So I am now 3 weeks into my stay here in Tomsk. Where on earth have those 3 weeks gone?! I’m not entirely sure how I feel about how quickly the time is flying past. On the one hand it’s great news as although everything is all very different and interesting I am missing some home comforts such as soft toilet roll that actually absorbs liquid (I thought this was fundamental to toilet roll’s usage, no?) and cooked vegetables. On the other hand, it is terrifying as I do not see a great improvement in the level of my language so far and I am nearly a third of the way through my time here. I have a recurring dream based on this fear of not being able to speak Russian approximately once or twice a week and I would very much appreciate it if this would stop.
I’ve found these past 2 weeks quite hard, especially my second week here. The first week was exciting and I never knew what to expect but after the first week ended I had to come to terms with the fact that I am not here for a holiday. It is not a brief spell full of going out and having fun, I actually have to go to lectures and get used to mundane day-to-day activities. You may be surprised to hear that settling into life in Siberia is not such an easy task. My second week was spent mainly bored as Russian students have lectures all day, quite often not ending until 8pm! This meant that during the day I was pretty much stuck with ideas of what to do. After my fourth day of moping around I channelled my Granny Bell and thought about what she would do. It may seem strange to channel a woman who was over 100 years old and had a slight memory problem but she said one thing that will always stick with me “What is the point in moping around and being miserable? It will only make those around you miserable too.” What a wise woman. So after those wise words made themselves heard to me I decided to come up with a plan of action! I am pleased to say that since that day I have been steadily carving myself a life out here. That week I searched around for some dance classes I could participate in and I got to experience a Russian Hip Hop class which was fab. I walked in as they were doing chicken arms which didn’t fill me with hope but it was actually pretty good fun. I very much enjoyed being able to do chicken arms in a hip hop style whilst trying to look cool and watching everyone in the mirror. It was an enjoyable hour. I have also scouted out several pole dancing classes which seem to be extremely popular here and if they make me as toned as some of the girls I have seen so far then sign me up!
After three weeks here I am still finding some things difficult to adjust to. For example, when jumping aboard a marshrutka (type of small bus) to find they are playing Abba or something equally as fun it is extremely difficult to resist the urge to have a little singsong. They are big fans of music here it seems with several sets of speakers blasting out music on to the main shopping street and Lenin Square. This obviously dates back to the soviet times when propaganda music would be played. I must say that whoever chooses which songs to play nowadays has questionable taste; when I am watching the sunset over the river I do not want to hear ‘Yesterday’ by The Beatles. It is also difficult for me to comprehend why my apartment block was going to have no water for 24 hours whilst they were doing repairs or why the authorities (who control the central heating) did not decide to turn on our central heating until it was 2 degrees outside and why it took me 2 hours to find a cafe to sit in to use the wifi because the entire main street of the city had a power cut. There is also a woman who finds it acceptable to ride a shetland pony around instead of using a bike/car/bus/normal horse! Little things like that are difficult to get my head around.
To leave on a high note – I thought I would stick out like a sore thumb here but apparently I blend right in. First it was my host telling me I looked Russian, then a man I met in the supermarket, then a man who I ended up chatting with at the fruit+veg stall who told me he didn’t believe me when I said I was English and said “Жизнь – спектакль”. Well I am not an actress and life is not a play mister. Let me buy my figs in peace.