Thursday, 28 February 2013

Behind the Mariinsky Theatre... where I live. If and when I get all mopey about living in this city, its big unfamiliar face and its wide, traffic-filled streets, please remind me that I live behind a world-famous theatre, on my way to school I pass St Isaac's Cathedral (the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city), the Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood (arguably one of the most beautiful Orthodox churches), and the Admiralty to name just 3 incredible landmarks.

Our Saviour on Spilled Blood

When I visited in July 2011 the weather was incredibly hot and humid, and the sun barely set, which despite being uncomfortable did make the city much cheerier. According to the bus conductor yesterday, St Petersburg is one of the gloomiest capitals in the world with only 75 days of sunshine per year. She followed that by saying "But everyone on the bus is in good spirits! Have a great day!". She made my day, and also seemed to forget to ask for my fare. The buses may be rammed at rush-hour, but I don't really mind if it means I don't have to pay a kopeck to be squished like a sardine.

The first couple days have not been easy, but I've felt far less jetlagged today so that's meant I could actually pay attention in class. I've also had quite a lot of good news: at work on Tuesday I found out both Reel Big Fish and Distemper are playing in Piter soon, the former on March 24th, and the latter on April 14th (I think I'm going to like this Club Avrora place); also Dad + Anne, and Rob have confirmed that they're coming to visit which is crazy exciting even if that's not for a month. Today I was dithering about the school reception when I heard a group of people speaking English with foreign accents, and in a moment of madness I just turned around and said "Hi English-speaking people! I'm Lois! I'm new here!" and probably giggled. They all shook my hand and told me their names (which I've already forgotten), but what I won't forget is that they were all super-nice, and we all lost track of time and ended up being late to class. One of the guys even gave me a bit of chocolate, which is definitely the way to earn my friendship! Luckily today in our second and third classes we were watching a Russian film, which is pretty funny actually, the main character called his boss "Dried-up" (it's like saying she's an emotionless rusk), and then tried to go back on himself by saying "No, you're wet!" (I cried with laughter until she asked me to explain the joke to my classmate, at which point I went silent). Bless my teachers, they kept asking me if they class is too hard for me - I had to explain that I was just tired and really hungry!

At my internship I've been getting along all right, trying to find interesting things to post. I've undertaken a self-devised project of creating a concert, theatre and exhibition listing for St Petersburg and Moscow, which pretty much means translating Afisha (Russian Time Out magazine) and finding listings in St Petersburg/Moscow In Your Pocket. They only expect me to send 2/3 tweets a day, and 2/3 Facebook posts a week, but the intention is for me to have things scheduled ahead of time.

On Tuesday I got lost on the way home, that was fun. I got on the 22 tram instead of 22 bus and had to rely on my map - eventually it was the sun setting in the West that let me know which way I was headed! I then spent pretty much the whole evening peeling a pomelo. Mmm... pomelo ^_^ On Wednesday night Denis gave me a tour of the local shops, pointed out where is best to buy meat, bread, veg and so on. I did a big shop this evening and made a big batch of Bolognese sauce to stretch over several days. Strange fact: I couldn't find tinned or jarred chopped tomatoes - it was either tomato paste or ready-made sauce. Russians also don't go in for ready-meals, which is a pain when after work you want something easy like those packs of filled pasta that cook in 2 minutes and are always on offer in Sainsbury's back home.

Things are looking up!

Picture attribution: Steven Pavlov [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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