Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Weekend with the Locals

Well this title might be stretching it, but this weekend has been vastly different from past weekends I’ve spent in St. Petersburg. I didn’t participate in any exceptionally touristy adventures such as exploring another Tsarist palace (yes there are many more in the area) or visiting another museum. Instead I was able to experience the Russian editions to some very popular activities: going to the movies and iceskating.

On Friday, my Russian friend (who I met through my host mom) invited me to go to the movies with her. So of course we decided to watch a Russian scary movie. Basically it ended up being the Blair Witch Project with a Russian twist: a Soviet experiment gone wrong in Siberia and five american college students pay the price for it. Yes, the movie was scary, but at least I understood what was going on even though the movie was in Russian. Ура! a Russian language learning success. 

The next evening I spent the entire night ice skating with some of my American friends. And yes I mean the entire night: from 11:30 pm until the metro opened at 6:00 am. We ice skated with a couple hundred Russians, played card games, and drank a beer in the bar that was located inside the rink. Overall a super fun night shared with my American friends and some new ones as well.
All Night Ice Skate with Friends

Even though I could go to the movies or ice skate pretty much everywhere in the world, I did notice some important differences between America and Russia. At the movie theater, when you buy your tickets, you are designated a specific seat that you must sit in during the movie. Very much unlike the American system of the free-for-all seating arrangement. Ice skating, however, was a very different scenario. There seemed to be no one there to preserve the order at all. The Russians tended to get a little feisty on the ice. I thought that I was getting shoved around because I’m a Californian who can’t ice skate. However, I was soon to learn from my friends that I was definitely not the only one who was literally getting pushed out of the way. The vast differences in authorial responsibility at the movies and at the rink serve as a perfect example of the contradiction inherent in Russian life. Sometimes, I feel like there are no rules in Russia and everything is a mad free for all: there are monkeys on the street, wild dogs even in the city, and police officers are notorious for taking bribes Then I remember that I’m currently living in a semi-authoritarian state where I definitely have no right to speak my opinion about politics. I find myself constantly saying: how is there no law against that? and then a minute later getting frustrated by thousand and one times I have to show my ID at school every day in order to get to class. Yet again, Russian life shows itself as a conundrum. 

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