“Why am I going to Russia again?” I asked my husband the morning of my flight to St Petersburg while we were breakfasting on Mexican toast and bland Douwe Egberts coffee at La Place, Schipol. It was just 5:30 in the morning and suspecting that he was still too sleepy to answer, I answered myself.
” I am looking for an adventure and I want to learn.”
I had been told that I have a flair for languages and I enjoy learning a new one. I am fluent in English, have studied Spanish for two semesters and can get by (with difficulty of course because it had been such a long time) and I passed my Nederlands als Tweede Taal (NT2) in one year. I would like to think that this gift for languages is something that I have to continuously develop.
I have finished one semester of basic Russian language course in the summer at Volksuniversiet and signed up for a 13-month home study with NTI. But I feel like I am just wasting my time and money going to school only once a week (and usually missing my classes when I am too busy) and barely opening my books and learning materials. So I decided to enroll with Russisch in Rusland (registered name LLC Petrion), a Dutch organization that arranges language excursions in St Petersburg. After paying a relatively cheap tuition fee (which includes course fee and accommodation for two weeks), getting the visa from the Russian embassy in The Hague and booking my ticket, I was one-month salary poorer and ready to go on an an adventure in the sub-zero Russian winter.
One week before leaving, I started researching about this city, the former Leningrad, and stumbled upon numerous articles about the problem of racism here. There is even a warning in my school’s information guide about this unfortunate attitude towards colored people.
“Racism, unfortunately in Saint Petersburg people with a coloured skin are at risk of being attacked by skin-heads.”
Being Filipino, I happen to fall in that category of “colored people” and so they advise us to be very careful.
Of course, being the perpetual worrier that I am, I did not sleep well for the last one week and spent the entire evening before my flight thinking about all the deaths and beatings of black and Asian people because of suspected racial attacks and all the animosity towards colored people.
But luckily, everything had been arranged already so I cannot back out anymore . In the words of Bear Grylls I am already “committed” to go hungry next month because I spent all my money on this. Besides, if I do not face this fear, I will never go very far with my Russian.
And there goes the adventure – conquering my fear of flying once again, challenging my courage on staying in a country where my color is judged and hated and of course surviving the sub-zero Russian weather. It’s not even winter yet but it is already -12 here.
Stay up to date with my Russian adventure as I share my daily life in St Petersburg. You will find all the blog posts under the category RussianinStPetersburg.