Hello! In this video of the TranslatorsCafe.com
channel. We will not talk about units of measurement of physical quantities as we usually do. Because
it is the end of the summer vacation period, we will talk about vacation instead. We will
also talk about different cultures and jamming GPS and mobile phone signals. A month ago I returned from a short vacation,
which I spent in Crimea. I went there despite the Canadian Government travel advisory, which
does not recommend going there. Despite the fact that it happened one and a half years
ago, for the umpteenth time, they talk in this travel advisory about armed groups supported
by Russian military forces who took control of government buildings, airports and other
locations in the Crimean peninsula and about its occupation and annexation. This video is my reflections on the current
situation there, which I dictated to my cell phone during the ten-hour flight from Moscow
back to Toronto. I will talk mostly of my observations about different cultures. When
moving from one culture to another, many things become clear. Google knows everything about me! Look how
it reminds me that I’m going to Crimea today! Crimea! How I’ve missed it! It’s simply
beautiful. For many Canadians and Westerners in general it is an occupied and annexed territory.
For some, who are less affected by the local propaganda it is the opposite — a territory
freed from the years of occupation. If you disagree, here’s a short episode from my
childhood as a case in point. It is year 1959. My mother is a teacher in a Ukrainian boarding
school. Right here, in this building. I am six years old and often go to mom’s work.
When I try speaking to the students in Russian, they tell me I have to speak Ukrainian or
else they will get scolded by the teachers. Children in this school were not allowed to
speak Russian, their native language for some of them, even during breaks and after school.
So, who occupied whom? Now let us recall a bit of history. It is
year 1854. There are enemies in Crimea. The English and the French. When I saw this memorial
in London dedicated to the Crimean War, I realized that if Russia is weak, they could
come back to Crimea. Year 1941. Crimea is occupied again, this
time by the Germans. They change the street signs to the ones in German. Year 1954. Crimea is given to the Soviet republic of Ukraine. This time the signs were not changed,
most of them were kept in Russian. Ukraine was, after all, part of the same country.
This year my parents moved to Crimea as “settlers”, through a government-sponsored program.
Year 1991. Ukraine became independent. The street signs are changed again, into Ukrainian
ones this time. Once, as I walked along the Welland Canal,
which connects Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, I saw a hydrofoil boat “Voskhod”, made in
Crimea, at the factory “Morye”, in Feodosia. This ship was bought by its new owners in
Canada for a ridiculously low price, when the new Ukrainian owners were selling abroad
anything that they could make money on. Year 2014. Crimea became part of Russia again.
After celebrations, people quickly got rid of the language, which was forced on them
by Kiev. Year 2015, the first anniversary of the Crimean
referendum. In March the prime minister of Canada at the time, Stephen Harper made another
statement about the illegal referendum in Crimea.
If I still lived in Crimea that year, I would have also voted for the reunification of Crimea
with Russia, because the occupation for me was the tumultuous nineties. The occupation
for me was the Ukrainian one. Well, Crimeans do not really care about what Harper
thinks anyway… We are on our way to Simferopol, with a connection
through Moscow. We had to change airports and I wanted to use this as an opportunity
for a walk in Moscow, where I haven’t been for 23 years. We did not have a chance for
it this time though, because our flight was delayed by two hours.
We only got to see Moscow from the windows of the Aeroexpress train. It felt a bit strange,
but at the same time my first impression was that nothing changed in the past 23 years.
Everything looked very nostalgic. Wait, this is new and not nostalgic at all.
There was no graffiti in Moscow in the nineties. I should mention that the Aeroexpress train
is an incredibly convenient way of moving between Moscow airports.
When I saw the Moscow International Business Center I realized that things did change a
lot after all. A short subway ride from Kievskaya to Paveletskaya
station proved that I need to change how I carry my wallet. Torontonians keep their wallets
in their back pockets, but Muscovites keep them either in the front pocket or in some
other more secure place. As they say, when in Moscow, do as Muscovites do. A different
culture means having to adjust or, in my case, to readjust to it. And I have to do it fast!
