Thursday, May 21, 2009


May 19, 2009

Day 36


            So after a relaxing day at the beach for the art and architecture class, culture and literature class, and the student teachers sad last day at school, we slept in to catch up on the much needed sleep.  Some people went out shopping for their last minute souvenirs.  Others stayed in the Hostel, relaxing.  I stayed in my pajamas until we had to start getting ready for the FINAL DINNER.  My room started getting ready around 3:00pm.  At 4:00, we all gathered in the hallway to give Michelle a surprise.  Michelle was taken to “shop” for Jess’s sister.  What Michelle did not know is that she actually picking out her own gift.  We decided to get her a gift because Michelle has been awesome this entire trip.  She got us into museums for the Russian student price; it was great!  She saved us a lot of money to use for extra things we wanted to do.  Then, Michelle gave us all gifts for weaseling our way into her heart.  We got different magnets with pictures of the city.

After the gift giving, we finished getting ready so we could leave for dinner.  As we were waiting outside of the Hostel waiting for the rest of the people, Jill got pooped on by a bird.  There was not a lot of it, but it landed in her hair.  She went in the bathroom and took care of it.  We walked to the bus stop and took the number 5 bus to get to the restaurant.  We ate at a Georgian restaurant.  The food was amazing!  I wish we had a restaurant like that back in the States.  There were sixteen courses all together.  The courses are supposed to come out one at a time, every twenty minutes.  However, if we had done that, we would have been there all night.  So there were at least 10 courses set on the table when we first sat down so that it would be easier.

            There was salad on the table along with bread, a kidney bean dip, chicken dip with hazelnut, some type of eggplant-wrapped thing, pickled cabbage, and a plate of pickles and garlic stems.  We were also served cheesy bread that comes out looking like pizza.  Georgian dumplings came out next and one of our tour guides, Mike, showed us how to properly eat the dumpling.  You are supposed to bite the top off and drink the broth that is inside and then eat the dumpling.  After the dumplings, we were served chicken and potato-fries.  Pieces of lamb and beef were served afterwards.  Another serving of cheesy bread was passed out.  Then we were asked if we wanted tea or coffee and chocolate or strawberry ice cream.  Dinner was great!!  We ended around 11:00pm.

            The dinner was hilarious.  We gave the tour guides their gifts and they went crazy.  Shannon and Angela bought whiffle bats and balls to give them.  They looked at them as if they had no idea what they were.  Dmitri acted as if his was a saber and Nik was doing crazy stuff.  Michelle bought them lobster claw harmonicas.  Nik tried to play the harmonica, but he ended up just getting red in the face.  Dmitri joined along with him.  A few minutes later, Nik took the lobster claw, pretended as if it was his hand, and took a sip of his drink.  This night was epic!  It was better than all the other nights because all the tour guides were there except Peter.  It was sad that Peter could not go, but being able to sit with all the tour guides at the same time was awesome.

We had to catch the bus and rush to change our clothes to go on the boat tour.  Since the bridges go up for the night, we had to hurry to make it so we were able to watch the bridges go up.


Jess M.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Surprise Tour!!

Today was a great day. We had a wake up call at 7:30 this morning because we had to get on the road by 9 for the surprise. We were told to wear a bathing suit, layers, and hiking sneakers. We were also told to bring water, a towel, sunscreen, tissues, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper. No one was quite sure what exactly we were going to be doing. At 9:15 we hopped on the bus and were on it for about 45 minutes. We got to our destination and had to hike for about a half hour until we got to set up camp. We had the entire day to spend together at a gorgeous lake. We all helped collect fire wood while our tour guide Nick actually got the fire going. When the fire was going and the food was all unpacked, a bunch of us decided to go for a swim in the lake. It was pretty cold, but not as bad as we expected. While some people were off playing frisbee, the rest of us were just hanging out by the campfire and having a great time. The weather couldn't have been better. Around 3:30, we had to collect more fire wood, and Dylan managed to get himself stuck in a tree. It was real funny to watch him try to swing down like a monkey would. At about 7 that night, it was time to start packing up. We were all really sad because we wanted to stay longer; some of us even wanted to spend the night. By the time all was said and done, we made it back to the hostel around 9pm. We had the rest of the night to ourselves to relax and get prepped for the final dinner tomorrow night. Today truly was a great way to end off the trip. And for anyone who ever doubted it, YOU CAN GET A SUNBURN IN RUSSIA!!!!

