The Numbers Game

Last night, I took my friend Mimi to a backpackers’ bar.  I guess I miss my people and/or normal life!  Before I proceed however I should probably give warning that this is more over-sharey and less role-modely in what is ordinarily a pretty oversharey, unrolemodely blog anyway (also, this post is not exactly under-18s friendly).  But it also takes a look at an aspect of travelling that I haven’t really discussed much before.

We were sitting behind a big round table of what I’m going to say were Swedes.  It’s funny actually—I’ve been going to this bar for just under ten years now, and you can just about tell (a) what season it is in other parts of the world and (b) whose economy’s doing well, just based on who’s travelling at the moment.  Years ago it was mainly Brits, then for a couple of years freaking everybody was Brazilian or Argentine, and now it’s Germans, Scandinavians, and an unexpected number of Italians.  Over the years the decor’s barely changed (there’s one wall with a list of cities around the world, and I’ve had so many conversations with people about which one they’re from, or which one they’re going to, or where they’ve been—ten years ago I could probably only identify where 5 of them are, and now I’ve been to half of the wall!).  More importantly, the cheap cocktail jugs haven’t changed at all.

As I was saying, we were sitting behind this round table, where everybody looked exactly the same.  All of the girls had the exact same hair colour, at the exact same length and parted in the exact same place.  They had the exact same tan, exact same make-up, almost the same clothes—clothes by which you could judge how long they’d been travelling, as they wore them with the distinct discomfort of people who’ve recently put on travel-weight.  The guys again had the exact same hair colour and style, and dressed in exactly the same way.  But more than the sameness of the people in front of us, the overall impression I got was one of loneliness.  The whole bar seemed to be full of lonely people, desperate to drink as much as they could to make a connection with anybody else.  Which, as we know, was a big part of the reason I left South America a couple of months early.

Of course, we all look for connections (snigger) in different ways.  One of the guys from the table, who had those incredibly hot pointy things next to his mouth and looked like a whole bucket of trouble, turned to me.  He watched me for a while, before saying “nice top”.  He was definitely staring in the vicinity of my top, but certainly not at any fabric.  I mentally finished off his sentence with ‘it’d look even better on my bedroom floor’, and immediately wrote him off as just another guy fucking his way around the world.

I shrugged and returned to talking with my friend, before suddenly recalling an article I’d recently read on Cracked (oh how I love thee).  There was one quote in it which absolutely shocked me: “In real life, men ages 25 to 44 — the age group of pretty much every sitcom character — average around six sexual partners. Women of that same age group average four. Over a lifetime, only 21 percent of men and 9 percent of women have had more than 15 sexual partners.”  I completely freaked–how was it even possible that people could have so few sexual partners?  I couldn’t figure it out, until suddenly it occurred to me that maybe my life, and the people I share it with, aren’t exactly normal.  To me, having slept with fifty people is completely ordinary, and I have friends who are in the multi-hundreds.  Compared to that, this idea of having sex with 4-6 people is just mind-bogglingly weird.  I mean, the idea of having sex with that number of people at the same time is less weird (though would involve rather a co-ordination effort I imagine).  Friends in my sphere will just casually ask me if I want to hook up with them, because in my world that’s a completely normal thing to do—so these low numbers seemed like they must be lies, because people are ashamed or whatever.

I then started to ponder how on earth I got socialised into this mindset, if the 4-6 figure is ‘normal’.  What on earth made me so completely abnormal?  Before I proceed I should probably clarify that no, I’m not known for sleeping around, but I don’t judge those who do—we just have a different take.  So here it’s my mindset I’m describing as ‘abnormal’, not my numbers.

Annnnd this seems like a completely appropriate time to bring up this idea of ‘numbers’.  Maybe six years ago (did mistype as ‘sex’ twice), I was seeing this guy on a somewhat casual and bad-idea’d basis.  I fell for him, not the other way around, yada yada.  Anyway, he’d always try to rationalise my feelings out, complaining that it’s only because I slept with so few people.  He told me I should have sex with way more people, and then I’d be able to deal with getting attached to people more easily, because people would just become numbers—like they were to him.  There was this whole fucked up game he and his friends would play, where obviously the highest ‘numbers’ won, but with the extra layer of a points system for what you could convince somebody to do with you.  When things between us inevitably ended (and about as awesomely as you can imagine), I decided to try and take his advice on board, to think of people as numbers.  Nope, that’s just not me—I not only couldn’t do it, I didn’t want to, either.

