26 June 2008

I'm left with no choice...

...but to make this a blog post, since I don't know how to change the settings on the computer I'm using to allow pop-up windows for ObieMail. Which means I can't send my dad an email. Which means everyone except my dad can ignore the rest of this, unless you're my mother, in which case remind him about this please.

So I'm working on this sweater, but I didn't bring the issue of Interweave Knits that it's in with me (I brought the newest issue instead). As it turns out, there are a couple of techniques in the glossary in the back that I need. At first, I thought it was just the tubular cast-on, and I figured I could improvise something else, but there's actually a 3 stitch 1 row buttonhole I need, too, and have no idea how to improvise. SO could you please scan and email me the glossary from the Spring 2008 issue of Interweave Knits (should be on/near my desk)? That'd be great, since the first buttonhole is coming up about 10 rows down the road. So, what I'm saying is, if I could have it by this time tomorrow, that'd be great. Sorry I'm giving you a quick deadline, but I won't bother to go find internet access Saturday or Sunday. Thanks. Love, Bethany

UPDATE: I looked them up online. It'd be great to have the glossary to see if they're the same, but I'm sure what I have will work, so don't feel pressured to do it tonight if you're short on time. JUST DON'T LOSE MY MAGAZINE WHEN YOU MOVE. :)
Love, Bethany

25 June 2008

It's Everybody's Favorite Time (Unless You Have Dial-Up)!

Photo Time! Whee!

I forget the name of this first one, but I know it's to the east, and the picture was from the bus tour we had upon our arrival in the city.

THIS is a gorgeous cathedral, Спас на крови, The Church of Our Savior on Spilt Blood. It was built on the site where Alexander II was murdered. It was finished in 1907, but built in an earlier style, modeling after another famous cathedral in Moscow. They were going to blow it up in the late 1930s and had gunpowder underneath it ready to go off, but then the second world war showed up and the found better uses for the gunpowder. It ended up being used as a morgue for a while, and also storage for vegetables, because it was cold inside.

This was taken inside the cathedral. Basically, everything you see is mosaics. (I feel the grammar's off at the end of that sentence, so help me if you'd like, but be polite.) There are 7,000 square meters worth of of mosaics.

I believe this was taken in Летний Сад, the Summer Garden. It's a beautiful park near the cathedral, with lots of statues (памятники).

So, you know how there's that whole stereotypical incredibly ugly sweaters that crazy old aunt Edna gave you for Christmas, and you have to grimace when you open the present and then feel like you should wear it when you know she's going to be around but it sits in the back of your ATTIC the instant her ride pulls out of the driveway? Well, similarly, this statue of Peter the Great was a gift. I'm pretty sure that's the only reason why it's still around and not melted into scrap metal. The hand looks a little like Señor Pettigrew, no? I'm not even going to mention this guy's head.

By the way, the people in this photo are some friends I met on the trip. Left to right: Ilya, Emily and Kalinda (and Peter the Great Pinhead).

I believe this is the cathedral inside Peter and Paul's Fortress (Петропавловский Крепость), which was last Thursday's trip.

On Sunday, we took a ferry out to Peterhof, which I believed I already mentioned as being like a Russian Versailles. The palace isn't that big (as palaces go), but the fountains are brilliant. I believe they were all Peter the Great's idea, though many of them were reconstructed or not built until years later. There are TRICK FOUNTAINS that spurt water sometimes (I think they might be triggered by walking on certain stones, I'm not sure). I love it when the elite has a sense of humor. Also, all of the fountains are natural (there are no pumps involved), since their source is about 90 meters higher than the ground at Peterhof. Along one section of path, there are 300 fountains that all go off at three times during the day, for about a minute. People stand out there with umbrellas (or without them) and get completely soaked. I stayed (dry) along the sidelines, but it was fun to watch.

Hee hee! It's Emma! And some other people that I can't identify from the thumbnail.

More pictures from Peterhof:

HEY LOOK it's Peter the Great again! With a normal size head!

