Effectively Using Caption Pop Without Popping My Wallet

If you are a byedniye chilovek (poor guy) like me, here is how you can exploit the features on Caption Pop or for that matter on any site without going premium.

no_premium

Caption Pop presents an effective way to navigate subtitles from a video on Youtube.

Basically, we will use Crow Translate, which takes the highlighted text and presents the tranlation in a pop-up window.

https://github.com/crow-translate/crow-translate

Let’s begin by installing it:

1.) Download the .deb file using the following link:

DOWNLOAD

2.) Open the .deb file with ‘software install’ and install it.

3.) Enjoy!

Let’s have a look at how it works. We take a video, for which there are no English subtitles. Usually for Russian to English, Yandex Translate is highly effective and accurate.

Step 1: Open Caption Pop with a video having Russian subtitles.

Step 2: Highlight the text in the subtitle and press Ctrl + Alt + E – Translate selected text automatically

Nice

Alternatively, you can also turn on Google Translate within the video itself and read the translation (but this won’t show Yandex translation, obviously).

no_problem

I hope this was useful. 🙂

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Phonetic Keyboards in Russian, Hindi and Persian

Typing is a crucial step in connecting with the language. The search results for contents are better when typed in the native language and script. All of this motivated me to learn to type in native scripts. However…

Learning a new keyboard layout is a tiring process. It takes a lot of practice. But I consider this kind of practice as useless effort. Phonetic keyboards take advantage of knowledge of English Phonemes mapped roughly onto the target language. In my case it’s Russian and Hindi.

Before I knew ibus keyboards I had to use quillpad to type in hindi. Which is sweet and all, but hectic to first type in quillpad box and then copy paste into the desired text field. And there are many things that I simply cannot type beautifully in Hindi using quillpad.

[Check this post for quick installation of iBus keyboard.]

Ultimately I was able to get used to Russian Phonetic and Hindi KaGaPa style keyboard. Both of these can be quickly installed using these steps:

1.) Go to Region and Language settings

2.) Select the language. In my case I selected Russian.

3.) Select the phonetic version of the given language.

Steps are the same for Hindi KaGaPa keyboard.

The keyboard layouts can be switched easily by pressing windows/ super key + space.

Each time space is pressed with super key, the keyboard layout will shift to the next one.

switch

***

Typing in Russian

Because I am already fluent with typing in English. This one is handy. Earlier, I was using Bulgarian Phonetic keyboard to type, because it made sense to me. The problem is I can’t find the characters ё and ы. For typing these, I had to switch to Russian keyboard anyways.

Apart from the usual rules:

ё is typed using shift + 3

Ё using shift + 4

ю using ~

Ь мягкий знак soft sign (myekiiznak) using x

Ъ твердый знакhard sign (tvordiznak) using shift + 5 (lowercase) or (for uppercase)

й is using j for the reason that j is pronounced as ya in German.

ч using the + key

and, ж is typed using v, for no reason at all.

Так, окей, сейчас ты хочешь супер быстро печатать на русском языке. Это отличный метод.

***

For hindi the Hindi KaGaPa keyboard is straight forward. There are two decent features.

1.) In order to make half a character you can press the character key with f

key + f = half of the character

2.) To access other special characters use right alt + character.

Right alt + character = special character of that key

Typing using this keyboard needs some practice, but it is logical and fast.

हिंदी में लिखना अब काफि सरल हो गया है।

Something is wrong here because even though I can write फिर, technically it is wrong because it takes the urdufied version of the letter and should be written as फ़िर. To make it proper we just use right alt key along with the desired character.

बिलाआख़िर (finally) आप उरदु में भी लिख सकते हैं!

पूर्ण विराम लगाने के लिये दाईं अल्ट-की दबा कर बैक स्लैश दबाएं ।

To put the full stop use right alt + back slash (\).

वैरी स्वीट।

To type press shift + right alt + e. Many characters such as ढ़ ऌ ॐ (shift + right alt + m) are typed using this.

***

Typing in Persian

For this, I use the Persian keyboard with numerals.

من مرینال هستم

من دوچرخه را دوست دارم

Someone has put in good effort to make this layout. I wholeheartedly thank them [Behnam Esfahbod].  Please maintain the credits. 🙂

Steps to install this keyboard:

Step 0: We are going to create a new symbols layout. To do that we go to xkb directory.

cd /usr/share/X11/xkb

Now we make a backup of ir symbols file in case things go wrong. And create a new symbols file fs (farsi).

sudo cp symbols/ir symbols/nir

sudo gedit /symbols/fs

Step 1:

And paste this all the way upto Kurdish section of the file.

// Replace all the way up to the Kurdish section of the file
// Iranian keyboard layout
////////////////////////////////////////
// Persian layout,
// based on
// Information Technology – Layout of Persian Letters and Symbols on Computer Keyboards
// ISIRI 9147 – 1st Edition
// Institute of Standards and Industrial Research of Iran
// http://www.isiri.org/UserStd/DownloadStd.aspx?id=9147
// http://behnam.esfahbod.info/standards/i … d-9147.pdf
//
// Author: Behnam Esfahbod <behnam@esfahbod.info>
//

default partial alphanumeric_keys
xkb_symbols “pes” {
name[Group1]= “Persian”;

include “ir(pes_part_basic)”
include “ir(pes_part_ext)”

include “nbsp(zwnj2nb3nnb4)”
include “level3(ralt_switch)”
};

partial alphanumeric_keys
xkb_symbols “pes_keypad” {
name[Group1]= “Persian (with Persian keypad)”;

include “ir(pes_part_basic)”
include “ir(pes_part_ext)”
include “ir(pes_part_keypad)”

include “nbsp(zwnj2nb3nnb4)”
include “level3(ralt_switch)”
};

hidden partial alphanumeric_keys
xkb_symbols “pes_part_basic” {

// Persian digits
key <AE01> { [ Arabic_1, exclam, exclam ] }; // ١ ! !
key <AE02> { [ Arabic_2, at, at ] }; // ٢ @ @
key <AE03> { [ Arabic_3, numbersign, numbersign ] }; // ٣ # #
key <AE04> { [ Farsi_4, dollar, dollar ] }; // ۴ $ $
key <AE05> { [ Farsi_5, percent, percent ] }; // ۵ % %
key <AE06> { [ Farsi_6, asciicircum, asciicircum ] }; // ۶ ^ ^
key <AE07> { [ Arabic_7, ampersand, ampersand ] }; // ٧ & &
key <AE08> { [ Arabic_8, KP_Multiply, KP_Multiply ] }; // ٨ * *
key <AE09> { [ Arabic_9, Armenian_parenright, Armenian_parenright, Armenian_parenleft ] }; // ٩ ) ) (
key <AE10> { [ Farsi_0, Armenian_parenleft, Armenian_parenleft ] }; // ۰ ( (
key <AE11> { [ underbar, KP_Subtract, KP_Subtract ] }; // _ – –
key <AE12> { [ KP_Equal, KP_Add, KP_Add ] }; // = + +

// Persian letters and symbols
key <AD01> { [ Arabic_qaf, Arabic_ghain ] }; // ق غ غ
key <AD02> { [ Arabic_sheen, Arabic_ain ] }; // ش ع
key <AD03> { [ Arabic_ain ] }; // ع
key <AD04> { [ Arabic_ra ] }; // ر
key <AD05> { [ Arabic_teh ] }; // ت
key <AD06> { [ Farsi_yeh ] }; // ى
key <AD07> { [ Arabic_tah, Arabic_zah ] }; // ط ظ ظ
key <AD09> { [ Arabic_ain, Arabic_hamza ] }; // ع ء ء
key <AD10> { [ Arabic_peh ] }; // پ
key <AD11> { [ bracketright, braceleft ] }; // ] } {
key <AD12> { [ bracketleft, braceright ] }; // [ { }

key <AC01> { [ Arabic_alef, Arabic_maddaonalef, Arabic_maddaonalef ] }; // ا آ آ
key <AC02> { [ Arabic_seen, Arabic_sad ] }; // س ص ص
key <AC03> { [ Arabic_dal, Arabic_thal ] }; // د ذ ذ
key <AC04> { [ Arabic_feh ] }; // ف
key <AC05> { [ Arabic_gaf ] }; // گ
key <AC06> { [ Arabic_heh, Arabic_hah ] }; // ە ح ح
key <AC07> { [ Arabic_jeem, Arabic_jeh ] }; // ج ژ ژ
key <AC08> { [ Arabic_keheh ] }; // ک
key <AC09> { [ Arabic_lam ] }; // ل
key <AC10> { [ Arabic_semicolon, colon ] }; // ؛ : ։
key <AC11> { [ Arabic_comma, quotedbl, quotedbl ] }; // ، ” ”

key <AB01> { [ Arabic_zain, Arabic_dad, Arabic_dad ] }; // ز ض ض زخ
key <AB02> { [ Arabic_khah, U0603, U0602 ] }; // خ ؃ ؂
key <AB03> { [ Arabic_tcheh, Arabic_theh ] }; // چ ث
key <AB04> { [ Arabic_waw ] }; // ومممنننوووونن ن
key <AB05> { [ Arabic_beh ] };
key <AB06> { [ Arabic_noon ] }; // ن
key <AB07> { [ Arabic_meem ] }; // م
key <AB08> { [ comma, rightcaret, leftcaret ] }; // , > <
key <AB09> { [ period, leftcaret, rightcaret ] }; // . < >

