Novosibirsk Interview

Titile: “What do international people think about Novosibirsk?”

My friends who own ‘London English School’ asked me to take part in their interview. My friend Vincenzo, who also works at the theatre is in it. Take a look!

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Joseph Brodsky – The Butterfly

“Should I say that, somehow, you lack all being?

What, then, are my hands feeling that’s so like you?

Such colours can’t be drawn from nonexistence.

• 

It’s not a curse, I pledge you, that your small weight & span rob you of tongue.

You’re more speechless, less fleshed, than time. 

• 

You’re akin to nothingness – like it, you’re wholly empty.

And if, in life’s venture,

No-thing takes flesh, 

that flesh will die.

Yet while you live you offer

a frail & shifting buffer,

dividing it from me.”

Above are some of my favourite phrases from this poem by Joseph Brodsky. I have been wanting to read Russian prose for a while now, since it is famous for a reason. After finishing my last book (When in Rome by Penelope Green) I lent it to my Russian friend and teacher. In return she lent me the wonderful ‘Collected Poems in English’ by Brodsky. He is not so typically russian, as he was in fact accused of being ‘parasitic’ during the USSR and was exiled to America where he never saw his parents again. Many of his poems have political undertones and draw upon topics which I’m guessing were not accepted during soviet Russia.

Below is the full poem. I thought it was so beautiful and touching that it needed a place here.

 

The Butterfly (by Joseph Brodsky)

Should I say that you’re dead?
You touched so brief a fragment
of time. There’s much that’s sad in
the joke God played.
I scarcely comprehend
the words “you’ve lived”; the date of
your birth and when you faded
in my cupped hand
are one, and not two dates.
Thus calculated,
your term is, simply stated,
less than a day.
Who was the jeweler,
who from our world extracted
your miniature –
a world where madness brings
us low, and lower,
where we are things, while you are
the thought of things?

 

Should I say that, somehow,
you lack all being?
What, then, are my hands feeling
that’s so like you?
Such colors can’t be drown
from non-existence.
Tell me, at whose insistence
were yours laid on?

There are, on your small wings,
black spots and splashes –
like eyes, birds, girls, eyelashes.
But of what things
are you the airy norm?
What bits of faces,
what broken times?What places shine
through your form?
As for your nature morte;
Yet you’re akin
to nothingness –
like it, you’re wholly empty.
And if, in your life’s venture,
Nothing takes flesh,
that flesh will die.
Yet while you live you offer
a frail and shifting buffer,
dividing it from me.

Calling Russia home

I’m sitting on the balcony in the courtyard of a red brick building (not unlike ‘Thomas Dixon Centre’ in Brisbane). The space is filled with the sound of piano & singing lessons coming from one corner, cats meowing in the ‘cat cafe’ opposite, the soft beats of music inside the cafe I visit, and of course the intermittent sound of a power drill, present in most cities during summer. The sun is shining and my education guess is that it’s about 27 degrees. My favourite kind of temperature. I’ve just had an interesting conversation with the waiter/chef at the cafe – I was very flattered the last/2nd time when I visited with a friend and he remembered my name right away! When I told my friend (a nurse in Novosibirsk who is learning English to improve her chances as a doctor, she’s says only the ‘cool’ doctors speak English) how surprised I was that he remembered my name – she said, well it’s not very easy to forget you! I asked if that was a good or bad thing, but I guess all in all a good thing. It’s funny, but I forget how unusual I am here, and how unusual ‘Eloise’ is… totally NOT a russian name. I guess I am somewhat unforgettable – an Australian ballet dancer in Novosibirsk. On my way to the cafe today (I had a hankering for a smoothie and love the Amsterdam vibe that this place, Дом Културы, meaning Culture house, exudes) I saw an acquaintance sitting in a cute cafe I was passing by. She is the waitress at my local coffee spot where I have found the best selection of coffees, smoothies and iced coffees. She was always happy for a bit of a chat, so I joined her and we made conversation. (I make it sound like making conversation is the same as making your bed. Not the case, as I grew up in a bizarre family where that habit wasn’t compulsory, but then again, neither is conversation). Back to the point, I asked her if there were any other international people who she’d served at the cafe. She (Sasha), said that I was the only one in the 3months that she had been working there! I had no idea. As I said, I just live my life and never think about these things. Until now that is. So, every other person who visits that cafe speaks Russian since childhood… except for me. An alien of sorts. It’s like the ‘Sting’ song, ‘An Englishman in New York’, except I’m a legal alien Australian in Russia! Sasha said that she remembered once when a russian girl entered with an international boyfriend, probably Italian, but the boyfriend didn’t speak. The couple just spoke English together, it was assumed he was international. English is the general language to communicate with foreigners, even if they aren’t an English first language speaker. It’s how the young people of today predominantly communicate. Especially on social media, it’s somewhat of a ‘power’ to know English. Talking about social media, Russia loves Instagram! Oh, to think that I still thought French was the trading language until I left Aus! I did recently learn that some parts of Asia learn and use French for trade though. Other than that, I think English seems to have taken over. Also, did you know that a large percentage of the brains behind google were/are Russian? I had no idea that IT was such a strong profession over here. I found this out as I met an American IT man working in Novosibirsk, he said that he needed I learn basic Russian even while in America because it is used in the IT world.

