As part of my experience studying in Russia, I have the opportunity to live with a host family in order to better immerse myself in the Russian culture and language. This semester I’m lucky to live with a 60 year old babushka (russian for grandmother) in the center of St. Petersburg. She is very friendly, but as of now I can only understand about 40% of what she says. But in many ways, living with her has been a truly Russian experience. My first night living with her is a prime example. While eating dinner, we took two gin shots together, ate borscht with copious amounts of sour cream, and watched Кто хочет стать Миллионер? which is the Russian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. I really don’t think it can get any more Russian than that.
I have been in Russia for a full week now, and I’ve been able to visit some pretty amazing places: the winter palace, the spectacular Church of the Saviour on Spilt Blood, the burial sites of the 300 year Romanov dynasty, St. Peter and Paul Fortress, Kazan Cathedral, St. Issac’s Cathedral, and the infamous Bronze Horseman statue to name just a few. Even though these places are filled with historical significance and jaw dropping architectural beauty, I have got to say that the interior of the Church on Spilt Blood has certainly impressed me the most thus far. I think these pictures will suffice to explain my fascination with this church:
The interior is filled with icons (but these icons aren’t painted, they are mosaics!!!). absolutely spectacular. To make my Church on Spilt Blood experience even more memorable (and bizarrely Russian) was what was waiting for my friends and I as we began heading home from the Church: Two gipsies were standing in the street holding a monkey and a raccoon. Yes that’s right, people are legally allowed to walk around the crowded downtown St. Petersburg streets carrying a real live monkey and raccoon. Cool right? No, not when they try to put the monkey on you and steal your money. They tried that on us, but didn’t succeed :D
All in all, these last seven days have been a whirlwind. Classes are tough since we are not allowed to speak english anywhere on university grounds. The city is new and beautiful. Walking to class at 9:30 means walking to class in the dark with a bright shining moon. So to celebrate, my friends and I decided to finish the week on another high note: by going to a Russian karaoke bar in downtown. I’ve got to say that it was a blast. We celebrated a 21st birthday, sang american songs like “I love Rock n Roll” by Joan Jett, and took our very first Russian vodka shots (about $2.50 each). Just like the great St. Petersburg city, karaoke was a blend between Russian culture and westernization. I can’t wait to see what Russia has in store for me in the next week!