This is what Moscow looks like from the Aeroexpress train on a ride to Domodedovo airport. Now we are on our way to Simferopol. The flight from Moscow to Simferopol is currently half
an hour longer than it used to be before a year and a half ago. This is because it bypasses
Ukrainian territory, which you can see on the right. Descent into Simferopol. There is the water reservoir, and the city is a bit further away. This is Chatyr-Dag mountain. Last time we were in Crimea in 2008. The airport
was empty. There were maybe 5 to 10 flights a day. We flew in on a shaky TU-134, which
felt like it was going to fall apart mid-flight. In the year 2008 the airport transported only
855 thousand passengers. This time we are on board of a Boeing-747. There are 150 to
170 flights per day from and to Simferopol. The expected number of passengers by the end
of 2015 is 4.5 million. Quite a change! Two new terminals were built at the Simferopol
airport, and several waiting and departure areas were improved. Despite these recent renovations
the airport can barely keep up with the increase in traffic. Our aircraft was parked quite
far, several kilometers away from the terminal. Of course Simferopol does not look like what
Google showed us. Although if you search, you can find something like that. Here is
an example. This is all that is left from the factory that produced wine-making machinery,
where my father used to work. When Ukraine became independent, probably no one wanted
this machinery anymore. The first impression of Crimea was that nothing
changed other than the street signs now being in Russian and the disappearance of the Ukrainian
language. You can’t even hear it along the Southern Coast of Crimea in the resort towns,
but I will talk about this a bit later. In contrast to the airport, the train station
in Simferopol is completely deserted. It seems that the only visitors there are cats and
dogs. The only convenient way to reach Crimea right now is by air, using Russian carriers,
which have to bypass the territory of Ukraine. This is what the train station looked like
a few years ago. Hopefully the passengers will be back to this train station once the
bridge across the Kerch Strait is built and connects Crimea to mainland Russia. There
is no way back. Or so I hope. With all due respect to Ukrainian language, I really do
not want to see the sign “Exit to trains” in a language that was forced on us in school.
Just remembering the Ukrainian poems we were forced to memorize in school — what a waste
of the limited long term memory resources! In the morning I went to the electronics market.
I needed to get some old mica-based capacitors and a Geiger counter tube, for the next unit
converter video. There are rarely any tourists in this area. Every time I visit Crimea I compare Simferopol to Toronto. In Simferopol we have lots of
cats roaming the streets, while in Toronto there are lots of squirrels and raccoons.
I like cats better. Yes, I know, I love them because I am used to them from childhood.
Cats are so friendly, they come over, let me pet them, and pose for photos, almost touching
the lens with their nose. I don’t understand why in Canadian cities squirrels are allowed
to live on the streets, but cats are not. In Canadian cities squirrels killed on the
road are a common sight, just like in Russian cities with cats. Maybe Canadians do not like
stray cats, because if there are too many in the city, it is necessary to cover sand
boxes on children’s’ playgrounds? Here in Simferopol it is so common to see cats that
these three girls stopped to watch me, to see what I was taking photos of. Maybe they
thought I was making video of a raccoon. In spring I really miss the mating calls of cats.
Many Canadians don’t even know what that is. In Canada or, more specifically, in Ottawa
there used to be street cats until recently. And not just anywhere but right near the parliament
building. It was a very interesting tradition. Unfortunately a few years ago this “homeless
shelter” was closed and all the cats were adopted. The cats are not supposed to roam
the streets in Canada. Many girls in Toronto look very awkward in
heels. This is part of the local culture that we have to accept as is. They don’t walk well
in heels because they only do it once a year. Simferopol is different and much better. Here
girls navigate broken sidewalks in high heels and short skirts very gracefully. It’s nice
to be back in Crimea. It is very unpleasant to see enormous fences
in Crimea, which hide the beautiful new homes. Next to these new mansions, just outside the
fences, there is barely any sidewalk left and the asphalt is missing in many places.
