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My Russian-language blog: http://laosergo.livejournal.com

Adding me, adding youCollapse )

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A friend and I have started an online language learning school with quite an unorthodox name : ) and a totally amazing way of learning. Getting thoroughly pickled in the language - the only surefire way to know it.

At the beginning of 2018 we are running a free 14-day winter course for learning English - if you can find a spark of the holiday magic in you, please comment, repost, recommend it to those who may be interested or sign up yourself.


В шорт-листе Волошинской премии
"Китаяночку" в шорт-листе Волошинской премии.

Можно даже проголосовать (раздел Проза: "Ты соучастник судьбы, раскрывающий замысел драмы"):

South China literary almanac (Russian)
Announcing the first issue of the South China Literary Almanac - the Russian issue.

Crux Cover small

Download: http://depositfiles.com/files/0g5dk5cut
Online version: http://www.scribd.com/doc/169390124/CRUX-1-Sept-2013

Shrimp-killing bees

My family humbly dwells in our village penthouse. From time to time we bravely venture onto the sun-scorched roof patio adorned with palm trees, roses and that vine-like plant known in Chinese as ‘the gold and silver plant’ (it is a translation, of course). In times when we forget to water our penthouse garden, a random rainstorm visits it every now and then, instilling a new breath of life into the by then almost desperate perennial and ephemeral herbs alike.

My ball and chain, - in her rare recesses from giving me a hard time and bringing up our scion,- nevertheless finds time to remember her innate geoponic nature and then shows a two-green-thumbs-up to refining our roof garden (by now we have forsaken the flooded old field I’ve written about earlier, and then another field under our windows). We now fearlessly grow wickedly spicy peppers and savory dill on the roof. I carried up some earth from the field and put it into a shallow but vast wooden box (which I made myself BWT). But it turned out not fecund enough, so we needed fertilizer, said the wife. What can a family of three living in a penthouse offer as a fertilizer? I was hiding my content smirk into the beard when it was the leftovers from the table which traveled up onto the roof, thus lightening my burden of taking the garbage out. But my good wife was still not content with the quality of the soil (which – we should do it justice now - already started giving birth to green (so far) peppers – but maybe they were not green enough). So the time for the hard-core rural approach drew nigh.

My man-child is in the kick-off phase of his potty utilization techniques. If you get my drift. For a while our little garden reminded me of the few times I’d spent among the real village folks, fields of rye, full-bodied paysannes with their thick braids and soul-wringing songs, as well as morning trips to the well with wooden pails and shoulder-yokes. On the third day I had to put my foot down and say 'no more'. I liked the color of the peppers as it was, now that they started to shyly show some red on their green pods.

Now I tell you about the killer bees. With illustrations.Collapse )

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Yesterday a 1.5 year old neighbors' son performed the wish that all the neighbors of our little village had cherished and carried with them behind their rib cages for so long. Now I understand what their sly glances had meant all that time.

Like the bound feet of their ancestors the poor souls who by the whim of fate happened to share the same neighborhood with me had been burning to reach out, but shied away from the urge of their ingenuous natures, suppressed by social conventions.

We camped in the middle of the road as usual, in that popular amongst us gypsy-like unpretentious manner. By now it has stopped bothering our village motorists too much, they are not too great in number anyway. The human younglings of ours happily crawled and dashed around, some wailed, some investigated the enchanting world of green organic grass and orange caterpillars. That little cub of a boy wobbled towards me, looked seriously in my eyes and shout out his hand. As it was approaching my face, he slowed down, ever so gently grabbed my beard and delicately pulled a couple of times. The expression on his face was by then that of a researcher doing his experiments with an unpredictable result.

The parents stopped whatever they had been doing (that mostly being shooting the breeze) and gave out various noises of appreciation, which consisted basically of the popular in this part of the world ah-yaaa's and yi-eee's.

I was in a propitious mood that day and benevolently permitted the young researcher to repeat the experiment. After that the adult expression of his face was washed away by the usual hummy visage and, content to the most sacred nooks of his young heart, he wobbled away, and I sat there, as if nothing had happened, - but now a new man, an educator and an exhibit of natural wonders.

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I can't say I am a frequent long distance traveler - I'll even say more: it is a worthless task to try to calculate my frequent traveler miles, but the last days of this spring saw me traversing one of the hemispheres quite a bit. I am usually a reserved and suave traveler, I mind my own travel-related business without hustling anybody. Well, rare occurrences of slightly inebriated friendly streaks of socializing with randomly picked voyagers or deserved castigation of slothful service personnel do not cloud the skies but quite on the contrary, bring a lot of gregarious pleasure to yours faithfully.

