From Ninth Grade to Nevsky Prospekt

There are some topics you learn in school that you are sure you will never use again. It’s not interesting. It’s memorization. It’s boring. Grumble, grumble, mutter, mutter. I’m not very docile when it comes to learning things I think are useless. My 10th grade geometry teacher would vouch for that. But this is about the 9th grade.

I have no memory of my ninth grade science teacher at Chester High School. But I wish I knew, because I’d want to thank him. Or her. For forcing me to learn the Greek alphabet.

You see, I had 22 hours in Russia last weekend (long story, blog later), and on the flight from Frankfurt I decided to study the phrase book at the back of my St. Petersburg guidebook. It was hopeless. I was exhausted from the transatlantic flight from California, and spasibo (Спасибо) was all that I could retain.

But then, I took another look at the table of the Cyrillic alphabet and the corresponding sounds, and a very, very old light bulb went off. Many — lots! — of the characters that were “strange” were that Greek alphabet that I had learned back in 9th grade science! Unbelievable!

I’d been studying the book closely before the trip, and it had the place names spelled phonetically, so with that little bit of review of the alphabet, I was able to decipher lots of signs as I did my lightning solo tour the next morning on foot. You can imagine how fun it was to figure out on my own, that СTОП was a homonym and synonym to the English word STOP.

Who knew? I really should be less judgmental about learning “useless” information. (But will I every really need to be able to calculate the volume of a storage tank? C’mon, surely not…)

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