Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The price of fish

I went to Tesco to get my photos for the visa application earlier. FIVE quid. Disgusting. They used to be £2.50. And those mini cans of soft drinks that used to be 10p? Sodding 30 now! Don't even get me started on freddos, you can assess the state of the entire economy based on the price of those. Psh. Anyway, it only took two attempts to get a version I was satisfied with, which makes a nice change. Only 10 minutes later did I notice that my hair had cast a grey shadow on my neck which makes me look a bit on the grubby side. Oh well. It would be hypocritical of Russia if they were to refuse me entry for looking like a hobo in my visa picture, judging by the number of semi conscious men splayed over the pavements with a bottle of cheap vodka in hand I encountered, most smelling less than fair.

Aparently it is -21 in St. Petersburg. It is about -1 here, and I am freezing. There will need to be some re-adapting when I get back. Roast like a potato indoors and dodge balconies to avoid an icy, stabby icicle-related death outside. Accordingly, I have ordered a new coat (with hand warmer pouches in the pockets, oooh) online, which is extremely unfashionable and likely entirely the wrong size, but I was relying on fast delivery to get it sent back to change if that is the case. However, on closer inspection, my unfashionable, sensible and practical coat appears to originate from a distinctly middle aged wesbite, using distinctly dark-aged delivery methods and thus far it has been four whole days and it hasn't been dispatched. I am impatient. The last thing I ordered online was dispatched the same day and received the next. Alternatively, I could have not been cheap and bought something from a semi fashionable, age appropriate place which has moved on from carrier pigeons. I was just expecting a degree of efficiency, as one does.

I am in for a shock when I touch back down in Russia.

I have a feeling this may be why my coat has not been sent out.

EDIT. On reflection, and bearing in mind that it is my birthday tomorrow, this post has a distinctly grumpy old woman vibe about it.
One step closer to becoming a bab. SCORE.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Here we go again

A couple of days ago I forced myself back to the hospital to endure the excavation of my arms to find a vein willing to give up its blood, just so I can prove, once again, that I am HIV free and qualify to return to Russia. On a tourist visa, this isn't necessary but on my visa it is. I can only assume that any HIV infected people are, upon obtaining a tourist visa, rendered physically incapable of spreading it for up to 30 days and so are declared safe to enter by the ever-logical Russian immigration services. Any other type of traveller, however, is clearly far more likely to go around spreading their disease from day 1 to the natives. Must be the type of ink they use. I might add here that it is estimated that the rate of HIV in Russia is at 1.5 million and its prevalence has increased by 250% since 2001. Makes zero sense whatsoever, but I have heard that there is talk of dropping the HIV test requirement in an attempt to make the country more accessible and appealing to businesses, amongst other things such as restrictions and fees on moving belongings into the country. They need to do something, my veins are not cooperative when it comes to blood tests and I less than relish the prospect of having several people dig around in my skin with sharp objects. However, it was done eventually and I'm now waiting for the call to collect my certificate so I can trundle up to the visa centre and get things sorted.
I do hope my favourite security guard will be there. I have missed him.
So here I am again, 22 days to go until I fly off to St Petersburg. I hate to say it but I'm less than excited right now. It will all be fine once I'm actually there, but I'm nervous and when I'm nervous I tend to hate what I'm nervous about. I'm back to checking the temperatures and they are generally -18, feels like -25, which is just lovely. The cold wasn't actually half as bad as you'd think in Yaroslavl, kind of unpleasant when it's snowing hard and driving into your face, but the cold is physically very bearable if you're dressed well...but I have become accustomed to being able to go outside without the 15 minute prep time to get dressed!
This is made slightly worse because on tv there is an Australian tourist board advert-'There's nothing like Australia',  and it looks freaking AMAZING. And hot. And sunny. And my friend is going there for a year. And I'm jealous.
I mean, there's nowhere like Russia, either, but in terms of appeal right now, the snow, evil babushki and impossible language are being overshadowed by the fact that I haven't seen the sun for over a year (thanks english non existent summer) and would quite like to go to the beach.

I do miss my fur hat though. And my valenki. And I have new purple flowery thermal leggings and stripey rainbow socks....
But if someone could tell me how to pack for 'feels like -26' as well as the +30 it will reach come June, I'd appreciate it. I have 3 extra kilos allowance this time round. Shoes or text books?