Thursday, July 15, 2010

So its definitely been a while since I have written, but I have been extremely busy these past few days… time is definitely flying by now…and is now officially running thin because I have signed up to do almost every activity under the sun with this program – I teach English, volunteer/intern at the Hermitage, I have a speaking partner, I go to school, I try to sign up for every excursion, and somewhere in the midst of all this I still manage to see the city and have some free time for myself…
So this past weekend we went to Peterhof, which was definitely one of the most impressive sights of St. Petersburg thus far.  Once again the entire tour was in Russian, only this time our tour lady decided to start the tour during the hour bus ride - so I was basically listening to non-stop Russian for approximately 5 hours straight…I wouldn’t mind it as much but this lady had a superhuman talent to talk incessantly – I don’t think she took a breath once…Ill admit, I completely lost focus after the first 30 minutes so for all I know she could have been retelling the entire history of Russia (which telling by the amount she talked, she probably did…) and what made the whole day lightly more awkward, is that the program decided to invite all our host families to come along for the trip….considering mine babushka is not in the best health, I didn’t think she would go, but nope – she was insistent on seeing the new museum.  It wasn’t too bad but we didn’t really talk much and she also bought me an ice-cream when I specifically told here I didn’t want one (so I had to suck it up and just eat it) but it was just a really awkward situation… anyway, the fountains are beautiful of course and the gardens gorgeous, but I did not get to appreciate them, it was an unbelievably wonderful day weather-wise outside and unfortunately we had to spend our short 3 hours in Peterhof on a tour and indoors L They promised us free time but since the bus left at 415 and our tour group finished at 425, that wasn’t really an option at that point,…although I did get to stare out at the Gulf of Finland for a good 15 minutes during the tour, which significantly lifted my spirits that day…
So as Russia was perfectly described to me by a local – it is a love-hate relationship with this country.  One day life is incredible and nothing could go wrong and the next it seems like this place is a vacuum of misfortune….I literally go through stages where one minute I am ecstatic that I have only 31 more days here of sleeping on a bed with the comfort quality of a canoe, eating heavy butter-laden food, and having to elbow my way onto every transportation system possible – but then 5 minutes later I completely rescind that opinion and think about the libraries, museums, architecture, buildings, shopping, people, language, and everything else I want to do here and wish I had at least another 2 months to do it all in….and that is pretty much the epitome of this country.  So its not so surprising that my weekend was kind of a dud since that Saturday morning, it seems like since that lady began her filibuster on the bus, my weekend proportionately got worse: I didn’t get enough time to enjoy Peterhof, my babushka woke me up on the bus only to get us off at the wrong metro stop (and I ended up having to navigate us home…), we got lost on the way to seeing our director’s band play on Saturday night, I couldn’t sleep Saturday night because it was so hot, I did nothing on Sunday because every museum I wanted to go to was closed (except for the Anna Akhmatova museum, which was suuuuper interesting), they did not give me ice in my ICED tea at McDonalds even though I specifically asked for it and specifically went there because I know they have ice, and then I ended up going home early and watching the World Cup….
So despite the fact that I stayed up till 130 watching the game, Spain won and me and practically all my neighbors were cheering along side me (or against me) throughout the whole game…it did significantly tire me out at school, but I am definitely have been having an up-week language wise so its okay…
Monday I took it easy and watched Russian TV all night…Tuesday after class I went to the Museum of Political History which was basically a Russian tribute to anything and everything dealing with Russian political history from Peter the Great’s time to the Medvedev-Putin duo of the present day – I know this sounds completely nerdy, but I thought it was incredibly interesting and thoroughly enjoyed it (well maybe not thoroughly the museum was absolutely NOT air-conditioned…..) afterwards, I went to a restaurant where our program organized so-besedniki  which was basically speed dating style conversations with a dozen or so CIEE students and a dozen or so Russian students who we talked to in rotation for about 5-10 minutes… at the end of we wrote down who we enjoyed talking to so that we can meet up and converse on a regular basis from now on…there were definitely some weirdoes there, but also definitely some super cool people, and definitely at least 2 people who put my name down as a potential speaking partner – so cool…well that lasted till 1000 and I didn’t get home till 1100…Wednesday after school I walked in the sweltering heat (it was a record breaking temperature of 34 degrees….and of course our Conversation Professor informed us today that St Petersburg has not been this hot in summer for 40 years – I don’t know whether to blame global warming or just the mere fact that I am here…) anyways I walked to the Hermitage and basically spent the next 8 hours at this grand glorious museum – it is impossible to describe how enormous it is - even stating the fact that every time I have gone there (three times now) I have gotten lost is not really indicative of the colossal nature of this exhibit… I walked around with friends for a few hours (and did not even make a dent in the place) and then sat outside in the shade for an hour just to calm down from the heat and overwhelming amount of stuff in that museum for a bit…then at 600 I met in front of the Hermitage Volunteers office to get my badge and begin official work as a Hermitage Intern J I had no idea what to expect because these were all the directions I was given over the phone, but it turns out there was a big concert/festival in honor of the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille so I helped with that… my job (as was explained to me in Russian) entailed patrolling the premises and making sure people stayed off  the lawn…not the most ideal internship, but hey I got to see the concert for free and do all the fun stuff they had in the booths on the sides (painting, Frisbee, pin the donkey on the tail, skateboarding, etc. etc.) I was also the only non-Russian volunteer there and only one that spoke English so it was definitely an interesting experience but I totally still made friends with two girls there - Galina and Dania - who only spoke Russian but both told me that not only do I look Russian but that I speak it pretty well too – which of course meant that I got all flustered and then I think they probably reconsidered that opinion…the best part was that Galina was totally a hippie – she was wearing linen Bermuda shorts, a tank top, and a knit shoulder bag and had dreadlocks (which I know sounds weird but she pulled them off) and we hit it off great – we both snatched some pins and coloring books off the craft table, painted the French flag on our arms with finger paint, and drank tea from the back room – (clearly hard at work)… once again I was home at 1100 but since Dania lives 3 stops from me, she took me and showed me some short cuts home…it was totally cool because what this night showed me was that even thought I was completely on my own in a foreign country, I was completely functional, which is a hugely rewarding feeling….
But like I said life here is moving along quickly and busily and I am worried I wont have much free time…tonight I am going to me English teaching pizza party and kind of looking forward to a change of menu for dinner…Saturday we are going to Kronshtandt and Friday off to the ballet to see Swan Lake….another jammed packed weekend with more predictions of 30 plus degree weather….should be fun….

1 comment:

  1. Dear Melissa: I hope this gets to you. I had to have Ian help me set up a google account and we've been so busy at the UN that I haven't looked on your blog to see what's happening. I have now read all of them, though, and fortunately from back to front, since I see that things are better with your home stay now and I didn't have to worry as much when I got to the beginning. I can't tell you how proud I am of all that you are accomplishing -- the language, the traveling, work at the Hermitage, new friends, etc. You have been as amazing in adjusting to the situations as the situations themselves have been amazing. And since I have been to most of the places you describe, including Novgorod, it's like visiting again through new eyes. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to having you come into the January class. I'll try not to use you too much, but that will be hard. Please keep the blogs coming -- they are a wonderful journal for you. I think you have packed in more stuff than seems possible, and you have certainly done more in these few weeks than many people will do in a lifetime. Good luck with the rest of your journey All the best, Mike