2 weeks to go

Yes I am counting down maybe a little bit!!

I am super excited to be going home soon and seeing my family again. It’s been a challenging but highly rewarding year, and I feel like I fully deserve my summer holiday now!

It’s got to the point where I’m so tired and I’ve been in Russia for so long that I’m mixing my English and Cyrillic alphabets and writing nonsense words, I can’t speak properly in English, and when I’m really tired my Russian suffers too. Which, at the moment is quite frequently! Currently I’m experiencing the White Nights (Белые Ночи). Yes they are amazing and strange, but it means I’m not really getting a lot of sleep, even with an eye mask!

This picture was taken just before 12 am. The sun was only just ‘going down’. But it’s fully light like the middle of the day from about 2:30-3am.

So now we’re at the other extreme! When before in the winter it was dark all the time and you just wanted to sleep, now it’s light all the time, and you wish you could sleep but you can’t (if you’re sensitive to light like I am anyway).

But hey, I’ve almost made it through and completed my year, and that’s the main thing!

I’ve started translating a bit at church! Only for a short bit at the beginning, but it’s fun and scary and a great experience. Everyone’s really encouraging so that helps a lot 🙂

I also got sent a picture from right at the start of my time here in St Petersburg when I went to an Africa themed student party run by the church! It’s fun to look back – that was a really great evening, it made up for the fact that I wasn’t able to go home and be at my aunts wedding as a bridesmaid that day.

Time has gone by – I wouldn’t have said it’s flown exactly but it definitely has passed.

This coming week will be my last week of lessons. I have a couple of tests, but at the end of it I’ll get my certificate and that will be it! The week after that is completely free so I’ll probably be doing some more sight seeing with friends and meeting up with people before heading home to the UK.

It’s so warm and sunny here at the moment – I’ve not needed a coat in weeks! It’s such a good way to end the year.

That’s my update for now!

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6.5 week count down.

Hello everyone,

Sorry I’ve not written in a while, life has been really crazy my end! These last few weeks have had a lot of things going on all at once and I’m definitely glad to be putting some of it in the past. It feels like my parents came to visit me years ago… though in reality it’s only been about 2 weeks. But hey it’s May already – and the weather keeps on improving here. We’ve had so much sunshine – everyone’s doing their best to be out in it and get the fresh air and vitamin D after such a long time of cold and snow. It’s got to the point where inside the buildings it’s too hot because the heating hasn’t turned off across the city yet. So we keep having to open all the windows at home to let some of the heat out.

So the highlights from the last couple of weeks in April – Monday 16th, or two weeks ago yesterday, I was putting out an electrical fire in our kitchen with a fire extinguisher – my first time ever using one or being in a situation like that. It was pretty scary and me and my flat mates were quite shaken up afterwards. Then a week later on Wednesday I came home feeling really green and nauseous, and it turned out I had caught a tummy bug, which led to me being bedridden for the next 4 days pretty much. I am now recovered (finally), but only after a rather traumatic trip to a Russian doctor and getting prescribed antibiotics and a few other things.

On Saturday (21st April) it was one of their 21st birthdays, and she hired out a boat trip on the Neva, which was so awesome at night. Fortunately I recovered enough to be able to go! Sadly, I only have a couple of weeks left before both of my flatmates will have left Russia, and then I’ll be leaving too in June. The time is slipping away fast, so we’re planning on doing some last minute sight seeing and shopping and things and just generally spending more time together. We like to eat out a lot, so we’ve written a list of our favourite restaurants to visit. Eating out in Russia is a lot cheaper than in the UK. A meal that would cost £10-15 in England costs only £5 here.

Oh, and this morning I submitted the last of my year abroad project this morning, so I have nothing to do for my university until I take my oral exam in September. It’s a good feeling to know that it’s all been sent off and I don’t need to worry about it anymore.

Tomorrow, I and some friends are planning on visiting a place called Pushkin, where we hope to visit Catherine the Great’s Palace, so I’ll try and insert some pictures here later once we’ve been. Apparently it’s really beautiful there. Last week I went to the Faberge Egg museum, which was full of these really fancy eggs and trinkets from the Romanov era. I also tried Armenian food for the first time, and it was delicious!

