THE OMEGA

Navid Sadjadi

810107-1313

XXIII Thermidor CCXXVI

As the program draws to a conclusion, the contrast betwixt the initial entrance and final days becomes quite clear in the subject of both our comprehension of the Russian language as well as the social and emotional connections which were established during the duration of the trip. This contrast displays a positive correlation of the content of these subjects with time. From this development, I predict, will come great influence upon the behavior of each of us in the future. This in conjunction with our reactions to these influences on our behavior will lead to a synthesized end-product that we can call progress.

However, we should remain wary of the prospect of exaggerated emotional attachment which may lead to sentimentalism or even ghastly lamentation in the future. Attachment to memories is weakness and memories should serve the purpose of (amongst other things) entrenching anticipated behavioral improvements. We must resist the temptation to become nostalgic with our mental discipline—our iron will, iron hearts, souls of stone, and minds of steel.

Certainly, all are not afflicted by such sentimentality and express enthusiasm at returning. For them my concern lies not with the immediate future but with the long-term. Still there are those about whom even this cannot be said, for whom the shock of dramatic change will be the primary source of dissatisfaction. But for both groups I maintain that the most healthy practice is to keep upfront the instrumentality of emotional mental states with respect to memories of events. And of those who are not afflicted at all, then I have no consultation for there is no illness to treat.

In any case, the synthesized state of progress will inevitably follow from our experiences, and so, with or without suffering as a consequence of sentimentality, there will be an advancement of personal behavioral dispositions overall.

I would like to express my utmost gratitude to the administrators, instructors, and peers of this program. Whilst I would not classify myself as superstitious, I must say that approximately two to three weeks prior to arriving in Tallinn for this program, I had several dreams in which I had missed my flight or some other misfortunes had occurred. I am glad to see that my intuition regarding the inconsistency of bad omens in predicting potential misfortunes has been vindicated, for there have been no problems, no missed flights or other misfortunes—only bliss and Dionysian intoxication at the condition of existence.

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So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

It’s difficult to express just how quickly the past two months have flown by. In just a few hours, we’ll be getting on the bus to go back home, and I feel like I just got here. With that being said, I still have a lot of clothes to hastily shove in my suitcase, so for your sake and mine, I’ll try to keep it short.

If you had met me a year ago, I never thought I’d be studying Russian, let alone flying to eastern Estonia for two months for an intensive summer course. And yet I am so glad that’s where I ended up. They say the rationale for sending you to another country to study a language is to give you more exposure, and while that’s certainly part of it, after two months here I’ve come to realize that there’s another, more important reason for leaving home and becoming a guest for a month or two in a foreign country – we didn’t come to Narva just to understand the animate nominative case better, we came to experience language as a bridge and a tool to build connections. Whether I was playing table tennis with kids at Matveika, chatting with Father Grzegorz at the local Catholic church, or just enjoying the river with our teacher Oksana, Russian wasn’t the end goal, but a path to build a relationship and experience life from a different point of view.

When I look back on my time here in Narva, I may not be able to remember all the vocabulary terms or conjugate perfectly, but I will hold on to those relationships I made with the people of Narva, who opened their doors to us (and their kitchens, with lots of seafood, of course!), and with my teachers and fellow students here, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of spending my summer. If you’re still on the fence about applying or committing to this program, do it! Make Narva your home for two months, discover for yourself the connections you make, and I promise you, you won’t regret it.

I’ll end with some words Oksana shared with the kids on our last day at Matveika:

“When we came here, we were strangers in a foreign land with a foreign language. It was difficult and scary at times. You welcomed us, and after two months we feel as if this is our city, our language, our family. And we will never forget you!”

Final Thoughts

Hey all!

It has been almost eight weeks since I left the United States and arrived in Narva, Estonia. Time has absolutely flown by. I can’t believe our last day is tomorrow (today, actually…).

It has been an adventure. I have met some amazing people and have had many new experiences, and have gotten to travel not only all around Estonia, but to Latvia and Finland as well!

With every new adventure, there emerges a learning curve, accompanied by hindsight. Like many of my peers, this had been my first time overseas, my first time out of the contiguous United States. From my time in Narva, I have some advice for all of you prospective Project GO Narva 2019 students:

  1. Accept that your blog posts will most likely be turned in late. 
  2. Take advantage of the fact that you are living in a town that has a 95% Russian speaking population. Go out and walk around the town, and don’t be afraid to talk to people. If you happen to see a bird and you don’t know what it is called in Russian, and you see an older woman sitting on a bench nearby, totally walk up to her and ask (what I have done, on several occasions). She will definitely indulge your questions.
  3. Learning a new language is an arduous process. Have patience and foresight! You may feel frustrated and exhausted at times, but your language skills will have drastically improved by the end of the program. 
  4. Go to Matvieka! The kids are absolutely amazing, adorable, and it is so fun running around and playing with them. It is also a great opportunity to practice your Russian speaking skills (and to spend your time doing something that is good for your soul). The kids are very honest and not afraid to correct you. You will also definitely learn some Russian slang.
  5. Traverse Tartu looking for street art. The city is covered with the works of talented artists, and it is worth the time spent looking for them. Whose work do some of the pictures remind you of?
  6. Have fun and maintain a balance in all aspects of your life. Enjoy your time here and the people you meet and the relationships you have forged. The end comes before you know it!
  7. Buy a bicycle during the first week. I walked and ran everywhere, but riding a bike around Narva would have been awesome. Pro tip right there.

It has been an absolute privilege to be a part of this program and experience life living in another country. The best advice I can give you is to use this opportunity to achieve your specific language goals. This is a program that is designed to challenge you and put you outside of your comfort zone with Russian, allowing you to obtain a heightened level of maneuverability and confidence with the language. This may sound scripted and cliche, but I 100% mean it. Believe me, I am leaving this program with a confidence in Russian that I did not possess beforehand. 

