Sunday, September 9, 2012

I'm Back!

The pond near the dacha with the Stepanovi's son Yura, and granddaughter, Masha.

Well actually I have been back for two weeks, but being true to form, I haven't posted anything until now.  I'm back in St. Petersburg with the Russian Language Flagship Program, part of an overall government initiative to increase American proficiency in strategically important languages (Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Farsi, etc.).  I will be here in St. Petersburg for about nine months total, taking classes and eventually completing an internship with a company here in St. Petersburg (I'll talk about that in a later post when I've done some research about my internship position).
I'll try to be quick and give a quick run down on the first two and a half weeks of the program, and then try to be more consistent about posting in the future.  The first two weeks here have been pretty nice, I'm settling in nicely and making friends.  My host family are great kind people.  Their names are Vladimir Nikolaevitch and Natalia Evgeniovna Stepanovi, both are in their early seventies.  Natalia Evgeniovna works as a graphic designer and Vladimir Nikolaevitch as an engineer.  They have three children, all of whom are adults and have families of their own.

Some of the Bryn-Mawr/Haverford Flagship students
Over the past couple of weeks I've done quite a bit, so I'll for now just give a quick list of the big ones.  I've done a lot of the really touristy things, going to Peterhof (a palace of Peter the Great famous for its fountains) and St. Isaac's cathedral (has one of the best views in St. Petersburg).  But the big highlight of the first two weeks was going to my family's dacha, of summer house.  As some of you may remember, my brief with dachas is a rather sordid one.  My last trip to a dacha resulted in a dog bite and two months of rabies shots, so understandably, I was somewhat hesitant to try dacha life again.  I am proud to announce however, that I returned safe and sound from my dacha trip with no unpleasant encounters with stray dogs.  It actually ended up being a rather quiet weekend.  Arriving late on Saturday afternoon, we went swimming in a pond close by (an extremely cold pond) and relaxed the rest of the day.  Sunday we were supposed to go mushroom hunting, an idea that I have found both intriguing and vaguely horrifying for quite some time.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to try my hand at finding non-lethal mushrooms due to a day of rainstorms.  As such I spent the rest of the day inside, helping do housework and watching soccer.  Yesterday I went to a hockey game with friends, which as usual was quite a bit of fun.  In the past two years the league has changed quite a bit, the price of tickets has gone up about one hundred percent (tickets are now twelve dollars instead of six), which is probably a smart business but a bummer for me.  The team now has a band that plays during breaks in play and a bizarre "Pirates of the Caribbean" intro that I found rater strange and rather out of place at a hockey game.  But nonetheless it was a good time, SKA won 7-3.  Going to the hockey game yesterday meant that I didn't do any work yesterday, and so today is devoted to getting all of my work for tomorrow done.

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