I feel that I have really adjusted to living here. It no longer feels like I am a visitor, but a real inhabitant of the exciting city of Saint Petersburg. However, we have all of our midterms this week and next so it’s a bit hectic. Everything is going well though. We went to the banya not too long ago, which was a milestone. We sat in the steam (over 200 degrees) and hit each other with birch branches. It was great. I felt super relaxed and like a real Russian.
It hasn’t been too cold this week but we finally did get the first snow a couple of Wednesdays ago. It actually decided to completely blizzard on the only day we have had a fully outdoor excursion this whole semester. It sleeted, snowed, hailed, rained, the whole nine-yards. Since then it has seemed to calm down a bit. My host mom claims that this “warm” weather is very unusual for this time of year. I think that’s an ominous sign, as if nature is preparing to dump it all on us at once.
Things academically are going great too. I feel like I’m making tons of progress and I feel much more comfortable here now. I can almost understand my 8-year-old host sister when she speaks a mile-a-minute.
I have also been attending the English club at the university- bit of a misnomer really. We do speak some English but just as much Russian. It’s basically a club for anyone interested in meeting people from other countries or other cultures. Its great for us because we get to meet tons of Russians (and Englishmen and Germans, and even some from Korea). We actually went to the city of Velikii (Great) Novgorod a couple of weeks ago, which is about three hours from Saint Petersburg. Despite the fact that the city’s name means new city, it is one of the very oldest. The founding date it something like 850. It had a Kremlin, a bunch of old churches and more Russians. It had the perfect amount of dastaprimachatelnosti (attractions, and also one of the longest Russian words in the whole language) for a single day of sightseeing. I really loved getting out of Saint Petersburg for the day and being able to explore another city.
In fact, last weekend we had Friday off and had the chance for a little bit of self-guided travel. A couple of us went to a town called Pskov for the three days. Pskov is another old, fortified town (right near the border of Estonia) with a Kremlin and more churches than one can count. I loved the whole city and the smaller town atmosphere. We also visited Starii Izborsk, another old, fortified city, nearby. I was most excited though about the fact that we managed to plan the entire weekend ourselves. Including speaking to Russians, buying tickets, and booking a hotel room all on our own. It was a great experience overall, and it helped to prove to me, more than anything else has, that I am indeed making a home for myself here in Russia.
By: Kirsten Howe
Term: Fall 2011