key <AE11> { [ minus, underscore ] };
key <AE12> { [ equal, plus, 0x1002212 ] };
key <BKSL> { [ backslash, bar, 0x1002010 ] };
key <TLDE> { [ U02DC, UFDFC, UFDF2 ] }; // ˜ ﷼ ﷲ
};

hidden partial alphanumeric_keys
xkb_symbols “pes_part_ext” {

// Persian and ASCII digits
key <AE01> { [ Farsi_1, exclam, grave, 1 ] };
key <AE02> { [ Farsi_2, 0x100066c, at, 2 ] };
key <AE03> { [ Farsi_3, 0x100066b, numbersign, 3 ] };
key <AE04> { [ Farsi_4, 0x100fdfc, dollar, 4 ] };
key <AE05> { [ Farsi_5, 0x100066a, percent, 5 ] };
key <AE06> { [ Farsi_6, multiply, asciicircum, 6 ] };
key <AE07> { [ Farsi_7, Arabic_comma, ampersand, 7 ] };
key <AE08> { [ Farsi_8, asterisk, enfilledcircbullet, 8 ] };
key <AE09> { [ Farsi_9, parenright, 0x100200e, 9 ] };
key <AE10> { [ Farsi_0, parenleft, 0x100200f, 0 ] };
};

hidden partial alphanumeric_keys
xkb_symbols “pes_part_keypad” {

// Persian digits and Mathematical operators
key <KPDV> { [ division, XF86_Ungrab ] };
key <KPMU> { [ multiply, XF86_ClearGrab ] };
key <KPSU> { [ 0x1002212, XF86_Prev_VMode ] };
key <KPAD> { [ plus, XF86_Next_VMode ] };

key <KPEN> { [ KP_Enter ] };
key <KPEQ> { [ equal ] };

key <KP7> { [ KP_Home, Farsi_7 ] };
key <KP8> { [ KP_Up, Farsi_8 ] };
key <KP9> { [ KP_Prior, Farsi_9 ] };

key <KP4> { [ KP_Left, Farsi_4 ] };
key <KP5> { [ KP_Begin, Farsi_5 ] };
key <KP6> { [ KP_Right, Farsi_6 ] };

key <KP1> { [ KP_End, Farsi_1 ] };
key <KP2> { [ KP_Down, Farsi_2 ] };
key <KP3> { [ KP_Next, Farsi_3 ] };

key <KP0> { [ KP_Insert, Farsi_0 ] };
key <KPDL> { [ KP_Delete, 0x100066b ] };
};

Step 2: Finally, replace the ir file with this fs symbols file.

sudo cp symbols/fs symbols/ir

Now, you can see that the Phonetic Persian keyboard template has been changed.

phonetic_persian

I hope this was useful.

Happy typing! 🙂

My approach to the Russian language

Last year in September I made a bet with my classmate Natasha. I told her that I’d be speaking Russian in 3 months. There was no situation of win or lose per-se, it was a playful bet, and I was all pumped up for it.

Fast forward 3 months, all I could say was:

здравствуйте, как дела, всё хорошо, отлично, пока пока

так…

проста

и я не собирался никуда с этим небольшим знанием

The last sentence was an exaggeration. I can say that now, but not back then.

***

So I lost the bet by a significant margin. I realised that it is way easier to learn to read and write, or type (more on that later) than to actually perform live communication in a language. Duh! common sense, I didn’t have to loose a bet to realise that much right?

Anyways, I have tried many different approaches to Russian, just to figure out how to start learning it! Yes, just to begin with the language in the first place. For me, it is not necessary to actually learn Russian. Our program at ITMO is in English language, buy me being a language enthusiast can’t make the mistake of letting this brilliant opportunity to slip away. I am surrounded by Russians, every once in a while I get the opportunity to talk to complete strangers, whether I am on bicycle and people mistake me for just another Russian мальчик (mal-chick, please don’t interpret in Spanish). Their enthusiasm wavers a somewhat when I could only reply in my broken bits of Russian.

***

Russian language: Motivation

Russian is from Slavic branch of Indo European languages. Even though it is one of the latest languages of the family, it is mysteriously unique but at the same time shares ancient congnates with Sanskrit, and the one of the most preserved languages in the IE (Indo-European) group, Lithuanian.

 

Instead of writing about it, I’d just share some links:

https://www.rbth.com/blogs/2014/11/01/sanskrit_and_russian_ancient_kinship_39451

Russian people are surprised when they hear about this stuff, but for many Indians this is common knowledge. We know that Aryans came the central Eurasia (gross generalisation) but they share a lot of cultural similarities across the satum languages.

Not only that, but there are intresting Mythological one to one corresponding similarities between Vedic mythology and Norse mythology. The Norse God template seems like a derivation from Greek – Roman template, but it is functionally similar to the cousins Slavic – Lithuanian – Sanskrit template. More on this later. It’s too much to write about. But first, let me quickly comment upon gross division of IE languages.

Basically we have Hunden, Centum and Satum division of languages in IE group based on the number ‘hundred’.

Anglo-saxonic languages like German, English, Danish have hundred for 100.

Latin branch with French, Spanish, Italian etc. have cent for 100. Cien, ciento etc.

Satum branch with Slavic, Persian, and Hindustani have sau, shat for 100.

Not only that but these divisions also preserves some cultural similarities, and shared mythology. For example,

From Sanskrit, Dev – Pitr (God and father) -> Zeus – pater (Zeus father) -> Deu – pitar (Jupiter) going to Norse mythology as Thor. While in between the migration of these words, different adaptations have been made.

For example, my favorite… the transfer of goddess of knowledge, beauty, fertility etc. go from Saraswati to Ishtar to Ashtart to Aphrodite to Venus. All during the way merging together into one Goddess or separating into different Goddesses.

One culture similarity would be the celebrations during winter solstice. Since winter is a time of hardship, having endured it is a joyous celebrations. Check out the History_and_cultural_significance section on this Wiki page.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_solstice

***

Perfect, so the world is more connected than it seems. We are all brothers and sisters under a veil of ignorance. And Samadhi and Bodhisattva are real concepts. But where does that leads me on the path of language acquisition.

For me, the mere idea of similarity with Sanskrit is tantalizing. Knowing that we have such a shared bond in form of words, and memes/ cultural phenomena (no pun intended), is refreshing and motivating.

However, having a connected background with some shared cognates is not guaranteed to produce language fluency. My biggest hindrance with Russian is lack of juicy stuff to watch. And by juicy stuff I mean, raw cultural experience though art. Being predominantly an introvert, cinema, music, comics, and video games are the number one most important source of language acquisition for me, and probably a lot of people like me.

Some of the best movies of the world happen to be Russian, however, it is past. Modern Russian movies are stuck in a loop of wars, and patriotic love. While as glorious as it sounds, I would be really interested in raw human emotions. Portrayal of a military power and all is fine by me, but having an elaborate vocabulary of war strategy is not helpful at all.

I mean look at Korean, and Japanese languages. A lot of people gain fluency by watching a ton of Korean drama and Japanese anime. A cultural feast intertwined with entertainment. While I tried to sequester material, I could only find interesting music. And I am not really intrested in music that have intelligence level of dumb Spanish reggaeton (Spanish has a lot of brilliant music, but Reggaton is just dumb lyrics on a lit beat). So how exactly do I approach the Russian language in this situation.

***

In general, I have a variety of ways to keep myself in an immersive environment.

1.) Before even coming to Russia I had downloaded Google translate with offline Russian langauge pack.

The first thing I did was written a lot of cyrillic. Today, I am able to write in cursive Russian as well. But the key fact is that I have written a lot. Sentence after sentence, even though I had a rough idea of what I am writing, but I still chose to draw the letters until they become engrained within my brain. This is the same approach I used when I was learning the Arabic Nastaliq script, which is used to write Persian and Urdu. The idea is that once you become familiar with the writing script, things become easier. And you don’t fear the language as much otherwise.

2.) I also use my favorite reference English 2.0 dictionary for quick one to one reference translation for words.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=livio.pack.lang.en_US&hl=en_US

3.) I use caption pop to watch videos with English (UK) to Russian.

https://www.captionpop.com/

4.) I am using Greewood’s history of modern nations for Russian history

https://www.abebooks.com/9780313303937/History-Russia-Greenwood-Histories-Modern-0313303932/plp

Approach to the language itself

To be honest, I have tried a lot of different approaches just to find out what suits the best for Russian in this scenario. A fundamental realisation is that language learning is all about input. I make sure that foundationally I don’t get my basic syntaxes wrong.

I used the Michel Thomas method for Russian:

It gave me a quick flavour of the language.

For a reference grammar book I found two amazing books by the same author.

Finally, I am into standard translated sentences. For this I use 3000 reference sentences from Glossika.

https://ai.glossika.com/language/learn-russian

This is basically about drilling the syntaxes into head.