Maybe 18 months later, I did my second snow season.  Snowfields, btw, must be the most incestuous place in the world.  It’s quite strange actually—it’s very male-dominated (I think it’s 8 guys to 1 girl, as far as staff go—then the punters are predominantly men, too), and this created this really weird culture.  On the one hand, girls could sleep with whomever they liked, and very unusually, weren’t judged for it—unless they were being douche-bags, as in the case of one girl who slept with a couple of different guys every week while also having a boyfriend… dick move.  So to speak.  On the other hand, and in direct contrast to the ‘real world’, we were trained not to expect anything from it—sex was completely emotionless and meant nothing at all, with any attachment to be abhorred and justifiably resented.

Add in the amount of time I’ve spent in hostels and with other travellers, who are known for wanting to experience new things and not known for their inhibitions, and I guess it’s not totally surprising that I find ‘real world’ numbers (forgive me) incomprehensible.  I’ve often been labelled an ice queen because I just don’t want to fuck everybody.  On the contrary, I don’t even like people touching me on a casual basis (with the obvious exception of people I’m really close to)—something I found very confronting in Russia, where friends are super-affectionate.  It’s too intimate, and especially when travelling, I really need to feel safe.  If I do want to spend time with somebody, it’s because I want to share a moment with them specifically—it’s not just because they’re there.  I just feel like life’s too short to spend any more time with people who aren’t worth it.  And while that’s a cliché, it’s one of the strongest lessons you’ll learn while travelling—when you come into contact with hundreds and thousands of people who are doing their best to be themselves, you learn to only hold onto the ones who are genuinely worth it.  Needless to say, guy-with-great-facial-structure did not make the cut.

On belly-buttons (Amazon #2)

Early on day 2 of my Amazon adventure, my translator Guillermo and I found ourselves waiting by the water for ‘Tall Jairo’, the indigenous local who would be our guide for the next four days.  His arrival time drew closer, arrived, and passed, with no sign of the man.  Eventually in the distance we saw two boats travelling slowly together, and sure enough, it was our guy: he’d stopped to help a man who’d caught a fish half as big as his canoe:

day2 (1 of 4)

Once the boat was de-fished, we popped in and headed just a hundred metres down from the town, looking for pink dolphins.  This species of river dolphins is peculiar to the Amazon, and as the name suggests, they’re pink.  They start off quite a normal, dolphiny colour when they’re young, but as they get older their pigmentation changes and they turn a light rose.  They also have a much less pronounced dorsal fin than ocean dolphins, but are otherwise more or less the same.  Oddly enough.

There’s a local myth about these creatures, which are never hunted.  It says that, somewhat like the selkies of northern stretches of Europe (Scotland, Iceland, Scandinavia), they can take human form.  Male pink dolphins in particular are known for changing into handsome men and luring human women into the water to mate.  (Also, why is this the second time in this blog having sex with dolphins has come up?!?)  So, if you see someone standing in the water, look to see if they have a belly-button: if they do, they’re human, but if they’re don’t then they’re dolphins in disguise and you should beware.

We spent several hours in the sunshine watching dolphins (yes, a little excessive).  I really don’t have any good photos I’m afraid, but here’s what they look like:


The dolphins were plaguing a fishing net stretched across the river, and boys were cruising around in canoes trying to scare them off by slapping the water with machetes.

day2 (2 of 4)

We returned to Puerto Nariño for lunch and in order to visit a traditional Ticuna ~farm (Ticunas being the local indigenous people).  There was one big annex, with open walls and a triangular roof covered in plant fronds.  One small section of it was enfenced, and as we sat down in front of an elder, we learned all about it.

The fenced off section of the building reflected a practice of the local people, whereby upon menarche a girl would be sent into the cage (I can’t think of it in any other way) for up to three years.  During this time, she was to leave the enclosure for no reason, and it was absolutely forbidden for a man to even see her.  While interred, she would learn all of the traditions and culture of the tribe.  (This practice is still regularly performed, but usually for only ~a month).

Once her time was up, vegetable oils and waxes would be put in the girl’s hair and she would be dressed up.  The other women would get her drunk, and they would leave the enclosure together.  All of the men, meanwhile, would be barred from the village for the day.  The women started to dance around the girl, and as they did so, would grab the waxy substance in her hair and brows, pulling it out until the girl was completely bald.  Men would later join the celebrations, which continued for three days before ending with a cleansing in the river.  The girl had to keep her eyes closed for this whole time, and would only reopen them once she emerged as a woman.  (Any inaccuracies will have to be forgiven—obviously I heard this all in translation).

