So I’ve been in Irkutsk (the “Paris of Eastern Siberia”) for about a week now, but it feels as though I’ve been here for a month. I arrived last Friday, after about three weeks of traveling that took me from Middlebury to New York, Vienna, Bratislava, Brno, Prague, Nuremberg, Munich, Garmisch-Patenkirchen, back to Vienna, and then to Moscow, before finally arriving in Irkutsk, the land of high heels and fishnet stockings, fashion mullet/rat-tail type things, extra seams and pockets on pants, and all things sparkly.
I slept off most of the jetlag on Friday after meeting my 27-year-old “host-mom” Sasha, and things have been going great so far. I’ve stopped stepping on and/or falling on people in the Marshrutkas (a Russian van transport system), the city’s been pretty easy to get around in so far, and I’ve already noticed a significant deterioration in my English (sorry to any of my former English teachers who might be reading this). Everything’s pretty disorganized, and school is no exception. Classes started on Tuesday after hours of testing on Monday, and it looks like the Middlebury classes are going to be pretty good (grammar, speech practice, Russian lit, Soviet history, and Baikal studies).
So far no culture shock, and adaptation has been pretty easy, especially since my good friend Nastya’s over here (an Irkutsk native who was the Russian TA at Midd last year and who I lived with in the Russian House). She's even introduced me to the Siberian version of Tex-Mex, which I must say is quite tasty.
More on Irkutsk later, hopefully with some pictures. Gotta go watch some Siberians dance Salsa on the bank of the Angara River.