A Travellerspoint blog

The "other places I went to" photo blog

Kondopoga, Moscow, Saint Petersburg,

semi-overcast 18 °C

So during my stay Russia I did venture out of Petrozavodsk a few times

  • The first place I went to was to visit a Scottish friend staying in Moscow and see a couple of my friends from my year abroad. We had quite a nice cultural visit and went to Park Pobedi, one of the palaces and did the usual tourist spots (Red Square etc). It was really nice to be back in Moscow and for whatever reason, whether it was my improved Russian or an improvement in Russian temperament, everybody seemed so much friendlier.

Moscow

Moscow

Kuskovo

Kuskovo

Kuscovo, Moscow

Kuscovo, Moscow

Kuskovo

Kuskovo

Moscow

Moscow

  • The most bizarre thing we did was go to see Bruno. Firstly, most of the Muscovites seemed horrified and/or didn't understand the concept (i.e. thought he was really an Austrian man) and secondly there was an enormous white horse outside and people (including my friend) donned togas and sat on it. Random.

Bruno

Bruno

  • I also went to a town called Kondopoga with Cicilia and Olle. We picked this town at random from the towns in the surrounding area and it was...erm...interesting. There seemed to be nothing and noone and a strange smell permeated the air. All together quite eerie.

The high tech departures/arrivals board

The high tech departures/arrivals board

60 years, October

60 years, October

Yes, in the middle of this random town was a Ben and Jerry's. Oh. Wait. A FAKE Ben and Jerry's

Yes, in the middle of this random town was a Ben and Jerry's. Oh. Wait. A FAKE Ben and Jerry's

Another part of the rip-off Ben and Jerry's cafe

Another part of the rip-off Ben and Jerry's cafe

Wise words: The road is not a place for games

Wise words: The road is not a place for games

Kondopoga

Kondopoga

  • On route to the airport I had a little wander round Saint Petersburg centre and saw a monument to the Seige on Leningrad

Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad, Saint Petersburg

Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad, Saint Petersburg

Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad, Saint Petersburg

Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad, Saint Petersburg

Thanks for reading...
Feel free to check out my next adventures at http://siannancy.travellerspoint.com/

Posted by Sianieee 14:03 Archived in Russia Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Russia One: Sian Nil.

I'll just go ahead and rant if you don't mind...

semi-overcast 15 °C

So as I mentioned in July I was having Russian classes and in the last two weeks we had a different teacher who had some quite bizarre philosophies. As does often happen in Russia-we all know not to sit down on a stone surface for fear of going infertile or for this same reason immerse oneself in cold water. As one Russian girl I met said "We must think about our futures".

In one of these classes we had to watch a video on water its emotions. This is quite a simplified explanation of the whole concept but that was it in a nut(ty)shell. We received concrete proof for this of course which is the high incidence of disease where a nuclear explosion has occurred. This of has nothing to do with the nuclear waste but to do with the upset molecules in the water. Koneshno.

In spite of our ideological differences I can't deny that the teacher is a lovely, lovely lady, an excellent teacher and an all round example of the nicest kind of Russian - very generous, hospitable and well-meaning.
So kind in fact that when we had a day off she took us to her dacha and we met her in-laws who offered us vodka with our lunch (we declined) and fed us. I have always wanted to go to a dacha but I have never had the opportunity so this was really exciting. A dacha is a kind of summer house which is usually quite basic but more or less equipped with all the necessary amenities. The dacha was, like all dachas, right in the middle of the countryside and it was really beautiful. Most of dachas are built by their owners, including the basic plumbing. There were lots of little gardens in which they grew herbs (or a herb: dill) and vegetables. It was quite impressive and we had a lovely time.
About a week later, she also took us to a music concert which we really enjoyed.

However, as so often happens with Russia my trip has taken a turn for the worse. There is no question that being in Russia could never be boring as it's always full of ups and downs.

The first not so fun story I have is actually of my own doing. I went to visit Lena (my previous khoziyaka) again and she and a friend took me to a different part of the Onego lake, a bit further out of town, where we had a nice walk (on clean sand unlike in the beach at Peski) and had a chat about all sorts. Her friend drove us both but didn't talk much and as we were getting out of the car on the way back I slammed the door shut, which was a bad idea for two reasons. The first of which that it was an old car with a heavy door and the second of which was that Lena was standing with her finger hooked over the roof, in the door. I'm almost certain I broke her finger. It bled and went purple. I felt so, so guilty especially since she burst into tears, but because she was so nice she invited me in for tea and biscuits. We sat and drink tea with her trying to stop crying and with me incessantly apologising and agonizing over my clumsiness.

