Monday, February 15, 2010

Suffering / Cтрадaниe

"Suffering is the sole origin of consciousness."

Russians love winter. If the sun shines too brightly and the snow starts melting anytime between November and April, Russians get bitter. According to one of my professors, the ideal winter weather is about -10 degrees Celsius, or 14 degrees Fahrenheit. For a typical St. Petersburg winter, that is on the "warmer" side. Nevertheless, when we stepped outside this afternoon at the peak of sunshine hours, the "ideal" weather had dropped to -15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit). At that temperature, your nose freezes and you stop realizing that your body is literally rejecting the cold by dripping snot-water. Pleasant.

Although I do not fully agree with Dostoevsky's proverb, I understand its truth among the people ("naroda"). As one professor explained, "Many people in the West are opposed to wearing fur. I understand that it is not good for the animals and all, but we are cold here. We need to survive." In Russia, fur is not only a status symbol donned by babushkas with flowery and frilly scarves; it is a matter of style. The typical young Russian woman wears a mix of impractical ("fashionable") and practical:

1) Fur coat (or equivalently warm down, knee-length coat)
2) Thick cinch belt strapped around the coat exterior to highlight the waist amidst the puffery
3) Black tights (literally like pantie hose, or a little warmer like leggings)
4) Tall, black spike-heeled boots (not insulated)
5) Mid-sized leather-like bag, worn in elbow crevice
6) Short skirt or sweater dress (even in negative degree weather)

In addition, the following characteristics are commonly seen:

1) Inordinate amount of makeup (dark eyeshadow, lipstick, caked-on foundation)
2) Laser-cut bangs that go straight across forehead
3) A variation of colored hair dye: a) blonde, b) an array of mismatched highlights, or c) blue-black

Not surprisingly, the American students--both female and male--stand out like black sheep, or rather--according to the Russian version--like "white crows" (among black crows).

Lastly, according to The Moscow Times, "No one suffered more from Soviet oppression than the Russians themselves." So no, the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation and not one in the same.

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