Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Circle of Life

Monday I woke up with a sore throat. That was sad because I also happened by a bakery on that day and had to keep myself from eating anything too sugary. Tuesday I walked around St. Petersburg in the rain, in a nice jacket mind you, but without an umbrella. My reasoning is for myself because I don't want anymore pity on the subject. Anyway, by Wednesday I had a little cold. I then loaded myself up with medicine (which means I took more than I usually take, but significantly less than the directions say is the max). I was happy, though, that my sore throat was gone. Thursday my cold was still there, so I loaded myself up with pills again (a total of two in the whole day) and found myself very tired. Apparently antihistemines (sorry, no spell check) actually do make me tired. I doubted it because I always took them at night, so there was really no telling if they really did or not before. Friday I could feel myself getting better and absolutely refused to take another pill. Today I woke up healed of my cold, and with a sore throat again.

Today is a catch-up day.

The Cruise

I think I got to boarding the ship last time. Wednesday was mostly used for screaming in my head (for joy and for sorrow) about being on a cruise. (The sorrow was actually for something else). Thursday we went to Мандроги (Mandrogi?). What did we do there? We ate lunch and walked around. Hooray! We al laughed at our landladies because there told us to prepare for cold weather. The sun was shining and it was beautiful.

Friday morning we went to Кижи (Kizhi?). It was dark and rainy. We didn't really get to walk around because we had a tour guide. After the tour, part of us wanted back on the boat anyway. We had to wake up early for Kizhi, so I'd wager that a good number of us took naps right afterwards. When I woke up, I found my balance a little hard to keep. Our boat was now rocking back and forth. It was acutally quite fun.

Saturday was dedicated to Валамь. Um, I would probably transliterate that Valam, but Nadya said she saw it written Balam, so whatever you want to call it is all right with me. That was cool because we got to take a smaller ship away from our cruise ship to reach it. I'm still not quite sure I understand why.

All the girls got two roommates. However, there five boys, so two boys had to share a room two floors above the rest of us. I think the thing that made me laugh the most was how when we checked out their room we joked that it would be against the honor code to have a disco party there. Then two days later, we actually did have a dancing party in there. True, it only consisted of five people, but hey, it was fun.

Beforehand, Vlad had given Igor Sergeiovich a mullet-type haircut. Chelita couldn't stand it, so she gave him a real haircut on the cruise. Then two more of our boys went to her requesting a haircut. Don't you worry, I have this documented in pictures.

Fun stuff.

The Bridges (New Title)

Wednesday before last Nadya and I spent the night at Anna's (sorry, no Russian name). We had to do this, because we live far away from the center of the city, and we wanted to watch the bridges rise. Every night the bridges rise so that ships can go through. There's only one bridge that is high enough so that it doesn't have to rise. I don't remember which, though. Anyway, that was cool. I think they are supposed to start rising sometime around 1:50 am. The metro closes at midnight, so if I were to witness this event without a place to stay, I would be forced to walk around the city for a few hours. I think the metro opens again at 4. Anyway, that was cool.


Last thing I want to say is that Sunday night I'm going to Moscow. Well, I start the journey Sunday night. We meet at 10:15. That means I probably won't get on the train until passed my bedtime. Oh well. I'll be in Moscow all next week, so I don't know how contactable I'll be to the outside world. I know my family is having a reunion in Utah (right?) that I'm missing. Anyway, that should be fun...I mean Moscow...not that I'm missing the reunion.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Всё Будет Хорошо

This has been a week of climbing ups and and running out of control downs. As you already know, I was not in the best of moods on Monday.

Right now, our free day is on Tuesdays. I had a packed day planned for Tuesday. I had a thousand ruble bill, but I figured it would be better if I had some money in smaller bills. (People here hate it beyond reason when you try to buy something with more money that it costs). I came to Russia with cash, but I figured it was time to use the ATM.

"I have retained your card. Please call your local Citiphone Banking or contact your local branch. Your card has been captured." At the bottome of the receipt I received from the ATM read, "Thanks! It is a pleasure to serve you."

