Sunday, December 12


I'd just like to apologise for my laziness with my blog lately. I am still alive and well, and intend to update it again as soon as I can be bothered. Argh!

Friday, December 3

Oops, I haven't updated this in yonks...

Oh god! I did it again... Weeks without updating. I do it every time I post, and every time I do it I say I'll update more often in future. Oops.

Firstly, I have exciting news - I have a job! Yes, a Russian job! How exciting. Well, not that exciting, it's only teaching English, but it should be fun. My first class is on Monday at the biggest beer brewery in the whole of Russia, Baltika. The brand is owned by Carlsberg and pretty much has a monopoly on beer sales here, so it's pretty cool - shame I don't like beer though! I wasn't planning on getting a job here, but then I thought about how much time I waste doing nothing, and it'd be nice to have some extra cash, so I thought I may as well use my time a bit more productively. It's good money as well... We'll see how it goes.

I also went to the Hermitage again since my last update. It was nice to see some of the things I didn't see the last time I visited, such as Mattisse's 'Danse', 'Madonna Litta' by Leonardo da Vinci, and the stunning moving peacock clock made out of gold. I'm sure it won't be my last trip there, as there is still so much to see (and it's free!)... I think this is the only cultural thing I've done in the last few weeks, which is a little embarrassing, though I do still have plenty of time for sightseeing, especially when my parents come and visit! My mum has actually booked her trip here, she arrives on the 16th of January with her boyfriend - I'm so excited! It'll be so cool to show my mum the city I absolutely adore, and I'm also looking forward to English treats brought from home :D

I'm racking my brains trying to think of all the stuff I've done since my last update... This is the main reason I need to update more - my memory is terrible. It feels like I've mainly been shopping, basically. An amazing new shopping centre has opened 15 minutes walk from my house. It took 3 years to build and opened a couple of weeks ago, so the locals seem fairly excited about it and I'm quite happy to get in on the fun too. It's absolutely massive and has tons of new shops, including a few more English ones - yay! I've been three times already, oops.

I've had a few nights out recently, as well, though none were particularly crazy... Which is probably for the best! I really do enjoy Russian bars and clubs, even if they are a little smoky. Today I tried my first glass of 'fruity beer', and it was rather delicious. I really dislike beer usually, but the fruit quite overpowers the taste of the beer. I tried the cherry and apple ones today, but intend to try the rest of the wide range of flavours available...

I suppose the only other notable thing I need to mention is that the weather has changed dramatically since my last post... Nowadays, -16 is a normal daytime temperature. Anything above this is a great bonus! So anyone in England moaning about the cold, please feel for me before you do so. The snow here is great fun, though I might not be saying that anymore if I slip over, something I'm really scared of doing. It's so dry and flaky, it feels fake! Then again, I've never really been out in proper snow - Plymouth always seems to miss out - maybe this is what it's always like!

This has actually proved to be a much shorter post than I was expecting it to be... Perhaps it's because I'm tired and want to go to bed, or perhaps it's because I have a terrible memory and can't actually think of anything else to talk about, I don't know! I'm sure I'll think of something I've missed - I really feel like I've done more than the above in the last few weeks... Anyway, I'll end with some pictures of the snow I've taken around the city :)

(Left: An avenue of trees in Park Pobedy; Right: A ferris wheel I thought looked cool at Park Pobedy)

(Me in Park Pobedy - that's a frozen lake behind me!)


(An example of the epically big icicles one can find here... People get killed by them every year apparently)

Okay, that's all! Naomi :) 

Tuesday, November 16

Только в России...

So... Time to update the blog! I have a fair amount to talk about since my last update, so I hope you're sitting comfortably :P Just so you - my loyal readers - know, the title means 'only in Russia', a phrase I'm finding myself saying with increasing frequency...

Firstly, we went to our landlady (Roza)'s dacha. All Russians have some interesting obsession with living in the countryside, but also like the convenience of the city. This means almost every middle-aged person has both a city flat and a dacha, which they often build themselves from scratch or in kit form. I first discovered this strange country house phenomenon last year when I was in Russia and visited a dacha, which was extremely confusing since my knowledge of Russian was limited at best. I'm not sure if it's just a Russian tradition or what, perhaps other countries also partake in the two-houses-no-matter-how-poor-you-are craze. I dread to think how much petrol is used by Russians just going to their dachas (usually done several times a week, and they can be up to an hour or so from the city), but I expect it's a lot. This is Russia, though, and they seem to still believe their resources are limitless. Roza's dacha has been built from scratch by her husband, Vanya, who is a bit of a Jack of all trades... It has so far taken them ten years, and it seems likely at this rate that they'll still be adding to it in another ten years. It's definitely still a 'work in progress', and they actually live in a small wagon when they're there. I admire their determination in building their dream house, but it does seem a little excessive.

So we left for the dacha on Wednesday morning, after Roza had told us the traffic would be better during the week so skiving school was a good plan. A 40-minute-ish drive later and we arrived at their 'village'... The first thing that struck me (and Maddy, too) was how strange all the houses looked. They really looked like they'd popped straight out of the computer game 'The Sims' - all very strange designs, many covered in plastic fascias as though they were bought flat-pack in Ikea or something. I loved it, and decided I'd enjoy building the life-size plastic wendyhouse of my dreams if I had the chance. After stopping off at the local supermarket to buy some privisions, including a big yummy cake, Roza drove us to her house. It was in a great location, right near the coast with a nice view of the Gulf of Finland (though it was extremely misty on the day so we couldn't see very far), and I was impressed :) We sat and had tea and cake in the wagon, along with Roza's pet terrapin, who I inadvertently scared with my camera flash, before looking around the half-built dacha then going for a walk around the village. Roza is extremely similar to me in a couple of ways. The first way is our shared love of shopping (she calls me шопаголик 2 - shopaholic 2, her being number one), and the second is the fact we're both rather nosy. Wandering round the village examining everyone's houses was lovely, and Roza's commentary was entertaining - "This is a very old house - take a picture!", "A very rich old lady lives here, all on her own!", "Look at this stream, this is where the poo goes into the sea... The Finnish people don't like it," were some typical examples.

