Здравствуйте, друзья! (Hello friends!)
Today was like my first day of school all over again. You know the deal; you can’t find the toilet, you don’t know where the heck your classroom is, you’re half an hour late for your first class because you were over ambitious in thinking you could walk the whole way to the uni in an hour and still be on time…..
Yes, I’m starting to settle in. And pretty quickly too. Like I mentioned in my previous post, I seem to be a lot better at Russian than I previously thought. As in, I can actually talk to people and understand what they are saying back. It’s not home exactly but it’ll do and I can manage.
I’m also getting a lot better at navigating my way around – both walking and on the Trolleybus. I love the trolleybus. I get bus number 5 to uni and bus 5 or 22 home. I can walk, but as I learned today it’s best to leave an hour and a half in advance if I actually want to arrive at uni on time. You pay about 40 kopeks (53 pence) for a little ticket and away you go. Or you can buy like an oyster card which you top up and it’s only 30 kopeks. I’m going to get one soon. It’s forecast to rain the rest of this week all day every day so I’d rather not try and walk in that!
Once you realise that Nevsky prospect is the centre of the universe you quickly learn to navigate from there and suddenly the city is opened up to you. I love how everyone speaks Russian, how all the signs are in Russian, and I loved having my entire culture and grammar classes in Russian today. My teachers were so nice too… I can tell that we’re going to learn a lot from them.
Thanks to the aptitude test I took online before I left England and the interview, they arranged us into groups. I’m in group 3, not that that will mean a lot to all of you out there reading this. I know this sounds kinda bad but I was worried I’d be put with all the people from my class in Exeter. Fortunately they ended up mostly in group 4. Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but I wanted to at least be with people I don’t know so that I have a better chance of speaking Russian (or alternatively, Spanish) and not lapsing into English after class all the time. I only had 2 classes. On most days I start at 10am and on Mondays at 11:30. Some days finish at 5pm. It’s all a bit strange because in England I had lectures dotted throughout the day and only about 15 hours a week, but this isn’t a big deal for me. We get Fridays off, they are ‘library’ days.
After my second class of the day, which ended at 13:10, I went ‘into town’ aka Nevsky Prospect with a new friend from my group and we went shopping and had lunch in a place called Market. We also found a vegetarian cafe called ‘Ukrop’ (Укроп) which we decided we’d try tomorrow. Eating out is soooo cheap here. It’s only about 260-360 roubles, or ~£3.49-4.83 for a meal. Obviously it depends on where you go – if you go to a gourmet restaurant it might be more like 1000+ roubles (~£13.41). More on eating as a vegetarian/vegan in Russia later – I’ve been planning on doing a post about initial experiences and then maybe another one later in the term for those out there that might find it helpful).
Food generally is really cheap out here. Again, it depends on what you buy and where you buy it… but I tend to get a lot of vegetables, fruit, veg and beans/lentils, potatoes, buckwheat and millet (which are more commonly eaten but are like rice). Bread is REALLY cheap too – rye bread is delicious!! I’m still working out my budget so I’ll probably include that in a later post and some tips etc for those that are living off their maintenance loan and not getting and ERASMUS grant (because Russia obviously doesn’t qualify).
I forgot to mention in my previous post that I walked along Nevsky with friends after the briefing talk and we went to a book shop. Books are so cheap too! We found Гарри Поттер (literally pronounced ‘Gary Potter’ but it’s Harry potter – for some reason in Russian they change names beginning with H to G… even Hitler is ‘Gitler’ (Гитлер) to Russians). I also found a six-in-one Хроники Нарнии (Chronicles of Narnia) and some Agatha Christie translated into Russian!! I’m definitely going to have to buy some soon because it’s great for vocabulary and grammar. They are also really cheap; the Agatha Christie books were only ~150 roubles!!
So yeah, now that it’s all becoming a bit more familiar, it’s not so scary and weird and overwhelming like it felt on Sunday (which unfortunately happened to be my 21st birthday). I know, right? Just don’t be born on the 3rd September people!! 😉 The streets here are so wide and so long – I guess it’s a bit like London in size… it takes a good 20-25 minutes to walk the entire length of Nevsky – maybe longer actually.
All this walking around has meant that I can take some pictures of some of the beautiful buildings here. There are so many so expect more to follow!!