First Day

Today was the first day of university. Our guide planned to meet us to take us to the university. She was supposed to meet us around 11.00 and she was running late. I’ve read that Russians are often late when meeting up. But would she be on time because she knows we are American and this is part of our culture? Does she know this about American culture? Or will she adhere to her own culture? So many small things that cause such big questions.

Anyway, after she arrived we went to the university. We got registered and what not and then went to meet our teachers. Already this was an experience just going to the building and finding the correct place. First we had to find the building, then the correct “korpus” and then the right floor. I’d forgotten that they consider what I call the first floor to be the ground floor. And the numbers of the rooms are in a different order. First is the korpus, then the floor, then the room number. So, for example, if you are in korpus 4, floor 5 as we are, the number is 4516. But in America, if I saw this number, I would think the room was simply on the fourth floor. It’s so interesting.

Today we didn’t have actual classes though. But we met the dean of our department and she gave us a welcome speech entirely in Russian. I was shocked that I completely understood her. Then we met our other teachers. We have a separate teacher for our culture class and excursions, another one for grammar and another one for speaking. We also took entry tests which consisted of writing, listening and speaking.

After classes we went to Aleksandr Nevsky Lavra. It’s a beautiful old cemetery and there are so many beautiful headstones there which are intricate and enormous. We took so many pictures but at the time it felt like we didn’t take nearly enough because there was so much to see there. I got to see where Tchaikovsky was buried and several other famous people.

Afterward we went to McDonalds. It was so strange seeing the menu in Russian and how they translate certain sandwiches. They also have certain things on the menu which we don’t have in America. The food also tastes different and, in my opinion, a lot better. It isn’t as greasy or as tasteless…hard to explain.

So all in all it was a great day. Some other observations that I’ve made so far are:

The buildings are so colorful. Every building seems to be a different shade of either yellow, green, pink or blue. Very few boring brick buildings or even cement and steel structures. Each one seems unique in its design.

You sometimes have to take toilet paper into the stall with you before you go in. I’d heard about this and finally experienced it. However I was under the impression that it was the norm here. But so far it’s only happened to me on a few occasions.

There are small steps in between the doors. It’s like you open the door and have to step over a small step into the room. Hard to explain but I’ve never seen anything like it. I wonder what the logic is behind it. I’ve tripped over them enough to finally start to get used to it. But so strange, I’ve never had to put any thought into walking through a door before!

The subway station is very deep underground. Someone told me it’s one of, if not the, deepest metros in the world. You take long escalators to get down. The metro was similar in London but not quite as deep. The only other metro I’ve been in was in NYC and it was nothing like this.

Also, during peak times there are so many people crammed into the subway. At one point we were squeezed in like sardines and when the metro swayed, the whole group of people swayed together, as if we were all stuck together like a big piece of Jell-O. I had no one to hold on to but was supported by those behind, in front of and beside me.

Plus the doors to the metro are covered by other doors which open to let you off instead of it being open like in NYC and London. So when you want to get on, you stand near the wall, near a closed black door and then it opens and people get off, you get on, the metro door closes and then the black door closes and you’re in the tunnel.

Exiting is a whole other ordeal. If it’s really crowded, sometimes you have to push your way through. Other times, people simply ask you if you’re leaving. If so, they make room for you.

Again, I’ve never seen anything like it. There’s so much here that is new and interesting and it’s a thrill to take it all in.

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