A good time was had by all, and we headed back to the city in the afternoon after a nice day of fresh air in the country. Here are some pictures to accompany my dacha story:

(Top Left: Roza's dacha; Top Right: The quality toilet facilities on offer at said dacha; Bottom: A very misty view out to the Gulf of Finland.)

The next notable event of recent days was going out on Friday night. Everyone decided to go on a huge school night out to Club Griboedov, which was handy as I can see it from my bedroom window, it's extraordinarily close, though before Friday I'd never actually been there. We started with drinks in Fidel, where I had a couple of 'cocktail Natasha's, my usual drink in Fidel. I'm not 100% sure what's in them, but they definitely contain a lot of vodka and some grenadine, and they're pretty tasty. We met a couple of German tourists in the bar and chatted to them, and they joined us for the evening. They were pretty fun guys, and had just arrived in Petersburg for the first time ever that day, so we were keen to show them a good time. We moved on to Barbara for one drink, then ran for the last metro to the club. We literally did run, by the way, which was hilarious and embarrassing, but we made it on to the last train of the night with 4 minutes to spare. The club wasn't bad, it's housed in a nuclear bomb shelter which is underground, but has an upstairs terrace and glass-walled bar. It was actually the coolest place I've been to since I got here, though it was a little pricey. I treated myself to a 'white Russian' cocktail even though it was a bit expensive, as it was the first time I'd actually seen one for sale in Russia, and it's my favourite cocktail back home... I had a good night all in all, and there were many drunken foreigners knocking about the club, so much so that I can't even remember overhearing any conversations in Russian - only English. I was yet again hungover on Saturday, even though I've quit the horrible pikey cocktails-in-cans, opting for the more traditional drink of vodka. My body couldn't even handle that! I am a rubbish drinker.

I didn't do a lot over the weekend, only a big shop in Auchan (still my favourite supermarket) and watched a few films. I watched 'Stalker', a Russian classic by Andrei Tarkovsky, though I think it needs another watch as it made little to no sense. Then again, I think that was supposed to be the point. Hmm. Yesterday I went to Mega (huge shopping mall) once again, with my friends Pippa and George, though managed to refrain from buying anything. I do need to go back later in the week to buy myself some new jeans, though, as my current pairs are getting very worn out. Bah. We found something extremely cool at Mega - a huge матрёшка (Russian doll) made of Lego, and here is a picture of me next to it:

Anyway, I apologise as always for the lengthy blog post... I don't even know who reads this anymore! It's sort of like a diary, though, it'll be nice to read over it again myself when I've forgotten bits of my year abroad! 

Naomi :)

Monday, November 8

"This is Russia, not Indonesia!"

So, not a huge amount has happened since my last post... Reading week went well, I had a nice week of rest and recuperation speckled with entertaining moments.

On Wednesday me and Pippa decided to go for a walk around the islands of Petersburg, covering two, Vasilevsky and Petrogradsky. Vasilevsky is where Pippa lives and is quite pretty, and Petrogradsky is where Zenit (one of Petersburg's main football teams) plays their matches. Petrogradsky was actually very posh and had some beautiful buildings and very expensive shops. Here are a couple of snaps from our jaunt:

(Top left: FC Zenit stadium; Top right: A pretty building on Petrograsky Island; Bottom: An entertaining sign in a fast food restaurant, listing mainly N. American cities in Cyrillic.)

On Friday, my friends George and Seb hosted a party, which was pleasant. We had two visiting guests, Tom (from Manchester) and Adam (from my uni but studying in Moscow), so it was nice catching up with them. The party moved on to our friend Nick's flat, which is 2 minutes from my flat, via a lovely Russian gypsy cab... This trip was eventful as at one point the poor driver, who appeared to speak no English, actually got out to check his tyres for punctures. Four drunken English students + one poor conked out Lada's back seat = recipe for disaster. Luckily, we all got to Nick's flat alive, though a few card games later I was starting to feel pretty tired and went home. It was a nice night, though I wasn't quite drunk enough to deserve the hellish hangover I received on Saturday :( I've resolved to quit drinking (yes, in Russia!) for the time being... Or maybe I should just quit the cheapy 9% 'cocktails' made up of unknown alcohols I insist on drinking, and stick to the more traditional beverages. We'll see.

On Sunday, me and Pippa decided to check out this flea market Pippa had read about on the internet. It was quite far from the centre in an area neither of us had previously visited, so we were a little worried about what we'd find there. The website Pippa had found directions from appeared to be from the age of dial up, so we were dubious as to whether the market even existed anymore... Luckily, it did, and our Удельная adventure began! It was basically one huge car boot sale, only with no cars, just tarpaulins laid on the ground... Cue a few hours of browsing amongst the market, which stretched as far as the eye could see in a field that made Glastonbury look well kept. Me and Pippa were pleasantly surprised at how friendly all the salesmen and women were, even when they realised we were foreign. It felt like we'd left the ever-xenophobic Russia far behind! We were brought back down to earth when we saw the sheer amount of scary 'military goods' on sale, such as knives, bullets, rusty army helmets - some with bullet holes - and grenades (no such thing as Health & Safety here!). All in all it was a great trip, even though all I bought was a pair of socks, and was a chance to speak to some lovely people... I intend to buy more next time, as we've decided to visit as often as possible, hopefully every weekend :)

I would have added some pictures of the flea market to this post, but I didn't actually take any. I was a bit scared that taking pictures of people's items might have seemed a little rude... I'll take some distance shots next time we go and upload them so you get more of an idea of what the market's like!