Here is a sample anki deck. I don’t own it. Anki is basically a flash card system, it is used for efficient rote memorisation.

https://ankiweb.net/shared/info/2029878795

***

Final notes

So as I described earlier, after struggling a lot I found the above method useful for Russian. Since I don’t have movies to watch, I’d rather watch interviews, advertisements, music videos on Caption pop with Russian translations. I prefer to use only standard translations i.e. the translations provided by the video owner themselves. Additionally, captionpop can be used to view language instruction videos, where it is immensely helpful. Additionally, I make use of the google translate’s speech feature to listen to a rough pronounciation of the Russian sentences.

For me time is a constraint. I am only a hobbyist when it comes to languages, and primarily spend my time in Biology, and programming. This method is perfect for me to practice during study breaks, or general leisure time. Let’s see if this approach, which resonates with me well, is a success or failure in the end.

Typing in Russian

Since I don’t have the time and effort to get used to Russian keyboard layout. I have become a big fan of phonetic typing. It is the ability to render the phonetic sounds of one language to those in another language. In simple words, if I type Privet in English, it should be displayed as привет (Cyrillic).

Here is a post describing how to do this in Windows and Linux.

http://mkrd.info/computer-software-related-articles/linux-2/adding-russian-phonetic-yazhert-keyboard-to-linux.html

But I have a neat trick up my sleeve.

I don’t know when a phonetic keyboard for Russian will come out (that actually makes sense). In my case, I just use Phonetic Bulgarian along with Standard Russian keyboard. The phonetic Bulgarian has all the letters except ё (yo). For which I just quickly switch to Russian keyboard and press ? button. Then I switch back to Bulgarian keyboard and resume typing in Russian. The problem is that sometimes there might be spelling mistakes according to spell check, in this case, I just quickly paste a spelling  in google translate, which displays to me a correct form. It’s a work around. But it’s not like I have to type in Russian all the time. 🙂

I will share my progress. Let’s see where this approach is heading towards.

йо бро! (yo bro!)

пхонетик руссиан то тхе го! (phonetic russian to the go!)

Some Memorable Experiences in Saint Petersburg 2018-19

Saint Petersburg (SPB) is a city right out of fairy tales. It’s clean, presentable, and majestic. I mean just look at this!

 

 

Since I don’t usually get the time to write these kinds of posts. I will solely depend upon my memory to write down some of the most memorable experiences I had, as a student, as a person who has never stepped outside India for such a long time (about 10 months).

Memories are important, and must be cherished because eventually these sum up, and we try to find the best narrative to give meaning to our lives. No memory, no narrative. The good thing is, I use poetry as an tool for memory. During my stay, I captured how I felt in the moment by registering my thoughts in either English or Spanish. These help me remember everything like a FHD movie playing in my head preserving all the raw emotions, and senses involved.

 

 

 

View this post on Instagram

My favorite building in Lomonosova :'))

A post shared by Mrinal Vashisth (@mrinal_manu) on

♢♢ ____ ♢♢ ____ ♢♢ ____ ♢♢ ____ ♢♢

First Few Days: The Giveaway, October 2 – 10, 2018

The intial days are the toughest, you come to a foreign land, not knowing how it will all work out, but it does. I arrived at SPB on 2nd of October. It was a good flight, the moment I exited the plane, I went straight for the baggage. I had brought few clothes, my bicycle, and my cabin bagpack with me. I hadn’t know at that time that we can do a Yandex taxi for 600 Rubles. I ended up spending 2400 Rubels or a private taxi outside the airport. This is the most expensive taxi I have ever taken. I asked the taxi driver to take me to ITMO guest house, somewhere near Petrogradskaya.

I used google translate to communicate. I remembered asking the driver an extraordinarily stupid question, “Is everyone rich here?”. He looked at me in surprise, took my permission to smoke a cigarette and asked me why I thought everyone was rich. I replied, “Well the city is so beautiful, and the taxi is so expensive.” He smiled a bit and politely communicated through translator telling me that, ‘it is all a show’. He spoke the words of wisdom. He dropped me off the guest house, returned me 100 Rubles from the initial 2500 Rub agreed upon fare, shook my hands and drove away. That’s my first memory of SPB.

Two days fast forward. October 4, 2018

I got to meet my classmates. I cannot write the entire description, because it was a rapid introduction session, with everyone firing their names. They are kind, and smart people. Well rooted in the ground. Just the kind I like. If I were to write about any person, describing exactly how they are from my eyes, I have to write probably a book. This involves continuous accumulation of data, which involves every single interaction, dialogue of memory of them. It’s too much, so I’d just skip.

My first class at ITMO was that of English, taken by none other than ma’am Yulia Ryabukhina, a young and vibrant professor. She had been teaching at ITMO longer than the oldest person in my class. That’s indeed very long. She was the head of language department. She said farewell to us after ITMO ceiling collapse. We were lucky to have studied as long as we could under her. After the class I had a very good reason to remember the names of our kind Ksuisha, and Natasha. Sedreh I already knew before even arriving to SPB.

I remembered entering the metro, I was with Natasha and Ksuisha. Sedreh already parted ways. We were supposed to change lines at Red-Green, Ploshad Vostannaya. When I was about to enter the metro cabin, a woman behind me warned me about a few men that were about to enter the metro after me. As soon as I entered the cabin, I reached for my pocket but one man blocked my hand. Another blocked my way, the third one took my wallet and ran away. This is how I got robbed for the first time in SPB, no, in my entire life. I ran after them, but they disappeared.

I lost a all my money, my ID card, my PAN card, my cherished Nepali coins, and my passion for public transport. Natasha and Ksuisha hurried back to me. They took me to the metro security, then to a nearby police station. And I registered my first police complaint. It was the first time I kept a wallet. I was terrified, because I had just lost all my money. Ksuisha and Natasha escorted me to the guest house. And did lend me a few bucks to go through next few days.

As per how I felt about the whole incident. I was just a bit surprised. Because I have been to New Delhi, and I have been pretty open, had ample of opportunities to get pick-pocketed, but it happened to me in SPB, which is kind of odd given that central SPB is one of the safest places. Thus, my initial experience of the city was not good. But as soon as I got my bicycle up and running. I forgot about all that jazz, and continued forth with my adventures.

♢♢ ____ ♢♢ ____ ♢♢ ____ ♢♢ ____ ♢♢

Meeting a LOT of people form a LOT of different places

I was assigned dorm at Nabereznaya Reki, Karpovki. They say, you are lucky if you get his dorm. In my case, I got it because people at some faraway dorm in Alpeskiye peryouluk didn’t allow me to keep my bicycle. Anyways, there a was a bike stand in front of my dorm, that was kinda cool.

My room is 303, it has two three’s so I like that. My roommate was Japanese, Kohei Yamaura, for the first 6 months. And then SangHyeon Seo, a lit Korean guy. Charlie left us too soon (for another dormitory). I went with Kohei to Sushi-wok and Bap-jip with SanHyeon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My entire is filled with Spanish speakers, so that’s kinda home like situation for me. There is also a malay dude, Kirtivasan, there was an Indian bro Aditya Prakash, the Algerian guy Mohamed, the Iranian guys, the Kazakastani folks, Abu Gafar Bodai who just disappeared, the Chinese connection, wow, there are a lot of people to mention. The third floor is the most occupied one. One by one, I met them, got to know them, and they left. And so will I one day.

♢♢ ____ ♢♢ ____ ♢♢ ____ ♢♢ ____ ♢♢

What is my program at ITMO like

ITMO is cool, but of course I can only speak about my program here. Because we are the first batch, the workload is kind of hectic. But I am not sure about other programs.

thbatch.jpg

International Masters Programme students. [I hope there is no problem. I don’t know who clicked this photo. The person may contact me and claim credit]

Usually, at top universities; everything a student does actually counts. For example, we have to do assignments, midterm tasks, and pass exams. Sometimes we can get grades for the course we had taken, at others we will get a percentage, or Pass/ Fail. My own experience is that it is not easy to study here. By the time we finished the first semester, I saw a lot of familiar faces disappeared. I think it is wrong to assume that hard-work correlates with efficient education.

For me, the quality of education at ITMO is a novel experienced. Maybe someone who already is from top 500 universities better be able to compare, but for me, it is a rapid-fire dope education experience. It’s interesting that master’s students in Russia are treated like working professionals.

This is an excrept from my emotional baggage right after the end of the semester. I’ve embellished it to fit here:

All of a sudden we have three, four or even five deadlines approaching. As my guide, Yury Barbitoff from JetBrains aptly explained to me the concept of burning deadlines. You get so washed up in the workload that you eventually don’t even care what is happening around you. I experienced it first hand after noticing that I spent four days, still confusing the gap between those days as a single day. The only memories are wake up, work, sleep and repeat. I think, if the program is not organized, the student suffers, even if they’re brilliant students. An unorganised program is a series of uncomfortable experiences. It is not a question of good or bad, it is simply a wastage of time. Sedreh (my calssmate) oft told me about her frustration, other students complain among each other about the workload stress as well. I have had great experience in handling stress. Indian educational system is one of the most stressful in the world downright from the school, not because it’s good, but because of its competetive nature. Thus, workload is nothing I complain about even with having a lot of clashing deadlines.

