Senin, 30 November 2009

I feel like a celebrity. Get me out of here?

I’ve always wanted to be famous. I don’t deny that I love being the centre of attention! I don’t want to be ridiculously famous, I think just being friends with famous people would suit me fine. But here in Moscow I’ve been experiencing what the celebrity life must be like…

As English speakers wherever my friends and I go we immediately become the most interesting people of the moment. We get stared at, pointed at and talked about everywhere. When we’re in a bar people want to talk to us. When we’re on the metro people stare at us. When we walk down the street people point at us.

If I’m fed up and having a bad day I do NOT like this attention. I just want to go about my daily business without being stared at like I’m some kind of alien. But sometimes I love it! Being the centre of attention just because of who you are is always fun!

One of my favourite places in Moscow is a cafĂ©/bar called FAQ. It’s made up of four small, cosy rooms and you have to walk through these little tunnel things to get to the next room. I’ve had two ‘celebrity’ moments in there: one bad, one good.

The first time we were sat in a room that is basically one massive sofa that goes all around the room. Me and my friend were just talking away in English and suddenly realised that everyone in the room had stopped talking and were all listening to our conversation. Someone said ‘Are you from America?’ (Standard. Everyone thinks America before England) When we said we were from England everyone started asking us all about England and we talked to them for at least an hour. I felt like I was being interviewed in a press conference. Loved it!

The second time was less fun. I was with two friends, one who I haven’t seen since June and I just wanted to talk and catch up. The guy next to us asked if we were English, we said yes but carried on our conversation. He then said to my friend (who fortunately is a boy – and so can protect us from any danger. Maybe.) ‘These girls are so beautiful. Do they have boyfriends?’ Sigh. Apparently not only did he think we were beautiful but that we were also deaf. We knew we weren’t going to get away from him no matter how much we lied. Even after telling him three times that we had boyfriends in England (major lie – but I’m getting to know my imaginary boyfriend very well. Russian guys really don’t give up) we realised that he wasn’t going to leave us and we just ended up leaving the bar. The trials of being a celebrity…

Still totally want to be famous though.

Jumat, 27 November 2009

Media Queen vs. Intellectual Scene

Before I decided to study Russian I always wanted to be a journalist. I decided this after I realised that my dream of one day being a member of Steps was just never going to happen, but that I’d quite like to be the person that got to interview them! All through school and college everything I did pointed towards me being a journalist – all my GCSE’s and A-Level choices I made with this in mind and I even wrote a couple of articles for the local newspaper. Then I went to Russia and made the crazy decision to do Russian instead. But my journalistic side never went away and over the last couple of years it has come back with almighty force! Being in Russia is making me think hard about what I want after university. Do I want to move back here? Do I want to do more Russian? Or do I want to go and explore journalism properly, that I didn’t let myself do at university?
I remember before I came to Russia and I was looking at all the journalism courses at universities. This is what I had dreamed of doing for so long but none of them were right for me! I remember looking at the other girls who were applying for them – they were all so fashionable, so pretty and so girly. That was just not me. I think I was scared that I would never fit into that world and was put off so many courses. Then the whole Russia thing happened and that made more sense to me at the time. It’s taken me two years and actually moving to Russia to realise all this! I’m not trying to say that Russian was wrong for me at all, I think Russian is definitely what I needed to do. I needed to experience doing something that I was scared of. I needed to experience not being the best in the class. I needed to experience life in another country. I needed to realise my love of journalism without doing a course in it. But most of all I needed to grow up and get the confidence I needed to be able to take the media by storm!
Being in Russia has been one of the things that has shown me just how much I love journalism and the media. One of the things I miss the most is being involved in the student paper and doing a student radio show with my friend! I also realised that the biggest things I’m interested in from Russian culture is their celebrities, television programmes, magazines, radio stations and music scene. Most people are more interested in the history and politics of Russia. I’m just not and never have been really. People assume that I know a lot about the history and politics of Russia, and most of the time I can fool them into thinking I am actually knowledgeable on these subjects, but the truth is I scrape through in that side of my degree every year. At the beginning of this term we had to tell our teachers what we wanted to learn about from Russian culture, I was saying things like cinema, music, celebrities and the others in my class were all a lot more interested in the academic side of Russian culture. I like the idea of being an intellectual, academic girl who can debate on topics like Russian Foreign Policy. But alas, the best I can do is debate whether How To Look Good Naked is better in Russia or the UK.
I’m trying to figure out how I can incorporate this into my degree and then hopefully be a lot more interested and get a lot better mark! I’m thinking of writing my dissertation on the differences between the media in Russia and the UK. I’ve bought tons of magazines in Russian and every time I read them I know I’m comparing them to their British counterparts!
And then we’ll see what happens after university. Russia? The media? Both?