The aforementioned market seemed even better after we visited the tourist market near Nevsky Prospect later that same day... It was a stark contrast, as most people at the tourist market spoke English to us and were really on the hard sell. I didn't like it at all! Though it seems to be one of the better places to go to buy souvenirs, and I think if they'd realised we spoke some Russian the prices may have reduced quite drastically. Oh well, I don't need to buy any souvenirs for at least another 6 months, so I'll worry about it nearer to the time! Oh and the quote which forms the title of this post is some market stall owner's reponse when we questioned the extortionate prices of his watches...

Anyway, this is a rather long blog post considering I said I didn't have much to talk about, so I'll end it here! Also, I'm supposed to be going to my landlady's dacha (country house) on Wednesday, so hopefully I'll have lots of fun to report and nice pictures to share from there! Here are a couple more pictures from the last few days:

(Left: Amazingly named English pub near my house; Right: These snowflakes were big enough to be picked up by my camera! Winter's a-coming!)

Naomi :)

Tuesday, November 2

Reading week has commenced! Huzzah.

As the title suggests, it is currently reading week :D A time to get some much-needed rest, and maybe do some cultural activities too. Oh, and maybe a little work. It's been so long since my last post that I can't really remember everything that's happened. I'd list key events like I did in my last post, but nothing has been particularly of note. It's not been a bad week, just a pretty regular one... Therefore, I think I'll keep this post short and sweet and just say this...

...I bought a new camera! Yay! This one is a lot more 'portable' than my old one, being around a third of the size, so I'll be taking a lot more pictures from now on. I got a total bargain, a 14MP 5x optical zoom Fujifilm for around £68, plus the sales assistant was amazing. He got shoved towards us in the shop by his fellow employees, presumably because he was the only one who spoke intelligible English... He was lovely and helpful and told me and Pippa we were beautiful and thanked us for being so smiley. It's been so nice not having to lug my huge old camera around, and it means I can carry it around with me 24/7, resulting in more 'snapshot'-style photos. I haven't actually had much to take pictures of since I bought it, but here are a couple of the ones I have taken:


(Top left: What was left of the snow mentioned in my last post once I woke up; Top right: Plaque near my house informing passers-by that Lenin once lived there; Bottom: Vodka aisle at the local supermarket... Yes, it's a lot of vodka.)

My plans for reading week are as follows: Russian Museum, Alexandr Nevsky cathedral/cemetery, perhaps visit some other museum-y type things, take lots of photos, go to a party or two and sleep a lot. I'd like to be able to say I had more adventurous plans, but I'm here for 9 months and do intend to do lots of travelling, just not quite yet. There's still so much in Peter I haven't yet explored!

I'll update this again soon, hopefully with more interesting/exciting news...

Naomi :)

Friday, October 22

Зимние неба... Winter Skies...

Sorry for yet again having neglected my blog for over a week... I've been a very bad blogger recently. To make up for this, have three lovely pictures of the view from my window, with varying colours of sky.

Apparently I should stop taking quite so many photos out of my window. I haven't taken my camera out of the flat this week, though, so it's all I can offer.

As an update on my previous post, I did go to the comic exhibition. It was good, and free, and featured lots of artists from Scandinavian/European countries, which was interesting. It was actually in the museum of Anna Akhmatova, a famous female Soviet poet. The museum also contained the actual apartment she lived in, which we also visited. I liked how they'd set up the museum, it was a bit more contemporary than the Hermitage, and it was interesting to see an (somewhat) untouched Soviet apartment. We followed up our museum visit with a quick trip to Testo Mesto, an awesome chain of pie shops in St Petersburg. They sell lots of different sweet & savoury pies and you get unlimited juice, and it's rather cheap. I've been there three times already, as their pies are delicious :D

Friday saw the first snow of Winter in Petersburg! It was quite exciting at first because I hardly ever get to see snow in England. It got a little annoying after a while, though, when it's blowing horizontally at your face... And it didn't settle at all. We had a little more snow on Saturday morning, but since then it hasn't snowed until today (Friday). The snow today was heavier and the ground was a lot drier, but it only seems to have settled on the buildings and cars. Guess I'll still have to wait for the blanket of snow I envisaged Petersburg being covered with...

On Saturday my friends George and Seb had a flat party. It wasn't too crazy or anything, but it was nice and fun and their neighbours didn't seem to mind, which is always good. It was a pleasant evening, and I didn't drink too much like I did at the other party I went to before... On Sunday I went to the gig I mentioned in my last post, to see This Will Destroy You. The club the gig was in was really cool, my kind of place in terms of decor and clientele. The support band were Russian, and they were really cool. The main band who I've wanted to see for ages lived up to expectations, and I really enjoyed myself. It was quite hard to see the band, though, as the stage was very small! Next time I'll have to get there earlier to stand nearer the front. Something that was also cool was that the band hung around after the gig. I know they aren't really that famous, but it was really nice to have a little chat with them (I was too nervous to say any more) and to get my gig ticket signed. They're coming back to St Petersburg in the Spring, so I'll probably go and see them again then :)

This Will Destroy You. Not my picture, but I thought I'd break up the waffle with it :P

Monday saw yet another visit to Mega, the huge out-of-town shopping mall, for me and Pippa. I managed to get some amazing bargains in the sales and in Ашан (Auchan - supermarket mentioned in previous post)... I got a nice coat I'd actually tried on and was tempted to buy in England for half the price here at a reasonable £14 in New Look... I also got a pair of lovely brown brogue-style shoes there for a tenner. In Ашан (Auchan) I managed to find a lovely pink flowery pair of wellies for a mere £5! Great for the wet/snowy Winter ahead!