My world pretty much shattered. Why? What did I do? I went through everything in my head. I told my bank I'd be in Russia. I put in the right pin. Even if it wasn't the right pin, why would citi bank capture my card. I went to the lady at the desk. She told me I had to call my bank to find out what to do. I didn't want to just leave without my card, but I had no choice. All of a sudden I was glad that I was carrying my тысяч.

I meet up with friends and tell them what happened (one by one because I met up with them one by one). By the time I actually told anyone, I had gained composure...just for the record. We got library cards and then went on to St. Isaac's Cathedral. There I tried to buy my roommate's and my tickets. However, the nice lady behind the glass informed me that she would not accept my тысяч. "I don't have anything less," I said in Russian. She didn't care.

I walked away from the каса (sorry, I don't remember what it's called in English) and said, "Guys, right now I HATE RUSSIA," and proceeded to cry. The girl closest to me, Alyona, had actually not heard my story yet. I'm sure she thought I was a bit strange for cryining at something so trivial. However, the others quickly briefed her about my current predicament. Okay, there is a point the story. So, they all gathered around me, Nadya, roommate, Alyona and Vlad and gave me a hug in turn each saying, "Всё будет хорошо" which means "Everything will be good." Nadya also loned us money to get into St. Isaac's Cathedral for the time being.

I called home to get my bank's number (I don't have a card anymore with the number on it) and called my bank. The person who brought up my account then informed me that yes, they had a note on my card saying it was in Russia, but it did not say my card had been captured. Yes it is! I don't have it! It's in the ATM machince. I snatched my receipt and read the number. Folks, I am here to tell you it is unwise to bring an expired card with you when you leave the country. Try, if it all be possible, to bring the up to date one.

Okay, so the story continues. As I said, I brought cash with me, but not enough to survive forever. I also brought traveler's cheques. Wednesday and Thursday are great stories, but they are irrelevant at the moment. Just note, I was busy, so the story continues to Friday. I planned to go right after class and exchange my traveler's cheques (or however they're weirdly spelled). However, it was one of our girl's last day in Russia and she was going on an excursion to check out souveneirs and I decided to hang out with her. We did stop by Citi Bank, so at the last minute I thought I'd give it a shot. The nice lady behind the glass informed me that they did exchange traveler's cheques, but at a different door. Welp, my time was up, so I decided I would try again tomorrow and I headed out with the group.

Saturday came and I tried the bank next to Citi Bank just in case that was the other door she meant. Welp, no, they don't exchange traveler's cheques. Okay, that's okay. I KNOW that Citi Bank will. I go again, see another door and go through. There's a girl behind a desk which is perfect because I need to sign in front of someone and everything makes sense. I ask if she speaks Enlish in Russian. She replies, "a little," in English, and then I tried to speak in half Russian and half English...moslty because I feel I'm duty bound to speak Russian and yet often find I can't. Anyway, she then informs me that Citi Bank does not exchange traveler's cheques at all. Imagine that. I'm traveling, and yet I'm finding it difficult to use my "traveling cheques." I think I only had 100 rubles at this point and was in severe need of money because of debts I owe (Nadya's paying for my ticket and other stuff). She gave me the address of the American Express. I leave and go meet up with other friends for a YSA event. Well, after we decided that we must have had the wrong time because we saw no YSA Russians, we all split. I went on to find American Express. And I found it. It was closed. It was Saturday.

Welp, as you all know, "Всё будет хорошо!" The story does end. I went today and found out that they take a 3% fee. Hmm, I don't think I care at this point. Everything went well, except for the point when I started signing my name in cyrillic because I was so nervous. Don't worry, she let me sign again on the back. So, I'm pretty happy right now. I have money again.

