Top 5 very Russian things


Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

In Soviet Russia a post likes you.


 

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A Russian preparing for a game of CS:GO

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#1 Celebration of the Victory Day

This is the most important date in the Russian calendar: the 9th of May. Every single road in the center of Moscow gets blocked, so the tanks and other military vehicles can reach the Red Square for the Parade. Then the military personnel join in, as well as fighter aircrafts. People either go out on the streets or watch the Parade on TV in real time streaming.

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The Victory Day Military Parade

At least 26 million Soviets died during the war (including both military and civilians), which is around 26 times more than the losses borne by the UK and US together.  In every single Russian family there was someone who participated in the war… And in my family also. This is why Russians still do feel sensitive about sharing the ‘winner’s place’, even though there is no doubt that our Allies had a tremendous input without which we would  lose. I would also like to give a separate warm tribute to our Great Ally China, who lost a minimum of  15 million people.

I personally believe that it was a Victory of unity and no individual country could win the war on her own. But you know… 26 million people.

Warning: Under no circumstances discuss this topic with your Russian friends.

 

#2  Celebration of the New Year’s

This is the second most important day in Russia. Honestly, no other country celebrates it as much as we do. I witnessed celebrations outside Russia and they all made me feel kind of disappointed. Usually people in other countries just launch some fireworks at midnight and go home, which always leaves me thinking to myself: ‘shit, that was all?’

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You can guess what this is

Well, you see, in the Mother Russia, this is only the beginning. But let me tell you everything from the start. Firstly, it is very important for all the comrades to gather together (with some vodka, of course). Then it is equally as important to switch on your TV and watch some Soviet films (that are being run by the state channels) such as ‘Ivan Vasilevitch Switches Jobs’ and ‘The Irony of the Fate’. Yeah, those are real titles. Those films are being played every single 31 of January and it has always been a thing for as long as I can remember myself.

The food is very important also (before Russians go out on the street to fight someone, their mums make sure they have eaten well).

Here are the essential items:

 

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Seledka pod shuboi

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Holodets

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Olivie salad

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Pelmeni

The last ritual is a mandatory one (in a good way). We all have to listen to our president giving a speech. I mean everyone is sick of our government and the speech itself carries very little useful information, but  somehow it still brings some feeling of unity. It’s weird.

And then people keep celebrating till the first rays of the sun.

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#3 Having a house outside the city (‘Dacha’)

This is considered to be a very posh thing especially in Moscow. People usually go there during weekends or holidays since it is a way to nicely spend time within the family. This is also a great opportunity to grow some vegetables or fruits in your garden. I mean usually kids end up being used as a free workforce out there in the garden, but it’s normal.
Meanwhile, you might probably ask me: ‘Why would you crazy people even bother planting this shit and make the poor kids do the rest?’

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Well, you see, first of all, it is of a strategic importance: while your kids grow food they have no time to complain about not having internet. Second reason is more of a cultural reason. Older generations still remember the Soviet times when they could rarely buy anything on the markets, so they had to grow their own. And hence the importance of ‘teaching’ the younger generation of how to survive the tough times.

 

#4  Celebration of ‘Maslenitsa’

This is a traditional Slavic celebration the purpose of which is to welcome spring. Usually we burn  a scarecrow (that represents winter) and at the same time drink a lot of tea and eat pancakes (that are called ‘bliny’).

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The kids usually go play silly games like snowball wars or  ‘the kind of the mountain’ (you have to climb a tall pile of snow and stay there for as long as you can before other kids kick you off of there).

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#5  Owning a bag of bags

This is the last, yet still an important tradition. Every Russian family has that. Usually we collect the plastic bags from the stores and later use them as bags for trash. But here is the deal: How do we store them? That is right. In another plastic bag. Simple.


That was my list for today, but I intend  adding more stuff on Russian culture and language!

Stay approved, comrades

Mary

My Uni: CUHK


The Chinese University of Hong Kong is one of the top 3 Hong Kong based unis and it stands within the top 100 universities worldwide.

Aaand it has a huge campus (and other nice things).


 

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(My O’camp buddies)

The process of getting into this uni was quite challenging since I had little idea of the requirements and the Hong Kong system in general. On top of that, my year group was the first ever A level batch to ever graduate from the International School of Samui, so no one had a clear understanding of how to handle uni applications. So it was a blind walk.

I was initially choosing between Singapore and Hong Kong. There were a few reasons as to why I dropped the Singapore idea. Firstly, this city  was definitely more expensive (tuition fees and living costs). Secondly, the universities required students to seek their own accommodation. AND lastly, the universities there DID NOT give out conditional offers based entirely on one’s AS level result.

***For the ones who are unfamiliar with A levels***

A levels or GCE is a British examination system, where you study for 2 years and usually have to pick 3 to 4 subjects to study. I chose Maths, English and Physics (and General studies). People sit examinations at the end of their first year (and get AS results), and also at the end of their second year (and get the A level results). Since the application deadline for Singapore unis is earlier than the date when the results for A levels come out, you end up looking like this

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I mean they have a way around that, they want you to  give them in addition the SAT results, but its just too much pain up your badonkadonk.

So the choice narrowed down. I also had a quick glance at the Mainland unis, but most of them required you to speak Chinese, or/and did not reply to emails, or/and had problems with their online registration procedures. Aww hell, I ain’t dealing with that.

