08 August 2006

The ins and outs of blogging...

Sorry there haven't been many posts. Life is Moscow is... well, not so much busy as time-consuming, at least when it comes to internet access. There is one computer for student use in the department at the university where we're staying, but it's often tied up. There are internet cafes downtown, of course, but getting there takes time because we live at the last metro stop (or rather, a twenty-five-minute walk from the last metro stop) on the purple line. So 25 minutes walking + 20 minutes riding + more time walking once you're off the metro makes internet access time-consuming. I don't really mind, but I thought I should explain for the benefit of the impatient. ;)

Of course, we are also busy here. Yesterday we got to hang out in the American Embassy! Did you know it's the second-largest in the world? (Can you guess the largest? No googling!) We joked that it was nice to be back in the US, since we were technically on American soil. At any rate, the visit was nice, and pretty inspiring. We met with representatives of the embassy's English Language Office, who were wonderful, and we received all sorts of teaching materials and advice, and it finally felt clearer that we're part of a community of English educators here and that we have a specific role in that community. It also helped that Elena, our main speaker, was really excited about Vladivostok - apparently my boss there is a wonderful person, there's an ELF (English Language Fellow - professional English teachers who come to Russia to work with Russian teachers of English) there for her second year, and FEELTA, the Far Eastern English Language Teachers' Association, is quite large and active. To top it off, DVGU is apparently really a top-notch school.

Right. So, another reason I haven't written much lately is because I've been trying to figure out what exactly I envision this blog to be. I don't really want it to be an "and this is what I had for breakfast" kind of play-by-play of life here, only (mildly) interesting to people who know me. I guess I see it as a possible resource for future Fulbright ETAs and for travelers to Vladivostok (both of which groups could use more accessible resources, I think), and hopefully also as a forum for discussing Russian culture and society, not to mention the trials and joys of living as a foreigner in Russia. But I also want it to be interesting to people who are just reading it to keep in touch with me... So I guess for now I'll play it by ear.

Another issue is the fact that last year a Fulbrighter got in trouble (not serious, but trouble nonetheless) because she wrote some things in her blog that were "slightly critical" (not my words; I haven't seen the blog) of her host city/institution, and feelings were hurt/harsh words exchanged. It is still unclear to me the extent to which this is a real danger, especially in a big place like Vladivostok, where it's conceivable that people will be less interested in my activities (but also conceivable that they'll be equally interested; I still haven't gotten a grasp on how rare Americans might be in Vladivostok). So the extent to which I plan to censor my writings hasn't been decided yet. I can't imagine having to go through the whole year only saying good things, because I think there are some bad things that are very worthy of discussion.

For example (this might get deleted later, I suppose), one of the most frustrating things about life here in Moscow is that when I walk into a store, I know two things: one, it will be obvious that I'm a foreigner no matter what I do, especially if I'm required to speak, and two, there is a good chance that the store employees will treat me with obvious distaste because they can tell I'm a foreigner. Obviously not all Russians are xenophobes - the ones I work with and see every day are all wonderful, understanding people - but you encounter a good deal of it, and Russia is one place where you rarely get bonus points for "at least trying" to speak the language. I think a discussion of Russian xenophobia - its causes, its effects, comparison with attitudes in other regions - could be interesting and fruitful in leading to foreigners' better understanding Russia's reaction to them. But is someone going to get mad at me for wanting to talk about it??

And in "and this is what I had for breakfast" news, we're going to the Kremlin tomorrow!! Should be great!!!!


Katie said...

Hey, I like "what I had for breakfast" news!

Lisa said...

I wouldn't worry too much about blog censorship, personally. Also, if you want to divide your personal-updates and more official commentary on Russia, you could always post both here & your LJ.

As far as being an "obvious foreigner", sometimes it helps to dress like the locals. I don't know what the fashions of Moscow are like, but I know in other parts of Europe things like sneakers & shorts make Americans easily identifiable.
I'm sure you'll act/look/sound more local as the year goes on. :-)

Do svedaniya!

<3, L

denise said...

i was really hoping in the last paragraph you would actually say what you had for breakfast.

Leslie said...

To Lisa: I think we (the Fulbright group) look less American than most, although I obviously haven't bought an entire Russian wardrobe yet! But I did buy Russian shoes the other day... (high heels, konechno) However, it'll still be a few days before the blisters from the first time wearing them heal up and I can try again. :)

To Denise and Katie: I had instant hot cereal (5-grain with nuts and honey), blueberry yogurt, and grape juice for breakfast.

Anonymous said...

As far as your parents go, we're happy to read anything you post -- good, bad or indifferent. All of it is fascinating to us, so write at will. And keep your wits about you.

We had eggs, bacon and toast at the old Rat-Shoe. :0)

M & D

Rosa said...

I give up. What's the largest embassy?

Anonymous said...

isn't the largest embassy in rome?

- diana

p.s. i like all news, especially food-related news.