Then, later that week, I received some bizarre news was that my khoz (host lady) who like I said, has been getting steadily more and more insane, suddenly dropped the news on me that I would be sharing a room with her 8 year old grandson. During his three week stay I would have at least eight (and possibly more) hours of English lessons to prepare for, each day which would be impossible, when I could never be alone since she sleeps in the living room and I in the only other room. She doesn't let me be as it is now. She had also scheduled me to teach him English while he was there. I am actually supposed to have my own room so I called the school and they told me to move my stuff while she was out. and I temporarily moved to my Swedish friends' flat.

Long story short: My lovely khoz decided I had been lying and hadn't understood (which I know I did) and refused to refund the money to the organisation (which I suspect had something to do with the sofa she had just bought two days earlier) which resulted in an enormous conflict with the school and the khoz threatening to take them to court. However, this was one battle I actually won and I moved into a new family a week later. This family was really, really nice and hospitable. They didn't let me buy any food and we chatted a lot over tea. I do love Russian tea. It's a pity that I didn't stay with them from the start.

But anyway, all is not lost. I have had a fun summer and I did manage to do all my arguing in Russian which just shows that I have at least gained something from this experience.

And...just to end on a fun little anecdote; I was looking for a thank you card for the family I had been staying with and in three shops had no luck. I didn't even manage to find a blank card. This was because all I could find were cards for all the different professions' days, the most common of which seemed to be "Happy Accountant Day!" (21st of November). In the end I had to by the nearest thing to a blank card I could find and glue down the pocket on the inside. DIY Hallmark. Novel.

Only in Russia...

Posted by Sianieee 13:58 Archived in Russia Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Petrozavodsk Photo Blog

Just because I'm lazy

semi-overcast 15 °C

So instead of providing well detailed posts which are seamlessly linked with the relevant photographs I'm just going to go right ahead and put all my Petrozavodsk photos in one place. Here goes:
Russia, Petrozavodsk, Онего, white nights

Russia, Petrozavodsk, Онего, white nights

Views of the lake Onego, white nights

Views of the lake Onego, white nights

A trip to the Peski beach

A trip to the Peski beach

Games at the Peski beach

Games at the Peski beach

Teaching English at the camps

Teaching English at the camps

Vozdukh

Vozdukh

Some Russian countryside near Vozdukh

Some Russian countryside near Vozdukh

Near the Vozdukh festival site

Near the Vozdukh festival site

Some Russian buildings near the Vozdukh festival

Some Russian buildings near the Vozdukh festival

Yum Yum!

Yum Yum!

First return to Sushi in Russia

First return to Sushi in Russia

The fireworks at den goroda (the Day of the Town Festival)

The fireworks at den goroda (the Day of the Town Festival)

The sunset at den goroda

The sunset at den goroda

Pickled broccoli. Intriguing.

Pickled broccoli. Intriguing.

The beach party by evening

The beach party by evening

The beach party by night

The beach party by night

We believe in Russia, we believe in ourselves! United Russia Party

We believe in Russia, we believe in ourselves! United Russia Party

On the way to the dacha

On the way to the dacha

On the way to the dacha

On the way to the dacha

On the way to the dacha

On the way to the dacha

The dacha village

The dacha village

An inventive garden ornament in the dacha village

An inventive garden ornament in the dacha village

A dacha

A dacha

A view of the lake near the dacha

A view of the lake near the dacha

The impressive homemade plumbing

The impressive homemade plumbing

The lake near the dacha

The lake near the dacha

Dill in a Dacha garden

Dill in a Dacha garden

The Russian concert that Oksana took us to

The Russian concert that Oksana took us to

5851_64217..84443_n.jpg
Lena (before the finger incident)

Posted by Sianieee 13:53 Archived in Russia Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Swings, roundabouts and the perils of running...

Since I last wrote things have well and truly taken off here. I have much less hours as it is July and have started taking Russian classes (which I get for working here) in the mornings instead. I have also met some nice new people, as well as the people from the school, including the first year students from Birmingham. In frequenting Café FM with Natalie and co. I have also met a couple of nice Swedes and Natalie's Khoz (a very young one) Masha who is really nice!

