May 9, 2014

Russia Orientation

Our last excursion as a class was to St. Petersburg, Russia. I’m really happy we went. It’s a whole other world out there. We got a lot of Western Europe; it was time for some Eastern Europe. I think people in the States are so against Russia and Communism; we are taught to fear both. Personally I’ve always wanted to go to Moscow (I know we didn’t go there, we went to St. Petersburg but I’m just saying I was interested in going to Russia). It’s just one of those places that seem so foreign and exotic in a way.

I know that not all the people on the trip felt this way. I was talking to Kieran about going while we were laying on a field of grass by the Hannover town hall, and he told me he didn’t really want to go. The stereotype and stigma that Americans give to Russia is a really bad one, and I think it’s hard to overcome it. Even I felt it was a little strange there. After the trip people said that they enjoyed the trip and were glad that they had the opportunity to go because they would have never done so on their own.

Before the trip we had an orientation about what to do and what not to do while we were there. St. Petersburg was built on marsh lands, so there are a lot of bridges. The excursion coordinator told us about the times the drawbridges go up at night, and when the metro stops running. She also told us how to say excuse me, please, yes, no, and some other words. The Russian alphabet is so cool. I really like it. I think it’s quite pretty. I guess I didn’t find it all that strange when all the signs were in a different alphabet, let alone another language, or that the currency didn’t easily convert to dollars like some people did because I’ve experienced it in other countries.

The Russian currency, Russian Ruble, was about 50 rubles to the euro. So when you go and buy a bottle of water, it was a bit shocking to some to see the price tag telling you it’s 300 monetary units. I had lived in Nigeria, where it was 160 Naira to the dollar, so I wasn’t so concerned by the prices. Some people found it unusual and difficult.

We were also told not to stay out too late at night and not to wander about alone. I know some people were thinking about the Russian mob attacking, they kept thinking of a comedian, Bert Kreisher, who told a story about his time with the Russian mob where he gets nicknamed “The Machine” and robs a train with them. It’s actually really funny, if you want to watch it, it’s on YouTube, The Machine by Bert Kreisher. They were trying to scare us a little bit so we didn’t stay out late and get mugged. It worked.

They also told us about some Russian fast food that we should try, all of which was delicious.

We were also encouraged to go out on our own to an opera or a ballet. I had some difficulty in this area. They sent us a list of theaters that had shows on the days that we were staying there. Mac, Casey, Dwight and I were looking into going to an operetta at a small theater. I went to the website and booked the tickets. The website wouldn’t take my money! I asked the excursion coordinator to help me and she couldn’t purchase them over the phone. It seemed all was in vain, until I met a wonderful woman at the hotel who helped me get four tickets last minute to a ballet called “Legend of Love” at an old, beautiful theater, the Mariinsky Theater. Success!

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