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

It’s been a while since I last wrote in this, and I’m nearly coming up to the 3 month mark of my time in Russia. Over the last 3 months, I have been busy with school, projects, and most of all, Frisbee. I haven’t really had a chance to write about it, and for me, it’s a massive part of my life. Since I joined in Sheffield in 2009 I haven’t stopped playing, so this year I was determined to get even better. Before I set off for Russia, I didn’t really know much about the Russian aspect of Ultimate. I knew of two teams in Saint Petersburg, Cosmic Girls, known for doing well at Russian and International tournaments, and Jupiter, known for their friendliness. Before I left, I had to make a decision. Did I want to be the best, or did I want to make friends? As much as I love Frisbee, I couldn’t bear the thought of not making any friends whilst I was in Russia. And boy am I glad I chose Jupiter.

It has nearly been 3 months since I first went to a Jupiter training. I went alone, frightened and nervous. Although no-one really spoke English at that session, I still wanted to know more about the club. At the second session, I met Kostya, who I can safely say has done his best to get me settled into Russian life. He told me of all about Russian Ultimate, and which tournaments were coming up in the next few months. Within a week of arriving, I had already been invited to my first tournament, an indoor beach tournament called Oasis.

I know what you’re thinking. Indoor. Beach. How does that work? The venue was located behind a warehouse in a massive tent (at first when we arrived I thought Kostya was leading me down a back alley to murder me, luckily this wasn’t the case), designed for beach football and volleyball. 2/3rds of the pitch was separated for us, and it was insane. 5 on 5, intense 30 minute games. The Russian Frisbee community is as close as the English one, 3 of the people I played with in Oasis were on my team this week at Sockeye, and faces become very familiar very quickly. One interesting aspect of Russian Ultimate is the format of the tournament. Hat Tournaments are divided into divisions. If you haven’t been playing for very long, or you don’t want to play serious Ultimate, you go into Division 2. If you are on the National team or don’t fancy losing, you go to Division 1. This prevents the best being put with the worst, and I kind of like it. I’m always in Division 2, because you have to work your way up the Russian frisbee scale to put yourself in Div 1, but it makes tournaments a lot fairer. Plus it makes the final of Div 1 a brilliant watch. At Oasis, my team came 2nd of Div 2. My legs were knackered after running on sand, but it was nice not to have to think too much about your throws, because you were indoors! Perfect.

The next tournament I went to was in Novgorod, a simple one day tournament. At the time, Sparkles was in Russia, and the team, even though they had never seen him play, invited him to join them. I was playing with the girls, and Sparkles was placed with the Men’s first team. Because Jupiter have so many male players, the teams are divided into little mini groups. Jupiter have a small break off team called Юнцы – translated as Young,  Young Ones, who tend to be their best players. Then they had the rest of the first team (the team Sparkles joined) and their second team. Although it was outdoors, the format was also 5v5, with games lasting around 25-30 minutes. Unfortunately the girls couldn’t pull it together, finishing 4th out of 5. Sparkles’ team was a lot more successful, finishing 3rd out of 7, and Юнцы finished 2nd. Another large difference from English frisbee is the closing ceremony. In England, we read out a list, award a spoon, plate and trophy for random places, (normally 17th/20th, 9th and 1st place), have a spirit prize, a small clap and all go home. Russia however take it a lot more seriously. Firstly, no-one leaves. Secondly, there are rewards for Spirit, MVP Womens, MVP Mens, and prizes for 3rd, 2nd and 1st place. Each team or person that wins comes out of the crowd, does a little wave, then the crowd form a big square. The winner runs around the square and high fives everyone in it, like so.

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Not going to lie, it gives your ego a real boost! Normally, medals are awarded to each team member. At this tournament, they won trophies. Sparkles’ team was nice enough to give him the trophy, as a nice little souvenir of Russia. If any Russians are reading this then I’ll thank you again on behalf of him, he really appreciated it!

And finally, we come to what I was doing this week. Soon after I arrived in Saint Petersburg, Kostya informed me of a massive event that was happening in May. Sockeye, one of the best teams in the USA, were coming to Moscow to train players for a few days, followed by a 3 day hat tournament. I knew it was an opportunity that I didn’t want to miss, so I immediately signed up. We set off from SPB last Thursday, and hung around Moscow on the Friday. On the Saturday the training began. Several Americans had made a very large hop across the pond to train us, and it was incredibly useful. We were put in 6 different stations that concentrated on different aspects of the game, Offense, Defence, Zone, Throwing etc. Each session lasted 3 hours, which was incredibly knackering after 3 days straight. But the Americans were very friendly, and we drank with them each night, sharing our experiences of the game. It was incredible to learn such valuable advice from experts, and I feel that I have so much more to give to the game. Plus the turnout was incredible. About 150-200 people attended, ranging from complete beginners to international players. We then had a hat tournament, divided once again into Divisions. Unfortunately my team didn’t do very well, but I managed to get some much needed practice as a handler, plus it was soooo sunny that I got a suntan! 😀 Overall, 6 days of Ultimate was my perfect way to spend my holiday.

So, that’s been my experience so far of tournaments coming up. I have two more, another beach tournament and an outdoor tournament. But I’ve really noticed the development of Ultimate in Russia. For Russia it’s fairly new. Some teams are inexperienced, and lack structure. The Russian National Team don’t normally do well at Open, but do at Mixed, which is ironic, as there are barely any set Russian Mixed teams. On an International scale, Russia isn’t there yet. But give it a few years and it will be. Jupiter beat Mighty Hucks (a mash of Sheffield and other UK players) at Paganello, so they can’t be all that bad. The 1st team of Jupiter are brilliant. There are standout players who could easily play for the National team, but have not been approached. Apparently the National team mainly pick people out of Moscow, as they are based there, which is a shame, as I feel that having some players on the National team would do wonders for Jupiter. Jupiter are a very strong Open team, finishing 2nd nationally in Russia. But do they compare to Chevy, who normally comes 2nd at GB Nationals? Probably not. But the determination is clear to see. It’s not just the actual game, it’s Spirit too. Russians are apparently known for “bad spirit”, so teams are also trying to focus on being more spirited on the pitch. Jupiter train incredibly hard, because they want it win Nationals so badly. Weaker teams in England could learn so much from them.

So my experience of Russian Ultimate? I’m a bit sad that I don’t play Mixed, but this has helped me develop as a handler for the Women’s team. I have thoroughly enjoyed all the tournaments I have attended here, and I feel that I have made some friends for life here. So I am happy I joined? Yes! Of course I am. Hopefully in ten years time I can return here and see how the team has developed. But I can safely say that I have integrated well into the International Frisbee scene.

Sorry if you read all this and you know nothing about Frisbee, but this blog was long overdue. Hopefully I’ll write in this a bit sooner.

Lots of Russkii loving.

Sarah xxx