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)