Thursday, September 25, 2008

Getting Lost is Half the Fun....

Well, at least today it was. Made a wrong turn as I got off the Metro and ended up walking through a really pretty neighborhood with very high-end shops. The leaves were all changing colors and there were many parks. It was so pretty. Eventually found my way back to the Rumyantsev Manor (which is where I was trying to go). There were three exhibits in the museum: Leningrad during the Siege and Great Patriotic War, Life during NEP (the New Economic Policy in the 1920’s), and the house itself. I started off in the Leningrad area and it was horrifyingly sad the conditions that people had to live in and what they had to eat. But how life went on: they put on plays and symphonies and published books. If you have ever been to a Holocaust Museum that feeling you get when you look at the pictures of the citizens who stayed is overwhelming. They talked about how the scientists created 13 different strains of Vitamin C to help the people live. They had 125 Grams of bread as a ration of food.

The next rooms were about the NEP Era that was much more happy and energetic. There were pretty communist posters with smiling people. Everything was red (go figure). There were a lot of new inventions that they discovered and were able to use. They had cool shoes and clothing from the time period.

The house part only had a few rooms, but they had really cool grand staircases that were newly invented for this place. There was also the biggest mirror of its kind (not sure that there are different kinds, but hey) in St. Pete.

See you around the globe!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Journey to Peter and Paul Fortress

On Saturday, AIFS took us to the Peter and Paul Fortress by metro (yes all 36 of us traveled together on the metro, we didn’t lose anyone either, impressive, huh?). Once we got there, we had to wait for our tardy guide about 20 minutes or so. Then once she showed up she was very rude and snotty to us (which she continued to make jabs at us “lazy Americans” through out the tour). She did provide a lot of very good info on P&PF however. She told us how things were first built, why they were built and so on. She even described the wooden carving over the door (God kicking the magician out of Heaven thanks to Peter the Apostle (who strangely had features just like Peter the Great)). She then took us on a miniature-guided tour of the grounds (from the front entrance to the Cathedral). Then she took us inside the cathedral, which is once again beautiful. Inside there are “war spoils” or at least representations of them (such as Turkish and Swedish flags on the walls).

This is also the burial place of the Russian Tsars. From Peter the Great to the Romanovs. The Russians are fond of reburying someone at a later date. I think half of the graves she told us about included the sentence “And he (she) was reburied here about X years ago from (some country)…” This includes the grandmother of Anastasia Romanov, and the entire royal family (minus two of the bones, which were just recently authenticated) that was killed in 1917. After the tour inside we were free to go wandering in groups of 4 or 5 (based on the type of tickets we had to buy).
I went in a group of 5: Aaron, Scott, Adam, Casey, and I. Some how this is usually the group I end up going exploring with. We went outside and walked on the beach and around the fortress. Then up on the walls to see the Panorama of the Neva (which was beautiful). Then into the History of St. Petersburg in the Commandants house. It was really cool. They had life size representations of different things from the early history of St. Petersburg (which the area was apparently settled before the river was ever here? I didn’t quite understand that sentence). All the way up to 1917ish with different clothes, automobiles, typewriters, dishes, maps, flags, etc. It was actually really cool to walk around inside. We then tried to find the Cosmonaut exhibit but couldn’t and gave up and went to dinner at a nearby Georgian food restaurant.

I don’t remember the name of the place, but it was good. I had a traditional Georgian dish of an egg, butter, bread pastry. It was yummy. It also was somewhat expensive (like $16 dollars for that, water, and tip).

We then came back to the dorms and studied for a little but and then I went to bed.

Oh! I also had ice cream in 50-degree weather (which, yes, that is considered warm here). I did eat it with my gloves on though.

See you around the globe!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

As you can guess, I went to the Church of the savoir on Spilled Blood. It was built on the exact place where Tsar Alexander II was mortally wounded. It is also known as the church that took 20 years to build and 27 years to repair. It is beautiful inside. I was not sure if I was going to buy permission to take photos, but the moment I walked in, I knew I must have pictures of the inside. It is beautiful beyond description. The glass mosaics are wonderful, they depict different scenes from the Bible (I believe). The cover 7,000 square metes in total on both the inside and outside of the church.

