Saturday, September 26, 2009

First Day

I got up yesterday morning to register my visa at the university. I couldn't wait another day since it was Friday. It seemed like it took a long time to get light, but then it turned out to be a gorgeous day.

I knew roughly where the right department was because I had been there once to inquire. But it was the kind of situation in which I knew I was at the right building but could not figure out how to get inside. I went into one building labeled "dormitory" which looked familiar.

"Miss, how can I help you?" asked the receptionist.
"I just arrived yesterday and I'm here to study..." I said.
"So what did you want?"
"Do you need housing?"
"Then you probably want the department for foreign students. Go through the courtyard and turn right." +/-

Well, I searched for that courtyard. It seemed like the instructions were so easy. The first courtyard was locked and the second one was a residential complex, and beyond that I was already getting away from the university. I finally called my friend from Canada who studies there now.

It turned out that the entrance to the courtyard was IN the dormitory. All I had to do was go around the reception desk. And the secretary had watched me go the wrong way, out the door. Interesting.

So I went through the turnstile and down a set of stairs into a courtyard...the same one accessed by the locked gate. A girl was walking ahead of me and asked in perfect Russian if I knew where the international department was. I said I was looking for it, too. She said she was a foreigner, but I doubted it. I asked where she was from and said she was from Georgia (as in, the republic).

We went in and she asked directions, and I started to follow her. But the woman on duty said "Wait a minute...who are you?" And it turned out that I was supposed to talk to her first about everything. So she took my passport and migration card to start the registration process, and told me about the classes. I was to go to another address at 3 pm to talk to an administrator there. I still had about 3 hours...

In the meantime, I met my Canadian friend for tea, and then I went to visit my friend from church. Her mother was visiting from the North, and had made soup with deer meat in it. I guess that's venison? Except it wasn't a stew; it was more liquidy.

I had to "eat and run" in order to catch the lady at the Russian language department. Once again it was a treasure hunt as I had to enter a courtyard and find the right door. There were a bunch of American-looking students standing around outside one of them, so I took that as a cue.

I went around checking the doors for the correct room number and asked for "Nina Nikolaevna." I was told that she would be there shortly.

Pretty soon a grandmotherly-looking lady with a bun in her hair came down the hallway.

"Are you Nina Nikolaevna?"
"I am she," she replied. "I thought you might be waiting for me."

We sat down to have a chat. She took down my information, writing it by hand into a little notebook. I was instructed to visit the group lessons next week and see which ones I like. I almost liked being there as a potential student, speaking Russian. I felt like someone's pet instead of on the street when I am a clueless foreigner.

I stumbled home....actually, I fell once near a construction site. It was already 5 pm when I got home. That's a long day for having just flown across the ocean!

But, it wasn't over yet. Once we got my computer configured for the Internet, we took a trip to IKEA for some hangers and other organizational items. Now the books look nice at least, but other things are overflowing.

And that was finally the end of the day.

To make up for it, today was far less complicated, unless you count trying to fit all my odds and ends into the 3 shelves...


  1. This reminds me of my adventure of trying to find the Czech Airlines office in Moscow. I thought it was on ul. Tverskaya, but it turned out that it was on Tverskaya Yamskaya! Of course, I only learned this after I spent the better part of an hour walking in and out of courtyards, and trying to open locked gates. Glad to know that Moscow isn't the only city that has mazes :)

  2. Yeah, I think in the States it happens sometimes with street names, where people mix up "street," "avenue," etc.

    It's the courtyards that get me in St. Petersburg ...the number of the building refers more to a block of buildings, which may or may not have any relation to each other, and it's pretty hard to navigate the courtyards unless you have specific instructions.


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