This happened on Sunday June 21.
I walked the streets in my neighborhood and explored a little bit today. I found an amazing antique store with old Soviet pocket watches and Russian Orthodox Icons and lots of other really cool pieces of Russian history. I'm definitely going to go back there later. I took a picture of one of the Icons I really liked and I'm going to ask my Russian Art History professor who just happens to be one of the worlds leading authorities on Russian Orthodox Art and Icons if it's authentic and what I should pay for it.
On my way back home I stopped to watch two older guys playing chess (шахматы) which is a really popular SPORT here. They sell chess boards and pieces at sports stores. After a while one of them asked me for some money to buy something to drink. It was then that I noticed that he was wearing some really old beat up shoes and that he was probably homeless. I gave him 100 rubles ($3.19). And he instantly became my best friend. He told me that I do not need to call him by his patronymic name and that I should just call him Volya... I really like that name. I told him my name was James and he said, "Jimmy!" I hung out with him and his friends for a while. He was really cool. He spoke basic English and could count but we mostly spoke in Russian. He kept making the Sign of The Cross in Russian Orthodox fashion.* He did this constantly while talking. I enjoyed spending time with him and his friends speaking in Russian. I'm supposed to be meeting them again at the same place today, which is only 50 meters from my apartment and in a very public place.
And who said Russians don't like to be complimented. My host mom got her hair done today and it looked great and I told her many times that I liked it in Russian and once in English. She kind of blushed and I could tell that I made her day when I told her that. And her hair really did look good. I didn't even recognize her when she came and opened the door.
Tell me why I saw several new Sega Genesis Mega Drives in their original boxes at this shopping mall?!
I also met a girl named Ana. She's 22 and just graduated. She's tall kind of slim and has red hair. She saw me watching the guys playing Chess and she came up to me and asked if I wanted to get coffee sometime. I gave her my Russian cell phone number and she seemed really happy. Ana is by no means the first Russian girl to come up and want to talk to me. However, she seemed to be one of the most sincere one's. Hence why I gave her my number. Plus I needed help on my homework that was due today.
We met up at this place called Кафе Хауз (Coffee House) the Russian version of Starbucks. And she proceeded to write out a lot of the answers on my homework for me... She wanted to practice her English so I spoke mostly English with her. She likes to travel and she's been all over Europe. However, (this is the good part) she told me that her tourist visa to the United States has been denied twice. Why? Because she's a single Russian woman that is not going to the US to be a student or on business. What's that look like to our good American friends in the Visa approval office?! Mail Order Russian Bride! She already had two friends go to the United States and get hitched. I've heard many stories about Russian women seeking to get American citizenship via marriage. I live in the most amazing, wonderful country in the world!
I stayed up all night last night studying. I'm actually a terrible student. I'm now in a stage where I have to take the Russian that I know and build on it. I have to add new vocabulary onto what I already know. I just can't keep saying "понятна" when I actually don't get it, "хорошо", and "мне нравиться".
Post cards coming soon. If I you think I don't have your address and you want a postcard e-mail it to me or else you won't get one.
*In the Russian Orthodox Church they make The Sign of The Cross with two fingers. It looks really cool. I do it when I pray before every meal.