Monday, June 18, 2007

In Loving Memory

Yesterday I just got back from a cruise. It started on Wednesday. The people who live near the inner city went home after class to pack, while those of us who live far away had nowhere really to go. We didn't really have a choice, we had to come to class packed. So we went to the metro stop we were supposed to meet at and waited. We waited outside though, and everyone else waited on the inside and didn't realize we were already there. Thus, we didn't get the credit we deserved for being first. Wednesday was mostly spent getting situated on the boat.

So, I wrote a lot more than this, but my computer froze and the above is all that was saved. I don't have time to talk more about the cruise, so either I'll mention it later, or you can grab me some time to tell you more.

This morning I called my sister to find out my dog died. I'm depressed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Explanations

Okay, I'm finding using this computer difficult. Explanations about the pictures may or may not be in order because I have a lousy memory and I put them up out of order. One is from a random metro. I'm not sure of what it's trying to show.
One is of the balcony that Lenin used to give speeches. This one is on its side. I don't want to mess with that right now.
One is a monument to cats.
One is of the Issackisky Cathedral. Umm, I have no idea how that is spelled...so don't quote me.
One is of the Bronze Horseman, you know, Peter the Great. I don't think it was one of his good days.
One is of our group sitting down. You can't really see me all that well so don't strain your eyes too much.

Pictures?







Monday, June 11, 2007

From the Top

It's been requested that I explain a bit more about my leaders. Chelita is an interesting character. She is in charge of all Study Abroad programs adn has been for 11 years...I think. However, for some odd reason she recently decided to learn Russian. She is doubling as a student and an administrator. I love her to death. She has been in my class since my first semester.

Sergei is the Russian version of Chelita...I think. He's the guy who tells us how to survive Russian and gives us all our paperwork. Being a student allows us free transportation and discounts into a lot of places. I especially liked finding an internet cafe (Cafe Max) that cuts the price of using the internet in half for ISIC (International Student Something Card) holders.

We have three teachers. The first one is Professor Tretyakov. Last Friday we found out that once upon a time it was his job to interrogate the prisoners of war who spoke English. We all looked at each other as we realized what war he was talking about. All of a sudden I see him in a new light. Actually, he is my favorite teacher. His class consists of him lecturing about Russian culture. he is the only professor who's allowed to speak English. We have his class about twice a week.

The other teachers teach us four times a week. Here is where we split into two groups. They used to be equal, now they are not. After 90 minutes we get a break and then the other teacher instructs us.

Nastya (or Anastacia) speaks really quickly and is more strict. She gets after us for not memorized every single detail ans always seems to emphasize the parts I studied least. Her class was the biggest reason why I switched from the harder group to the lower group. When there was a word we didn't understand, she would describe it with more words I didn't understand. At the end of the day, I was simply left with an immense list of words I didn't understand, half of them not knowing how they were spelled either. When I switched, I found her class more bearable and more depressing. She is much more antagonistic to the lower class. I think she's reserved some enmity towards me because I came from the other group and should be more active in class, but I am not a talkative person. I think she thinks that I'm just lazy. Maybe it's true.

Natasha (Natalya?) is nicer and smiles more. I actually feel bad because she always looks like she's about to cry when she enters our classroom. I hate to say it, but I don't think she's a very good teacher. Usually when she stops to explain something, it's something we already know. (Well, I guess I can't speak for everyone, but the people who wouldn't know don't pay attention anyway). Often I get confused of what she wants from us.

As you see above, I'm not entirely sure that Natasha is the short form of Natalya. That's just what someone said, but to me that doesn't make sense. The short form should be shorter...you'd think. Anyway, I wasn't there when she introduced herself because I was late that day...you know...first day of school=one hour late.

Today is Monday. Wednesday I am going on a cruise to some city. I would tell you, but I'd probably spell it wrong and leave you all the more confused. Anyway, that'll be fun.

Today Vlad took Igor Sergeiovich (not Cavdawg), Nadya, and me on an excursion to random places he wanted to visit. My favorite part was while we were stopped on a bridge and Igor sees something behind us and says, "Wow that looks really cool." Vlad then looks at his map and shouts, "Dang it! We're walking in the wrong direction!"

