Various Russian Things

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Nutcracker was good. It certainly wasn’t the ballet but it was entertaining. I took some pictures but none of them came out clear enough to bother putting them up here. Tomorrow is our last day of class before heading off to Finland and Estonia for four days. Since I haven’t done anything interesting since Sunday I figured I would talk a little more about Russia.

Today I took a trip to the post office (surprisingly easier than in the States). As I was leaving my dorm I passed by and old brown and orange van. Standing outside the van were three men with bullet proof vests on, in the process of arming themselves with guns. There were three more people sitting in the idling van. After securing their weapons they proceeded to head into my dorm. The best part of the story is that this didn’t phase me at all. I just kept walking. I’ve actually seen these guys coming into the dorm once before and at the time I thought that I should probably be worried or something but seeing things like that in Russia are not as exciting as they would be at home.

I guess I should talk now about the almighty force of the Russian Police. The Russian police here basically have power to do anything they want. Those people entering my dorm weren’t the police and I think that was why I was less nervous than I would have been if it were. It’s strange living everyday in fear of the police but I have gotten used to it. You can be stopped for any reason and you must show your ID immediately. Many people in our group have been stopped and luckily no one has had a problem but I have heard that many times you need to bribe the officers to let you go. One day we looking for some building and my roommate realized she forgot her Spravka (id) while we were walking through one of the city’s military academies. It was probably the scariest days I’ve had here. We don’t really know what could have happened if we were stopped and she didn’t have it. When you see them you immediately divert your eyes otherwise there is a good chance you will get stopped. It is also confusing because anyone serving in the military (which is required by all men at one point in their life) is required to wear uniform. There are so many in St. Petersburg that I feel like I am constantly slinking around avoided people everywhere. I’m sure most of the people serving in the military are good men and don’t take advantage of their power, however it is common knowledge that there are many who do.

And now some more boring stuff....

They have been “renovating” the first floor of our dorm and it amazing what they are doing. Instead of redoing the walls that are falling apart they are putting up very cheap, bright orange, fake walls. They reminded me of the type of walls you would put up in a basement when you know there is a good chance they will be damaged by water or general basementness as soon as you put them up. At one spot in the hallway they cut a chunk of the older brick wall out and what did I see under neither the top two layers? A third layer of wall. This is apparently not the first time this building has needed “work”. I don’t really have a problem with the new walls they are putting up. Sure, they look a little tacky and make the hallway smaller, however that is not my main problem with the walls. I noticed one day while turning the corner to go up the stairs, that the corner had been chiseled away. I’m guessing this was done so that the top layer of wall would be able to meet at the corner with out any interference from the wall under neither, however I know this can’t be good for the stability of the building. I’ve never taken any architecture classes but I really didn’t get a good feeling when I saw that all the corners in the hallway had large gaping chunks taken out of them. They are working on putting up a new ceiling up now. I just hope they don’t decide to dig through the existing one to get that job done.

Oh, their tiling is great, too. They obviously hired a terrible tiler when this building was built and since then, whenever one tile gets lose they either have someone come in and fix it with a tile of a completely different color and/or design or just leave it and let it jingle every time some steps on it. Our laundry room has about 5 out of 300 tiles still secured to the ground. ( For my LCers think of the Berlin Museum with the floor of clanking faces…. It’s exactly like that.)

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