As this is the first years first time here they have done a few trips and I decided to go along on the rafting one, which was the same as the one we had done three years previously. However, this time we had no group leaders to translate the instructions. Natalie was group leader and interpreter and together we managed, little by little, to wing the interpreting. It miiiiggghhhtt have been a good idea to look up the vocabulary beforehand.
Along with the first years, some Russians and the Swedes we made our own beach party in Peski. It was a warm night with lots of alcohol and high spirits! We all learnt a bit of Swedish, squeezed in a quick dance in a bar, made a bonfire and had some food. Some of us also managed to fall off the log several times too. No comment.

I have also, in the last few weeks, noticed some disturbing changes in my eating habits: I've started buying radish, eating dill, going overboard on gherkins and actually liking Smetana (sour cream) in my soup. I think I might be going native.

In an attempt to stave off the inevitable weight gain that always gets one in Russia I have (when I have the time) been going for the odd run. However, although I am usually a huge advocate of running, sometimes it can be frustrating in Russia (see the aforementioned reasons in my previous post) and this has frustration taken on a whole new level. About a week ago I was following my usual route and coming back up the incline from the lake when I saw a dog. Now, this is something that happens to me on most runs and while I'm quite afraid of random dogs I have learnt the best way to deal with the strays is slowing down and passing calmly. This dog, however, was not a stray but had an owner and as I was about to jog past he was quite a few feet away. As I was approaching this dog shot out right in front of me and I froze. It was a muscular bull terrier with incredibly sharp teeth (I knew this because he was baring them at me through his growl). Well, I had NO idea what to do so moved very very slowly to the left and this was when I began to get very scared since the dog began mimicking my movements, effectively not letting me past.

The worst thing was that I was stuck there, on the point of bursting into terrified tears, for five whole minutes while his owner and 3 of her friends sat by 300 metres and stared at me. And after these longest five minutes of my life (which I spent imagining what exactly it would feel like to have a chunk of your leg mauled by an ugly pug faced dog) the owner took one final look and yelled "Idi sjuda"! And, just like that the dog turned on his heels and left.
That was my last run.

As I mentioned in my last post my Khoz has got increasingly bizarre. She seems to hear most things when it suits her which was why I was very, very surprised when I fell while showering the other day and she appeared not to notice. Bearing in mind that this is the woman who has, on several occasions, just walked straight in (without knocking) while I was showering to ask me a series of rather pointless questions. There is (or should I say was) no shower mat and while I was washing my hear I had clearly lathered to much and I just fell flat on my back with an almighty thump and a loud yell which shook me up quite a bit.
I got out of the shower and Tatiana just gave me a weird sort of smile and mentioned nothing.
The next day there was a mat in the shower.
What a coincidence!

I have seen a new type of trolleybus circulating the streets of Petrozavodsk. It appears to be some sort of "new modern trolley bus" which is evident by the words "new modern trolley bus" plastered on the side.
However, it looks an awful lot like a repainted version of the "old, soviet trolleybus".
“new modern trolley bus”
I also went to the cinema to see the new Harry Potter film which I quite enjoyed (the Russian dubbing meant no irritating accents) aside from the immense heat inside the screen. It must have been at least 30-35 degrees and while Cicilia, Olle and I were fanning ourselves frantically with my lesson plans the Russians seemed to be perfectly at ease.

Posted by Sianieee 11:48 Archived in Russia Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

The Khoz, the lifestye and a love affair with Finland

...Not my love affair, the Karelians'

So I thought maybe it was time to give you all a painfully long update. (This is where you can stop reading if you read that last one and decided you’d prefer to just imagine how I’m getting on……)

So since I last wrote I have started and finished working the camps with the…children…arghhhhh! It was actually no way near as terrifying as I thought it would be! Though SO much work! I was teaching with this really nice girl and she explained a few things about Russia to me…like the appalling salaries for teachers etc. We got on really well and since the camp ended last week I’ve already been over to hers for lunch and she bought me a book about this Russian song I like (алые паруса). Russians when you get to know them are so kind. Especially here. I think Moscow left me with the wrong impression of Russians.

I have not met one single male teacher yet - think the pay means it's more of a 'woman's job'. Getting used to the different ways of thinking about men and women's roles is proving quite a challenge. Yesterday Tatiana said (quite bitterly it seemed) “I suppose you’ve found yourself a boyfriend then” which I think is because I’ve been coming in around 5.30am 4 times in the last week (just dancing). I said no and I didn’t want to because I would be leaving soon. She started to laugh manically and said FIND ONE and take him back with you (which to me seems a rather hasty commintment). At which point I said I’m too young and I like being independent. She was like “too young” with raised eyebrows (I'm a spinster here) and then said. “Independent! Who wants to be independent? Haha”.

