…this post is not going where you think it’s going!

My standard day at the moment is get up at around 10 or 11, leave for work at around 3pm, get home at 10pm or so, dinner at midnight, bed at 2 or 3am.  Needless to say, as I live in the middle of the city and get home quite late, there is a fair bit of drunken creeping that happens.  Tonight was no exception – I was walking from the metro to my flat (it’s 200 metres, max) when some Russian guy looked back and saw me.  He stopped so that he could fall in step and tried talking to me, despite my antisocial headphones.  I said that I couldn’t speak Russian, so he paused for a second then asked if I understood English.  I managed to keep my face convincingly blank, then replied in Russian that I could only speak French.  He looked altogether stumped and drifted off, so I thought I’d managed to deal with him – then he ran back up behind me and asked, simply, “L’amour???” (love).  Eye roll.  I ducked into the nearest restaurant and waited til he went away.

Gender relations in this country are entirely outlandish to me.  I’ll write more on it at a later date I’m sure, but basically, it’s like being in the Middle Ages.  Women wear heels and makeup everywhere – because as my friend Naz said, they’re dressing as predators.  The main goal seems to be to get married, and men represent fiscal security.  It’s just all so old-school!!  Haha flirting is characteristically Russian-ly direct – a pretty standard move is for the Russian guy to just stare and try to maintain eye contact for, say, 2 minutes.  It’s incredibly difficult to avoid if, eg, I’m sitting across from them in the metro.  Happily, I always have a textbook or some marking with me!  I find it incredibly difficult not to giggle at people all the time though.

I have to tell you about my friend Karie – she’s an American, and started at another of EF’s schools in St Petersburg at the same time as me.  When she first arrived, she stayed with a Russian friend and her family.  She gets on well with the girl and everything, so when the friend asked if Karie would consider going on a blind date with a Russian guy, she said okay.

Anyway, Karie is my age and height, and she turns up at this blind date with her friend’s friend to find that the guy is a foot shorter than her, in his late 40’s, and with a ten-year-old daughter.  Oh, and did I mention that he speaks absolutely no English?  Too funny.  She saw it through though, desperately trying to avoid his pawing.  Lol.

Speaking of Karie, we (and Naz) had a few drinks after work on Friday night, then headed to an ‘International Party’ at Mishka, a bar near my house at around 1am.  Of course, ‘international’ in this sense is ‘Russians plus one American and one Australian’.  I was meant to meet a Russian friend there but couldn’t find her.  I did have another friend at a different bar though (he couldn’t get in to Mishka), so after about an hour we missioned off to find him.  He was at a bar on Dumskaya St, in the middle of the city – I’d heard of it as there are a lot of bars there.  However, three separate individuals who we’d asked directions from said it was too dangerous to go.  My favourite part was when the bouncer at Mishka said “sure, go to that bar.  You’ll die.”  Ah Russians.  Anyway, we didn’t actually make it there, as we got distracted by sushi and then went home at about 3am.  I’d talk about my nightmareish day at work the next day (not due to hangover, as we all know I don’t ‘do’ hangovers, but due to the incredibly disorganised nature of that school :/) but then I’ll just get all ragey.

Anyway, I’m going to try and get round to taking some more photos in the next couple of days, so stay posted 🙂

xx L

We’re all crazy

“Of course it’s not normal, I’m Russian, we’re all crazy” – a Russian actually said that to me today.  It was amazing.

I have the full intention of writing a proper blog post, but am also testing out some settings to make it easier for people to leave comments, so bear with me.

In the interim, here’s the most Russian thing I saw today – the sign reads “Not working :(”

Ah, OH&S.


Shrug – it’s Russia.

  • Line up for 2 hours to have a document stamped, only to be told that you have to go to a different branch?  Shrug, it’s Russia.
  • Travel another two hours to get to the other branch, only to find a sign saying to go to the original branch?  Shrug, it’s Russia.
  • A man’s throwing what appears to be boulders off the sixth floor of a building?  Shrug, it’s Russia.
  • A horse gallops past your classroom window, followed by a crying baby?  Shrug, it’s Russia.

I think my quote of the day has to be “you have to lie to get a job in Russia.”  It’s just how things work here.  I was horrified to find out earlier today that, while I’m earning a pretty low salary by ANY kind of Western standard, Russian teachers of English make less than a third of that.  That’s only just more than I spend on rent each month.  I knew wages were low – in the metro (which is amazing, by the way – at least until about half midnight, when all of the bridges in the city open and stop traffic until morning) there are signs for McDonalds and Tepemok, a Russian food chain, with wages from starting 25,000 rubles a month.  That’s about AU$800, and apparently pretty reasonable.  To give you an idea of living costs, a room outside the city will cost around 10,000 a month, and you have to live on the outskirts until it drops to around 5,000.  If you shop at supermarkets in the city, the prices are ~90% of those in Australia.  Utilities cost around 2,000 a month.  A new (cheapish) dress costs around 2,000.  So things are very tight for anyone who’s not born into money.

