PskovJanuary 19, 2017 in Russia
Быть в гости translates as "to be a guest [in someone's house]". It's used to describe both guests from afar (e.g. myself in Pskov) and guests from down the road. I'd like to add in the origins of this phrase but they'd be totally made up so instead I'll add in this anecdote encase future me ever forgets his Russian and (again) starts to think he can't do languages.
When I moved to Moscow I had an alright grasp of the case system but my Russian was on the whole pretty bad. I found a room online and after a chat with the flatmates for which I'd mentally pre-rehearsed the lines "If you help me practice by chatting with me, I'll cook your dinner", I moved in. The cat didn't like me.
Once I’d moved in I'd always say hi to my flatmates, ask how they were* and ask how their day was going. My flatmates would respond and I'd smile and nod and not know understand what they were saying. Once, in the first few weeks, I remember one of my flatmates describing his day and saying "...в гости..." (‘v gosti’). It wasn't until a while later when my language teacher mentioned this phrase that I suddenly understood what he had said. Sorry Boris! Извините пожалуйста я не говорю по-русский.
I'll return to that later.
I arrived into Pskov at 8am and went to meet the couchsurfer ("Pskov") who had seen my public couch request** and offered me a place to stay. He was friendly; gave me keys to the flat; (he) had a tarantula and (his wife) had a chinchilla; they had a kid, that he'd mentioned, who turned out to be 10 days old. Finding this out I resolved to explore Pskov in a day then head off.
Once I’d wandered around the Kremlin and observed an orthodox morning service; attempted to visit a flat that Lenin was based in during 1900 that’s is now a museum and, on that day, was closed for repairs due to a leaky roof; and eaten at an Italian restaurant my flatmates had recommended to me; I was already out of things to do. Fortunately, another couchsurfer ("Vera") had agreed to meet up with me so at 3pm her and her "парень" (boyfriend; "Misha") appeared. We went to go chat in ТиР (TiR) a pretty cool looking "underground" bar that I didn’t expect to find in a city known mainly because of its kremlin. The bar doubles up as a cafe, gig venue and club which, according to the posters, does punk n metal gigs and plays DnB, techno, and bassline.
After wandering around the city together and hearing about my CS situation Misha offered me a place to stay the next day if I was still in town. That evening I asked about certificates hanging up on the flat; Pskov explained to me about his efforts to try and improve the situation for (motor)biking communities who apparently have a difficult time inflicted on them by Putin's favourite gang***. After realised the difficulty that could be caused for his work within the biking community he bought a gun that he now keeps locked up in the flat, just encase. Pskov now runs lectures trying to teach people about their rights as individuals, though he admitted they aren't as busy as they could be. His thoughts echoed what I'd already heard from a lot of people; that people in Russia don't want to get organised and fight for their rights. From other people this argument had been phrased more in terms of being lazy or simply not caring enough to want change****. We later sat and ate dinner with his wife, a tasty mix of boiled potatoes, pork and cabbage, together discussing life in our respective cities/countries. I’d already decided to take up Misha’s offer of a place to stay the next day.
Arriving at Misha’s I was greeted by him and his mum (“Misha’s mum”) and, after asking how they both were, was immediately offered tea and lunch. They, she?, had already laid out several bowls of biscuits, chocolate, honey and jam (for sweetening tea)*****. Misha was a local Pskovian/Pskovite/Pskochanin/Pskovets and had studied music at college, learning to how to play the bayan and the balalaika. Realising whilst still at college that he didn’t want to take up a career in music teaching, he now worked for a foreign telecoms company doing shift work “3 через 3” (3 on, 3 off) and was also learning how to code. After lunch we got a taxi to a dog shelter, picking up Vera enroute. Vera and Misha did explain to me, twice, about why they started visiting the shelter. There was definitely something to do with a competition that Vera didn’t win but afterwards she wanted to visit the shelter and take the dogs for walks when she could. (Edit: Turns out she did win the competition, I just misheard the "didn't".) At this point I still struggle to remember the finer details of conversations I have in Russian. I think it’s cause there’s too many new words and my memory schemas are structured in English so things probably get lost in translation and, possibly, encoding. I’ve never taken a dog for a walk before and am usually terrified of dogs, this time was no different as I apparently looked pretty scared when we first entered the shelter... Fortunately my chosen dog was docile and happy to just stand next to me or walk along at my pace; I named it Buddy, I recently found out it’s real name is Дельта (‘Delta’), I prefer Buddy. Apparently the dog shelter rescues dogs from the city and surrounding area though Russia lacks strong laws to protect animals and lacks charities to help support them. I don’t know what happens to the dogs in the long run but they certainly had quite a few in there of various types, ages and in various conditions from earless to eerily lifeless.
Another trip to ТиР later, this time for blini - still no bassline though they were setting up for a gig to celebrate their something-teenth birthday, we went to Vera’s to help dispose of her ёлка (‘yolka’; new year’s tree). Vera works for the same company as Misha, it’s where they met, though she works “2 через 2” (2 on, 2 off). Shift work’s screwed up her sleeping pattern but in her spare time she does some pretty awesome drawing/painting. Originally from Murmansk, she’d lived in Pskov since she was a kid and studied foreign language teaching (German and English) at the local university. Teacher’s salaries though aren’t fantastic and she, and Misha, would like to try and live abroad, possibly in Georgia first then, if possible, somewhere in Europe.
Ёлка disposed of, we arrived back at Misha’s where his mum had set up the front room ready for me to sleep in and his dad (“Misha’s dad”) had returned back from work. Already of retirement age, his dad chose to continue working at the factory and enjoyed watching TV in the evenings (today was Trump’s inauguration). Once we’d eaten dinner the biscuits, chocolate and tea was broken out again and Misha’s mum excitedly told me about the bits of Russia she’d visited and recommended places I should go to, Misha went to sleep. Hearing that her favourite shows on tv were travel programmes particularly about India the tv was turned off and I broke out pictures from my previous travels. Misha’s dad then showed me pictures taken near their dacha outside of Pskov including ones of them foraging for mushrooms. I woke up the next morning and packed my bag ready to catch a bus to Veliky Novgorod. Misha’s mum had made breakfast and before I left gave me some biscuits for the journey. Handshakes and hugs later I set off to the bus station.
Three n a bit months after arriving in Moscow I now understand understand what быть в гости, can, mean and I finally have enough Russian to chat about mushrooms when I get there. Oh and me and Kot (the cat) are totally friends now.
Вера, Миша, Мама и Отец Миши – спасибо за всё. Я рад что мы встретились и надеюсь мы ещё встретимся, может быт осенью чтобы ехать на дачу и собирать грибы!
* I've since learnt that asking "Как дела?" (How are you/How are your things?) is less customary in Russian culture and people save this for their "круг" (circle/close friends) as they expect the question to be answered honestly. I continue to ask it but I've definitely had some odd looks in response. I think people see it as me being either; British, people are aware of the British custom of not answering the above honestly; trying to make an effort; or stupid.
** Couchsurfing has public and private requests. The former works like a bulletin board, post your trip online and people may message you. The later you write directly to potential hosts. I'd only ever done the later though am doing the former as well in Russia as their CS community seems pretty active, welcoming and apparently I'm interesting enough to want to meet up with! YAY!
*** I think he means these guys. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/putins-angels-inside-russias-most-infamous-motorcycle-club-20151008
**** That said, some people can and do try but this can end quite badly for those individuals https://meduza.io/en/feature/2016/11/01/10-12-people-would-beat-me-all-at-once-kicking-me
***** This day marks the start of my (sociable) tea drinking in Russia.Read more