My first week was busy and a bit confusing, which I think is normal! I had to register at the university on Monday, then find my classes which take place every morning (more challenging than it sounds). This was unsuccesful the first two mornings; on Tuesday I turned up to a locked classroom and failed to get any help, and the second day I had a random outburst of tears on my journey there (just tiredness!) and felt too embarassed to enter the classroom. So I spent both these days thoroughly enjoying myself touristing, for example seeing the inside of the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood and taking another cheeky Hermitage visit (this time the top floor – a beautiful collection of far and middle eastern art). On Thursday, however, I made it to class!! My teacher was great. I had been expecting a strict lesson in the rote-learning style, as some people had prepared me for, but she was really easy-going and most of it was just chatting away in Russian! My class is also the perfect size, we’re about 9.
On the weekend I went out for dinner with a friend to Barkitsa on Rubenshteiner Street, which serves middle-eastern food. Afterwards we took a snowy bus ride to the other side of Vasilevsky Ostrov, to the student halls. This part of the city is not touristic; all around you is soviet architecture, including the halls themselves. Inside was busy, happy and bustling, despite the peeling wallpaper and cockroaches. On the fourth floor there was a party going on in the corridor, making the most of it before they would be shooed out at 11pm by the babyshka on duty. We initially joined, but then sneaked off into a friend’s apartment on a different corridor to have a quieter catch up over vodka.
When the time came to evacuate the party, our big group of (mostly) international students bombarded the metro into town. The vodka (with or without lemonade) was flowing. After briefly getting lost, we found our way to a large, packed bar, called Bermudy. People were dancing on all levels, so I promptly joined the highest one (yep that would be the vodka). Then I spotted a man in the bar doing ink drawings of people dancing. I convinced him to let me do a portrait of him. When I’d finished he didn’t seem very impressed and started to show me how it should be done, with his own cartoon version of himself. Then he drew my face, which I was equally dismayed by and threw it back at him. It sounds like we really offended each other, but I think it was all in good spirit!! (is that yet another vodka reference…?)