Russian Hockey

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Well, we were (hopefully) successfully fumigated yesterday. We couldn't come back to our rooms after class however so a few of us ended up walking down the street to this new pizza place that just opened. It's great to not have to get on the metro to go somewhere. It was actually a really nice place. The food was cheap and delicious and the whole thing was jazz themed, with old pictures from Chicago and New York and a lot of old performers. The music they were playing wasn't very jazzy, however. We stayed there for a while to get our homework done because there was really nothing else for us to do.

At 5 we all met up to go to a hockey game! It was really fun. It was SKA St. Petersburg versus Spartak Moscow. The tickets were only $8 which was amazing. It was strange that inside the stadium they only sold soda, juice, sandwiches, and corn on the cob. And none of that was actually allowed into the arena. The entrance of the two teams was very intense. It reminded me of when the Durmstrang students enter Hogwarts at the beginning of the Goblet of Fire (to make a reference that everyone will understand!). It was also interesting to see that at the far end of the rink was where all of the Moscow fans sat. Surrounding these fans on all sides were masked (and possibly armed) military men. They were dressed like a SWAT team from the States. At one point in the match two rows of these men got up and sprinted out, pulling down the visors on their masks. Luckily they came back quickly and whatever it was seemed like a false alarm.
They ending up winning 4-1 and it was definitely an experience to remember!

One month down...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

We've survived one month! Well technically not in Russia, but I have officially been gone from the states for a month. I am definitely enjoying myself here but I am starting to miss everyone at home. For some reason I really want it to be Christmas. I've had Christmas music stuck in my head for the past week now. I don’t know if I want it so bad because that means I get to see everyone or if I just want the whole snow/Christmas thing. The leaves are changing here and everything is beautiful but I think that makes me miss home a little more, too. I don't think there is any apple or pumpkin picking around here.

Yesterday we went on an Excursion to the State Museum of Russian Political History. It was pretty interesting and the entire museum was located in the mansion of the First Russian ballerina who was apparently the mistress of Nicholas II. After that a few of us went to Картошка which is a fast food restaurant but all you can order is potatoes. They add toppings and do all sorts of stuff with them. It was actually very good.

After lunch we went to a huge outdoor market. There were hundred of stands, selling everything from scarves, hats, gloves, fur coat, boot, sneakers, etc. It was completely insane. I bought a scarf and some gloves. I wanted to buy some boots but it was way to complicated to even try.

We finally went out last night! We took the metro down to Nevsky and went to a place called Mr. Patito. It was really dark but very low key with couches instead of seats. Betsey and I shared a pizza, I got an amazing beer, and even more amazing ice cream. Everything was great and very reasonably prices. Next door to Mr. Patito's was a bar called Liverpool. It’s a Beatles themed bar and they had an amazing live band playing all Beatles songs but everything was overpriced and the service was terrible. We each got one drink and our bill was same as the first place where we all got drinks, pizza, and ice cream. It was still fun though and I'm glad I finally went out. I certainly couldn't afford to do it every night like some people here do.

Today I spent a while in McD's finally finishing uploading all my pictures so far and labeling them! At some point tonight I have to pack up all my stuff because they are fumigating the rooms tomorrow to get rid of the bug problem. We (knock on wood) still haven't gotten any yet but we'll do what ever we can to prevent it from happening.

"They Are The Israel of Bugs..."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I finally made it down to Westpost today to get my birthday cards! You would think that our mail could somehow get delivered to the dorm but here in Russia that is clearly asking for too much. It's a 20 minute metro ride and then a five minute walk. I did manage to talk entirely in Russian, giving the box number "treesta tretsit dva". I even used please and thank you. I went there with a handful of post cards that I was planning on sending out, figuring it might be a little more expensive than Russian mail, but much more reliable. I couldn't believe that, through Westpost, it costs 200 roubles! That $8 per post card. Russian mail is only 20 roubles so I just wanted to let you all know that I will be sending out postcards, however when (or if) you get it is completely up in the air.

Since I don't have much to talk about today I thought I would add some pictures of my room. While in a sitting position on my bed I can see out the window. There is some metal structure outside… I'm not sure what it is but from this angle it kind of resembles the Eiffel Tower, or at least that is what we call it.

