I got to Vladivostok this morning and was met by Dmitri, my contact at the U.S. Consulate here. He brought me to the hotel and helped me buy toiletries across the street. Hair gel and toothpaste at last! I had to borrow money from him since I haven’t been able to exchange dollars for rubles yet. Thanks to airline meals and hotels that take Visa, I’ve managed for almost two days in Russia without any local currency.
We met my translator for Vladivostok, a fifth-year student of English at the local university, and she and I took a few hours to tour the downtown and go over my presentations for the week. She’s very quick and speaks wonderful English, especially considering she’s never been in an English-speaking country and has learned everything from books and Russian teachers. She was inspired to learn the language by one of her schoolteachers and hopes to go to St. Petersburg after she graduates next summer to “try her skills.”
The city is very interesting, with some beautiful fin de siecle architecture and a lovely bay surrounded by the hills of the city. Our walk took us past Yul Brynner’s birthplace, the terminus of the Trans-Siberian railway, and the main square, where the city was celebrating the Day of the Tiger today.
Giant tigers are indigenous to the region and the city's crest is a tiger climbing a rocky slope. Because the endangered tigers are being driven from their natural habitat by deforestation, hundreds of school children dressed as tigers and plenty of environmental activists were on hand.
After a frustrating internet cafe experience (no USB port available, only a demo version of Word that wouldn't allow me to copy and paste text), I had an equally frustrating supper because I couldn't find a menu in English. But the cafe did get me thinking. With a roomful of kids playing games online, could online journalism be far behind?
Dmitri and I went to the Vladivostok-St. Petersburg soccer match tonight. It was great fun despite Vlad's defeat! I'm going to put the photos and audio together in a slideshow for tomorrow's class and will post it when I have a chance.
Ok, I'm off to bed.