Thursday, June 23, 2011

Seattle: The first week.

 Okay, so this is actually a tree on campus in Ellensburg, but that's not important. What is important is that the blossoms are two different colors, and that is pretty.
This is Michael wearing his favorite shirt and looking somewhat-unnervingly like G.
This is Michael sitting at the desk of our new room.
Our room to the left of our entryway. I've spent way too much time today watching Unsolved Mysteries. 
Our closet, to the right.
Me, wearing pink, needing a shower.
Campus department mailbox.
Back of said mailbox.
Details of the faces. Creepy much?
The chateau inside which I study Russian.
One of Michael's buildings.
Another department mailbox, this one slightly less creepy.
Well that's just cute.
Too bad the inside of this building is about as ugly as the outside is beautiful. Also, it smells like rain upstairs, so I suspect it has a bad leak somewhere.
One of the libraries on campus.
The view on our walk to Safeway.

Seattle is a spectacular place to live. I've only been here a week and I already wish that I had enough money to live here permanently. It is stunningly beautiful.

Unfortunately, we live on Fraternity "Row" - Pretty much every house in the area surrounding our block is a fraternity/sorority, and that means it is loud, littered, and tacky. Monday night my housemates had a party that was going on when we got home from class at 1 and continued until 2 a.m. The bathroom door was locked, so I had to pee in an empty milk carton. Michael got up several times throughout the night to check the status of the bathroom for me, but to no avail. We got up at about 7, he removed the doorknob, unlocked it, and screwed it back on while I went pee (again). I couldn't wash my hands afterword, though, as someone had puked in the sink. You know what the sink looks like after you peel potatoes? That's what our bathroom sink looked like. Our idiot housemate, Lily, had vomited up her potato skins and not bothered to clean it up. I had a good conversation with our housemates later that afternoon, but to no avail. The vomit-sink stood, and Michael and I continued to wash our hands and brush our teeth using the tap in the bathtub. It was finally cleaned out yesterday, but I suspect it was done so by our upstairs housemate (who was not partying).

Classes are almost unbearably difficult. I only know about 50% of the words, and I understand almost none of what is said. It is an oral-intensive class, and most students clearly took conversational Russian (which I did not). I am able to keep up thanks to my understanding of grammar, and my ability to learn quickly. My reading comprehension isn't very good. Even in English, on standardized tests, etc, my reading comprehension scores are usually in the 80-90% range (in other words, acceptable, but not stellar). I have spent 6+ hours every day doing homework and trying to read ahead enough so that in class I won't be completely lost.

Today, despite spending over ten hours yesterday working on Russian, I was completely lost. We did an assignment that had not been on our calendar for Week 1, and I could not read it. It was a recipe for borsch, which we had to read aloud and about which we had to subsequently answer questions. After that, we were asked what our favorite dish was - and required to write (and read aloud) a recipe for it. Uh..... I have zero vocabulary for this subject. The only words I know about food are: to eat (and it's conjugations), to drink (''), milk, bread, cheese, sausage, and chocolate. I thought fast, and came up with a plan: I would select my "favorite dish" based on the ingredients listed in the recipe we had just read. BRILLIANT! Cheesy-broccoli soup it was!

Shortly after that crucible I was faced with another. We were divided into teams, then told to fill out a diagram of a table setting, completely with drawings and Russian names for the items. Again, I have zero vocabulary for it, and the 45-seconds she gave us to study the in-book diagram was obviously not enough to learn more than two or three of the easiest items (which were, of course, promptly added to the diagram by one of my classmates, who is fluent in the language....). Since it was a group assignment, it didn't matter that I didn't know any of the words. But it was a psychological blow, from which I didn't recover. I spent the next hour anxiously trying to keep up with the grammar lesson, and even though I somehow managed to select the correct answers for our final in-class assignment, I was so defeated by the end of class that all I wanted to do was cry. HOWEVER, after Michael gave me a big hug and his banana (that's what she said. But seriously, that's not what I meant, he really did give me a banana), I managed to calm down enough to push on. My homework only took me about 3 hours today, if that, and we had plenty of time to make another trip to Safeway. I bought four subs, some chips, a soda, and some little treats. I'm feeling much better, but it is going to be a long, long summer.

I'm sure it will get better. Despite being lost today, I feel like I'm slowly catching up with the other students (and considering I'm not the only one who didn't know any words for food, and that one girl from STANFORD doesn't know how to conjugate verbs properly, I suppose I shouldn't worry so badly), and since the grade I receive here won't count on my official transcript, I can take some pressure off of myself - all I have to do is PASS, I don't have to excel. Plus, tomorrow Michael wants to eat at Chipotle again, so when we're coming home from that I'll stop in at the Haagen-Dazs and get myself an ice cream cone. It'll probably be raining and cold, but I don't care. We walked by it two days ago and it was the tastiest smell my nose has ever encountered. :)