Hockey

HockeyThere are some things that the Russians do really well.  One of them is ballet, and I was very happy to have seen the Bolshoi Theater group perform Swan Lake.  The other thing the Russians do really well is play hockey, so I was excited to go to a professional hockey game last night.  This was a playoff game, actually.  Our team is in green, and there are no mascots like the bulls or the blues.  Our team is simply, Salavat Yulaev, who was a local rebel and hero.  Moscow has already won the West division, and is waiting for the winner of this game between Ufa and Magnitogorsk.  I don’t know a lot about European hockey, but it seems much more about finesse and passing than about hitting. Hockey1

 

Unfortunately, Ufa lost the game last night, and we are down 3-1 in the best of 7 series.

Loving It!

SAM_0543I’m loving the warmer weather.  Mind you, its not warm like we had back home; we have only cracked 40 degrees once or twice, but it is consistently warm enough to melt a lot of the snow on the ground.  We have had rain pretty steady for the last week or so also, and although depressing, that has helped melt the snow also.  As you can see in the photo, most of the snow has melted to the point that you can see grass around the trees.  I am looking forward to spring, when the sun shines, the grass turns green, and the trees start to show leaves.  Hopefully in a few weeks.

Some More Pics Inside

SAM_0531SAM_0535As soon as I walk into the university every day, this is the site I see, sort of.  Directly behind me when I took this picture were turnstiles, and you have to pass a guard to get through the obstacles.  And usually there are no balloons, but today was a special day, as a number of high school students came to visit the campus.  Sometimes its hard to remember that 35,000 students attend this school.  Heck, this university concentrates on science, not the humanities, but there are 30 members of the history department here.

 

 

 

So, here is a little closer view of the marble staircase, and perhaps you can see in the corner is a fountain with plants growing in it.  Actually, there is a fountain in each corner.  Sorry I couldn’t get a close up of them, but folks here are really uptight about strangers taking photographs.  Yesterday morning, as I was walking to work, there was a very obvious presence of police and/or soldiers standing on every street corner.

What is He Thinking About?

Dave Teaching 2I gave a talk today to the faculty, staff, and students; everyone was invited and quite a few showed up.  The talk, or colloquium, was about Higher Education in America.  The colloquium is a time honored tradition where scholars get together and learn from each other for the sake of learning.  Often, but not always, it is about the research that a scholar is pursuing, or to discuss the publication that resulted from that pursuit.  Today I spoke about the different types of colleges and universities, for-profit or not, 2-year and 4-year, technical and liberal arts, etc.  Then we talked about who paid for college.

The Russian were quite taken back by the debt that students incur in America. The average American student has somewhere around $30,000 of debt by the time they leave college.  This is difficult for people in Russia to comprehend when college tuition is free or very cheap compared to what people pay in America.  It got me thinking: everything we have and everyone’s salary at a university (Russian or American) has to be paid for by someone, either tax dollars or tuition.  American students are leaving college under crushing debt.  Russian students have none.  Granted, there are fundamental differences, but there are some choices being made also.

One for the Books

SAM_0530I gave a lecture today to the faculty, staff, and students about the state of Higher Education in America, and this gentleman showed up.  He is a student now, but he was a submarine captain in the Soviet navy, driving the Foxtrot class vessel, a diesel/electric ship.  He said he had been to the shores of America 20 times, sitting off the coast and listening to whoever was talking, so he had some knowledge of English, which helped our conversation.  Essentially, we both said that we were glad the Cold War was over, and that we had both lived through it.  We only spoke for about 20 minutes but it is undoubtedly one of my most memorable experiences so far.  I was just thinking I didn’t have much to post lately.

Swan Lake

BalletI went to see the ballet Swan Lake with some great friends and a really terrible camera on my iPhone 6.  The dancers didn’t really glow in the dark, as depicted here, but it was dark and they were wearing white dresses.  I brought my digital camera, and even though I turned off the flash, the indicator still read the flash was in AUTO mode, and I wasn’t taking any chances, so I was stuck with the camera phone.

Anyway, the ballet was tremendous.  I had never been to one before and always assumed that I would be bored, but the Russians really know the creative arts.  I was blown away.  Of course, the ballet company usually performed at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, so they were superb.  Friends told me that the performance in Ufa was really poor compared to the experience in Moscow with the full orchestra and the much larger stage and theater.  Whatever, I was honored to attend.

