The Russian word for "how" is "как." There are several other words in Russian that sound like giggle-inducing English words, such as "дуж" (pronounced "douche," meaning "shower", as it does in several other languages). Whenever Dinara - or anyone, for that matter - says such a word, I turn my face towards my buddy Остин (Austin) and stifle a giggle. All quarter it's been like that, and each time I have felt ashamed of myself for being so immature. I know that other students in the class are fighting back laughter as well, but since I've got a good five years on most of them, I really shouldn't be laughing.
Today, however, I could not refrain. As Dinara was reviewing content with us for our final next Wednesday, she attempted to explain that one must use an adverb following certain words, such as the formerly mentioned как, and as she was speaking she hesitated to make sure she explained it clearly in English.
"If you have как, ...
There must be a universal threshold for maintaining one's countenance, because bizarrely, after literally at least five seconds, the entire class exploded simultaneously into fits of raucous laughter. Every attempt we made to control ourselves led to an increase in volume, and tears began to fall down faces flushed with embarrassment.
"Does that mean a bad word in English?" Dinara asked. Gagging on tears of laughter and gasping for breath, a few students looked around wearing "I'm not going to tell her" faces. I finally managed to choke down my donkey-bray of a laugh long enough to provide an adequate answer, which explanation required me to write out the English equivalent, and to look disapprovingly around the room at all the какs who didn't have the balls to answer her.
Of course, once we explained this, she shared a story about the time she brought a list of Cockney rhyming slang to her PhD adviser containing several synonyms for penis, and how he kicked her out of his office. This story wasn't nearly as inflammatory as the one she told us yesterday (see below).
My first year Russian classmates and I daily learn something new about our professor that leaves us, without fail, with our mouths gaping and eyebrows disappearing into our hairlines. One of my classmates, Аарон (Aaron), was yesterday the instigator of one such moment, when he jokingly asked Dinara how Russians make a drug deal.
"You got the money? You got the stuff?"
Dinara immediately fired back, "У тебя есть деньги? У меня есть товар."
As we're all badasses, we didn't have to ask her to translate (and not just because we knew she was directly translating what Аарон had asked). "Do you have the money? I have the goods." As usual, we laughed riotously that she knew this, and I assumed another student had tried to throw her by asking this in a previous class. Boy was I wrong. Turns out Professor Dinara Georgeoliani, all 5'0" 115 pounds of her, has a criminal record.
But wait, let me back up a bit.
Dinara is a Georgian (country, not state) woman whose film actor father (see below) sent her to university in Moscow. This was during the time of the Cold War, when Russia was a Soviet Union, and when marketable goods were frowned upon for their capitalist decadence. Dinara, being a young, classy woman, wanted to get herself some lipstick. Cosmetics being contraband, Dinara trotted herself off to the black market and cut a deal. Unfortunately, the person selling the lipstick happened to be a cop, and Dinara got arrested (for what was apparently not the only time). That tube of lipstick cost her $200.
3.4.11 Last Friday
Because Russian is a sequential course, all of the students in there currently, with the exception of Bitch Girl (see below) and myself, have known one another since the beginning of Fall quarter. The atmosphere in the class is therefore one of mutual friendship, respect, and humor. Typically on Fridays we do a brief lecture, then divide into groups to go over the worksheets provided for us a day or two before. Last Friday was a little different. Остин was being his usual theatrical self and started singing a little song. "Антошка, Антошка" he sang, as I stared incredulously at him. Dinara got very excited and joined him. After a few minutes of continued incredulity and curiosity, Dinara gave Остин and I permission to look up the song on YouTube and play it for the class. After watching the video, students began to make requests for their favorite Russian videos.
Dinara decided to show us one of her favorites as well, a musical number from what I can only assume is a famous Russian movie. Whilst watching it, she divulged some interesting facts. First, that her father was an actor. Second, that she herself was an actor.
Everyone in class refers to her as "That really bitchy girl!" Very early on in the class, Bitch Girl made me so incensed with fury that I drew blood chewing on my tongue to prevent myself from saying something which would have undoubtedly eviscerated whatever semblance of an ego she may or may not have. I say that sarcastically, of course. Not the first part, but the latter. Let me back up. Last quarter, which I spent in a freezing, empty apartment eating white rice and cabbage whilst studying my ass off to learn Russian, Bitch Girl was studying abroad in Moscow and learning the language as well. She knows it well - at least, she speaks it well. Her knowledge is questionable. Let me speed up. During the middle of class one day, Bitch Girl got up, walked to the front of the class and, after excusing herself to Dinara, handed in several late assignments. I thought it was a little rude, but since I knew that she was still getting used to class (as I was), I figured she was just embarrassed to have found out that her papers were late and wanted to hand them in as soon as possible.
After hesitating a few moments, she interrupted Dinara once more mid-lecture and asked if she could address the class.
"I know that it can be really embarrassing, but you guys really need to ask questions. It's the only way to learn. I learned Russian in a way scarier situation,..."
That's where she lost me. The blood was pounding so hard in my face it clogged my ears. I clenched my teeth over my tongue and stared wildly at the floor just in front of her feet. What the hell was this girl doing? First off, not a single student in that class has ever hesitated to ask a question. It seems like every two minutes someone asks a question, usually extremely intelligent, involved grammatical questions. Second, even if everyone in there was timid and struggling to learn the language, the middle of a lecture is NOT the time to give them a pep talk.
My hatred for this girl was unbearable. I like everybody, only rarely have I met someone who even annoys me, but this girl, this Bitch Girl, inspired in me a rage such as I have never known before. She couldn't make it through class without asking a question. But it wasn't that that bothered me. As I said before, everyone asks questions. With Bitch Girl, each question was really an insult in disguise. Her attitude and phrasing of her inquiries was deliberately aimed to not only express doubt about Dinara's knowledge, but in our intelligence. Rather than sharing the fact that she may have learned certain phrases differently whilst abroad, she would argue with Dinara about anything from popular culture to basic linguistic concepts.