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were good in terms of school... Some schoolkids have come over from England to study Russian at the other Benedict School location, so some of our lecturers had to adjust their timetables with us. This meant I started at 12pm three days in a row! Three lie-ins! Ace. 

As for Thursday, well I left the flat at 11am and didn't return home until 6pm on Friday (today)... We (me, Pippa and George) decided to go for a drink in Дача (Datcha), our favourite watering hole, after school. After 'a drink' turned into 'a few', we decided to leave to find our friend Seb, who was in another bar. As we were getting up to leave, three Russian guys who had been sitting next to us for a while stopped us and started speaking to us in English. They seemed pretty cool so we decided to stay and chat with them for a bit. They were getting increasingly drunk and exponentially funnier, so when we left to meet Seb for the second time, we took them with us. We spent a long time trying to find the bar Seb was in, and eventually gave up. One of the Russian guys kept going on about doing his washing, and we were really confused and just assumed he was drunk and crazy, but it turned out he was taking us to a bar which is also a laundrette. It was super cool, really nice decor and you could do your washing whilst you have a drink! I intend to go back some other time... We stayed for a while and chatted to a large group of Finnish students here on holiday, before leaving and finding Seb outside. He suggested we go back to Дача/Datcha, so we did. En route, me and Pippa ran into two Russian girls and a guy, who stopped us and started speaking English to us! For some reason all Russian people wanted to be our friends last night... They thought we were cool and asked if we liked vodka, to which we replied "DA!", and they then produced a bottle from a bag. We drank the whole thing with them on the street within a matter of minutes, and went to Дача/Datcha as planned, with our two new groups of Russian friends. The night wound down a bit after that, and we went to George & Seb's flat to sleep (me and Pippa didn't fancy our chances walking home alone so late). This morning we had a very tasty breakfast of crisp sandwiches, accompanied by watching Jeremy Kyle online. All in all a good way to get over the night before! We went to SPB bar after our non-skiving fellow students had finished school, but I didn't drink any alcohol... And so was my 36-ish hour adventure, with a few new Russian friends made :D

Sorry for the length of this post! I promise I'll start updating more regularly, with shorter posts...

Naomi :)

Wednesday, October 13

Absence makes the heart grow fonder...

...But I do apologise for my absence from blogging. There's no excuse other than the fact I am a very lazy person, haha. Because of this great absence, I have absolutely loads to write about, so I apologise in advance for the length of this post, which will inevitably be huge.

I can't really remember as far back as my last post, so I'm not even sure of everything I need to update about! Therefore I will just stick to the major events rather than describing everything I've done in great detail.

The first major event was the birthday of my flatmate Mike, who turned 21 on October 5th. We celebrated the occasion by going out to our usual haunts, including the new bar we discovered, Barbara. Here they do a lovely alcoholic Slush Puppie-style drink called a Barbarita, which tastes of tropical fruits and is nice and cold and refreshing. This drink is only 50 Rubles, around £1, which also helps... Everyone had a lovely night, and a particular highlight was dancing to the YMCA with some Russian strangers. Mike got suitably drunk considering it was his 21st, so I think we succeeded on that part. Since I've had complaints (not naming any names) about the lack of photos on my blog, here is a picture of me from the night:

In the above photo (taken by my lovely flatmate Maddy), I am holding the aforementioned Barbarita drink.

Another main event from the past few weeks was my visit to Kunstkamera with Pippa. Kunstkamera was the first museum to be built in Petersburg, under orders from Peter I himself. It's supposed to be a museum of anthropology and ethnography, but a lot of people seem to go just to visit the 'Academy of Sciences' room. This room sticks out like a sore thumb within the museum, and I don't really understand why it is here, but basically it just has hundreds of dead babies in jars. Most of them display different genetic mutations found in babies, and I'm not a squeamish person, but it seemed a little excessive having so many of them. It was a truly strange experience. The rest of the museum was pleasant, and contained lots of interesting objects from Peter I's travels around the world, such as costumes, tools and art. The museum was free to get in with our student cards, so I'll probably visit again before I go home, though perhaps I don't need to visit the strange science room next time.

Another exciting development (for me, anyway), is that we discovered a HUGE hypermarket about 10 minutes walk from the flat. It's called Ашан, which is the Russian way of saying Auchan, the name of a large French chain of hypermarkets. You may recognise the name, or the logo below... It feels like being in France when you're walking around, as they sell pretty much everything there and it's all very nice and cheap. I also managed to buy Russian Scrabble there for around £4! Though playing Scrabble in Russian is much harder than I expected, so we play with a dictionary to help us. I'm hoping this will improve my Russian spelling and also my vocabulary. Ашан is basically my new favourite place in the whole of Russia. Ha. And they sell Wagon Wheels!
On Friday, some friends of mine had a flatwarming party, as, like many other people, they had decided to move out of their homestay accommodation. It was a great party, and everyone got rather merry, including myself. I didn't drink that much alcohol, and didn't even feel that drunk on the night itself, though I had one awful hangover on Saturday. It was reminiscent of the hellish hangover I had last year in Russia, and has led me to the conclusion that Russian alcohol messes me up. I'll try not to drink that much again in the future, especially if I don't fancy feeling like death the next day...

In other news, we watched a really good film in my 'kino' (cinema) class last week. It's called Стиляги (Stilyagi) and is about a rock and roll style subculture in 1950s Russia. It's basically a cheesy musical with amazing songs and costumes and I loved it. So if you love the 50s and/or Russian musicals, I highly recommend it.