Russian Orthodox Church

Russian Orthodox1This is a beautiful old church in Ufa.  We went there a couple weeks ago to look around, and the inside is quite ornate.  We happened to be there when a wedding was taking place, which was a very small affair.  There are no pews inside, and I am told that the church celebration might last two hours.  During the Soviet period, the folks in charge did not want religion to compete with the Communist Party so religion was, essentially, outlawed.  This church was converted into a movie theater.  It is wonderful that people saved this one, and then put it back into use as a church.

Birsk

DeansI went with Rustem the branch campus of Bashkir State University in the town of Birsk, population of about 40,000.  Great day!  We started the day off in the presidents office where we got acquitted, then had tea for a few minutes.  Then we went to the auditorium, where there were about 200 students assembled, and they asked me questions about America.  They like that I am a Cold War scholar, and one student asked me if the movie Rocky IV (Rocky fights the Russian played by Dolph Lundgren) ended the Cold War.  I had to say that I didn’t think it did.  Then we went for a tour of the city, then a tour of the university, then to lunch.  I learned the Russian tradition of making toasts – you must say something from the heart, and if you make a toast you must drain the glass.  We had vodka, cognac, tea, and water.  Seated at left are various faculty deans, and what is left of lunch.

Lunch was terrific, by the way, and we had about 7 different courses.  I particularly liked the fish, which you can see to the left.  At one point, as the waitress brought another course and I was so full, I jokingly called out “Nyet, Nyet, Nyet.  We are too full!”  I guess she was not too familiar with my sense of humor, as she looked horrified and started to take the meals back to the kitchen.  Someone stopped her though, and we kept eating.

 

Deans Lunch1Deans Lunch

 

The Best Medicine

Bashkir SoupIts that time of year, when the weather is above freezing during the day, and below freezing at night.  When I walk to work, I usually start sweating, so I remove my hat and unbutton my coat as much as possible.  My Russian friends tell me that I am just asking to get sick.  That is just an old wives tale, I thought.  Perhaps they were right, as I’ve been a little under the weather lately.  I stopped and picked up a jar of homemade soup from the grocery store.  If an old wives tale can make me sick, another one can cure me.  Nothing beats a bowl of good soup for kicking the common cold.  This is wonderful stuff, and I am sure it is healing what ails me.  I can’t be sure what kind of meat is in the soup; in Russia this is a fair question, but it sure is good!

Swan Lake

Swan LakeThe ballet company from the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow is coming to Ufa to perform the ballet, Swan Lake.  And I’m going on Saturday night!  I am very excited.  I have never been to the ballet before, but this is one of those “Once in a lifetime” experiences.  I wish Ann and Jake could be here.

 

 

Contract!

ContractI received a contract from the North Dakota State University Press to publish my book on the Blizzards of 1949, and I signed it today.  I would have signed it on Saturday when I got it, but there was nobody to take a picture.  I am very excited to be working with Suzzanne Kelley at NDSU Press!

SAM_0442This is an up close view of the monument to Salavet Yulayev, the Bashkir hero who lived between 1754 and 1800.  He joined forces with rebel forces against the Czar, was captured, and spend 20 years in prison, until his death.  He is hero to Russian and Bashkir people.

 

This SAM_0468monument was built in 1967, and dedicated to a man who fought against the government.  I had to ask why the Communists would idolize a man who opposed government rule, and it was because he opposed the Czar.  He is so popular in Ufa, by the way, that the Russian professional hockey team from Ufa is named for him.  I guess they don’t have mascots like animals or fish here.

 

In the bottom picture, you get a sense of the location of the monument, situated on a bluff overlooking the river.  The views from the monument are striking with the ability to see for 20 miles or so.

Rustem’s Fear

SAM_0495I have figured out that Rustem is secretly afraid that I am going to starve to death, and that he will be blamed.  He is usually showing me some tasty treats when we are out and about, and since I have no will power to resist, I go along.  He suggested that I take home some of these beautiful treats made in the Bashkir grocery store.  Rustem has never given me bad advice yet, so I decided to give them a try.  (Well, not yet).

The grocery store was very interesting.  They had a hybrid duck/goose cross that was cooked and ready to eat.  I didn’t buy it, but it looked delicious.  Something to think about when I go back.  I didn’t realize it, but this Bashkir grocery store is the closest store to my apartment, so I will definitely go back.

