Plans to have a big Independence Day celebration here in St. Petersburg kind of fell through on Tuesday night. We had trouble finding other Americans to hang out with, and we were all completely exhausted from our trip to Moscow, so we ended up hanging out at a pizza place, where we stuffed ourselves (an American pasttime, right?) while a big group of Italians huddled around the TV inside to watch the World Cup match. A rather anticlimatic end to a wonderful weekend, but what the hey - I had fun. I ended up having to sleep on the other girls' floor though. We didn't get done with dinner until about 1230 (that's what the sun does here - tricks you into thinking it's earlier than it really is), and by that time the metro was closed. But I slept well all the same. There's only so much that can keep you up when you are as tired as I was at that point.
Wednesday and Thursday were pretty uneventful. More museum visits (to the Russian Museum again and the Museum of Ethnography) and another of my private language classes with Elena Romanovna. (She is an awesome teacher by the way - I'm not looking forward to our lessons ending). Friday was when we had the real excitement.
We all piled into a bus on Friday (including all the younger staff from the youth center) and drove to Penates, the former estate of the painter Ilya Repin. We spent about an hour in the museum and wandering about in the garden (after all, our trip had to have at least some sort of academic basis), then we crossed the street and had a picnic/barbeque on the beach next to the Bay of Finland. We roasted hot dogs on an open fire pit, ate lots of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and plums (the latter was a present from Katya's mom, who's dacha is down the street and showed up halfway through the day). The youth center people also brought a healthy supply of cheap beer and box wine*, completing the image of the perfect poor-students' Fourth of July celebration. (*It would have been real wines in bottles but Russian bureaucracy once again got in the way - apparently the government decided that starting July 1, all bottles of wine and spirits must have a new sticker to be sold; they didn't release the new sticker until June 3o, so none of the stores could legal sell any wine to us until they got a new shipment from the factory). We spent all day hanging out by the water, swimming and playing frisbee and volleyball, and just being goofballs. It's been such a long time since we last had a real break from class stuff, and it was particularly nice to have one last day of lightheartedness before we have to start putting together the final exhibition here at the youth center. It is supposed to go up on Tuesday - I don't think any of us are ready. At least I'm not.
Speaking of which, I should be editing photos right now instead of blogging. I should be able to upload a bunch more pictures this afternoon (I put up some more st. Petersburg pictures the other day as well), so make sure you check Flickr either today or tomorrow.