When I was buying my ticket I had an Experience. I asked for “billet studentka e video” or student ticket and a video ticket, and showed her my Russian student ID card. I handed her enough for the printed price of a student ticket and picture ticket. She went off and handed me back part of the money and went off again. I looked at the guy who was helping her who had spoken English to the lady in front of me, and he check my ID card and said something to the ticket lady and I realized that she had given me back money that she really needed and I handed it to her. She then gave me the “video” sticker and the ticket stubs. The guy asked for an English handout and she went off angrily to him, but I caught the gist of it “She bought a Russian student ticket, she doesn’t need an English pamphlet!” and he was all “Just give it to her”

Then I went and enjoyed the beautiful mosaics. I was totally walking around jerking my head back and forth trying to take it all in. The pictures barely do it justice. They also have a souvenir shop in the church. I was looking at it. The prices were better than on the street and you were helping to fund the refurbishing of certain area of the church that need it do to visitors. I also totally had to buy my mom’s shot glass in the church. I mean where else besides Russia can you buy a shot glass in a church? (for those of you who don’t know she collects shot glasses).

Outside, I saw a funny sight that I had to take a picture of. Near all the famous old sights you will see people dressed in period costume. The lady outside the church in period costume was talking on a cell phone. I literally laughed out loud in Russia (quickly recovered and went straight faced).

Afterwards I went to Dom Kingi (House of Books) for the first time since I’ve been here. I was looking for Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Gogol for my lit class. But can you believe it they don’t have War and Peace OR Crime and Punishment in English? They have every other book by these authors, but those two. They had it in Dutch, but not English. I went upstairs and almost bought a children’s book for a dollar, but decided I would wait until I could read it and feel more accomplished by understanding more of it.

And I navigated the metro without a map!!!!! Yes this is an achievement. I totally got on at one station, switched to the other one at that same stop, rode to my transfer station, transferred and got on the correct metro home!! It rocked!

We go to Peter and Paul Fortress on Saturday. I hope to explore/eat out afterwards.

See you around the globe!

Meeting with my “babushka”

I met my Host Family today. It is a babushka. I think she is roughly 45 to 50. She is a music teacher to kindergarteners. She works with a lot of special-ed students or students with speech impediments. She has a 23-year-old son who lives at home. He is a dentist, who makes dentures. He gets in to the home around 1 AM or so. He is apparently working a lot lately so that he can get a new car (he has an old Russian one that is “bad” so that he could learn to drive, but now wants a new one- Rita (the mother) doesn’t think he needs one).

The trip back took about 40 minutes total. This included walking to the metro, riding it 2 stations, and then walking to IMOP. Not that bad. The apartment seems to be in a good neighborhood - there are lots of schools near by as well as parks.

She cooked an awesome dinner. It included borscht (yes I ate it, and it ROCKED!) blinli (sp is wrong) [Russian pancakes] with cabbage and cheese inside and potato pancakes. She had also gotten meat to cook before she knew I was a veggi and Jess (who went with me) said that it was really good.

She had her niece there to help translate, because she spoke and understood English, but her niece was much better (she had just finished studying at school). She says she will help correct my Russian and teach me stuff. This is wonderful, because that is what I wanted the homestay to do.

I have access to her kitchen to cook dinner and lunches and stuff. She will cook me breakfast (to be ready at) 8:20 AM because she will then leave for school. That is plenty early enough so that I will still have time to get ready for school and head to IMOP. I will prolly be able to review my Russian or other class info before I head off.

My room is nice. There is a bed/couch thing, closet and piano. It has a balcony that looks towards the university. The view is wonderful. She is on the 12th floor of the apartment building. (It does have an elevator). The building is located on Toreza Prospect near the Ploshchad Muzhestva metro station on the red line (for you Dr. Ely so you can figure out where I actually am). I can take either the metro or a bus to IMOP.

The view from her living room is Wonderful! You can see the entire St. Petersburg skyline, including Peter and Paul Cathedral and the TV tower that lights up.

I will not have internet there, but will have a washer that I can pay for (which is nice, so I don’t have to lug my laundry around). There are apparently grocery stores and other markets close by her house as well.

I am really looking forward to getting to stay with her!

See you around the Globe!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Я живу в Санкт-Петербурге!

So I learned a few verbs today! The title sentence says, “I live in St. Petersburg!” We also learned to read “читать”, to eat dinner (lunch) “обедать”, to eat breakfast “эавтракать” and to do “делать”

As well as the conjugations for these verbs. Apparently the first one we did was irregular, so she had to think of other ones that weren’t as weird.

Also, I go eat dinner with my homestay on Thursday, September 18th at 6pm. They are coming to IMOP (the dorms) to take me to their house. Jess, my fried who is not going to a homestay is going with me. The name listed as the family’s name is “Маргорита Яковлевна Михилина” or “Margareta Yakovlevna Mehelena” So she could be a бабчшка (babushka- grandmotherly figure) or a single mom. I am getting really excited to go. On Thursday, I am going to go buy flowers for her as a welcome gift. (Something you do in Russia)

A few of us our planning our vacation break. At least one other girl and I are definitely going to Vladimir and Suzdal outside of Moscow. There might be one or three others going with us.