Next, the elder told us the story of the monkey Cheruku.  One day, a man and his wife went into the jungle to hunt for monkeys.  The man caught one monkey, and gave it to the woman to hold while he went back to hunt for more.  The woman, looking at the little monkey in her arms, loved it.  She said to it that if he were a human man, he would be very handsome and she would fall in love with him.  Upon hearing this, the monkey turned into a man and kissed her.  He then brought out a flute and played it, whereupon the lady shrank in size and jumped onto his back.  The monkey-man and the tiny woman then took to the trees, running off to become lovers.

The husband, meanwhile, returned to where he’d left his wife and couldn’t find her anywhere.  In a moment of intuition he looked to the trees, and sure enough, he saw his miniaturised wife on the back of the monkey-man as they fled.  He started to follow them into the jungle.

After many days, the monkey-man and the wife came to the shore of a huge river.  Here, there were lots of other monkeys, and as the husband watched silently from the jungle, they threw a net over the river and started to cross using it.  Once all of the monkeys were walking on the net over the river, the husband ran out from the trees and chopped the net free, so that it sank.  All of the monkeys drowned: the only survivor was the man’s wife, who was restored to her proper size.

The wife swam back to her husband and they headed into the jungle.  However, and perhaps unsurprisingly, they weren’t getting on very well.  The husband wasn’t particularly impressed that she’d run off with a monkey, and eventually he became so riled up that he left her in the jungle to find her own fate.

The woman, who had lost both her monkey love and her husband, was distraught.  She called after her husband again and again, but there was no answer.  Then, as it was a sacred time and people could still do magic, she turned herself and became the first macaw.  That’s why the macaw has such a sad cry: it’s that of the woman calling after the husband she’s lost.

Shortly after this we were at lunch and I saw that condensation from my water glass had made a picture which looked like a reindeer throwing up into the sky, so I told Jairo and Bambi that hey, I could do creation myths, too.  Haha hopefully you’re not storied out yet!

Once upon a time, the sun lived on earth like people.  It lived in the far north, with its best friend the reindeer.  One day, the sun and the reindeer were drinking at a lake, when the reindeer started looking at his reflection.  He saw what he looked like, and he compared it with the shininess of the sun, and he was so overcome with jealousy that he turned to his friend and ate him in one big gulp.  After a while though, he started to feel sick.  He felt sicker and sicker, until he couldn’t hold it in any more and he vomited the sun straight up into the sky.  That’s also why it’s still so cold in the far north: because the sun isn’t friends with the reindeer any more.

So that happened.  Jairo thought it was hilarious.

Post-lunch, we spent far too long sitting on the river once more looking at dolphins, then we made our way to a tributary.  About half an hour up this smaller water body, we came to San Martin, Jairo’s village.  The village has been there for about four years, and has a population of around 500 people.  It’s in the middle of the rainforest/national park, and the residents are local indigenous Ticuna.  They mainly occupy themselves with growing food, hunting and fishing.  There’s also a school and a small church.

The hut in which I was staying belonged to Jairo’s something-in-law.  It consisted of one large kitchen/dining area, where the whole family spent a lot of each day.  As did a range of wild-life: there was a dog, a couple of cats and a box of two-week-old kittens, some chickens and a particularly rambunctious parrot.  They aren’t yet sure whether the parrot is male or female, and are waiting to see if disappears one day (meaning it’s female), or brings another parrot back with it one day (meaning it’s male).  The hut also had an out-house and another room, where Guillermo and I slept.  This room had an adjoining small room where the family slept all together (the only room with a door).

After dropping off our things, we went upriver to go swimming in the river.  Yes, yes I did have the sound-track for ‘Pocahontas’ in my head for the entire trip (just around the riiiver bend—just aroundddd the river bennnnd!)  On the whole, it was a very inactive day, and I was getting pretty thoroughly grumpy (also quite lonely, as Bambi was the only one I could speak with and I didn’t know him that well yet).  I was actually considering cutting the trip short, but decided to sleep on it—and that was definitely the wiser choice.

After dinner, a Peruvian man arrived in the common area.  He swings by once a month with tablets and tupperware for the villagers to buy.  I was quite bemused: people kept shaking the tablets with this sort of scientific precision (not sure what that was meant to achieve).  A couple of the substances were unknown, but happily I was able to help with a couple of them (I worked in a pharmacy for a whole six weeks after finishing school in 2003, and thanks to my stupid memory memorised a massive number of compounds).  Most of the items were prescription only, and there were even some very, very powerful antibiotics.  The Peruvian obviously had no idea what the different drugs were used for: which begs the question, where exactly did the pills come from?

day2 (4 of 4)

I was also bemused by the presence of a clock the man had for sale.  What possible need would anyone in the village have for a wall-clock?  Especially a one so elaborately decorated with a depiction of the Last Supper, and tinny yet upbeat hourly song.  Bizarre.

