The moment I got off the plane in St. Petersburg, I thought, why am I doing this? Why am I going alone to Russia to learn the Russian language? Why am I leaving my job, family and friends? I also think, I did not have enough Russian language skills to be traveling yet! The first few minuets in Russia are full of self doubt and confusion, and feelings of abandonment, as the group of American students from Yale University I met on the plane are now gone! They had each-other and their Russian speaking teacher. I was alone, on the verge of tears…then I saw her. Tatyana was young lady, a student sent to pick me up from St Petersburg State Economics University. I sighed, and my relief filled me with a comforting need to speak English! But Tatyana was peaking breakneck speed Russian and I was NOT about to default to English because I was tired or didn’t know the right way to say ,“can I stop for Starbucks?”
After I exhausted all the Russian phrases and pleasantries I knew with this ebullient student of English she told me that my Russian was better than average. Yes! Although it was a small victory, my confidence in why I came to Russia was back! Since being here I have encountered several situations that can make one feel like quitting. Classmates who make fun of your slow reading skills, waiters who don’t understand what you want to order. And my favorite waiting in line. Its not that there actually is one there is more people crowding around and jumping in front of you. I quickly learned that this can also be a chance for me to ask questions in Russian about how and where to pay for things. Its all so exciting and frustrating at the same time! How will this interaction with this person go for me today? I never know, it can range from being grabbed and hugged on the street by a Russian guy or being grabbed by the hand by a “Babushka” and told the price of pelmini. No matter how much I rehearse it seems, I still don’t understand what is being said to me as the reply! I have no choice but to try harder the next day, and everyday after that. It might be impossible to become fluent in only a month of being here, but my goal is to improve conversation, grammar and vocabulary through real life interactions with native speakers.
Thus far I have gotten used to traveling by subway and train, not without getting lost a few times! I have to say, there is something about getting lost that forces you to remember things critical to your surroundings. Now, I’d have to say I might know the Moscow subway station better than I know my way around some parts of Metro Detroit (I am utterly dependent on my GPS). In short, I cant wait to have more Russian adventures and get better acquainted with the Russian people and language.