Here is a photo of be theatre (again), but lit up at night, with the beautiful summery display of flowers! The gardeners do a wonderful job transforming the city from its Winter state to a colourful place in Summer. Talking about the flowers, it was Novosibirsk’s 125th anniversary on Sunday, and for the occasion a group of floristry students/workers created ‘Land Art’ sculptures on the grounds of the theatre. Here’s an example of a heart sculpture.

This one is a couple of musical notes. They were all adorned with flowers for the birthday of the city. And as I walked home the following day after work, I ran into a group of workers taking down the flowers after the occasion. I had a quick chat and they insisted on giving me the white chamelias which they were fetching from the ‘Romeo & Juliet’ Sculpture! How could I refuse. The only downside was that as I stood and accepted the never ending flower bunch, I was being eaten alive. And that’s not much of an understatement! The mosquitoes in Novosibirsk are evil. They’re not even mosquitoes, more like sandflies, and around dusk they come out to their vampire tendencies. Ok, I’m being dramatic, but seriously. Here they call them моски.

Along with the not моски come the бабочки! It does sound similar to бабушки (grandmas), but in fact it means butterflies. As you can see in the photo above, there are gorgeous flowers everywhere, they not only look beautiful but smell it too, and attract white butterflies as well as bees. I have never seen so many butterflies in a city before though! Alive and dead, they are everywhere. The other unexpected surprise from Novosibirsks nature is the summer ‘snow’. I’m not kidding, that’s what the Russian call it as well. The ‘snow’ is a sort of cotton similar to that of dandelions that seems to be everywhere are you walk along the street. I never thought I’d live in a city which snows all year round!

You probably noticed in the first theatre photo, that there was a strangely shaped red sculpture. This is, well, was, a ‘count down’ for the World Cup. Unfortunately there are no games in Novosibirsk (the closest one is Yekaterinburg, where Australia played) but it’s become a habit to meet friends down at the local bar where the matches are screening. Because we always have performances that start at 7, we usually just make it for the second game, so when I found out the Aus-Peru were playing at a time I could watch, I was rather keen to show my Aussie spirit. Turns out that not only Australia and Peru were playing at that time. France and Denmark had a match in Moscow at the exact same time, and, not surprisingly I am outnumbered by the French people in Novosibirsk. It also seems that the Russians are big fans of France, therefore every bar that was advertising football was streaming the French match. Australia was nowhere to be found. My friend lent me his phone and I ended up sitting in the bar and watching my own match at the same table as my French & Russian colleagues were whooping for joy. We lost anyway. C’est la vie.

Here’s a photo of the small group of elders who sell flowers and plants on the corner of my street. Every day they are there with fresh produce; rain, hail or shine. Such sweet people. I’ve also noticed that there’s a yoga group which often meet at the park at 9:30am as I pass by with my iced coffee on the way to class. The balloon which Dasha has is very popular in St Petersburg when there are celebrations. Apparently it has recently become more popular in Novosibirsk too. Here are photos of my friend and I watching fireworks for the city’s anniversary.We drove down to the river where there were three barges loaded with fireworks that took turns to show their spectacle. Apparently it was called the ‘festival of fireworks’. Fireworks were not only on the river, there were some in the centre of the city and on the left side of the bridge too. People had gathered for the fireworks, due to start at 10:45. The time arrived and all of the other locations seemed to shoot fireworks except for the boats. It seems there was a technical issue. Russian music played in the background but we all just stood and wondered what the hell was going on! Some people went home. By about 11:15 the first boat went off, and boy, was it worth the wait! After all three boats had given their show, we were preparing to go home when the final firework finale went off! What a way to finish the day.

