This weekend began on Friday, I guess, which was cold, and which mostly consisted of me sending emails and trying to organize things from the comfort of my bed and otherwise forgetting that it was Friday.
Saturday was more eventful. Some of you may remember that the last time I was in Russia I had a little mishap with my snow boots and needed to go shopping for new ones. Those same ones of you may remember how unsuccessful that was. But because the snow boots I have at home and wore last year weigh approximately 20lbs, I decided not to pack them, in favor of buying some here (thus risking great trauma). And… surprise! Not all that traumatic. I asked one of the professors in the Foreign Language Department, Nastya, where I should go to buy shoes. To my delight, she offered to take me.
So we went around, and I learned that American snow boots don’t really exist here outside of specialty stores. I also learned that the concepts of “waterproof” and “insulated” as they appear in America aren’t really the guiding principles here. I also learned that real fur is a lot warmer than synthetic fur, and that wow does it ever feel nice to wear it. I felt kind of guilty putting so much animal skin on my feet during the course of the afternoon, but I guess that’s just what you do here.
Another thing I learned/should have guessed: Russians care a lot about how winter boots look. Actually about how all boots look. All the salesladies wanted me to wear over-the-knee boots that fit really snugly to my leg (sidenote: since when do they make boots that fit snugly to my legs, which resemble those of chickens? I thought I was doomed to a life of snow falling into my boots from the top). While I was tempted, when it comes down to it, I am American. So I chose flat, below-the-knee, comfy boots, which still out-style anything I’ve ever had in America.
After boot shopping, Vickie and I went out for tea and cookies. I don’t have pictures, but you have to believe me when I say that tea with orange/lemon/ginger/mint/berries in it is AMAZING.
Then we went home and made fancy dinner, including wine, the opening of which was its own adventure (we neither had nor could find in stores a corkscrew, so we tried using a knife, a key, and a lighter, all to no avail and to some detriment to our physical well-being. We ended up using a sharpie to push the cork into the bottle and figured we’d probably be okay).
Sunday Vickie and I went to an Orthodox service, of which I understood precisely three parts: “Lord have mercy” (which, luckily for me, was repeated about 300 times), the Lord’s Prayer, and “Amen.” –Okay, that’s not fair. Those were the only parts in Old Church Slavonic that I understood. The sermon/homily was in Russian, and that made sense.
BUT THEN. Okay, Sunday afternoon was the best, because we finally made a Russian friend (!!!). He’s a fourth-year student with excellent English and an excellent amount of patience with our stammering, stumbling Russian. He took us around town to see important things, like Lenin’s head.
We also went to Sosnogorsk, which is to Ukhta as Niles is to South Bend. That is, also a small town, maybe technically a suburb, but also its own place that you have to drive to. The only difference is that South Bend has prettier churches than Niles, whereas Sosnogorsk (the smaller town/suburb) definitely wins in that category.
And then we went to this dangling bridge place which was kind of cool, and also just drove around. Also there were definitely some moments when we were driving between trees on what did not look like a road at all, but luckily our friend’s car could handle it. Even when we got to this giant puddle/lake in the middle of the path, despite his claims that “my car is not a submarine,” we made it.
And then I came home and sat on my bed some more, because actually socializing for the first time in two weeks is exhausting.