All that aside…I have been teaching so much English that I have become a parody of my former self. Even when talking to British people I have started miming all my actions…I’m going for a run (cue fingers running along the table), I’m tired (cue enormous fake yawn)…I think the worst was my description of roomy-somewhere with lots of space- so I twirled like a lunatic round the classroom.

Anyway, the two weeks working in the camps were really hard because it was 8.30-5 with children (from 9 to 16) and then evening classes every night until 8.15pm. Children have so much energy…I have NO idea how they do it! I became a slight joke with the kids because I just yelled (yes YELLED! Hahahahahaha) “OI” everytime I wanted to get their attention. But then that became a massive joke so they started following me round saying oi oi oi.

In the first week of the camp while the children were playing outside on their break one of the boys, who is 11, threw a paper airplane and picked it up again and the caretaker saw. He thought the boy was littering so picked him up and pinned him against the wall. He (he being a full grown man) was shaking him against the wall and the other teacher had to scream at him for 5 minutes before he let him go. I asked the boy if he was ok and he just laughed and said “This is Russia. I’m fine”. The man didn’t even get fired because everyone knows he is a bit crazy and an alcoholic so they just arranged supervision for him!

I have also since the last message finished teaching 2 English groups and a French group. I just teach one English group now. I have been teaching French in Russian and I cannot even describe how difficult it was to begin with. My brain seemed unable to switch between the two languages! They were complete beginners so when I accidentally spoke French for 5 minutes without realising they looked more than a little confused! It doesn’t help that the two grammar systems are completely different either because explaining the past tense was a nightmare!

I also have since been round to Lena’s, the woman’s who I lived with when I was first here three years ago, and she made a dinner for me and invited friends round. One of her friends works for Greenpeace (who knew it existed in Russia?!) and he showed us this “meat the truth” video which was a bit pointless because Lena doesn’t speak English and I’m already vegetarian so didn’t really need convincing on that front! It was a lovely meal though and was really nice to see her again!

The Khoz (host lady). Well she has got more and more bizarre…about 3 weeks ago she spent half an hour going on about how she doesn’t ever see me eat (I go out to eat a lot) but that I MUST eat because I’m such a polninka (chubby/plump girl). Apparently its strange for her that I would be so chubby because I don’t eat meat. Anyway after about half an hour of this (an actual half an hour) she tootled back to watch dom dva (Russian weird matchmaking twist on big brother) at which point (I was VERY tired-not usually this sensitive I hope!) I had a little cry. Anyway I was just being silly but she happened to walk in and got all panicky…and eventually asked “did I offend you…?”. Which yes she did a little. Anyway she completely backtracked and started being really complimentary-said I’d misunderstood (which I know I didn’t) and since then keeps telling me I’ll never be polnaya (chubby).

She has also since started force feeding me. The other day she watched me eat three full bowls of cereal and when I left the kitchen she asked me where I was going because she had made me Kasha (porridge). I said I wasn’t hungry but she just said “I made it. You WILL eat”. I couldn't really move for the rest of the day!

I arrived home from lessons the other day and somehow ended up singlehandedly making three separate journeys up four flights of stairs with the parts for her new door, and eventually one journey with the new door. And if you have ever seen a Russian door you will know how heavy duty they are! She did actually “help” though. This help involved her standing by me and yelling “What are you doing?”, “No Siân, not like that, like this”. And then made us take a break on the 3rd floor because SHE was tired!
I am at times a bit like her weird foreign slave.

I have also been to a Russian rock festival which was fun! It was called Vozdukh (air) and we befriended these random Russian people who we eventually had to flee because they were all drunk and became increasingly more weird.

To finish I thought I would also share a few very Russian Russian stories:
My friends told me they went to Subway and there was no bread left…
A friend and I arrived late to a film and instead of buying a ticket just bribed the usher in the screen (mostly my friend, not me)…
I saw a boy almost fall down a manhole because someone hadn’t closed it properly…
I saw a child poo 4 times onto the sand at the beach…his Mum didn’t seem remotely embarrassed. I felt quite ill.

Anyway on that pleasant note I shall leave you all. Sorry it was so long. I'l write again soon

Posted by Sianieee 11:38 Archived in Russia Tagged living_abroad Comments (2)

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