Fortunately Bitch Girl learned to shut her damn mouth, so I've had less reason to leave the class disgusted. Even better, I recently discovered something that makes my dislike of her not only bearable, but entertaining: no one else likes her, either! When I was at a party last weekend I met up with a fellow Russian student who took the opportunity to point out how clear it was that Dinara disliked Bitch Girl. Then this week at study group, Супер (Andrew, the class clown), brought up Bitch Girl and instigated a conversation about her which, again, confirmed that no one else likes her, either.
It was such a comfort to me to know that I'm not the only one who thought this girl was an insufferable, condescending know-it-all. I had been very much afraid that my dislike from her was based on jealousy (she speaks the language so well, and I'm confident her grades are much better than mine), even though I didn't actually feel jealous. I would never want to judge someone unfairly (yes, I absolutely do judge others if they give me a reason), especially not someone I will have to spend at least another quarter with. And if you think we're all judging her unfairly, I can assure you that everyone who sits near her (the majority of the class, since she sits in a good spot) has tried multiple times to engage her in conversation. She responds with the same bitchy attitude - practically rolling her eyes, literally turning her nose up at others, refusing to smile or be in any way polite, and even putting her ear buds in during group work (even when she was encouraged by students to join their groups). BITCH!
Twice a week I meet up in the lounge of the Foreign Language department to study for Russian. It was a voluntary, informal gathering of three (and, once I joined, four) students: Супер, Миша (Michael), and Кайл (Kyle - 25, 6'2", chiseled, bright eyes, math genius, an exquisite accent and intuitive grasp of the Russian language). Going to study group improved my grades drastically. I went from getting C's (a relatively high grade, as less than half the class has been even passing) to getting A's, and my comprehension was much clearer. I've also become friends with these boys. Супер and I had a history class together as well, so I saw him multiple times per day, and we studied together regularly. More recently my crush on Кайл also shifted towards friendship (though not away from crush-ship) when he sympathized with my frustration that I had yet to climb a tree on campus (it's on my bucket list) and climbed with me after class last week. You read that right. Кайл lifted my ass up into the tree - more than once - and climbed three stories up a birch tree outside of L&L. It was one of the funnest, most liberating experiences of my entire life. I smiled for days.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love boys. I love to collect them, like Pokemon. Crushes are a staple part of my life, they're what keep me going through the daily grind. A number of bad experiences has left me a bit too shy (okay, fine, neurotic) to actually pursue men or have a relationship, but I still enjoy having fellas to talk to. I love boys for non-crush reasons as well. Almost all of my friends are boys, and if I ever have children, I want a herd of little fellas. Nothing is cuter than little boys!
I acquired a new guy friend this quarter. His name is Michael and he reminds me of Squints from The Sandlot. He's a fellow Shy Person, fellow historian, and fellow language buff. He and I have met up every day during the 10 o'clock hour to rant about our days and giggle about all manner of nonsense. We eventually became Facebook friends and have now moved onto actually hanging out together. Last weekend I walked to Safeway with him to buy groceries, and next quarter we plan to start climbing the rock wall at the gym. It's awesome to have another good friend, especially one as cool as Michael.
Some guys are not as cool as Michael, however, and can cause drama, so I usually avoid them. Avoidance is not the answer, however, as I discovered a few weeks ago when the most adorable boy I've ever seen on campus decided to sit next to me in history class. I spent the entire hour staring at him out of the corner of my eye and resisting the urge to run my fingers through his thick, curly hair. The next day he sat beside me again, and then electrified me with excitement by adding me on Facebook. My elation was almost immediately replaced by disappointment when I realized that he couldn't possibly want anything from me but sex.
Thus began a week-long battle between rational thought and deep-rooted insecurities. One moment I would be on cloud nine, blissful with hope that I'd finally found a sweet, cute guy who adored me and who wanted me to adore him, and who would go hiking with me, include me in his life, and treat me well. The next I would be in tears, too sick to eat, utterly convinced that a guy like him could never like a girl like me, and that he would use me, then leave, as have so many other guys. My friends were incredibly supportive, assured me that I was good enough for a nice guy, and that I should have more faith in this kid. After all, he'd taken the initiative to find out my name - and how to spell it - and find me on Facebook. After all, he told me I was beautiful, and asked me out on a date. After all, I'm a cool girl - a dumpling of awesome, according to Gabi - and who wouldn't want to date me?
The week ended with disappointment, but also with a sense of liberation. This guy did only want sex from me. But I didn't give it to him. Why should I care if he stops talking to me for refusing to sleep with him? When I exchanged the text messages with him which confirmed my suspicions, I was sitting in Кайл's living room laughing with him and his amazing friends, and simultaneously exchanging texts with my amazing friends. I realized - truly realized, not just suspected - that I don't need a guy like that. I don't need anything more than I have. I am loved by those around me, and if the most a guy wants is sex, he's gonna have to prove he's got skills to make it worth my time - not joust me with his tongue. Blegh!
Of course, my disappointment was doubled that night when I discovered that Кайл (who helped me improve my Russian comprehension, who has seen every obscure film I have, who is funny and kind, and who converted me to muenster-and-English muffin grilled cheese sandwiches after generously grilling me one at midnight last Friday), who I am crazy about and could actually see myself marrying at some point (if I had the balls to even tell him I found him attractive and wanted to date him), is leaving after finals and moving to the beach. It was torture watching him walk away after class ended on Monday.