Well, this has certainly been a whirlwind few days. I arrived in St. Petersburg Saturday evening, and Nastya, a very nice woman from the Bard program, was there to pick me up at the airport, and fill me in on the orientation that I missed on the cab ride to my host family’s house. Driving through the city center at night was wonderful– seeing in person all these places I’ve been reading about for the past few months is surreal, to say the least.
My host family is very nice, and are extremely patient with my (still poor) Russian. The phrase I’ve been using most often is “Я сыта!” (I’m full!) because Larisa, my host mother, fills my plate up with food and then looks so disappointed in me when I can’t finish it. Fortunately, it is all delicious. Also living with us for the time being are Lena, Larisa and Saha’s daughter, and Lena’s four-month-old daughter Masha. And, of course, Demi the cat, who is unhappy that Masha receives so much more attention than him now. Unfortunately, my attempts to get Demi to snuggle with me at night have been unsucessful, as he likes to sleep in the bathroom, where the floor is heated. I can’t compete with that.
My jet lag hasn’t been too bad, although it’s been really hard to adjust to getting up when it’s still dark, even though it’s 8am. It throws me off a little bit, because it feels like I’m getting up SUPER early. I had to be at the college for Russian language testing at 10 this morning, and it was strange to see so many people up and about in the dark. The sun did peek out from behind the clouds briefly today, at least.
I met up yesterday with some of the other students in my program to tour Спас на Крови (Savior on the Spilled Blood), the church built on the site where Alexander II was assassinated. Today also marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the siege of Leningrad, so there was an outdoor exhibition in the city with photos, videos, and posters from the siege. If I understood Larisa correctly this morning, Sasha’s grandfather fell through the ice on Lake Ladoga while bringing supplies across to the besieged city. (I couldn’t tell whether or not he survived.)
Our two week Russian language intensive begins tomorrow at 11. Compared to some of the students here, my Russian is barely passable, but that’s why I’m here: to get better. I have about a million more things to say about my first two days, but I’m pretty tired and still trying to catch up on sleep post-Albright. I’ll post some pictures soon!