It’s a paradise inside the fence, but as soon as you leave the paradise you step into…
Into you know what. I am not used to seeing fences anymore. Time
to get used to them again. In Toronto it is not just the lack of fences, but there are
sometimes no curtains on the windows either. I wonder why.
This is the cathedral of the Three Saints on Gogol Street. It was built for the Tauric
Theological Seminary, and is still used by the seminary to this day. Next to it are the
seminary and the seminary park. Before, there used to be a school in this building, and
later — a research facility of the “Photon” factory that produced television sets. I used
to go there for work. Now the seminary is back.
I found most of the things I was looking for at the electronics market. It is interesting
to see how it has changed over the years. In the 1980s you could find anything here,
because building DIY electronics was cheaper than buying it. The market was mainly for
the electronics parts back then. These days only a few stands carry electronic parts because
DIY has become expensive and electronics — cheap. On my way back I took the central avenues,
Kirov Avenue and then Karl Marx Street. I passed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which is
in its final stages of rebuilding. This cathedral was originally built in 1829,
and then blown up in 1930, one hundred years later. It was replaced in 1944 by a memorial
to the liberators of Crimea, a flame thrower tank. It is one of the two remaining OT-34
flame thrower tanks. The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was the main cathedral of the city.
The new rebuilt cathedral is quite different from the original. The three main streets in Simferopol are very
neat and well-maintained. They were like this 8 years ago as well, last time we visited.
And yet, one step away from the center, and the manhole lids are missing. In fact, in
some places there are no sidewalks either. After living in Canada for 15 years I have
to get used again to seeing gloomy shop attendants. This is also part of the local culture. Here
in Crimea they do not get fired for looking unfriendly. In Canada they do, that’s why
they try so hard, and smile even if they feel like crying. I am paying for this. No thank
you. I prefer the gloomy Crimean shop assistants. There was never much demand for books in Ukrainian
in Crimea. Now they are gone from the shelves completely. It is illegal in Russia to sell moonshine,
but making it for personal use is allowed. The law also allows selling equipment for
making it. Recently due to the hike in prices for alcohol there was an increase in production
of moonshine. In Canada, on the other hand, making wine at home is popular.
My school, which I graduated 45 years ago, has turnstiles at the entrance. This is new.
When I went in, they immediately asked me about the purpose of my visit. Perhaps these
days if you ask a child on the street in Russia how to get to the nearest bus stop, he will
run away instead of answering, just like children do in Canada. This was one of my first impressions
of Canada, in fact. When in 2000 I asked some ten year olds where the bus stop was, they
ran away from me, as if I was about to kidnap them. This was very strange for me. Good thing
I did not end up at the police station for bothering children. Whenever finding yourself
surrounded by a different culture it is so important to do your homework.
Victory Avenue (Prospekt Pobedy in Russian) was expanded. This is the road that leads
to Feodosia city, then onto Kerch, and towards the future bridge that is being built to connect
Crimea to the Caucasus region. What’s a visit to Crimea without going to
Yalta? We are off to Yalta tomorrow. We took an old bus to Yalta. This bus was
long overdue for the junk yard. Same with the old trolleybuses. Some of them are 50
years old. Although maybe I shouldn’t complain. We did pay only 300 rubles, the price of 3
cups of coffee, for an 85 km journey. In Toronto this trip would have cost ten times that price.
So we really did get what we paid for. Yalta is one of the best resort towns in Crimea.
It is located on the Southern coast of Crimea and attracts tourists with the gorgeous beaches
and the stunning vistas. Yalta is on the same latitude as Genoa. Toronto is on the same
latitude as well, but it is a lot colder there in winter. The climate in Yalta is subtropical
but if you ascend just 200 meters above the sea level, the plants are not subtropical
there because the temperatures go below 2°С or 35° F in winter. Winters in Yalta are
very mild and the snow doesn’t fall often. When it does fall, it melts quickly. Summers
in Yalta are hot and autumns are mild. There goes the GAZ-21 “Volga”. I used to drive
one when I lived in Crimea. I wish I could drive her again!
