Monday, December 13, 2010

Winterly life in Kaliningrad at sub-zero 6 degree celcius

This is me with heavy grocery plodding back to the dorm cautiously to avoid falling on the snow or sometimes ice.

I could still manage a beaming smile. But walking in the snow without my fur cap today is gross mistake. I could have easily gotten a cold.

Kaliningrad Technical State University celebrates 80th year anniversary. Little did I know that Mrs Vladimir Putin who was born here also studied here for two years.

Victory Square in snow, no matter how hurried our hearts, our steps must not be in haste. Snow piled up like this everyday, and we are at our own risk.

Business as usual, a shop selling children's clothes and shoes.

In public places, snow piles higher and higher. Business owners however clear their own path dutifully. It reminds me of the Chinese saying: clearing snow of your own home. How apt it is.

Winterly days with pangs of hunger, my young friend Haiying eyeing on bread from famous confectionery chain.

Kiosks like these are common sight on the streets. This is clear that it is selling bread with drawing of a bread with three-coloured flag symbol of Russia.

The famous good and evil bulls statue next to my university. Since 1910, authentically German.

She is from Harbin, much colder than Kaliningrad. She walks around without gloves and winter hat and draws lots of attention.

City view of Kaliningrad. Warning those who come here soon, prepare a good pair of shoes.

My view from the dormitory. Former KGB is nearby.
Russians celebrate Year of Rabbit like their own. Everywhere you see rabbit figurines! I no longer know if I am in China or Russia.

While I look forward to winter days and beautiful snowy scenery, little did I know it hits me quite badly. I feel fatigue easily today and this surprises me. I had a strong cup of tea in the morning, but I could doze off in minutes a couple of times in the afternoon! This is strictly not me. As it is known, the lack of sunlight will tire one easily, and now I have to accept that. I had too much in Singapore, I could try to achieve more with my growing fatigue.

At -6 degree celsius and with sufficient warm clothings, it was comfortably cold. I recalled when I was in Saint Petersburg at - 20, it was a big difference. I even felt a shortage of breath if I walk for too long. At this present temperature, it is rather alright.

As roads and pathways are piling with more snow and hardly being cleared away, walking from one place to another is quite a chore. This surprises my Chinese friends too. They said that snows are cleared to allow people to walk, unlike here. I could not draw comparison, but I do know that life during winter is at your own risk in Russia. I had a bad fall last year. I hope I will keep myself steady this year.

I decided to get one week's grocery and minimize the need to do multiple trips. I was surprised to see outdoor vendors who are still making a living on the streets, and a rare couple of beggars too. Snow gathered on their lashes and caps, but they stood still all the while, if not for sympathetic customers and good-hearted souls who are willing to part with their money. I wish I could picture them, but I did not have the heart to do that. Being out in the cold, and having a purpose demands some privacy and respect.

Tomorrow I still need to carry two bottles of mineral water from the nearest but not cheapest shop. Wish me luck!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Music and Politics in Russia

Famous actors and musicians gathered together for a charity concert in St. Peters

(English translation from Google, I did not write this.)

In St. Petersburg hosted a charity concert, all proceeds of which go to support critically ill children. Read poetry, sing or just to say warm important words come to Russia, many Western stars, many of them talked a few days in hospitals with sick children. But the main and most surprising number of the program was a speech by Vladimir Putin.

Such a star team on ice area of St. Petersburg came first. Alain Delon, Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Ornella Muti - they all came to the Northern capital to support children with cancer and ophthalmologic diseases. The day before they departed with gifts of the hospitals of the city, but all together for 2 hours together at a charity concert at the Ice Palace.

Tables for the guests placed in the middle of the ice arena, on top of which put wood flooring, but today in the hall was not cold. The atmosphere was cozy and even home-made warm.

Among the invited audience - wealthy businessmen and the best doctors - people who have their money and expertise can help sick children. This is because of them tried to star on stage.

Gerard Depardieu French read a poem Esenina "White Birch" and tried to repeat the Russian words for the young interpreter.

Kevin Costner's more accustomed to seeing as an actor, but he also sings and plays guitar. He even has its own band "Modern West", whose members in full force arrived in St. Petersburg.

Sharon Stone did not sing, but when world-renowned author Paul Anka sang written once named for Tom Jones' song "She` s lady ", came out and danced. Rare footage.

Vladimir Putin at a charity concert appeared in the hall, trying not to attract attention. But observant master of ceremonies did not miss the opportunity to approach the Prime Minister and persuaded him something to fulfill them.

Vladimir Putin: "We have a family atmosphere can experiment. I, like most people do not know how to sing or play, but I love to do it."

Head of Government, coming on the scene, went to the piano and played a few notes. And then, to the accompaniment of one of the world's most famous jazz musicians, Macy Parker, sung in English, a song by Louis Armstrong. Hall supported the prime minister and many have even tried to sing along.

Then Vladimir Putin returned to the piano to Online Time one of the tunes that our country is known to many from childhood.

Final song for the concert was ready to advance. All participants sang it in chorus.

Upon completion of a charity concert in support of Russia's struggle with childhood cancer and ophthalmologic diseases, the Prime Minister has invited world stars in the Russian Museum, where he conducted a tour for them.

Настоящее созвездие известных актеров и музыкантов собрал благотворительный концерт

В Санкт-Петербурге прошел благотворительный концерт, все вырученные средства от которого пойдут на поддержку тяжелобольных детей. Прочитать стихи, спеть или просто сказать теплые важные слова приехали в Россию многие западные звезды, многие из них несколько дней общались в больницах с больными детьми. Но главным и самым неожиданным номером программы стало выступление Владимира Путина.