This blood-curdling event happened within the marble expanses of the central airport in one unnamed country. Tying my camel to the first lamppost I pitched my camp right by Gate 5 from which a beautiful silver metal bird promised to take me to Hong Kong, and perched myself in a well-positioned second floor bar which offered nice strategic view of both the gate and the TV screen. I like TVs, - not unlike a window to the world they usually show me various spectacular things. I breathed in a couple of beers and lo and behold, they started showing tear-jerking stuff on the screen, which now filled me with pride, now threw me into the abyss of inexplicable sadness. The feeble souls that occupied nearby tables did not share my deeply felt emotions no matter how hard I threw my fiery and tear-filled wide-eyed looks at them from behind my fogged spectacles. They would hide their shameless eyes in their despisable grub troughs the second my ardent gazes scorched against them.

It is no secret that two clearly-chiseled personalities (among many smaller and obscure ones) cohabit within my statuesque body, one is the gregarious chap skillfully depicted above and the other is a suspicious jekyll-and-hyde-esque bastard who lurks within the shady dusty nooks of my complex individuality and jalousingly casts agly glances, mistrusting anyone and surmising the worst. It was he who was behind my elaborate scheme to tuck away under the table my faithful travel sack, providently filled up to the brim with slabs of bacon, a jar of melted lard and a loaf of rye bread against a starvation streak should one occur on the road, as well as a change of clean underwear and a complete subscription of the Seventeen magazine for the year 1994, which I for many years now am trying to peruse to finally crack the mystery of the weaker sex ab their ovo, so to say. In between the regular sips of beer I repeatedly checked the sack with my ankle and eyeballed anyone passing by against any chances.

They moseyed in stealthily, I did not even register the moment they crossed the threshold of our small cozy tavern. One moment nothing disturbed the measured munching and sipping routine that had set in around the bar, and the next something intangible crystallized in the air, pushing it around with a gentle, but ever so present swish. I slowly turned my head and the alert personality in me squinted at the three middle-eastern guys as they studied the snacks in the display case. They placed their bulging sports bags on the floor. My leg involuntarily twitched to check my own dear carpetbag under the table. Two of them were tall and huge and their biceps made their black t-shirts creak at the seams. The other one was a squatty chubby guy with a worried look and a hairy chest which inquisitively peeped at the world from the unbuttoned crevice of his shirt. Shit, thought I a politically incorrect thought, guess I would not want these guys to share the beautiful silver bird with me, not with their sports bags as the cabin luggage and all. The sips of beer I drew became more nervous, along with the twitching of the ankle. To make matters worse, the three communicated in a hushed unidentified language, and that made me readjust the rifle on my shoulder wanna hide the fact that I was drinking alcohol.

But, true to an old adage, time is the best medicine, and within a couple of minutes and with a huge exertion of my tipsy will power I brushed off the xenophobic thoughts and instead started painting cheerful mental pictures of me fraternizing with those fellas, telling funny stories and slapping their shoulders.

As the people camping by Gate 5 starting shuffling and the time drew nigh, I emptied my pint and sprung to my feet. I was smiling at the world and at those three traveling friends in particular, - as I was passing them I even had to pull on the reins as my genial self was about to squeeze one pumped up shoulder. In my content amiability I tried to nod thanks to the bartender, but on noticing my invocatory glance she, - as it is customary in that country, - pretended to be busy with something else, leaving me smiling and nodding fatuously into an artificial vacuum impregnated with concealed awareness. Strangest things can be perceived through a mind loosened by legal mind-altering substances.

I merrily gamboled down the steps towards the gate when from somewhere up above I heard a voice - as dissonant with my state of mind as it was worried. The squatty Arab guy - one of the three - was looking down from the parapet and he seemed to be more agitated than before. "Sir, you left your bag..." - he repeated more questioningly than affirmatively, and the air around him suggested readiness to bolt at any moment.

"Dang, I really left my bag up there near the table," - was my first thought which sent chills down my stomach with the idea of possible aftereffects. As I turned on my heels the second thought enveloping me was about the legal and other consequences one might face at our uncertain times after leaving his luggage unattended while briskly skipping away from it. But the third one made me imagine the state of mind of those poor Arab guys in a not exactly friendly country after seeing a macho like myself, - full of beer and a tear in his eye, - hightailing it from a bag covertly left in a public place.