As an extension, imagine working day and night on something that you can’t understand. It almost feels like you are wasting your time. I think the second most important thing after food is time. I have seen people spend a lot on time on doing something they don’t like. I think they are under the impression that they are immortals. Even though four days seemed like one, I learnt something important and useful. I suppose that’s the way things work out at top places. The way to solutions comes from accepting the fact that there is a problem.

The education here is practical, that is excpected. Again speaking about my own course, we don’t study useless stuff. It’s a trade-off between quality and quantity. I think that is a credit due to professors. They really know what they are going to teach, and how they are going to impart this knowledge. In our MS Bioinformatics and Systems Biology we were taught from lecturers who studied from Harvard, MIT, Max Planck etc. And in turn we get to choose excellent projects for our thesis. I like it. But I am wondering, what is the future of this program. Our MS is the first of it’s kind here, and we are the first batch. Only time will reveal.

My degree would basically be Applied Mathematics and Information Technology, and we are studying not just at ITMO but also Bioinformatics Institute (BI). So we get lectures by cool guys at JetBrains as well. Someone once told me that I have excellent skills of marketing, because I explained how tasty Indian food was. May be they’re right. But all I do good is put forth my honest sentiments. There are some things I like and some I don’t. It just so happens that the things I like about ITMO undermines the ones I don’t by a huge difference, in a positive way.

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Making friends and all

Initially, like a common ritual in every university, the students come together, interact with each other. We had a tour through the center of SPB, we got to know about a lot of cool stuff, like why are the buildings in SPB nearly all of the same height (they can’t exceed the height of Peter and Paul fortress). I found a lot of Persian people here, so that’s another feeling of home. There is just too much to write! But… I can always post some links. This is a post by our leader Onis. Oh it just melts my heart!

Even outside of SPB I met and interacted with a lot of people. Even though I can’t write about all of them I want to tell about Pasha and Olga. We met one and the other and we have walked to different places since then. Pasha has a good sense of humor, he also invited me to his dacha. I would write all about it. There is also Vlad, he is a mathematician. I was surprised to find out that he has an interest in Hindi. That’s kinda dope, because I haven’t find many people interested in learning Hindi! One day I met with Ksuisha and Vlad and I cooked some tasty South Indian food for them. Also, I already told about my trip with Anton, Sergie, Guns, Nick, Irina, and Lisa to Elbrus.

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Two interviews

I am just going to post the links.

Coursera interview

Interview at ITMO

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The Things We Cook To Survive

As Indians we usually cherish spicy food. But mark my words, when Indian speak about spicies, there are two which actually make the food inedible for most people outside India, these are red pepper and cloves. And Indian people kind of over-do these two. If you remove the pepper and clove, Indian food becomes as tame as Georgian food.

Another complain I get a lot is the criticism Indian food gets for the amount of oil. I wouldn’t defend this one. Indeed, Indian food uses a significant amount of cooking oil, but the really unhealthy thing is clarified butter (or Ghee). Indian people eat is like Americans eating chicken. And we know excess of anything is bad. Ghee is just too delicious, and it is another reason why Indian food is so “Indian”.

I am Indian, so for me there are two kinds of foods in this world, Indian and Not-Indian. Just like every popular song in this world has at least one cover in Hindi and Spanish. Every popular dish in the world has an Indian equivalent. For example, Qutabi c cirom ulguni is just Paneer parantha (with considerable abount of chilly and baked in ghee) in disguise, which if filled with some meat becomes the Mexican tacos. Different ingredients result in different tastes. Russian food is kind of different, in that it is heavily meat based.

We have a lot of soups and breads in Russian food, similar to most of the European food. Also, people here enjoy plain tea, without any sugar or milk. And coffee here is unusually expensive. I guess that’s mostly a European influence. In India we usually don’t eat soup or bread, both of which are considered ‘breakfast kind of food’ or ‘incomplete food’.

I never thought I would say that, but one of the tastiest things I have had are Potatoes and Musrooms (which I ate at Pasha’s dacha), there are no spices at all, only some salt, and the potatoes were boiled. And you have one of the tastiest things in the world! For an Indian, that is almost unimaginable, because for us the tastiest food means a perfectly spiced dish (containing about 12-18 different spices, or at least 5 most essential ones [yes, I can name all of them]). Potatoes with Mushrooms was so tasty, that I didn’t even take a photograph. The another delicious stuff is a drink called Kvas, yumm yumm yumm.

Because I am kind of vegetarian, I can’t really comment upon the meat containing food. Interestingly, wherever I have been in SPB, the food is always expensive and never enough. Maybe because I am vegetarian, and my lifestyle is bit exhausting but still, for the same amount I can get more than enough food in India. Also, water is not free. There are racks of water bottles, and they sell! Which is kind of strange for me as an Indian, the only time I need to buy water is when I am traveling in buses.

Thankfully, I know a lot of stuff I can cook. In-fact cooking is one of my hobbies, it’s a relaxing activity. To cook Indian food is difficult, because I can’t find Ghee in Russia. Maybe there is, there are many Indian supermarkets. But I am too lazy to go there. There are three things I miss in Russia the most, Cardamoms, Ghee, and good milk. They are nowhere to be found. The prices of dry nuts are nuts! For example, I can get about 100 grams of roasted peanuts for 10 Rubles in India, here I have to pay 50. Also, tomatoes are Gucci here, over 200 per kg as opposed to 25-35 Rubles/ kg I used to pay in India. I think I can impress a Russian girl by presenting her 1 kilogram of Mangoes (I found Mango shake somewhere for 350 Rubles). It is difficult to be vegetarian in Russia. My friend Ksuisha is a vegan, with an extra statutory label of ‘no animal products’. I think it’s next to impossible for a vegan to survive in Russia. Luckily the only thing I don’t eat is meat so viva madre Rusa!

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The Bike Thief, January 10-24

I rarely use metro, or any other public transport. I have never traveled on a Tram or Bus till now in Russia. Bike is the way to go for me. Here is an entire post dedicated to this experience. However I want to highlight a particular incident.

One early morning, I woke up and went to the supermarket. At around 10 AM when I returned, to my surprise my bicycle was gone. Turns out, that 5 in the morning at -15  degrees, someone stole my bike. The dorm admin had footage on CCTV. I found my Algerian friend as I went to the stairs, I asked him if he could help me with filing a complaint. Mohamed quickly finished with his business and got the number from admin office and called the police. He knows Russian, so he explained my situation. And we waited for the police to come.

I also explained my situation to Kirti, who was enjoying food and consoling me in my loss. I felt like loosing a part of me. Not to be too dramatic, but I was imagining myself to be walking long distances for the rest of my stay. I couldn’t bring myself to travel in metro. I realised just to what degree I hated any kind of transport. I guess I like biking because it keeps me involved, and it is entertaining.

When the police-officer came, I and Mohamed sat in his car and explained the whole situation. Every detail. It’s kind of strange that I don’t remember the exact day, but I just remembered that it would be a long wait for me. The officer filed my complaint in Russian, took a copy of my passport and told me to wait.

Much to my surprise, the same evening Mohamed rushed to my room. He showed me a video of a drunk woman and my Bike lying on the snow laden sidewalk. I was thrilled! We had to rush to the police station. When we reached there, because I had not proof of purchase with me, the officers instructed me to wait for one week before they’d release the bike. The thief was already apprehended, but we didn’t see her. A translator was called and my report was translated into English and presented to me. When asked the officers how they apprehended the thief. The officer told us that this woman was an expert and that she has stole many expensive bicycles around the region. In my case, she just happened to be a little drunk and near police station.

After one week I was called and my bicycle was handed over to me. When I went back to dorm, I requested the dorm admin to keep my bicycle inside for 1 week, as I hadn’t any lock for my bike. And thus, finally after January 24, I resumed biking again. Fast forward, one week, I received a call. I was instructed to be presented in the district court, where a hearing was organised. In my entire life, I had visited the police station for the first time in Russia, I can’t even tell you how Indian police stations look like. Likewise, for the court.

In mid of February, I took my bike and headed for the court where my case was held. I waited on the third floor of the building, outside a small office. I waited there for one hour and until my appointment time approached. At about 1 AM I entered the office and saw my first court! Quite unusual to be honest, there were only two benches, there were two sitting spaces, one for the lawyer and another for the assistant to the judge. And right corner of the door was where the judge sat. I also got to see the perpetrator of the theft. A tomboy woman, about 40 or so, she was a Ukrainian immigrant.

The judge started to read my case, she spoke Russian faster than Eminem’s Rap God. Within a few seconds she recited the entire case. And then she shouted out at the secretary, as a translator was not called for me. The judge asked me to wait outside again for an hour till the translator comes. I was really impressed with our judge, she had a strong personality and the just the perfect rage!

After an hour my translator came and the hearing resumed. They asked usual question to me, name, nationality etc. They asked whether my bicycle was returned to me, I explained that I came to court on my bicycle. And the first thing the surprised judge said was, ‘ne xolodna?’ (is it not cold?), I replied, ‘just alright’. They thought I was a bachelor student first year because of my age, (first year is usually preparatory in Russia, where students have to learn Russian language)  but I was a masters, with course offerings in English. My translator explained to me that the woman also stole another man’s bike, she pointed out another person in the room. Apparently, he had a bike over 40K Rubles and the poor man didn’t get it back. In a sense, I was saved by the nape of the neck.