Summery Siberia (yes, it is true)

Spring has already come and gone in Siberia (it was the coldest May recorded for about 100years, lucky me) and the flowers seem to have appeared overnight along with Summer! I have just been in the park, reading in the sun at about 10pm. The streets are lively and music is everywhere. It was almost impossible to find a bench where my ears weren’t bashed by two different live songs at once. In fact, unknowingly I sat right next to an accordionist (I thought he was packing up, but only just starting), so I was almost transported into a different city as I sat and read. I haven’t written for a long time, but I am still here! In fact you could say I’m more alive than ever now that the weather has turned around – it was 28degrees the other day, and yesterday we had a thunderstorm to make me feel at home. Oh boy, I do miss tropical weather. My mind is still taking time to register that yes, I really am still in Siberia, even though it is shorts weather and the trees are green and the streets are filled with the smell of flowers and it’s warm enough to actually wander the streets. That’s what I didn’t realise was missing until now. Previously, it has been too cold to just go for walks in the sunshine (your skin is covered anyway) and enjoy the fresh air. Previously, if you’re on the street, you’re on your way somewhere. If you stay still for too long it is both uncomfortable and recipe for a cold. Now, you may walk on the street at any time of day and yes, there are people… socialising! The cafe’s have opened terraces and today I met a friend on a rooftop terrace of a cafe. I’ve been back dancing full-on, I’m cast in every performance except for one – that’s about 10 different ballet’s we constantly rotate. Recently the Edvard Krug’s assistant choreographer arrived to teach ‘Radio & Juliet’, a modern version of R&J to Radiohead music. I couldn’t help but ask to join in rehearsals as they were taken in English and it is such a gorgeous piece of work. It was such an honour to learn, and I do miss moving and stretching my body in contemporary class. Russia is the only country (to my knowledge) that still has majorly classical repertoire, the dancers are often not totally comfortable in modern styles. THe cast for this ballet is just soloists, and there is only one female (Juliet), so I am not dancing, but I can’t wait to watch the production.

I have been socialising much more as I can finally have conversations in a competent level of russian. It’s great because once you can practice, then it only gets better from there as you meet more interesting people. The other day I was asked to hold an english speaking club and talk about Australia! I’m not usually a confident public speaker, but I figured that I was the only native speaker so actually it didnt really matter what I said as long as I spoke in English because that’s why people were there – to practice. It was interesting to meet the different people in Novosibirsk who wanted to practice their English – people of all different ages and proffessions/schools. It’s funny how many training linguists or translators I have meet since arriving here! Today I actually ran into a brazilian band on the street as one of their members was russian (with a bright orange beard, may I say) , so they were communicating in English. It’s amazing, I really didnt realise how useful it is to be a native english speaker. Did you know there are more people in the world who speak English as a second language than there are native speakers? People here often tell me how they would love to learn british English but it’s difficult because so many of the movies, songs and media are american, so that is where they practice and pick up the accent. When I first arrived in Novosibirsk I was a bit crazy about trying to learn Russian, and didn’t want to speak English as to immerse myself in the language. Looking back, I was already rather immersed spending everyday at the theatre, and you really need to find the balance between languages otherwise you’ll go crazy. Nevertheless, there is a French girl here, whom I met and always seem to want to speak Russian with, even though her English is better, just because I am used to everyone speaking Russian. I will try to write another post soon, sharing in more detail what’s been going on. The VISA situation has been crazy lately as I have been trying to organise my holiday, but did not realise that my VISA would not be valid in the month of August, as that is my work holiday. Therefore the work contract and VISA are connected and I have to leave Russia during the month of August no matter what. Despite the fact that my parents had already organised a visit. How crazy is that?! My parents come to visit me and due to slow russian documentation I can’t even change the contract in time to allow me to stay in the country. C’est la vie, at least I have more time to go and discover the world I guess! We only get one month off per year (not even a week off for christmas or Easter), so it will be a nice break.

Signing off,

Ellie

Day of the Greatest Victory

Today is May the 9th, and in the eyes of Russia it’s a public holiday to celebrate the Greatest Victory. ‘What is the greatest victory’ you may ask? (Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s not the case, considering all of the propaganda about Russia that the western media feeds us is regarding their military status). It’s fairly self explanatory. It is a day of celebration, somewhat comparable to ANZAC day, commemorating all the lives which were lost during World War II and celebrating Russia’s victory. In the weeks leading up to today, there have been practice marches, and more young people in uniforms than I’ve ever seen.

