At this point, I have about a week and a half left in Russia. I decided to write my final thoughts today as starting tomorrow, everything gets rather hectic and busy. On Monday and Tuesday, we have our final exams for the summer, which do require a bit of time to prepare. The very next day, we move out of our host families and board a train to Moscow, where we will spend the next week seeing as much as we can in the city and in the surrounding area. This also means that I may not have access to the internet and I decided to recap my entire experience before my final week of traveling.
Overall this experience has been amazing. Whether it was the food, culture, sights, language, or friends made, everything about this trip was amazing. I not only tried everyday Russian cuisine but also Georgian cuisine, which I honestly have to say might be some of my favorite food I have ever had. I also had the ability to see numerous historical sights, which rank among some of the most beautiful buildings I have ever scene. Whether it was the Winter Palace or the Peterhof Palace and even the beautiful and skyline-dominating St. Isaac’s Cathedral, I truly do not believe there is a more beautiful city in the world than that of St. Petersburg, where the modern-day exists in the city of St. Peter, built to the beauty of European architecture and grandiose designs of Russia.
Finally, the friends that I have made, whether they were fellow Americans or Russians, I am glad I was given the opportunity to not only meet them but also interact with them and learn about them. I am especially happy about the Russian friends I have made as I was given a further and deeper insight into all of Russia. I will most definitely miss being here, in St. Petersburg, and will not be able to wait for my next chance to visit again but I also know that I will look forward to coming home, as living here has also given me a new insight and appreciation for everything I have at home. This has been one amazing summer and I never truly thought I would have been given such an opportunity, but I am glad I have been and I am glad I will have many more opportunities like these to come.
The Scarlet Sails holiday was an interesting experience that occurred back in June. I decided to write about it as it is an exciting local holiday that takes place in St. Petersburg. According to official historical sources, the holiday celebrates the end of the school year and celebration for graduates who go from childhood to adulthood. The holiday takes inspiration from a children’s book by Alexander Gin by the same name. It originally began in the 1970s in the Soviet Union but did not last very long. In 2005, the event was brought back and has been celebrated every year since. The event usually occurs at midnight on the Sunday into Monday closest to June 21st. The event is marked by a planned fireworks choreographed to music, the sailing of a ship with scarlet red sails, and lots of free entertainment put on by the city of St. Petersburg.
To many people, the holiday has the same meaning as one would find officially at museums and through historians. However, the holiday is celebrated by many more people, not just graduates and students. The free entertainment and the centralizing of the festivities in the center of the city encourage many to come to the center of the city near the Neva River and partake in the festivities. The holiday is also accompanied by consumption of alcohol and partying, though it is rather tame as the holiday usually takes place from Sunday night into Monday morning, and many individuals still have work the next morning.
For us students, it was a debate between seeing the fireworks and celebration and going to bed at a reasonable hour as we still had class the next morning. I decided to still travel the 1 hour from my home to the center to see everything that was going on. Overall, it was a fun evening despite not getting to bed until about 2:00 am, although it was still quite bright out as the city is experiencing the White Nights of summer. I hope if I am given the opportunity to visit again during the summer, I will be able to experience even more of the celebrations.
During the first half of my time in Russia, I have be confronted with the fact that I come from the United States. I am happy to say that all the accounts have been wonderful and I have come to learn from different people and perspectives, theirs views about the United States. To briefly summarize, the view in one that is complicated and almost conflicted at times.
One of the views that is expressed is a theme of either wanting to visit the United States and/or even living there. This view stems from the perception that the American economy and way of life provides for more opportunities and chances for success than can be found in Russia. Although, I am unable to give a complete and accurate report of what working in Russia is like, I find it interesting the United States is favored in such a view that many hope to visit and even work there for a period of time. Though, others have expressed the caveat that they would eventually like to move back to Russia and use it to help improve their life at home, in Russia. However, this view does stand in contrast to another view that is perceived.
This second view is one of curiosity about the United States. Many people like to ask questions to Americans about different things regarding the United States. Some are as simple as asking the favorite food and drink of President Trump. Other questions are more complicated and deal with more complex and political issues. However, this has never ended with a distrust or contempt for me as an American and has led to me feeling very comfortable being here.
Overall, I, as an American in Russia, have been enjoying my visit and have been experiencing wonderful hospitality from people I meet and even have experienced first hand different social norms that exist in Russian culture, especially among my peer group.
At the time of this post, I have been in Russia for a couple of weeks. I truly believe that St. Petersburg is the most beautiful city in the world. Everyday, I exit the metro station and I am greeted with the sight of the Kazan Cathedral to my right (see image above) and the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood on my left. As the title suggests, this trip is the first time I have ever left the United States and I have to say that it has been a very unique and amazing experience, excluding a brief 48 hours of being overwhelmed with the language. From here I believe I have acclimated quite well to the environment and have been appearing to learn quite a bit in the realm of colloquialisms in Russia.
One really important word that I knew about before I visited was “Piter” and stood as a nickname for the city of St. Petersburg. I first learned of this nickname from a movie titled “Piter FM” and was seen in an affectionate sense. I had this sentiment confirmed by some natives that I have spoken to and have used it with me. However, I did not necessarily know about some other characteristics of the word. Most notably that beyond it being extremely informal, there have been instances where the name is used in a less than favorable light, specifically in the song “In Piter We Drink” by a band called Leningrad. In the song, there is continuous reference to the drinking culture within St. Petersburg. This means in some interpretations of the song, The city can be seen in less favorable light.
Another interesting word I did not know was used quite often comes for another word meaning “to eat.” Usually the word that comes to mind when discussing eating something is “есть” (pronounced yest’). However, another word that is used in Russia is кушать (pronounced kushat’). What is different about these two words comes from the fact that the second word has a meaning more akin to the idea of “eating up” rather than just directly meaning “to eat.” This usually means that the verb кушать will be used in conjunction with a previous verb that leads to the expressing of something similar to “Are you going to eat up?” or “Do you want to eat up?” As pointed out, it is rarely used by itself in a conjugated form as it will come across as a little odd to hear when spoken. This idea and word is not something I knew before visiting Russia and may or may not have ever learned if I did not come to study. These two examples really highlight the extended learning that I aimed to achieve when I started out as it highlights the necessity of learning outside the classroom, especially of a language like Russian.
I hope the rest of this trip is just as informative as these first few weeks and I look forward to visiting numerously different locations within this beautiful city.