See you around the globe!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Novgorod!! Saturday Sept. 13th

We went to Novgorod yesterday by a three-hour bus ride. The countryside was beautiful, even though some of the houses were leaning to one side or totally dilapidated. There were some interesting sights along the way, such as a car wrapped around a telephone pole, or a semi truck back on the side of the road without wheels or a truck that looked like it had fallen off right there and they didn’t know what to do with it. My personal favorite was the chicken house. It was a little house with chicken feet.

Novgorod was pretty but little, the only thing to do there is go do a zillion different churches (okay really like 10 or 13, but how many churches does one own really need?). We did get to hear the history of the place a little. It was the oldest city in Russia, with the oldest surviving cathedral (St. Sophia’s), and the inner Kremlin wall. There were five churches on the other side of the river, including one that it is supposed that if you run around it three times you will find a rich and handsome husband. Some of the girls did do this, it was fun to watch.

We had a hard time finding a place to eat for some of the group members, because there is really only like two places to eat. It was as Charlie said “A true Soviet Town. Lots of pretty parks and monuments, with nothing to eat or drink.” However, we did find two good, cheap food places in the end.

I went souvenir shopping and got a spoon and shot glass. I was contemplating getting some more items, before I realized they were basically fake stuff glued on to something else.

We came back to St. Pete and a few of us went out to eat at the “CCCR” or USSR café on Nevsky (sp?). It was expensive and not so great on food or service. We then caught the metro back and realized that it was doing its last stop at our station. Which we thought we had another 20 minutes or so, but apparently not. But hey, we got back in plenty of time!

See you around the globe!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My First Day That I Got Lost...

So I finally got a little lost in St. Petersburg...

I took the metro and switched to the other line. The ride to switch was interesting, it was like a scary movie. Everything was deathly silent and no one was talking, not even the baby. The stations were empty as well. After I switched stations, and got off the metro and figured my way out. Then I got lost for the first time today. (yes, notice I said first). The stupid Plosnad (or what ever the English spelling of Square is) Svadanya (?) has absoultly NO STEET SIGNS! I figured out what one of the main streets was but not the cross sections. I had to guess on which way to go (this was after I circled the square once).

well, I guessed wrong. I figured this out when I came to a river that was the wrong direction from where I needed to go. So I followed the river to a street that would take me to the Museum that I was trying to get to. Then I was walking along residential streets, or what I would consider residential streets, I got to a cross walk where this lady handed me a wrapped up carrot.

Yes I said carrot, she was running advertisment for a new grocery store, and I didn't realize what she was thrusting into my hand.

I finally got to where I thought I was going and started looking for the museum. Well, Lonely Planet St. Petersburg map, you were wrong. Dreadfully wrong. So I got lost for the second time today. I circled a bloack and realized that I was on the wrong street, so I went back and looked at the map and was standing in front of where it said it would be and was lookingat nothing, so I went around the corner and found the Central Post Office, which I needed to mail a postcard to Mama.

Side note, the post office is amazing! It is totally done up in what would be considered :Soviet Style" or make everything look pretty on the inside and like nothing on the outside. It would totally be worth pictures, if you weren;t banned from taking them, that is. Anyway I wasn't sure if since I was mailing it to the US, if I needed to put it somewhere special. So I went up to a lady and said in Russian: "Excuse me, I don'tunderstand a lot of Russian" and pointed to the card where it said "USA" in Cyrillic, she spoke for a few seconds and gestered back the way I came so I went that way and couldn't figure anything out, so I went in to the litter area where they sell letter type things and said the same thing to the lady, and she asked if I spoke English, when I said yes she said :Go outside and to your right, there are two blue boxes {which I had noticed on my way in} and put it in there"

I felt a litlle stupid, but hey, oh well.

By this time I had almost given up finding the museum, when I looked across the street and saw it (which is where the guide book map said it would be but not the map I pulled out of the guide book. Confusing.

it cost 50 Roubles to get in and it was worth it. The place had some AWESOME stuff, from way back when. Think nomadic tribes and stuff. As well as Egypt and Rome. Most of the museum was devoted to the Christian/Orthodox religion. They had old headdress, clothing, the little things they sway with incense and rosarys. As well as really Renassiance-y bibles with pretty covers. Some of the artwork was easy enough to understand even without being able to read the descriptions. Like the painting with Jesus assending to heaven and a serpant trying to eat him as bodies were being roasted over pits of fire in varying positions beneath a brown line.

