It is already Wednesday and I am now only sharing my “first day of school” which was last Monday. Kindly spare me your patience as lessons, assignments, writing and familiarizing myself with the city have taken most of my first four days. Surprisingly I have adjusted to the cold very well, thanks to the enormous layers of clothes that I have to wear everyday in addition to my dependable German coat and bulky snow boots.
My first class was at 9:00 in the morning. My teacher Maria, a young, curvaceous Russian girl with a warm smile arrived in the apartment a quarter early. We decided to do the lessons in my room because the main study room was occupied by other students.
Despite the jet lag and the long the day before, I was excited and full of energy. I showed her the books that I used before and explained my goals in studying Russian. I am not sure if she actually took that in consideration because we started the lessons with the basic elementary book which I presume is given to all new students. But nonetheless, it is refreshing to start from scratch (yet again) and it just made me realize how words can easily be forgotten after taking a couple of month’s break from studying.
We are still communicating in English but Maria talks to me in Russian once in a while and I would just shook my head in confusion. I have learned a lot of new words and survived my 4-hour lesson quite proudly.
Every foreign visitor in Russia needs to register their arrival at their travel agency or hotel. I did this together with Ben, another Tunisian student. It went very fast despite the long walk that we took from the metro station Gostiny Dvor to the UTS office, passing the Gostiny Channel which is currently frozen and dirty.
Buying a Russian simcard
Because calling from Russia cost almost €2/minute and sending an sms €1/minute, I decided to buy a Russian simcard. The guide book from the school did not say that it can take 30 minutes to buy a sim card from a telecom company. They needed my original passport, registration card and even immigration card. Thankfully they agreed to sell me the simcard with only the copy of my passport and the registration card. I bought my card from MTC and it cost 400 rubles/€10 with 300 rubles worth of calls and sms. According to the other student, Danish Zoren, he bought his from a Tele2, took him 2 minutes to get it and it cost only 150 rubles but he is limited to calling locally. He also said that it would probably even be faster if you buy it from the street vendors.
First local meal
In the first two days, I was surviving on canned food and rice but after registering, Ben and I went out for lunch. It was already 3PM and I was starving to death. We did not find many restaurants near the MTC office so we just walked straight until we saw one that is open.
But not before me buying something.
I desperately needed another pillow. The one provided in my room was very small and flat so I thought since I am staying for two weeks, I needed a good, big pillow so I can sleep well. If there is one thing that ruins my day, it’s bad sleep and without a good pillow I really couldn’t sleep well. Luckily we passed by a store selling bedroom items. I think it is own by a Kyrgyzstan or one of those minorities in Saint Petersburg.My pillow was big and only cost me 350 rubles, roughly €10 but it made me a very happy girl.
At the restaurant, which look more like a cafeteria, I was directly confronted with my knowledge of the Russian language. There was no English menu, everybody speaks Russian and the diners are all locals. I am quite proud of myself for not having to order using my feet and hands but instead my broken Russian. I managed and had a delicious lunch of traditional borscht ( бош) and grilled salmon with rice and laden with sauce. I even ordered bottles of ice tea and water and the cashier understood me. All of these and the unforgettable experience for only 36o rubles, less than €10.
Well Tuesday was another day, not many experiences but that is for another post.
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.