Awww! (To Linden and Anna:) We're everywhere, guys! I think of you every time I see these, which is every day because they're on my way to school. I've decided that we spiritually inhabit all of the firecones in the world and when one of us (or anyone who knows us) is having a bad day, we send them happy, comforting thoughts through the nearest cones). An example: when some is walking down the main thoroughfare in St. Petersburg and guarding their bag, but catches a pickpocket trying to take something from a pocket (which was incidentally empty) below her bag and consequently less visible. Of course, she probably notices and makes eye contact for a few seconds and he shrinks back and never managed to take anything, but she feels a little shaken up, so much that after she goes to Дом книги (giant bookstore) to buy the first Гарри Поттер book (p sounds like r, give you three guesses as to what that is and the first two don't count), she doesn't want to take the metro home during rush hour and decides to walk home (which is long enough without that wrong turn she made back there). And she's wearing not the best walking shoes in the world. She kind of maybe needs a hug. And then she sees some firecones, and remembers that everything's gonna be okay. Not that that happened to anyone we know Monday or anything.

Aaaand, this is a bridge I cross (over the Moika) every day to get to school.

And this is my street (Pisareva).

And this is an artsier shot of a building on my street. Not my building, but the same side of the street.

Well, that's what I've got. Have happy afternoons.

23 June 2008

Not Much New Today

I'm still working on getting photos up. I'm not sure if it's better to post them directly on here, or link to flickr, or create an account on comcast or kodak and link there. I'll work it out, pick out some pictures, caption them, and have lots of cool things for you to see Wednesday.

As for this weekend - Friday night was an adventure. Not the best adventure, but an interesting one. It marked the end of classes for tons of students in the city, and so it really seemed like everyone in the city between 18 and 25 was out on Nevsky Prospekt (the main thoroughfare). My friends and I were out late, but we spent time at different places: We had planned to go to a club, but I got turned away, because I'm not 21. (We didn't realize there was an age limit, and it seems a little arbitrary since the drinking age is 18...) But anyway, most of the rest of the the group paid 200 rubles to get inside, so a friend and I (Grace) hung out at a Coffee House for a while, unsuccessfully trying to call her a cab. In the end, we all met back up, and things turned out pretty okay. There were SO many people, and they were SO happy (I think their good performance in recent football matches had something to do with it, too). So many drunk people waving flags and shouting 'Ros-si-ya!' It was amusing, to say the least.

Saturday, predictably, I spent most of the day knitting. Catching up on knitting podcasts (Stash & Burn, of course, and I'm getting hooked on Cast On). Watched an episode of X Files (The Field Where I Died, for some reason). Worked on the sweater.

Sunday we had an excursion to Peterhof. How to explain it...
Peterhof : St. Petersburg :: Versailles : Paris.
The fountains there are wonderful. I'll tell you more when I have pictures to back it up.

Last night, I wrote two essays for class today. One was really short, about our excursion to a gorgeous cathedral last week (again, I'll tell you more when I've got pictures). The second? The social responsibility of wealthy people. Hoo boy, that was fun. Fortunately, we're focusing on architecture for the next two weeks, which doesn't make me want to stab myself in the face quite as much as pure economics (not watered down with politics) does. Tonight's homework? Wander around certain parts of the city and locate some pamyatniks (statues). Should be interesting.

Also, I asked my grammar professor today about places nearby where I can buy buttons. She told me about a store that's not too far from Smolny. This sweater? It's going to be awesome. (Which sweater? That one I was really indecisive about and wouldn't shut up about for a month. Look back at April-May entries for further details, if you care.)

Kay, that's all I've got. I remembered to bring my power cord today, but not the adapter for the outlets. *Sigh.* One step at a time.

Actually, no, I have more. I will be in a new house when I get home! Here are some pictures.

My comments on the new digs:
(1) It's looking real white. I sure hope we invest in paint soon.
(2) There's a real fireplace?! Say it with me: Friggin' sweet!
(3) What is that oven doing so high off the ground? Intriguing, indeed...
(4) I can't see the stove. It is gas or electric?
(5) That laundry room ain't too shabby. It has cabinets!

20 June 2008

How To Reach Me Until Mid-August

I hope you all are well. I haven’t yet bothered to figure out phone cards or any such communications technology, so feel free to shoot me an email; I probably won’t call any of you up real soon. First name dot last name at oberlin dot edu. I hear we’re getting different emails when we switch over to Gmail (which is really soon). I’ll let you know when that changes.