Our final activity for the day was to go for a walk through the village under the moon.  Jairo told us a little about getting married in the village.  Essentially, the ~chief has to give permission to marry.  Largely it’s no problem: in San Martin, there are three ~clans.  You can marry people from any other clan, as they’re not your family.  However, the chief’s permission comes into play if you want to marry someone from outside the Ticuna.  It used to be permitted to marry Europeans (etc), but not any more—and it was rare, even when it was permitted.  Also worth noting is that women do get a say in who their husband will be, unlike back in the day.

Gay Russia

Now that I’m no longer in Russia, or working for or with Russians, I can finally talk about something as ‘outrageous’ as attitudes toward homosexuality in Russia.  I just want to make it clear that I’m not breaking Russian law right now!

“He signs with a girl’s name,” squealed one of my students.  “He must be gayyy!”

“Okay,” I replied.  “I don’t care.”

Homosexuality/homophobia is a big issue in Russia at the moment.  I think by now most people have heard how Russia feels about it: there was the law-suit against Madonna; the fact that the gays aren’t welcome to ‘practice homosexuality’ at the Olympics; the arrests last week; and the ‘gay propaganda’ laws that now apply to the country.  Russia does not like gays.  It’s a pretty clear message.

My stand-point is of course, as usual, an entirely liberal one.  I really couldn’t care less what genitals you have, or what you like to do with them—as long as it’s between consenting adults, I just don’t care.  It doesn’t affect me at all.  Or, looking at it a different way, having spent a lot, and I mean a lot of time in hostels (by now more than a year of my adult life), I’ve seen it all.  Boy on girl, boy on boy, girl on girl: and they’re all equally icky.  I shared a room with a gay man in Manchester for a month or so (and tried not to think too much about his promiscuity, and how the sheets were never changed).  I’ve got gay friends.  One of my friends used to head the Gay and Lesbian Committee at USyd, and I went to a party with Zak.  After we’d arrived, he looked around and pointed out that we were the only straight ones there: and I didn’t care.  People are more than their sexual preference, and more than their gender.

Are there situations that make me uncomfortable?  Yes.  The lead singer of one of my favourite punk bands, Against Me!, was the manliest dude going: until, that is, he declared herself transgender, and she now lives as a woman.  It’s confusing on a couple of levels: there’s the fact that this incredibly masculine punk voice is coming out of someone who looks female, and there’s the fact that the transition isn’t complete.  Liberal though I am, I still find it confusing when I don’t know if someone’s a man or a woman, and that’s the case with my eyes and the newly-Laura Jane Grace.

This singer, Laura, was married with a daughter when she came out to the world as transgender.  I’m not sure, if I were married to a man who became a woman, that I’d be able to deal with it.  But I read an interview with her wife, and she says that sexuality’s more fluid than we think, that it’s the person she loves, not what they’ve got.  I also once read an interview with Anna Paquin, one of the stars of True Blood, who identifies as bisexual.  She said this thing, that it’s not important to her whether someone’s a man or a woman; it’s the soul that she falls in love with.  I think that’s a really beautiful idea. While I’m not attracted to women, I’d love to be able to love each gender equally.  Haha ultimate egalitarianism?

I should mention before I go on that I’ve never heard a Russian discriminate between gay, transgender, cross-dressing etc.  I’ve witnessed a male student dressed as a woman (for a play) who was accused of being ‘gay’.  There doesn’t seem to be any distinction between the categories, or at least, I haven’t encountered one.  It’s not like gay men dress as women, or gay women dress as men: it’s not some kind of signifier.  That’s just cross-dressing, and who cares?  Scottish men are super-manly but wear kilts.  And if you look into Russia’s history, men’s costumes used to look more like dresses than anything else.  Does that mean that all Russians a few hundred years ago were gay?  Of course not.

Then there’s transgender, where for whatever reason you feel like you’ve been born as the wrong gender.  It’s not the same as being transsexual, which is getting a sex change.  It’s living as the sex that you identify with, rather than the one that your genitals declare you should be.  At this point, the singer I mentioned is transgender, and may in the future become transsexual.

