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French and Russian undergraduate student, trying my hand at the real world.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Here endeth the first week of lessons

Hello chaps,
So I can’t post this at the time of writing due to my not having yet bought a dongle, but I’m writing this at 9.30 on a Saturday morning. Early, you say. YES IT IS. Why? I WAS AWOKEN BY A BRASS BAND OUTSIDE MY WINDOW that has been there for half an hour.

 Our hostel is on the ulitsa Sadovaya and overlooks a monument to (I think?!) the Octoberists – I’ll have to check this one.

Today we woke up at 9am to a rather young sounding band (trumpets and all) outside the window playing what we can only assume to be Russian patriotic songs. We didn’t recognise any of them, being foreigners, but they eventually played the national anthem. On looking out of the window we saw a group of soldiers and children carrying red carnations (assuming these to be a communist symbol but my AS Level history is a bit rusty these days) and 3 people stood by the monument with a flag. Can anyone enlighten me about this? Will I regularly be woken up by the Russian national anthem? I’m not complaining, it made my cheap wine-induced hangover more musical, that’s for sure. Hangover or not, it was one of the most surreal experiences of my entire life so far – including the time I was accosted by French radio presenters on the Champs-Elysees and asked to discuss in French the reason why I was wearing a raincoat and sunglasses like a shameless Brit.

So, to this week. What did I do? Lessons started for me on Thursday, where we had 3 hours of Russian language classes. We got told about the structure of our course – or rather the way we’ll be examined at the end. We will have exams that are conducted in the Russian way, where you pick a card (like in a magic trick) that has the exam question on the underside and you have to talk for at least ten minutes about it. In Russian. Not scary at all. Definitely not…

 Friday was the same, lesson-wise.  The lessons are really worth our while here. We’re learning so much vocabulary on a daily basis, which I’m trying to keep a good grip on. We have a phonetics classes too, in the first of which they actually taught us how to pronounce the Russian soft sign – I’d previously just been imitating my Russian teachers, so it’s good to consolidate what I’ve spent two years sort of half-knowing and actually being able to use it for myself.

I’ve been eaten alive by mosquitoes. St Petersburg is rife with them; they are called komari in Russian. St Petersburg is built on a swamp; it’s a series of canals and little rivers, the largest of which is the Neva, which leads to the Gulf of Finland and Vyborg. I’ve had Arnie-style arms for the week as I’m quite allergic to them, which has been an amusement. I also got bitten on my eyelid, so I had a rather spectacular black eye as a consequence. Romy (my room mate) and I have been dancing around the room like ninjas in pursuit of the little blighters which has been keeping us fit, if not bite free.

 On Tuesday we went to Nevsky Prospekt, the Winter Palace/Hermitage,the Medniy Vsadnik, the Neva, which I’m told was freezing cold. Wednesday we visited the railway museum on Sadovaya, which had loads of interesting revolution era artefacts and an old Trans-Mongolian rail carriage that you could go inside. In the bathroom section of the compartment, the showerhead was attached to the sink so you could shower where you were stood at the sink. Your move, First Great Western.

But you don’t care about that right? You want to know what food I’m eating and whether I’ve got hypothermia yet. The answers to that are soup and not yet. It was face meltingly cold yesterday mind – it felt like November in London even though it was the beginning of September. I think I’m going to need a hat… 

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