Saturday, April 25, 2009

Vperyod Zenit! or: Too Legit to Quit!

I'm going to another Zenit match in a few minutes. One thing I forgot to mention about the experience last time is that when Zenit comes on to the field they blast "Simply the Best" by Tina Turner. In another bizarre nod to American culture of yesteryear, "hammer pants" are quite trendy amongst young ladies in St. Petersburg.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"Shalom, Y'all!"

This is the sign that greets you when you walk into the school's office. Can you tell I work with a lot of Texans?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


-pictures from my church's sunrise service. I felt sorry for the guys playing guitar; their hands must have been freezing!

Sunday was Easter (Paskha) here, but I started celebrating early by going to a Norwegian Easter dinner on Saturday night. It didn't start well: the directions to get to the house where the party was were 95% good. The 5% bad combined with my incredibly poor sense of direction (it's legendary, truly), resulted in me taking an extra two hours to get there. But it was all worth it. It was a nice dinner with some good friends. Very international: 2 Americans, 1 Franco-American, 1 Russo-Ukranian, 1 Russo-Tajik, 1 Brit, 1 German, and 1 Norwegian. 

I got home a little late from dinner and I was debating whether to go to my church's sunrise service. I was debating even more in the morning when my alarm clock went off and I wanted to go back to sleep for a few hours. So, I decided to look out my window and that if it wasn't raining/snowing, I'd go. It was beautiful; not a cloud in the sky. I decided to walk across my district since the sun was out to the meeting place for worship. I love St. Petersburg in the early morning; it's like you have the whole city to yourself and there is actually stillness in a city of 5 million people (if you get up early enough). The place for our service was on an island in the middle of the Neva River; on one side you have the old Winter Palace of the tsars and on the other side there is Peter and Paul Fortress and Cathedral (two of the most beautiful and iconic places of St. Petersburg). It may be mid April, but it still can be pretty chilly here (which I found out as I held the communion cup and wafer in my hand).

I walked back home with the intention of having a nice long breakfast and then a nap, but I arrived back home as my roommates were getting ready to go to the regular service and I thought, hey, it's Easter, and I was already awake... I'm really glad I went. It was a great time. I then went and had Easter dinner with an American family from the school along with a few other teachers.  I didn't realize how much Easter also meant "family" for me until this year being away, so I am thankful that I was let into this family for the day.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Petrovskii Posturing

Well, I returned from my adventure watching Zenit v. Amkar Perm unscathed (unfortunately).I guess the 50-75 Amkar supporters figured out they wouldn't get out of the stadium alive if they tried to start anything. The stadium, the Petrovskii, is about a 15 minute walk from my apartment. They are currently building a new stadium in a different part of the city. After being in the Petrovskii, I can see why; the place is quite literally crumbling. I grabbed a few pieces of the stadium before Zenit moves: cheap souvenirs. The game was pretty dull Amkar came for a 0-0 draw and they got it. Coulda used Arshavin, but, oh well. The stadium is about a 20,000 capacity ground and it's a very partisan crowd. During the game the different ends of the stadium shout to each other: "Vperyod Zenit!"("Onward Zenit!") is met with "Vperyod za Piter!" ("Onward for St. Pete!") Flares are still alive and well in the fan culture here, but, fortunately, there was an icy polar wind to disperse the smoke before it settled on the field and make the Americans watching shiver throughout the second half.

Because the Orthodox celebrate Easter next Sunday, yesterday was Palm Sunday, or as they call it here, "Pussywillow Sunday." Because of the notable lack of palm trees here, they've had to improvise.

It's about 9:30 PM here right now and I'm still able to read by the window with the daylight still remaining. In a few weeks I'm gonna be going to bed with it still light outside

Saturday, April 11, 2009

"I've got a golden ticket!"

Yesterday I went with a friend down to the stadium at the end of my street to purchase a ticket to Zenit St. Petersburg's home opener on Sunday. They already had one home game, but it was played behind closed doors due to some unsavory behavior from the fans last season. As we were standing in line to get our tickets, a scalper came up and was trying to peddle his wares. He told us how they only had tickets left in sector 6 (which is part away supporters and part home supporters separated by a line of riot police) and that we should buy his tickets in a "peaceful" sector. We'll make our own preparations, thank you, we said. So, we went and purchased our seats in sector 6 and I'm preparing to beat the living daylights out of any Amkar fan that thinks he wants to have a go. No, not really. Only if I'm lucky.

Monday, April 6, 2009

"Face without Citizenship"

Today was the day I received my official work visa and Russian ID card! It says "Permission to work for a foreign citizen/face without citizenship." I think I'm missing something in the translation.

Turns out I got a promotion: I'm now the International Academy ACT Lead Administrator, in addition to being the history department chair and, as of next week, boys soccer coach. I think I should get business cards printed up. I could probably think of a few more over-inflated titles to put on it.

I passed the weekend giving another round ACT testing (hence the "promotion") on Saturday and having a bunch of people over to the apartment after church and making tacos. It was really nice time with friends; mostly American, a few Germans, and even a Russian or two. It was also a great way to not think too hard about starting school again on Monday.

I watched the movie Doubt. I thought it was really good. I feel for Sister Aloysius. I also watched Into the Wild, which I also really liked. Here's a link to my favorite scene (it involves 2 actors in character with a gentleman clearly not playing a role but just being himself).

At one minute and 39 seconds you will see something incredible.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


"Paris in the Rain" - Albert Marquet

Today was the first Thursday of the month which means only thing here in St. Petersburg: free admission into the Hermitage! This also conveniently coincided with my spring break. So, I arrived at the Hermitage just after 10:30, when it opened. It was fantastic. No lines to get in the door, no lines to get tickets, no lines in the coat check. Russians simply don't get up early. Not even for free day at the Hermitage. 

In almost every room in the Hermitage there is an old lady that sits there and shouts at people if they get too close to a painting, are taking pictures without having purchased the photo taking ticket, talking on cell phones, etc... Anyway, in the morning, they usually mosey on over to their neighbor and they chat for the first hour until more people start showing up and then they go to their actual post. Of course, others just doze. I woke a few up when I walked into the room. It was pretty cool to have whole rooms of Picasso's, Van Gogh's, Renior's, Cezanne's, Matisse's, and Monet's all to myself. I left to go get some food and I noticed that there were two young ladies holding a bear cub in Palace Square. I guess you'd give them a few hundred rubles and they let you take a photo with it. One was keeping an eye out; I think having a bear cub in Palace Square isn't exactly kosher, although, I always see a guy there with a monkey. On cold days (most days) he puts a little sweater and coat on it.

I ran into a family from the school at the coat check at beginning. Also, as I was walking back to the metro to go home, I met a friend of mine, Nate, on Nevsky Prospekt. He was on his way to the Hermitage, but I convinced him to accompany me to lunch first. It was such a nice day (the first sunny day above freezing of 2009!), that we walked down to the Carl's Jr. toward the other end of Nevsky. Kinda makes me feel at home when I run into people I know when I'm out and about.