Sunday, July 7, 2013

The International City of Ufa

Comrades,

Last Monday night I went to the movie theatre with my tutor Diana and saw "Admission" featuring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. The film was in Russian and while I found it funny because I understand the American college admission process and cultural taboos, Diana found it boring. The film is about a Princeton admissions counselor who discovers a "lost" genius son. While helping to get her son (we later discover he is not her son) into Princeton, she falls in love with the college admissions counselor played by Paul Rudd. Given that most Russian students do not "tour" colleges and obsess over essays, extracurriculars and standardized test scores the way American students do, I am not surprised I was the only one in the theatre who laughed.

After the movie, Diana's boyfriend picked us up and we drove around the city. Because I live in the city center, I didn't realize the territorial reach of the city and the diversity within and between the various districts (rayon). After all, Ufa is home to some 1.2 million people.


View from my bedroom window in the historical city center.
Statue of Bashkir hero that is also the symbol of Ufa


We first drove the Chernikovka rayon, otherwise known as "Chicago" because the words sound alike and there are a lot of gangs in Chernikovka like in Chicago -- as it was explained to me. Chernikovka is  a good 30 minute bus/car ride outside the city center and contains older residential units, small grocery stores and a victory park commemorating the Soviet victory in the Great Fatherland War (WWII). There are also some petrochemical industrial facilities in "Chicago."


Awesome mural of Lenin and his comrades in "Chicago"/Chernikovka.

Park Pobedi in Chernikovka

View of Ufa from Park Pobedi

Tank in Park Pobedi
The memorial flame
Monument in Park Pobedi. For comparison, I'm 5'3. Notice how the Soviet WWII monuments are always on such a fantastically, large-and-in-charge scale

After Chicago, we went around the world in twenty minutes to Sipailovo rayon, also known as "Sao Paolo." Sipailovo borders the Ufa River, making it a shore town like Sao Paolo. Sipailovo is generally a residential district, although there is a "PromZon" (Promyshlennost' zona = Industrial Zone) that features major automobile outlets and some factories. 


The shore of Sao Paolo/Sipailovo

While it is no surprise to me that there are different labels for the regions in the city, I found the "Chicago" reference to be pretty hysterical. Yesterday, I went to the "beach" with my Russian friend and two other Americans in Inors rayon. When I asked my friend what the nickname for Inors is he responded with a question, "what is the poorest city in America?" Well, that is hard to answer, but my other American friend said probably Detroit (if looking at a major city). My Russian friend responds, "Ok, Inors is Detroit." While it doesn't have the same ring as "Chicago" and "Sao Paolo," since Ufa has a McDonalds, Subway and 3 KFCs, I guess using U.S. cities as precedents for names is logical.
Beach in "Inars" (photo credit to Aubrey Menard)

But back to Monday -- while we were driving around the city, all I could think about was the John Stewart "How I Meteored Your Motherland" clip. Diana's boyfriend would accelerate the car, and then slow down as he approached a traffic light, as there are cameras posted on top and the cops apparently love to catch cars speeding (not that there is anything wrong with that --- certainly cops do the same thing in the USA). After passing a light, he would speed up again. And turning corners...oh my. But I survived and had a wonderful time and I saw the city! I hope you enjoy the photos!

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