With love and vodka.

Okay, I’m making Jess entertain herself for a bit, so that I don’t fall too far behind on the blog.  Haha does that fall into ‘addiction’ territory?

Anyway, Jess arrived on Thursday afternoon, and on Friday morning she and I, plus my landlord, were standing in the post office, waiting to register her.  I was a little surprised to see a sign advertising that the post office was also a telegraph station.  Did I accidentally wake up in the past?!  It was fantastic.  My favourite part though, was when a man arrived to pick up (is that even the appropriate verb?!) his telegram.  How did he know he was getting a telegram at that time?  Did he get a text message about it?!?!  Hilarious.

Anyway, registering Jess took around three hours.  Afterward, my landlord remarked how fast it had been!  Being here involves standing in a lot of lines, filling in a lot of forms, and providing a loooooooot of paperwork.  I told Jess that I’d learned to just accept that things here take as long as they take, and she commented that her overbearing impression was that I wasn’t just accepting how things are in Russia, but that I am just spiritually and emotionally dejected!  That may be a little true, I’m not sure.  I know that when I went to the airport to pick her up, I was a little trepidatious—not of seeing her or anything like that, but in relation to the international airport itself.

Normally I love airports.  I find them this weird balance of entirely impersonal, and at the same time deeply emotional: they’re a place of goodbyes and returns.  But going to the international terminal in Piter reminded me that in just two months, I’ll be flying out of Russia, and I don’t even know how to process that!  I always feel like I’m just barely hanging on here, and in a way, the idea of going somewhere unknown again—even if things there are easier, or at least make some sense!—is a little scary.  I’m used to the armour now, and having to sort of re-form again just seems like an exhausting prospect.

After we’d managed to register JFord, we went to the zoological museum (everyone’s first stop in St Petersburg, right?).  It was SO COOL.  I’m not generally into stuffed animals, but this place had thousands upon thousands of them, including an entire stuffed woolly mammoth and the skeleton of a blue whale.  It was great!  We then went for a wander into town before I went to work.

Saturday was then spent at the Hermitage—where I’m outraged the lady wouldn’t accept my student ID, and charged me full price instead.  Like really, I’m overly outraged about it!—before having a bunch of people over to mine last night for some drinks.  Pretty cool thus far 🙂

Now, I seem to have discovered the magic of video.  Here’s me asking Jess some not-entirely-pertinent questions about how she likes Russia so far  (Jess, Nastya and I then recorded a fairly hilarious series of interviews at 3am after drinking, but you’re just going to have to use your imagination on that one haha!).  Enjoy!


Russian Rebirth

I swear I am now out-Russianing (and certainly out-rushing) the standard Russian.  Or should that be ‘Russian Standard’, which is incidentally not only a vodka but a bank?  Every time I see the logo on the bank I think cynical things about how the Russian economy got into its current state.

Anyway, this weekend I have been getting up to hi-jinx with fellow Aussie Lana, including going to watch ice-hockey last night and then jumping into the frozen Neva River today.

The hockey yesterday was freaking epic.  It was St Petersburg SKA vs Moscow Dynamo,  and was so worth it.  Lana greeted me on the metro platform with a beer in hand (and we spent the first half an hour after arriving at the stadium trying to find a way to open it).

We begin the mission to find some way to open Lana's beer.
We begin the mission to find some way to open Lana’s beer.

Outside the stadium was super-Russian:

Outside the ice hockey stadium.

Inside the stadium was also super-Russian.  We had to abandon things we’d bought at the supermarket at the door.  We then bought some chips at the kiosk, but were told to ditch them before entering the game hall itself.  A security guard told me that my bag was too big to be allowed in, but I did the standard thing I do when a Russian person tells me to do something I don’t want to – pretend not to speak the language ;).  It works every time!

This is from our seats – such a great view!:

From our seats - awesome!

The game was freaking amazing.  Before it even started we were introduced to the SKA players via huge TV screens while the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack blared.  Each player had things exploding behind them on an epic scale.  There was a big horse mascot, stripper-esque cheerleaders, national anthems, just everything.  Every time SKA scored a goal, the theme from Star Wars would play.  Music excerpts played during the game were pretty much all AC/DC, the White Stripes, and Queen.  Like I said, epic.  In the end SKA lost 2-3, but I still fangirled it up, and we’re determined to see as many more games as possible:

Me representative for St Petersburg.

Our back-up plan if we couldn’t get tickets was to go and watch crazy people jump into the Neva River.  My Russian conversation teacher was telling us about this just last week: at this time of year, people go and get baptised by jumping into the river.  She told us that things like that are why Russians have such a hardy constitution.

I love Russian ‘medicine’.

