Hello once again, and sorry for my delay in updating you all on my life here in St Petersburg! It’s been a very busy week and I am officially exhausted. But it’s been a great one, despite all that.
Last week was really hard – I was very tired and adjusting to the time difference again after being home for a week at the end of October, which meant that I ended up making simple and silly mistakes in all of my lessons and in any conversations I then had with people outside of class. This week, however, I had some small breakthroughs – so I want to take a minute to feel a *tiny* bit proud of myself for that! I used some new words for the first time, and realised I understood so much more than at the start of September.
But I’m still tired because for some reason my normal bus, the number 5 trolley bus, keeps not appearing at the uni end of my route, so I’m having to walk 30 minutes to the end of Nevsky prospect to get a number 5 or 22 to get home every day, so it’s taking me even longer basically. Travelling takes up so much of your day, and it really tires you out. So basically at the moment I’m this massive ball of exhaustion, and I don’t want to do my work when I get home, and because the daylight hours are getting shorter and shorter, I’m wanting to curl up and sleep as early as 7:30 in the evening! The sun doesn’t rise until 9am, and starts going down anytime from 4pm. So we’re not seeing a lot of sun here in St P!
The temperatures aren’t too bad, although they hang around 0-1 degree (Celsius). The inside of every building is really well heated, so you don’t need your coat when your indoors. Everyone on the street is wearing these massive insulated coats which go down to the top of their knees. They look like they are wearing sleeping bags, basically. And everyone is wearing a scarf or hat – some children are wearing full on snow suits. Still no actual snow yet though. We were told it would definitely snow before the end of October, but so far we’ve only had this kind of half-rain-half-snow slush occasionally. Mostly just rain and wind. And every day is cloudy.
Apart from the tiredness life here is kind of the same as normal. Most of my classmates are also feeling really tired – more than normal – so it’s not just me. We’re all struggling with culture shock still in some ways. I don’t intend to speak badly of Russia – people do that way too much already, especially in the media – this is more outwardly processing some of the things I’m experiencing and that challenge my Englishness if that makes sense. It’s little things, that just nag at you. For example, in Russia, people don’t like to plan ahead. Last minute plans are totally normal, and last minute plan changes don’t even cause people to blink. I, however, like to have some kind of loose plan ahead of time, depending on what it is… so you can see how this would challenge my ability to just be flexible and go with the flow and try and live like a Russian person would.
Recently, I struggled because my host ‘mum’ arranged something for me which I didn’t want to do. She came and asked me ‘what time can you do tomorrow’, and I didn’t know how to say that I didn’t want to do it so I ended up naming a time, and then the bus made me get home really late from uni which meant I had less time to do work that day, which made me stay up later to get work done and added to how tired I’ve been feeling already.
It’s funny because you never think that you’re going to have a problem. You think you’re so open-minded. But when you have to live somewhere else full time for a longer period of time, you realise just how different it is and how all the little things really get to you. It definitely teaches you to be more patient and flexible. But sometimes it does get a little frustrating, and that’s why my friend from Church kindly let me stay in her flat for the weekend to give me a small break from everything.
At the English movie night on Friday, I was put in the beginners group, which meant that I had to translate a lot of what I was saying into Russian afterwards, which was challenging but I managed to do it and people complimented my Russian, which is so great to hear!
Then, yesterday, I did something really scary, and went along to the newly formed solely Russian student house group with one of my English friends who is a bit more advanced with the language than me. Sadly, my friend is leaving next Saturday and won’t be coming back to Russia because the second part of her year abroad will be spent in Germany, so she kindly offered to introduce me to everyone. I was so scared on the way there in the metro because I was worried they’d do something crazy like kick me out because my Russian isn’t always brilliant and I can’t always understand everything, although as I said earlier I’m finally seeing some improvements. But they were all really nice and there was no pressure to talk if you didn’t want to, which was good. I understood parts of it, and I joined in with the icebreaker game and singing at the beginning with no problems, although I did make a few grammatical mistakes. I didn’t want to join the group to practice my Russian though, I know that my Russian is nowhere near good enough yet. It was a huge leap, and to be honest I’m wondering if I’m trying to run before I can walk by going now instead of after Christmas. But I really wanted to join to make some Russian friends, people my age, and also people who believe the same things that I do. They are all really lovely, and although Russians can seem really unfriendly at first, once they know you a bit better they are really kind and want to know everything about you.
The sermon at Hope Church was really good today too, and afterwards I managed to chat to a friend (in Russian) who I hadn’t seen for a few weeks because she’d been in Moscow. We then went out to lunch with some people working with a really great charity called Love Russia.
Now I’m currently lying on my bed writing this and unwinding from such a busy week of socialising! Hopefully the next week will be a good one too. Anyway, that’s it for now!