Clearly I've forgotten how to be a good blogger, since it's been nine days already since my last post. I suppose I'm justified to some extent, since I've been occupied with re-settling in and starting the new semester, but I actually did write a new post a few days ago, and then forgot to save it to my flash drive and bring it to the internet cafe. To make up for that, I'll write a different entry.
I have a theory, which I may or may not have just thought up on the spot, that Americans living in Russia must always have a base level of "Russia is an absolutely ridiculous country" energy - you know, like an aura or something - that grows stronger and weaker depending on the day and depending on the person's particular disposition. (Some people - the more rational ones, perhaps? - have so much of this energy that it's completely impossible for them to live here. They go insane within a few months. I've seen it.)
Anyway, my "Russia is ridiculous" energy - which I try to keep at a pretty low level most of the time for the sake of my own sanity, not to mention the lofty ideal of "cross-cultural understanding" - has been ruffled recently by the ice on the sidewalks here in Vlad. Now that I've fallen on the ice twice in two days (once accidentally stretching my knee in a direction it was emphatically not ready to stretch... ouch), I can take it no longer, and I have to say, "Vladivostok, what is with you? Have you never heard of SALT?!?"
It snowed about two weeks ago here, and the sidewalks are now (and have been for about a week and a half) covered in thick, filthy sheets of ice that are a result of pedestrians pounding down the unshoveled snow with their feet, said snow melting and refreezing as the temperature hovers around freezing, said meltwater running down all the umpteen million #@$% hills in this city as it refreezes, etc. Instead of hiring people to shovel or salt the sidewalks and get rid of the snow right off, our fair city waits until the ice problem is well underway, and then hires men to go around with shovel-like implements and pound away at the ice in various spots (or poke halfheartedly, depending on how long they've been at it), breaking it up and hauling it off to God knows where. Is this efficient? No, of course not. It's ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.
To be fair to Vladivostok, I suspect that this is the case pretty much all over Russia, although while we were in Pskov we did see a babushka walking down the street with a big shaker of table salt, sprinkling it in front of her. Haha. Way to go, babushka.
This gives me an idea for a new international exchange program. Instead of exchanging scientists and academics and useless people like me, the U.S. should send Russia our street sweepers, plowers, salters, maybe some garbage men for good measure. And vice-versa, I suppose. We could learn a lot from each other.