writings of a personal documentarian

my worn soles hit the sidewalk pavement of downtown richmond virginia early morning, before the city started to wake up for the day. Before the sun skidded against the concrete. 2017 was a fruitful year for finding songs to memorize. This was still the early days of learning my second language, russian, and after speaking for a time with my russian language partner, Victor, from Krasnodar. This time it was an upbeat russian pop song I was running to, to release pent-up frustration and loneliness. I was in the city all by myself, two and a half hours away from my parent's home, pursuing an international studies degree at Virginia Commonwealth University. My choice.

Funnily enough, I quickly fell out of love with that idealistic goal and decided to just use that much needed isolated independence with learning things that lit me up like a matchstick. I rarely went to class [after a time, I didn't go at all]. One of the many things I did do though, was walk & run next to the James River to russian and french artists' songs. I would soak up the sounds like a sponge. I remember running across the high bridge, above the rapids, and as someone who is afraid of heights, it is not something I would do if I wasn't high on imagination. I was pursuing learning in a phonetically creative and escapist way. I wasn't used to this, after spending so much time in the stagnant feeling of the classroom. I hated each time walking into that dark, window-less space [to learn those same languages] with dread. But here in the bright light, alongside the flow of the river, hearing the rapids, the cobblestone walkways of Shockoe Bottom, past my favorite cafe “Urban Farmhouse,” past the mural of “Whisk” bakery, the city landscape of downtown, the hills of Church Hill, or up on the high vista of Libby Hill Park, I felt like I was in Moscow or the south of France. A long way from my current reality, where I felt my mind disorganized, stuck, and worried. As both a solitary learner and an auditory learner with a penchant for pitch, I have an ear for recognizing differences in sounds which makes music so personally effective for learning.

Elena Temnikova, Serebro, Olga Buzova, Vremya i Steklo, T-Fest, Elvira T, Potap & Nastya, Yulia Savicheva, Max Barskih, Camélia Jordana, Vanessa Paradis, Alizée, Yelle, Cœur de Pirate were some of the artists I listened to at that time, 2017-2018. After I read the book that changed language-learning for me, “Language is Music” by Susanna Zarasky.

Now I can still listen to these songs in conjunction with pleasant memories while I add new ones to my repetoire.