Rabu, 18 November 2009

Recycling SADS

The topic of discussion this week between me and my friends in Moscow has been that of recycling. We have debates in one of our classes and this week the theme has been ‘the environment’. I realised pretty early on that recycling was going to be virtually impossible here. When I asked my landlady where I should put my glass and plastic bottles she laughed and said ‘You’re in Russia now’ and pointed to the bin. When I put paper, plastic and glass all into the bin with the other rubbish I die a little bit on the inside and can hear a voice in my head saying ‘It is YOU that is killing the planet.’ I’ve even considered saving all my plastic bottles and instead of taking clothes home, packing my suitcase full of bottles to recycle in England. But I think that might be a bit mad. There are machines on most streets where you can deposit your plastic bottles for ‘recycling’ but I’m not really sure where they get taken to! And so far I have seen no evidence of recycling bins anywhere. It scares me when I think of how big Russia is and how much waste it creates and therefore how much harm this is doing to the world. I’m not saying England has all the answers – but at least it has recycling bins in every home!

Another thing I’ve noticed the past week is that we have all suddenly at the same time become so depressed! In my Moscow guide book it says, ‘You don’t have to believe in SADS (Seasonally Affected Disorder Syndrome) to feel its effect during the long Russian winter. Anyone staying more than a month can easily get run-down owing to a lack of vitamins, and depressed by the darkness and ice.’ When I read this I laughed and thought how such a silly thing like the weather can affect people so much. But it really does! Now it gets dark so quick in the day, I haven’t seen the sun for weeks and everyday I risk falling over through the slush on the way to school. It is depressing. We’re definitely all feeling it and there have been a lot more tears and fed up faces over the past week. Sometimes it is completely uncontrollable – I was just talking to Anabelle about two of my friends who I miss so much and tears just started rolling down my face! I wasn’t even sad! I tried to stop it but I think we’ve all got to the point where we just need a really really good cry! Truthfully I am quite sad at the moment and so ready for a few weeks at home. But SADS will not defeat me! I am a strong, independent woman – nothing can hold me back! (Hmm. I still think I’m Beyonce) I’ve got exactly 5 weeks left which are going to go so fast – so the best thing to do is to enjoy them. Easier said than done; especially now everyone is running out of money so we can’t go out anymore. But with my new found addiction to Gossip Girl the weeks will fly by!

Kamis, 12 November 2009

Are we nearly there yet?

Remember when you were a child and going on a big journey and would constantly ask your parents, ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ I myself was an expert of this, I think my best one was probably when I was about 6 and we were going to France. We drove down my street, turned the corner and I said ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ Bet my parents LOVED that journey. Children only seem to do this on journeys when they are really, really excited about the destination. I feel like that at the moment I’m really really looking forward to getting to my next destination.

Yes the inevitable has happened. I’ve managed to hold it off for almost three months but the time has come... I MISS ENGLAND. I am so ready to come home now. It’s not like anything bad has happened here, I’ve just been here too long now and I’m starting to miss things a lot more than before.

I miss:
• Being able to get a taxi home at 3am alone without fearing for my life.
• Being understood by everyone.
• Being able to go to my friends’ houses anytime I wanted.
• Being able to invite people to my house without having to ask first.
• Being able to actually find what I want in shops.
• My phone contract. I HATE having to be on pay as you go here.
• Being able to watch TV without having to use my brain.
• Being able to make friends easily.
• Aldi
• Birmingham places: Subway City, Nightingales and Pizza Planet (!), Selly Oak!
• Huddersfield places: The Parish, Coffee Ev, Camel, Matt’s shop
• B1

Obviously the last point is the hardest right now. The other day I was so fed up and I just needed my mum and dad so much. I rung mum and cried at her for like an hour which I HATE doing because I don’t want her to worry. (So mother if you’re reading this DON’T WORRY – I’m fine!)
And I miss my friends so much. Of course I have friends here (who happen to be lovely and amazing) but I’m missing all those in the UK so so so much. Facebook chat is doing some overtime right now but it always crashes or people go offline or won’t send my messages properly. And it’s not real life. I want to hear people laugh when we’re having a funny conversation, writing ‘lol’ just isn’t the same!

I keep thinking about everything I’ve got to look forward to at home. I knew this would probably happen after the Beyonce concert! I was looking forward to that so much that I didn’t ever think about missing home… now everything exciting I had planned in Moscow has happened so the next exciting thing is coming home!!

I hope this post hasn’t sounded like one massive moan. That’s not what I wanted! I just want to be completely honest about my experiences and right now I’ve hit ‘missing home’ point.

The countdown has begun… 1 month 11 days. Just in time for Santa.

Jumat, 06 November 2009

The deliciously deceiving Reading Week – I haven’t read anything.

This week is reading week which fills me with giddy excitement as I’ve never had a reading week before (apparently studying Russian we have no need to read). But as everyone knows contrary to its title no-one actually reads on a reading week. It’s just half term. So I’ve always felt a little bit of anger that I don’t get this treat every term. But this term I do and so to celebrate we began our reading week in style… We went to St Petersburg.