Speaking of born into money, educational opportunities are also sparse.  It costs to go to university, and only those who are born into money or are outright geniuses are able to attend – there are a couple of free places for each course, but competition is insane.  Popular subjects include French and things relating to mining, particularly that of gas or oil.  Subjects such as physics are not popular.  Even if you do graduate, your chances of getting a job are not that great unless you’re well-placed with connections – most people work in trades and basic trading-related things (eg there are fruit and vegie stalls everywhere in suburbs away from the city).  Apparently jobs are more or less the same as they were in the early 90’s.

Russia is definitely not a developed country.  In saying that, living in the city here is better than living in, say, Sydney, simply for the conveniences.  The metro, as mentioned, is amazing, most things are open 24 hours, and if not, at least until ten at night; and everywhere has free wireless.  Unlike in places in Europe (or in international airports), where you have to hand an ID over or at least enter your email address before accessing wireless, you don’t have to identify yourself in any way.  That’s simply because there’s no identity protection.  The Russian government freely monitors and captures all transmitted information it wants to, and can listen in or record any phone calls you make without any reason.  So having free wireless everywhere and cheap internet works to that purpose.

On a completely different note, I’ve had friends from Aus visiting for the last few days, and that’s been really great.  Not least because I get home from work at around or just prior to 10pm, and they had a big and delicious meal waiting for me each time!  Also, when wandering around with them (and doing unusual things such as looking for electrical adapters, or trying to order a taxi) I had a lot of opportunity to use really peculiar Russian, so that was good fun.  Yesterday I submitted my application to the state uni here (I’ll probably have to fill in at least another 13 forms in triplicate – it’s Russia!), and so I should be starting my studies very soon – I’m looking forward to it!

Lastly, if you don’t get the featured image for today, then you clearly haven’t seen the film 2012:


“Yes, I mean, da”.

(Along with the Russian for “I don’t speak” and “I don’t understand”, the most common phrase I’ve used the last 48 hours.  And incidentally, the ‘not speaking’ part is out of sheer laziness, because Russians keep asking me directions and it’s shorter than ‘nfi’ )

Well, after a more-than-minor meltdown yesterday toward the end of my “induction” (it definitely can’t be written without quotation marks), resolved partly through massive facebook pep-talks and partly because the more-than-moderately-inappropriate “Chasey Lane” by the Bloodhound Gang came on in a pub I was in (and I was hilariously the only one in the room who understood what the lyrics meant), I’ve had a rather ridiculously effective 24 hours.

This afternoon I found an apartment – the centre of St Petersburg, right near direct metro lines to both of the schools I’m working at, at the moment entirely to myself, fully furnished, and all for about $100 a week.  Outrageous.  Not bad for 48 hours in the country.

I also had training at the second of the two schools at which I’m working.  The staff (and especially my boss, who was good enough to give me an old phone as mine inexplicably doesn’t work in Russia – btw my new number is my old number (starting with 61) + 18 416 246 522) all seem very friendly.  More interestingly, while in the teacher’s room I saw a book about love sayings in English.  I picked it up and flicked to a random page and saw it was all in Renglish – evidently the author had thought they were a lot better at English than they actually were, and didn’t get a native speaker to check anything.  I particularly enjoyed misquotes and the ‘amasing’ spelling.  I flicked to another page and it was the start of a chapter on dating.  It read something like “Dating is very important and what a lot of people enjoy most in their life.  But sometimes dates end badly when one person sexually assaults the other.”  WTF.  Hilarious!

I do not think that word means what you think it means.

On the topic of Renglish, after finishing work at school #1 I caught the metro to school #2 (which has lost 7 employees in the last month btw) as I was teaching for a couple of hours today.  It was a group of mid-teenagers, with a couple of particularly outspoken students.  One of them, wanting to go to the bathroom, interrupted me to ask “Laura, please, can I come out”?!  Haha.  All I could think about was the Princess Bride and “I do not think that means what you think it means”.  I almost managed not to actually laugh at him, and when he came back we went through better ways of saying what he meant.

I feel like lots has happened but I’m ridiculously tired and am moving house tomorrow, so will keep it brief – I’ve been existing so far pretty much on sushi (who would have thought?  Sushi is HUGE in St P) and overpriced coffee; killed a mosquito approximately 3 seconds ago (get the important facts here people); and seen some pretty awesome things on the street.  The two things that come to mind are one guy doing CRAZY impossible tricks with a football and his face, and a guy outside Burger King trying to hussle people in by shuffling at them.  It was pretty ace.

The other thing that has stood out is how much Russian people love it when you speak Russian to them.  A happy dance would not be out of the question!  Haha and if Russians looked like they do in the movies, that’d be quite the sight to see.

The sky is freaking beautiful here – no photos yet as I’ve been somewhat preoccupied.  I think my first will have to be of the outside of the place I’m living in – the block looks like it should house a meth lab and multiple murders.  Fantastic.