So, a few words of introduction and explanation are in order. I’ve decided to start blogging for a couple of reasons: 1) it seems a good way to let people in my life know what I’m up to without sending out annoying mass e-mails; and 2) I might as well start getting into the habit of recording my ethnographic impressions of and reactions to Moscow before I need to keep formal research notes. I plan to begin this blog with some very informal ramblings and sprawling notes to myself. But even though this is only a blog, in the interests of protecting my career, I’ll be changing names and obscuring the details of my research.
The title of this blog, “The Moscow Diaries,” is a tip of my cap to Walter Benjamin. Unfortunately, “The Moscow Diary” was already taken by someone in a position that resembles mine uncannily: a visiting scholar living at Moscow State University (MGU) and logging onto the internet at “CafeMax,” a 24-hour café with banks of computer terminals, a new wi-fi system, and seriously overpriced food.
I arrived in
In the nearly two years since my last trip to
I’m now working up the courage to call the head hacker and arrange for an appointment so I can get online this week. I’m more than a little nervous about my linguistic competence at this point. Actually, the word “competence” seems inappropriate. We’re talking about simple brute force utility for now. In the last two years, I haven’t taken Russian classes at my university in the
Surprisingly, this seems to make me a more effective speaker of Russian. In previous trips, I would try to say, “Excuse me, but if you have bliny with ham and cheese, I would very much like one” only to be met with puzzled looks and angry shouts. Now I say, “Bliny with ham and cheese,” and seconds later I have lunch. Getting my cellphone’s SIM card took an hour when I tried two years ago. This time I said something like, “Hi. I want a MegaFon SIM card. How much?” and five minutes later I was taking calls and sending text messages.
I mentioned this to another American student today over lunch, and she replied that in
Anyway, there is much more to say, but in my attempt to adapt to local customs, perhaps I should just keep this entry short and sweet…