I would also like to share a picture of how we do laundry here. It cost about 8 dollars to fully do laundry and the dryers never seem to work right. Because of this we just wash important stuff in the sink and dry it on our space heater.
Oh, here is something new and exciting for Russia; apparently bed bugs and cockroaches have been found in another suite on our floor. We have basically quarantined ourselves to prevent any from getting in here, but we did allow one visitor in a few minutes ago. Shortly after she left my suitemate began screaming, saying that she just flicked a bug off her shoulder. After doing intensive research we've decided that it is a bed bug, however we believe it jumped off our visitor and we are really hoping it was just that one. We've also learned that no matter how you try to thwart bed bugs, they are almost impossible to stop. As Jess puts it, "They are the Israel of bugs." Just like the Israeli army can take on armies 7 times their size, the bugs are able to suck blood about seven times their own weight. They also climb up walls and drop down on you from above if you try to stop them from crawling up the bed. Ugh. Luckily I don't have a huge aversion to bugs. While I certainly don't enjoy them, I don't have a deathly fear of them like my suitemate. Let hope it was only that one (now dead) that got in here...

Дворик... mob den?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Well I jinxed myself in my last post, talking about how I luckily didn't get very sick. I still haven't gotten too sick but about ten minutes after posting that I got a sudden and severe headache. It hurt so bad that I had to go to bed right away because the light was hurting my eyes. Apparently I'm not the only one who has gone through this. It was very strange. Luckily it hit me just before bed so I think I slept it off. A few people had to actually take the day off classes. Because of that I spent most of yesterday resting. I've decided to watch all of the Harry Potter movies that someone thankfully brought. I watched the first one last night and I'm on number two now.  I wasn't expecting to do so much reading here so I only brought four books but I only have one left right now.  Luckily I've borrowed a couple from my suitemates and when I go through all of their books my RD has a nice little library to choose from.

Today we ate at this Azerbijani restaurant across the street. We strongly believe that it has some ties with the mob. All the tables are marked as reserved and when we walked in the waitress just stared at us. We asked for a table for five and she again just stared. Finally she let us sit down but it was after a lot of judging. There were a few people that came in individually, wearing dark clothing and eating by themselves but keeping an eye on us. The entire menu was in Russian so I just ended up getting some potatoes and rice. They were good though.

Tomorrow I'm going down to Nevsky to pick up some things at Westpost (birthday cards I'm assuming). I'm also going to visit the Hermitage where I could possibly be volunteering. I'm not really sure but we'll find out tomorrow.

Находка Closed?!

Monday, September 22, 2008

It’s been a few days. Friday I spent most of the day sleeping and that seemed to prevent me from actually getting sick. While I was pretty sure I was headed down hill, the day of sleep left me feeling completely fine. Saturday we visit Петропавловская Крепость (Peter and Paul Fortress). The fortress was built on a small island in the middle of the Neva. It was apparently a very strategic spot to protect the city. We took a short tour of the fortress and then visited a museum on the history of St. Petersburg and visited the oldest mint in Russia. We also walked down to the river and walked along the outside of the wall. We ate in a small café there. After that we walked to the St. Petersburg Mosque. I don’t know much about it but I do know that at the time it was built it was the largest mosque in Europe. I don't know if that has changed since then.
Peter & Paul Fortress
Where the last royal family is buried (including Anastasia)

the 'beach'

the Mosque
Sunday we got to sleep in! It was nice. I finished a book in the morning and then Betsey and I took a trip down to McDonald's to upload some pictures. We split up after that, her to wait in line to get some food to go, and I to go down to the store to get a few things. It was very nice to be walking around by myself. I don't mind company but it was nice to not have to worry about losing anyone in the city.

Church on Spilt Blood
Today was a beautiful day! The sun was shining. We saw a thermometer that said 20 degrees Celsius… I think that was a little high but it definitely was warm out. After class we tried going to Nahodka but it was closed!? Nahodka is a 24 hour market and the thought of it being closed is just insane. Kori and I walked down to Paterson's after that. It seems like we make a trip to the store everyday. I need to start planning better. After that we decided to go down town to visit the Church on Spilled Blood. It is called that because this is where Alexander II was fatally wounded in 1881. It only cost 100 rubles with our student cards for entrance and photos. The inside was amazing. Everything was done in mosaic with huge depictions of the last supper and various other Bible related scenes. After that we went to a little outdoor market were everything was ridiculously over priced. Because it was 6pm and the Nevsky Prospect station would be insane, we decided to stop at The Other Side. The Other Side is an American run café/bar thing. There used to be another one, City Bar, but apparently that closed two weeks before we got here… figures. I just got a hot chocolate and some bruchetta. It wasn't bad but I had a bite or two with so much garlic that I honestly almost started crying… it physically hurt me to eat it. I can still taste it now after chewing gum, eating various other foods, and brushing my teeth. I don’t know if I will be able to go to sleep if it doesn't go away.

Overall, today was a great day. It was nice to have some good weather and to get to walk around the city a bit more than usual. I think we're going to try to visit some of the other big places in the city every once in a while just to make sure we see everything. Apparently my teacher is in the hospital so I'm not entirely sure when my history classes are going to be continued…

A nice short post for my attention challenged friends...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Woke up at noon.
Ate lunch at a mexican restaurant.
Took a two hour nap.
Watched a movie.
Yay Friday.

Suffering from the Russian Plague...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Everything was going too well. We had a working shower, internet, the resurrection of Betsey's computer, only slightly brown water... something had to go wrong. That is when the plague hit. Everyone is sick. My roommate missed two days of classes and my suitemate got sent home from one of her's. My other suitemate and I have been very lucky but, again, it couldn't last forever. Last night my throat was sore and today I've been sneezing. We took a trip to Аптека (Apteka) which is a CVS like drug store except that everything is behind glass. She got these amazing throat lozenges that numb your entire mouth. I don't know what they put in those things but they are strong. We only had one class today so we took a quick trip to Dom Knigi. It only took about an hour but we all passed out when we got back. I just woke up to a pressure-filled head and a runny nose.

It would really help if they turned the heat on here. It has apparently been an abnormally cold September so far. Yesterday it was 4 degrees Celsius which is about 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Today it was a whopping 6. The problem with the heat is that it is still on a state wide system from back in the communist days. The state turned on the heat for the entire city as soon as they feel the need. They should start feeling the need asap.

My teacher has already called out sick for tomorrow so it's a long weekend for me! Unfortunately I have a feeling that I will be spending most of that time in bed.

I Shanked A Wall Today

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Today was a great day! Up until this point we have had one Ethernet cable for the four people in our suite. Luckily I brought my cable from school so it reaches all the way out to the kitchen so everyone can use it in turn.

 We’ve had multiple people come in a try to fix it but apparently the necessary cords are just no longer in the wall. A man came in today and we thought he was finally going to fix it but he again told us that there was just no cable. Thank you, we knew that. After talking to our RD she decided to help us the best she could. Apparently there is a wireless router somewhere on the third floor and she has the password for it! She gave it to the girls in the room without the cord but it wasn’t working on one of the computers. After 20 minutes she gave up getting it on that computer.

That’s when I decided to dig a hole in the wall. There is a small hole there already where the wires go through but we couldn’t really fit the Ethernet cord through. I got a knife and after a while we managed to get it through! I was very proud of myself but it did take a while to clean up the plaster dust that covered both rooms.

 Now Kori and I have wireless, Jess has the cord running from my room, and sadly Bestey’s computer did not wake up yesterday so she’s been using mine. Yay internet!

Because this was such a momentous occasion (and because it took up most of our night) we decided to treat ourselves to Pizza Hut. It was amazing. I’ve been dying for pizza for about two weeks now but it is somewhat hard to find here. It’s only one metro stop away and it is located just outside the station. The waitress spoke amazing English and the menu was half in English. Pizza Huts in Russia are actually very classy places. We literally saw a man propose to a women sitting next to us. It was strangely beautiful (not that I would ever want to be proposed to in a Pizza Hut!)

 There were also these two creepy men staring at us the entire night. They stuck around until we finished even though they had finished just as we arrived. We acted like we were going to leave so they got up and left but then we stayed and order some desert. Overall it was a great day however our water is coming out brown so I’m a little afraid to take a shower.

Theory on the Russian Male Life Expectancy Being 55

Monday, September 15, 2008

I won't take credit for this theory but I do feel that it is something that needs to be shared.

-Back in the day (during times of communism) men died young in war so women felt the need to fight for the remaining men... this caused them to dress very provocatively and today every Russian women wears 5 inch heals... everyday. So naturally that makes the women miserable which in turn makes their boyfriends miserable which leads them to alcoholism and continues the trend of putting men in the grave at 55.

We've put a lot of time and thought into this theory and it is honestly the best one we have come up with so far.

Adventure for the day: MEGA Mall

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Today we decided to take a trip to the Mega mall. It's pretty far away, almost back to the airport, but others have gone there and said it was great. To get there you have to walk to the Metro (10 minutes) then take that to the next stop (5 minutes) then cross two busy intersections and wait for a bus (10 minutes). It then takes the bus 20 minutes to get to the mall. I will admit that the mall reminded me of home. There was a Body Shop and even an Ikea. There is a place called Ashan which is very much like WalMart. There's a ton of small store but everything is slightly over priced. I don't need anything that badly. It was very stressful. I don't really like crowds and there were so many people there. There was also a runway in the middle of the mall which was strange. They had a show going on but everyone was wearing the same black outfit? After a few hours there we decided to leave so we headed back out to the bus stop. We got on the bus and then driver started speaking over the intercom and people started to turn around to look at as. I still have no idea what he was saying but apparently you don't get on where they drop you off… you walk 100 feet down the road and get on the bus there. It was very stupid and there isn't much I hate more than public embarrassment but luckily we got on a different bus where no one saw that little incident. It took us all day to do that and I don't think it was worth it. We have plenty of stores within walking distance of the dorm and much less of a crowd. I don't think I'll be back for quite a while.

I didn't have the energy to go down to McDonald's today but I do have to go to Nahodka (Находка) to get some groceries.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Today we visited Novgorod. We had to get up early because the city is 3.5 hours away. For being the oldest city in Russia is wasn't that exciting. We went through the old fortress that protected the city. We also went into St. Sophia's Cathedral which is the oldest church in Russia. That was pretty interesting. A little further away was a group of 7 more churches, all very old an being used as museums. After our tour from the guide we went off on our own. Kori, Jess, and 
I wandered off to a kind of residential area. We found one very old church with a sign saying it was a museum. We went through this very old gate into a completely empty courtyard. There was no one around. There was an owl hooting (though at first it sounded like chanting), a flock of crows flew from an old dilapidated tower and landed on the steeple, and a black cat came running out from behind the church. It was very creepy but also very interesting. We walked around for a bit more after that and just arrived back at the dorm now. It was a long day with a lot of sitting in a bus. I think I'm going to sleep in tomorrow and possibly take a trip down to McDonald's to upload some pictures.
Just hanging out in Novgorod!
Entering the creepy abandoned place...
Black cat did not want us there


Friday, September 12, 2008

Today was our first day of electives… or mine at least. Our Russian language class is 14 hours a week so that is a 9 credit course. That means I only have to take two others. Both history, of course. The first one is Kievan Russ to the Revolution. It's basically the earliest history up until the Revolution. The second class is The Communist Phase. Which starts with the revolution and goes up to the fall of communism.

 My professor is very nice. He is older and word on the street is that he's ex KGB. I don't know if it's true but I'm too afraid to ask him. He is a funny man. He warned us to be careful on Fridays because people drink more than usual. He also warned us about walking on the streets and said "You must be like paratrooper in jungle, always looking in 360 degrees and never believing what you see". I don't know where Russians learn analogies.

I was also very happy to hear that there were no books assigned to the course. I'm saving so much money this semester by not having to buy books! I'm also trying to decided what I want to do over our October break. People are going all over but I would really like to save as much money as possible. We were thinking about going to Riga, Latvia but the train alone would cost almost $300. I may just decided to find a random city somewhere in Russia and hang out there for a few days. It also saves me the trouble of reentering the country and dealing with visas and registration. 

Tomorrow we're visiting Novgorod which was the first city founded in Russia by Prince Rurik. That's also the only thing we got to talk about in my first class today. Aside from class all I've really done was read today… I think I'm going to do that some more.

21st Birthday!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

So this would be a really important day if I was back home right now. I guess it's still a big deal for when I get home. So far 21 doesn't feel much different from 20 but I have managed to survive the day without any major disasters… although I still have 20 minutes to take care of that. I woke up today to my kitchen filled with balloons. My suitemates had gotten up early and taped balloons to anything that wasn't a wall. Our walls have the habit of disintegrating if you touch them so putting tape on them would have been a very bad idea. They made me home fries and french toast and bought me a nice Russian mug for my coffee. They bought me some presents from МаксиДом (MaxiDom). All they could find were some notebooks without graph lines which are very rare is this country. After eating we went to class. We only have 1 class today which was great. It was only 8 degrees Celsius which is like mid 40's. It was really cold in the room so I had to get under my covers and ended up taking a nap. Oh, our shower has been fixed! It was so exciting to take a nice long hot shower… although the water is coming out a little brown now.

 Around 7 we went down the the center to go to an Irish pub called Shamrocks. It was a little bit of a walk from the metro station but the menu was in English and the waitress spoke a little bit, too! The food was awesome but pretty expensive. The drinks were even more expensive. There was some great live Irish music playing. I really enjoyed my night. It did start raining as soon as we left the pub though. I would really like to go to bed right now but I reek of smoke.

It's Russia...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My greatest accomplishment today was taking a shower. For some reason the shower flooded last night on me. This morning it flooded on Kori. When I went to take a shower tonight I decided to try to figure out what was happening. By the way, our shower is basically a large tub, sitting a foot and ½ off the ground. I was down on my hands and knees under the tub messing around with the pipes. Apparently the drain pipe is loose and the water just flows out of it onto the floor and under the door out to the kitchen. We have a nice bucket that would probably help (and that is probably the reason it is in the room) but the pipe is only 2 inches off the ground so it doesn't fit. I had to use one of our two bowl and make a contraption in the shower to stop it from flooding the drain. It still flooded a bit which means I had to get down and mop it up by hand (no mops in Russia). Overall I showered for 5 minutes but was working in there for over 25. It's Russia… that's our motto for the semester because there is no way to explain the difficulty and backwardness of this country.

Oh and apparently there was a stabbing on the 7th floor of our dorm last night. It's Russia.

Noooo Tom!

Monday, September 8, 2008

I obviously wasn't able to watch the game last night but I did check the score every once in a while. I heard that Tom was hurt but I wasn't able to see / really know what happened. Today I went to McDonald's to upload some pictures and saw on Yahoo that he was out for the season! I yelled loudly and multiple people looked at me. I wanted to cry. That's terrible. I mean I guess it's ok for me because that means they will probably do poorly this season and I don't have to worry about missing out on a good one. It's still very upsetting.

It's amazing how the most simple tasks become huge projects in Russia. All I did today was go to class, upload some pictures at McD's, do laundry, and buy a few things at the store. That took me from 10-8 pm. Everything is so difficult that you're exhausted from the easiest things. The good thing about doing laundry is that it forces me to sit down there for two hours with nothing to do but homework. I also made and amazing grilled cheese/tomato/garlic sandwich today. It was delicious and I'm very proud of myself.

Movies Dubbed in Russian... fun.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Yesterday was Saturday and we had an excursion to Peterhof. Peterhof is located on the gulf of Finland, about and hour and ½ from Petersburg. This is where the Tsars has their palaces where they strictly threw parties. To think that no one even lived in these palaces is crazy. Everything is covered in gold. Peterhof is most famous for its fountains. There are over 150 all around the estate. I'll post pictures as soon as I make it down to McDonald's. Someone made a good point that it was totally understandable why so many people thought communism was a good idea. When you are living in a hut on the side of the road and the Tsars are living in places like that you would do anything to even out the playing field a bit. After that we just came back and hung around the dorm. I again did not have coffee in the morning so I was exhausted. I did get to skype with Alanna though!! Yay! Later we watched a movie, The Order. It was terrible but at least had Heath Ledger.

Today was our first day to sleep in. It was great. I originally wanted to go to Gostiny Dvor but it was rainy out so we decided to go to the movies. Another intense experience. First of all, all the titles of movies are in Russian so it took us a while to figure out which movies we actually knew. Then we had to buy the tickets. They have assigned seating and I'm assuming you usually pick your seats but we had no idea what she was saying so she just did it for us. We weren’t sure if the movie was going to be in English with Russian subtitles or just dubbed. It was dubbed. We ended up seeing Babylon A.D. or Бабалон Н.Э.  The movie was terrible. We thought we lost something in translation but it turns out that it was just bad and we probably would have been lost even if it was in English. Oh well. It was still and interesting experience.