I’m not exaggerating when I write, ‘day of the greatest victory’ с День Великой Победы , it’s a direct translation of all of the posters up and around town. This morning I woke up to join the city to watch the annual parade in Lenin Square at 10am. The plan was to meet friends, but considering we arrived from different directions, by the time it was 10am, there were so many people and soldiers and barracades that a) it was almost impossible to move and b) the metro was closed so we couldn’t cross the street. Thankfully, after the most exciting part of the parade we found each other, took in the good weather had a coffee and took a selfie to commemorate the moment (as we do in the 21st century). Side note: ‘selfie’ has been adapted from english to the Russian vocabulary and probably most languages for that matter. I’m not sure if that’s an international word to be proud of or not. Anyway, communication is communication. I also recently learnt that the word ‘selfie’ was invented in australia, which would explain the suffix ‘ie’, like all our other words; biccie, ciggie, bikey, shoey, u-ey. You get the idea. (I have been reconnecting with my more australian side, because I was recently asked to speak at an English language school. The topic which I was asked to speak about was Australia, i really am a rare novelty over here! The school asked me to return and speak at a bookshop soon… on the same topic! I am advertised as the Australian, proffessional ballet dancer – which does sound rather impressive if I say so myself. 

The parade began with the soldiers marching in their alloted sections, precise in timing, direction and formation. There were all sorts of different uniforms passing, all the while cameras displaying live footage on large screens and a man speaking in a very loud, important and patriotic voice repeating words, which I didn’t always understand. The point was, it was impressive. There was a live army band marching and creating atmosphere with the music. (It reminded me a bit of the marching bands which practiced in Oslo for the Norwegian National day, but there it was more focused on music and less on the soldiers you could say). After the foot soldiers came the largest proccession of arm vehicles I’ve ever seen. There were more than 20 tanks rolling along, men poised and saluting in the them. Then came vehicles pulling enormous machine guns – something which I have never seen passing down the street. There were enormous barrel shaped vehicles which drove past, all in formation of course. (I apologise to those of you whose military knowledge is vast, because, as you can see I’m not entirely sure of the definitions for all of these things.) After all of the machines were more processions, with music and more booming voices. A group of people walked down (in uniforms) carrying a large red blanket/sheet and then paused in the centre. I was hearing some people around talk of a plane they were expecting. Then it arrived. An original biplane came into view and circled around around heads, on it’s final circuit dropping several bursts of confetti into the air!

Then arrived the Бессмертного полка which I heard announced several time over the loudspeakers as the ‘svetli pol’. I was racking my brains as to whether it meant something along the lines of ‘colourful floor or ‘white people’ neither of which sounded appropriate, the latter especially. I asked my friend and indeed I had misinterpreted – it was actually the ‘immortal regiment’. This march was not just for soldiers. As you can see in the photo, it was a procession of ordinary citizens of Novosibirsk, each walking with a photo of a relative whose life had been taken in World War II. The procession was astounding. I think i watched it with my friends for about half an hour before grabbing coffee. When we returned, people were still marching. And this is just the people of Novosibirsk who lost their lived… imagine the rest of russia! To give you an idea, the city of Novosibirsk is a little smaller than Brisbane in population, the march would have continued for over an hour.

Other than fallen soldier photos which people carry around, there are orange and black striped ribbons (lentichka) everywhere. Similar to the poppy symbolism on Anzac day, it is customary to wear these ribbons in memory and respect. I have two of them in fact, as they were being handed out on the street in days preceding the event, and I was also given one after a purchase in my local health food store. Banners, ribbons, music, concerts, stickers, badges, flags – the spirit has been everywhere. Yesterday we had rehearsals at the theatre for the upcoming produciton of Cinderella. As I made my way to the hair and makeup department to try on my wig, I passed backstage. There was a dress rehearsal taking place for a performance being held for the 8th & 9th of May. Children and young people were everywhere, dressed in uniforms and old fashioned clothing, ready to re-enact the victory in dance or song or acting. I sat in to watch some of the dress-rehearsal after I finished my own rehearsals – I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so patriotic. This is the russia which I was expecting – the one that the Western world likes to potray all the time.

Tonight I will meet friends in the centre once more to watch the fireworks and see what else this victory day has to offer. I am told that it is a bigger deal here than New Year’s. Many people not only watch their city’s march, but tune into the parade in Moscow (5 hours behind us) on their televisions.