They had some pretty graphic stuff, that painting was mild compared to some of the "hell" paintings. They made you go "Do WHAT?" when you saw them.

Off in one room they had a origional model of the Buddhist (sp?) place where you go as a high level Bodhavista before going to nivrana. It was amazing. So pretty, and intricate. The Babushka had to lead me to it, and that was accompined by me following her down a hall and her pointing for me to walk up to it. So worth it.

They also had a Muslim exhbit. Did you know that some branches of Muslim believe in self mutilation? I did not, but was educated by the English language sheet that went with the exhibition. They had the first edition of a rare copy of the Quran (sp?) Holy Book, it was from 1905.

Then near the exit they had a little exhibit about the Masonic Architechs (thank you Google, when I got back to look up the symbols.)

I then wandered around outside to go get pictures of some cool locations and walked down Nesky Prospect (by the way are you supposed to be able to feel your twos and fingers? Because I sure couldn't) I was looking for Dom Kingi and english language bookstore that would sell Russian textbooks, that would be helpful in class. I couldn't find it. I was also looking for WestPost to send some letters home.

Welll, didn't find Dom Kingi (apparently they don't believe in signs. I finally found WestPost after a detour into a cafe for a yummy cinnabon-raison roll to sit in the heat and regain feeling in fingers and toes.

(oh did i mention that I got lost for the third and final time looking for WestPost which is at 86 nesky Prospect, but has no sign until you come upon it, and the sign is at foot level?)

It cost 220 roubles to send two cards home from Finland (complicated mail system, lets just say that I wanted stuff to actually arrive there).

I then caught the metro home and have stayed inside the dorm since inorder to regain feeling in my extremitiys.

By the way on Thursday Night at 11:07 pm on 11 Sept it is 46 F outside.

See ya around the globe!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Getting a cell phone...

So I got a cell phone today...

that was kind of fun, there were 10 of us (or a few more, not exactly sure). We went to the same place that we had gotton our phone cards from.

To get s SIM card and the cheapest phone they had cost 1, 570 Roubles or ($63) with a $6 credit to call and send messages. Right now I only have our Directors phone number in there, but I will eventually go around and get others numbers.

It took a long time because the SIM cards he origionally gave us, didn't work so he had to give other SIM cards to us. He then activated my phone.

My number is 8(963) 343 59 95

however if you call it is going to cost me 35 Roubles/minte (we think, it could be more) so only call if you really need me.

See you all around the globe...

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Peterhof is absolutely gorgeous! The park is so quite and serene even when filled with tourists. It is huge! We walked form one side to ¾ of the way in about 1 leisurely hour. It is beautiful. There are fountains everywhere! However, most of them are replicas, as are the buildings because Hitler decided to throw a party here to celebrate his taking of St. Pete (before he actually had taken it, and Stalin decided that was NOT going to happen, so he bombed the place himself. Typical soviet ideas, however, some of the statures are original because they buried them to protect them from the upcoming bombing.

And…gasp…it actual got WARM today, not hot, but comfortable in jeans, tank top and sweater. I got to take off my jacket!!! :)

We plan on going to the store tonight so that we can get a few things. I’m planning on getting a pot because the one we have in here puts flakes into your food of whatever is coating the bottom of it, not cool.

I have fallen in love with the peach juice they have here by Cad (? Not really sure if that is the name brand).

We don’t currently have any plans for Sunday, I would like to try to find a Orthodox Church to attend, just to try it out, but not sure how that is going to work out.

See ya around the globe!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Internet Fisaco

So, internet is apparently a promlem here, at least to get it reliablly is. We were supposed to have it last night but, that didn't work at all for half of the group. I think the plug in my room is messed up or something, because my id works on other computers, but not in my room.

Oh well.

We went to the hermitage yesterday and it was totally AWESOME!!! It is a gigantic art gallery that has 2 orgional Da Vinci (I have now seen 3 of the 10 known Da Vincis for sure--that should become another goal). The place is huge. We went on a 2 hour guided tour and only saw about 1/3 or less of the paintings and other stuff. I can't wait to go back on my own.

Afterwards, four of us went out to dinner at an Italian/Russian restraunt that was pricy but really good. We then stopped by a bakery and I got a "billinare" which is basically a jam filled doughnut with powered sugar on it. YUMMY! We took the metro back, which was kinda confusing, but we made it in one poiece. We go to Peterhof on Saturday.

I have been taking Russian for 4 days now. I knda of know the alphabet and how to say it, but I'm learning print and cursive at the same time so it is kinda confusing. Wait, its really confusing, but slowing getting the hang of it now. The words I know, I know well (of and by the way they use the word "bill" for the check here).

See ya around the globe!