Thursday, October 2, 2008
Last night we did my favorite activity so far. We went to the ballet. Normally I’m not so much the ballet type. I mean, who wants to look at men leaping around with dead squirrels in their pants? But we saw Swan Lake—you just can’t beat seeing Tchaikovsky performed in his own country at a theater in the middle of Red Square. It was unreal. We had to go up two escalators to get to our seats, but it didn’t even matter. We had a great view of the stage, including the orchestra pit, which was my favorite part. Two of the girls in our group are dancers. They were sitting on either side of me, their mouths gaping open while they were shaking their heads from side to side in disbelief. I’ll admit I even shed a tear our two during some of the violin solos. We have tickets to Snow Maiden in a couple weeks, and we splurged for better seats on that one. I’m counting the days...
Attending the ballet made me think even more than normal about communication. Well, and about human nature in general. I mean, there we all were, Americans, Asians, Western Europeans, but mostly Russian, all enjoying the same production together. Some of us speak languages with umpteen million declensions (can you tell I’m a little frustrated in learning Russian?) where others favor word order variation, but it didn’t matter. We cried together, we cheered together and we shouted bravo (which I particularly enjoyed). It just amazes me that so much can be communicated without speaking. I realized not long ago that in my career I’m basically a professional charades player. I don’t enjoy playing charades when its purpose is for the entertainment of others; I’m horrible at it. But in my career as a Spanish teacher, I spoke the target language as much as possible, and just used gestures to help my students fill in the blanks. In those circumstances it served a very useful purpose. And I never realized how much I would use that talent until I came to Russia and couldn’t speak well enough to communicate everything I needed to. I mean, today alone I had to use those charades skills to ask our groundskeeper for new lightbulbs (that was pretty funny—I pretended I was screwing them into my make-believe ceiling), and I had to ask the lunch lady for more bowls—I could only remember the word for plate. I guess my point is just that no matter what country I’m in it just never ceases to amaze me how similar the people are. And how fun it is to laugh together.