14 June 2008


As many of you know, (and the rest of you might be surprised to find out), I have never (before today) been outside of the Central and Eastern US time zones. My family and I spent about a week in Canada several years ago, but that hardly seems international.
So, the transatlantic flight was an adventure. Lufthansa is a very nice airline. The food was good (I have so much to compare it to, of course… but other well-traveled students said it’s really good for airport food). I had never even been on an airplane that served a meal, come to think of it. Anyway, it was pretty good. I sat between two people and didn’t realized you could adjust part of the headrest forward, so I didn’t get a lot of sleep, but I knit a bunch, and by the time we got to St. Petersburg, I was halfway through Huck Finn (which I have so far found extremely enjoyable).
The airport in Frankfurt was nice; their airport police ride around on bikes, which is neat. On the way back I might try to bring a few Euros, since we were thirsty, but didn’t have the right currency to purchase anything.
St. Petersburg has been lovely. I am so happy I am here. We stayed in a hotel the first night (Morskoi Vokzal) on Vasilevskii Island, which is the island Smolny Institute is on. Between lunch at the hotel and dinner at a nearby restaurant the first night, we went on a bus tour of the city, narrated by the woman running the cultural portion of the program. The intention was to give us a basic idea of the layout of the city, to show us around so we could recognize things. It was really helpful, even though we were all tired and might have fallen asleep on the way to Smolny Cathedral, and it might have taken us the rest of the tour to figure out where that was on the map. I’m not naming names.
Today (I left Minnesota on Thursday and arrived in St. Petersburg on Friday because I’m 8-9 hours ahead of y’all, depending on which time zone you’re in, but I’ll let you figure that out for yourself) we had orientation in the morning, with breakfast and lunch at the hotel. They went over the main points in the handbook, and there wasn’t much that surprised me. The couple days before I left, I started to worry about safety-related things, but I realized here that it’s probably safer here than in Chicago (the main threat to me is petty theft), and the fact that it stays light so late helps, too. In the afternoon, they did a little bit of oral testing and then drove us to our host families. There’s four levels of teaching, and they were using the oral tests to decide between putting people in level three or four. I think I'm going to be in group three. The upper two levels get to take a class on either literature or politics. Guess which one I picked.

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