Also, if you'd like to call me and have a good international calling plan, I can receive phone calls on my local cell phone for free, so shoot me an email and I'll send you my number.

Have lovely mornings.

First Week of School

So, how have classes been going? Well, they divided the American students into four groups based on langauge level. During orientation, everyone who wasn’t in the lower two groups had to talk to a couple of the professors, so they could decide if we should be in group three or four. I assumed I’d be in group three, as I assumed it equated to third year level of study (and I’ve completed two at Oberlin) and I really didn’t think I said that much that was complex or interesting in the little oral exam. My placement in group three, to me, was a no-brainer.

I ended up in group four.

First day, first class: conversation: let’s talk about economics! Hoo boy. It was difficult, mostly because it seemed like there were tons of words I didn’t know. I didn’t say anything in class. Second class: grammar: much better. I understood what was going on, and the professor is hilarious. Then we had lunch and the homework/film/game hour and then choir. I talked to a couple of the other students in group four (there were seven of us to start with; one ended up moving down to three), and they were having a hard time, too, which made me feel better. (I think the students who seem to be doing really well have either (a) had three years of instruction or (b) spent last summer and all of the last academic year at Smolny.) In the process of doing my homework the first night, I looked up about 100 words. Tuesday night, and tonight so far, was/has been a little better. Also, after class on Tuesday, I talked to the conversation professor, and she said I just need to ask more questions and ask them immediately when I don’t understand. I’ve heard that a lot the last couple of days, the ‘stop me immediately when you don’t understand’. It’s hard to do.

From Wednesday (I'm writing these at home and posting at school):

Today, groups three and four were mixed together, with two sections of grammar in the morning and phonetics in the afternoon. I’ve never had a phonetics class before, and it felt like a strange combination of a language class and the part of choir where the director teaches us how to say lyrics in foreign languages. I had a hard time thinking up questions to use to practice intonation, but overall, it went fairly well.

From (real) today (Friday):

The first politics class was today. I understood most of what the professor was talking about, and I think it's going to be a very interesting class, and a good fit, both interest-wise and language-wise.

Tonight I'm going to go put some money onto my phone so I can make some local phone calls, because tonight is a big celebration for the end of the school year (not for me, but for most of the rest of students in St. Petersburg), and tomorrow is Smolny's commencement. Should be fun. Now - I'm off to choir.

The other fun news:
My parents are moving! To Columbia Heights! While I'm gone! Our new house is going to be really white; I hope they get some paint up on the walls soon...]

Oh, and I'll post pictures later, when I have more time. They're on my computer; I just need to go to choir right now.

Very Important Question:

As I’m going about one of my favorite pastimes / procrastination tools (making playlists in iTunes), I have to ask…

Do any of you have songs in iTunes that have ‘Tuesday’ in the song title? I’ve got several songs on Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and three with Thursday and even one with Wednesday. Tuesday? 0 songs found.

If I say I feel like that means I need to write a song about Tuesday, am I channeling Jonathan Rundman? (You know, the whole ‘no one’s written a rock ‘n roll song about church committees’ thing, etc.) (Actually, many of you who read this probably don’t know about Jonathan, but you should.) Also, I need to figure out the best way of going about writing a song without a guitar at my disposal…

p.s. Some of you might remember how I was thinking about bringing my guitar with me to Russia. Some of you might remember that you thought it was a terrible idea. Some of you should know that Monday, in choir I had mentioned (when I introduced myself) that I played guitar, and later our teacher looked at me and asked if I had it with me in Russia, and she was disappointed that I didn’t. …I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.