The woman had her reason. Primarily, she hadn’t money to pay for the apartment, which is kind of understandable, because apartment prices in SPB are quite ridiculous (not as ridiculous as Mumbai though). Finally, the judge asked me whether all my damages were done. I understood that if I’d ask about my lock and stuff, it would take me multiple rounds to the court. So I just said, all is good, and that there is nothing else I want from the convict. The judge ended the hearing, and I was told that I don’t need to come to court in the future.

I never imagined writing about police stations and courts. But it was kind of exciting in an unusual way. But interestingly, I was poppin’ about with my bicycle. All well that ends well.

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Go Karting! March 31, 2019

I don’t know how to drive a four-wheeler, but when it was Anton’s birthday I took the opportunity to join the group for Go karting!

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It’s not an accurate depiction but this was where we raced.

 

 

 

 

 

We got registered for the track, changed for the karting gear and at about 5 PM we were ready to rock the track! It was awesome! Just pedal, throttel and adrenaline! We raced in two groups, I was in the group of newbies, while Anton being a pro was racing against the group champs. I got 2nd place in my own group. :))

 

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Go karting in SPB… When it was Anton's birthday

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There are many more experiences, and they deserve their own post. Maybe I’ll find some time to write about them. 12 months in the city and there are only few places I know by name Petrogradskaya, Lomonosova, Kronversky, Bagovaya, Spasskaya, Chornaya Ryecha… I don’t even know why I know the last one. I am bad with names. I have just spatial map of some parts of SPB in my head, I know how to go to a Russian banya (yes! the banya!) from Petrogradskaya, or get my bicycle repaired, but some cool stuff etc.

 

 

 

 

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Some lit photos from Peter in winter 😀

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My Bicycling Experience in Saint-Petersberg

It’s been quite some time. I hadn’t updated anything on the blog. But now, as I have my vacation, I feel like writing some posts. I start with bike adventures. :))

# About the featured image for this post: This image was taken in October 2018. I realised at that time, that what I see is actuall ITMO Kronversky campus. To me, it seems like a painting! :))

I flew from India for SPB (Saint-Petersberg) back in October of 2018. I’d write a few posts about how I like my stay at SPB. And nothing could be better than writing about one of my favourite things in the world, which is, bicycling. It’s an economical and healthy way of commuting for the sake of stating the obvious. In SPB there are also a few bike stands where you can rent bikes. I am not sure about the rent though. I sometimes joke that Billu from Diamond Comics is my inspiration for riding bicycle (LOL not really).

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Billu ke karnaamey. (Billu’s mischiefs)

About La Fenix

Back when I was applying for university, I had a clear vision in my mind. I could imagine myself riding on a bicycle wherever I’d go. Also I didn’t want to buy a new bike because mine is already fancy-enough and excellent. Besides I had changed almost every part on my bike except the frame and rims. Mine is a red and black MTB from XDS called XDS Sundance 300.

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No bike no life. 🙂

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I love my bike. I call it La Fenix, after the mythological creature Phoenix, which, when burnt, rises from its own ashes. The idea being, my bike’s frame is rugged, and even if everything breaks apart, I can rejoin it. It’s pretty dope for a economical bike. I brought it on April 14, 2017 (see the original photo). My bike has served me well during my stay at Jaipur. Till date it has proudly seen a temperature range of -28 (Saint Petersberg) to +44 degrees (Jaipur).

How to bring a bicycle from your country to Russia as a free baggage

The first step is to pack your bicycle into a bicycle carry case. I looked online, and oh my are those carry cases expensive! For this, I brought a cheap bicycle bagpack by Trek ‘N’ Ride MTB version.

Next I needed some bike tools. I admit that I went a bit too far by buying a Decthlon 500 Bike tool box. I brought it in Noida, UP at Decathlon showroom. It was an overkill. (Why?) Because all you need to disassemble a bicycle are Philips screwdrivers.

Finally, I made a ticket from Aeroflot that allowed me to carry upto 2 bags, 25 kg each and one 8 kg cabin backpack. I called the airlines and asked them in advance whether they can approve my bicycle. As expected, they only wanted my bike to be packed and baggage to weigh less than 25 kg. They need to be informed, once more, 32 hours before departure. I am grateful that my first flight experience wasn’t so bad. 🙂

And that’s how this adventure begin. [By the way, it was also my first time riding an airplane, from New Delhi to Moscow to SPB. I had a window seat, good food, and pain in the ear as the pale soars high above the sky (as the pressure drops).]

Few tips about riding a bike in general

SPB is not entirely bike friendly, but it is enough so.  Basically, the roads in the city are wide and you have to sometimes take your bicycle on the sidewalks. I have been told many times to be wary of Russian drivers, however, I have an experience of riding bikes on crazy Indian highways.

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I am on a sidewalk. This is where pedestrians walk. Next to it is the main road, that is where the roadsters (not the Roadster car actually) shine. This photo was taken near Lomonsov bridge.

Riding through the park is a fantanstic experience. Specially when you notice the difference between autumn, winter, and summer. 

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Lush green ❤

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1.) Respect pedestrians always.  

Even if they shout at you, apologize. Because the pavement is for walking, and bicyclist are neither pedestrians, nor roadsters.

Every once in a while you might find people shouting at you. I rember how, once a babushka went crazy on my riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. It’s not a pleasent experience at all. But in general people are polite, they let you pass through. Just in case, remember the following phrase.

Простите! Я бедный человек, Я из <названия страны>, Я не знаю законов здесь.

‘Pro-s-tee-tye, Ya byedniy chilovek, Ya Iz (nazvaniye ctranie), Ya ni z-nayu zakonov ez-dis.”

[Sorry (polite), I am a poor person, I am (your country name), I am not aware of the laws here.”]

You might get shouted upon more (LOL). But it’s better than being impolite to kind people.

2.) Respect roadsters most of the times.

The thing is, in Russia, drivers go to prison if they hit a bicyclist. However, my professor Nikita Artymov once told me the horrible story of how he got hit by a car, while driving a bicycle, on a sidewalk! He spent 2 months in the hospital, and the driver got away because he knew the police. You have been warned.

Therefore, it’s important that you switch from road to sidewalks as per YOUR convinience. If there are too many pedestrians, switch to road, but if there aren’t, keep to sidewalks. While riding on a road you only have a 3 foot lining on the road-lane and the sidewalk pavement.

I once mistakingly hit the mirror of a car. The driver drove next to me and said something, but my Russian skills were horrible, so I just removed my mask and apologised in English. Once he saw me, he understood that I am a homeless guy, and let me pass.

One last thing, never cross the road divider. If you need to change lanes, go to the nearest traffic light. Wait for the pedestrian signal to turn green and then change the lanes.

3.) Search for a bike repair shop

My dormitory is in Petrogradskaya. When I took to Google maps, it showed me many repair shops. Most of them were ghost! It’s easy to get lost because of misinformation. People recommend using Yandex maps, but I can assure you that Google maps are enough, as long as you know exactly where you want to go.

Karochiye (long story short), I found two places, one in Mercury mall (end of the green line), and another 2 kilomiters before it on the same road is Veloaktive, decent shop, they get things done (Torfyanaya Doroga, 2, Sankt-Peterburg, Rusia, 197374).

4.) Keep with yourself a water bottle, always

Yep, there is no free water in Saint Petersburg. You’d end up donating your organs for water, if your not rich.

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How to ride a bicycle at a cool temperature (-20 degree Centigrades)

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Have you ever dreamed about riding a bicycle sub-zero.  I wanted to make this post exactly to illuminate upon how to do that. Please not that the specific title should be, ‘how to ride a bicyle at a cool temperatures (pun) on the streets of Saint Petersburg‘ But it’s not cool (double pun).

Almost everyone I have met here, thinks I am kind of crazy to do that. But to be honest, I don’t like public transport at all. I’d expalin in some other post why. And besides, it’s more fun to ride in winter, because you don’t have as many pedestrians on the street.

Here is what we are going to use:

For the Bike

The one and only important thing for the Bike is to have Snow Tires. Basically, these are fancy tyres with spokes. The once I bought costed me around 5500 Rubles (about 5600 INR). That’s not a bad deal, because snow tyres can end up costing more than a cheap bike. The next option was a whooping 10,000 Rubles.

For the rider

Basically, to achieve this feet I always dressed like the following:

1.) I wore thermal underwears, and woolen innerwear.

2.) To top the innerwear, I’d wear a jeans and a full sleeve t-shirt.

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This photo was taken during the beggining of November. I had already gotten into form for the bicycle.

3.) Finally, a heavy jacket. I asked for a jacket that could work upto -10.

All of this equipment is sufficient for upto -20 degrees.

The problem is keeping your feet and hands warm.

4.) For my feet, I used warm woolen socks with stylish winter boots.

5.) For my face I had a neck mask upto nose, a badnana for the head, covered with my helmet and hood of the jacket. Protecting your head is crucial.

6.) For my hands, I brought summer gloves for bicycling, and complemented them with an additional windproof gloves.

