As a PS to the last post (scroll down - it's new, too!), some things I've learned about Taganrog:
Taganrog claims affiliations with three famous czars: Peter I (aka Peter the Great, who founded St. Petersburg and modernized Russia); Katherine the Great (who... well, to be honest, I don't know enough about Russian history to know why she's Great, but she Russianized what's now the south of Russia (where I am now) with the help of her advisor and/or lover Potemkin, who built a bunch of fake villages and then had a battle ship named after him); and Alexander I (who defeated Napoleon).
Peter founded the city (it was supposed to be Russia's seaport capital until he decided he liked the site where Petersburg now is better - who knows why, since it's a buggy marsh with bad weather). Katherine rebuilt it after Peter's attempts to drive out the Turks failed. And Alexander, who had a summer home here because of the healing effects of the sea air on his wife's TB-ridden lungs, died here.
Or so they say. Legend has it that he didn't really die, but faked his own death when a Preobrazhensky guard who conveniently resembled him kicked the bucket. There are a few different explanations for what happened; one is that he was overcome with grief over his wife's death of TB and wanted to mourn in peace, and another is that he himself killed the guard in a fit of rage and felt so guilty about it that he decided he wasn't fit to rule. Either way, he gave up his czardom, and what happened next is debatable - either he exiled himself to Siberia, or he stayed here and became... Pavel Taganrogskii!! Gasp! (Read previous post if you don't know who Pavel Taganrogskii is yet.)
Of course, there's no proof for any of this, and it's unlikely he was really Pavel, since Pavel was allegedly Ukrainian. But it's an interesting bit of local history. Just thought I'd share.
The bad: My Rostov counterpart, Seth, invited me to Rostov today to go to a horse race with him. I turned him down because a teacher in our department had invited me out with her and her friends today, and making local friends seemed more important. She didn't call me, so I skipped the horse race (and seeing Seth's allegedly sketchy new apartment) for nothing.
The good: it poured rain (presumably in Rostov, too), so it wouldn't have been the best day for a horse race anyway. And I hung out with a student at the local teacher training college who's learning English. He got my number from the local American Mormons, who I ran into at the market the other day (I'm still a little weirded out that they gave my number to a stranger, but at least it gave me something to do). And I made cookies for our department meeting tomorrow, where we're celebrating everyone's summer birthdays.
The bad again: I ate, like, 2500 calories' worth of cookies/dough. My stomach still isn't sure why I did that.
The good again: Yesterday was Taganrog's birthday! I went to the City Day festivities with my advisor and we watched the fireworks. And earlier in the day I hung out with a new friend from my yoga/Pilates class (I know, yoga and Pilates! - I'm so hip, right?). So things are going well!