certainly one of the reasons why I wanted to learn Russian language - to be able to sing and understand the spirited Russian songs. They are my joy, my happiness. In times of low point in my life, they stood by me, giving me great strength to move forward.

My favourite rendition in Russian is from Valentina Tolkunova who passed away recently in Russia.

This is it:

Another wonderful rendition is from world renowned Russian Baritone, Dmitri Hvorostovski.


For the benefit for non-Russian speakers, the translation for the song are as follows:

Chinese Lyrics 中文翻译





Chinese version sung by George Lam (林子祥)


English Lyrics:

Once again all is still until morning
Door won't creak, nor a fire alight
Yet alone in it's soulful intoning,
An accordion roams in the night

First it wanders afield, to the meadows,
Then once more to the village returns
Seems it searches in vain in the shadows
Still unable to find whom it yearns

Coolness carries from fields in transition
Petals flutter from orchards in bloom
Name that maiden you seek, young musician
And confess your accordion's gloom

It may be that your darling is near,
But knows not it is her that you call
To what purpose your longing we hear?
Why do girls from their bedtimes you stall?

English singing:

If you are ambitious enough, you can play the song by accordion.

Honouring 65th Anniversary Victory Day! (May 9)

Since the 60th anniversary of the Victory Day in 2005, the Ribbon of Saint George is freely worn by civilians in Russia as an act of commemoration and remembrance.

Respected artists are invited to perform in TV programs to commemorate one of, if not, the most important day in the Russian calender. Absolute bliss for me, just sitting at home and listening to their spirited renditions of heroic wartime tunes.

Our university celebrates Victory Day a week in advance in conjunction with May Day on April 30.

Traditionally, former teaching staff who have contributed during wartime, and foreign students are invited for a heart-warming gathering.

A get-together time with my little friend Chen Lei, an intelligent Economics student from Hunan, China.
The popular Dean of International Student Department, Mr Vladimir Galyga, a fatherly figure among all foreign students.

An elderly Veteran narrating his experience during wartime, his speech captured everyone's attention.

Foreign students are often invited to sing on this special occasion, alongside with Russian students. Gu-Liya from China, an Economics student sang a lovely Russian song.

Our respected guests for the occasion.

One of my Russian Language teacher Irina Sergeevna, together with her former student, Chen Lei.
War Veterans of The Great Patriotic War - The living testimony of human courage and resilience in face of fascism.
Months before May 9, a giant banner that remind us of the Victory Day is hung on the wall in our university.
Standing in front of my university. The entire city of Kaliningrad is adorned with memory of Victory Day.
The moment I was about to take a bus home, the Baltic sunset gloriously shone at the city center.

Do you know how many people were killed in Soviet Union when they fought against Fascist Germany during World War II?

20 million. Unofficial sources cited around 30 million.

Frankly speaking, I did not know until I came to Russia. Volodya told me, even former USA President Bill Clinton did not know it either when asked by a former USSR leader, his pure ignorance was captured on TV and broadcast around the world.

The term Great Patriotic War ( Великая Отечественная Bойна) is solely used in Russia and some other states of former Soviet Union to describe the war that went on from June 22, 1941, to May 9, 1945, against Nazi Germany and its allies in the Eastern Front. During this period, 6.8 million Soviet soldiers were killed and 4.4 million died in captivity. All in all, it is believed that Soviet Union lost 26.6 million men and women.

The wider definition of World War II is one which lasts from 1939 to 1945, which involved
most of the world's nations, organized into two opposing military alliances. In total, the world lost about 50 million to 70 million people in World War II, the gravest and highest ever casualty in human military conflict.

If we take the lower figure, it means that out of total casualty, slightly less than half of which are people from former Soviet Union.

Victory Day thus falls on May 9 where my university observes every year by inviting former teaching staff and foreign students to commemorate the significant moment in Russian history, if not human history.

We began the night by a speech from our Dean, followed by several Veterans who spoke from their hearts. Students, local and foreign alike, took turn to perform, either by singing or giving a short speech. We had foreign students from China, Vietnam, Blangadesh, Mongolia, Belorussia, and including myself, the only one from Singapore in the university's entire history since 1960s.

We had a great time together!! Thank you КГТУ! (Abbreviation of my university) Thank you Russia!!!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Decorative Cyrillic Alphabets

A seemingly deserted "Municipal Red Star Stadium" in heart of city.
A store that sells anything from electrical appliances, lamps to furnitures. The gigantic words shout for attention by saying literally : Say Yes to our prices!
No effort needed to guess what is offered in the shop, the word means bird and poultry in Russian.
An artistic name on the roof, I have problem figuring out what it is.
Central Market is the main market in the city, with retail outlet on the left in the picture, and on the right when the shop offers: gifts, souvenirs, watches, tablewares, paintings, bags and suitcases.
A non-descript two-storey building where you can send your umbrellas and shoes for repair, send your jewellery for engraving and even take photos in the studio!
Chain bookshop (Books and Books (Diminutive form)).
A repair shop where they take care of your reluctant watches and jewellery(for engraving). The words "срoчный ремoнт" mean express repair (service).
An official signboard of my university.
Although every Russian tells me not to trust their postal service, but I still harbour some hope in it to deliver my postcard to Yulia in the Russian Embassy in Singapore.
Names of veterans to commemorate their contribution.

A little shop selling gifts and souvenirs, festive looking isn't it?

I did not love Cyrillic alphabet at first sight. But I have grown to love it. Seeing them everyday on the streets supplies me with endless dosage of visual bliss, if I may coin it. When I do not understand them, I simply take a photo and check dictionary later. The process deepens my memory of new words that come into contact.

Cyrillic alphabet contains 33 letters, with 10 vowels, 21 consonants, and two non-vocalised letters. It was devised by a Greek monk St. Cyril in the 9th century, some of the letters were borrowed from Greek and Hebrew. As widely known, the alphabet is widely used in the Slavic national languages of Belarusian, Bulgarian, Russian, Rusyn, Bosnian, Serbian, Macedonian, Montenegrin and Ukrainian, and in the non-Slavic languages of Moldovan, Kazakh, Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Tuvan, and Mongolian. It also was used in past languages of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Siberia.