The only other thing I can think to mention is the fact I've dyed my hair a very bright shade of red. It's a little too bright, if I'm honest, but I'm planning to keep it for the near future at least, as everyone seems to approve. Here's a picture to show how it now looks:

I'll end this post with a little update about my plans for the next few days, just in case I don't post on here again for ages! Tomorrow I'm supposed to be going to an exhibition of comic book art at a gallery, with one of my classmates and a Russian girl I met at the party on Friday. I'm quite excited, as I haven't been to any small galleries in Petersburg yet, so it should be interesting! And who doesn't love comics? I also think my new hair will fit in nicely. I have also bought a ticket to a gig on Sunday, which will be my first experience of live music in Russia! Exciting! Though I expect nobody reading this has heard of the band, they are called This Will Destroy You. They're an American post-rock band. They are ruddy good, and I've never seen them live before, so that makes it even more exciting! Hopefully my first Russian gig experience won't be too scary...

Anyway, time to go and finish tidying my messy bedroom! Lots of love, Naomi :)

PS. I've now made it possible to leave comments on my blog without needing an account! Hopefully this means more people will comment? Let's see...

Friday, October 1

Спасибо вам большое!

Nothing new to report, just a post to say thanks very much to my relatives (and common law relatives!) for my birthday cards :D The package arrived intact today, around 2 weeks after Dad sent them, which isn't too bad for Russian post, apparently. So, thanks everyone for the belated birthday wishes :) x

Thursday, September 30

I can't think of a title.


I've realised I never actually uploaded any photos of my coat and boots, as I said I would in my last post. I'm a bit too lazy to do this right now, but I'll get round to doing it eventually. Everything is still going well over here in St Petersburg, I'm settling in a lot now, which is good in some ways and bad in others. I need to keep exploring rather than repeatedly going to the same old places...

I need to start updating this blog a little more often! It's difficult to even remember all the things I've done since my last post... I didn't do a great deal over the weekend, as usual. School tires me out far too much during the week, so the weekend really is for relaxing! I did, however, watch a great deal of Russian television, which turned out to be pretty hilarious. I caught some of the Russian version of 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?' (Кто хочет стать миллионером?, a literal translation), and actually managed to answer the first two questions correctly! It was all downhill after that, though. After that I watched some bizarre programme which was sort of like 'Total Wipeout' fused with 'It's a Knockout', though most of the games involved live bulls trying to derail the contestants, rather than people in funny costumes throwing gunge. The climax of my evening of Russian television was Russia's equivalent of 'Britain's got Talent', Минута славы which had seemingly copied its every feature from BGT... It starred, amongst others, a group of mechanics making music with things found in their garage, a grandma playing the guitar with a lightbulb (weird, I know), a contortionist, and a guy singing the song from Tetris (Коробейники - actually a traditional Russian folk song) slowly with balalaikas in the background. All very weird, all very Russian.

The rest of this week has been very 'normal'. As I said before, I keep returning to the same places time and time again at the moment. I'm sure this will change over time as I get more adventurous and confident with my Russian. I did explore a massive street near my house which I hadn't previously been down, and found a British Pub called 'Bristol Pub' - need to get a picture of that for my Bristolian family! We also went to a new bar on Tuesday evening. It's on the same road as all of our other frequently-visited bars, Думская, but still...

Today the sky was extremely blue, so I naturally went on a bit of a photo-taking spree. I didn't take too many photos, but the ones I did take are quite pretty, so I'll add some on to the end of this post :)

In other news, I might be hanging out with some Russian people on Saturday. My friend Pippa started talking to this guy in Fidel, a regular haunt of ours, and he apparently goes to this 'discussion group' where Russians speak to each other in English. Anyway, he invited her along and she asked if she could bring a friend (me), and he said yes, so we're supposed to be going there on Saturday. Obviously this won't help our Russian initially, but we figured it's a good way to meet Russian people and make contacts. Plus, speaking Russian to a person who knows a bit of English is really nice, as they can help you out if you get stuck.

Anyway, time to go and cook myself BEANS ON TOAST for dinner! Awesome.

(Top left: Griboedov Canal near school; Top right: a pretty street near school; Bottom: the Neva river.)

Thursday, September 23

My first ever Russian birthday! And other things.

Hello! So firstly, I must apologise for my absence. I haven't updated my blog for a whole week! I've had far too much homework... And other, more exciting stuff to do. Anyway, I'll try to remember what I've been up to since last Wednesday, and recount it here for your reading pleasure :P

Thursday was a regular day at university, nothing special to report. In the evening, however, there was a housewarming party hosted by a couple of my fellow students, which was followed by going to a pretty cool bar. I was very tired, and didn't feel like drinking much (this always seems to be the case here!) so I didn't go crazy or anything. It was a nice evening, though, and it was cool to catch up with people, especially the ones from Manchester who go to the State University, as I hadn't seen them for ages. Friday at university was quite funny. After the previous night's events, so few people showed up to university the lecturers guessed there must have been a party... I went in, though, and out of my class of 10, a meagre 4 people showed up! It was quite fun actually, and my translation lecture actually felt better than the week before (when I hadn't really enjoyed it at all). There was another housewarming party on Friday night, but I ended up missing it because I started feeling really quite ill in the evening. It's a shame but two parties in two days is a little much for me!

The weekend was a fairly similar affair, not much to report at all. My flatmates and I spent most of the weekend relaxing at home or buying food at the supermarket... Went to our regular bar Datcha on Sunday evening for a few quiet drinks though, which was nice.

