Saturday (March 12) was a day filled with activities. Usually, a person would do one invigorating activity and be done with it. However, that wasn’t the case for me. In fact, I managed to do three activities in the same day. Why? Well, I’m not exactly sure. For some reason, my host family and I decided to go walking in snow shoes, sledding, and swimming… all in one day! To say I was ‘exhausted’ by the end of the day would be the biggest understatement imaginable. That being said though, I can’t lie and say that I didn’t have fun. I mean, I found it strangely hilarious to walk in huge shoes that allowed me to walk on top of the snow. And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t enjoy sledding? I know I do, which is why it wasn’t such a bad thing to get out of the house.
Sunday (March 13) we went hiking through the forest. This would have been fun (I like hiking) if it hadn’t been for the snow. Now, you’re probably wondering how bad it is to walk through snow. I mean, it shouldn’t have been that hard, right? Hahaha… wrong. First off, I’m in Finland. That means I am higher up on the globe and more likely to get snow/cold wind. Second, forests have a very bumpy terrain. There are several different heights, holes, streams, etc. Lastly, we left some very important equipment behind. What important equipment am I talking about? Well, do you remember those snow shoes that I managed in the last paragraph? Yeah, we were supposed to bring those with us. Actually, to be completely honest, we actually wore them at the beginning of our walk. After about ten minutes though, we decided that they weren’t necessary… That turned out to be the worst decision we could’ve made. I mean, I was almost convinced that there was such a thing as quick snow. Not quick sand, quick snow. Literally, every ten minutes I would sink into the ground and almost disappear. Apparently though, it was only happening to me. Maybe it’s because I’m from the city and am not used to things like that…? Either way, I had fun. Butttttttt, the next time I ever go hiking in the snow I will make sure that I’ve got all of the necessary equipment with me.
Then came the Russian tour!!! I included exclamation points because I can honestly say that this trip has been one of the most amazing experiences I have had during my exchange year so far.
Thursday (March 24) was a very early day due to the fact that I had to catch a bus at 3:20 in the morning. Other than that minor detail though, Thursday was pretty amazing… Well, we were on a bus for a really really really long time, but it was made better by the fact that it was filled with exchange students. That may not mean anything to most of you, but if you have ever been on an exchange you know exactly what I mean. When exchange students get together it’s practically a guarantee that you’ll have a fun time… I got a little off track. To be completely honest though, we might have had a little too much fun. Most of us were exhausted and just wanted to go straight to bed by the time we arrived in Russia, so that’s exactly what we did. Although, it wasn’t before we explored a little bit hahaha.
Friday (March 25) started off with one of the best things ever. I know that this might end up sounding nerdy, but I don’t even care! Have you ever heard of the Hermitage museum? If you haven’t then you should know that it is absolutely amazing. I don’t think it is even possible for me to describe what it was like. As some of you are probably aware, I’m a little on the curious side. Wellllll, maybe a better description would be “thirsty for knowledge.” I absolutely love to learn new things. So, my first reaction is to read/see everything I possibly can in a museum. To be completely honest, I don’t even think I’ve finished exploring the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago! Back to what I was saying though, I immediately get captivated in places like that. Sadly though, we were only in the Hermitage for a few hours. Can you imagine that? The Hermitage has 4 buildings and we had to walk through it in less than three hours… Although, I guess it could’ve been worse. At least I got to experience it and see the beautiful artwork.
The best part though, was that we went to another museum after visiting the Hermitage. I’m not exactly sure what the name of it was, but supposedly it was created with the items that had been gathered because they were ‘strange.’ And, strange they were. I can’t even begin to tell you how many weird things were in that building. That being said though, I have to admit that it was really interesting. I learned a lot about Native American tribes, African culture, Japanese celebrations, and many other things. It was like a blast into the strange, but unique past hahaha.