Yalta’s promenade runs for a kilometer along the coast of the Black Sea. It is one of the
oldest streets in the city. It was improved at the end of the 19th century. It was reinforced
with structural blocks and decorated with granite. Steps facing the water were added
to the promenade in the early 1960s. From the city side the promenade is lined with
palm trees and makes for a wonderful stroll, while the steps on the sea side are great
for watching the waves. The promenade is undoubtedly the most favorite place for both the Yalta
residents and the guests of the city. We continue our travels on a boat, going to
The Swallow’s Nest. The boat is rolling and pitching in waves. Schooner “Hispaniola”, which is moored near Hotel “Oreanda” decorates the promenade. It
was built in 1954 for filming a movie, and now is used as a cafe. A larger ship to the
right is cafe “Apelsin”. Livadiya Palace was the summer residency of
the Russian tsars. It is only 3 km away from the promenade. This palace is famous for hosting
the Yalta Conference during the Second World War, where the Allies met to discuss the post-war
division of the world. Our boat is getting close to Oreanda, one
of the most beautiful parts of Greater Yalta. It is five kilometers away from Yalta’s center.
The Tsar’s Path, which we will use to return to Yalta, runs through this area. We are walking up a steep path towards the
Swallow’s Nest. This castle was built on a 40 meter high sheer Aurora cliff on Cape
Ai-Todor in Gaspra. This cliff is named after the Roman goddess of sunrise. The castle was
built in 1912, but in 1927 a section of the cliff was destroyed during the Crimean earthquake.
The crack in the cliff was repaired in late 1960s, during the restoration of the castle.
They inserted a reinforced concrete plate under the outside section of the castle to
secure the building. Swallow’s Nest is the most recognized icon of the Southern Coast
of Crimea. If anyone tells you that nobody came to enjoy their vacations in Crimea this
year — that is not true. See how I barely found a spot for shooting this video? The boat now goes back to Yalta, but we chose to walk back along the Tsar’s Path. It is
also known as the Sunny Path. Photographer in Russian: Crimean steppe owl. Her name is Sofia Mikhailovna. They live in the Crimean steppes. According to the photographer, who let us
take a picture of this barn owl for 100 rubles, these owls live in Crimea and are called Crimean
steppe owls. This is not true. First of all, there is no such thing as a Crimean steppe
owl. Barn owls like this one do not live in Crimea. Their natural habitat in Russia is
only in Kaliningrad Oblast, while in Ukraine there are only about 30 pairs that live mostly
in Zakarpattia. Let’s take the last look at Swallow’s Nest
and turn towards the Sunny Path. I wanted to find the entrance to the path using the
GPS and a map on my phone, but the GPS receiver stopped working. Mobile signals were also
lost. As we found out later, this was because president
Putin’s and Silvio Berlusconi’s motorcade was passing nearby. They later went for a
stroll along Yalta’s promenade. The signals were being jammed for security reasons. This
is the first time I’ve seen something like this, even though I use GPS on my phone all
the time. Later we finally found the entrance to the
Tsar’s Path. It was built in 1843, and was later lengthened to 7 km in 1901. The maximum
gradient does not exceed 3°, making it nearly horizontal. Back in the days when the tsars
and their families used to stroll along this path, it did not have such ugly fences. This path was renamed “Sunny Path” (“Solnechnaya Tropa”) during the Soviet Union times, but
the name does not fit it well. Even on hot summer days this path is shady and cool. Here is an old friend, sheltopusik, or a European legless lizard. It looks like a snake but
it is actually a lizard. The front legs are missing entirely, and the rear legs are barely
noticeable. There are fewer and fewer sheltopusiks left. This is the only squirrel that we saw in Crimea.
Here cats replace squirrels. It’s a different culture.
