‘Putin’ the fun into Russia

Want some quick Russian updates? Well, today’s your lucky day. Here’s what I’ve been up to over the last month, plus you can read all about my wonderful trip to the Caucasus. Enjoy!

Let’s begin…

  • I’ve spent significantly more time rapping than usual. Yep, I said rapping. I rapped Nicki Minaj ‘Superbass’ to a small gathering of Russian guys and received a round of applause. Kanye West’s ‘Family Business’ is another party trick of mine. I even took it to the next stage by writing a rap for my friend Mike’s birthday. Yo. T-dawg is definitely in the house.
The birthday boy himself.

The birthday boy himself.

  • Talking of Mike’s birthday, we baked him a cake made out of Guinness. I didn’t trust that it was possible until 1 hour later when we were staring at a lovely, little, perfectly baked, brown circle. I couldn’t believe what we had produced with a can of beer and some love…
Look at that work of art

Look at that work of art

  • Mike also insisted that a trip to the bowling alley was his dream 21st birthday party, so I accepted the invite and felt ready to conquer the world. Turns out you can’t have the sides up in Russia and I lost many-a-ball to the gutter. Sigh.
Squad

Squad

  • Jenny was sent some Doritos in September from England. It’s now December and they haven’t arrived. Russian mail service is not good.
  • The weather was 1 degree Celsius the other day and I got excited about being able to wear less layers… My definition of cold has changed drastically.
Just an average day in Voronezh...

Just an average day in Voronezh…

  • I danced with a clown in the street and it was videoed. I still have no idea why this happened, but I’m kind of glad that it did.
  • Me and Jenny have spent a lot of cold afternoons snuggled in bed watching films. And eating. And then going to the mall in pyjamas to buy more food to eat in bed. A lot of the films have been Christmassy (cue fangirling over Jude Law in ‘The Holiday’) but we also watched Anastasia, the cartoon about a Russian princess who falls in love with a man called Dimitri. I can’t help but wish I was a Russian princess. The Dimitri part I could probably live without but there’s a talking bat and some cracking songs involved in Anastasia, so it’s a pretty great movie to base my life goals on if you ask me.
Jenny fell asleep. Obviously.

Jenny fell asleep. Obviously.

  • You can’t spend a semester in Voronezh without being forced to play a game called Mafia at some point. It’s all the rage here. I kind of secretly like it and we play it with the kids at work, but it only takes so long before it starts to grate on me. Basically, everyone has a ‘role’, most people are good and some people are bad. Everyone closes their eyes (or in my case squints their eyes so it looks like you’re asleep but you can actually see everything) and then the bad people unite and ‘kill’ someone. We all wake up, someone’s dead and you have to guess who the bad guys are by interviewing everyone. It’s like wink murder but with a larger emphasis on roleplay. I cheat every time though so I’m not sure I’m getting as much out of it as I could be…
Forming a mafia alliance

Forming a mafia alliance

  • You have to drive with your lights on at all times in Russia. Even in broad daylight, which I think is weird and definitely not energy efficient.
  • Me and Jenny have been approached 4 times now by Russian people asking for directions. It appears that we have officially started blending in as local Voronezh-ians. Considering how terribly people dress here, I am NOT taking this as a compliment.
  • I’ve had seven million problems with my bank card here. ‘Hi this is Natwest, we’d just like to alert you about card fraud. It appears someone is using your account in Russia’. No shit, I’ve told you 20 times that I’m here for a few months – get your act together and give me my money.
  • The boys’ flat has become a health hazard:
This isn't ok.

This isn’t ok.

  • I’ve become a hermit and stopped attending social events in order to watch the Russian version of ‘The Voice’ (don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it). It appears that there’s been a lot of drama in my absence… someone kissed someone, someone fancies someone, someone’s pissed off because someone doesn’t fancy them back, someone’s jealous, someone’s not inviting someone to their birthday party. Nope… none of this information is convincing me to change my plans and join in the Year 9 scandals. The Voice will remain my number 1 priority – sing to me, Vladislav!
I live life in the fast lane

I live life in the fast lane

  • I don’t hate the winter here. In fact, I think it’s my favourite season. As long as I’m dressed right for the weather, the frosty morning walks to university are actually VERY tolerable.
  • You can purchase a degree, medical report and a drivers licence here. Hi there, corruption.
  • A creepy guy pretended to be Jenny’s boyfriend and managed to acquire all of her personal information from the university visa office. Data protection doesn’t seem to have been discovered here yet.
  • A woman got stabbed outside of my apartment and I ended up walking straight through the crime scene meaning that I had to be interviewed by the police as a potential witness. Scary.
Look how friendly and safe the neighbourhood I live in looks...

Look how friendly and safe the neighbourhood I live in looks…

  • I tried to buy a backpack and left the store with a small rubber ball and a lifetime subscription to Sportsmaster magazine. Me and Jenny also tried to go to a pilates class and left with a leaflet about twerking and a huge chocolate bar. I think it would be safe to say that our Russian is still a work in progress.
  • I haven’t seen any spiders here yet. Either the winter is too cold for them or God has placed a magical blessing on Voronezh – both seem like acceptable theories to me.
  • Work is still fun, not many exciting stories to share though. We’ve started working at the university on Tuesdays as well and we have to teach 15 students in a room built for 120 students…  It’s sort of intimidating but we’re getting there!
We get PAID to do this.

We get PAID to do this.

  • I did a ridiculously loud yawn burp in a very silent area of a museum with a lot of other people. You know when you yawn and then there’s a weird sound at the back of your throat? Everyone thinks you’ve burped and you have to desperately convince them that it was just a yawn? No? I’m really worried it’s just me. Anyway, it was embarrassing and I hated myself for a little bit. Nothing compared to the hate I have for museums though. Why do people pay to enter these torture chambers?!
We may look happy to be here but we were weeping inside.

We may look happy here but I can assure you that we were weeping inside.

Jenny enjoying a nap in the museum. She sleeps a lot.

Jenny enjoying a nap in the museum. She sleeps a lot.

  • We haven’t had hot water for a while which means that my host Mom, Julia, has to boil me a few buckets of water each morning which I then pour on myself. I haven’t quite mastered how to lather my shampoo and pour at the same time but I’ll keep you updated with my progress..
  • Living with a host family means that I have to eat whatever I’m given (it’s rude to turn down food) so not only am I a chubbier version of my former self but I am also eating the strangest new things. Look:
I don't know what this is but I've eaten 7 of them in 2 days.

I don’t know what fruit this is but I’ve eaten 7 of them in 2 days.

  • Jenny dropped her passport down the toilet.
  • And that’s all I can think of.

So finally, I’ve got to fill you in about our visit to Kislovodsk in the Russian Caucasus. This was our ultimate university organised trip and boy, did they save the best until last. A whole week of activities and adventures with our crazy teacher Raisa could only ever have been a good thing. Here’s the quickest summary ever about what we got up to:

The train ride was so long and tiring – 24 endless hours. We spent a lot of time playing games in the restaurant and sleeping but I also bonded with a woman in our compartment and spent a few hours chatting to her. She shared a passionate speech about how she wishes the Western world would view Russia differently and gave me a pat on the back for my Russian ability when I was able to hold a debate with her (I’m just showing off now). Plus, she bought me a cup of tea and fed me approximately 75 sandwiches whilst helping me write an essay so, naturally, I liked her a lot and I now feel inclined to convince you all that Russians really can be the most awesome people! Don’t stereotype!

Headin' down south.

Headin’ down south.

Could you think of anywhere more fantastic to spend 24 hours??? Kill me.

Could you think of anywhere more fantastic to spend 24 hours??? Sigh.

I tried caviar for the first time and hated it.

I tried caviar for the first time and hated it.

In Kislovodsk we stayed in a sanatorium, a word that kind of scares me. I feel like it sounds like somewhere you go to die but apparently it’s just a place to relax… phew.

I'm so lucky.

I’m so lucky… Look at all that toilet paper.

The town was quiet but we always had something to do every day including water tasting (believe it or not it doesn’t all just taste like nothing-ness), visiting a traditional Russian village, late night hot springs, skiing, horse riding, walking tours etc. etc. In fact, I think the best way to share my adventures with you is through pictures, so here are some of my faves:

Meat markets make me feel a bit ill.

Meat markets make me feel a bit ill

So, so Russian.

So, so Russian

Middle of nowhere.

Middle of nowhere

 

I styled the boys' hair but I think they ended up looking like a stoned punk band...

I styled the boys’ hair but I think they ended up looking like a stoned punk band…

Super cold waterfall

Super cold waterfall

This feels like a throwback to Blazin' Squad or something

This feels like a throwback to Blazin’ Squad or something

Gondola Fun-dola

Gondola Fun-dola

These ladies sang to us while we ate some slices of fat and drank some wine. It was more enjoyable than it sounds.

These ladies sang to us while we ate some slices of fat and drank some wine. It was more enjoyable than it sounds.

Horse riding in the Steppe

Horse riding in the Steppe

It really was the most fun – I loved every single second and I would 200% recommend a visit if you’re ever in Russia. It’s close to Chechnya and Georgia so the culture is slightly different compared to the northern parts of the country but it’s a very interesting region for exactly that reason.

More importantly than anything else though, we went bowling again. This is important because I tried a new technique and I KICKED ASS. I feel like I’ve truly become a woman; people couldn’t believe their eyes when I started racking up a score in the hundreds. Luckily for me this particular bowling alley gives print outs of the final scores which I will be framing upon arrival to the UK.

Second one down where it says T…. THAT'S ME (Ignore the fouls)

Second one down where it says T…. THAT’S ME (Ignore the fouls)

If I had to pick a favourite day then I’d have to say it was our visit to Dombai. We were so surprised by how cheap and easy it is to ski there (equipment, a lift pass and retro ski suits for about £30!). While we were skiing, some Sochi athletes stopped to interview us for the TV. I recall screaming something about being from England and loving Russia and although I’ll never see the footage ever again, I do feel kind of famous now. We also shot a New Years Eve video for Estonian television… A busy day indeed!

This is what 'loving life' looks like in a photo.

We are practically celebrities now

Thanks for reading my blogs guys! I’ll be leaving Russia in a few weeks unfortunately, but first I have some exams to pass and an essay to prep for… See? I AM doing some work amongst all this adventuring, I promise 😉

Check back soon, Tara x

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