Monday, September 26, 2005

Seems like forever since I used the internet last... still got to work out a better way of doing this. The place where I am at the moment has extremely variable prices - I think it depends on whether they think we're Russian or not. My trick so far has been to say as little as possible in the hope that this will be mistaken for true Russian surliness. It sometimes works.

So let's see, what's happened since last time... ah yes, Stolby. It's soo pretty! For any climbers reading this, it's like Font (but with more broken glass due to the Russian habit of drinking piva - beer - as often as possible. I've seen them on the bus on my way into uni with an open bottle in hand...). For everyone else, it's a huge national park type thing with lots of hills, trees and the stolby themselves (which are huge rocks that are randomly scattered about the place). Surprisingly, I didn't do much climbing! And nothing too technical. I was basically too slow, Ben beat me to it and then the teacher we were with started pleading with us not to do it... and yet she led the way up a different rock later on. Weird.

So anyway, looking out over the Siberian forest from the top of a stolby and seeing all the different coloured trees... autumn literally arrived overnight, so where on Thursday everything was green, on Friday there were so many different shades of yellow etc. Poetic. I don't know what I mean by that.

Saturday we went to a market, which was fun if intimidating... luckily I wasn't looking for anything, but those who were kept getting accosted by the Kazakh stall owners, saying "Please look, girls, try this, try that, why are you going away?!". We managed to escape alive though, although it was a bit close at times! :)

Sunday was the day of work. Sad, I know, but it has to happen sometime! What with grammar and then Gulya on Monday, it's a bit of a tough way to start the week (although most of our grammar lessons so far have been on phonetics - ie how to pronounce these sounds that don't exist in English. I thought I could do them pretty well, but apparently not...). In the evening though we went to see a rugby match - that was so much fun! It cost us a whole 50r to get in (about a pound), and then Ben got stopped by the militsia, which was scary... turns out they just wanted to check whether he had any alcohol in his bag. He didn't, to which the militsia man replied "What, don't you drink in England?!" Ah, if only he knew...

(I wrote out a really detailed description of the rugby match and other things, and then lost it when it wouldn't post despite the fact that I'd saved it as a draft... now I'm too disheartened to write it out again, so maybe next time! Stupid IE!)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Not much has happened since the last time I wrote (unsurprisingly, it being only two days later)... Mongolia still isn't sorted, and won't be until I actually have some money (stupid student loans!)... we're going to a club tonight called Che Guavara (accompanied and escorted by Russians, so that's ok) and then it's off to Stolby tomorrow (Stolby is a national park type thing, that from the photos I've seen looks rather like Fontainebleau in France where the Durham Climbing Club went at Easter... how exciting!)... should be good.

My haziyaika (hostess type person) made pirozhki (pies) at 11 o'clock last night... they were sooo good fresh from the frying pan... Think I might actually head home and eat some more :)

More when I have something interesting to say!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Sorry my last post was angry... I was just, well, angry. Silly computers.

But, all is still going well here. I am now the proud owner of furry boots! And no, they're not stilettos, I decided to be practical (and stillettos aren't really me anyways). They're not actually needed yet, since the weather has now decided to be chilly in the morning and then really warm in the afternoons... this causes a dilemma, because the university building is freezing! We asked one of our teachers today about heating, and she said that heating in Russia is not like in Britain (or anywhere else on the known planet, for that matter) - instead of each building having its own system, the whole town is on one central heating system... and because it's so warm still, we don't get heating until the bosses in their offices get cold. Boo.

In other, rather more exciting news, we're finally getting trips to Mongolia sorted! We're down to looking for accommodation and finalising train times so we can make sure everything connects and then buy tickets... it's exciting! (But hard work). I could not be a travel rep, it's hard enough trying to make sure I'm where I need to be, never mind 300 other people!

We're also making new friends. The best way to do this (or one that works so far) is to sit in the canteen at uni and talk in English till someone comes over to practise their English with us, at which point we terrify them with our appalling Russian... there's benefits of being put in the foreign languages department (the building does not class as a benefit).

Hope everyone is doing well, I might get around to writing letters (ha!) or more likely postcards to people at some point. Send me your address if you want one, cos then I'll have fewer excuses not to write.

Monday, September 19, 2005

I officially hate Internet Explorer (stupid Russian machines not having anything but!)... I was researching how to leave the country in December (which is looking very expensive to do the way I'd planned... it might be that I travel back via Moscow and London if that's cheaper... as if it's cheaper to go the long way around?) anyway, I was saving all that research in an email as well as writing bits of it down, and then IE crashes my gmail page! I'm angry cos now I'll have to pay lots of roubles and won't have been able to send stuff to Rob so that he can laugh at me for wanting to do things the hard (and expensive) way...

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The plan for the weekend (all 3 days of it, hahah) involves finding the train station tomorrow, so that we can sort out trains to Lake Baikal and Mongolia, and then shopping for warm coats (I have one already) and boots, and other such useful things for the Siberian winter... maybe watching a rugby match if there's one on, and maybe watching the Brothers Grimm since that's out today.

This I tried to write the other day, but it wouldn't let me post for some reason (and my Russian isn't up to explaining computer problems!)

"We now have tickets for the ballet! "Romeo and Juliet" is on for two nights only in the Teatre operi i baleta, and we have tickets for the first night. They cost all of 200r (4 pounds!)

That's the excitement of the day so far.

We also got our passports back yesterday, so we can now start booking travel and things. One of our teachers recommended that we go to Mongolia in October before it gets too cold, so soon it's off to the train station to find out when things can happen...

