Fun and Games in Russia

Written by John Weston, a Junior at Clemson University

Some of Russia's future leaders
Irinia and her Father in their Billiard Room
(view a larger image)

Not to long ago I was introduced to Russian billiards.  I went home with one of our Russian friends, Irina, and her dad happened to have a pool table in the basement.  I was really surprised when he uncovered the table and it was filled with one red ball and many white ones.  The table itself was much larger than the ones Americans play on and the pockets were so much smaller. 

The game consists of 16 balls, like ours, but the supposed cue ball is red and all the others are white.  The 15 white balls are racked at one end and the red ball is used to break.  The balls are also much larger than American pool balls. 

The concept of the game is much different then we’re used to.  It really doesn't matter what ball you knock into a pocket so long as the ball you hit least touches another ball.  Even the cue ball is up for play! You don’t only have to strike the cue ball (as in American billiards) but any of the 16 balls. If you strike the ball and it doesn't touch any other however, your opponent can place the ball along any of the side railsfrom where your ball bounced off.

The culture of the game is much different as well.  Instead of hand chalk, Irina’s father gave me a silky glove that only covered my index and middle fingers. The goal of the game is to be the first to knock in 8 balls; every ball you knock in your opponent must take and put on a shelf.   I was a little put-off, but I tried to play anyway. 

The first game I played I won like crazy!  I was shooting like a pro and even made 2 in at one time (this move is called a duplet in Russia).  There are cool shots you can do that involve banking the ball you strike off of another to get it in.  On that first game, I felt like I really had it mastered, and Irina’s father even called me “Pro”.  However, the next 6 times we played was a different story.  I was shooting bank shots and others that would have worked if only it wasn't a Russian pool table.  Irina’s father kept reminding me, “Russian billiards not American.” 

All of my familiar shots completely didn't work because the table was so much larger than I’m used to.  The balls were much heavier too and the pockets were so small sometimes I had to really drive the ball to get it into the hole.  After being repeatedly beaten I was humbled by the entire game.  A single game takes almost an hour to play due to the size of the table!  I eventually conceded defeat and shook Irina’s fathers hand and said “good game.” 

About 2 weeks after this, we went to a local pool hall that featured both American and Russian billiards.  After playing Russian billiards I tried to play American again.  I had become accustomed to the heavy balls and was using way too much force on the puny American balls.  They were flying off the table like birds!  Anyway, if your up for a challenge and got the time to play, try out Russian billiards, it definitely requires a skillful player (i.e.…not me)!

Also in this Issue...

  • Scholar, Russian School by Allison Justice

    "The education system here is quite confusing for Americans.  Children begin school at age seven or six.  They continue school until they are 17.  To me their school seems very long and strenuous and I really don’t understand how they keep their attention for such a long time.  The students are required to go to school for seven hours a day and for six days a week.   At about the age of thirteen, students choose a specialty such as math, biology, literature, etc to focus on."

  • "It is also a time for getting personal affairs in order.  Easter will soon be here and people are taking fasts (mostly of milk and meat products) and trying to cleanse their souls.  Other people are making a point of knowing that they have not offended anyone and if they have, they are asking for forgiveness.  Next week there is “Chistit’ Chetverg,” Cleaning Thursday, the point where cleaning kicks into high gear in order to fully prepare for the holiday.  Later over the weekend, there will be the dying and decorating of eggs."

  • "The Russian school day consist of four classes, not so bad, right?  Each class is 1 ½ hours long!  That’s a total of six hours of class a day, EVERYDAY! ...They don’t get to go to their room for a quick nap during the day.  Nor do they get to choose what classes they wish to take.  They take whatever classes their told to take depending on what major they choose.  After the day is over they finally return to their hostels to prepare their own food, yes American students that means they cook for themselves."

It's Springtime in Russia

Written by Dustin DP Peffer, a Junior at Penn State

It’s springtime here in Moscow and everyone is making preparations.  The city that was once pristine virgin-snow white then later muddy and gray has been changing into a place of new beginnings.  The cycle of seasons has once again brought us around to that most glorious time of year, Spring.            

Spring Flowers
Flower beds are beginning to be a
common site around the city
(view a larger image) .

Well, to begin with, the girls here are wearing skirts and have shed their large overcoats or parkas in favor of short jackets, what they call a “kurtka.”  Birds are singing and pairing up.  Children are playing and some of the stray dogs seem to have been run off by dogs on leashes or at least by ones with owners.  Tulips and other monocots are starting to pop out of the ground and trees are budding.  We Americans have been sitting in the sun trying to regain some of our color.  I personally nearly blinded all of Petrovsko-Razumovskaya just the other day when I rolled up my pants legs to get some extra sun.  
           

People are cleaning up everything.  Old ladies are out sweeping everyday with their homemade brooms and dustpans, and the kiosk owners spray down their parcels of blacktop with water.  Street cleaning has also resumed.  All of the students that get in trouble in the obshezhitie (the hostel) are sent out to the surrounding area to clean up the grass or the curbs or to paint.  Fences and rails are going up to keep people off the grass or out of other people’s gardens.

It is also a time for getting personal affairs in order.  Easter will soon be here and people are taking fasts (mostly of milk and meat products) and trying to cleanse their souls.  Other people are making a point of knowing that they have not offended anyone and if they have, they are asking for forgiveness.  Next week there is “Chistit’ Chetverg,” Cleaning Thursday, the point where cleaning kicks into high gear in order to fully prepare for the holiday.  Later over the weekend, there will be the dying and decorating of eggs.

Everything that was broken or run-down over the winter is now getting fixed, repaired, or replaced.  Yes, being in Russia in the spring is a great thing.  Watching everything transform before your eyes really gives one a warm feeling of hope and regeneration.

 


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