Rubles and Ramblings

Rubles and Ramblings

Sunday, February 8, 2015

First Impressions: Russian Edition

Hello again friends and family!  I just wrote a post on what I've been up to the past few days!  If you haven't read that one yet, go check it out first!  This post is going to be more about the classes I'm taking, the people I've met, and what Russian culture is like from my 1 week perspective.

I have one class every day.  Monday, Wednesday, Friday is my beginner Russian language class.  My professor's name is Inga and she is so sweet!  She calls my class of 8 "little children" because we are literally learning the alphabet right now.  So far I really enjoy it, the only bad thing about that class is that its 3 hours long...But the more I learn the better, right?
First day of my Russian language class!
My other classes are History of St. Petersburg and Contemporary Life/Political Science of Russia.  One meets on Tuesday, and the other on Thursday.  I am really excited about my history class because part of the class is going out on excursions to some of the less-touristy sites of St. Petersburg.  We are going to the first public library in Russia, the Russia museum, and some other places only locals know about!  The poly sci class is very interesting and I look forward to learning more about Russian life and politics from a Russian's perspective.  The classes are pretty small, but I like them all so far!  It's so nice only having one class each day.

The best part about this trip so far has been living in the dorms.  I love my suitemates and our (kinda dingy) room.  Living in the international dorm has allowed me to meet so many people I never thought I'd be able to.  There are people from Finland, France, South Africa, Algeria, Uganda, and so many other countries.  So far I've only hung out with some Finns and a South African.  We were all so interested in each other's culture and language and had some great discussions and a lot of fun hanging out.  I never would be able to do that if I was still at High Point, so I am certainly thankful for the experience and the new friendships I'm making around the world.  

Another really fun aspect of staying in the dorms is being able to cook.  I never had a kitchenette in any of the dorms I stayed in at High Point, so its been nice staying in and cooking meals with friends (yes mom, I cook!!).  I would say we've gotten pretty skilled at using our little kitchen, but literally as I write this my suitemate Sarah has just burnt her toast to a crisp on the hot plate.  Oops!
First meal of pasta, shrimp, and pesto!
The only real downside to cooking in the room (besides the smell of burnt toast I'm currently suffocating in) is having to buy groceries.  I've been to the grocery store about 3 times, and I'm getting a little better at it with every trip.  The first time was absolutely terrifying, my credit card didn't work for some odd reason so my friend had to spot me some rubles.  It doesn't help that I can't understand or speak the language so I just say niet (no in Russian) whenever the cashier asks me something...It's worked so far!  Although its a hassle hauling back groceries to the dorm on the slippery ice covered sidewalks, the food is sooo cheap here.  I'm talking like 12 cents for a loaf of bread!  So in the end it is definitely worth buying food from the grocery store, no matter how long it takes us to inspect a carton of milk just to make sure its not some weird Russian yogurt drink.

I don't cook all the time though.  At my school, we have 2 cafeterias that serve really good food!  In the mornings they have free kasha (delicious Russian oatmeal) and tea.  I have quickly become obsessed with my morning kasha, and every day there is a different kind!  For instance, some are more like oatmeal and brown sugar while other days it can be like a cream of wheat and honey.  That's really the best way I can explain it, bottom line is its delicious and free.  For lunch, we can go to the cafeteria that serves Russian or Chinese food.  The Chinese food is a little strange, so I stick with the Russian food mostly which has always been yummy! 
A typical lunch from the cafeteria 
More about Russian food, everything I've tried has been delicious.  My favorites are borsch, a red beet soup with different ingredients based on where you get it, and pelmeni.  Pelmeni are little dumplings filled with meat served with butter and a dollop of sour cream!  There's something about borsch and pelmeni that warms you up so well. 

Borsch and Pelmeni!
As for the Russians themselves...They are an interesting people.  If I'm struggling in the grocery line trying to figure out what the cashier is asking me, they just giggle or smile in a way that says "oh you poor foreigner".  Also, something that always bothers the cashiers is not having exact change.  At the cafeteria I paid with a bigger bill because it was all I had, and they really tend to gripe about that.  They'll just ask you for the exact bill amount but eventually give you your change and send you on your merry way after me saying "niet, niet" a few times.   Another common thing with Russians is how serious their faces look when they're walking down the street.  It's like everyone has (pardon my language) chronic bitch face.  I started referring to it as "The Russia Face"; I'm still working on mine.  

I've learned to just take everything as it is and not sweat the small stuff.  I have had an amazing experience so far and it has only been one week!  To cap this post off, here's a picture of the group of Americans I am with in my study abroad program.  More posts and adventures to come soon, but for now goodnight! 

Posing in front of St. Isaac's Cathedral!

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