On Monday, my friend Pippa and I decided to venture to the out-of-town shopping mall 'Mega' once again. It was finally student loan time and we both needed boots and coats. I managed to grab some bargains, and now have a pair of rather red, very warm snow boots, which were half price at around £35. They aren't the greatest looking boots, and I wouldn't be seen dead in them at home, but they'll get the job done! Then again, when I showed my landlady said boots, she said "Wow... They'll be very warm. Possibly TOO warm!" so now I'm a little worried. Better too warm than too cold, though, I guess! And since they were so cheap, if I need to buy a lighter pair I can. I also bought myself a coat, which I found in a shop we'd somehow missed out on our last visit. The place is called Спортмастер (Sportmaster), and is pretty much the Russian version of JJB Sports or something. Only since this is Russia, quite a lot of it is more like what you'd find in Millets. My coat was half price (like the boots) and cost about £65, which really isn't bad considering it's a down coat, so feels pretty much like wearing a duvet. The only real problem is that it has raccoon fur attached to the hood, which I don't really agree with. To be honest, buying a coat without fur here is about as easy as understanding a drunk Russian tramp, so I don't feel too bad. Plus, the fur is removable, so if I start feeling really bad or if it creeps me out, I'll take it off. I'll be nice and warm whilst feeling guilty, anyway.

Tuesday wasn't very eventful at all, just went to school then came back and relaxed, really. Wednesday, however, was my birthday! A birthday in Russia! How exciting! I am now 22 years old (eek!) and celebrated with a meal of pizza with friends followed by drinks at Fidel. When I woke up yesterday, my flatmates greeted me with home-made pancakes and champagne! The table was all laid up with a candle and a flower (courtesy of my landlady) and it was truly a lovely start to the day :) It did mean I was a little tipsy by the time I got to school, but that was quite funny. Plus, you're allowed if it's your birthday. I think. After school I went shopping and got a couple of new tops in the sales, which was cool. Wore one with a skirt for my birthday celebrations. I didn't really drink much last night, but considering I never usually do anything for my birthday, I never intended for it to be a total blowout. It was just a pleasant evening spent with lovely people, and I couldn't have asked for a nicer Russian birthday :)

Anyway, this is far too long and has no photos, so I'll shut up now. I'll add a couple of photos of my coat and boots later on today, actually. Just in case anyone cares! Haha.

Naomi x

Thursday, September 16

Жизнь в России...

So, it's been quite a while since my last post on here. Not too much is new, to be honest... Still enjoying life in Russia, though everything is beginning to seem much more 'normal' here now. 

I spent most of the weekend in my flat, studying and relaxing. I seriously needed to catch up on some sleep! My flatmates went to Peterhof on Saturday, to see the palace there, and I was going to go too but I was simply too tired... I need to find someone else to go with really, as it shuts for the winter quite soon, though I suppose I could go when it re-opens in Spring. I do really want to go, though, as it sounds beautiful. The only other event over the weekend was a nice evening out on Sunday, when I went to Дача and Фидел (Datcha and Fidel), two bars next door to one another. A pleasant evening was had, though we didn't go too crazy as we had lectures the next day! I did have a nice cocktail, oddly named "Cocktail Natasha", in Фидел, which seemed to have more vodka in than anything else. My kind of drink!

Lectures on Monday went as per usual, then afterwards I went to a few shops with my flatmate Mike. After we'd browsed some places on Nevsky, we decided to try and find a charity shop I had read about on the internet... It was apparently set up by some guys who saw the success of charity shops in Europe and wanted to spread the good idea throughout Russia. We looked far and wide (and were on the street listed online and everything) but never found it! Which somewhat sucked, especially since my feet were absolutely KILLING me! Oh well, guess it closed down or something. Shame.

Yesterday's lectures were also fine, and afterwards I ended up going to the huge out-of-town mall, MEGA, with my classmate Pippa. It was totally awesome there! As sad as this sounds, it had so many English shops... These included Marks & Spencer, New Look, BHS and Peacocks, which I really didn't expect to see there! I was looking for a warm coat for winter and some boots for the snow, though I didn't end up buying either. I got a new pair of pyjamas, though. I did find a lovely Roxy coat for snowboarding, but it was around £160! Which is rather expensive. I think I might browse a little more before I commit... There are plenty of boots to choose from, though, I'd go so far as to say there is actually too much choice. All are fairly reasonably priced at around £60-70, so I'm sure I'll find a pair when I need them. Something else that must be said about this mall is that it's extremely easy to get to, just 22 Rubles (less than 50p) for the ride on the Metro, then a short ride on a free bus from the Metro station. Whenever I need clothes from now on, this place is going to be my first port of call. New Look!

I loved the "London" addition to the Peacocks sign, as though they want people to think it's some kind of posh shop. Rather funny. I also like how the IKEA sign looks in Russian :)

Today I had school once again, which actually went rather slowly :( It's still good, though, and I feel like my Russian is improving slowly but surely. After school, we went to our favourite fast food restaurant, Сити Грилл (city grill), where the entire menu is written in hilariously transliterated English, resulting in the ever-so-appetizing 'gamburger' option. I just had chips as usual, what with being a vegetarian and everything. I'm still alive, just about. After this we went to Дача (Datcha) for a couple of drinks, before coming home. On my way home, it started raining when I was about 5 minutes from my flat. I was just in time to avoid an epic rain shower, so I felt rather lucky!

Anyway, I have a nice lie in tomorrow, yay! Bedtime now.

Saturday, September 11

I found Baked Beans!

Yes, I found some Heinz Baked Beans for sale in my local Russian supermarket. I thought this was totally awesome so bought them. They were rather expensive, though, so I think I'll keep them for a special occasion. Here is a photo of said tin of beans, in case you haven't already seen it on Facebook:

In the same complex where the large supermarket is, my flatmade Maddy and I discovered several clothes shops upstairs, as well as some kind of dinosaur-based indoor theme park thing. There was also what we thought may be a Rainforest Cafe, but when I researched online later it turns out it's some sort of London Dungeon-style attraction about St Petersburg. Now I really want to go! Saving that for a rainy day, methinks...

