Today I got into a debate with a Russian man over Quebec, the French-speaking province of Canada. I was strolling down Arbat, enjoying the sun and the fact that I don't have to make treks out to the Wasteland anymore on Monday afternoons. I popped into a Russki Souveniri shop and right away was bombarded by an over-zealous shopkeeper trying to talk me into buying the tackier of his offerings.
"Mmm, panyatna," I said in an attempt to shrug him off. "Understand." As in, ok ok I get it, now leave me alone to peruse in peace!
He got the message and left me alone for a bit, until I approached him with my intended purchases in hand (I won't reveal what I bought, in case the recipients are reading this, but I do hope Kelly and Jacqueline will enjoy their gifts!).
Now that I had to speak more than just a word in Russian, he could tell by my accent and frequent pauses that I was a foreigner. "Oh, I thought you were Russian!" he exclaimed, which is definitely flattering - I love it when people mistake me for a local! I always feel a slight thrill like, Yes! I managed to trick you!
"Ot kuda? Where are you from?" he asked.
"Canada," I answered, pronouncing it the Russian way - Kah-NAH-dah.
He then asked me if I was from the French part of the country. I suppose I answered this question a little TOO vehemently, blurting out, "oh nyet, nyet!"
And somehow he interpreted that as a reason to engage me in a good-natured debate about why I apparently don't like Quebec. It's not that I dislike la belle province; I did an immersion program there three summers ago and loved the experience, the language, and the culture (the lard-heavy diet, not so much!). It's just that I think Quebec needs to suck it up and get over the fact that the English beat the French back in 1759. Anyways, that's neither here nor there on this blog...it was just really interesting and somewhat surreal to be debating the issue of Quebec separatism with a Russian souvenir shopkeeper thousands of kilometres away from the subject in question!
On a totally unrelated note, now that its May, the hot water is getting shut off throughout the country for two week periods as workers fix the pipes. According to Katya no one knows when their hot water will be turned off, as it depends on the district you're in, but if you're lucky, you will know someone in another district who still has their hot water and will let you shower at their flat - with the agreement that you'll return the favour when its their turn! Since I went three weeks in December without ANY hot water (a bitter memory that I will never forget and probably keep complaining about every now and then!), I think I can deal with no hot water in May.
Well, its just after 7pm here and I have a class to teach at 7:30 - better get down to the school!