Irinia and her Father in their Billiard Room
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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's Springtime in Russia by Dustin Peffer
"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."
U.S. vs. Russia: A University Showdown by Glen Adkins
"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."
Written by Allison Justice, a Senior at Clemson University
Part of our weekly activities here in Russia include going to a local school called 4567. In the US when we think of school, it is usually a general name for education… university, middle, or high school, etc. In Russia when you use the word school it’s only for students below the college level. Most schools contain first through 12th grade all in one building, the younger children are in a different area of the building. All schools require English. This does not mean all people can speak English… I guess this is the same in the US, Glen took three years of Spanish in high school, but he doesn't’t speak Spanish. At this school we meet with the students, usually kids around the age of 13, and talk with them about everything, play games, and have tea and sweets. Not that every students' English at this school is perfect, but the students we meet with have excellent English. It is really interesting to meet with these children and hear about all the many stereotypes they have about Americans from television, and then correct it of course.
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. They are able to change this specialty if they do not like it, but this is difficult because many times they will be behind. Along with these specialty classes, they do take general courses of the other subjects, but they are not as involved. There are two paths students can take once they hit the 9th year. If a student does not wish to go to university he can stop school and enter college. College is for people who would rather work a sort of technical job such as a chief or mechanic.
College focuses more on practice than theory. University uses only theory. College lasts for around four years depending on the major. University comes after the 11th year. In school, students are graded from 1-5, with 5 being the highest. If a student makes all 5’s when they graduate, they receive a gold medal, if they receive only two 4’s and the rest fives, they get a silver medal. These medals provide an easier university entrance exam.
Some of the students we have worked
with at School 4567
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Without a medal a student must take an exam which has math, physics, and Russian. If you want to study English you must also take an exam that is oral and written. For Americans, university in Russia is very cheap! Average cost, if any, is only a few hundred dollars a year. If a student goes to a private university, they must pay full tuition. If a student goes to a state university, and makes well on their exam they pay nothing. If a student does poor on the exam they must pay. The educational system here is Russia in the process of being changed. Officials want their system, at least in the university setting, to be just like the American setting.
I have really enjoyed getting to spend time at this school because we have found that even though we are half way across the world teenagers are the same around they world, they thrive on TV, music, games, and playing tricks on their teachers. It’s great!