Friday, October 29, 2010

sleepy sparrow

Nesting in a sunny nook on the Sakha Teatra fountain... (Yakutsk, Sept. 2010)

Oh, did I wake you with my camera-shutter? Let me pick you up & put you in my flannel pocket!
(Yakutsk, Sept. 2010)

It's getting colder in Yakutsk, down to about -20C now, and the cheeky little sparrows are getting spherical.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Yes, more little waxwings, sviristeli,* perching on ash and red-currant trees in the Zalog area of Yakutsk. More of them, because as I said, these creatures make me a wee bit less homesick. I never saw one last year in Scotland, & perhaps that's why I suffered such an acute sense of d├ępaysement** the whole time.
*that's Russian for waxwing, sviristel'. I don't yet know the word in Sakha.
** new French word I learned that I love... It refers to the sense of disorientation you always feel when not in your home country. It's more than homesickness; it's the feeling of never quite adjusting to living amongst the new scenery, even after you start to feel at home.

waxwing silhouettes

Waxwings again, Yakutsk, October 2010.
Silhouettes in autumn afternoon sun. I love when the wind ruffles their head-feathers, giving them wee mohawks.

waxwings on wires

Bohemian waxwings on wires, Yakutsk, Sakha Republic, Russia. October 2010.

I wish I could express what a comfort it is to me that my favourite bird lives in this city. It's subtle things like this that make me feel a little more at home.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Graffiti on the giant grey sphere (the moon, I think) on Kirova street, Yakutsk, Sakha Republic, Sept. 2010

Sakha language graffiti on the stone in the old town, commemorating the city's founding, Yakutsk, Sakha Republic, Sept. 2010

More moon-ball graffiti, Yakutsk, Sept. 2010

Dear blog (which is nearly 5 years old!), & blog-readers, if you are out there,

Contrary to what it may seem, I do still intend to write things here! Yes! However, in the past month, I've been a little busy, packing up & travelling off to Siberia (the Sakha Republic/Yakutia -- I'll be based in the city of Yakutsk) where I'll be for 9 more months, doing my PhD research in (linguistic) anthropology.

As for exactly what I am up to, I am still not so good at the little research-in-a-nutshell descriptions, but mostly I tell people I am interested in their experiences of bi- and multi-lingualism (in this case, Sakha-Russian, primarily, with some other local languages possibly thrown in the mix, like Evenki) in terms of how they live their lives through language. And of course, how processes like urbanization affect these sorts of things, all the politics, global, federal, local, etc. But lately, I've particularly been trying to discuss how through language and communicative practice, we experience, and express the world. We make connections, create relationships through language. And I am interested in the choices people make when they use language, in terms of what influences those choices, and in turn how those choices shape their lives, & the lives of others.

I will be blogging here, anyway, but mostly posting poetry & photos & such. But I hope soon to start a Yakutsk-blog in particular, which will probably be mostly image-based (to give myself a break from all the language work, perhaps) or tell you small stories about the quirks of quotidian life here as I discover the place.

But there's no blog set up yet, as this past month has been hectic & I have been trying to settle in & get started. In the meantime, some Tove Jansson, from Moominland Midwinter, on how sometimes it is difficult to make connections, to make our words & our selves understood:

(but first, if you want to make yourself understood -- at least a wee bit -- in Sakha, you can see a list of basic phrases here!)

A herd of small creatures with spindly legs came blowing like a wisp of smoke over the ice. Someone with silvered horns walked stamping past Moomintroll, and over the fire flapped something black with large wings, which disappeared northwards. But everything happened a little too quickly, and Moomintroll never found time to introduce himself.

"Please, Too-ticky," he asked, pulling at her sweater.

She said kindly: "Well, there's The Dweller Under the Sink."

He was rather a small one, with bushy eyebrows. He sat by himself, looking into the fire.

Moomintroll sat down beside him and said: "I hope those biscuits weren't too old?"

The little beast looked at him but didn't reply.

"May I compliment you on your exceptionally bushy eyebrows?" Moomintroll continued politely.

To this the beast with the eyebrows replied: "Shadaff oomoo."

"Eh?", asked Moomintroll, surprisedly.

"Radamsah," said the little beast fretfully.

"He has a language all his own, and now he believes that you've hurt him," Too-ticky explained.

"But that wasn't my intention at all," said Moomintroll anxiously. "Radamsah, radamsah," he added imploringly.

This seemed to make the beast with the eyebrows really overcome by rage. He rose in great haste and disappeared.

"Dear me, what shall I do?" said Moomintroll, "Now he'll live under our sink for a whole year more without knowing that I just wanted to be friends with him."

"Such things happen," said Too-ticky.