That wasn’t the end of our day though. Even after all of this was done, we still had one more thing to do. We had to go see a ballet. Now, I know that you guys probably don’t understand, but I was very excited about this for three reasons. First off, I was in Russia! How awesome would it be to be able to go to Russia and see a ballet production? Exactly :). Second of all, I love the arts. I might not be artistically inclined myself, but I love seeing musicals and arts shows. I find it very beautiful and creative. Lastly, and this is the most important fact… I had never seen a ballet before. Now, I don’t know how many of you have seen a ballet, but for me… I just don’t think it’s really all that common? Or, who knows, it might be something that most people have enjoyed at least once in their life; however, it surely wasn’t for me. Back to what I was saying though, we were able to see the Russian production of “Giselle.” And, though the storyline was a bit strange, I really really really enjoyed it. Hopefully, I can do something like that again.
Saturday (March 26) we went sight-seeing/on a guided tour around the city of St. Petersburg. I could write a lot about this, but I think I’ll just tell you the most important locations. First off, we went to a Russian Church that was still running. Due to the fact that it was in session and they still did sermons there, we had to be quiet and observe from the back (we also couldn’t take pictures). The strangest part though, was that the girls had to cover their heads. I’m not exactly sure what the actual reason for this requirement was but I figure it’s a cultural thing. Either way, it was really interesting to see how different their services were compared to the ones back home. Plus, the inside of their church was absolutely beautiful.
After this, we went and visited the really big, famous church in St. Petersburg. Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s this place.
Sadly, I didn’t have enough money to go inside and see the church. However, I was still glad that I got to see the place in person. I know I must say this a lot, but I still don’t think I have come to terms with how lucky I have truly been. I saw several of these places in movies and pictures, but I never thought in a million years that I would get the chance to see them. It’s just… it’s a little surreal.
… Maybeeeeeee we should stay away from the mushy/emotional stuff for a little longer hahaha. It tends to make me go on and on :).
Hmm… now that I think about it, we visited a lot of churches. I say this because one of the other places we went to see turned out to be a church. I’m not exactly sure how famous this place is compared to the one I just showed you, but apparently it is also well-known.
Yet again, we weren’t able to go inside and tour around the building, but at least we got a few good pictures hahaha.
Sight-seeing wasn’t the only thing that we did on Saturday though. We also went to go see a Russian Folklore show… To be completely honest, none of us believed that it would be a fun activity. In fact, I distinctly remember many of the exchange students saying that they were going to sleep through the entire performance. However, our assumptions turned out to be way off the mark. I’m not even sure what we expected from the showcase, but it definitely wasn’t what we got. Not only was the show interesting, but it was also interactive and eye-opening. I never really cared to learn more about Russia. It just didn’t seem like a high priority. After watching the dances and listening to the songs though, I fell in love with the Russian culture. I found it beautiful how the women would use big scarves to portray the emotion of the dances, or how the men could use a few signature moves to lighten up a room. I was so mesmerized that I was suckered into buying this really beautiful scarf… Although, I have to admit that I can’t find it in myself to regret my decision to buy this huge thing.
Sunday (March 27)… Our last day in Russia. Funnily enough, this day started off an hour early. Why, you ask? Well, while we were in Russia, the time was going to move ahead an hour in Finland. Can you guess what day that was going to happen? You guessed it, Sunday. This led to some of the exchange students believing that we had to set our clocks forward (even after we had changed them because of the change in time zones). Russia doesn’t do the daylight savings thing though, so they were wrong. They didn’t realize this though, so they went upstairs and woke everybody up. Now, you’re probably thinking that I was one of those people… but you would only be partially right. You see, my phone wasn’t hooked up to the Wi-Fi and it didn’t get the memo that Russia does its own thing. So, I woke up early and went downstairs to eat breakfast. The only reason I woke a few people up was because a bunch of people came running around yelling that we were all running late (while I was peacefully eating might I add). However, after checking my phone and looking online, I realized my mistake and told the people to go back to bed… But look on the bright side; at least we were all on time, right?
Wrong hahaha. A couple of the boys slept in a little late. I’m not sure how that happened considering practically everyone was woken up earlier due to the time change mix-up, but it did. It turned out to be less of a delay than we originally thought though because they were able to get downstairs in less than five minutes (has to be a record). After that we really just headed back to Finland. We made a few stops, but other than eating and doing a little shopping, we didn’t do much. Soon enough we were back home and ready to start the new week.
And that’s it :). I know this is pretty long, but I didn’t want to split this up into two posts.