Saturday, February 13, 2010


I thought I would share a few of the more memorable moments from my last week.

1. A man came into the cafeteria one day and sat down at the table next me for lunch. He was clearly having some trouble walking as he stumbled over his own two feet, and he was audibly grumbling something, although the only word I actually caught was "завтрак" (breakfast). He then pulled a beer out of a plastic bag and proceeded to wash down mouthfuls of his lunch with swigs from the bottle. He continued to intermittently grumble completely unintelligible things, and after watching him for some time out of the corner of my eye, I realized that he was having some trouble keeping his food down. He began swaying back and forth in his chair, shifting his weight occasionally, and wiping his forehead with the back of his hand. Finally, he vomited. On himself. And on the floor in front of him (he missed the table and his meal). I think I was the only one in the cafeteria who noticed, as everyone else seemed to be engrossed in conversation with their table-mates and I didn't notice any reactions to this man's upchuck. The man then continued to shovel forkfuls of food into his mouth, until I noticed he vomited again inside his mouth (this time swallowing it to avoid making another mess). Finally, he rose from his chair unsteadily and walked out of the cafeteria, leaving everything in its place at the table (and on the floor). I left soon after.

2. I was having a discussion with my professor-students in class about travel and their ideal alternative habitats, or at least vacation destinations. Interestingly, Sweden and Australia were overwhelming favorites, being chosen by about 80% of the participants. As one professor related his fascination with Australia, he struggled to think of the word 'marsupial' (I can't blame him). After considering the word in Russian (сумчатое животное) he came up with the nearly transliterated: "pocket animal". He was very satisfied with his cunning, and I couldn't help but laugh.

3. With the same group of professors, but a few classes later, we were discussing the topic of 'work'. I asked the question: "What jobs have you done in your life and what did you like or dislike about them?" As is usually the case, hardly anyone actually answered the question. The standard response was, "I like my job now. It is good for me." When prompted with an example of my own about a job I did not really enjoy (greasy-hamburger-flipping concessionaire), one woman offered an answer that was more what I was looking for. She described to me her early childhood desire to be a crime-lab technician due to her fascination with chemistry. Then she related the following story:
When she was in the 7th class (akin to 7th grade) her entire class was taken to a factory and assigned non-paying jobs for the summer--Soviet tradition, I suppose, to learn the benefits of labor. She worked as a 'turner' at an train engine factory. Her job, for an entire summer, as a young girl, was to turn a lever at one stage in the production process of train engines. I hope she learned some valuable lessons.

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