I completely got called out on my lack of a hat today. Hats do bad things to my hair (like this), so whenever I can I try to avoid them. Plus it takes like an extra 5 seconds of my day to put it on.  So, today when I was waiting for the elevator to go downstairs, an elderly man came out of a neighboring apartment and waited with me. To avoid feeling awkward (because I'm an awkward person and I never know what to do with myself when there are strangers around) I very fastidiously put on my gloves and made sure that they were straight and tucked into my coat sleeves. Once we were safely into the (very small) elevator, the man bemusedly looked at my head, and then my gloves, and said "You're wearing gloves but no hat? Your head will be cold! I'm old and I've done the opposite all winter -- I wear a hat and no gloves." I smiled and hastily showed him that I had a hood that I'd put on. I hadn't planned to use it..but I felt obligated to after that.

I'm not quite sure what it is, but people always talk to me in the elevator now. Maybe I just look like I belong there. At first, after playing the ritual rock-paper-scissors-esque floor number game (the elevator only knows how to go to one floor at a time, so the person with the lowest number gets to press the button), my elevator companions and I would just stand in silence and avoid eye contact. Then, starting about 3 weeks ago, people started to say things. Usually it's just complaints about the weather or things like that (or in the case of a drunk and disoriented man:  making sure that he was in the building that he thought he was), but it still started rather suddenly, and still surprises me. I like to secretly wonder how many catch on to the fact that I'm not Russian. I think that I do a pretty good job of fooling most of them.

One thing that also amuses me is when I have conversations like this one that happened on Thursday:

After opening the door to the deserted teachers lounge and putting on my coat, I was getting ready to leave and lock the door when a girl comes in and says: "Can I speak to Natalya ----- ?"
me: "Umm..no one else is here"
her: "Do you know when she'll be back?"
me: "No, I'm leaving right now"
her: "You're from America, right?"
me: "Yeah"
her: "You speak Russian really well, even without an accent"
me: "..Thanks, I try"

My thoughts: could you really tell very much about my Russian? I barely said anything at all. I've had this happen several times where I'll say a sentence and then I get compliments on my Russian.  Somehow I suspect that people would be impressed even if I only knew how to say 10 words.  I also have the opposite happen a lot, where people assume that I don't understand Russian at all, so they start explaining in a mix of English and charades until I ask them to please just tell me in Russian. It's also a great party trick with kids -- if I say any Russian word in the middle of my presentation there are instant gasps of surprise.

Today I went to the movies with a friend and saw Little Red Riding Hood...or Red Riding Hood...or whatever it is in English. It's called Красная Шапочка in Russian. I really didn't know what to expect -- I hadn't seen any previews or anything since I don't really see any in Russia. I half expected it to be a cartoon, so when I saw the movie poster, I started thinking "oh dear..I didn't know that this was a scary movie." Then, naturally, it would involve scary wolves, which I am almost as scared of as sharks and tigers. Ok, like half as scared of. I blame my childhood phobia on THIS. I remember having nightmares now and then about being trapped in my house because hungry wolves were circling it. ANYWAY, the movie turned out to be really good. They took a really interesting take on the old story and turned it into a sort of mystery thriller with, naturally, a love story thrown in. Overall it was really well done, and I kind of feel like watching it again right now to pick up on things that I didn't catch at first. The person that I was with is one of those people who knows everything about every movie ever made, and he also agreed that he liked it, so I feel like I have an expert opinion to back me up. It also certainly didn't hurt that the 2 conflicting love interests are incredibly attractive men. Well, or one of them was, the other was just mostly so. Here you can see them having a manly standoff. It made up for the scary wolf. I was also glad because the dubbing was really good, so every character had their own voice, which isn't always the case. Unfortunately, online reviews weren't especially impressed by the movie, so perhaps being in Russian improved it. It helps that I haven't seen Twilight, which is apparently what the style is reminiscent of. I still stand by my opinion though -- I enjoyed it, understood almost all of it in Russian, thought the set was pretty (and the people prettier), and enjoyed the new twist to my generally least favorite fairy tail.

Also, I'm 1/9th of the way through Anna Karenina in Russian. That doesn't sound like much, but keep in mind that that's over 100 pages. I've really struggled with reading books in Russian because usually I can't read fast enough to really get into the story, so I end up getting bored and giving up. It's really strange being transported back to the way that I felt in first and second grades -- instead of being fun, reading is frustrating and boring. Once you get good at it then it becomes a sort of moving picture that you can get really absorbed in, but until that time it's just words that you have to consciously think about so that you can get the plot. Anna Karenina has made me really excited, because I've started seeing scenes instead of words when I read, and this is the first time that it's really happened. It might seem strange that this would happen with a work of classic literature and fail with some of the more modern books that I've tried, but my lessons for the last few months have really focused on reading, and especially with a focus on higher level literary styles. So far it seems that Tolstoy's writing style really fits well with my vocabulary. He's also much better in Russian. I liked him well enough in English, but the translations were always a little dry. It's also interesting how time and languages can change the way that you think about the characters. I read the book about 4 years ago, so the details are fuzzy, but I remember that in general I just though that Vronsky (the guy that Anna runs off with) was a self-absorbed jerk and that Levin was the nicest person ever. In Russian I actually sympathize a lot with Vronsky, and he seems like he's just a nice guy. Not the most knowledgeable, but certainly not bad. Levin, on the other hand, is extremely socially awkward. Maybe it's just that now people who fall passionately in love without any real basis and without checking to make sure that the other person feels the same bothers me. Maybe before I thought that it was romantic or something. I can also sympathize a lot more with Kitty turning down Levin's proposal because of her feelings for Vronsky. Of course it would have saved a lot of people a lot of hurt if she'd just said yes, but the easiest way isn't always the best. It would also have made for a very short book, since she's not even the main character. 100 pages in and the real story is only starting to develop. That's Russian literature for you.

Well, now I think that I'll get something to eat, and maybe hunt around online for somewhere to watch Red Riding Hood again or read some more. The weather got wise to my wanting to take pictures of spring and got cold again, so pictures will have to wait some more.


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