Dinner Tonight

SAM_0492Dinner tonight was in a traditional Bashkir restaurant with Rustem and Kamil, and it was fabulous.  I had a baked dish with chicken, ham, and egg and served cold.  I also had soup, which was very tasty, and a pastry of sorts, with honey and dried fruit inside.  (See below)  Rustem gave me a piece of his pastry to try, this with a little meat inside.SAM_0489  We went to a grocery store beside the restaurant, which carried many of the same items.  So, I bought some more of those pastries!

Women’s Day

Women's Day2The Russians have a very cool holiday, loosely translated it is ‘Women’s Day,” and it is a huge deal.  It’s bigger than Mother’s Day in America, as the entire country is shut down for two days next week to celebrate it.  My friend Radmir (not pictured here) has been giving his wife presents all week.  Here we are having little get-together for some of the ladies in the department.  Eugene is serving cake, and that isn’t a pop bottle on the table.  Drinking in the office is not a common thing, that I have found, but its nice to know it is allowed.  You know, just in case.  The two ladies pictured are Guzelle (front) and Idonna (just behind her).  By the way, there are three Rustems in the department.  The gentleman seated just to the left of the door is one of the Rustems, and one heck of a nice guy.  He is trying to find research documents for me to use in my next book project.

Red Caviar

SAM_0419So, I guess today is the day we try some new entrees.  Out with some friends over the weekend, I was convinced to buy some red caviar.  (You know this is fish eggs, right?)  This small container was about $10.  A little spendy, but the black caviar (the good stuff) is really expensive.  Its about $56 for (two ounces) about a quarter of the size of the container pictured here.  So I tried it, as you can see, and it wasn’t bad.  I didn’t love it, but it wasn’t bad.  I’ve heard it described as tasting very salty.  Its not really salt, I think, but it has a bite to it like something very salty, but it doesn’t attack the tongue like salt would.

Horse for Lunch

HorseFor those of you from the great state of denial, I don’t have a friend named Horse, and I did not set another place at the table for a horse.  When I write that I had horse for lunch, I mean that I had horse for lunch.  My friend brought in a plate for me, and I was very humbled by his thoughtfulness.  It looked and tasted almost exactly like Roast Beef that your mom made for Sunday dinner, but it was a little different.  Not bad at all.  And I was assured that this was no plow horse, but a yearling that was very tender.  I was asked if I liked the taste, and I said that it was very good.  “Yes, that is why we eat them,” was the reply I got.

I must be living right

SAM_0408This is the most delicious dessert I have ever had, bar none.  We went to lunch at a Turkish restaurant (which was fabulous) and I ordered way too much food (again).  I wasn’t really interested when Rustem suggested I try a traditional Turkish dessert called Baklava.  I had heard of it, and this Fulbright thing is all about trying new experiences (like desserts), so why not?  It has pistachios on top, layers of flavored honey, and all kinds of goodness and wonderfulness in between.  These desserts had just come out of the oven and were warm, and the honey was very soft and the whole thing just oozed magnificent delightful perfection.  Hitting a Turkish restaurant where the desserts are still warm is like hitting the lottery, I’ve been told.  We were there during the lunch hour, and dessert are usually made at off times.  Karma must be rewarding me for all the joy I bring to everyone I meet.

I am smiling!

SAM_0386SAM_0387This is the Russian version of a great big smile.

I had some stomach issues last night, which kept me up, and I thought about NOT going out with Rustem and Kamil today.  In the end we went out together but I told them I was sick, so we spent the day trying to get me better.  You can see Rustem and Kamil in a shop that sells tea and honey.  This is the first line of defense in combatting the flu.  And yes, I’ve been drinking the herbal tea they suggested, and I do feel better.

 

The next line of defense in combatting the flu is an “Oxygen Cocktail.”  Go ahead and read the words “Oxygen Cocktail” again because I had to ask about it a few times myself.  Available only at a Russian Pharmacy (it should be available everywhere because it is really good), this drink of vitamins and other nutrients is whipped up with air until it is light as a feather.  So, the name makes sense.  Now.

Don’t worry, I’m okay

Melting2It is a wet, sloppy mess out there with the melting, but I love it!  You can see that someone came along and shoveled off the right side of this sidewalk, allowing for better traction, reducing the chances of slips and falls.  Yesterday I was out for a walk and hit an icy patch in a large square with lots of people around.  I started flailing about, trying to keep my balance.  I sloshed through several puddles around me, splashing everyone in the vicinity.  Fortunately, I was able to keep my balance after much flapping and whirling about.  You would think people would have a little sympathy for the guy who could have been seriously injured and not worry about the mud now on their clothes.  You would think.