-a young woman whose mother is French and father is Sicilian. She is the one I spend the most time with because we share Sculpture class and Russian class, which both meet 3 hours a day. I wasn’t sure we’d see her again after the first day, but she has stuck it through despite being near tears regularly. Unfortunately, she had little to no understanding of what she was getting herself into and is constantly appalled by the “Russian way” of doing things. I find it difficult to keep my patience with her, but I reacted similarly 2 years ago and keep reminding myself of that.
-the one armed Frenchman. Highly insecure, self denigrating and fast-talking. He came 3 months before the end of last year and so didn’t finish the prep course and is repeating it. He speaks passable Russian and has been wonderfully helpful as a translator. He’s young and I think very lonely. His poor self-image is maybe due to one of his arms which hangs mostly unused from his shoulder from a car accident many years ago. Its difficult not to stare at it especially when he wears a t-shirt. He can only move his pinky and bend slightly at the elbow. The musculature slims to almost nothing from the elbow to the wrist, which displays the complicated bone structure of the forearm as it twists with his movements. I gave up trying not to stare and asked him about it. He says he would do sculpture if he had the use of both arms. He’s kind. I hope he finds a girl friend. He lives with the Chinese in the dorm, which I haven’t visited but sounds very cramped much like a youth hostel.
is a woman from Vienna. Tall, lanky, with a sharp nose adorned with what look like bifocles from the fifties, she wears all black and is quite talkative with a strong command of English. She is the intellectual type who I learned during our first lunch does two hours of yoga each morning from 4 to 6, eats only raw food and prefers rain to sunshine. I thought she was in the wrong country until I heard the last part. I’m a little wary of vegetarians, but beggars can’t be choosers and she is very smart and has a Russian grandmother so understands but cannot speak Russian. We stand next to each other in drawing and she translates. It seems she has read a lot about art but practiced very little. She is a beginner and so I give her pointers when I can. To her credit she has already improved in the first two weeks, but she is still in over her head and she knows it. She talks of leaving already, but I hope she will stay. She told me the art school she graduated from in Vienna taught her no skills and the head master and head mistress got married and are now both undergoing sex operations and photographing the process for their next installation piece. No comment except to say I feel I choose the right foreign country to study art.
is Dutch and went through the prep course last year, but also hadn’t done any art before that and so didn’t pass the test. He is 37 and it shows by comparison to the average late teens early twenties of the rest of the class. He has a determined and realistic outlook taking most adversity in stride. He lives here with his Russian girlfriend and works extraordinarily hard. His Russian is quite good and even his drawing is passable especially for one year. He has an aggressive side which he has harnessed well. He used to ride motorcycles and box.
Is from Estonia, which has less than a tenth the population of NYC. He’s 19, but with a good head on his shoulders. He has studied Russian and been to Russia enough to know what to expect. I like him and talk with him about politics and life in Estonia. Since it was taken over during Soviet time he has a good understanding of Russian culture from that era.