1st Week of School

1st Week of School

We woke early Monday morning  (8am) to get to the IUM which is 2 metro stops away, and then about a 10 minute walk. My first class was Basic Algebra at 930. I’m auditing this class to review what I learned last semester; plus, the professor, Igor Vladimirovich Artamkin, is pretty cool and the problems are fun. I got my first taste at 3 hour classes. At least they are only once a week. That’s the ‘Russian’ style apparently. Then lunch at 1300 in the cafeteria and then back to the dorm to hang out. We’ve been to this class twice now, and the professor has worn the same brown/tan polo. It’s a legit shirt but I dunno, he only sees us once a week. He could rotate his wardrobe a bit. (At least I know the professors are somewhat like some in the usa). Then we went back to school for the crash course in Russian language. Even though I’m taking the actual class, I thought it would speed up my learning a bit, and it has a little. This course is only 1.5 hours.

Tuesday came a little later (class at 1115) with Russian Language 1, but I chose to wake up and go for a short run with Mike before class. We ran back to the monument park with the spire and then back. Still no bike. Our teacher looks like someone our age and barely speaks english. Between her mistakes and ours, we have a pretty good time and it is forcing us to communicate more in Russian. We found out at next Russian class (Thursday) that we have two teachers, and the other one is just as fun but speaks better english. After lunch some of us, those in Complex Analysis, met the Cowboy. At least that’s what we call him. His name is Sergei Mikhajlovich L’vovski and he has a shaved/bald head with a goatee. His hanging gut together with the jeans and flannel shirt he wore tempted us to visualize the cowboy hat atop his head as he turned back and forth from the board explaining how the complex plane worked. The only thing that made him cooler was that he says “Very Nice,” exactly the same way Sasha Cohen says it in the movie Borat. We have started a counter on this quote, and he is at an average of 7 a day. Crash Course again after this class and so I arrived wiped back at the dorm having spent most of my waking hours at school.

Wednesday is my longest day. Topology in the morning and Advanced Algebra in the afternoon. Our Topology teacher Victor Vassilievich Prasolov is boring and pauses for 30 seconds at a time in between sentences. I appreciated this at first because I was taking notes, but then I realized he was just reciting his ‘book’ that we bought, which consisted of his lecture notes. He is unlike Alex Paulin, my algebra teacher last semester, who also gave us the lecture notes before class and then went over them during class, but was engaging, funny, and basically convinced me to love algebra. I’m thinking this isn’t going to be the case with Topology. We had a more traditional Russian style in this class, as the lecture was 1.5 hours and then a TA (GSI) came in halfway to do “problem session” with us for the next 1.5 hours. Unfortunately, this meant we each work individually and then show him our answers. Since then, we have managed to work together somewhat and help each other which in my opinion helps us learn more. I got in an argument with Vladimir (TA) the first day as he said I shouldn’t use the new definition of continuity to solve this problem as it was harder to solve using it than the traditional epsilon delta definition. I tried to explain that by solving it with the new definition, I would learn how the definition worked…it didn’t get across to him. But he’s gotten more sociable and agreeable in the subsequent classes.

After lunch 3 of us joined Pavel Ivanovich Katsylo for Algebra. After telling us his grading scheme, he gives us a cd with his algebra book on it, as well as some math programs, and about twenty other math books he thinks would be useful for us. I guess pirating in Russia is pretty lenient. The grading scheme is as follows: He gives us the final exam the first day of class. There are 71 problems. They are the homework for the semester as well. Then, at the start of the final, we declare how many we can solve, if we say above 64 then the maximum we can get is an A, if we declare 57-63 the maximum we get is a B. Of the problems we declare he chooses 3 of them for us to present on the blackboard. If we get all right, he gives us our grade (from what we declared). For every problem that is wrong, he lowers our grade one letter. Here’s the catch, we are allowed to use ALL our notes and work from the semester during the final. So we solve as many of these problems during the semester as we can, type them up and print them out to bring them to the final. What this means it that the problems are hard. Here is an example of a problem from Group Theory:

Suppose |G| = 4m + 2. Prove that G is non-simple. ie there exists a non trivial normal subgroup N in G.

We proved this in class. Apparently if you put 4m + 2 = 2(2m +1) and then just prove it for (2m+1) because the proof of 2(2m + 1) is included within the (2m + 1) proof, it takes 200 pages before the claim is proven. Glad we don’t have to do that.

Since this first class, I’ve liked this class more and more and it is now probably my favorite class here. We just learned the Sylow Theorems this week (3rd week) and proved the first 2 statements.

Anyway, since I had spent 6 hours in class already, I ditched the crash course and never went back. Instead I went walking around the city with Ester, Michael Donatz, and Lenny. We were trying to find a sheet music store to get music for my piano lesson tomorrow as well as michael’s lesson tomorrow. We found the shop, but it was closed. So Ester showed us some of the sights:

This is Patriarch Pond. Near the music store which is located near Chaikovsky Conservatory. These are all near the Garden Ring, which is one of my favorite parts of the city.

This is Patriarch Pond. Near the music store which is located near Chaikovsky Conservatory. These are all near the Garden Ring, which is one of my favorite parts of the city.

Then we went out to a cafe, and even though we had a local Russian with us, the order got screwed up and Lenny got some fish filet crepe thing and he’s allergic. They made us pay for it anyway but whatever, we never went back.

