Thursday, July 22, 2010
(No, this is not going to be my last post - I’m just punning on the final exam we have tomorrow.)
Okay, I admit it, I’ve been lazy about updating, but I’ve also been so busy I’ve barely had time to do so. I’ll try to cover things in about chronological order.
The Moscow trip was INCREDIBLY hectic - way too hectic, in my opinion. My feet were killing me and I hadn’t gotten enough sleep (which - as some of you may know - is a larger issue for me than it is for some, due to a benign, but annoying condition that is similar to narcolepsy). We went to a Moscow club - got past face control, most of us (the trick? more girls than guys in a group. Ours was 3 girls… haha…) I met an Australian fellow there (NO nothing happened, we just talked); he bought me a drink [after I told him that I don’t drink… which is sort of the truth?] but my lovely friends reminded me of basic bar safety (didn’t see it poured, don’t drink it). I say that with absolutely no sarcasm - I was so glad to feel like we were all watching out for each other.
Then (week 4) we had the Museum of Political History, which was kind of boring and mostly just about politics (which kind of bore me, so this makes sense.) Throughout week 2.5-4 the temperatures were above 32 degrees Celsius; this may not seem like much, but let me remind you that a) almost no buildings, and certainly not apartments, in Russia are air-conditioned; and b) temperatures FEEL hotter here for some reason than they do in the USA. Probably something to do with the air quality. As a result of this heat, I quite often felt exhausted and nauseous, and for this reason I didn’t go on the tour of the Dostoevsky district of Petersburg (which would have been two hours of walking in the heat).
Last Saturday we had the tour of Holy Places of the city, which I found to be really enjoyable. We saw a bunch of cathedrals and churches, a monastery, a Buddhist temple, and a synagogue. (I know this sounds terrible, but I’ve been kind of sick of icons** for awhile; therefore, while the cathedrals were beautiful, they were kind of repetitive.) The mosque wouldn’t let us in for one reason or another. The Buddhist temple was beautiful and peaceful, as would be expected; the synagogue was absolutely gorgeous - a large sanctuary, very peaceful. We also got to see the separate room for weddings.
The other interesting part of that tour was the (sorry, the term’s escaping me now) Church/Temple/Cathedral/Something Christian of Saint Ksenia. The graveyard was gorgeous - not manicured, but more like a park in a forest. There is a small building where the remains of Saint Ksenia are kept (look her up if you want to know who she was; it’s actually worth doing, very much).
I went out both nights last weekend, on Friday to the Dacha with a bunch of people and on Saturday around several bars with a largely different group. Hard to say which night was more enjoyable, although I do prefer the outfit I wore on Saturday; more importantly, I learned on Saturday that I am a HUGE lightweight (is that an oxymoron?) Keep in mind that it’s totally legal for me to drink in Russia, since I’m 18 (unlike in the USA, which is why I have drunk very little before this point in my life)… I had ONE vodka/juice (probably about 2 oz/2 oz), which I did drink a little fast (since I can’t stand the taste of alcohol). I was messed up for about 2 hours after that, nauseous, dizzy, silly, and VERY sleepy. Luckily my comrades reminded me to drink water. I have never been so glad to be able to walk in a straight line.
On Monday we went to the museum of the defense of Leningrad - it was small but surprisingly engaging. I was particularly touched by the descriptions of the famine. One boy wrote in his journal that his mother killed the cat; and the next day they ate fried cat, which was “delicious.” There was also a 16 year old girl dying of hunger, who, when asked, wrote out a menu of all the foods she would like to eat. But she ended it with a note that she couldn’t even dream of such a thing, because she knew she would never eat again. This nearly made me cry.
Yesterday (Wednesday) we had our last tour - a boat tour of the rivers and canals. It was really sunny out (luckily I applied sunscreen and brought a parasol). We went out on the big Neva for a while, which was kind of difficult for me (since I do tend to get seasick, and it made me nervous, although not nauseous). At least I did take some Dramamine before leaving.
That brings me to today; today was our 3rd (and last) oral exam, nestled between our 6th and last unit-test (yesterday) and our final exam (tomorrow). Culture presentations on Monday (my partner is Rachel, and the topic will most likely be something musical/theater-related - possibly the first performance of the Cherry Orchard?).
**Icons, for those who might not be familiar, are images, usually paintings, created by monks; they are considered to NOT be works of art. The idea is that God (or a Saint or someone else) uses the person as a medium to create the image; the image then becomes a “portal” between the earthly and divine worlds, and therefore icons are very often revered/worshiped. They’re a huge part of Russian art culture, and while I appreciate this, I kind of would like to see art with different subjects.