15 June 2008

A Bit About My Host Family, and Some Other Things I've Been Up To

My host family is wonderful. They live in the Admiralty region, which is about a 20 minute walk from Smolny (so I’m walking to class, rather than taking public transport), not far from the Marinskii theater (which was mentioned several times in my Russian Theater as Revolution course last semester, and we’re later going to to see a production of Nikolai Gogol’s The Nose). My host parents are Sergei (a psychologist and singer) and Zhanna (an English teacher), and they have five children. I’ve only met one of the daughters so far, her name is Inna, and she’s studying music at the university. Besides Inna, they have two sons and two other daughters. I think the two I probably won’t meet are their twin daughters, who I believe are working as camp counselors this summer. It’s been difficult understanding them when they speak Russian so far, but I’m hoping that it will get better when classes begin tomorrow and we permanently switch over into using Russian all the time. Fortunately, they speak English fairly well, so if it really comes down to it, we can communicate.
Today itself has been quite exciting. I feel like I’ve been all over the city, and that’s probably because I have. I went on a walk this morning, across the Neva River over near Smolny. I didn’t get lost; I was proud of myself. Then, I figured out how to use the bus system. The students and some of the staff and the tutors got together for a picnic and some games in Tavricheskii Sad, which is on the same side of the Neva as I am, but would be an hour’s walk. The first time I got on the right busline, but going in the wrong direction, so I ended up at the end of the line. So I got out, walked a few stops on the route on foot and then got back on the bus again, which eventually got me to Tavricheskii Sad around 3. We were meeting at 2, so I thought I was an hour late, but I got there and they had postponed it to 4, so I was an hour early! If I’d gotten on the correct bus the first time, the trip there would have cost me 16 rubles instead of 32, but I figured it was one of the first times I’ve been on a bus myself, and it was my first transaction in rubles, so I did pretty well. We ate some food (pirozhki, chips, fruit, bagely-pretzel things, biscuits, cookies), and I played some frisbee and soccer. (Holy cow, if I played frisbee a little bit more, I could get better and that would be super fun times.) The director of the program (who reminds me very much of what Andy Barnett would be like if he was 32 and into Russia instead of environmentalism) kept talking about Oberlin kids liking frisbee so much. I wasn’t playing at first, but then I guess I started channeling the Oberlin spirit…

Then! I took the bus home and knit for a while and ate dinner. THEN after dinner, my host father and I rode around the city on bikes for about an hour, and he showed me many parks and statues and beautiful architecture, some of which I’d seen before, and some of which I hadn’t. Perhaps the best part was when we went past the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood. It looks a lot like St. Basil’s Cathredral (in Moscow; that’s the one with the all the colorful onion domes that I want to make into a silly hat series), and coming around it on the curved road into the sunshine was absolutely wonderful. I also appreciated this: I thought it was hard understanding my host father when he was speaking Russian across the dinner table. Try 3-4 meters behind him on a bike on Universitetskaya Haberezhnaya (a busy street along the Neva).

As far as adjusting goes, things are going pretty well. I didn’t have a hard time with jet lag really, for some reason, probably because I lost so much time, but also lost so much sleep in the process that I was ready for bed whenever. I’ve pretty much evened out, I think. Really, the hardest thing to adjust to is going to bed on time, and it’s not even the white nights that cause it. I think it’s the different mealtimes. Here, lunch is in the afternoon, probably between 1 and 3, and dinner is between 8 and 10. Breakfast is timed similarly. Consequently, there’s not that much time between dinner and bed. Maybe a couple of hours. In the U.S., for a student anyway, it can be more like five hours. It’s interesting. And speaking of bed, it’s 11:46 right now… tomorrow’s quite the morning.

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.

12 June 2008

holy cow you guys

What is going on in my life? Oh not a whole lot other than this GOING TO RUSSIA THING which starts tomorrow. Actually, the journey begins in about 4 hours, when I have to leave my house at 4:15 a.m. You're jealous, maybe, but not of that detail, I bet.

My feelings at the moment are a mixture of excitement and terror. My emotions leaving home are excitement and bittersweetness. As many of you know, during my two month stay in St. Petersburg, there's a strong chance that my parents might move. We haven't moved since I was three, so we've spent 17 years in this house, and there's a strong chance I'll walk out of it for the last time in four hours.

WELL. Let's get as much sleep as possible packed into those four hours, eh?

If you want a postcard, make sure I have your address. If you want a more substantial souvenir, then tough luck; that's up to my discretion.

I send wishes for happy summers to you all, and wishes that the rain might leave its recent victims alone and go precipitate on the drier areas in the rest of the country it's been ignoring.