So that’s pretty much all I’m doing for the rest of my half term holiday, now my project’s all done and dusted. Sight-seeing, relaxing, sleeping, seeing friends and making the most of it. It’s going to be really exciting to see the parades and celebrations on the 9th May for Victory Day – it’s the second most celebrated national holiday in Russia after New Year. The weather is honestly so much better. Today it rained, but last week we pretty much had sun every day, with temperatures between 7-16 degrees c. It’s quite humid, so it feels a lot warmer than what the temperature says, and gets super sticky during the middle of the day.

EMN has finished until June, so I’m not sure what I’ll be doing on Friday nights… but I’m sure I’ll think of something to keep myself busy. I just can’t believe how little time I have left. Overall, I’m definitely enjoying my time here in Russia more than last term. Give or take the few incidents like the fire/getting sick a couple of times, my Russian has come on so much and I feel so much more ‘at home’ abroad than I ever did before. That to me is really encouraging, although I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved to be coming home soon to see my family again and have a break from globe trotting. It’s a strange feeling – I’m enjoying it here, but I also can’t wait to be home to see family and friends and go back to Exeter again in September.

I’ll try and post again soon. I have a few ideas for some future posts that I’ll work on while I have all of this free time 😉

Увидимся!

Halfway!

Hello once again,

It’s April already and my parents have come and gone for their little trip out here to visit me. I miss them already, but it’s hard to be down for long when the sun is shining and the temperature in St Petersburg is so warm!!

5 days ago when my parents first arrived we were able to stand on the edge of the Neva, which was still covered in ice.

Me standing on the edge of the River Neva. It wasn’t safe enough to really walk out further onto the ice, but it was thick enough at the edge – at least 1.5-2 feet thick!

We went to Peterhoff again and the sea was frozen along the Gulf of Finland – people were walking on the sea, guys.

The Gulf of Finland from the Summer Palace in Peterhoff.

But now it’s all melted and the sun is out and the brown muddy grass patches are turning green. The city looks so different already – and all in the space of 5 days!

The River Neva 4 days later, pretty much completely free of ice.

That was the River Neva yesterday afternoon after we’d walked around the Church of the Savior on Blood and the Fields of Mars (a memorial garden for fallen heroes in the wars).

The Church of the Saviour on Spilt Blood – named this way because of the attempted (and ultimately successful) assassination of Alexander II just outside when it was being built, I believe.

Inside, all of the walls are completely covered with mosaic representations of all of the key Biblical figures and of scenes of the main stories from the life of Jesus. It was truly amazing – and my favourite tourist attraction so far.

After that we walked along Nevsky Prospekt and got presents for people. Nevsky is the Main Street in the middle St P. It’s like Oxford Street in London.

Back on Friday we climbed the Colonnade to the top of St Isaac’s Cathedral, which was so cool because you could see for miles, even though it wasn’t sunny that day.

St Isaac’s Cathedral.

At the top of the colonnade.

The Bronze Horseman – featuring Peter the Great (1st).

We also walked around the Bronze Horseman (above), featured in a famous poem by Pushkin, who, for those that don’t know, is a very very famous Russian poet.

After that we finished the day spending 5 hours walking around the Hermitage.

The State Hermitage / Winter Palace

The main square – Place Square

The peacock clock – believed to have been made by James Cox. It’s an automation and still in working order, although we weren’t able to go hear it as they only let it play every Wednesday at 7pm.

On Saturday we spent the entire day at Peterhoff Palace – the summer palace by the Gulf of Finland. It was sunny but really bitterly cold that day because of the wind. One of my friends from church came with us. None of the flowers were out yet and the fountains were still switched off so they wouldn’t freeze up over the winter, but lots of renovation work was going on so it should be really beautiful in a few weeks when everything’s in full bloom.

The Samson fountain – removed by the Germans when they took over Peterhoff during the Second World War and probably melted down. This is the newer copy made after the war. The other statues were buried in the grounds and never found by the Germans, so they are still the originals, or so I’ve been told.

