Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Swiss Chris

Chris is quite possibly the coolest person on the planet. How many friends do you know who would fly to Amsterdam with (long) underwear and swiss chocolates just to hang out with you? I'm guess not many. I can't wait til tomorrow morning. It's going to be one hell of a weekend.

"And so I find myself ... conflicted"

[If you can identify that quote, you win a prize] That's how I would describe myself as I crossed the border from Russia back into Finland. I decided to save some money and take the bus to Helsinki last night instead of the train. It wasn't bad at all. There were a lot of very talkative old ladies who only spoke Russian, but that was to be expected.
I can't quite decide how I feel today. I'm glad to be moving on, that's for sure. But I'm not sure if it's due to my tendency to get fed up with staying in one place for too long or because the country was driving me up the wall. It's probably both. Russia is definitely an ... interesting experience. And coming back to Helsinki has accentuated how different it really is.
I didn't realize how much I like Helsinki until we pulled in this morning and I saw all the familiar buildings surrounding me. It's so clean and charming. And there is a lot more of a western feeling about the city. For example, I went to the grocery store this morning to get something for breakfast. I was completely oblivious to the fact that the produce section had those little self-service sticker-makers like we have at home and got in line to pay for my yogurt, [real] milk, and apple. When the checker lady saw that I didn't have a sticker she asked about it and I said I didn't know - she simply went to get one put on it. I was rather embarrassed and apologized profusely to the woman behind - who smiled understandingly at my inability to function in the western world. In Russia, the situation would have been completely different. The checker would have freaked out and run screaming from the register. Okay, maybe not. But it would have been a much bigger deal. In fact, I made a somewhat similar mistake one day in St. Petersburg and the results were terrifying. Also, if it had been a Russian lady behind me in line, she would have started yelling at me, and would have started yelling even louder if I said I was foreign and didn't know any better.
As harsh as situations such as this may sound, I definitely missing the uniquiness of St. Petersburg. It's a personality of it's own. I can't wait to go to Irkutsk. I have a feeling that it will be completely different, not only from St. Petersburg but from anywhere I've ever been.
But first, I have to survive a weekend in Amsterdam.
The countdown has begun. T-minus 17 hours and 45 minutes.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The last day...

I have been dreading the coming of this day - my last full day in St. Petersburg. The sad thing is, I've spent most of it taking care of all the little errands I need to complete before I leave. But more on that in a second - I want to start from the beginning of the last 24 hours.
When I got home from the internet cafe yesterday, I ran into Ksush downstairs in the dorm, and ended up helping her pack hurriedly because she was leaving for the Caucauses by the night train and had to move all her stuff back to our old room before leaving. Then we made a quick blini run and said our goodbyes. One more friend gone. It's sad having everyone leave. But such is life.
But then, not two minutes after I left Ksusha downstairs, Aafke (my fellow student from Amsterdam) dropped by to see if I was bored too, and we ended up sitting around having a good time doing nothing until late into the evening. It's amazing how quickly the time can fly when you're just hanging out, but it seems to move so slowly when you can't wait to be somewhere.
At that point I was pretty tired, so I went to bed so that I could get up early and do ALL my laundry. Which I did. It was fabulous. Now I can pack without worrying about seperating dirty pants from clean ones.
When I got back to the 18th floor from my laundryroom escapades, the "Obshezhitiye Babushka" was busy doing her fortnightly cleaning of the halls and changing of the sheets. No problem - pretty cool actually that my last night here will be nice and clean. But then not two minutes after I arrived, a flood of other babushkas arrived, who kept on saying to me, "Tarakani, tarakani!" ("Cockroaches, cockroaches!"). Well, you know me and cockroaches - we're arch enemies. And here I was thinking that these ladies were annoucing an invasion. Turns out they just wanted to treat the room for bugs. A little preventative maintainance goes a long way so I've heard. It was a funny encounter nonetheless.
Afterwards, I went to the university with the false hope of acquiring my transcript. It wasn't ready when they said it would be - fancy that. So now I have to go back tomorrow morning, when I was planning on making one last trip to the Hermitage :-(. But I need the transcript, so I'll have to make the sacrifice. I just wish people would do what they say they're going to do when they say they're going to do it. But I can't control that.
I did get one other thing done this afternoon. I went to the Hotel Oktyaberskaya to inquire about a bus ticket to Helsinki. I had been told be various reliable sources that there is a daily bus from the hotel that is much cheaper than the Finnish busline. And it was. For the bargain price of $15, I'll be on my way to Helsinki at 22.00 tomorrow evening. Joy of joys.
Now if I can just find out what's going on with my Amsterdam accomadations, I'll be all set.
Oh yeah, and I still have to pack.
And write my essay for Elena.
And find somewhere to store my stuff for the next two weeks.
Oh crap - the countdown has begun...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Now I'm scared of the dark

Lindsey's gone :-(. It kind of bums me out that I'm now the only one left in our little flat at the dorm (though being alone is much better than spending one more second with Katya). Last night was the first night that I have slept in a room by myself in 3 and a half months! It sort of creeped me out, especially since the nights have gotten noticably darker than they were when I arrived (I don't think we actually had nights then).
It was nice though to relax and just be by myself. I read a lot last night. I'm so close to the end of One Hundred Years of Solitude that I'm finding it difficult to do much else. I had to get out of the dorm today though. I'm leaving here on Tuesday night and I can't spend my days just sitting on my butt reading (as fun as that is). I was going to go to the Hermitage one last time today, but there was a line stretching all the way across the garden. Even though I could have gone in the employee entrance with my pass, I didn't want to deal with a crowd that size. I can't enjoy art when there are fifty bazillion other people just walking around, without any regard for others or a real desire to enjoy the art. I'll try to go back on Tuesday before I leave.
I did manage to make it to the Pushkin museum finally. It was hidden because they are restoring the building. But I got in and it was nice. And short, which is a plus. Sometimes these "apartment of _____" museums are way too indepth - the have a tendency to bore me to death. But I liked this one. Very simple.
I'm supposed to eat lunch with Ksusha today (former roommate), but I'm still waiting for her call. "Lunch" is a relative thing here - it means a meal anytime between the hours of 1 pm and 5 pm. So maybe not eating breakfast this morning was a bad idea. But I want to save room for the delicious pizza that will be filling my belly soon.
If any of you want to chat with me, you better call me before Tuesday night. That'll be the last day that I'm sure to get your call when you call. I'm not sure how roaming works with this cell. And I might have to get another number when Im in siberia. But you'll always be able to reach me (though maybe not immediately) by calling 254-230-1818.