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Fur Hats and Monkeys

Written on: Tuesday February 5th, 2008

A journal entry from: B Poccuu


So, the militsia here is ridiculous. They all look like they're about 12. Apparently, young boys from small towns who can't find jobs come to the big cities to join the militsia. It's like a middle schooler telling you to show your dokymenti, pojalysta.

I've gotten to be pretty good at the metro. Every morning I take off from my apartment at a pretty good speed, as I have to hit this one large road by a certain time. Crossing is touchy, because the light barely lasts enough time to make it across. I usually have to run. Once I get into the metro, it's pretty easy. I only have to go two stops, but I've learned to position myself near a door that will be close to the exit at the station where I get out. Very tricky. It makes me really miss my car sometimes, especially during the walk from the metro to my apartment at the end of the day.

Anyways, on Saturday a bunch of us adventure-d to the Udelnaya market. It was very interesting. I heard REM playing at one of the stands, and I saw a lot of bootleg dvds. I bartered with a woman about a fur hat, but I couldn't get her to go down any farther, so I'm going to go back later. Mom: everyone has bought hats from this lady, so don't worry, they're not diseased or anything.

After the market, we went to the Peter and Paul Fortress. It was really pretty. Even though the woman decided that since we weren't Russian students she would charge us to get in. It's actually illegal for her to do that?since we're students here for more than 2 months, we legally get the Russian student price (free). Unfortunately, people assume foreigners are American automatically and want to charge them more. It's important to speak as little as possible in these situations.

On the way into the fortress I saw a monkey. It was wearing a jumpsuit. It looked pretty warm. I really don't need to say anything more about that, do I?

In the fortress there's this cool ramp that leads up to the, I don't know, battlements? Whatever. You can walk along to wall that faces the city, across the Neva. I'll post pictures of all this soon, but I can't upload them on dial-up. The fortress was one of the first things built in Petersburg, so the church is obviously quite old. There's about 100 dead tzars inside it, in above-ground tombs. A little creepy, but hey. There's also a Romanov room.

On the way home from the fortress I took a marshrytka! I was very proud of myself. I found the right one, asked him to stop and he understood me. Oora! A woman also asked me if that marshrytka was coming soon, or if it had already passed. I told her that I was waiting for the same one, and that it hadn't come yet. In Russian. Look at me go.

That night I had dinner with my host mom, and then I went to Kofe Haus with my friends. We attempted to find a cool place to go, but ulitmately failed. I went home around 11. Funny story: there's a bar named Fidel on a road named Doomskaya. No joke.

On Sunday I met up with my tutor, Katya, and we tried to go to the Russian museum. Unfortunately, the line was about three years long, so we started walking around. She tried to take me to 2 other galleries, but they were both closed. We went into a few shops and into Spaso-Preyobrajenskii Sabor (church). I don't know the name in English. It was very pretty, though.

After our stroll, I went grocery shopping. I got a lot of stuff, but unfortunately I forgot to check the expiration date on a few things and had to throw them out. Such as dried apricots. My goldfish are expired, but they're just a little stale. The package just says Piybi (fish) since they're bootleg Goldfish. At first I felt like I had spent way too much money at the grocery store, but then I realized that 800 rubles is only $30, and that I had bought things I wouldn't need to buy again (shoe shine, imitation Ziplock bags, mustard, Nutella). I must be getting used to the currency, because 800 rubles feels like a lot, and everything here is cheaper than that.

A woman asked me if the metro line I was standing next to on the way home went to my station, and it was exciting (once again) that I could answer her in the affirmative.

So, let's talk about homework for a second. I have a lot of it. Way too much of it. About 4 hours a night, really. Argh.

Moving on to Monday. The walk to school was pretty frigid, but not too bad. I packed my lunch and felt good about it. I spent 15 rubles on some tea (about 50 cents). After classes, we had a group meeting. We are no longer going to Archangelsk, since the train ride is about 35 hours long. Instead we're going to Pskov (Feb 23-25) and the surrounding small towns. I'm pretty excited. ?

Our future excursions:
Wed. ? Alexander Nevsky Monastery (right next to my apartment, and about 1000 famous people are buried there. The cemetary is like a sculpture museum.)
Next Wed. ? Yusopov Palace
The Next Thurs. ? Pikovaya Dama (opera by Tchaikovsky, story by Pushkin)
The Wed. After That ? Banya!

I went to Dom Knigi (like Russian Barnes and Noble) yesterday. This was a poor choice, as I bought 4 books. It only cost me about $20, but gah. Anyways, I got (in Russian) Crime and Punishment (a cool version with footnotes and explanations and maps) and White Nights by Dostoevsky, Hero of Our Time by Lermontov, and Oblomov by Goncharov. They're nice versions, too. I also went to the Musical Comedy Theatre to see «Baronessa Lili» with Katya. It was a really good performance, even if I only understood a little bit. I didn't get the plot twist at the end, but I enjoyed the singing.

Ok, so before I talk about today, I have to tell you about road work. On my walk to the metro in the morning, there are about 9 different stations of road work. The weird thing is, I have never actually seen a worker. I leave at different times of the day and everything. Not only that, but each day the road work looks different! When do they do it? How do they do it? It's a mystery. One day you will have a sidewalk, the next day you will have a 10 foot hole. It's like magic. The next day it will be a sidewalk again.