Then on Sunday, we went to Hope Church and my parents got to meet all of my friends from church!!

After church we ate at my favourite restaurant, Ukrop (it means Dill in Russian – dill is the herb Russians put on everything they eat!). Then I showed them my uni and Smol’ny Cathedral.

Later that evening, we went and listened to a Russian Composers concert at the Music Hall – it was my parents’ wedding anniversary and I only managed to find the tickets last week. I was worried I wouldn’t find anything as events get booked up very quickly, so it was a real answer to prayer!

This concert was the last of 5 from a series called Musical Journey – the first 4 included music from France, Spain and Italy. This concert featured exclusively Russian music – by Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff.

This morning we walked down the road to Kazanskii Cathedral and heard a sung mass (I think!) and it was so interesting and the singing was so beautiful. These last few days have definitely been an unforgettable experience overall.

Now I’m sat on my bed catching up with year abroad work and uni work and missing my parents (they’re the best!), but feeling positive because the sun is shining and winter is over. I only have 2 months left here and I want to make them count!

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to study in such a beautiful city full of such interesting culture. Though this year has had its challenges, it’s definitely widened my view of the world and taught me a lot!

Long time no speak!

Hey everyone,

I can’t believe March is almost over already! Where is the time going?

Here in Russia, it’s not really spring yet. We still have snow and ice everywhere, and the temperature is anywhere between -12 to 0 degrees most days. To us, this feels like spring, because after -24 degrees Celsius I think anything would! I’ve talked to some of my Russian friends about the weather and they reckon it should start to get a bit warmer soon over the next few weeks. But you never really know here.

Last night, I stepped out of my comfort zone again and went to a different house group from my church – basically, the one I normally go to on Saturdays branched off from the main one, which meets on Thursday evenings. I was messaged earlier yesterday, never having been before, and told simply to ‘come’, with no information as to where it would be or when it would start. Fortunately, he got one of the other girls from my usual house group to meet me at the metro station at 18:30. We got there, and started the group off like a regular house group, with some worship songs and prayer time, and then suddenly all the guys got together and surprised us with a late International Woman’s Day party. International Woman’s Day (8th March) is a massive deal here in Russia – we had the day off uni and everything. This celebration was a little late, but it was really sweet. They made eloquent Russian speeches (these are long and very heartfelt!) and they had made us a meal and pudding and wouldn’t let us do anything to help etc. Even getting ourselves a drink wasn’t allowed – they insisted on doing everything! Then after that they gave us a little present in a bag. A mini-cactus and some chocolate. It’s one of the most bizarre but amazing experiences I’ve had so far since coming to Russia. I loved it – though I felt a little awkward and unsure of what to do at some points during the evening! After that on our way home to the metro we all had a little snowball fight and chatted. It was a good evening and I’m so glad I didn’t talk myself out of it and make my excuses!

I’m also glad they got me a cactus. It’s not the most usual flower to get someone on women’s day I don’t think, but they are really hard to kill and need little to no water… and judging by my success (or rather, lack of) with other plants in my room, this one might actually live. It’s not that I neglected them. I honestly don’t know what I did wrong. I watered them once a week like my mum told me, I kept them near the window so they had enough light. I made sure the room wasn’t too cold. Both of them ended up dying. What can I say? I tried!!

Uni this and last week has been a little easier. I feel like I’ve had a small break-through in my russian language acquisition… I understand so much more now, and I can say so much more. My russian is much more accurate generally in terms of declensions (don’t worry if you don’t know what those are – but if you do you’ll understand the struggle that is the case system).

EMN is good too – tonight we’ll be watching and discussing an English classic – the Princess Bride.

All in all, these last few weeks have been challenging but rewarding – I feel like I’m finally getting somewhere with russian this term. I even got round to picking my modules for this coming year in Exeter – I’m so excited to be doing modules on spanish in business and advanced spanish translation. I do miss Exeter a little bit, so I can’t wait for September, though I definitely don’t want to wish away my time here.

There you go, a short and (hopefully) sweet update on my life here in St Petersburg since the last time I posted; (I can’t remember when that was, I’ve fallen off the bandwagon a bit what with all of my work and things!).