Here is a portrait of one of the idolised heroes of war. I saw this in the art gallery which I visited earlier this week. There was a temporary exhibition to celebrate the Victory Day, of course. What’s not so victorious, is that I asked my Latvian friend about this day and she told me how it is definitely not celebrated because, for them, it was the beginning of a long suffering. 

Another example – a clearly positioned car sticker. It reads: ’70 years of Victory!’

Marching into April

It’s April and the weather doesn’t know what to do with itself. For a while it looked like it was getting warmer, and then on the first of April I woke up to see the snow racing horizontally outside my window. Now it seems to pass from gorgeous, clear, sunny skies to snow within the drop of a hat. The world works in mysterious ways. Recently there have been men working in the ‘gardens’ around the theatre, breaking up the waist high snow which prevented anyone from used the benches hidden underneath. Now the snow lies in balls, almost discarded to the side like when crabs dig there holes in the beach. Here’s a photo from a few days ago. Now the wind has ‘whipped it into shape’ it looks more like someone tried to whip cream peaks but didn’t quite succeed. Meanwhile, we’re inside the theatre trying to ‘whip ourselves into shape’ for all these shows! I must admit it’s difficult when the canteen always has such a delicious selection of cakes – the other day the conductor spontaneously bought some girls and I a slice of ‘Tarandot’ cake each! (They have novelty cakes specially named after each of the productions). It was incredibly generous of him, problem was – it’s just about the sweetest caramel cake you can think of, and none of us were particularly hungry, but you can’t just give it away while he sits in the same room! How’s that for first world problems. 

Yes, I’m going to discuss the weather a little. Due to it changing, it seems to be a time for sickness (and for smells, nothing smells when its all frozen over!). My flatmate included, who claims to have a temperature of 39. People in the theatre have been walking around with masks on (you know, like you see asians wearing) to prevent spreading. I always thought the masks were rather unnecessary but now I realise they have a purpose other than looking antisocial. (Excuse my bluntness). So, what do the russians do when they are sick? Well, there is some folklore that if you sleep with a greenonion tied around your neck it will heal you. There are also all sorts of herbs and berries which are loved here for their health and immunity benefits (and probably more practical). Some of the most common/my favourite berries are облепиха (pronounced ‘oblepicka’)/Sea Buckthorn and шиповник (‘Shipovnik’)/Rose Hip. These are often used in homemade teas which are sold in cafes or added to Mors, (another very russian drink (often made with lingonberry) hailed for it’s health benefits) or compote (a thicker version of Mors, halfway between jam and juice in its consistency, usually containing the seeds). I’m actually learning as I’m writing this right now, because each time I attach the internet links, they have some interesting facts to share. Now I know that the reason these berries are so popular here, is because 80% of the world’s produce are found in Russia or neighbouring countries. Still, I really don’t understand some of the Russian food, despite trying. Summer is ‘coming’ so more salads and cool foods are out. The other day I tried Okroshka in the canteen – a cold ‘soup’. I thought it was dark because of soya sauce, turns out it was the yeast water from bread. Not unlike the taste of vegemite… rather disgusting if you ask me! Also some unknown meat pieces were discovered which I decided to avoid. On another note, my relative, Richard was visiting from England and spoilt me to dinner at the most incredible restaurant ‘Puppenhaus‘ before watching the opera ‘Carmen’ together (set in Spain, written and sung in French with Russian subtitles) – all 3 1/2 hours of it before he raced to get a taxi and then continue on his Trans Siberian Railway trip.

Here are some photos of the restaurant. I devoured my first, delicious squid ‘shashlik’. Shashlik (shish kebab) is a very common siberian dish, tying in with their tradition of alot of meat. Neither of us ordered ‘Elk lips’ or ‘Bear steak’ which were also on the menu! The idea of eating lips is something I can’t get my head around… how would you even serve them? The coolest toilets I’ve ever seen in my life. Gaudi inspired, I’d say! If you look close enough, you’ll notice that the golden tap is actually dolphin shaped. An entree of savoury eclairs filled with fish!This is what we thought would be a sort of mushroom stroganoff. Turns out it was actually a platter of what must be delicacy mushrooms served with onion and berries. I’m rarely a fan of pickled food but this was more than edible.I don’t know if you’ve ever eaten orange chocolate before? This was all homemade. Richard and I looking very Russian in our fur hats. He insisted on buying an ‘Yshanka’ while here and was convinced that it worked, since several women asked him for a light in the few hours it was worn after purchase.  I think many men have a secret hankering to own one of these hats – both of my brothers do!

