Reporters arriving at Sochi have been tweeting astonishing photos of the conditions in their hotel rooms. View from the Wing linked to quite a few of them.
I’ll caveat this post with the statement that I lived in Russia
seven nine (edit: holy crap!) years ago, so things will have changed from my experience. But it at least explains some of the things people are seeing. (But most things have no excuse, let me be clear. Water that’s dangerous for your face?!)
Let’s start with Cake in the Ass.
There are some reports that Sochi’s menus are offering “Cake in the ass” and “Ice cream in the Ass” and “Juice in the ass”. You could applaud their personalized service, but all you are seeing is an abbreviation.
There are other reports that these pictures aren’t really from Sochi and that people are just trying to pile on the initial reports. Either way, Cake in the Ass isn’t really strange to see in Russia.
There are some words in Russia that are the same words in English. We just don’t realize that because of the different Russian alphabet.
Take this example:
This is a Pizza Hut. and it is written as “Pizza Hut” even though it does not look like that.
The first time I walked past one in Russia, I sounded out the letters slowly. Once I realized it was a Pizza Hut (from direct, phonetic Cyrillic), I was elated to find some pizza after days of borscht.
The word for “assortment” in Russian is: ассортимент. Spoken, it is “assortment”. The word for “ass” is жопа. Spoken, it is “zhopa”.
Their word for assortment is an English word. It is completely acceptable in Russian to abbreviate ассортимент to асс, or “ass”. Since this is an English word, it makes sense to do a direct translation from the Cyrillic to Latin alphabet. Presto, you get “ass”, a word with a meaning in English that makes us giggle, but is still an abbreviation of the word assortment.
пирожные в ассортим means cake in (a/the) assortment.
Now let’s talk toilets.
It’s crazy that they are installing toilets upside-down and backwards. But this tweet struck me:
People have asked me what surprised me the most here in Sochi. It’s this. Without question … it’s … THIS. pic.twitter.com/1jj05FNdCP
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) February 4, 2014
This was not at all unusual from my experience in Russia–wait, I take that back. There’s a toilet! That’s fantastic.
I was not prepared for the toilet situation in Russia. Here’s an article on Russian toilets. It’s not the best explanation but I didn’t want to keep going through the search results. Trust me, don’t google Russian toilets.
I found many signs warning me not to flush toilet paper in the toilet. I also came across many public toilets without paper in them. I also rarely found a “sit down” toilet.
The toilet in my apartment was a squat one. My Chinese roommate and I couldn’t speak to each other. (She spoke Chinese, French, and heavily accented Russian. I spoke English, Spanish, and heavily accented Russian). But we united over the toilet situation. We ended up duct taping a toilet seat to our squat toilet. It sort of worked.
Without getting into too much detail, pants were a difficult thing to manage as a woman in many public restrooms. And going to the bathroom through a hole in the floor of my train onto the tracks below may be my life’s scariest accomplishment.
My point is, toilets are very different in Russia. They shouldn’t be installing them upside down, but non-flushable toilet paper was pretty common in my experience.
And try the cake in the ass. I think you’ll enjoy it.