The reason is that if you use too heavy gloves, it will become difficult to manuver the bicycling. Speaking of maneuvering…

About driving technique

Between Petrogradskaya and Lomonosova is about 4 kilometers. Usually, this distance can be covered in 20 minutes on a bicycle, which ois faster than the metro. But on a winter day it could take upto 40 minutes, because of the speed and technique.

There are two important things to realise:

1.) It is easier to ride when their is heavy snow on the street as compared to thin ice sheets.

The reason is that on thin ice sheets you can’t risk to make smallest of turns. When you ride the bicycle on snow, even with snow tires, it’s important that you don’t become a stuntman and drive irrisponsibly. The only direction is forward, completely straight. If you have to turn either turn slowly or turn without making sharp rounds at moderate speed.

Usually, when I ride bike in summer on an Indian highway, my speed varies from 25 km/h to the fasterst 52 km/h. Here at SPB, I suggest whether it is winter or not, never exceed 25 km/h. In winters, my average speed was about 22 km/h (I have a btwin bike monitor).

2.) Watch out for icicles, always wear a helmet

Some people die from falling icicles. These are thin conical structures which are made from melting and refreezing of ice on rooftops. At times, icicles may fall and punch a hole in your head. Be wary!

3.) Don’t stop at one place for too long

Keep moving in the winter. The vigorous movements help to keep your body warm. If you stop, you will feel colder quickly. This is why it is sometimes easier to use a bicycle, because you are kind of running in the air. When you are on foot, you cannot run, as you may slip. For me, it is usually easier to ride a bike than actually walk on that slippery street.

4.) If you feel pain in your hands seek shelter

The longest I’ve been outside is about two and a half hours. After an hour, even with heavy protection, you’ll feel pain in hands. The easiest solution is to lock your bike to a pole and enter a cafe. You can have a coffee, but no one will look at you differently because you didn’t buy anything. It is common in SPB for pedestrians to enter premises to heat themselves up in winters. Just make sure to remove your coat/ jacket and helmet and properly dry your boots. It is a matter of courtesy! (Why?) The thing is, cleaning stuff in winters is difficult. People work really hard to make their place presentable and the snow on your coat (and boots) contribute to their hardship.

Taking care of your bike

Basically, I wasn’t allowed to put my bicycle inside dorm. No big deal. When I kept my bike outside, i’d use a small sheet to cover up my chain derailleurs. That’s all. My Fenix is firepower! :))

Anyways, when I went out of dorm, I’d pour water on the bike lock to defrost and slowly unlock it, if you are too harsh (as I was too, the first time), you can break the key. However, the water becomes cold easily. Let me share with you the full experience now.

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First experience

One morning I had to give my Zachot (student grade-book) to my friend Boris. To do this, I took my bike and traveled to Lomonosova. I didn’t know the temperature was -20. So joyously I went to Lomonosova, and there I was in front of ITMO building at 8 in the morning.

I wanted to park my bicycle outside. And there I made a mistake. To unfreeze the lock, I took out my water bottle and poured some water on the lock. The water froze instantly along with my hands. I quickly defreezed my hands. Now I was stuck between whether I should go inside the university and leave my bike at risk or go to Marta 52 to the Boris’s place. So at 8:30 in the morn, I reached to Boris. I gave a few knocks on the window and he jumped form the bed, he looked outside with his sleepless eyes, and the Russian war-gaze, in anger and annoyance. But because it was me, he opened the doors and allowed me to warm up a little bit.

I gave my Zachot to Boris, while he was lecturing me about how crazy I am to ride so far in this weather. But how could I’ve known, it’s not like I’ve ever experienced such temperatures before. It turns out the temperature was actually -22. LOL!

Anyways, I rode back to my dorm. I emptied my water bottle and poured in some uncomfortably hot water and defrost my lock. It was such a memorable experience!

So that was that.

Second Experience

Now that I learnt from mistakes. Next time, during my visit to SPB bank, I took the water bottel, and instead of locking the bike, I just took the two ends and poured water on them. As the water froze, so did the lock. Then I used a handkerchief to cover this deed. It seemed like the bike was tightly locked while in-fact it was just a deceive. I went to the bank, spent an hour or so and came back to find my bike safe. I didn’t have too go through this crazy lock-unlock game.

This day I experienced -28 (feels like as opposed to the actual -22), the reason is that in some parts it can get colder as compared to others. It so happened that I was lost while trying to find the bank, and it’s risky to remove gloves and check maps. So I was just riding along the bike slowly, until I found the bank.

I don’t have photos, because I didn’t dare to take one. Besides, what difference does it make? It’s not like we can feel the temperatures in photographs (yet).

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Riding bicycle in SPB is totally worth it and recommended. For me, I could see all the islands, while commuting. It’s alright if you don’t want to ride bicycle in winter, you can use the metro. But still, you may want to give it a shot. Here are some cool videos though the city on a wintery night.

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Last few days of winter

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And here is a comparison of the same place at about the same time. [During summers the sun sets at 11 PM, which is why it is sunny. In SPB we have white nights.]

It is also not unusual to sudden hailing during the beggining of summer.

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Summer in SPB: am I a joke to you? :p

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I remember how some of my friend pulled a joke on me. They said that I should cross the river on my bicycle. Although, for them it was a joke. For me, I wanted to do that in January, as by that time the ice is really thick and cyclable. I had used my bicycle all winter long. However I couldn’t use my bicycle for one week in January, because it got stolen by a Ukrainian woman. More about this adventurous story later (it was quite scary to be honest). 😀

Vocabulary tips for English language

I thought to myself that it’s finally time to write this post, such that I don’t have to keep repeating myself. This post is about English language. Also, I hope by the end of the post, you would understand the Featured Image for this post.

I began learning English seriously in 2010, and in 2017 I finally declared myself to be fluent in the language. For me, fluency is a five-fold process: read, write, listen and understand, speak, and speak with an accent. That’s like aiming to become a native.

However, fluency should not be confused with having a vast vocabulary. Sure, a vast vocabulary is helpful, but you can communicate like a native with merely 5% of the total language words, or 1% to begin with, that’s about 4000 most common words in English. But words alone are not useful, you need to make sentences. Thinking that you can command a language by rote memorization of words is like think the one that Math doesn’t require practice and mathematician are born with this knowledge.

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Let’s get right at it.

First things first, check out this table:

 

English German French
Begin Start Commence
Haven Port
Dog Hound
Heart Courage (from Coeur French for heart)
Little Petite
Church Kirk Chapel (small church)

If I keep extending this table, for each “properly” English word there would be perhaps 10% words that are similar sounding from German and about 35% from French, with even more words that uniquely French and have no English equivalent, such are the words for religion, ceremonies (both of which are French). German and English shared a common language ancestor in the past, which is why we see such similarities.

Now check out his table:

Greek Japanese Hindi Persian Arabic Native American
Philosophy

Biology

Tycoon

Tsunami

Guru

Karma

Bazaar Alcohol

Orange

Powwow

This shows how much contact English had had with other languages.

And check out these phrases, all of which are Latin:

Ars gratia ars

Ad nauseam

Ad hoc

Status quo

Prima facie

.

.

.

and so on.

Check out this link for more, but don’t memorize it. Just check it out and get back to my post.

https://www.adducation.info/lifestyle/common-foreign-words/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_words_of_French_origin

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_words_of_Gaulish_origin

So, you can see, there was a time (about 1200 AD) when an English speaker was tri-lingual. The common everyday conversation was in English. Education was in Latin, and the language of the court was in French.

A similar situation is currently in India, common people speak Hindi, education is in English and language of the court is Urdu.

When the Normans took over English, they imposed words for religion to English, which is why we see words like angel, divine, spirit etc.

It’s impossible to learn all this vocabulary. Here is what we can do, and what I did.

Learn 500 SAT, GRE, TOEFL words, 4000 words for an educated vocabulary. That’s all.

I can guarantee, you won’t find a single text that you cannot read and understand.

https://www.vocabulary.com/lists/274832

http://www.tayvaughan.com/writings/VocabularyWords.pdf

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Let’s talk more about words.
Now that we have set a goal that we want to learn 4500 words. Better said than done. How to actually learn a word?

If you can learn even 10 words a day, that would give you 3000 words in a year, so the goal is achievable alright!

I want to begin by telling you that there are two kinds of verbs in English.

Strong (like German strong verbs), and weak.

1st form 2nd form 3rd form
Go Went Gone
Do Did Done
Sing Sang Sung
Slide Slid Slud
Hang Hung Hung
Sleep Slept Slept
Write Wrote Written
Drive Drove Driven
Swim Swam Swam

 

You must be thinking Slide, Slid, Slud… what’s going on?

This used to be the correct form of this verb, just like help, helped, holpen. Yes, you are reading it correct, there is no magic here.

She sang beautifully.

She singed beautifully.

The cloth hung on the wall.

To be hanged till death.

This is language change. These verbs exist in their weak forms.

1st 2nd 3rd
Commence Commenced Commenced
Start Started Started

 

but,

Begin Began Begun

 

You can see that, if a verb is taken from another language such as French root or Germanic root, it acts as a weak verb.

