Updates from the past few weeks

Hi all,

So I’ve realized that I have not posted anything on my blog for the past two weeks or maybe even longer. I apologize for not keeping you updated. Many things have happened in the past few weeks. I would try to explain some of them.

For starters, I experienced my first traffic jam in Russia. Two weekends ago we went on an excursion to Veliky Novgorod (it is a very old city and if I am not mistaken that is the place where the Russian Federation started) and on our way back we got stuck in traffic. We were on the road for about 6 hours and by the time we got back to St. Petersburg, it was 2 in the morning (this by the way happened on a Sunday night). We tried to keep ourselves entertained by playing Mafia  and some people did improv singing. Ana and I also started a list of funny quotes that either we or someone  else has said. I will make a separate page for them  and would try to do my best to explain the context of each quote.

For the past two weeks I have been a bit sick as it was not hard at all to get a cold considering the fact that almost everyone on our program got sick within the first few days of getting here. So you might ask why not stay home and rest instead of going to school and getting everyone else sick? Well, we only 3 sick days for this whole semester, where we can be absent without giving an explanation, any other absence needs to be excused by a doctor’s note if you are sick or not be absence at all. So as you can imagine no one wanted to use up  their sick days within the first two weeks, including me. I am getting better now.

I am trying to remember all the interesting/ sort of important stuff so if the paragraphs do not seem to be connected in any way you know why haha. One very important thing that I want to mention is that Ana and I will get credit for IA since we are taking a class called US and Russia: Cultural and Political comparisons. The class is taught primarily in Russian (which is super helpful and interesting) but from time to time our professor speaks in English if we did not understand what he said in Russian. However, the one thing that bothers me a little bit about this class is that his powerpoint presentations are written in English and it gets a little bit confusing when I am reading a slide in English and at the same time he is speaking in Russian but I guess it’s a good exercise for my brain in some way or another.

The food here is good and I like for the most part all of the dishes that my host mom makes me. Although I have to mention that Russian cuisine generally consists of a lot of dairy products such as sour cream, mayonnaise, butter and yogurt- so far I do not have a huge problem with that as my host mom does not use that much sour cream or mayo, although sometimes she puts huge chunks of butter into my oatmeal in the morning. Ana and I have been trying to find different places to eat lunch after school as the school cafe is pretty small and generally their is a long line for food and then you cannot find a seat. We have been visiting a place called “Кофе Хауз” (literally Coffee House) and now we are pretty much regulars there. The cool thing is that as students we get discounts there 🙂 That place is pretty neat and it seems to be all over St. Petersburg. Often (almost always actually) we order some sort of chocolate cake and a chocolate drink as our favorite not has become the chocolate fondue which is just a mug of melted chocolate.

While I am still talking about food, I should also mention that for the most part I do not know Russian food items. I found that to be rather amusing and a bit worrisome when Ana and I went to a restaurant and we had no idea what was on the menu. We managed to order something and when we got our dishes neither one of use could tell what we were eating. So my suggestion for those of you who are thinking of travelling abroad where people do not speak English- learn basic food item words they would prove very useful trust me.

After being here for almost a month, I have managed to make some Russian acquaintances. The program directors organized an event called “Sobesedniki” (which is conversation partners in English). This event was a lot like speed dating. The point of it was for us to meet Russian students with whom we can practice our Russian and for them to practice their English as for the most part all of them speak some English. We meet at a bar and just talked to different people for a few hours. I really enjoyed it as I got to meet a lot of new people and also got to have a conversation in Russian that was longer than just “Hi. How are you?”.  Last weekend we went bowling with some of the people that we met during Sobesedniki. The Russian students were really nice and tried their best to get us talking in Russian as much as possible. After we finished our game of bowling we went to  a neat bar where we just talked about random stuff- the conversation was half in English half in Russian which sounded really funny to me and I am still amazed by how well we managed to communicate.

Now the most important part of my blog- I got to celebrate my birthday in Russia :). On Friday we went out to an interesting but nonetheless, good club. I did not expect to see a very Portland like club in St. Pete. The atmosphere was very relaxing and some people were playing Foosball. At one point during the night, almost all of the people in the bar ( I should say that the bar was not that very big) started to dance really funny and really crazy and Ana, me and David and got pulled into it. But it was fun so that’s all that matters, right? We left the bar around half past midnight because we had to get on the metro in order to get back home. Unlike the metro in some US cities, the metro here closes at midnight, however, we thought that on weekends it closes later. Needless to say we missed the last train and thus were stuck in downtown St. Pete. While looking at the metro schedule on the door of the metro station, some random guy came up to us and invited us to go with him to a bar. He offered us free drinks. Now at this point, Ana and I were kind of nervous because during orientation all they kept saying was not to go ANYWHERE with people that we do not know. But Tadhg and David’s host brother, Sergei, seemed to think that it was a good idea so we went. The bar turned out to be really close to the metro station and we did get free drinks. Sergei told us to never decline a free drink in Russia, because unlike in the US when someone tells you that you will get a free drink, it is actually free. We did not stay there for very long as we had to figure out how to call a cab and get home. After trying to figure out what number to call of for a cab, we finally managed to order two cabs and get home. That night was fun.

The next morning we went to Peterhof, which is where the Summer Palace of Peter the Great is located. Peterhof is a very beautiful place, with gorgeous garden full of interesting fountains. Among the many fountains there are quite a few that are called “jokers fountains” because they squirt water at you when you are least expecting it.  Here are some pictures of the fountains as I think I would not be able to explain how beautiful this place is.

This is is for now and I apologize for this long, long post. I hope you enjoyed it and I hope everyone is doing alright back in the US. 🙂


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