Anyways, my walk to the metro was especially treacherous today. There were boards laid over 10 foot pits, that had iced over. Gah. I took pictures, will upload later.

At school I had stranovedeniye/area studies for the first time. It's really interesting/challenging, since we have to express our political views in Russian. After classes I went to Kofe Haus with my friends, which was fun even though something I had gave me a horrible stomach ache, and all I could eat for dinner was broth. ? (P.S. Did you know that the broth at the bottom of the soup bowl (that no one wants to eat, since it's pretty much just salty hot water) is like a vitamin? Words of wisdom from my host mom.)

I also had 4 hours of homework tonight-bleh. I'm super tired, but I get to sleep in till 9 tomorrow?oora!

Oh. I also washed clothes today. I had a bit of a weird argument over the temperature with my host mom. She thought I was the weirdest person ever for wanting to wash everything on cold. Also, the washer doesn't have «cold, warm, hot» - it has temperatures. WTF? I had no idea. She asked me what temperature and I just stood there. She is really amused by me.

Quick plans for the rest of the week:
Friday: Going to the synagogue with friends to see a service.
Saturday: Going to the ballet with Liza and her host mom.

 

From mom on Feb 5th, 2008

She must really wonder about the Shout color catchers then for the wash. Good luck on the non-diseased ,non-infested fur hat. hope the wool pants...made it through the wash.

From Kelsie on Feb 5th, 2008

Oh Kate that's amazing. It's so cool to read about what you've done. I miss you so much. When you get back to Georgia and I'm here too we HAVE to get together. I'm sure we have a lot to catch up on. :)

From sister who is the specialist on Feb 5th, 2008

hola. next time o explain where your going... can you say what it is too??? Cause I have absolutly no idea what any of that was about. And buy me lots! i mean if you get tea for 30 cents then there could be like 20 presents in like 20 dolars. jkjk. lol. so im really sore and pulled a muscle in my inner thigh!!!! I swear my muscles have issues. I bet the workers do it at night. They cold be like nocternal like the owls in that movie you refused to go see with me!!!! yurp. Love hannah

From your sister whos a grown up on Feb 5th, 2008

So I voted today. Arent you proud of me. Barack won GA. it was pretty cool. I cant wait to see pictures and get my post card (hint hint) and my presents haha now i sound like hannah but anyway im going to get skype so you can call me ill let you know when i do i love you and miss you oh so much xoxo alisha

From Rachel!! on Feb 6th, 2008

I love how your blog reads exactly like how you speak. It's like you're standing next to me telling me about your day. Also I laughed out loud by myself about the monkey in the jumpsuit...

From Eubanks :) on Feb 6th, 2008

please post a picture of yourself in the fur hat and all your wintery garb. I've been imagining you walking through the streets like that little boy in 'a christmas story.' also if you end up going to the gym in a sparkly tube top, please send me a picture of that as well. It would make my life.

From Cheryl Rogers on Feb 7th, 2008

Hey, Kate! I absolutely LOVE your blog! It really sounds like a fantastic adventure. I can't imagine the buildings; sort of a Dr. Zhavigo deja vu' thing, huh? Your host mom sounds very nice and sounds like she has taken you under her wing. I know that must make your mom feel better! And I am so proud of you for not catching meningitis yet! How funny that they are worried about meningitis. Perhaps your politics teacher had that when he/she was out the first day of your class? The roadwork thing has me baffled, too. But whatever they are doing, it actually sounds like it gets done with very little disruption. Your mission, should you accept it, is to find out how they do that and report back to the GEORGIA DOT!!!!! Obviously, we are totally unaware of any way to fix a road without a great deal of destruction/congestion/mess! Well, I guess I will get back to work :( Keep on writing, stay safe and don't work too hard on your 4 hours of homework -- yuk! P.S. Are you still sorry that you didn't bring the duct tape?????

From kk on Feb 7th, 2008

i can barely stand this. i hate that you in the motherland without me. reading your blog is like going back all over again. you HAVE to go to club dacha and and club fidel! they are sooo close to the university! they do face control, though, so girls have no problem getting in but guys can have a bit of a problem. they are so much fun and play AWESOME music and the crazy russians dance till 6 am and don't even get tired. also, kofe house is way overpriced and i hate it cuz coffee sucks in russia. you HAVE to go to teremok--you know, it's like fast food blini that are SOOO good! ask your host mom where the closest one is, but there is one on nevskii, far down to the right if you are standing as kazanckuu sobor and looking at nevskii. can't wait to read more! ya tebe loobloo!

From sister who is stil speacialist on Feb 16th, 2008

"I cant wait to see pictures and get my post card (hint hint) and my presents haha now i sound like hannah" alisha says. ok so when is sounding like meh a bad thing exactly??? shesh people.

From Deb Gerace on Feb 22nd, 2008

This is an incredible blog, Kate. Not only is your adventure interesting but your writing is outstanding. Keep those cards & letters coming! And of course, be sure to de-louse the hat.....

From Spivey on Mar 11th, 2008

"Mom: everyone has bought hats from this lady, so don't worry, they're not diseased or anything." So, do the hats WITH disease cost extra? If so, does it depend on the type of disease? I'd guess Cholera hats were less expensive than those with Malaria. If you think about it, I'd like a Jaundiced fur hat.... Your blog is causing jealousy here... but I'll keep reading if you keep writing.