I’m not sure how this happened, but I think I’ve invented some kind of time machine that ONLY goes forward. I’m a genius. I’m mainly saying this because I swear yesterday it was the 18th February, I went to bed and now I’ve woken up and its June. I can’t comprehend how quickly these last 4 months have gone. 4 months ago, I rocked up with all my big fuzzy jumpers, preparing myself for a deathly winter, temperatures of -30 and a long trudge through the next few months. Surprisingly, none of that happened, and now I’m sat here in leggings and vest top wondering how on earth I was ever cold here. That being said, Russia was definitely cold for a long period of time. I have seemed to erase the cold long snowy walks to the metro from my memory, and now I am (normally) blessed with glorious sunshine and nice temperatures. Saint Petersburg literally went from Winter to Summer in a day. One day, it was fairly cold, nippy winds, generally a bit miserable, and the next, it was suddenly 20 degrees, lovely weather, trees and flowers just started growing from NOWHERE and i got SUNBURNT. What the hell Russia, seriously. Going from spending 6/7 months in “Winter Conditions” to suddenly being bombarded with sunshine and heat definitely came as a shock. Overnight, Saint Petersburg burst with colour, and Russians instantly chucked the huge winter coats they’d been sweating under for so long. This obviously led to some HORRENDOUS fashion crimes, all of which I will eventually post on Facebook. But now I feel a bit cheated. The White Nights are in full swing, and it barely gets dark in St Petes. I am leaving on the 21st June, the longest day of the year, and I won’t be able to experience this here. I can imagine the sun doesn’t set, which I would have loved to stay up for, but it can’t be helped. I’ll just be storming up the east coast trainline on the way home instead…

There will be parts of Russia I won’t miss. A lot of Russian mentality is very different to the UK. For example, in the Russian home, it is very normal for University students to live with their parents until they graduate and find a husband or wife. Although Russians do tend to marry younger than us Brits, this still means a  lot of people are still living at home at the age of 25/26. I, however, have been living away from home since I was 18, and I have gotten used to being independent. I also was very independent in Austria, so going from living alone to living in a family has been a bit of shock. Letting into the Russian way of family life was actually pretty easy, mainly because I think I was so petrified and my Russian was so crap that I couldn’t really argue with what was asked of me. In my first few weeks of being here, my host mum used to tell me to wear. She didn’t approve if I didn’t have a hat, thick enough socks on, and heaven forbid if I didn’t wear a scarf. Of course, she was looking out for me, but this started to get a bit ridiculous when it was starting to warm up and I was still expected to be kitted out for -10. And don’t get me started on eating.  Russians are VERY adamant on eating. My host mum is lovely, and she is only looking after me. Russian mums are very motherly, and obviously this is fairly normal for Russians, but from an outsiders point of view, it’s a bit forceful. The other day, I ate with Anya whilst the mum was out. She came back a few hours later and she demanded to know why I hadn’t eaten. Anya and I both at the same time said that I had, especially because Anya watched me eat. She then wanted to know what had been eaten, and I think because I hadn’t eaten everything from the fridge (because there was a lot), she presumed that I didn’t eat. This has happened on several occasions, and every time I’ve said to Anya “Why doesn’t she believe that I eat?” she chimes “That’s my Mum!”, and I have to agree. I think this would have happened in any homestay, and I think this is fairly typical in Russian families. I have to accept it. I’m just looking forward to not arguing about food. And stuff my face with English food. :3

The last thing I’m not going to miss is Russian service. You hear all about it, and it’s true, it’s rubbish. Obviously, as a non native Russian speaker, I do not have a Russian accent.  In England, it’s fairly common to come across a person who may have a slight accent, whether it be English or foreign. Unfortunately for Russia, they don’t have a wide range of accents, (in fact, apparently there is only one), which makes ordering food A NIGHTMARE. The amount of times I’ve gone into Macdonalds  and asked for a “MacChicken Sandwich”, which is the same in Russian and English, and  I get looked at as if I have just spoken in tongues is ridiculous. Apparently some Russians doesn’t understand accents, which is fine, but don’t be so bloody rude about it. The other day of successful Russian speaking with my Russian friends, I went to Subway alone and ordered a Steak and Cheese sandwich on white bread in Russian. She looked at me like I was the devil incarnate and then started waving her hands around in an x shape and started shouting NYET NYET at me (no, no). So I was like  “Okay, do you have Chicken Teriyaki?” (again, in Russian) and she just stared at me in silence. I had to jab at the plastic shield at the chicken like a mad man and scream “CHICKEN TERIYAKI” at her until she FINALLY understood what I was going on about. I then repeated that I wanted white bread, and she stopped and went, da, BREAD, really loud and in my face, (probably the only English word she knew.) I then said I wanted salad, tomatoes and peppers, which also led to a blank stare. After furious jabbing and Russkii shouting, I got to a new person at the end. I told her what I ordered and what drink I wanted and she understood me FINE. If that girl was a sandwich maker in England and had responded to a foreigner like that she would have been fired instantly. Unfortunately in fast food places in Russia, that’s fairly normal. It’s sad really, especially when I am trying in their native language, because it makes me feel like my Russian is awful and that I’m a horrible person. Luckily none of my Russian friends are like that. They’re very patient and help me out, so thank you. 🙂

Although those two paragraphs were a bit negative, there is a lot of things that are right with Russia. Firstly, the Frisbee community in Saint Petersburg and Russia have kept me sane on many occasions and I am glad to have met them. I do love my host family. I am particularly going to miss Anya, watching Sherlock won’t be the same without her. Saint Petersburg as a city is beautiful and I still haven’t had time to see it all, but I have never felt more at home in such a big city. I will miss the grumpy looks on travellers faces, the long escalators on the metro, most 0f the teachers at the Benedict School, my English friends I’ve made here, and Saint Petersburg at night. It is just magical. I literally envy anybody who will be coming here in the future.

Has my Russian improved? Yes, mainly because I couldn’t even have a conversation with my hoz when I got here, and now I can, for quite a while. I’m now a lot more confident when I speak Russian, and it’s only just now where I’m starting to feel more fluent. Over the last few months I’ve had a very love hate relationship with Russian. I’m happy to say that currently I love it, and I’m glad to be leaving on a high.

So what’s in store for me in the next 12 days? Exams, parties, more parties, boat trips, water parks, watching the bridges go down, and hopefully spending time with the amazing people I have met here.

I am definitely going to miss Russia. I really will. But part of me is ready to go home.

Thank you everyone for giving me the best 4 months of my life.

Till next time.

Sarah xo

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