Then we finally get to homosexuality, being gay.  You may be transgender (though this is the exception rather than the rule), but either way you’re attracted to your own sex.  Maybe not exclusively, after all, bisexuality’s a thing as I mentioned.  And there’s something that confuses me: why on earth is it ok for two women to have sex, but not two men?  It weirds me out.  One of my friends once told me that he doesn’t understand why his guy friends are into watching girl-on-girl porn, because as he put it, “it’s the only situation where I’m completely unwanted”.   *Eye-roll* male fantasy.

I’ve had a few gay students of course, and one transgender student.  Not that we’ve talked about it of course, and not (hello, Russia’s anti-propaganda law) that I have ever brought up homosexuality in class—but it’s completely obvious to anyone with a mote of common sense.  I’ve even had one student who publicly announced that he didn’t care what orientation someone was, as long as they were a decent person.  This kid was a little anarchist, and amazing.  I wrote in his school report that he should consider leaving Russia.  There’s no future for him there.

I’d like to mention briefly the gay gag law that’s been passed in Russia.  Of course, I was already operating under St P’s “anti-gay propaganda” law, which forbade me from talking about or ‘encouraging’ homosexuality to children.  Because, to the law-makers’ minds, people choose to be gay, and if we talk about being gay then kids might choose to be attracted to their own gender.  It’s utterly ludicrous.  Why on earth would anyone choose to be gay, especially in Russia, where they will be persecuted?  Who in the world would choose to be in a sexual minority, making finding love that much harder?  Who would choose to be disdained in a lot of the world?  It’s like choosing to be one of the Untouchables in India’s caste system, or choosing to be red-headed during witch trials that saw redheads killed for casting freaking spells.  Nobody would choose that.

I also have to mention this idea of ‘manliness’ that comes up.  People generally tolerate man-on-man less than girl-on-girl, as I mentioned, and Russia is no exception.  Gay men aren’t seen as ‘real’ men.  Well, I have to say that I didn’t meet what I would call ‘real’ men in Russia.  We all have different opinions of course, but to me a real man is independent, creative, open-minded, and secure in himself and in his sexuality.  A ‘real’ man isn’t scared of or disgusted by gay men.  A ‘real’ man uses logic and reason rather than insults to promote his ideas.  A ‘real’ man isn’t so scared and cowardly that he won’t consider opinions other than his own.  A ‘real’ man respects those around him, and treats people based on how they treat him.  A ‘real’ man is prepared to be good and brave.  A ‘real’ man doesn’t insult and degrade others for who they are and how they live their life.

I made up a little ditty years and years ago, and it encapsulates my views fairly succinctly: “people can do and be what they may, but don’t fuck with me, and don’t fuck with my day.”  Other people being in love most certainly doesn’t fit into either of those categories.

Russia and ‘gay milk’: ABC News
Russia on ‘gay tattoos’: Huffington Post
Russia on ‘no gays at the Olympics’: Buzzfeed; Christian Post; ABC News and hereAtlantic Wire; Bloomberg; the Global Post; and finally (and shockingly) the America Blog.

An open letter from Stephen Fry

NYC Russian Vodka Boycott

Fake Russia

It has been a crazy couple of weeks here at camp.  And not the ‘fun’ type of crazy: more like the ‘fml’ kind of crazy.  It’s also been very, very busy.  My teaching hours are far in excess of what I was told, and it’s six days a week once more.  I have afternoons free, though these are usually spent in a coma, trying to recover before the next day of lessons!  I have been getting some work done of course: the internet’s really bad, so I haven’t been procrastinating anywhere near as much as usual.  As such I’ve gotten a fair bit of uni reading done, and am at around 32,000 words into my book.  Ура.

Now, the kids: I have two groups, one of mainly kids in their mid-teens, and one of kids around 12 years old.  The younger group are alright: their English is generally poor, but they try very hard and are pleasant to be around.  The older group on the other hand is chock-full of super-‘Russian’ kids.  There are a few reasonable ones in there, but oh my god the racism.  Plus sexism and homophobia of course.  I have kids talking about how they want black slaves, preferably women who are only allowed to wear underwear all day.  Or then there’s the kids saying how ‘great’ it is when ‘skinheads’ kill Jews.  What, the, fuck.  But it’s not just that: they misbehave awfully in class, are selfish and cruel to each other.  Yesterday they pissed me off so much that I said ‘enough’ and made them write essays.  I hate making people write essays, but I needed to get some kind of discipline going again.  Egads.