Other than having my first visitor (which was pretty exciting and also bizarre to walk around the city speaking English), work at the theatre has been going on as usual. Here’s a photo of me (2nd row) in La Bayadere adagio the other night. If you’re wondering – I’m too tall for the first row, so it’s quite an achievement to be second! Funny to be performing this dance for real, because I also performed it in Amsterdam as a student for our end of year show.img_4592.jpg

Since I last wrote I’ve premiered as a peasant (Sounds exciting doesn’t it) in Giselle. I didn’t realise we couldn’t wear earrings, so I was the one slighly wealthier peasant on stage for that show… I’ve learnt my lesson for sure!

Here’s a photo of one of my favourite costumes. It’s from ‘Snowflakes’ in ‘The Nutcracker’. In fact, this dance resonates with me quite alot because it was during my first performance in November that I faceplanted and injured my ankle. Nevertheless, I have successfully made my comeback injury free and reunited with this cute, fluffy costume. This is Nacho Duarto’s choreography, so it’s all a bit modern. That’s why the ‘tutu’ is in fact covered in a plastic layer to appear like ‘ice’ (лёд). For the first half of the dance we don’t wear the coats, and in the end we return in the dark with little white hoods too and lights on our hands. It’s an impressive effect on stage and I always thought of it as quite suitable for this siberian weather!

I haven’t yet spoken about Easter. In fact, it hasn’t been properly celebrated yet because the Orthodox calendar is one week behind (correct me if I’m wrong). The tradition of hot cross buns and chocolate easter egg hunts aren’t to be found here. Instead, ‘lent’ is an incredibly popular undertaking – in fact most cafe’s their own ‘lent’ menu in preparation for Easter (пасха). As for the hot cross buns, I delved out my mothers recipe and introduced a fair few of my collegues to the English easter tradition. I plan on going to the church with a russian family as that is their usual Easter Sunday tradition – but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to because we have a show of Don Quixote that afternoon! It’s ok because we have the following three days off. The Bolshoi Theatre is visiting and will be literally taking over our theatre for these days so we have a ‘holiday’! For most of us, this is the longest break we’ve had since September. Some ideas were to visit a waterpark (indoor of course) or visit a Banya (traditional Russian sauna)… and of course, rest! My friend just dropped around to give a whole lot of russian panadol and cold tablets for my roommate. She has been at home sick for five days herself- apparently there’s a virus making its way around Novosibirsk, it happens each year at this time.

In the following month we will be premiering a new production of ‘Cinderella’, so lately I’ve been to the costume department for tutu fittings! They are hand making a new tutu for each of us involved, and last time I went, it was almost finished! Below is a photo of the ladies in the costume department at work. Notice the ‘clouds’. Here’s my tutu!

I thought it was very interesting, as this gorgeous drawing was on the table – it’s for the upcoming production of ‘Francesca’ the opera. To it’s left was the costume from the sketch, in the process of creation! How amazing and fascinating. Below is a photo, excuse the light. 

So, I will love you and leave you all. I need to get going for my show of ‘Nutcracker’ tonight. We had one this morning and now another one at 7pm. I’ll leave you with some photos. A) this used to be a really hip lapsha (noodle) bar, which I found reviews for on Tripadvisor, but when I turned up, it seems to have closed its doors. It still has cool paint though – not unlike something in Melbourne. 

B) Me looking nostalgic after a show of Swan Lake. (Again). 

C) I danced Cipollino people, but this time in a purple costume not fluoro yellow. I’m not sure if it’s an improvement or not?

D) Have you ever seen this nifty way of opening a macadamia nut? (The orange label translates as ‘central market’ – centralnee reenok)

E) A little different to the beer cans left on the side of the road from the drunks in Aus!

F) I bought the most beautiful handcrocheted doll for my friend’s soon to be born daughter. I thought she was absolutely gorgeous, and have a lot of respect for the women who make these. There is a whole stall filled with different creations in the metro, all hand made with love and reasonably priced when compared to Australia or most places in Europe. Anything from Gnomes to pigs to elephants – you name it, they’ll crochet it! It reminds me of the knitting association in England where they  knit covers for the street posts… I don’t actually know why. 