Before we went to the big supermarket yesterday, we had school. I had Translation and Oral classes, both of which were okay. The translation was fairly difficult, as there were several colloquial phrases and words, making it almost impossible for us to know the correct answers. Oh well, I'm sure I'll get used to it. I have absolutely loads of homework to do over the weekend, so I'd better get cracking on that ASAP...

I was tempted to visit Peterhof with my flatmates and some of the other students today, but I was simply too tired. I've decided that today is just going to be a relaxing day at home. It's sad because I feel like I'm wasting being in such an amazing city, but I also know that my feet can't take much more walking right now... Hopefully I'll get to visit Peterhof before it closes for winter, though. It looks beautiful.

I'm still on the hunt for a nice winter coat! I found a gorgeous one in Zara the other day but it was about £120. I told my landlady and she's pointed me in the direction of some huge shopping mall which has Ikea and apparently LOADS of clothes shops. She says I need to look around all the shops before I make a decision on a coat, which I think is sound advice! So I may look into going there tomorrow or next weekend, or maybe one day after school. Looks like I'm going to end up paying around £100 for a coat though, I guess they hike the prices up in cold countries! Oh well, better that than get hypothermia, I suppose.

This is a relatively short post for me, guess I'm starting to get used to life in St Petersburg now... I'll end it with a couple of photos from my flat, for those who may not have seen them on Facebook.

Left: My Bedroom, Right: The UK on our HUGE World Map.

Thursday, September 9

I finally took some pictures!

Yes, I finally took some pictures of Petersburg! I need to go and take some more, though... But I do have 9 months, I suppose! I'll include a couple in this post for your viewing pleasure :P

Yesterday was good... Had school from 10-1.30 as usual. On the way to school we saw once again the Militsia stopping people and asking for passports, in exactly the same place as before. We resolved to walk on the other side of the road in future, just to be sure we won't get any pointless fines or anything. Had 'СМИ' (media) and Phonetics, both of which were quite good. Luckily, I love all the lecturers so far! They're all very friendly and nice.

After lessons we went for lunch at Теремок, a pancake place, where I had a cheese pancake followed by a caramel & apple pancake. Om nom nom nom. Both were super tasty... We made the poor decision to sit outside, which meant we had 3 different beggars approach us during our meal. Luckily the woman working in Теремок obviously encounters them a lot and seemed to be quite good at getting them to leave. Don't think I'll sit outside next time.

Went to Дом Книги (house of books) again after lunch, but this time I actually bought some books. I got a nice big Russian dictionary which seems to be really good so far, and cost around £6, which is far cheaper than it'd be in England! I also got a Russian learners' storybook, which has stories in Russian with explanations of difficult words in English in the margins. Very useful :) Had one drink in Datcha before venturing home. Discovered yet another problem with my bank account, though hopefully it's getting sorted as I type this. I'm constantly hemorrhaging money here... Was planning to go out but didn't after I discovered said problem. Oh well, hopefully it'll all be sorted ASAP.

Today was rather good. Went to school late, as I had the morning off :) My lessons today were Grammar followed by Film. Grammar was alright, we went over the old verbs of motion as well as a couple of new ones. As if there weren't enough of the bloody things already! Oh well, guess I'll just have to learn them. During the Film lesson we watched 'Восток-Запад' (East-West) which was very good though a little depressing. We didn't see the ending yet, though, perhaps it's a happy one! We'll see.

After school I went with Rebecca from my class to do a little sightseeing (with my camera this time!)... Went and took a couple of pictures of the Bronze Horseman and the outside of the Hermitage, then we decided to go inside. With our student cards we can go in completely free! Therefore, I plan to go there as often as possible. It's so big in there that you'd need to go hundreds of times to see it all... Good job it's free! It was so beautiful inside, every room was extremely decorative with pictures all over the ceilings and huge chandeliers... It was lovely. And the art wasn't bad, too :P

Anyway, I'll end this post with a couple of pictures and shut up. My posts are way too long on here!


(Top left: St Isaac's Cathedral; Top right: inside the Hermitage (Winter Palace) courtyard; Bottom: me outside the Hermitage.)

Tuesday, September 7

First real day of school...

So, to avoid such lengthy blog posts as last night's, I think I should update this as often as possible... Here is the overview of my first day of school :P

We left the house at 9am in order to walk to the school by 10 and still have time to spare. It took about 35-40 mins to walk, which isn't bad. I think I'll be walking every day unless the weather is truly awful, it's much less hassle than the Metro and there always seems to be something interesting happening en route... Today that happened to be some Asian-looking men getting their passports closely examined by some Militsia. We walked past hurriedly, in silence of course! Eek. Despite being in the country legally, I'm really scared about the prospect of the police asking to check my passport.

Upon arrival at the school, we found our class lists on the wall of the corridor. I am in class 3, though I'm not sure how the classes are ordered, so I'm not sure if that's good or bad. I'm with 3 other Manchester students, though, which is nice, and there are also 3 post-A level students in the class, so I guess it can't be a particularly bad class. Our first lesson was supposed to be on vocabulary, but a lot of it was taken up introducing ourselves. The lecturer was nice and I enjoyed the lesson. It wasn't too difficult, but it was the first day, so I'm assuming they'll start pushing us a bit more later on. My second lesson was oral, which was spent 'presenting' ourselves to the class, telling everyone a little about ourselves followed by questions from the lecturer, who was lovely. I now know all about my classmates, which is nice. The other students come from Edinburgh, St Andrews, Nottingham and Exeter universities. It'll be interesting to see which universities teach which things!

