So, skimming over the true trauma that was home, a week or so before I was due to come to Saint Petersburg, I decided it was probably time to get my visa properly sorted. No excuse this time for being so late, I just didn't want to come back to Russia. Not because I like home, you understand, but because Russia is hard work and I just didn't have it in me to be bothered with it all. Except of course, I didn't have a choice. So I paid for next day processing on my visa and collected my roubles, packed everything up smarter than last time - learnt what I need and what I don't, mostly - and on the 18th of February, after a pretty decent night's sleep this time round, my lovely Padre drove me to Heathrow.
I don't like Terminal 5. It's poorly signposted and I spent a ridiculous amount of time frantically looking for my friend who had disappeared in the swarming mass that was security as our gate was closing the first time I flew to Russia from there. Note: No matter how well hidden your multipack of capri suns and oversized mosquito repellent are in your hand luggage, you are NOT going to get through Heathrow's security. I was panicking that I wouldn't get through security because of the size of my hand luggage or that I'd left liquids in there, because no way would that rucksack close again once it was opened. However, no such trauma took place, and I was simply left snivelling to myself as I left my Dad to go through the barriers back to misery for 5 months. I think I was feeling a little bit on the vulnerable side...
BA is infinitely better than BMI. Plus I get frequent flyer miles on them, so the incredibly fast 2hours and 50 minutes it took to get to Saint Petersburg were quite comfortable. I listened to the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy on my kindle. I do love Marvin.
Now, when we landed, I knew what to expect. LED is not a particularly comfortable or modern airport. 3 flights arrive together and everyone is herded into a too small hall where the English attempt to form orderly queues to reach the few immigration boxes everyone needs to pass through to get to their bags, while the Russians snigger at said orderly queues and proceed to push through and crowd to the front. The English, assuming everyone in Russia is a KGB agent or otherwise possess the power to pack them off to the gulag, are too scared to inform them of their obvious mistake, and thus take an abnormal amount of time to actually enter Russia.
So, I take a trip to the bathroom to attempt to freshen up a bit before dealing with the masses in the next room. At this point, maybe 5 minutes from stepping off the plane, something immensely embarrassing happened to me. In fact, having just relived the experience in my mind, I am now chickening out of writing about it. But at the time, it simply added weight to my being convinced Russia was going to be an absolute disaster. And I cringed. A lot. I still cringe. I can't believe these things happen to me. But rest assured it was a fairly horrendous start to Russia, which shall forever be kept to myself. Unless I happen to drink a little too much baltika, which does tend to loosen my mouth ever so slightly.
As an aside, LED have seriously got to make their bathrooms bigger. They seem to assume people travel with no luggage and/or are the size of leprachauns. Which they are not. Unless of course they are actual leprachauns. Still. Get with it Russia.
Luggage carousels aren't up to much there and I had several cases randomly fall on my toes whilst waiting for mine, no surprise given that the first time I landed in Petersburg the sight greeting me was a whole truck load of luggage spilling over onto the runway by the plane. Skilled baggage handlers here. Then there was quite a lot of waiting around for everyone to get through immigration. Was handed an info pack, told 'see you at 10 at school on monday', and promptly packed into a minibus with others to be delivered to respective accommodation.
Most people here seem to be living in a hostel near the school. I do not do sharing bathrooms. Not in Russia. My decision has been confirmed as the right one, incidentally, judging by the recent placement of posters in the hostel loos stating that standing on the toilet seat is forbidden. It's a Russian thing. I don't get it either.
So yeah, my host Ludmila collected me at the bottom of her road, let me settle into my room (much better that in Yaro) and said we were waiting for another girl to come, who was on a different flight to me, at which point we'd then eat and drink champagne. Tania came, we ate and drank. It was pretty sweet, and my expectation for Ludmila's english to end abruptly wasn't realised- she can speak pretty decent english, which is handy when you get stuck in Russian. We knew she had some American guys living with her too, doing a tefl course, but would meet tomorrow.
So, skipping details other than I forced myself to eat salmon (blergh) and drank copious cups of tea (also blergh) we had food, made many toasts and drank really good champagne. I then marvelled at actually having room to store my things, as opposed to the one cupboard and a closet shared with Firdaus' many fur coats and often the stinking cat, and put everything away. I was more comfortable in my room here within an hour than I ever was in Yaroslavl.
There are many differences between the two places, which I'll probably go into at some point, but as a whole, I'm much happier here than I was in Yaroslavl. Everyone seems to think I sounded miserable as hell there too, which I hadn't really considered, but perhaps they were right.
PMainly because I am lazy but partly because it's late and I have to get up early tomorrow, I am going to split this into 2 or 3 posts. I have actually been here 15 days now and done a fair amount (no tv interviews or frog attacks though, I'm glad to report), so I'll stick some photos up too, with my non apocalypse prone internet. Ura for wireless!