Thursday, January 30, 2014

Russia So Far

Well, I've finally made it to St. Petersburg and am settled in with my host family. However, I know if I don't give my mother a play-by-play of what's happened up to this point, there will be hell to pay  . (Love you Mom)

My first day gone, I spent a total of 14 hours total on a plane. Our first trip from SLC to Chicago was about 3 hours long, and Chicago was almost as cold as it is here in Russia. 

This was Me, Megan and Miranda just before our 14 hours of impending doom.

The Chicago airport was beautiful. Lot's of cool art and statues.

Right after, we flew to Frankfurt, Germany and spent an hour and a half in that airport. (My first country outside of the USA! Woo!) 
That flight was 8 hours long and I slept through a good 5 hours of it. Probably why I'm the least jet-lagged out of the rest of the group. 
Right after Germany, we flew to St. Petersburg and arrived at 2:00pm while in the US, it was 3:00am. It also happened to be the coldest day of the year for them so far. The next few days are supposed to be about the same. Feeling your snot freeze as you walk outside is a really weird sensation to get used to.
Thank you, mom. For suggesting the thermals. I haven't taken them off yet.
Also, you know those stereotypical Russian fur hats? They actually wear those. I didn't think that was a thing but it is.
I'm totally buying one. 

Went to the Head Teacher's apartment first thing. It's on the 8th floor, but it's not in the city like my host family's apartment is. 
We had to force ourselves to stay awake until about 9:00 at night so that our jet lag wouldn't be as bad the next day. I was picked up by my host dad and taken to their apartment right in the middle of St. Pete. It's really nice here with a great view, and it's a lot bigger than I expected it would be. 
The family is great. Tanya, my host mom, studied to be an English teacher so she speaks the language very well and has a lot of books in English. Fun Fact: They also have Twilight in Russian. They have three kids, 2 boys and a girl (whom I share a room with). I feel like these kids have accomplished more during their lifetimes than I have in mine by a long shot. Each one plays a different instrument, and speaks 3-4 languages. 2 of the languages that they learn in school have to be dead languages like Latin or Greek. Sasha, the girl, composes music and her school orchestra performs it during concerts sometimes.
Speaking of the kids, they came home from school humming the Sherlock theme song. Needless to say we had an instant connection. Danil says that the kids at his school keep telling him to watch Doctor Who. I agree with them.
All of them love Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. They're pretty great.

After we stayed at the HT's apartment for a while, we went to the grocery store (where I recognized no food labels) and exchanged our American money for Russian Rubels. 34 Rubels to a dollar right now. It makes everything seem really expensive.

The Metro

I have to use it all by myself tomorrow. Wish me luck.
So far I like the Metro a lot more than driving. The drivers here are insane. The normal rules I expect just don't seem to apply. If you want to pass someone, you pass them however you can. If you want to turn somewhere, you turn however you can. It's crazy.

We explored some of the city today and were treated to some AMAZING pizza. The pizza is fantastic here. 

Our group at the pizza place.

The park that I'll have to walk through every day to get to the Metro.

It has an ice skating rink.

Gratuitous pictures of St. Petersburg from our small exploration.

The Cathedral of the Kazan Icon
of the Mother of God

In conclusion: So far so good. This is city is beautiful and I can already tell that I'm going to love it here. It's really weird having the sun rise a little and stay really low in the sky all day long until it sets. It makes it seem like it's either morning or evening all day long. Apparently, in May, we get two hours of night and that's it. That'll be exciting. 
We start teaching on Monday, but I think that's going to be the biggest challenge.
Russian lessons start on Tuesday. Hopefully I'll be able to read some of these signs soon.
Wish us luck.