Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder
I only want to find the statue of the dog!
Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2001 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.
Yesterday I went and saw where Pavlov worked, here in St. Petersburg. It was pretty funny.
So I searched for No. 12, Akademika Pavlova, near the Petrogradskaya metro station. On the way, I found out that paprika Pringles are not that bad. Hey, a small canister was only twenty rubles at a metro kiosk.
I walked a heck of a long ways to cross a river and Professor Popov Street (really) before getting to Ulitsa Akademika Pavlova. The various Institutes of physiology and experimental medicine are still there. No. 13 has -- no kidding -- a Xerox Service Center. The guys lounging around outside were audibly wondering why I was taking a picture of that sign.
So I sort of snuck through the gate to No. 12. I had read in my Rough Giude that Pavlov had erected a statue of a dog "in the institute's forecourt." I wanted to see it. I took a picture of an actual dog near the sentry's post. I saw a row of busts. Descartes, Pasteur, Pavlov...where's the dog?! I took a picture of a doorbell. I asked a random person if he knew where the statue of the dog was. No luck.
The sentry saw me, called out to me, and rather kindly if gruffly asked me to explain what I wanted. I stammered out, in Russian, that "I only want to find the statue of the dog." He, along with the first fella I'd asked (who had seen it and kindly returned) directed me to the statue. The sentry also told me to return (to the entrance and, presumably, to leave) as soon as I'd finished with the statue. I did.
That was a wee bit scary.
I also "saw" a play based on Gogol's short story "Vii." I say "saw" because -- as invariably with Russian-language theater -- I slept through a good deal of the first hour. From what I could tell, the production alternated broad physical comedy (with a bit of sexual suggestion) with scenes REALLY WEIRD special effects stuff involving silver confetti, black sheets, wind, smoke, and a woman wearing diaphanous white gowns and really disturbing catlike makeup. Very "huh?" - perhaps even to the Russian speakers in the audience.
On the metro on the way home from the play, I saw a woman reading a book.
Not unusual. The title made me do a double-take, though. I could tell at
first that it was
Skoraya [something in a different, harder-to-read typeface] Pomoshwhich means "Ambulance [something] Service." In fact, I have a flashcard I made specifically to learn that phrase. I figured it might come in useful. And, indeed, I could make out some odd scene involving an ambulance on the front cover of the book.
When I looked harder and tried to make out the middle word, I saw "Kriminalnaya." Criminal Ambulance Service?! For criminals? Of criminals? By criminals? My head spun. It felt all Tonight's Episode-y! It must be, I could have concluded, one of the thousands of cheap crime thrillers that flood metro station book kiosks.
But then I read more carefully and saw that the word in the middle was "Kulinarnaya." Sort of Cooking First Aid, then. Silly me.
When I came home, there was some sort of little party going on. Two Americans (me and one other student, sort of) and a bunch of Russians. (The American and I almost never spoke English. Hurrah for etiquette.)
And, now that my host mother knows I've tried drinking, I've given up the "I never drink" excuse, which I now realize was very handy in the face of Russian hospitality. I only drank a tiny bit of what I was poured, which was some sort of "almost no alcohol" (I was assured by Russians) amber-colored wine. Now that I've tried The Alcohol Experience a few times -- not thoroughly, by any standard -- I realize quite empirically what I predicted years ago. I really don't like blurring my senses, and I really don't like second-guessing my decisions, actions, and feelings because I'm Under the Influence. I'm pretty sure I'll avoid most psychoactive drugs for the near future.