Cultural differences are astonishing.  I need to point out that the way these kids behave isn’t some kind of genetic thing, or predisposition, or anything like that: Russians aren’t naturally fuck-wits.  When they come across something from outside their universe—ie me, in this situation—they do try and adjust to it.  They don’t want to upset me with my Western ideals.  Thus one kid, who has some VERY strong views, asked if I was in Greenpeace before he started ripping trees out of the ground.  They do try to anticipate what my morals and values might be, and do their best to not offend me.  They just don’t know this way of life.

They do get used to my Western independence pretty quickly.  This morning we all went out on the lake, and while I can’t row because of my back, they accepted that I don’t need a hand out, I’m perfectly happy to jump into the water or climb trees or leap between rocks or go hiking through the forest.  But the contrast between myself and the Russian girls was just insane.  I definitely confuse them as much as they confuse me.

I’ve actually run out of time as I have to go teach, but I’ll post this while I have enough internet to do so.  I have a lot more to say on this sexism issue, and also on Russians jumping into bed.  Confusingly.

Countries hot and cold

In Russia, people would always tell me how because I’m from a hot country, my personality doesn’t suit being in a cold country like theirs.  The theory goes that people from warm places are ‘warm’ people, open and friendly, while people from cold places have (you’ll never guess) ‘cold’, reserved personalities.  I personally think this is all rot.  Especially given that in the last twenty-four hours, I’ve had ‘warm’ experiences with people from locations as diverse as Finland, Canada, Italy and Argentina.

Yesterday I went to meet a lady who I swapped details with at the climate conference in Istanbul the other week.  She had what sounded like a promising idea, so she sent me some of her project management plan and materials to have a look over.  I thought it was great, and when we realised that we were both in Athens, we decided to meet up.

As it turns out, the lady is the wife of the Finnish Ambassador, and so the meeting took place at their massive house in the suburbs.  It was crazy (and also really nice)!  I played with the two girls for a while as the lady made lunch, then we discussed the project for a few hours, and it does sound like an interesting venture.  She wants someone like me to handle the Australian part, which is something I’m very open to: but of course, que sera sera.

After we’d finished our extended brain-storm/meeting, we and the two girls went and jumped in the pool.  The youngest daughter had to leave for tennis lessons shortly afterward though, and she was distraught.  She was crying that she ‘didn’t realise how fun Laura would be’, and didn’t want to leave.  Haha in the end, I agreed to go to an adventure park with them all on Tuesday (thankfully, their shout—not sure my budget of 10 euro a day after accommodation will stretch that far haha!)

It wasn’t much longer before it was time for me to rush off, too.  I needed to get back to near my hostel by 6pm, to pick up some business cards I’d had made.  You meet so many people travelling, and I was finding I was writing my details down a couple of times a day.  15 euro well-spent!  I didn’t realise quite how well-spent until later, however.

A few hours later, I was back in the hostel room with the pants-less Italian (who has since developed both a name and a personality, so we’re kind of almost friends-ish now), when four new guys checked in to take our empty beds.  These guys were all from Argentina, and so incredibly good-looking that the next day I went down to tell the front desk girl that I loved all of the hostel’s staff for putting them in my room (when the girl saw them later, she was rendered almost speechless as well).  Again, no objectification here.

Anyway, one of the guys was just spectacular—one of the most beautiful men I’ve ever seen in my life.  Sadly though, I was in the linguistic minority last night, so didn’t talk to any of them, just listened to the Spanish and Italian flying around.  I can pick up the gist sometimes thanks to having had studied French for so long, but mainly I just read my book.  I was super-tired, anyhow.

This morning I woke up (no, shit.), and two of the other Argentinians told me that they were from Buenos Aires and checking out today.  I still hadn’t had the chance to speak with  Zoolander, but had to give up the opportunity as I was teaching an English lesson on Skype.  Then, in what was a clear flash of genius, I wrote down when I’d be in Buenos Aires on the back of a business card and gave it to him.  Classiest girl in the world.  (A few minutes later was a proud one for me, when the guy waved bye, said he’d see me in BA, and winked—and I didn’t giggle.  Because that would have been a somewhat awkward thing to explain to my student haha!)

Back to my fairly vague point for today: it seems to me that I’m Australian but more than a little Russified (so am lacking in temperature identity?!), then both Finnish and Latino people are equally warm.  I can’t understand where this ‘warm’ and ‘hot’ countries/people thing came from.  Just another of the many cultural traditions in Russia which serve to put people in the the ‘Other’ box I suppose.