We planned to walk along the Tsar’s Path to Livadiya, then catch a minibus back to
Yalta’s promenade. We were out of luck, however, because President Putin was visiting
Livadiya with Silvio Berlusconi, so the area was closed down. We had to walk around the
area along the Alushta highway. This doesn’t even look like September! I
love this promenade ever since I was little. Although, of course it could use quite a few
improvements. This syrup is just like I remember it from
my childhood. We had shawarma for our dinner. Time to go back to Simferopol. We are flying to Toronto tomorrow.
Yalta’s bus terminal. Moscow’s Vnukovo airport. We arrived at
1 AM but were not allowed to do the check-in, go through security and have a decent place
to rest. As far as I can understand this happened solely due to the stupidity of the night shift
workers. They had very specific instructions to keep all the passengers for Toronto until
morning, so that a visa specialist can check their travel documents. These people did not
even try to consider that Canadian passport holders do not need a visa to travel to Canada,
and hence can be let through simply based on their passport. No check-in until morning,
and that is it — is what we were told. We barely found a place to sit down and have
a nap. All of the benches were taken. People were sitting and sleeping on the floor. Unbelievable.
No, not unbelievable. This is simply a different culture. You just have to get used to it and
accept it. It is very important in general to understand
that when visiting a different culture, you need to follow the rules of this culture,
not your own. You have to be mentally prepared. If you find yourself in Kyoto or in Osaka,
you have to do as the Japanese do. If you are in Paris, you have to follow the Parisians’ example. When you are in Crimea, you have to do as the Crimeans do. Teaching Kievans to live as the people who live in Simferopol do and vice versa is unproductive. It can
even lead to violence. For example, it is futile to try to get Russian
school and university students to stop making cheat sheets and using them during tests and
exams, as a Scottish teacher Neil Martin working in a university in St. Petersburg is trying
to do. Cheating is part of Russian culture. I am glad that I had a chance to do that too
as a student, and that I did not use up my memory on useless facts. Besides, making handmade
cheat sheets is one of the ways to study and remember the material. During oral exams teachers
can tell who knows the material and who doesn’t, despite the cheating that is going on. Everyone
understands that studying is not just training one’s memory, it is primarily a way to learn
how to be able to keep learning in the future. In Canada it is the opposite. Cheating is
not only banned but also considered rude and socially unacceptable. On the other hand it
is acceptable to tattle on someone who is cheating. In Russia reporting someone doing
something wrong is generally considered unacceptable; people who tattle are considered the worst
and treated like traitors. Yet all this does not mean that the social rules in Canada,
the UK, or the USA are better than in Russia. They are just different. And you have to live
by the rules of the country, where you are living now. Cheating is part of my culture,
and it is strange that a British teacher, whose job it is to understand these cultural
nuances, doesn’t understand this. You shouldn’t teach Russians to live as Scotsmen do. You
shouldn’t believe that the Scottish way is better. This culture is just different. It
is not better or worse, it is simply different! Remembering the picture of Simferopol that
Google showed us on our departure day I want to ask those, who work at Google: “Why don’t
you also show the view of the New York City with its smell of sewage when I’m on my way
to NYC, or Market street in San Francisco that smells like urine of all the homeless
people, when I am getting ready to fly there? Do you not show all this because you are used
to it? Because you walk past these streets on your way to the office? Every day? Well,
you might be used to it, but I am not. I know I should get used to it, because this is part
of the culture where I live now. It’s just a different culture. It is not better, it
is not worse. It is simply different, and has its own benefits as well as its negative
points. Anyways, back to our journey. It is now morning
in Moscow, and finally we can check in for our flight.
After the check-in and security we are finally in a decent departure lounge, where we can
sit down, watch the airplanes outside, and even lie down. While in flight, I usually take photos and videos. However, this time we were not able
to check in online well before boarding and get seats near a window. That is why I had
plenty of time to dictate these notes to my cell phone. I hope you found them interesting.
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