Me and two of my friends suddenly realised everyone else was being super cool and going travelling in reading week. I don’t like being the odd one out so we decided last Tuesday to go to St Petersburg and to depart two days later. After a mad run to the train station, a 2 hour long queue and a very difficult Russian conversation we were the proud owners of train tickets. Next was an internet stop and we had booked a hostel. We were ready.

On Thursday evening we left Moscow at 8pm and realised that the train tickets we had booked were clearly the last rubbish ones left. Basically in the cheap section of a Russian train there are corridors full of beds – 6 in little compartments and then 2 facing them. We had managed to book the top bunk of 3 beds in a row… so were nowhere near each other AND had to figure out how exactly to get onto the top bunk (we’re in Russia, of course there isn’t a ladder). As we were the first stop on the train we just decided to steal all the bottom bunks and hope that no-one else got on. So obviously at 1am we were rudely awakened by some HUGE men asking us to get out of their beds. Oops. But here is where I got mad. It is polite on these trains for men to sacrifice their bed if they have the bottom bunk for any women who have been stuck with the top bunk. But they didn’t which annoyed me. If I am going to live in a patriarchy I want to take advantage of it!!!!! Apparently it is only a patriarchy here when it pleases the men (obviously). I’ve gotten used to having doors opened for me, my bag carried for me and just being treated more like a girl than I am by boys in the UK. Maybe it’s bad that I now get annoyed when men do not treat me like a woman? Patriarchy vs Independent women-ness. Not sure which is my favourite yet. ANYWAY. Rant over. So I actually managed (very unattractively) to launch myself into the top bunk. Probably my proudest moment of the whole trip.

We arrived in St Pete at 5am. Nice. The metro doesn’t open till 6am so we went and drank coffee then got the metro and managed to locate the hostel. When we saw our hostel our first thought was. ‘Oh crap.’ It didn’t appear to have any windows… they were all burnt out. But there was a corner of it that was painted pink and did have a few windows still in place. We went in that door and sure enough it was the hostel. Inside was quite nice to be fair. And the beds were comfy. Bonus.

My two friends went off to the tennis (they had come to St Pete purely to watch a tennis tournament. Losers) and I went exploring. I’ve been to St Pete before so I just wandered along the canals and went to see all my favourite places: St Issacs, Kazan Catherdral and The Church of the Spilt Blood. Then I met my friend Greg who is living in St Pete this term. He showed me his school and where he lives. It was nice to see his life there.

The next day me and Greg went to the Winter Palace. I think this is one of my favourite places in the world. Last time I went I was blown away by its beauty. Outside there are people that dress up as the old Tsars and charge tourists to take pictures of them. One of them came up and started dancing with me whilst shouting at Greg to give him 100 rubles (£2) to take a photo. I just told Greg not to take a photo and ran away. I’m not paying £2 to take a photo on MY camera (cheap Yorkshire roots coming through. My dad will be proud.) After I had taken about 2 billion pictures of the Winter Palace we went to get dinner and went out to a super cool club where they celebrate New Years Eve every night. S Novom Godom everyone.

Our final day in St Pete was just spent in cafes chatting and chillaxing before the train journey of doom home. We had a bottom bunk on the way back though so no unattractive launching was necessary. I love St Pete but the weekend there made me realised how glad I am that I chose to stay in Moscow for the whole year. St Pete is beautiful but I think I will always see it as a holiday destination, not somewhere to live. And the Moscow metro is superior to the Pete one by a mile (both in amazing-ness and size).

The next day we met up with some friends from Birmingham who are living in Yaroslavl this term. It was nice to show them around Moscow – although it made me realise I am the worst tour guide ever. I think my moment of glory was ‘There’s a statue of a man. Dunno who it is though.’ Genius. Should probably explore more of Moscow. Was nice to see my friends though.

And finally. Probably the best moment of reading week/Moscow/my life so far. Me and Anabelle went to see BEYONCE.

We were a bit excited. We had good seats but we got a bit annoyed because all the Russians sat around us were clapping politely like they were at tennis or something. No-one was getting up and dancing! We wanted to dance! There was loads of room left in the standing area so we decided to just ask if we could go in there (something that I’ve learnt from Russia is that everything is negotiable – less possible in the UK I think, although maybe I’m just scared of asking there) So we went and asked the woman on the door if we could go into the standing area. She said no. We said please. She said it was a bad view. So I screamed ‘Please! I just want to dance! I don’t care! Please just let me dance!’ in Russian. Badly. She could clearly tell we weren’t Russian. I think she thought that we had flown all the way there just for the concert so she said ‘OK, come with me’ and proceeded to bribe the man giving out the standing wristbands to give us some! Amazing! Me and Anabelle then ran screaming across the stadium and burst into the standing area, dancing our way to the front. Never have I been so excited! We got so close to Queen B. I love her. I want to be her. Forget Russian. I think my calling in life is to be Beyonce.