We also plan to go to Lake Baikal at some point. Most of us want to go there in the snow, but Ben now wants to go swimming. According to the Lonely Planet, if you dip your hands in the water, you add a year to your life, dip your feet in for five extra years and swim for 25... if the shock doesn't kill you first. I think he's crazy, although we have said that we'll break the ice for him and stand by with a flask of brandy.

I think the teachers here have got something wrong. I mean, this is supposed to be a year off right? They keep giving us work! :P Yes Mum, am actually doing it too. Be proud.

Last night was a quiet one (because Sunday wasn't)... stayed in and listened to some of Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" while following it in the Russian copy I bought the other day. It actually works remarkably well - the audiobook is a little bit faster than I can read in Russian, but I can follow it well enough to know when things have been changed or missed out (and that's all that matters!)

Now I'm just putting off going home and doing work... suppose I really should though.

Or I could mention the huge amount of mosquito bites that I've managed to gain. Stupid mosquitos, leave me alone! apparently I'm tasty. Who knew (well except for Amy, who wanted to eat my arm shortly before I left.. and she wonders why I decided to go so far away! :P ).

One more thing before I go (this keyboard is pants) - it costs me to receive calls from abroad, which is not good. So warn me if you're going to call, then I can buy more credit!

More random stuff soon (I should write stuff down as it happens, then type it all out in one go... this relying on my memory thing means that things appear in a really strange order!)"

Maybe it's not a bad thing that it wouldn't let me post.

Monday, September 12, 2005

It's not raining here today! And it's really warm too, about 18/19C. And people told me it was going to be cold... ha! (yes I know it's only September and there's plenty of time yet... but am actually looking forward to buying some furry boots!)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was just as good in Russian as in English, except for the fact that whoever did the dub for Johnny Depp wasn't as fantastically creepy... Apart from that, everyone knew the story anyway and so could follow it quite easily. Yay for us.

Rob called this morning! :) That made me happy. Although we got cut off partway through and then it kept saying that my number was suspended (apparently) and I can't send him texts any more... will have to work this out. Maybe I need more credit already.

There are lots of Ladas here, it reminds me of my youth :) (for those who don't know, my dad used to have Ladas. They've got good heaters!)

We're probably going to play pool tonight with the Russian lads that have adopted us... we were sitting having a beer at a cafe on the street (a whole 25r - 50p!), and they heard us talking in English and came and joined in... our conversations are in a mixture of Russian and English, so it's good practice! They seem very nice, am a bit wary but there's 6 of us and 2 of them, so we manage well.

Anyway, think I should be off now... coffee to drink! (and some work to do, but have all day tomorrow too. Bought a dictionary yesterday, mine was too heavy to bring! And it was 89r, which I thought was pretty good).

Hope everything is well where you are!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Some generalisations about Russians:

1) They all smoke. Everyone seems very surprised that none of us Durhamites smoke, and with cigarettes costing about 9roubles a packet, it's not hard to see why! Maybe I should take it up just so I can think about how much I'm saving by not smoking in England :)

2) Every woman under 35 wears stillettos. All the time. Apparently that doesn't change when it starts to snow either...

Autumn is much like that in England, it likes to rain. A lot.

It's Christine's birthday today, so we went to the zoo! It was actually quite depressing in places, makes you realise just how good English/North American zoos are. Although I now want a reindeer, because we were feeding one grass and it let us stroke its nose... it was soooo soft! Oooh and possibly a yak, because I've never seen one before and it was like a walking carpet :)

It got cold, so we ate the chocolate cake we bought and then went back into town and straight into the nearest cafe. We're planning on going to a restaurant in a bit, and then to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory... although it'll be in Russian, so "Charli u Shokoladniy Fabrike"... I'm so excited!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I'm here in Russia!

Don't ever fly British Airways, they're useless. Took an hour and a half to check in (at a desk that was checking in for any BA flight), so the vouchers we were given to get food with (because the caterers are on strike) were useless as we had to go straight to the gate for boarding... by the time we got to Moscow we were starving! And then they lost Ben's bag, which still hasn't turned up, so the poor lad is in the same clothes he's been wearing since Sunday...

Need to find a better way of accessing the internet. This place is in a courtyard through a scary alley and I'm not a fan.

Russia itself is odd. The buildings are all exactly like you see on teh news (usually where there's a war going on) - all 60s Soviet buildings that look a little the worse for wear. Getting around is really easy though, buses go everywhere and cost a grand total of 7 roubles per journey. Considering there's 52 roubles to the pound, I think that's pretty bargainous!

The family is nice, although I have great difficulty in communicating... I'm getting about 1 word in every 4 or 5, which is just about enough to get by as long as I don't mind teh looks of patient waiting that cross their faces.

And today we were taught by... Gulya! Yes, the miniature Russian of the first year has... well, not returned axactly, but reappeared in our lives. And I understand her a lot more now than I did then, so that's got to be a good sign.

What else? It's been a crazy few days. Oooh we got our timetables, yay for 2 lessons a day (even if they are an hour and a half each) and Fridays off! And the head of the International dept said that if we want to go travelling, we just have to let her know how many lessons we're going to miss... hehehe. Although Gulya has decided to give us a lot of reading to do, so now I'm regretting not bringing my big fat Russian dictionary (even though I couldn't have carried it)... ah well, time to brave the Russian bookshop!

More when I find out how to get to the internet more often.

Sara xx