Thursday Morning I went for a run again and then went to Russian Language class. Afterward I headed out to the music store to buy some sheet music. They didn’t have a lot of choice in editions but even so, a Barenreiter copy of Rachmaninoff’s Preludes cost me only $25. So I picked up the etudes as well. Got the Skriabin Sonatas, Prokofiev Sonatas, and Chaikovsky Seasons too. I navigated my way back to the piano teacher’s house (we had a consultation guided by Ester previously in the week) and made it in time for my lesson. She doesn’t speak much english so it made it difficult to communicate at first. But I’ve noticed that two things go in our favor. One, Italian is the language of music (western classical) and so we were fine there, and because the common words we knew were few, it made it really easy to understand her comments, like: “Brutal hands here, relax!” (Her piano was the first I’d touched in two weeks. Also, I do need to work on relaxing when I play to avoid harsh tone, so we’re working on that)

We decided to work on these pieces:

Schubert Impromptu Op.142 No.3 I had started this with my piano teacher at Berkeley. I don’t really like Horowitz’s interpretation but it’s the best I could find. If you can listen to Murray Perahia’s performance. It wasn’t on youtube though.

Rachmaninov Prelude Op.32 No.5: Horowitz Ashkenazy These are the first recordings I’ve heard (I don’t usually listen until I’m farther on in the piece) but I like Ashkenazy’s interpretation better. When my teacher, Tatyana, played it for me, I was awed at how beautiful Rachmaninov could be. I had no idea; I had not heard many of his pieces at all. She said we could start this prelude next: Prelude Op23 No4 (I chose Richter’s as Ashkenazy’s was a little more muddled) or we could do an etude. I’m torn.

Chaikovsky Seasons: June – Barcarolle I’m listening to Pletnev play this right now for the first time but I like it so far.

And then of course I’m continuing to play the Chopin Berceuse and Nocturne Op.62 No.1 (Pollini is just a little too fast) whenever I get to try out a new piano. Like when I dropped into the C. Bechstein piano store. Ester wanted to hear me play something so I played the Berceuse. The piano in there was amazing. It felt like touching my fingertips into glassy water; I could see how I affected every little detail, but comfortably. It wasn’t like it was too harsh or revealing. It was warm and smooth (just wish I had practiced more beforehand) (and that the lower bass had just a little more tone). The black keys had sort of a texture to them also. Instead of slipping off them when my hands were moist, (not that I was sweating profusely or anything) they absorbed it and gave extra grip.

Friday I only had Russian Language class again. But that evening, Chris’s friend Evgeny invited some of us to his friend’s birthday bbq over near Moscow State University at Sparrow Hills. So we took the subway there and got out at Vorobiyovy Gory Station:

Vorobiyovy Gory Station, over the River.

Vorobiyovy Gory Station, over the River.

It was a very pretty station with a nice view. The BBQ was fun. It ended with Austin becoming so drunk, that when the Russians led us through a short cut (an old cobblestone pathway 3 ft wide with a 50 degree slanted hill downward next to it) so we could make the metro before it closed at 1am, he slipped off the cobblestones and went head over heels down the hill. Chris and I thereby proceeded to keel over and laugh uncontrollably as every time Austin became right-side up he would flail and then slip, and since he was drunk, his reaction times were super slow. It got even funnier when the Russian with us jumped after him like Austin had fallen into a shark tank. Then the Russian started falling and they slid all the way down to the road, where we wanted to go in the first place. Nobody was hurt, it was soft dirt and grass along the hill. But we did get a good laugh.

Here are a couple more shots of my dorm so you can get a better look of what it looks like. Maybe interior shots will come later:

The back of the dorm. My window is down on the right second floor up. But I haven't counted to see which exactly.

The back of the dorm. My window is down on the right second floor up. But I haven’t counted to see which exactly.

The entrance to our dorm lies to the left with the overhang. Austin leading the way.

The entrance to our dorm lies to the left with the overhang. Austin leading the way.

I do believe this is the most I’ve written in one post. So I will stop now. Tomorrow I hope to put the Moscow Bus tour photos up and then by the end of this weekend I hope to put the St. Petersburg trip up. I took almost 600 photos while I was there. So I will post the trip in 3 parts. Last thing, how cool is this: I’m currently remotely connected (remote desktop) to my sister’s computer who is running windows xp so I can clean it, while I’m running Mac OSX and I’m google-video chatting with my mom, dog, and cat on the computer next to my sister’s. I feel like this is cheating the whole “study-abroad” thing because I’m virtually at home. My mom could walk the laptop around the house and it’d be like I was there. Sort of. Anyway, time to sleep.

4 Responsesto “1st Week of School”

  1. jennifer muraoka says:

    Love hearing about your days. Eeek, really busy. I wouldn’t mind learning Russian. Aleutian Islanders, whom they subjugated and almost totally killed off, described them as sounding like men who talked with their mouths filled with rocks….Hoping your language study is going well. “Brutal hands”, funny.

  2. Servando says:

    Dude that Alg course with the final being given da 1st day sounds like a bizzie!

  3. lebca says:

    yea I’m behind in that class. I gotta study more on that. But that means sacrificing time running, playing the piano, sleeping, or touring the city. Doesn’t look like I have any options.

  4. LebCa says:

    Yea it’s still pretty busy. Russian is great fun. I’m liking the language although sometimes I’ll be listening to a conversation between 2 Russians, like today’s with Tanya and the coat woman, and I was thinking the whole time that the lady was getting mad at us. Then, afterward, Tanya says, “Wow, that lady was really nice.” (not sarcastically at all) So obviously, I still have a lot to learn about tone of speaking over here. I guess it sometimes sounds like they have rocks in their mouths, but it sounds cool too. Yeah, ‘brutal’ has become part of our conversation vocabulary since we both have agreed on a definition of it. But those original passages that she said I had played brutally, are not played brutally by me now. 🙂

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