 

English German French
Drive, drove, driven Maneuver, maneuvered, maneuvered
Love, loved, loved Adore, adored, adored*

 

But there is something weird going on here, because I can tell you a word that is adorn.

There is a lot of confusion in modern English about strong and weak forms of the word, the slide, slid, slud was one example to cite. The -en participle form or 3rd form of the verb adore is adored, technically. But the word adorn is a verb in itself, while logically it should be the -en participle form.

  • Most of the strong verbs are now being converted into weak verbs
  • Any new verb addition would be a weak verb.

As English language speakers WE ARE INTRESTED IN THE WEAK VERBS!

Specially the verbs that come from French.

Let me demonstrate why.

Let’s take a strong verb in English, to ride.

Verb (all forms) Noun Adjective Adverb
Ride

Rode

Ridden

Riding Ridable In a riding manner

We can work about the conversation of verbal form to other words. This is because of the property of language called Inflection. It means, to form other words from a single word. But ENGLISH IS SEMI-INFLECTIVE, this means that there are only a few words we can make.

With weak verbs, this potential of word formation is increased many-fold, because this is how Latin and Greek make words.

Prefix Meaning
In- inside
De- Take away
Per- before
Intro- Among themselves
Extro- Among others
Re- again

 

Check out this dope table.

https://msu.edu/~defores1/gre/roots/gre_rts_afx_tab1.htm

Now check this out:

Suffix Examples Meaning
-ance, -ic, -our, -ion, -ity, -ness Nuance, Plastic, Colour, Speculation, Authenticity, Goodness It’s a noun
-er, -ir, -ate Venir, Revere, Emancipate, Advocate It’s a verb
-able, -ous Formidable, Frivolous It’s an adjective
-ingly, -mingly, -tingly Knowingly, Seemingly, Fittingly It’s an adverb

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The complexity to any language is because of the Nouns. Because there are just so many, it’s better to learn in the beginning the common nouns than proper nouns.

Examples of common nouns: man, boy, girl, tree

Examples of proper nouns: postman, paperboy, Larch tree

Let’s get ready for some word formation.

You see, if you change the prefix, you change the word. If you change the suffix, you change its type.

Verb Meaning
Spect to observe
Introspect to look inside oneself
Inspect to check out something
Retrospect to consider past opinions
Prospect to consider current opinion

 

Verb Noun Adjective Adverb
Spect Spectation Spectable Spectingly
Inaugurate Inauguration Inaugural ??

At this point I want to highlight 2 other ways of word formation:

1.) Compounding: Where you take simpler words and combine them together to form a new word.

Example: walking-stick, paperboy, policeman, powerhouse, photocopy

This is the way Germanic languages does it. This is the reason why some words in German could get so long and scary.

2.) Conversion: Conversion is best understood with the help of examples:

I rebel against this proposition. } Here rebel is a verb.

He is a rebel. } Here rebel is a noun.

Check out this link to understand more about it.

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/word-formation/word-formation

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Let’s play a little game.

Take a verb, any verb.

I am choosing select.

Check this out.

 

Verb derivations Core verb Verb forms Nouns Adjectives Adverbs
Reselect Reselection
Deselect Select selected

selecting

Selection

Selecting

Selectable

Selective

Selected

in a selective manner
Preselect Preselection

 

So, we can break down a word into multiple parts and work our way around into understanding a sentence. This is what it means when we say guessing by the context.

Now how to remember these words.

You can write a sentence in different ways, by changing:

  • the structure of the sentence: shuffling the order of the words
  • the voice of the sentence: first person, second person, third person
  • the vocabulary of the sentence
  • the mood of the sentence: interrogation, command, interjection (exclamation), or simply a statement.

Check this out.

You can write a sentence in different ways. simple statement
Write a sentence in different ways, you can. shuffling of words
A sentence can be written in different ways. third person
You can write a sentence in a myriad of ways. change of vocabulary
Can you write a sentence in different ways? question
Write the sentence in different ways. command
You can write the sentence in different ways! interjection

 

The point being, depending on what you want to say and whether you want to change the meaning you rewrite sentences. It’s a good habit to convert an interesting sentence into different ways.

Here are the FINAL STEPS:

  • Remember a word by forming other words
  • By finding antonyms, synonyms, and rhyming words
  • Making at least 3 sentences with each word
  • Look at category of the word, and prefixes and suffixes attached to it.
  • Try to form interesting sentences, short poems, or whatever to make it memorable.
  • Rewrite those interesting sentences into different voices, moods, and ways.
  • Forget everything!

Yes, 7th! Don’t take stress. Enjoy the process. It’s best if you can use your language to find the meaning of a new word. It’s possible that your own language has many words from English. That’s a good point to start.

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Let’s take an example.

I am reading this sentence:

“…Anton was sickened by the rebellion of Gordon, he said, “You act like a little pony.”

What does rebellion mean?

I use a dictionary for android called English 2.0

I search for rebellion and here is what I found:

rebellion (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/rebellion)
Etymology

From Old French rebellion, from Latin rebellio.

Pronunciation
– IPA: /ɹɪˈbɛli.ən/
Noun
1. (uncountable) Armed resistance to an established government or ruler.
The government is doing its best to stop rebellion in the country.

2. (countable) Defiance of authority or control; the act of rebelling.
Having a tattoo was Mathilda’s personal rebellion against her parents.

3. (countable) An organized, forceful subversion of the law of the land in an attempt to replace it with another form of government.
The army general led a successful rebellion and became president of the country.

Antonyms
– (defiance of authority or control) obedience, submission

Translations (armed resistance)
French: rébellion

– German: Rebellion, Aufstand

– Italian: ribellione

– Portuguese: rebelião

– Russian: восста́ние

– Spanish: rebelión, insurrección

Translations (defiance)
– German: Rebellion

– Italian: ribellione

– Portuguese: rebelião

– Russian: неповинове́ние

– Spanish: rebelión

This text is extracted from the Wiktionary and it is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license

========
Texto generado mediante la aplicación Diccionario Inglés https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=livio.pack.lang.en_US

I searched for the context of the word and found out that indeed Gordon was not obeying Anton. It’s justifiable that Anton called him a little pony.

I could understand how to pronounce this word by either listening to the pronunciation or reading the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) entry /ɹɪˈbɛli.ən/.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Phonetic_Alphabet_chart_for_English_dialects

Now I do this:

to rebel

rebelled

rebelling

rebellion

rebel

rebellious ??

 

I couldn’t understand what could be an adverb for rebellion so I searched WordHippo

https://www.wordhippo.com/what-is/the-adverb-for/rebel.html

Sometimes I can think of rhyming words:

pout, snout, shout

Sometimes I can’t, as in this case.

So, I do this. BUT ONLY WHEN I TRULY CAN’T THINK OF A RHYME!

https://www.rhymezone.com/r/rhyme.cgi?Word=rebel&typeofrhyme=perfect&org1=syl&org2=l&org3=y
Then I make some other sentences of my own. Or look at pre-existing examples.

https://sentence.yourdictionary.com/rebellion

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I hope these tips are helpful for you. Please post questions and suggestions in the comments. 🙂

This post comes under the category of Applied Linguistics.

The Featured Image was taken from Wikimedia commons.

Trip to Elbrus, and other awesome adventures

I start the post with a general introduction, followed by my personal travelog, and finally gallery.

On 29th of December, 2018 we left for Elbrus, 7 of us: Anton, Liza, Sergy, Nick, Anton the Guns, Irina, and I. While this might be a usual journey for the rest of the group. For me it’s an exploration of Russia from North to South, of the European part of Russia. This puts me a step closer to a possible adventure to Siberia. But for the time being, I just want to say that this has been, like Nepal, an extraordinary adventure for me. I want to sincerely thank the group to make it this cool! 🙂

I prepared myself by bringing the following stuff as recommended by Anton:

cool stuff.png

And my response:

Lowl.png

The travelogue:

29/12/2019

I left my dorm room at Petrogradskaya, to Anton’s apartment. We planned to leave by the evening but there were some troubles with the van. Thus, we decided to leave the next morn by 8:00 AM.

In my mind I had already left Saint Petersberg, so I didn’t want to go back to my dorm. I met Sergy, Anton’s cousin, and we ate Sushi at a Japanese-European restaurant near Moscowskaya metro. Here I met Liza, Anton’s significant other-half.

Later I left with Anton and Segy to there garage. In St Pt’s you can rent a garage for DIY works. I mention this specifically because it motivates me to make my own cool little shed with tools.

I stayed the night at Anton’s. He showed me all his cool stuff, I didn’t know that Anton played guitars, has a cool 3D printer, plays video games. And Liza plays video games too… how cool is that!

30/12/2019

We left early in the morning, we took all the ski equipment to Sergy’s car. Then we left for the van. After packing all the stuff and knowing that the van would do fine. We left to meet the other three fellow travelers, Guns (also named Anton) and his other half Irina, and Nikolai (Nick). Finally we began our journey for Elbrus.

31/12/2019

We traveled for 32 hours, it was more than 2500 kilometers. We passed from Moscow (which is crazy big!), and through Rostov, all the way to Terksol near the Russia-Georgia border, Caucasus, the cradle of Indo-European hopes.