More to come I’m sure! Until next time,

до скоро!

ЗБК – Winter Bible Conference

Wow! I can’t believe it’s already over – it feels like it went too fast!

St Petersburg team

So the adventure started on Thursday evening last week. Me and my flatmate and a group of other students and people from St Petersburg going to the conference caught a sleeper train at about 23.05 and arrived in Moscow the next morning at 9:40am. The carriages are arranged into lots of little pods of 4 beds – kind of like bunk beds. You have to roll out your mattress and put a sheet on it, and pillowcase on the pillow, and there are extra blankets if you need them, but with so many people in the carriage it was really warm! It was really strange to sleep and be moving at the same time, but because it’s quite rhythmical you usually can get to sleep just fine.

It’s quite tightly packed. A real adventure!

Me on my bed – the light was bad inside the carriage. This was the next morning before we arrived in Moscow.

At the conference we heard from a guy called John McNeal (I think that’s how you spell his name). He’s an Irish missionary who used to go to a church in Birmingham, so that’s how my flat mate knew him beforehand. He was really funny and the whole conference and his talks were based around Matthew 28:19-20. (From the Bible).

We all wrote him Russia-themed postcards and gave them to him at the end to say thank you. There was probably something else in the bag too.

We learned lots of tools for how to talk to people about Jesus, and on the last day we had a few hours out in Moscow to try out these skills. I talked for a long time with a History masters student and she had an interesting perspective on religion here in Russia, which is useful to know as a foreigner studying here. It was amazing and fun and we met so many people from all around Russia. There were students there from Vladivostok and Irkutsk (Siberia/Far eastern Russia).

We all stayed in a hostel together in rooms with bunk beds for 6 people, all of us from the conference of course.

Then last night I travelled back with a few students on the overnight train again. This time I knew what I was doing, although I had a run-in with the carriage lady – I wanted to brush my teeth and couldn’t make the taps work in the bathroom on the carriage, so I went into this little kitchen next door to it and did it there. She came in and saw me and told me that it was her private kitchen. She looked so severe that I almost cried, but I managed to apologise politely and explain that I didn’t know. I tried to avoid her after that! But on the way out of the train this morning she did a double take when I passed her at the door and stared at me as I walked away…

I was home before 8:30 am, and now I’m tired but I have lessons today from 2pm and I have a lot of homework to catch up on so I’m going to get on with that. I’ve spoken a lot of Russian this weekend, and I’m encouraged by how much I know and how much I understood!

It is amazing to see what God is doing here in Russia 🙂

St Petersburg Team at dinner time. 

Week 2(?) Update.

Всем привет!

Hello again – here’s my update for what I think is week #2 back in Russia.

On Friday (16th) we watched Flushed Away at English Movie Night, and I wrote the questions for the discussion afterwards. Lots of interesting conversations came up about the importance of family and material things etc. It’s run by a Christian organisation called New Life, and we try and talk to the students about God a bit in the discussions. It’s one of the highlights of my week and has been since my first term here.

I went to my Russian student house group the next day (Saturday 17th) and took some chocolate bourbons, Rowntree’s fruit pastels and some jelly babies. The fruit pastels were the most popular, but they were all appreciated. They were super friendly too, which is so encouraging when previously I had worried that they would have forgotten me!! Sadly I won’t be able to go to the Victory Day celebration thingy at the main community group’s house tonight because I’m travelling to Moscow for my first ever Bible conference. (More on that to come). Today is a national holiday of some kind where they give men gifts all over Russia – it’s like a men’s day. I was added to a group chat with all of the women in from our community group and the one that it originally branched out of, and they’ve bought all of the guys some cool bow ties and chocolate or something to give them tonight. I kind of wish I could go, but I’d already signed up for the conference before I knew about it.

