One funny thing I heard here the other day (before i get to the meat and potatoes), despite its current inaccuracy, it holds some value for looking into the russian soul: smiling is frowned upon in Moscow.
Anyhow, I wanted to add to my last post by writing about a conversation my class mates had with my lit teacher last thursday. We asked her how much professors made in russia, and she said that teachers at MGU (the harvard, but public, of Russia). She said top of the line professors there make 500 USD per month. Everyone else is in the 200-400 range. Ok, so that adds up to 6000$ a year. Maybe, one might think, thats ok, its russia, that money is average. well, MGU begins with the word Moscow, and that means that money can barely buy food for the month, nevermind public transportation, or any type of extravagancy. Their equivalents in america make upwards of 20 times that number often, in a less expensive place (i guarantee this for you). This set of stats also roughly applies to DOCTORS and most public employees: libraries, anyone in the army, etc.
I have no interest in discussing economics here, in fact that would corrupt the essence of whats going on in this country. That teacher told us that the money is not what is important to russians when it comes to education, and that from a group of people who are convinced that they don't know what tomorrow has in store for them, material collection is very much less valued than an education. Her literal words were (translated): No matter how much money you have, in this country it could be gone tomorrow. An education can't leave you once you have it. Given her bias towards education, she said this view is widly held here. Whats best about this is that people don't stop learning when they have no school to go to. Word of mouth, written publication, etc, is all very much active in this country as a source of teaching, and everyone seems to value it greatly regardless of their age. Russians watch a ton of tv, this is true, but i haven't found anyone who has let that get in the way of knowledge. its astounding at times how much people know here, regardless of how much money they have.
Anyhow, I can't really think of anything valueable to add to that, it frankly speaks for itself. I would just appreciate it if those of you with the ability, to convey this to students in america, as we could all learn a lesson to that extent. Not that it will make a difference to them, but it would mean a lot to me if there were kids in america's finest schools who at least heard that no matter how much money mommy and daddy throw at their education, they would get destroyed in any subject by an 80 year old woman who has never made (in her life) the money their parents spend on one year of school.