Another Chapter In the Epic Adventures of Student Teachers In the Motherland

The day began as most do here in St. Pete for our group...too early for our any of our likings.  We headed out from the hostel in a generally groggy fashion at around 9:30 A.M., aiming in the direction of the grand (and frankly horrendously painted) Winter Palace.  As you may or may not know, the Palace, also called the Hermitage, contains what is quite possibly the largest collection of art in the world, though it's officially listed as being somewhere around the third.  The eight of us reached our destination around 10:00 and hopped in line, after a decent wait heading in, getting tickets, checking coats, and so on.  We moved as a group up the grand main staircase of the Palace, staring as much at the giant frescoes on the ceiling as the great columns and wall ornamentation.  After the throne room shortly after the stairs we decided to split up.  Between the three groups we made, roughly 90% of the open exhibits were canvased by lunch time.  These included everything from an arms and armor room to prehistoric art, and just about everything in between and after (such as a rather creepy Egyptian exhibit).  We all ate in one of the several cafes and spent some time perusing the extensive bookstore and shop.  We all met up around this time (with the exception of two of the group who had finished their scoping of the Palace and left) and decided that we had all seen our fill for the day, despite our original plan having been to stay until 4.  At this point it was roughly 2 P.M.
The remaining members of the group then headed to a large mall on Nevsky Prospekt, the name of which I can pronounce but most certainly cannot spell, and so will not butcher it with an attempt.  At the mall we yet again split into a group of two and one of four.  We proceeded to wander aimlessly through this massive old mall, oggling the goods in the large array of shops contained therein.  During this stretch, the two girls in the group began checking out jewelry, so naturally Christian and I headed for the nearest table with chairs and proceeded to nap thereon.  The mall trip was, for our group of four, just an interesting way to pass the time until a prearrnged meeting at 4:30 with a couple of Russian students from a teacher education college here in St. Pete that we had met on our previous visit there.  That said, after our nap/shopping trip we headed back to the Hermitage to meet our Russian peers. 
Upon meeting up with our friends we proceeded to take them to the local Carl's Jr. for a taste of good old American style burgers and chili-cheese fries.  We spent the remainder of the evening wandering through a few parks and similar places around the city, trying our hardest to speak slowly to our new friends so that they could understand us despite our varied accents and incessant use of slang.  Later on, around 8:00 or so, we said goodnight to the last of the Russians only to learn that a surprise "tour/event" for which we were leaving at 9:00 and from which we wouldn't return until the wee hours of the morning.  This event was the famous Night of Museums which the city throws at random for one night around this time of year every year.  During the night, from about 10 or 11 P.M. to 6 A.M. museums and special historic areas and buildings around the city are open and free to students (and I think perhaps everyone).  My night ended around 2 A.M. when I began falling asleep standing on the street waiting for a bus and decided I should probably head "home" so I could be awake for another tour first thing in the morning.  Some of the others continued on to exciting events like being evacuated from Smolny Convent by the Russian Police Bomb Squad due to a threat on the building.  They all came back and proceeded to pass out around 5 A.M. and that was about it for our group for the day.
I was awaked around 10 the next morning with the message, "Get up, we're leaving in 5 minutes for the tour."  But that's a tale for another time...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Night Pics


May 17: Night at the Museums

 Ok, its 12:01am and we’re waiting in line. How exactly did this happen? Let me back track slightly. At 8pm yesterday, I was sitting on the hallway floor, outside the main office of the hostel, talking to my mom. As I am sitting there, Michelle runs by staying something about a tour in 5 minutes. Apparently, tonight is the annual Night at the Museums. This event is a night once a year when over 20 museums are open for students from six at night to six in the morning. These museums display special exhibits and one price will get you into all the museums and get you a pass for a special bus that takes you to all the stops. To make things more interesting, the night that they pick is only announced at five o’clock the night of, but word spreads and thousands of students swarm the city. 
 Getting back to the original story, at 12:01 when our day began we were standing in a line to get into one of the 20 museums. All 20 of us went to two museums together and then Shannon, Angela and I decided that we wanted to go to the zoo, cause how cool is that going to the zoo at night, right? The only problem with this master plan is that the zoo is on Petrogradskaya and the bridges close from 1am-6am to let ships through. Therefore, to catch to bridge before it came up Shannon, Ang and I sprinted just as the police were blocking off traffic. It was awesome, we explored the zoo at night, lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Then to get back to civilization before 6am we had to sprint again because the bridges close only from 3-3:30. Then we went to the wrong bridge and had to run to the other one, just in time. However, we made it back alive and we did not have to sleep on a park bench so it’s all good. Overall, the night was one of the most interesting experiences I have ever had. We took tons of pictures with the city all lit up and we got to see a truly unique side of St. Petersburg culture. The rest of the day, sleeping and shopping, pales in comparison. 

Friday, May 15, 2009

   Today the group had our final class discussion on the book we have been reading, Crime and Punishment. We went through individual chapters and talked about the main themes in the novel and how they connect to our experience so far in Saint Petersburg. We finished off the discussion with a debate on whether the main character, Raskolnikov, was sane or insane.  It was a lively debate and was a fitting way to complete our study of the novel. The debate also prepared us for the tour we will take tomorrow where we will trace the actual steps Raskolnikov took throughout the book.
    A boat tour was planned for the evening, but it ended up getting cancelled because of the high water level of the Neva River. It's been a little rainy and cold the past couple days, but we are hoping for some nice weather before we leave so we can reschedule the boat tour.