Throughout our way, we made stops after every 3-4 hours to eat some snacks, drink some coffee, and warm ourselves up. Half the way Anton drove, half the way drove Sergy. It’s amazing how they could keep up with such constant speed and efficiency. The rest of us were mostly sleeping, watching movies, I was just reading a book about Russian history, and some basics from cognitive neuroscience. While occasionally Nick would take out his little bottle of magic filled with Conyak (about 40% alcohol) and make toasts with the fellow passengers.  For a cool recipe, one spoon (odna lodghka) of Conyak with black coffee can warm you up like a volcano from insides.

By the time we reached there our apartment was already booked. All we had to do was unpack, settle and sleep for the next day.

31/12/2019

In the night we went to a nearby café as we didn’t really have anything to eat. As soon as it turned 12:00 AM in the night, a huge number of fireworks were ignited. Everywhere there were people rejoicing the coming of a new year.

We enjoyed the firecrackers, ate crazy and danced the night off. It’s strange that Guns thought that ‘I ate a lot’. But now that I think, I really did eat and drink a lot. With dancing, I guess it was all digested rather quickly.

01/12/2019

Today, begins our adventures. We dressed up fine. For winters Anton had already advised me to bring some warm clothes.

We left for the Ski encampment. For a tourist it’s cheaper as compared to Russian people. Unlike most of the places in India, where they would squeeze you out of money just because you look like an English-boi. My pass was valid to take me all the way to the summit, but it turned out that after 3000 meters it was heavy fog and useless to go higher.

The cranes would take us up to 4000 meters above the land, to the heart of Albrus. Guns, Irene, and Nick had already been skiing for 3 hours. And Sergy, Anton, and Liza would Ski for another 4 hours while I would just stand in the snow like a potato.

Not that it is a bad thing to stand like a potato, but maybe if I knew how to Ski it have been better for me. It’s uneconomical to buy a Snowboard from 15000 Rubels (about 17000 Rupees) for a single event. For everyone in the group they go for Skiing or Snowboarding each winter.

I was just happy to be able to reside in the mountain, all packed up, watching hundreds of Snowboarders gliding down the summit of the majestic Elbrus. Anton had hurt his wrist doing some serious Skiing, whilst Liza would go down the summit in an hour, Sergy, Anton, Guns, and Nick would do that within 10 minutes, like a boss. It turns out that Liz learnt to Snowboard maybe two years ago, which brings hope to me. I know how to balance on a skate-board and move forward, so maybe I can do it too!

More importantly, I felt what it is like to stand in a constant snowfall with heavy winds, and the buzz of Snowboarders. It’s great that I was well packed. Thanks to my tolerance of winter I could stay out for hours enjoying the beauty. I appreciated how people lived in northern Siberia, where record low is 90 degrees below zero, LOL! By the time I could say LOL, I would freeze to death.

02/12/2019

I would stay this day, relaxing myself. Sergy told me about ice-climbing at a nearby valley. We would go for ice-climbing next day. I would spend the day reading, cooking, drinking coffees and starting outside of the window. If the vid is this beautiful, who wouldn’t want to do this ritual (see picture below).

In the evening we left for a nearby small town, to buy some stuff form the supermarket. I brought a lot of stuff to cook and eat.

In the night we watched the soviet movie Vertical (1967). It was about a few mountaineers who would champ a fictional mountain. It justifiable to say why Russian cinema of the past was one of the best, I didn’t feel that the movie finished so quickly. This was my 3880.5th movie. In the upcoming days I watched three more.

0.5 because I had half-watched First Men (movie about Niel Armstrong going to the moon). Which  I would watch on 8th of January. LOL! 🙂

03/12/2019

Others left for Snowboarding, while I, Anton, Liz, and Sergy left for the valley. Firstly, we put on some heavy boots (my God those were heavy) with Koshke (Cat-claws that help to grip the ice while climbing). With proper safety equipment, our task was to climb a 20 meters tall and frozen waterfall.

Anton and Liz were just there to enjoy the beauty of the hills, and make video of my silly struggle with the ice-climbing for the first time.

Our instructor gave us all the tips and tricks and set up a long cord bound to a tree branch at the top, one end of the cord was bound to his waist while other to the waist of the climber. As we would proceed with our ice-climbing he would keep reducing the length of the cord to keep our progress during climbing intact.

Finally, Sergy had a go at it. In 10 minutes, he went up and down, it was a piece of cake for him. It was tough for me but I went up to 75% through the top, in between I shouted “Long Live Mother Russia” to give me strength.

I had no energy left, after that, I felt my soul was going to leave me and dance in the nether. I felt nausea, I pondered how people who climbed the fictional mountain in Vertical did it? I somehow came down, sweating, thinking how bananas this whole thing was. While I relaxed Sergy went to the top and came back again.

Now I had another go at it. This time I think I did better, I was properly climbing but at about half the height an icicle hit me on the lip. I became distracted with the cut on the lip and decided not to continue. Better safe than sorry.

When I came down, I, Anton and Liz left for the bottom of the hill, and waited for Sergy who would eventually repeat this whole climbing 4 times in total, crazy, crazy. But for Sergy it was more of a sport, he had some training in climbing, so no comparing with that. For me it was a new and enjoyable experience.

In the evening we planned to go to the Banya (Russian sauna) but we extended this plan for the next day. Instead, I ventured the streets with Liz and Sergy. Where Liz had to buy something for the skin. The winter is indeed tough. No matter Napolean’s great army suffered so much after he decided to attack Russia in winter.

04/12/2019

While Guns advised me to leave for Snowboarding the next day, I did not follow. It would be justifiable for me to spend thousands of rubles on an activity that I know I cannot comprehend in just one day. So, I decided to spend the day relaxing.

Everywhere there was snow up to the ankles. It’s good that I had some fine boots, that made me feel warm and accepted. We went to the sauna. Gunz, Nick, I and Sergy. We would spend four hours here. We had about 5 liters of beers and mint drinks.

So here is how it works, you go into scorching hot temperature (about 80 degrees) and pour water over hot stones, which gives of steam that makes you feel like you are going to burn to crisp. After which you jump into a tank of freezing cold water. Then you go to the room nearby and chug in a lot of beer. And repeat.

Occasionally we would stay in the sauna for 10 minutes then quickly run outside to the snow and rub our whole bodies with the ice and then rush back into the sauna. It was a crazy routine, but by the time we came out of the sauna, it was one of the most relaxing feelings.

Gunz told me that “you’re going to sleep like a baby”, which was indeed true.

05/12/2019

I woke up at around 5 in the morning. Sergy thought I didn’t sleep at all, which is quite an accomplishment for me. I didn’t feel tired at all. Today we were going to leave for horse riding.

We walked about two kilometers, I, Anton, Irene, Liz, and Sergy to the open stable nearby. For all of us except Liz, it was the first time riding a horse. The instructor explained everything about how to mount and maneuver the horse. How to make it go fast and slow, and most importantly sit like a king and enjoy the view.

My horse was Basmach, a bit of naughty lad he were, I lost control in-between but managed to go properly in the end. Antons boi was Apache, which seems nice given Anton’s background a military engineer, Irene’s horse, I forgot its name, but Liz’s I shall remember my whole life. It were Byednechka (the little poor one). The story was that Byednechka’s previous owner treated him improperly leaving a lot of hurting wound on the poor lad. It’s good that Byednechka found a proper home.

He took us about 4 kilometers into the valleys, where we stayed for about half and hour. I remembered my God and inscribed Joji in the snow, remembering Nepal. This was altogether amazing experience. Interestingly to warm my hands, I kept it under the nape of the little dog, I might seem like petting it, but mostly I am just warming my hands up. It was -7 and heavy snowfall in the valleys.

On my way back, I maneuvered the horse like a boss. The snow was knee thick (no kidding). I remembered the excerpt from the history book, “a man is done for in the winter without a horse and a woman”.

06/12/2019

I slept at around 3 in the night. Me and Nick, 20 years apart in age, were drinking tea, conyak, and discussing about life. He in his broken English and me in my broken Russian. We talked about Socialism, Siberia, Ufa and lots of random stuff. He introduced me to Jack Fresco, I to him, Gibran Khalil. A memorable talk.

We left in the morning, for Saint Petersberg. It will be another 36 hours before we reach St Pete’s by the evening of 7th. On our way we stopped at a hot spring for an hour. Go to hot water, then to the freezing cold water, then to Luke warm water. Sergy and Guns gave me some instruction for swimming but I am so afraid of the water. Partly because in the desert, there is no water to swim LOL. Anyways, I am positive that one of these days I’ll learn how to swim.

Overall it was an interesting and memorable experience for me. A lot of firsts. First time going to summit through a crane, seeing a Ski-park, enjoying Russian Banya, ice climbing, maneuvering a horse, and most importantly, to sit down and do nothing.

By the time we returned to St Pete’s I still had the experience fresh in my mind. I parted my way after Segry dropped me off to my drom near Nabereznaya Reki, Kapofkii.

Thank you, comrades. You made it an excellent vacation! By the time we finished, I had learnt a lot of swear words in Russian, and phrases for being grateful and cherishing life in general.

Gallery: