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.

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