I have been in St. Petersburg for a little over two weeks and am constantly amazed and overwhelmed. I was under the impression that moving to Russia would involve escaping the humidity, mosquitoes and wind of Oklahoma. Sadly, this assumption was incredibly inaccurate. Whenever I talked to someone native to St. Petersburg they profess their love for the city the consider to be the best in Russia, but they always lament its location. So far it seems like St. Petersburg is a combination of contradictions. One moment you are cursing the frequent, but unpredictable downpours and erratic bus schedule, the next moment you are standing, speechless and wide-eyed, in front of the Church of Spilled Blood.
Living with a host family has definitely made the transition easier, while there are many awkward moments, I have yet to feel uncomfortable. My home stay family is extremely welcoming and forgiving of my language skills. I often eat breakfast and dinner with host mom (who is a fantastic cook) and we will talk and will watch anything from the news to the Russian version of the «The Bachelor». My host brother speaks a little English and can get by in conversation with him but talking with my host dad is a challenge. Whenever he talks me his voice is kind and he is smiling, however I have no idea what he is saying. Thus my marker for my progress in Russian language is how much of my host dad’s speech I can understand. If the by the end of my year here I can carry on a coherent conversation with my him, I will consider my year here a success. Random fact about my home stay: goal I have for the year is figuring out how my host family’s shower, which seems to have two settings: scalding or freezing. If I turn the nob for the hot water I have approximately 45 seconds before the water is boiling. Or, the water is absolutely freezing, which I feel is preferable at this point. For those of you who are aware of my battles with technology and basic household appliances, other students have also talked about this problem so at least I am not alone in my incapacity to work the shower. Another random note on food: Most of my meals consist of soup, potatoes, toast and cheese, and pierorgi. As a fan of hearty foods I have yet to try anything that I haven’t liked. Also, my host mom makes me toast with a smiley face on it, making a dreary, overcast morning more enjoyable.
Despite the fact that I have been here almost half a month, I have not visited a lot of museums or site (aside from the Hermitage and Valaam Monastery), but instead have been going to class and exploring the streets. Classes are interesting but require a significant amount of attention because they are conducted in Russian language. While most of my classes are language classes, I am taking a politics and history course which are difficult but incredibly interesting. A discussion in particular that sticks out is a discussion regarding how the American people’s image of Russia is largely influenced by the country’s Soviet history. According to my professor, people in Russia think is quite odd considering that Russia was one of the first republics to declare sovereignty from the Soviet Union. While I admit that my image of Russia while growing up was largely shaped by The Hunt for Red October and White Nights, I am learning that the city is a mix of the country’s turbulent history. It is equally possible to stumble upon a statue dedicated to the first head of the KGB as it to find a monument dedicated to Pushkin or Dostoevsky. While the city’s multiple museums, the people’s extensive knowledge about their literature and history are testaments to Russia’s rich culture, consequences of Soviet governance are still visible.
I am not quite sure how to wrap this post up, so I will end with the promise that I try to battle the inevitable laziness that comes with cold, overcast weather and explore the city and will attempt to diligently record my adventures on this blog ☺

Random notes:
-If you wish to earn the stink eye in Russia pay for a eighty ruble purchase with a thousand ruble bill. Exact change is appreciated, if not expected.
-When asking how to get to the Church of Spilled Blood by describing it as “that church with a lot of colors” will not get you far. There are a lot churches, and colorful churches mind you, in Petersburg.


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