From Russia with Love

This is difficult.

I knew it would be. Russian is a difficult language. I decided to study it because I wanted to be challenged, and I have not been disappointed.

Before coming here, I loved the idea of Russia. I studied the literature, watched the films, listened to the music – but nothing prepares you for the reality. Nothing is quite how I imagined it would be. Some things are better (Russians aren’t as scary as I thought!), some things worse (parts of the city are really quite run-down) – or so it seems to me, now, not really understanding the country or the people and very little of the language. According to Winston Churchill, ‘Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’. So far, I would agree.

Just over one week here completed, a success in itself. The first few days have involved a lot of Russian, various sights and museums (we must have walked miles) and some top quality people: I came to St Petersburg with Saul and Iona, and we have since joined Arthur, Alex, Nat and Kamila, all fellow students at Durham.

I am living with a lady called Svetlana, in a small flat near the centre of the city. She has grey hair, false teeth and lives in hospitable if a little unhygienic chaos. Over breakfast and dinner, she mainly talks (in Russian, of course) and I mainly listen, which suits me well – I am just happy she wants to talk to me, even though she often has to repeat herself or explain words I don’t understand. I don’t always know what I am agreeing to eat, or whether it is still in date, but on the whole the food is good.

Vova (short for Vladimir) is the sixteen-year-old host brother of Saul and is our part-time translator-cum-photographer. Although four years younger than us, he takes his responsibility of host very seriously, especially in terms of looking after members of the female species. Quote: ‘I man – I must’ (think suitcase at airport, not sitting down, enduring the rain). This attitude towards women seems to be a national trait – one that verges towards the possessive.

There are constant ups and downs, from the lessons in the morning to the intense conversations over dinner in the evenings. One moment I feel positive (yes, I can do this, I can communicate!), the next I feel as if I am blindfolded somewhere in the maze that is Russian. It is going to take a while until I feel comfortable here.

Thankfully, I have a while…


6 thoughts on “From Russia with Love

  1. Ahhh Bec well done for keeping at it, you are amazing – learning Russian!!!! Such an experience and such a LEAP out of the ordinary. The stories you will have to tell! Sending you the biggest RESPECT and pat on the back my friend. Along with cyber hugs for those difficult moments – you can handle all that Dartmoor has to throw at you, so I have every faith that you can conquer Russian too. Much love,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Rebecca. How lovely to hear all your news – sounds like a real adventure and one that will stay with you for life. I struggle with French so I can only imagine how difficult Russian is. What an amazing experience though – it is always good to actually see how other cultures live rather than just reading about it. No doubt the good days will outnumber the not so good days and you can’t ask for more than that. Look forward to the next update. Lots of love Mel xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Rebecca,fascinating to read about your experiences.We both think you are so brave! We look forward to more adventures.With love,Edward and Marilynx


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