First Week at Language School

5 October 2018 - First Week at Language School

Jet lagged out of my mind

During my first two days of school, I was utterly dysfunctional. I'd heard about jet lag before, but never really experienced it.

I could get up in the morning okay, but my mind was so cloudy it was difficult to think in English, much less in Russian. By late morning, I would get tired enough I wanted to just bawl. But then, about 1:00-2:00 in the after noon, my mind would start to wake up. By 2:30 when classes were over, I'd be lucid and feel much more able to participate the way I wanted to do in class. Then, I'd walk the 45 minutes home and crash on the bed.

Nights were weird.

Exhausted as I was, could hardly sleep those first two nights. I ended up realizing that 1:00-2:00pm Russia time was about 6:00-7:00 am my time – the normal time for me to wake up. I also realized that at 10:00 p.m. Russia time when I was trying to go to sleep, my body was acting like it was 3:00 pm back home – because it was! Duh...

It didn't help anything that at the end of the first day, a massive headache kept me awake all night. By the third day I started feeling much better.

A Fumbled Ball

On my second day, the teacher took out a small blue ball, like a racquet ball. She'd toss it to a student who then had to answer a question in Russian, toss the ball to another student, ask that student a question in Russian, and continue the game.

When the ball came my direction, being the pro ball player I am, I dropped it. As I bent down to pick it up off the floor, I said, “Не зантмаиюсь спортам!”. The teacher had to correct me on getting the ending just right, but the whole class laughed. As it turns out, everywhere around the world, in Spanish, in Dutch, in French, in English, in German, and in Russian, when somebody fumbles a ball, everybody's heard the time-tested excuse: “I don't play sports!”

Good Boy!

On my third day, I decided I was tired of walking the 45 minutes each ways to school in the morning. I took bus 49. That day worked out well... I got off at the right stop and made way to school okay, though I did get a little turned around.

On the fourth day however, I started to worry that I had missed my stop, so I asked the conductor in my broken Russian to help me make sure I got off at the right place. She couldn't understand me, and was maybe just a little annoyed that I was asking, but a nice lady next to me across the aisle and an older gentleman a few rows back spoke enough English to try and help me. They looked at my map and figured out where I was headed. It wasn't long before I knew exactly where I needed to get off again, and I was all set. When the conversation ended, the gentleman spoke to me with his thick Russian accent: "You... Russian... very well!" I said, "Учусь" - I'm trying! To this he responded: "Good boy!"

I had to smile! My fellow students got a good laugh out of it when I told the story in Russian during class.


On the second night, our host, Anna, fed us “gretchka” with meatballs, dill and potatoes. The word “gretchka” means “buckwheat”. It's a plain grain that is roasted and then boiled. Mix in some spiced meatballs and dill, and it's delicious! I made the mistake of adding too much hot mustard, but it was still very good. Needless to say, it cleared my sinuses!

Kasha with honey

Twice now, she's fed us what Russians call “каша” or “kasha” - oatmeal. In Russia, they don't eat their oatmeal with milk. They just put honey on it – not bad at all!

Eating Blini at the Teremok

Okay, I'm gonna have to find a Russian restaurant when I get home!

They have a fast-food chain here called “Teremok” (don't forget to roll the “R” like a real Russian) where they serve, among other things, something called “blini”. Start with a thick crepe, fold it four ways with some vegetables, meat, maybe some kind of dressing or spices inside, and you have “блини” - blini.

Russian Store Fronts

When I saw a “musical instruments” store I had to snap a shot for the website. It's difficult to see the store front through the traffic, but you can see the Yamaha and Casio signs in the windows.

I thought this florist franchise had kind of a fun name: “Flower Mania”. It made me wish I could send my wife some flowers right then.

Retired Naval Cruiser “Aurora”

Wednesday afternoon I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. I crossed the river headed away from the school and went to see a blue mansion-looking building on the other side. Turns out this is the “Azure Hotel”. While it is a smaller bed-and-breakfast hotel, it does exemplify the Euro-Russian architecture that is typical of St. Petersburg.

Across the street from the Azure hotel, at the bank of the “Great Nievka River”, there's a Soviet-era retired naval cruiser, the “Aurora”. It's been made into a museum and will be one of my must-see sites once I've seen the Winter Palace, Peter and Paul Fortress, Hermitage and Amber Room.


The burrito-looking thing is called “shavyerma”. It's actually a turkish thing that has become popular in Russia. It's a pita-like tortilla with shredded lettuce, carrots, chicken, and bacon, and a kind of cucumber dressing similar to what you find in Greek food. Wrap it all up and grill it, and that's “shavyerma”. Yummy!

Johnny Depp and a “Stolen Ship”

So, in order to practice our Russian in class, the teacher gives us exercises to have us come up with questions for each other and then answer them. In aneffort to make it more fun, she sometimes gives us goofy assignments. The other day, she gave me the assignment to role-play as though I were Johnny Depp. The other students in my group were to ask me what I did at work that day. So, I figured out how to say “I played the part of a pirate”. (Я играл как пират. “Ya igral kak pirat”) “I stole a ship.” (Я украд корабль — Ya igral korabl). Naturally, I also mentioned working in a chocolate factory. This of course drew some laughs from my classmates.

Bishop Ananich

In the middle of the week, I remembered that I really needed to make contact with the church here locally. I still don't have my phone issues worked out – I can't text or call local numbers on my phone because my carrier automatically puts the U.S. Country code in front of everthing. So I managed to find the bishop of the Shuvalovsky Ward on the Russian version of Facebook: VKontacte. I sent him a short note explaining why I'm in Russia and how I wanted to come to church. The next day he responded with some excitement. He said, “We'll be very glad to see you in our ward. Come on Sunday and we'll talk.”