It's Friday!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Is it bad that after only one week of classes I'm this excited for Friday? If I didn't spend three hours every day in the same subject I don't think I would be this excited. Next week we start our electives so that should at least change things up a bit.

Our jazz boat ride last night was awesome. It was very stormy earlier in the day but it was sunny and warm by the time we left. It was a great way to see the city, especially with the setting sun in the background. Just as we were getting back to the docks the fountains were being lit up, fireworks were going off, and the bridges had these crazy light shows going.
A happy cruise go-er!
Sun setting over Peter & Paul Fortress
Water show
Beautiful sunset

Fireworks to end the night
Today after classes we had a briefing with the US Consulate. They basically just told us to be carefully but also told us to "note any suspicious activity"…hmm. They gave us a lot of information about future jobs in the state department which was nice because I think a lot of us are considering that kind of job.

After the meeting my suitemates and I went to Nevsky Prospect. We were supposed to meet someone's friend but not until 7. We went to Dom Kneege where I bought a Russian copy of Harry Potter, or Gary Potter as they call him. I was very excited about this purchase. After sitting around in the café there we went to this German Beer Hall we found in a Lonely Planet guide book. It wasn't too hard to order because everything was written in Russian and English but our waiter didn't know any English so we did the whole awkwardly speak slowly thing. I had some really good pizza. It was strange walking out at 9 pm and having it still be light out. I think I've got the Metro system down pretty well. Of course we've only traveled on a couple of lines but it's actually pretty easy. Tomorrow we're visiting Peterhof. I would love to upload some pictures but it takes forever from our dorm's internet so I may have to wait a while and take a trip down to McDonald's to do it for free.

Russian Ice Cream Is the Greatest Thing Ever

Thursday, September 4, 2008

So this is the first time I've had a chance to sit down and type since we've started our classes. This week we have only had our Russian language classes but we are starting our electives Monday. We have Russian Mon-Thursday from 10-11:30 then again 11:45-1:15 and then on Friday from 10-11:30. Yeah… that means three hours a day. Everyday. I'm not sure what time our elective will be at but I'm pretty sure they are only one day a week. I have two Russian teachers, Tatiana Ivanovna and Kscenia (don't know her last name). It's nice having two teachers because one may say something the other forgot and vice versa.
Winter Palace

Yesterday after class we took a tour of the Hermitage. Most of the museum is located in The Winter Palace which was the winter home for many of the Tsars. It was beautiful. Everything was cover in gold and the rooms were the size of my entire house. We got to see works by Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Monet, and a bunch of other really famous artists that I of course cannot remember right now. Following our tour we had another exciting trip on the Metro. A few of us went grocery shopping because we've been starving for two days after they stopped feeding us. I had a really bad headache but a ton of homework to do. I'm reading Wuthering Heights right now (because of lack of internet) and I really like it. Sadly my head hurt too much last night to read much so I went to bed shortly after finishing my work.

Our internet was supposed to be up last night but for some reason a lot of us are not able to get on. I don’t know what is happening to it but it's driving me crazy. No one can seem to help me.

Tonight we are going on a "Jazz Boat". I believe its just going to be a tour of the city from the water. It should be nice.

Another Exciting Day in St. Pete's

Monday, September 1, 2008

9:00 p.m. (St. Petersburg time)

Last night we had about a dozen people in our kitchen area until about 12:30. While I would have liked to shower, it was great to start really talking to people. Up until that point I kind of knew people but I had only had actual discussions with a few of them. We also met some people, a German and a Russian, that are living upstairs.

This morning we had breakfast and then went to one of the academic rooms. While we were there we met the head of the Russian Language department (who doesn't speak English) and the other professors that we will have over the semester. The two history classes that I am hoping to take are both offered by the same man but he seemed very interesting. After the introductions we had our placement exam. Yuck. It started off with a listening section. I have no idea what was going on. If I heard a word I recognized I circled it but that was the best I could do. The exam was designed to cover a broad range of things, as simple as "my name is Erin" but as hard as some other crazy stuff that I couldn't even begin to understand. I left a lot blank.