While getting ready to go to the hockey, I realised that I was probably going to have to get into a river in the middle of winter, so took my bikini with me.  Post-game, Lana and Nastya S came to mine for dinner which was lovely.  At around 1am I got a call from Lana and figured she must have forgotten something – instead she asked if I was still keen to jump in, because her flatmate’s boyfriend wanted to do it.  Naturally I said yes!

So today we met at 2ish and made our way to the ‘baptismal point’.  There’s also a 12m pool cut into the ice all winter just by the Peter and Paul Fortress – winter swimming is apparently regular practice for some 50,000 Russians, who are called ‘walruses’.  Looking at photos last night, I could see how they got their name:


Anyway, we arrived, and, well, you can see the rest.  Sorry for the lack of sound for the first part, I didn’t give Lana very good instructions on how to use my camera.  I’ve added subtitles for what I can remember:

So there you have it – I’ve been reborn as a Russian.  What a weekend!

С Новым Годом!!

In which the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing a traditional Russian folk tune accompanies “New Years’ in St Petersburg in 2 minutes or less”!

I’m a bit special sometimes and couldn’t get the music to stop at the right place.  And yes, the tetris theme song, korobeneiki, is indeed a Russian folk song 🙂

The evening started at 3pm, when I met Karie for a celebratory “we’ve been in Russia for four months!!” drink.  Aka a “our sentence is half over!!” drink.  Karie came prepared – she’d prepared a list of questions to ask me about my time in ze motherland thus far:


A couple of hours later, I went back to mine.  Les came over and we watched Ironiya Sudby, the Irony of Fate, which one is required to do on New Years’ Eve in Russia.  We also drank Russian champagne (made in St Petersburg, so I know it’s not real ‘champagne’ blah blah blah) and ate USSR icecream:


Next it was time to brave the streets (at just a little after midnight – oops!):


Santa planning:


There were a lot (LOT) of police around, but this one made me laugh the most.  “It was this big!!!“:




It’s not Christmas until you’re in a photo with a Russian Santa.  He even gave me lollies!!!:


We finally reached Palace Square at around 1am.  There was a barrier to get in so I decided to go to the bathroom before heading into the main square.  This was the line for the bathroom (the caravan with lights on):


Screw that!  Les and I went back to the barrier.  There, police were fairly obviously letting families in first, and pushing away any Stanis (Tajiks etc) from the barrier.  I got through with the magic of crowd osmosis.  Les got in a while later, after enduring the pat-down required of everyone who wasn’t me.  This was the stage:


Singing and dancing ensued:


Haha I should add that it was the singing and dancing of other people – the square was very very icy, so I tried insofar as possible not to move!  As it happened, I was standing next to a guy whose jumper said this:


(“Escort Centre, St Petersburg”).  I laughed.

Here’s my winter coat in front of the Winter Palace!:


At about this time, I got a rather interesting text from one of my friends J.  He’d called me just before, saying “hey Laura, I can’t really talk right now if you understand what I mean.”  I asked him – “you realise that you called me, right?”.  Hey, who doesn’t call someone to say they can’t talk?!   He then enlightened me:


I went and found some of the police officers in the square, and asked them where he was likely to have been taken.  They asked what he’d been arrested for, and I said I had no idea, but that he was Canadian and his Russian’s only about the same as mine, so it might be a bit tricky for him.  Either way, none of the four officers had heard anything about it – woot, it’s not New Years’ in Russia until you have a friend lost in the Russian prison system!

Short segueway – on Saturday night it was the company staff party.  I didn’t go, but maaaannnn have I heard some stories.  I think this was my favourite:


Why do all my friends end up in jail or hospital?!?!

The police advised me to keep trying to call J, and if I couldn’t get through then maybe try in the morning.

I’d completely failed to meet up with any of the other people I was supposed to see because the mobile networks were so busy, so it was just about time to go.  These are some of my favourite photos from the walk back through the city:


Santa-animal tag-team:


There were quite a few people about, considering it was 4am:


Arguably my favourite place in St P – Dom Knigi, House of Books:


The only vehicles driving on Nevsky Prospekt were emergency ones:


To be honest though, there wasn’t much ruckus, just people having a good time.  These people started a concert at a bus stop – a few started singing, and then a massive crowd joined in:


Good luck getting into the metro station, guys:


When we got to my street, Les carried on to Mayakovskaya metro station, and I started walking home.  I’d just received another text from J saying he’d been released, so yay for that.