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 Hong Kong

I applied to all unis in Hong Kong and for ethical reasons I will slow down here. All unis in Hong Kong give sort of ambiguous minimum requirements. Last time I looked at HKU requirements they stated that they want you to get at least 3 Es in A levels. Yes, it goes like a b c d E! Well I guess only in a case of you being an Olympics champion or Mother Teresa that would work. In general I am not sure why they do that that but for every application people have to pay a decent fee of around 300 HKD. Just saying.

But having good grades is essential. Extra curriculum and personal statement also count but ehm.. It’s almost like holding a Soviet party with a bottle of vodka and glasses. Whilst vodka is essential, the glasses may be optional. But it’s just nice to have them.

Anyway I got it going with CUHK. It was a lengthy process, and they really nicely guided me through everything and also guided through the steps of receiving the visa. All you have to do is watch out for emails (I guess I learned from my mistakes…..).

About the CUHK itself.

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New Asia college

CUHK consists of  9 colleges.  Since I have never been to Hong Kong and never visited the uni before I got accepted, all those 9 names rang absolutely no bells and the campus looked completely different in my imagination.

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Apart from the university gym and university library, all colleges have separate gyms, the big colleges have separate libraries (shh it’s a secret: my college has the best library). We also have tons of canteens and cafes and each one has it’s own working hours. There are many mini buses circulating around the campus, but you better look up the routes, because at first they might be a bit confusing.

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S.H.Ho college canteen

Speaking of being confused: I was getting constantly lost around the campus when I just arrived. I had to get a huge paper map and while in my imagination I looked like an explorer, others probably saw me as that low level noob. And people just couldn’t miss the chance to rub into my face their ‘shortcuts’. It is indeed a useful thing, but it took time to figure out all of them, especially since the campus has many building with the same names. Moreover (I shall confess), it was kind of hard for me to remember the Chinese names of buildings. And MTR stations too…

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Uni bus station

Anyway, I moved into my hostel and met my room mate. She is really nice and we quickly found a common wavelength. I am very lucky with her and we intend staying roommates. I’ve heard that some are not as lucky, but oh well…

That’s all I had in mind for today.

Stay approved, comrades

Mary

From Hong Kong to Thailand


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Done with finals, jeez.

Alarm for’the plane set on 6.

And not it is 2…

(Haiku by me)


Tribute to my friends:

I will miss every single one of you, especially the ones, who left for good (exchange people and grads). But I will see most of you folks next sem. You thought you can run from me? I would like to separately wish the people who stay for summer term a lot of patience and luck. I am also looking forward for the new amazing crew to join our international orientation camp in August. I really wish new Russian speaking people will join. *Cries in Russian*


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Anyway, my journey began early in the morning. It was raining outside, but fortunately I forgot to deposit my umbrella with the rest of the luggage. Ultimate win. I quickly packed my teddy bear and I was ready to go.

I came to the airport early. Like 3 hours early. Well what can I do, I was all worried and pumped up. But on the other hand it was enough time to get lost a couple of times and find my way out.

Anyway. I got on the plane and there were two Brits sitting next to me. They were a semi-old couple. Unlike their behaviour. They were kind of pumped up, but in a different way than me. Whilst they were throwing their ‘let me go pee’ fits (since I was sitting next to the corridor), they also wanted to do some air-shopping (you know that annoying and ridiculously expensive shit that you don’t need like mini-lamps or waterproof watches). So they decided to give it a go. They wanted two waterproof watches. They called the attendant and expressed their deep commitment to get the watches. Unfortunately, only cash was being accepted, and apparently the couple had put all of their cash in the luggage, which rested on the shelf somewhere above… And they forgot where that luggage was. But fear not. No obstacles could stand between them and the watches. First, the man initiated the search mission. The flight attendant tried to help him, but the description ‘black luggage with a lock’ didn’t seem precise enough, since every single piece of luggage they laid their eyes upon was black. The spotlight of everyone’s attention got shifted onto the outcome of the search. The lady tried giving her loud and valuable directions to the search team, but after a long while of unsuccessful attempts she had to get up and join the adventure… Long story short: they finally got their watches, everyone got emotionally involved and woken up and everyone lived happily ever after. 

I mean it’s cute how old couples fight through things together..

Then I had another connected flight and soon landed in Surat Thani. After that my plan was to head to the port (to get a ferry that goes to the island Koh Samui).

This is what the road to the port looks like. Yes, it’s vertical.

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The weather there is always like that: warm and sunny.

After an hour of the bus ride to the port, I finally got on the ferry. Oh. I forgot to mention that my Thai sim-card did not work at that time, so my parents had little clue of where about I was. Or where approximately I was going (since Koh Samui has many ports).

On the ferry I came up to this very kind local (who spoke no English) and asked him if I could borrow his phone for a while. At first he thought that I wanted to get his phone number, which I found kind of funny and cute. I gave him as a present a postcard from Hong Kong (as an emphasis of how thankful I was for the call), which he immediately employed as a tool against the annoying flies. Well, I was more than happy for him. Whatever my saviour wished. At the same time I wanted to re-confirm with him that the end point was (*supposed to be*) the port called Nathon (the name sounds exactly the same in Thai).

“Nathon? Nathon?” asked I and pointed towards the island. He semi-confidently pointed towards the island and repeated after me: “Nathon”. So I told my parents to meet me there.

We did not end up in Nathon. We ended up maybe 2-3 km away from that place. And again, I found some very kind people who helped me call my parents (who were meanwhile kind of panicking) and tell them that I would be at Nathon soon.

Anyway, I met my parents and now I am here, signing postcards for my friends.

Stay approved, comrades

Mary

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