I wanted to ask the alarmist to throw my bag down to me, but thought better of it. As I passed the guys on the way back to my table, I wanted to crack a good one about the potency of this whole situation to scare the living sh*t outta anyone, but my dry tongue was soldered to the palate, and I only managed to mutter thanks through my wryly smiling lips.

As unexpected as it sounds, they fed us on board, again. The lard proved to be - once again - unneeded, and I had to give it to the covey of kids that flocked at the gates of the passenger depot, pressing their smutty faces against the steel wire of the fence.

Eating brave
Yesterday in a restaurant decided to show some originality and ordered a crocodile. It showed up on our table but partially, braised with bamboo shoots and mushrooms, said was very busy with other visits.
One co-eater of ours moved it around in the pot tentatively, observing the partial reptile with complex mixture of feelings and made a philosophical observation:
- Forgive me, brother, but I will eat thee now. For I could have been in thine place.
Here's a phrase to raise a man's spirits talking to his repast. Beats the socks off the act of talking to your prosaic chicken mcnuggets.

Quiet American, Arrogant American
A stuffing firm in Illinois posted an ad for a tech writer - with a twist that made some people wince.

Among other requirements, it was suggested that 'arrogant Americans' will not work well in this role. (Besides, a potential candidate should be respectful and understand Chinese culture - a definite edge for me!).
Full text of the adCollapse )

 An official said: "I think a jury could reasonably conclude that there's already a predisposition [by the firm] that Americans are arrogant," she said. "That's like saying ditzy blondes need not apply."

Here's one way looking at it. Another is - perhaps an arrogant American would indeed not thrive in this position. On the other hand, a respectful American would.  : )  Likewise, who wants ditzy blondes? Sexy and professional ones should be welcome though. A blonde with a level-headed self-respect should not get offended I guess, because it is not reasonable to associate oneself with all the people who share one (or two, if she's a US blonde) traits - but are different in all other respects, incl. job qualifications.

Now, where do I apply, there was no contact info in that ad... Even though I am not a blond.

What women want
I vowed to write often but alas - the life that might be interesting for others from far far away have sucked me in and on very few occasions let me off the hook to draw in a gasp of arguably fresh south China air to only plunge back into the tenacious routine again. Ahem. So, I am translating a book on Burmese literature, it is interesting but at times stupefying - with the Tolstoy-esque twenty-line long compund-and-complex sentences of the Russian academic parlance and names like Levetoundar-amaji U M'ya San or princess Poupp'ha. But it is about Burmese poetry and I again took up the poetic quill, even though the client asked to only give non-poetic translation of verses.

But l still manage to register the life that goes on around me, and here are some snapshot-like tableaux.

1. My wife is learning to drive. Our first lesson - I taught her about the clutch, gas and brake. We started in an unexpectedly smooth way, gaining speed, and rushing through the deserted campus lanes. I was amazed, until my wife squeezed through her excitedly tense lips - so what do you do when you want to stop? It's a classic, yes, but then I suddenly realized that she was doing exactly what you do when you want to have a certain result but don't know the means, so you keep doing the few things you know - with an increased effort. She was revving it up in a desperate desire to change the situation. Poor girl. We managed to stop without much stress or otherwise unpleasant outcome.

2. Having a go at being a trilingual, my wife practices in a mix of languages. After rapping in English to me, he suddenly goes - Die! Die! Not being sure whether I deserved it, but absolutely sure that I was the intended recipient of that interjection, I stood there, perplexed,until it dawned on me that it is Russian [dai] - 'give (me)'. Relieved, I reshuffled my picture of the world, happy that I wouldn't have to make too many changes to it, and gladly gave what was asked of me. (Note to self: work on her accents)

3. While I was typing away at the Burmese literature, I asked my wife to make some sandwiches and tea, and voila! - it appeared on my table. You are great! - say I, indeed being eternally grateful. You only say it because of what I did just this once. - replied my wife. Trying to come to grips with the challenge of figuring out what's wrong with being thankful for an act of kindness and showing it, I made a conclusion that the female logic had yet again revealed itself in the dialectical twist called "appreciation for nothing in particular (i.e everything) vs. getting appreciated for particular actions". In other words, you have to show you appreciation always, not only in relation to actual deeds. You got it. Now every time I thank her or make another comment, I chase it with something absolute, general and universal - like this: 
"I appreciate you - unconditionally", "Thank you for being kind today - for no reason", and - somehow it sounded appropriate linguistically: "Thank you - unreasonably". The last one somehow didn't cut it, despite my best efforts at universality. What do women want? - here's an enigma, which even Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt cannot answer... - but that was a good movie anyway.