Welp, I do promise to eventually try an upload pictures. It might be an empty promise though.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Learning a Language is Hard

Learning a language is hard. I don't know how missionaries do it. I don't know how anyone does it. I go through classes, but it's a whole different thing every time you want to say something to someone.

So today I am typing at a different internet cafe. It costs eight rubles less than the one I normally go to, but it is also not on my way home from school. And I'm really hot right now. Thus, I do not plan to come here often. Oh, the point of bringing that up is this computer underlines every word I write. It's quite annoying.

On Sunday a lot of people talked about the temple. I remembering hearing about the Finland Temple being dedication, but it didn't really hit me of its importance until recently. We all hear about those stories of people in "other countries" who have to sacrifice so much to get to the temple. It's different when you're there in their ward hearing the story directly from them. The Finland Temple dedication was not too long ago, as in last fall. It is such a sacrifice for these people simply to get to the Findland Temple and I can't imagine what they had to do before.

It's funny because I didn't realize just how young the church is here in Russia. Young or old, you still hear the same coments in Relief Society and Gospel Doctrine. You still feel the same spirit no matter where you go.

Yesterday I went to the Family Evening again. There's this guy there who is native Russian but he speaks with a southern accent. Honestly, the first thing he said to me was, "You look familiar, I must have seen you on TV," and then walks away.

Umm, okay, so in our group we got three girls who are either engaged or practically engaged. One girl came engaged and I'm all happy for her. One girl basically got engaged while she was here and is now trying to plan a wedding. The other girl...well...I just feel dumb because I didn't realize she was as serious with her boyfriend as I thought. Then I come to find out she's been talking about marriage and it's pretty much a done deal. It's so weird! I'm happy for them, but it's just so weird to be surrounded by so many marriages. You'd think I'd be used to it after having two sisters married in one summer, but now I'm seeing more and more people my age getting married.

There's a saying in Russian that has to do with being lost among three pine trees...thus being lost when everything is clear. That's kind of how I feel every moment of my life. Why do I always feel so lost? Change is constant, but the future is so unstable.

Well, on a different note, I am learning a lot. I mean, I'm not just learning about Russia. I'm learning a lot about myself and who I am and who I really want to be. And, of course, I'm learning Russian at the same time.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Power of the Masses

I've already mentioned that here in Russia you wait as close to the edge before you cross the street. You are totally focused on when you will be allowed to cross the street. There was a time when the light was obviously red for pedestrians. Some other people noticed that there were no immediate cars and they started to cross. My director was going to hold us back. We could wait until it was actually legal. However, then a bunch of people who were probably not paying attention, saw some people and started to cross the street. Because there was a massive group, even my director caved in and we too joined the throng. The light was not green! Cars came, but all they could do is honk. Now that's the power of the masses! What can you do?

It seems that there are two determinates of whether we are allowed to cross the street or not. Obviously if the light is green, we can cross. Another thing I'm finding is that if a trolleybus, or other mode of public transportation stops in the intersection making it impossible to see if our light is green or not, that means it's okay to cross.

Did you know there is a limit of how many people can be on the metro? Yes, it's however many people can squish in before the doors close. I have been in some pretty packed metros. It's incredibly uncomfortable. People just push there way in and if you're not lucky enough to be in the visinity of something to hold onto then you can get pushed up against the person in front of you. It kind of reminded me of cattle the first time it happened.

Today Sergei told us he had bad news and good news. The bad news is that on a certain day they are turning off the hot water. The good news is that we are going to be on a cruise durring some of that time. However, I don't live in the area he was talking about. I may or may not be as lucky as to be gone when my hot water turns off. Our landlady said they sometimes turn it off for a month. Yikes.

Oh, and if anyone is wondering, it gets pretty hot here. And we're on a river which makes it humid too. Moscow had it's hottest day in a long time (250 years? I don't remember what they said). Yes, I know, I'm not in Moscow. Moscow was something like 36 degrees centigrade, we were 33. That's lower 90s Farenheit I think.