After university, we went for lunch near Nevsky then went on a hunt for the statue of the Bronze Horseman, on a bank of the river Neva. It was nice to see the statue I'd heard so much about in person, and seeing all the wedding parties having photos taken with it was entertaining. Russians seem to place so much importance in their wedding photos, it seems they'll happily trek around for hours all dressed up in order to ensure they get the best photos possible! Crazy. After seeing the statue, we walked along the Neva for a bit, and discovered a restaurant and night club on a pirate ship. I clearly need to visit this place, it looks immense! And it's right behind the Hermitage, which we went and had a look at again. It's so pretty it's unreal! Such a lovely colour and so much detail in the decoration... I'll take some photos when it's sunny again!

Then we walked back to Nevsky and visited Дом Книги (house of books), a popular chain of book stores in Russia. I found the English section and had a field day... They have hundreds of different Russian-English dictionaries for a fraction of the price they would be at home! And they had loads of Russian learners' story books and English novels, it was awesome. I'm definitely going back there when I have more money... After this we went for one drink in Дача and headed for home - via H&M. I managed to buy 4 lovely new tops, which were obviously necessary... No, really. I hardly brought any clothes with me :( Luckily, Russian H&M isn't much more expensive than English H&M, so it wasn't too bad.

I don't have any homework for tomorrow, but I might try and learn some of the new vocabulary I've encountered since arriving here... Then again, I may just go to bed! So tired!

Monday, September 6

Sunday, Monday, Happy Days!

Not too much has changed since my last post, I am still very happy here, so I'll just make an update on what I've been up to...

Yesterday I woke up at 7am. I was extremely tired, so decided to go back to sleep, but not before checking out the morning sun outside. It was very pretty, so I took a photo of the view from my window. Unfortunately it's actually the only photo I've actually taken since arriving, which is quite sad! Then again, I have 9 months to take photos. This one is rather nice though, I think. Here it is:

When I got up for the second time yesterday, we had a slow, lazy morning eating breakfast and chilling out. In the afternoon, however, we had a couple of errands to run before heading off to meet up with some of the other students. My flatmate Mike's Russian phone didn't work, or rather the battery didn't work. We took it to the shop and the guy replaced it, after which we went to a ticket office so both my flatmates (Mike & Maddy) could buy tickets for the Placebo concert. I was surprised at how easy it was to buy them, and now I won't worry about buying tickets myself when a band I like comes to play here.

After this we went to Nevsky Prospect once again, where we met up with a few other students for a drink and some lunch. It was nice, but then I discovered my debit card wouldn't work in Russia. Luckily I managed to call Natwest for free in the evening and it's all sorted now. Phew. I was fairly worried as I needed to pay my rent today!

As for today, we made our first visit to the Benedict School (my new place of study) on the Metro. It was a bit of a nightmare for several reasons. Firstly, it actually took longer going by Metro than on foot. This was partly because our usual exit to the street is closed for repairs, and partly because of the sheer number of people on the train. We got shoved and stared at by a few hundred Russians, but never mind. Upon arrival at the school, we had a nice welcome talk where we met the student reps & director of the school, who all seemed lovely. Following this we had a test, which I didn't think was too bad, but we'll see. I'll find out tomorrow which class I'm in, eek! Afterwards I paid off some of the money I owe the school then had just enough left to buy some chips for lunch. 

For dinner I had some 'potato cutlets with mushrooms', which was one of the few vegetarian delicacies I could find at the supermarket... They were quite tasty, actually, I must remember to buy them again. I've just realised I'm talking a lot about my eating habits, which I can only imagine is excruciatingly boring. Ah well! It'll be interesting to see how much my vegetarianism impacts on my stay in Russia...

On that note, I'll stop blabbing on about boring crap :P Gosh, this post is long. Apologies.

Sunday, September 5

My first whole day in SPB :)

So, despite being super tired after staying up on the internet half the night (you'd think I hadn't been on it for weeks, not mere hours!) I embarked on a wander around the city this morning at 9.30. Yawn. My flatmates, my lecturer - who is temporarily staying with us, our landlady and I first walked to our school, which wasn't too far away and is near a rather pretty canal. I think I'll need a few more tries before I can walk there on foot by memory, but we'll see! The Metro is so ridiculously cheap anyway if I do get lost and need to get back on track in a hurry! Or also if it's too snowy to move outside...

We met up with a few of the other students once our lecturer and landlady had left, which was nice. Everyone seems to like their flats and landladies/lords, which is ace. We wandered up Nevsky Prospect and ate some more pancakes (they're fast becoming my staple diet! Mmm!) Looked at a few of the cathedrals and churches Petersburg is littered with, checked out the Hermitage from the outside and had a couple of drinks in a nice bar called Дача (datcha)...

After this we realised we really needed to buy some phones in order to keep in touch with everyone, so we decided to go home and ask our landlady for some help to do so. I ended up getting a cute little black & red Samsung - see attached picture. It's perfectly usable and even has a game and currency converter - not bad for around £17! Technology is ridiculously cheap here compared to home...

Anyway, time to sign off again for another evening, but I am still one very happy bunny and right now I'm extremely glad I study such an interesting and awesome country! :D

Friday, September 3

I have arrived!

I'm in Russia! Yes! Arrived today at around 4pm... Took a while to get through baggage reclaim and then hours sitting in rush hour Petersburg traffic, but I finally got to the flat at around 6pm. The host is incredibly nice, the flat is amazing - we each have our own bedrooms and us 3 English students have our own kitchen & bathroom. I couldn't have asked for anything better! Our lovely host Rosa promptly took us to the phone shop to set up mobile internet, which is how I'm managing to update this so soon into my stay. Incredibly, superfast, no-contract, no limits mobile broadband is only the equivalent of £8.45 a month here. Yes, £8.45. Thanks for that, Need to get used to converting currency in my head!

Anyway, it's late in Russia now (11.50pm) so I'll leave it at that!

Naomi (a very happy new inhabitant of Санкт-Петербург)