And then I danced my way into Khasakstan and back again

Wow, it’s already March? I can hardly believe it. At least that means winter is over… well, for the most part anyway! I say that, yet it was still -20 degrees today. But that’s relatively warm in comparison to what we’ve had. I don’t even have to wear tights under my jeans anymore! And to think I used to wear two pairs of socks and tights in Amsterdam in 1degree weather. But then again, I WAS biking to school and I didn’t have a goose down jacket or fur lined boots. Either way, I think it’s fair to say that I’m acclimatising and I can safely say that I survived the worst of a Siberian winter. I’d say that’s a fair achievement if there was one!

To give an idea of our schedule lately: I have two shows Cinderella tomorrow. Yesterday I performed Romeo and Juliet, and the day before, Swan Lake! If that doesn’t keep you on your toes (haha, unintentional pun), I don’t know what will. To be honest it’s sometimes too much, but I really shouldn’t be complaining because I get to dance on stage a lot, and that’s what so many people never even get the opportunity to do. After all, it’s what should be expected as a ballet dancer in Russia! Nobody ever said it would be easy. In saying that, I did perform the coda of Swan Lake without rehearsal (or even spacing)! I had danced this before, about 4 times, but in several different spots. So that was a little stressful. Not to mention, the theatre have put on at least 5 different ballet productions since the last show of  Swan Lake. To make the show even crazier – in the coda, when all the corps de ballet swans are on the side and the principles are dancing, the music stopped. It just stopped mid templeve and none of us knew what to do! This had never happened before. And it wasn’t meant to. We’re taught to work together in corps de ballet and stay in line and watch the other girsl etc. but some of the girls kept going and others stopped and posed. It was a bit of a distaster… at least we stayed in line? Afterwards, we found out that the conductor had thought there was a pause in the music for the soloists to bow, obviously forgetting us swans on the side. It just goes to show that everyone’s brains get a little overloaded sometimes with all this different repertoire! Don’t let me mislead you though – most shows don’t have mistakes like this. It is a magnificent company, I swear! As for my Russian, well, it’s coming along. Today I had the afternoon off after rehearsal (finally!) and I went to the Grishko shop to buy new ballet flats. I also found a really good second hand shop so got some good bargains and then made my way back via metro. Though not before being distracted by the bakery and buying some delicious ‘stollen’. I know, not particularly Russian! In fact I took a photo because I thought that was interesting find- an advertisement in both Russian and German. Here you go. I guess it just goes to show that German bakeries really are everywhere. I remember there was a really good one in my suburb in Brissy. The point I was getting at, is that my Russian is now comprehensible enough to get around and generally do most things independently. When I tell you about the post system, that may give a slightly different story however.

Talking, or should I say ‘writing’ about getting myself around – I went to Khasakstan the other night. As you do. I’m not even joking, I literally travelled there in the car for 7hrs, crossed the border around 3am, stayed for 45mins then returned again for the long drive back to Novosibirsk. We left at 8pm one day and arrived 10:30am the next morning. Talk about fun! (Hear the sarcasm?) The reason for this trip was for the stamping/ re-issuing of a migration card. Somehow, when I returned from Australia, I made my way through customs in Moscow without recieving a new migration card. I don’t quite understand, but basically my documents were not correct, so I needed to leave and re-enter the country once more. I wasn’t going to argue, if anyone loves their documents, it’s the Russians. So now I have some pretty (well, they’re pretty cool) stamps in my passport alongside my VISA. Nothing like being a traveller, aye. Here’s a photo of the cafe we stopped off at on the way to Khastakstan and back again. I’m pretty sure you can see the driver here, refueling himself with a cup of coffee and gearing up for the further god-knows how many hours!

I shared the last of my TimTam’s on this trip and topped up with tea. My travelling companion – the translater. In russian ‘translator’ is ‘perivodchik’. A useful word to know when you want to mention ‘Google translate’. ‘Google’ stays the same funnily enough. Although, due to the grammatics of the Russian language, sometimes they say ‘Googlye’. (Because they add ‘ye’ to the end of a word when it becomes a situation. If that makes any sense.)

Here’s an extremely enlightening photo of the Russian border around 3am in Winter. Enjoy.The toilet at one of the stops. We always had to pay. I think that’s how these little stops make most of their money to be honest, most people are just there for the toilet. Guess what the sign says.