On the walk home, some group of arseholes surrounded me at the pedestrian crossing and one tried to pinch my… shall we say posterior?  Haha hardly likely to be effective considering I’m a human marshmallow in my winter coat, but I was still pretty cut.  Shortly afterward, I came across two young Russian guys having what appeared to be a hilarious conversation in the street.  They both turned to me to try and win an argument, or something, and next thing you know I’m with a group of Russian students who want to know why I’m walking by myself.  They find out I’m Australian and speak English, and one of the guys starts telling me he’s David Duchovny and he created Tom and Jerry.  Haha famous people were about the extent of his English, but it was pretty hilarious.

Two guys grab one of my arms each and start walking me back to my apartment.  It was actually appreciated, because the street was icy and for once I didn’t fall over!  I was having a great time though, so when we all got to my apartment block and the group invited me to walk to the river with them, I said those fatal words – ладно, давайте!  (~”all right, let’s!”).

Apparently it’s tradition (but I could have completely misunderstood, it was after 5am by this point and a million people were talking to me in Russian at once) to go to the Neva river on New Years’ Eve, and cast in a bottle with a wish.  Best tradition ever?  So, I wilfully polluted, but in the most awesome of ways.  Here’s the bottle with our wishes:


And all of us ready to throw the bottle into the water together:


It was incredibly fun, and we jumped in puddles the whole way back to mine.  Yay 🙂

Happy New Year everybody!!!

Waxing poetic.

Finally, a post where you get to see me recite a Russian poem.  Just what you’ve been waiting for!

Firstly, a bit of randomness.  If you’re not on my facebook you won’t have seen the brilliant situation depicted below.  Basically, the traffic lights near my house regularly stop working, and absolute chaos ensues.  Everybody seems to believe that they have right-of-way, and you can see the results below:


As I said on my facebook, I see how Russia invented tetris!

It’s leading up to Christmas here (January 7, not the 8th as I said in the last post) and I’m having my final lessons of the year.  It’s ‘silly season’ here as much as anywhere!  Here’s something a little ridiculous I saw yesterday:


There’s a weird blend of Santa Claus and Father Frost happening here, and in fact on Tuesday I performed the role of the Snow Maiden, Father Frost’s granddaughter.  But I’ll need to research and will do a Christmas post in January 🙂

In one of my teenage groups last night (isn’t it always?) we brought in food to celebrate the New Year.


I got bored of everybody being timid, so decided to grab a marshmallow.  One of my students, outraged, yelled at me: “you CAN’T!!”.  Hot tip: she didn’t say  “can’t“.  Haha I laughed until I cried, it was amazing.

This particular class has asked me every single freaking lesson to speak some Russian to them, and I absolutely refused.  There were a few reasons for that, only one of them being shyness!  I didn’t want to undermine my teacheriness, and more importantly didn’t want them to know how much I understood – I’ve become a very effective eavesdropper, so know if they don’t understand something.

Anyway, I kept telling them ‘I’ll speak some Russian for Christmas’, and sadly they held me to it.  They even sent me a poem to learn – learning and reciting poems is part of the standard Russian curriculum.

The poem in question is called Я вас любил (Ya vas lyewbil – lyewbil I pronounced incorrectly every time – “I loved you”/”I have loved you”).  It’s super-Russian.  I’ll put the translation below.

I did get told off by one of my students on vkontakte for laughing during the poem, but what you don’t see in the below video is that after I started the poem the first time, my entire class started laughing hysterically at me – it was hard to be serious after that!  Also, I had every single student pointing a video-recording device at me.  One’s just not enough, apparently.

Anyway, here it is:

The words and my fairly liberal translation:

Я вас любил: любовь еще, быть может,
В душе моей угасла не совсем;
Но пусть она вас больше не тревожит;
Я не хочу печалить вас ничем.
Я вас любил безмолвно, безнадежно,
То робостью, то ревностью томим;
Я вас любил так искренно, так нежно,
Как, дай вам Бог, любимой быть другим.
I have loved you: and perhaps, love you yet.
It’s still fading in my soul.
But let it bother you no more;
I do not wish to sadden you.
I have loved you without a sound, without hope;
So sadly and so jealously suffered.
I loved you so shyly, so tenderly,
And with God’s grace, may you be so loved again.

The video’s also on vkontakte and my students have been messaging me to say how perfect my Russian is – score.  Apparently I was ‘Russian in a past life’.  Haha maybe they’ll take my ridiculous pronunciation exercises more seriously now?

I’ll finish on a quick note.  You’ll recall that my friend Anya helped me find a fur-less coat, and saved me from touching it at every possible occasion.  Actually, all of the teachers are now used to hearing me squeal if I accidentally touch fur, and rush over to move the offending object for me.  Anyway, so yesterday I gave Anya her Christmas present, so she grabbed me for a hug and pulled my face straight into her fur coat!  Haha it was horrible yet absolutely hilarious.

Anyway, time to do some work – it’s my last day at Primorskaya school, so I’d best do it well!

Пока 🙂