russia: day 4

i got up fairly late on monday, and there was some food on the table. (some kind of porridge, some bread, some cold cuts, cheese, and cup with a tea bag in it.) i wasn’t sure if it was all mine or if i was sharing it with the other roommate or what. so i ate some of it, then put the dishes i’d used in the sink. i then went to take a shower.
now, i should note there is a bathtub, a nice one, with jets and everything. but there is a metal tube coming off the water line that is maybe 3 feet long that goes to a hand-held shower head, and there is a mount on the wall about a foot or so above the water spout. (it’s the same kind of thing people have in the u.s. in their showers, but usually the hose is connected at a water line around head level, and the shower head rests in a mount at around that same level. this is about at the thigh to waist level.) and there is no glass doors or curtain or anything. so, in my mind, “shower” is an approximation to describe what this is. it’s a bathtub with a shower nozzle. or, perhaps better described, it’s a shower for gnomes. but, okay, i can make due. except once i got it started, i could not get any control over the water temperature. it was either scalding hot or ice cold, and sometimes all you could get was ice cold no matter what location you turned the water handle. so i tried to do the best i could, jumping into and out of the alternatively scalding hot and icy cold water stream. but i got it done.
i once again was not sure about how one goes about taking a bus here, so i walked all the way to the school. (it’s a few kilometers.) i stopped at a citibank on nevsky and used one of their atms. it let me withdraw up to 15,000 rubles at a time (~$500), so i did that twice. i went ahead and took a path that led me past the other deutsche bank location, but as i’d expected, i didn’t see any atm or bank building.
around 4pm i got to the school building and there was a person at a turnstile. i tried telling them i was registered for russian lessons, and after a bit they told me which office to go to.
i went to the office and tried to talk, but those people didn’t speak much english i guess. they got a different girl to come and help me. she spoke english. i told her what i needed to do, and she said she’d help me. she had me fill out a form or two, sign some things, photocopied my passport, etc. we talked about a bunch of different stuff: traveling, being in a country where you don’t speak the language very well, etc. (she’d travelled in europe and the u.s.) she said she thought i seemed nervous or unsure about things, but was doing okay. she said she’d had some girls break down crying at her desk because they were so overwhelmed (culture shock). she gave me two different papers and told me i had to pay two different bills, due to bureaucracy. the papers were basically deposit slips, so i would need to go to any cberbank and make the deposits. and i needed to now go to a different office and pay for some other stuff there. normally i would also take the grammar test, but it was too late in the day and the testing office was closed, so i’d need to do it the next day.
i went down a floor and to the other office, where i paid for the student invitation and them express mailing it to me. i then left and walked to a cberbank location the lady had told me they use all the time, so the cashiers would be familiar with students doing this. (there are cberbanks all over the place here.)
when i got to the bank, it was down some stairs, and consisted of a very small and narrow waiting area with about 6 or 7 cashier windows and an atm or two. there were some people in line, some people maybe in some other lines…or not, and some people who appeared to just be sitting around. i couldn’t really tell what any of the cashier windows said, i couldn’t really ask anyone what they were in line for, so i just sort of cut through and waited behind the line at a cashier window. no one yelled at me. after awhile i thought maybe i was at the wrong kind of window, so i moved to another, following a girl that was walking up to the window. as soon as she got to the window and started to say something, the lady slammed up a sign at the opening and walked off. guess it was her lunch break, or the end of her shift, or she just wasn’t feeling it – i don’t know. i decided to go back to the window i’d come from. i guess the atm broke, so then other people were waiting to use the cashiers. at one point a lady walked up, and i thought a guy was about to punch her, as he started yelling “hey! lady!” in russian and then i think yelling about how the atm is broken and she needs to get in line, not just walk up where ever. i was hoping at that point i wouldn’t be yelled at next, even though i was pretty sure i’d been in there longer than most of the people who now appeared to be in line. eventually the cashier i was standing in front of opened up, so i walked up, gave her the papers, she did stuff with them, then told me the amount i needed to deposit. i asked her to write it down, she smiled and did. i gave her the money, she did some more paperwork, handed me receipts, and i was done. i guess it was the right line.
so at this point i was now done for the day. i started walking, and ended up walking a different way than i’d intended, so i decided to cross a bridge to another island and walk by the stadium for the st petersburg zenit (zenith) football (soccer) team. i then went into a metro station. this was the first time i’d been in a metro station in st. petersburg, and i figured it’d have the same system as moscow. nope. the automated ticket machine wasn’t nearly as obvious about purchasing one or two trip tickets. i also had an odd amount of coins, so i couldn’t just get one trip with coins. i had a small 50 coin that i put it, but it wouldn’t take it. i couldn’t figure out why. i eventually saw a machine that said it took 100 rubles and gave back 4 something. i saw someone else use it, so i figured it maybe gave change. i put in a 100 ruble note and it gave me 4 coins. i looked at them and they were actually metal subway tokens. so that worked out okay. (i also later realized the 50 coin i had was 50 kopecks, which is 1/2 ruble. at 30:1$, 50 kopeck is worth about 1.5 cents. most places i go they don’t even put kopecks in prices, only rubles. i got on the metro, which was the purple line, took it to the blue line, then the blue line to the green line, and then got off at mayakovskaya near my house.
i walked over to an mts store near moskovskiy train station, thinking someone might speak english there. nope. however, i was able to explain what i wanted (a micro sim card with calling, texting, and internet), make sure it was right, verify the price, get a pin for the microsim slot to change out sim cards, pay, and say thanks – a successful transaction. i was pretty happy with myself. i then walked back to my apartment.
well, i meant to, but i walked too far. so i turned around. i hadn’t had anything to eat or drink at this point since breakfast, so i decided i would reward myself (and chicken out from going into any of the scarier / more ethnic looking places) by going to the “bulldog pub” – a “british” pub in the corner of the bottom floor of the building my apartment is in. i walked in and sat down at the bar and looked at the taps…young’s double chocolate stout, guiness, a kriek (thought it was lindemann’s, but turns out it’s timmerman’s) – i could like this place. of course, the bartender spoke zero english. i ordered a young’s double chocolate stout and just sat. i decided to ask if they also had food, or only beer and alcohol. he brought me a menu in english, and i picked out a plate with 3 different sausages with some hot mustard and spicy tomato sauce. he had to compare what i wanted to the russian menu so he knew what to order for me. they were delicious. then i had a timermann’s kriek (a cherry lambic) to finish it off. i was pretty happy with my choices.
i got back to the apartment, and i paid the landlady all of the money i owed her for room and board for the upcoming four weeks. the landlady asked me to please take a shower every day. (she later told me her and the other student – a russian girl – like a clean, nice smelling place, and the girl had said i’d kind of smelled when i showed up the previous evening.) of course, she also talked to me about what to do with my shoes, to wash my hands every time i come in from outside because of all the germs on the street, to spray some air spray every time i use the bathroom, to put the food back in the fridge if i’m not going to eat it all (i explained i didn’t know if it was all mine, or for the girl too), that i need to figure out something to do about my laundry because they don’t want it smelling up the place, etc. so she’s maybe a little ocd (like, in my experience, a lot of asian people (and ash) are …i’m guessing it’s cultural (except with ash…he’s just odd)).
in other news: to return a train ticket for a full refund (minus a small fee) you have to do it before the departure time, then the refund amount decreases until at 12 hours afterward you can’t get anything. i didn’t take care of it, so that money is gone. oh well.

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