Monday, June 21, 2010

Bienvenidos a Россия!

So, like, we're in Russia. And we have been for a week. And we know that we promised you all blog posts (multiple times), so this is it. The first, virginal, commencing post of our lovely blog (hope you like the name). Our journey to Eastern Europe was long and fraught with many perils and annoyances, not the least of which the angry Icelandic diva-man who gave Eli multiple concussions with the back of his seat on the airplane. Despite this scary, blond, and rather (ironically) volcanic man, our flight was pretty awesome; we got legitimate pillows and green blankets (Eli was really excited about this, and, in fact, WILL NOT stop talking about it);
the food wasn't too bad (we got polentaaa!); there was an open bar (although, we didn't drink, due to the strong recommendation of Ariel's dad...hi Mr. Shapiro!); and, (Ariel's personal wish) the flight announcements were all in Finnish. All of them.

When we got to Finland, we were escorted to a "chalet" (read: converted stable), in the middle of the Finnish woods. Sound creepy yet? There was also an abandoned water park. We had pre-testing in our stable, and made use of the three saunas inside (one for each was a very high-tech stable). We also went into Helsinki and wandered around for a couple hours, pretending to speak Finnish, and noticing the frightening amount of good-looking blondes in the area.

It's everywhere. Even in Finland.

Ariel, Claire, Eli

Bar llamas?

"Yes, it's gay"

We took the train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg (Питер, or "Pieter"), and though we were warned about the blatant racism that we might come across in Russia, none of us really believed it until we overheard this extremely amusing and disturbing exchange on the train:

Weird Euro-Trash Guy: I have question. Uh. You're both a little dark, eh? Eh? Eh?
Two Russian Girls Who Are, Yes, a Little Dark: *frigid silence*
Guy: Heh. You're a little dark, huh?
Russian Girls: Yes. *glares*
Guy: Yeah, yeah, and you've got the Asian eyes and face! *excited*
Eli&Claire: *horrified silence*
Guy: So yeah, you're pretty Asian-looking. Pretty dark, eh. I bet you get a lot of shit in Russia.
Russian Girls: I mean....
Russian Girls: Go away.
Guy: NYETTT! *and literally proceeds to stand in the aisle for the duration of the 7 hour train ride until the poor girls, having exhausted every defense, go to sleep. And then, he starts taking pictures of them. While they're asleep. As if that wasn't creepy enough, he took their phones and put his phone number in them.*

Since we've been in Pieter, we've had our program orientation, in which we were warned about falling down manholes (the city isn't known for it's strict construction regulations); getting into "gypsy cabs" (apparently you run the danger of being held up with a meat cleaver); and making eye contact with guys on the street (unless you're prepared to spend the night with him). Oh, and NEVER to speak to the Militsia in Russian, because it's really easy to confuse the word for "fine" with the word for "bribe". And that's a situation that you just can't pay your way out of.

We're at our homestays now (coincidentally, the three of us have the "best" homestays in the city: a five minute walk from Smolny, the university at which we're studying, on the main island), and we've been fed свёклы (beets), чёрны хлеб (black bread), kasha, and blini filled with...everything. And lots of tea. But tomorrow we're planning on going to a Sushi bar for lunch--they're everywhere, a lot easier to find than "traditional" Russian food. And we're also learning how to navigate the metro:
(Backstory: Eli and Ariel were put in the same homestay, because the Dartmouth Prof that came with us to Pieter doesn't think that Eli can take care of herself, much to Eli's disgruntlement. Today, we went for lunch about a 25 minute walk from Smolny, and Eli decided to try to find her way back home afterwards...)

Eli: I think this is the right bus...
Yoon (a Dartmouth boy on our trip): Are you sure? I don't want to get in trouble if you, like, fall down a manhole.
Eli: Yeah, yeah. *gets on the bus with Yoon* *turns out it's the wrong bus, and we're not even on the right ISLAND. We ended up having to take the metro back to the main island, and walking 30 minutes back home.*
Yoon: This is ridiculous. I hate you. I THOUGH YOU SAID IT WAS THE RIGHT BUS?!!
Eli: *shrugs*
Yoon: Garreston is right! You can't take care of yourself! You're like a small child!
Eli: Hey! I resemble that remark!
Yoon: *mutters ominously* Maybe I should just leave you here and let Darwinism sort itself out....
Eli: What street do I live on, again?....

We'll put up more pictures, and publish more blog posts later. And we'll send postcards this weekend. Classes start tomorrow, so we're sure that we're going to have lots more amusing stories for you, involving crazy Russian teachers, and word mixups, and getting lost.



  1. No one should ever let Eli give directions, especially if they value their lives, or more importantly, their sanity.

    And, where are my pickles?!

  2. Don't settle for anything less than caviar!

  3. wowwww eli. lol and i love how it's all elis family that's replying and following this blog.. lol i had a dream that you said you were going to russia, but you really signed up to join the army ... lol hmm.. anyways, have fun and keep me posted! :)

  4. Eli Eli Eli. I think you need more sleep, and a therapist. :p

  5. thanks for the charming comments, guys.

  6. MORE PLZ. MORE PLZ! Love the guy on the train bit. SOO Creepy! You saw all this go down?? Didn't you think he'd steal the cellphones?

  7. idk, it was really weird. i like, gave him a nasty look, and made the wtf-are-you-doing face, and he fled to another car, but he just kept coming back again...and again...and again...

  8. Hey Eli...looks like you're having the time of your life, minus the mosquitos and questionable food...:-( I understand. I recently visited the Dominican Republic and the food was horrible so I feel your pain! Anyway, be safe and I hope to see you soon!