Thursday, August 03, 2006

A bit about the weather...

I read an excerpt from a guide book that described St. Petersburg's weather as "wonderfully capricious." How true this is. A few days ago I was hot as hell, and there was not a cloud in site. Now I feel like we've jumped ahead a few months. You know that feeling in late fall (in Texas, anyway), when a storm is rolling in and you can't decide whether it's cold or just cool? That's what it's like out today. I get the feeling that any minute it's going to start pouring. But I love the electricity of it. And I actually remembered my rain jacket when I left this morning (fancy that).
Okay, enough about that - time for some good news. I actually had FUN in class this morning. In the summertime, the language teachers rotate their vacations so that every month or so, each class ends up with a new teacher. Well, we got our new conversation teacher today. She just got back from a month by the seashore, so she was in an exceptionally good mood. And I understood EVERYTHING in today's lesson. It was fabulous. It's like they finally found someone who knows how to teach foreigners. She doesn't treat me like an idiot like Tatiana (our previous teacher) did. And we got to draw pictures today, which made things even more exciting. I got a 5 (Russian equivalent of an A+) on my drawing. :-D
Now I need to go find a printer - have to print out all my forms for my new visa application. Oh joy - Russian consulates are so much fun.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Back and forth, back and forth

That's how I've been feeling these last few weeks - huge mood swings, ranging from "I hate this place!" to "This city is awesome." For the most part it has been the latter, but there have a been a few . . . instances where it was not so awesome.
For example, I am on the verge of physically harming Katya (the Russian roommate). I can't understand how one person can be so inconsiderate for others. Two nights ago, just as I was finally getting to sleep (I had already been laying in bed for an hour), she came stomping in the door, turned on MTV full-volume, and commenced a conversation on her cell phone at 1:30 in the AM. Nevermind that there were two other people in the room trying to get a decent night's rest before an early morning (Lindsey and I both have class at 9.30 every day). This is not the first time this has happened - it's actually a rather common occurance. I understand she's a night owl (all she does all day is sleep - how could she not be?), but it would be nice if I could get some sleep at a regular time every now and again.
Then there was the "UFO" incident. The powers that be decided to shut off the cold water on our floor (how ironic - at one point we had no hot water, now we have nothing but). That means that the toilet is not functioning at the moment. Which in turn means that when one of us needs to relieve ourselves, we have to manual flush (a.k.a. - pour a bucket or two in the commode until everything is gone). This task seems to be beyond Katya's abilities, for I have twice found an "unidentified floating object" in said toilet after she paid it a visit. Now I will do many things for others, but cleaning up another person's feces is not on that list.
Okay, I need to stop this rant. I have vented.
On a more positive note, all these incidents have been outweighed by the outrageously good times that I've been having. Last night for instance, we had a little urban exploration adventure. The maintainance crew working on the water pipes left the gate to the roof open, so a few of us were able to get up there for a spectacular view of the sunset over the bay. Frog enjoyed himself most of all - I think he's missing the water. Don't worry, Grandma, there was no danger of falling - very safe roof. At least it appeared so.
I also had a second adventure in hairdressing. I was badly in need of a haircut (and hair-washing, since our lack of water of a normal temperature has made that difficult), but I was not interested in paying $45 at the place I went last time. So I hunted around in our 'hood for a local salon. It only took me a few minutes to find one, and even less time to decide it was the right place for me - only 200 rubles (about $8)! Their pricing was on a graduated scale - so the "short cut" only cost half what the "long cut" did. Woohoo! Of course, the lady spoke no English whatsoever - but I think I did okay. I said Мне не нравится длинные волосы (which means "I don't like long hair"), and told her Я хочу красивые волосы ("I want beautiful hair"). I think she got the picture, however crude our conversation may have been.
Another positive item - my Russian skills are improving. I actually understood what was going on in class today. That doesn't always happen (well, it almost never happens to tell the truth). I still think I am in too advanced a group, but I only have a week left in class, so it's a little late to change. I'll survive. The real trick will be not to forget all my Russian when I go to Helsinki and Amsterdam later this month.
Okay, I'm off to the ticket office to buy my train ticket to Irkutsk. Oh boy - wish me luck!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Well, another week gone by. As I woke up this morning I realized that I only have about twoo weeks left in St. Petersburg. Ahhhh! I have so much to do before I have to leave the city. I need to make a few more trips to the Hermitage (you can never make too many trips there - I always end up seeing something different AND getting lost). I also want to go to the Kunstkamera (the city's first museum). And Benjamin (one of our fellow students - I'm still not sure where exactly he's from) agreed to go with Lindsey and me on a little "literary tour" of the city - to visit all the places where authors like Dostoevsky hung out and wrote about.
I borrowed Lindsey's copy of The Master and Margarita (by Mikhail Bulgakov) and have been busy reading it for the last week or so. I have a copy at home actually - it was one of the Provost's books at the Christmas Party last year - yet I haven't had a lot of time for extracurricular reading this semester (Faulkner will do that to you). I'm about halfway through it and enjoying it. It's a very ... odd book, but it's wonderfully humourous and I recognize a lot of the places he writes about (it takes place in Moscow). I don't know what book will be next but I'm not to worried about finding one - I found a good English bookstore yesterday as I was walking along the Fontanka Embankment.
Oh, and I don't remember if I mentioned this before, but I managed to find a copy of Dr. Strangelove: of How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb in one of the many DVD shops here. Gotta love the irony of such a purchase. I'm addicted to these damn DVD shops - it's cheaper to buy a DVD here than it is to rent one at Blockbuster back home. Of course, that could have something to do with the fact that they're usually not exactly geniune products. They're not always of the highest quality either. Sometimes they'll say that they have English language tracks but end up only having Russian audio, and it's really difficult to find English subtitles (they're still really into dubbing here). And then there are the pirated new releases. Those can be hilarious at times - the quality is so bad. A friend of mine bought a copy of Silent Hill the other day and there was actually a point when a "low battery" warning popped up from the camcorder being used to copy it. Oh man...
I did have a bit of excitement this week. When I got home from class on Thursday evening, I was told by my roommate and the "Obschezhitiye (Dorm) Nazi" that I had an hour to move all my stuff. They are apparently re-doing the entire 9th floor, so we had to move to the 18th for the rest of our stay. I wish I had had a little notice - I don't have a whole lot of stuff but it was in an advanced state of disarray at that point. Still, our new room is slightly cleaner and the view is better (now that we're on the top floor). Lindsey and Katya are still with me but we have a new suite-mate. I don't know her name because she's only said three words to me since we arrived - "Who are you?" I don't think she likes Americans much. And her boyfriend (that's who I'm assuming the random Russian guy in her room/the kitchen is) doesn't seem to think it necessary to wear much besides underwear. But at least he's wearing those.
Okay, time on the computer is running out, so I'm off for now. I hope everyone heading to Santa Fe this week has a good time. Say hello to Traugott for me (and check out the Marsden Hartley show if it's still up).