After the written part we had to sit down with one of the language professors and have a conversation with them in Russian. I surprisingly think I did pretty well on that part. She just asked me how long I had studied Russian, where I studied, how many other students I studied with, if I had a tutor and if she was American or Russian. I think I understood most of it and if I didn't the first time around she would reword it so I could hopefully get some understanding of the question.

We had a short break before lunch and then we had to go get another HIV test. To get a Russian visa you have to pass an HIV test but we wanted to get multiple entry visas so we can visit Finland and Estonia and that means you must get another HIV test. Our advisor warned us that the hospital we were going to may look a little sketchy, however she said it was completely clean and sanitary. Let me tell you, sketchy is a huuuuge understatement. The building looked like it could have been built in the '40s, bombed in WWII, and never repaired. Paint was falling off the walls, windows were broken, lights were missing, and the doors were huge metal slabs that were more appropriate for a prison or mental institution. We had to stand in line in a hallway that had chunks of the floor missing. The made us put those plastic coverings over our sneakers. They were worried about cleanliness?? The "waiting seats" I'm almost positive were seats ripped out of an old movie theater. The room we went into looked clean enough and I guess the needle was sterile. I survived and I guess that’s all I can ask for in Russia!

After that experience were were supposed to just head back to our dorm but our good friend Misha (a 20 year old guy that goes on all of our excursions with us) decided to take us on a little tour. Only 17 of us went on the trip to the hospital today (the other 17 go tomorrow) and about ½ of the people decided not to go on our little trip. It was nice to just have a small group, much more manageable while walking through an insanely crowded city. Misha took us to an old cemetery where Fedor Dostoyevsky and Tchikovsky were buried. After that we went across the street to a MacKafe which they have all around Europe. It's basically a coffee shop attached to a McDonald's. After a week of drinking instant coffee my McDonald's coffee was amazing. We also figured out where the Trolley and Buses stop. We got on a bus and went to Невский Проспект or Nevsky Prospect. Prospect in Russian basically means a very wide street. Because St. Petersburg was designed to be a capital city, all the main streets are 6 or 8 lanes wide. There are a lot of great places to shop along this street, including a place called Дом Книги (Dom Kneegi) which is a huge bookstore that we read a lot about in our Russian book last year.

"McDonald's" in Russian
 The first place we went to was a Soviet Army surplus store. It was probably my favorite place so far. The man working there looked like he should be right out of the Civil War. There were so many old Soviet things. It was amazing. I ended up buying a little bag used by the army. It is stamped inside that it is from 1963. It was only 150 roubles (less than $6). I really love it. Some other people bought Soviet coats. The long ones with the army insignia on the shoulders. Those were more expensive but not that outrageously priced. I have to go back there soon. They had old books and posters and even postcards that were written home to people. One of my favorite things was a book called "Lenin and Children." It basically was just a piece of propaganda promoting the amazingness Lenin. I probably could have looked around that store for a few hours even though it was half the size of my dorm room.
Dom Kneegi
After walking around Nevsky Prospect for a while Misha left us and pointed us to the direction of the nearest Metro station. What an experience. The metro is so far under ground that it literally takes a 3-4 minute escalator ride to reach the bottom. If it weren't possible to get arrested for taking pictures in the station I would to show everyone. It is crazy. There was also hundreds of people in there. Think Boston after Red Sox game… and times that by 3. It was crazy. They also are very stingy with the signs that tell you where to go. And if you are ever in the area know that Nevsky Prospect and Gostiny Dvor are the same stations but look like different ones on the map. Nine of us went into the station only 6 made it out. We lost one person before we got on the first train. Then after getting off that first train we realized we lost two more. We had to get on and off three trains before we were where we wanted to be and we luckily made it home 5 minutes before dinner. (The last dinner provided for us).

Overall I did not do too much but I feel like so much happened. Oh, it was also much nicer today than it was yesterday. It was wicked windy but still fairly warm and sunny. It is also 9:30 and still light out. What time is it getting dark at home now? My body is still confused because it is not used the light this late at night when the weather feels this way. Well, Russian classes start tomorrow. I have it from 10:00-11:30 and then 11:45-1:15 ( I think). It's going to be a long day.