Friday, June 30, 2006

Adventures in camera shopping

I bit the bullet today and replaced the Rebel. Technically I bought a Canon 350D - that's the name for the Rebel XT outside of the US (don't ask me why it's different - the camera is exactly the same other than the name). I shopped around all afternoon yesterday for the best price, then got Gleb to go with me to the store today so that I wouldn't get screwed over. I ended up getting a really good price on a 2 GB memory card too, so I think it worked out. Even though I could have gotten it for a bit less in the US, getting it here and everything would have cost even more, so I think it's better this way. And now I have a kick-ass camera again - just in time for the trip to Moscow.
Which, by the way, is on for tonight. We're leaving at 11. Don't worry - I'm going with a group that includes two locals. And this line is supposed to be really safe.
I'll have my cell phone with me and will try to find an internet cafe at some point this weekend. I'll be back in St. Petersburg on July 4th. Happy Independence Day, everyone! Have some watermelon for me!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

I saw an old lady walking down the street this morning as I was waiting for the others to wake up. What was so unusual about this old lady? Thrown across her shoulder was a huge scythe. Imagine a female version of the Grim Reaper minus the hood and with an extra pound or two, and that's what I saw walking down the street. She was obviously on her way to do some major yard work. It's just another example of something ironic I've noticed about this city. Everywhere you look there are computer stores and DVD stands and internet cafes; yet simple tasks, like clearing a yard, are still done with the most simple of tools. It's kind of neat. It might take a little more effort to mow a lawn with a huge (and dangerous) reaper, but it's a lot cheaper and there is nothing else involved - no gasoline and no random little parts to replace.
I decided not to take a picture for two reasons. 1 - The batteries on my camera were dying. 2 - She didn't look all that thrilled and I didn't want to piss her off - especially since she was carrying a large (and I assume very sharp) lethal object.
After this humorous little incident, the others came downstairs and we got on a bus to St. Isaac's Cathedral. We went on a walk through the museum, then climbed up a couple hundred stairs to the collenade - one of the best views you can get of St. Petersburg. The weather was interesting - that cold, windy feeling you get just before it starts to storm, like any second you'll start to feel the rain coming down. It was great.
We had the rest of the afternoon off, and I've been bumming around, looking for a new Rebel and not having much luck. I'll figure it out though.
Tomorrow we're heading to Moscow for the weekend. It should be a lot of fun - Nastya and Katya are going to be our "guides". I'll talk to yall on the flip side...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Same old, same old (sort of)

I've had a couple more interesting days, like all the days in St. Petersburg thus far. Yesterday we visited the Imperial Porcelain Factory. At first I thought it was really boring - we went through the museum part with a guide telling us about the whole history of porcelain creation. Pretty stuff but not particularly interesting to me. The exciting part came when we got to go into the actual factory part. We didn't go to the mass production area, but instead got to see the creative production department, where all the master artists were creating one-of-a-kind pieces in porcelain. It was pretty cool. We even saw a lady creating a gold over-glaze. Wow.
After lunch we had free time/studio time. I'm not really taking studio classes with the others, but have joined them for a few activities (ie - the traditional wood painting). Yesterday they were getting stuff ready for our trip to the printshop. Elena let me make one too - we'll see how it comes out.
I'm entertaining the idea of getting something together to put into the final show. It's not a requirement for me like for the others but it might be fun. All this creativity is making me want to start painting. Who knows - we'll see how much time I have left after the trip to Moscow.
Today we took another bus trip - this time to the towns/palaces of Pushkin and Pavlovsk. Pushkin was the summer residence of the royal family, mainly used by Catherine the Great (though it was built before her time). It was really pretty, and a nice day for strolling through the gardens. The best part of Pushkin was outside the palace though. The reason the town is called Pushkin is because it is home to the Lyceum - the school set up by the tsar for elite education - where Alexander Pushkin was a member of the first graduating class. We went on a brief walk through the museum, and even got to see his bedroom at school. It's smaller than my closet! Really a very cool little side trip that I'm glad Elena came up with.
After that, we hopped on a bus for Pavlovsk, where we ate lunch and wandered through the English gardens before visiting the palace. This was the palace of Paul I (son of Catherine the Great) and his wife (after his death since he only reigned for about 5 or 6 years). I loved the gardens there. I've discovered that I really like the over-grown, natural-looking English-style gardens over the crisp and proper French gardens (like they have at Pushkin). I just like wandering about in the woods a little too much. And today was a perfect day for it.
Of course, right now it has started raining. I'm really not looking forward to the walk home. But I'll live - it's a nice little break from the heat.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The White Nights

Seeing as how the summer solstice was this week, making this weekend the longest of the year, my friends and I decided that it was the perfect Saturday to put our plan into action. Meaning we stayed out all night to experience St. Petersburg "by night." It was gorgeous. You've all heard me talk about how the sun never really goes down. What happens is there is about a four-hour sunset followed pretty much immediately by a four-hour sunrise. So basically it's really pretty for about 8 hours - the 8 hours during which I am usually asleep. Which is why I wanted to go exploring at that time. I never get to see the museum and the cathedrals and the bridges at that time of "night." We even got to see the raising and lowering of the palace bridge. They print the schedule for all the bridges, so that people don't get stuck on a different island.
Anyway, because of this little outting, I didn't really feel like doing much on Sunday. I slept until about noon, then ate some food and checked the email and wandered about some more. Ksusha was supposed to help me shop for a camera, but she missed the early train back to St. Petersburg (she had gone to visit her parents), so she didn't get back to the dorm until late. But I will get the camera eventually (hopefully for a decent price).
This morning I had my first individual Russian lesson. My teacher, Elena Romanovna, was one of the sweetest old ladies I've ever met. It was a lot more fun than class should be. And she was very nice about letting me change our class time for next week - since I won't be getting back from Moscow until 6 am on Tuesday.
That's right - the Moscow trip is on for this weekend. We're taking the night train, but it's a lot nicer than the Prague-Budapest one. And I'm going with the group - there will be eight of us looking out for one another. And Nastya and Katya are going too - so we've got some locals to help us out.
Right now I'm going to look for a book on Russian grammer - I should have gotten one weeks ago. An important purchase. And hopefully I can also find a book on symbols - I need to finish my wood painting :-D.