Такая звездная команда на ледовую площадку Петербурга вышла впервые. Ален Делон, Моника Белуччи, Венсан Кассель, Голди Хоун, Курт Рассел, Орнелла Мути - все они приехали в Северную столицу, чтобы поддержать детей с онкологическими и офтальмологическими заболеваниями. Накануне они с подарками разъехались по больницам города, но все вместе на 2 часа собрались на благотворительном концерте в Ледовом дворце.

Столики для гостей разместили прямо посреди ледовой арены, сверху которой положили деревянный настил, но сегодня в зале не было холодно. Обстановка была уютной и даже по-домашнему теплой.

Среди приглашенных зрителей - состоятельные бизнесмены и лучшие врачи - люди, которые своими деньгами и знаниями могут помочь больным детям. Это ради них старались звезды на сцене.

Жерар Депардье на французском читал стихотворение Есенина "Белая березка" и пытался повторять русские слова за юным переводчиком.

Кевина Костнера больше привыкли видеть как актера, а он еще и поет и играет на гитаре. У него даже есть собственная группа "Модерн Вест", участники которой в полном составе приехали в Петербург.

Шэрон Стоун петь не стала, но когда всемирно известный автор Пол Анка исполнил написанную когда-то им для Тома Джонса песню "She`s lady", вышла и станцевала. Редкие кадры.

Владимир Путин на благотворительном концерте появился в зале, стараясь не привлекать внимания. Но наблюдательная ведущая вечера не упустила возможности подойти к премьер-министру и уговорила его что-нибудь исполнить.

Владимир Путин: "Мы в семейной обстановке можем экспериментировать. Я, как и большинство людей, не умею ни петь, ни играть, но люблю это делать".

Глава правительства, выйдя на сцену, направился к роялю и сыграл несколько нот. А затем, под аккомпанемент одного из самых известных в мире джаз-музыкантов, Мэйсио Паркера, спел на английском языке песню Луи Армстронга. Зал поддержал премьера и многие даже пытались подпевать.

Потом Владимир Путин вернулся к роялю, чтобы наиграть одну из мелодий, которую в нашей стране знают многие с детства.

Финальная песня для концерта была готова заранее. Все участники пели ее хором.

По завершении благотворительного концерта в поддержку деятельности России по борьбе с детскими онкологическими и офтальмологическими заболеваниями, премьер пригласил мировых звезд в Русский музей, где сам провел для них экскурсию.


Alright, alright, this is the second time Mr Putin is invited into the space of my blog. Among many foreign students here, some even said that he is their only idol in Russia. And I am quite close to that. I knew a student who studies ALL his speeches. I do study sometimes, and even recite them in front of the mirror, as if I am the Prime Minister.

Excuse me, respectable First Channel if I knowingly break the law by posting your news clips on my blog, as I find them too useful to be left alone, and reading them helps me enormously in learning the language. I admit that I do admire Mr Putin in some ways, at least the way he connects to people important and beneficial enough to Russia. And singing in public is not new in his collection of publicity stunts. And I admit I find singing the easiest way to link people. And he did it right.

In the eyes of the West, particularly through popular, if not influential Hollywood do-gooders, the icy-cold, spy-like and Maffia-related images of Russia will melt away, at least among the masses. Perhaps very soon, Russian language will be the hippest language on Rodeo Drive. And people start to appreciate the finesse and elegance of spirituality in Russian life.

Not long ago, when the spies were caught in the West and returned to Russia, it was reported in the wires that Mr Putin sang with Miss Chapman Russian songs during the gathering. I was told that singing together over a boiling samavor or vodka with an accordion at gatherings were traditionally their form of entertainment. Modern Russia has seemed to lose the tradition, I wish such tradition could live on. And Mr Putin is perhaps doing his little bit to keep it alive. And I wish I at least have a chance to sing like they used to do before I leave Russia for good.

If you like to see how he sings at one of the important dates in Russian calender, the Victory Day:

Or how he is made to sing with the President of Russia, Mr Medvedev:

Note: They recapped what took place in the previous year and wished the nation a Happy New Year. How I suffered from laughter from this clip, and how producers were able to push the boundaries to actually put this on air?! This even surprised BBC and carried a story about it. I guess the Almighty Duo of Russia with their keen sense of humour laughed over it at home. This softens their images. No disrespect was done to them.

I guess all politicians must remember that in their spheres of work, whatever authority and resources they could wield from the people and country, they are after all only human, and once in while, showing the human side of them, helps to bridge them with people. Or perhaps get closer to the goals they wish to achieve, provided it is beneficial to humanity.

And my destiny with Russian language also started with singing Russian songs. The beauty and the strength in the notes and words simply captivated me. Although I am not excessively endowed with a great voice, I do terrorize my dormitory mates by singing, humming, and whistling Russian tunes along the corridor, in the kitchen or more expressively in my very own room. The day I came back from Paris, I was again stationed more than usual in front of the attentive custom officer with a few questions. While waiting, I was helplessly humming again. He twitched his eye-brow slightly and as if trying to hide a smile, he said without expression: I heard you, yes I heard you. I didn't know what to say or react but simply pretended I did not understand a thing.

Whatever, I will keep singing.

I hope the politicians that most Russian people admire and respect today will never lose their bearings in politics, besides keeping us occasionally entertained by their performances, and the whole wide nation from Kaliningrad in the west to Kamchatka in the east will admire these earthly and remarkable duo with rationality and objectivity, and the gigantic country will move forward in tandem and closer with the world.

And I as a foreigner would be able to come back to Mother Russia to sing, to speak Russian and to search for my lost Russian soul.