So, I hope you enjoyed the little light I shed on my experience of khasakstan. It wasn’t so much of Khasakstan, but a 15hr trip in a car with my translator (a cool bloke by the way) and a few Khasikstani strangers. The only other people I encountered were the border guards. The first of which, when I arrived, told me that all of my documents were correct and asked me why I was there. Can you imagine hearing this after an uncomfortable 7hrs in a car? Anyway, mostly they were just interested in what a young Australian girl was doing in Novosibirsk. I tend to get asked this quite often.

A lot has happened since my last post, so I’m just going to describe a whole lot of random photos and I think you’ll get the idea. Please, sit back, scroll and enjoy.

February photos:

This one looks very bizzarre but I had to share it because it’s actually a LAUNDRETTE called ‘Salad’. Seriously. I think that just goes to show how many people speak/read english here, otherwise they wouldn’t get any business. This was one of my costumes in the show last night – Romeo & Juliet. Excuse the selfies, but it’s more practical than asking for photos all the time. During a show everyone’s busy, and taking photos for a blog isn’t really a priority!This bus says, ‘Kids’. I thought it was cute with the little sign. Must be the local schoolbus!Here’s a photo of my ultimately delicious falafal burrito that I bought the other day from one of the stalls in ‘Central Park’. I was really suprised how good it was, and tasty, and warm! I did wait 6mins outside for it, but it was nice, I just went for a walk and saw the kids sliding down ice slides. It was definitely worth it. And only ₽120. If you look closely you can see the handpainted bird houses hanging in the trees. One word. Pigeons. They get everywhere. In summer this is an entertainment park. Now it just looks joyful. I can’t believe i hadn’t visited the central markets before! It was like being in heaven. SO much produce and so reasonable. I would even go so far as to compare it to the amazing market in Lisbon – and supposedly that is the biggest one in the world! I bought the most delicious Halva here.img_4386.jpge37dde17-ad0c-4d0f-bafd-37aa00fe5631.jpgThese photos are of me looking about 5years old again. It was my premier of ‘Cipollino’. An italian ballet made for children. It’s about a village where there are vegetable people (it’s better than it sounds), it also has something to do with a scarecrow. I’m not going to bore you with the story but you can Google it if you’re interested. Basically, there’s not pressure and it’s a lot of fun! I did learn it in 2 days. This photo is from my premiere of гетеры in Spartacus. The word doesn’t translate to English so I don’t actually know the name f what I danced. Either way it was fun. The three above photos are of the small hall and corridors in the Philharmonic Music Theatre. The night I returned back from Khasakstan I wasn’t cast in ‘Giselle’ (because I wasn’t there for rehearsal), so I went to watch a concert of ‘upcoming young composers in Novosibirsk’. It was an eclectic and talented mix of lots of different acts. From electric piano improvisation, to singing duets, to orchestral pieces, to piano solos and neo-classical bands. Here’s a photo of the interior of a super cute cafe I had my ‘Russian lesson’ in. It’s great, we go to different, cute locations everytime. I’m discovering the modern culture of Novosibirsk behind it’s soviet exterior.  This is another concert hall. It was actually the Conservatorium of music, a pretty old building which they are renovating right now, so it’s covered in scaffolding. The buildings tend to disintegrate more quickly here because they are pounded with snow and wind. It only makes sense. This night I actually intended to go to a different concert, as the concert master in the Theatre had invited me to watch the youth orchestra which he conducts for. Problem was, it wasn’t made clear as to which building the concert was in. I ended up going to the wrong building, hence the wrong concert. In the end it turned out to be a great night though! It was the festival of chinese guests, so half of the audience was chinese and half the time the introductions were in Russian, half the time Chinese. If I’d tried to find a concert this obscure, I don’t think I would have! All in all, never underestimate chinese musicians because they are bloody fantastic. It was a night of orchestral pieces (the Novosibirsk conservatorium) with soloists of violin, flute, piano, cello and vocal. At one point a pianist came out a really changed things up, adding all this synthesised electric piano. Girls from the audience were going up and giving roses to the soloists after their performances. Here’s me looking like a cake in ‘Sleeping Beauty’. Another premier. This was my premier of ‘Le Corsaire’. What a beautiful costume. Here’s another crazy costume for the Waltz of Nutcracker. One of the girls injured herself from the previous two shows. I had just finished class that morning when I was asked if I knew her place or not. It was 1hr before the show. I knew the choreography but had not danced her place before. We had a quick rehearsal, then, bam, I was on stage. Considering the circumstances it wasn’t bad. Just goes to show that you always have to be prepared!