Tomorrow marks the end of my language study in Russia. Although I am sad to leave, I know that I will come back to ND with a much different perspective on Russia, its people, and language learning. It has been a busy week, full of hard work and celebrations for completing said work.
Our group took the TORFL Russian language certification exam. It was a grueling two-day process, but we all successfully passed the exam that consisted of 5 parts – writing, reading, listening, grammar, and speaking. The experience of living in and moving around Moscow made day 2 (listening and speaking) much easier than I anticipated because immersion allowed me to make great leaps on the path to fluency. I had two small victories in language acquisition this week when one girl mistook me for a native speaker and a waiter in a restaurant complimented my accent.
After passing the TORFL, we allowed ourselves some time for final tourist attractions. First on the list was visiting Lenin’s mausoleum. This was on my list of must-sees from the moment I arrived in Moscow, but the mausoleum is only open to the public from 10-1 on a few weekdays, so I was always in class during this time. We arrived over an hour early on Wednesday morning and the line already stretched beyond the border of Red Square. Once the doors opened at 10, the line moved surprisingly quickly. Security was very tight, and the guards kept everyone moving at a steady rate. There was no possibility of lingering in the crypt. Once inside, you go down several dark flights of stairs to where the preserved body is stored. It was a surreal experience to see this infamous man displayed, and he hardly looked human. A friend commented that it looked more so like a wax figure. One many walked through the mausoleum with his hand in his pocket and a guard yanked his hand out yelling “No!”. The entire experience was very tense, but I’m glad I went. Outside the mausoleum there are several other memorials and graves of Russian and Soviet leaders.Pictured is the outside of the mausoleum, located on Red Square.
We then went to the Tretyakov State Gallery. This art gallery features many of Russia’s foremost fine art. I particularly enjoyed the gallery of Mikhail Vrubel’s art. Vrubel, a member of the Symbolism movement, is primarily known for his paintings but also dabbled in other media – especially ceramics. The gallery featured many of his paintings, some sketches, and these alternate-media compositions. Among these, I particularly enjoyed a ceramic fireplace he created- full of colors and intricate designs. One of his most famous works, Demon Seated (pictured), was inspired by Mikhail Lermontov’s poem, Demon. The poem exists in two parts and offers a nihilistic perspective of the word that roused Vrubel to create the painting.
After 5 weeks of doing my best to assimilate to the local culture and not stand out as an иностранец (foreigner), it was fun to take a 180º turn for only a few days. We concluded our celebration of the Russian adventure with a trip to the souvenir fair in Izmailovsky Market. This is Moscow’s version of Disney World’s aesthetic, with many colorful buildings, tourist attractions, and hundreds of vendors selling everything from traditional, hand-painted Matryoshka dolls to Putin memorabilia. We bid farewell to our time among the Muscovites with delicious kebabs and ice cream and headed back to the metro.