So get excited to come to Narva, Estonia! You are in for eight weeks of both challenges and adventures, and new friendships and experiences. The eight weeks will pass by faster than you know 😊.

– Lexi Natasha Mattson

Ball is Life

I do apologize for turning this in late; however, because I forgot I was able to write more about something that really meant a lot to me these past weeks: basketball. No, I am not just talking about the game, but the people I met just by playing the game. When Arik told us about the basketball game during lunch, I didn’t think much about it. Basketball is cool, but I don’t play it that often. Some of the students were really excited about the game, and they wanted to play after class. I decided to try it out, and it was a lot of fun.

We held practice once a week, and it was something I looked forward to. I saw us getting better at our shots, and we also built a decent amount of teamwork. Some days one of us got hit in the face with the ball or accidentally punched in the nose, but we all maintained great sportsmanship. Each practice always ended in content. When the game day came, I wasn’t nervous at all. We all wanted to win, but most importantly we wanted to have fun. The other team won, but our team gave it our all. I am glad  that I was able to be a part of such a great team; it will be something that I will never forget about my experience in Narva.

The things I’ll miss

It’s hard to believe that we’re almost done with the program.  While my impulse is to say something along the lines of “I feel like I just got here yesterday!”, upon further thought, that would be very, very untrue.  We’ve been here for a while.  When I think about that first weekend excursion to Riga, our first time hanging out with each other outside of the classroom (and without the teachers and administrators), it almost feels like that was a different program entirely.  When we first got here we barely knew each other.  And for the most part, we barely knew Russian.  At least, I didn’t.  After these long eight weeks, it’s nice to see that both facts have changed for the better.

As I think about the coming onslaught of evaluations and tests this week, and beyond that, the sweet, sweet return to our favorite restaurants back home, I do feel a little pang of sadness.  Not just because these coming tests will really suck, but because I don’t know if I’ll ever return to Narva, or even Estonia after I’m done.  This city and this country has been good to me, not just in the big moments of craziness like our trips to Tallinn, but in the comfortable minutiae of everyday life.  Walking to school every morning across the field of unkempt grass and feisty pigeons, crouching through the little hole in the fence (which, as of last week, seems to have been busted open by a car); staring at all the dogs, cats, and babushkas on the street, bracing slightly as cars barely wait for you to finish crossing; admiring the way light filters through the trees above or glimmers off the river surface, made iridescent by the glow of RoRo and Ivangorod… Of course, there are plenty of annoying things here too, like all the wasps everywhere, but I’m going to go ahead and repress those from my memory.

-Jong Su Kim

Пока, Нарва!

We have less than a week left in Narva! I honestly didn’t think that time would fly by so quickly. 

I certainly didn’t expect to cover and entire textbook so quickly either, but somehow we managed to do so! Whether or not I remember most of it is another story. 

Class wasn’t always easy and at times was incredibly frustrating, but with Tsvetelina it was always enjoyable. We love her.  

I leave with the new vocab of творог, замок, и чёрный хлеб forever stuck in my mind (hopefully they’ll be useful!)

I’ve learned to love singing class, and we can all sign songs together, which we struggled to pronounce the first few weeks. I will definitely miss dancing to трава у дома. 

Outside of the classroom, we tested our Russian as well. There is something to be said for the little history of correctly ordering food or checking out at a store in Russian. It’s really exciting to be able to do those simple things, which I wouldn’t have been able to do so well a few weeks ago. 

A group of us even went to see Incredibles 2 in russian, and it was really cool to see and understand a film we were all so excited about in russian. We’ve seen other Russian films as well. And I (sometimes (rarely)) understood those too.

These tiny victories of understanding people on the street or in a store have been really rewarding. However, the moments I am left utterly confused while someone yells at me in Russian or tries to describe indigenous plants in a bog remind me that I have along way to go. 

I am going to miss Narva and being able to use my Russia, but that certainly won’t stop after this. Hopefully, some day I’ll be able to come back here or another Russian speaking place.

Most of all, I’ll miss the friends of made here. (But not to worry you can find us on finsta!)811770F8-9A16-418C-8BCF-544A945AB4A5.jpeg

Пока Нарва!!

Я начал изучать русский язык семь лет назад. Мой любимый способ изучения – это музыка

You can find me at Ro-Ro raving about how learning a second language gives you a second life, or better yet, a second soul. I’ve said it so many times now that it almost feels cliché. But I think there’s a lot of truth to it. A language is a way of making your experiences of the world around you concrete. It shapes your perceptions of the world and guides the course of your thoughts. In these ways, your second language can make you feel like another person in the same body. So, if there is another soul in me, then it was born when I started studying Russian.

I tried to start learning my second language through music. There weren’t a lot of options for me at first to start, so I searched the internet for whatever I could find. A couple YouTube searches later, and I found the song «Сколько» by Lumen. I couldn’t understand a single word of it, but it became my favorite song right away. If learning a second language truly blesses you with a second life and a second soul, then mine was born in this moment. I translated the lyrics and watched the music video and started to piece together what the song was about. It’s a sad song, with lyrics that are so dense, that I still don’t understand it entirely. But in the years I’ve studied Russian, I started to truly empathize with the text. Lumen remains my favorite band to this day. The phrases in their songs help me form my thoughts and anchor the language to something, which really gives meaning to this second life I’ve been trying to live.

We have a weekly singing class here on our program in Narva. Maybe not everyone loves the music, but we can all get at least something out of the experience. In the end though, it’s what we make of it and take back with us that makes the difference. And I’ll be bringing back a lot.