Church on Sunday was good too, and afterwards I met up with my friend and we read a kind of devotional book together and discussed the verses that came up. By the end of the week I was so tired and I had all of these random Russian words floating round in my head… it’s kind of the running theme when I’m here. New words left right and centre. It’s almost easier to write in Russian than in English sometimes because I’m so used to having to concentrate on doing it. Today is the same – I’m saturated with Russian and have all of these random phrases and verbs and things in my head. This week has been pretty intense – I have a literature lesson and a history lesson and after those I came out and it was like my brain was unable to think anymore it was so tired!! I’m glad I asked to move up a group though, because I understand everything and I am being pushed. I think I’m going to stay with group two now, it just means pushing myself to speak a bit more in lessons where I need to answer questions. I just get really nervous because pretty much everyone else in my class has been to Russia before and speaks the language a bit better. I also need to learn a load of words!!! If only my brain were actually a sponge sometimes…..

Most of this week the temperature has been -19. Especially in the mornings. It’s been pretty sunny though, which is unusual for St Petersburg, so in the day it gets up to around -13/-14. It’s not that bad really. I mean you don’t stay out in it that long, and every building/bus/the metro is really well heated. But because it’s not damp here or humid, the cold is actually kinda bearable. And when the sun’s out it’s really beautiful too. Instead of snow or rain, we get these tiny bits of ice floating around in the air, and they rest on everything and form these kind of crystal-like coverings, so all of the trees and bushes and things look like they are out of fairy tales. I’m so grateful for the experience! This is something that not many people will see.

I am currently typing amid a mess of things as I try and pack for the Winter Bible Conference in Moscow. Зимная Библия Конференция (ЗБК). It is 3 days worth of talks and things with people from all over Russia – some flying in from Vladivostock in the far East! I can’t wait to meet all the people – it’s all going to be in Russian pretty much so it’s going to stretch me a lot and I’ve already been asked to help with translation a bit so we’ll see how that goes. I’ll probably do a post about it next week when I can look back on it. But yeah me and my flat mate (who is also coming) are going to catch a sleeper train with the others from our church. This is our first time sleeping on a train!! We have to catch it at around 11pm and it gets in at like 9:40 tomorrow. It’s all weird and new but I’m sure it will be fun 🙂

Overall, life here is going well, and the downs are not as long as last term! Although, I wish I could be home to see my cat and her new litter of kittens!!

That’s my little update for this week – I’ll try and post about ZBK next week and do another update!

До скоро 🙂

She’s back!

Guys! I’m back in St Petersburg!

And this time everything is different. What I mean is, I feel different. In my head I thought it would be like last term – the cold quiet panic and thoughts running through my mind along the lines of “what the heck am I doing here I want to go home”. But I feel so much more confident. I haven’t forgotten any of my Russian. Buying things in the shops is so much easier.

I’ve already bought my gym membership too – which I did entirely in Russian. This was a new experience because last term I made do with the weights I found at my home stay. I walked out after registering on a high – I feel like it was some kind of right of passage. Maybe I’m just overreacting but I was proud of myself. Little things like that mean a lot and show your progress!

This term I’m living with two lovely student friends of mine in a flat. The rent is much cheaper and I don’t have to pay for my washing this time which is a plus! The tap water is still undrinkable though so we have to buy our water or boil it. I got that free in my homestay because the couple I was living with let me have water from their tank. But it’s a small inconvenience really and I’m so grateful to be here this term instead.

Our kitchen wallpaper is rather dazzling…

It is currently the only green thing you will see in St Petersburg because everything else is covered in about 24cm snow!

Apparently we won’t have warmer weather until mid May to early June – spring doesn’t really happen… it’s either really hot or really cold!

But yeah, everything feels familiar and I feel so much more confident on the streets and everything. I’m still adjusting to the 3hr time difference – at 11pm I’m still not tired so I end up staying up til 1-2am before I can sleep! I also have to keep telling myself to stop smiling at strangers… in England it’s ok but I’m Russia they think you’re crazy! Oops! But in a week I should have settled into it again.

Uni doesn’t start until Monday 12th – I have an aptitude test which I’m about to start revising for and a small induction with our student reps for the new arrivals. I’m the only one who’s stayed in St P from the group I was in last term so I’ll be with completely new people.

English movie night is on tonight so I’ll be going to that! I’m bringing the DVD this time – it’s Belle. Really good movie.

That’s my little update – looking forward to making the most of this term 🙂

Until next time – до свиданья!