Archive for March, 2011

JEN: Transportation in Russia

21 Mar

Hi Everyone!

Today I’m writing a little bit about, in my opinion, one of the most interesting aspects of life in St. Petersburg- Transportation. In Glastonbury, my experience with public transportation reached no further than taking the bus to and from school, which doesn’t really even count. Burlington was no better, I used the city bus once- ended up getting hopelessly lost and walking home anyways, and another time I took a taxi from the airport. Granted, I used to take a bus from Hartford to Boston to visit friends with some frequency, but that was easy all I had to do was get on and get off. No random stops or transfers- very straight forward. I’ve only been two New York twice and never used the metro. Needless to say, prior to coming here I was little concerned about navigating my way around such a big city!

St.Petersburg has many different methods of transportation, Metro, Tram, Trolleybus, Marshrutka, Cabs, “Gypsy Cabs” just to name a few.

Lets start with the metro.

Seeing as St.Petersburg was built over what was once a swamp, it comes as no suprise that it is acutally the deepest metro system in the whole world. The first metro station, Ploshad Vostannia, was opened on November15th, 1955.

Each metro ride costs 25 roubles, 50 for round trip. I have a metro pass, which I find much easier to use than tokens, because it is just a card you swipe at the tourniquet each time you get on the escalator down.

On average, most metro stations have about a 3-4 minute escalator trip down to reach the platform. Trains ususally come about once every minute and thirty seconds, so it really is a very efficient way to get around the city. Most of the time, it is easy to get on the car, find a seat and sit down for the duration of your ride, but during rush hour the same can not be said. Rush hour on the metro in St.Petersburg, both in the morning and evening, is insanity. The sheer volume of people trying to get in and out is unbelievable! Sometimes it is so crowded that you don’t even need to hold on to anything as the metro starts and stops, the people pressed up on all sides of you are enough support. A ot of the time, you get pushed off at different stops due to the sheer force of the people moving out around you. Culturally, Russians do not have as much of a respect for personal space as I have found in America. There is literally no way to avoid being extremely close proximity to other people during peak metro hours. It was a little disconcerting at first, but you get used to it quickly, it doesn’t even bother me anymore- I have just accepted is as a part of life here in St.Petersburg. I just bring along a book or my iPod and deal haha.

The metro opens at 6 am and runs until about 12:15. This can be somewhat inconvenient if you happen to miss the last train. All other forms of public transportation like buses and marshrutkas close earlier, so if you happen to miss the metro or just want to stay out later, your only options are walking or my next topic of discussion- taxis!

The majority of taxis operate the same as in the U.S- either call up a service and wait for them to pick you up or hail one down somewhere in the city. Get in, tell the driver where you’re going, pay and get out. Easy. However, cab fares are expensive in the city, so I prefer not to take them, I either get the metro or walk. St.Petersburg is also filled of what are commonly referred to as gypsy cabs. Gypsy cabs are just random people with cars who wait around main streets of the city, calling out to passerby, promising a cheaper fare. We were told never to take gypsy cabs during our stay here, and after hearing a couple of horror stories, I agree with this advice. I don’t know if it is the same for Russians, but I would feel extremely unsafe getting into a car with a random person, even if I had plenty of friends with me.

Bus: There are bus routes all over the city. Apparently once you figure out the system they are the most convenient form of transportation. I, however, can not manage to get a handle of the whole situation. I take one every Tuesday and Thursday to the university where I teach English and that is easy enough but besides for that, I don’t take the bus that often, I’m more of a metro girl. One bus trip costs about 21 roubles, roughly 80 cents- not a bad deal. The city is also full of trolleybusses which are the exact same thing as buses but electric- meaning they run along electric cables.

Marshrutka: Basically privately owned buses minus the person who sells tickets. The drivers do this all by themselves, making stops, doling and tickets and passing back change all while navigating the ever crowded St.Petersburg streets. Luckily I live close enough to the metro that I don’t really ever need to take the “Shrutkee” as we’ve started to call them for short. Kind of scary haha

So that’s just a little overview of how I get around the city…I’m almost half way done with my trip here! I can’t believe it, time is just flying by. This weekend I am going to Moscow- check back later for a post about my travel plans during vacation!

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JESSICA: Drip Drop, Lets Talk Water!

18 Mar

So much to say I don’t even know where to start! We almost ran out of water last week and I was afraid I couldn’t shower and I also went to the Dead Sea!

Water poverty- Jordan is the 4th poorest water country in the world. People here just don’t have much water and have to be super careful. Water is delivered on a weekly basis. When i first arrived my grandmother didn’t have water because she came to pick me up from the airport on delivery day, so she missed the delivery guy and got no water. Crazy right? She went to stay with my uncle for a week because they had water there. My aunt’s house where I’m staying has pretty good water, but we have to be careful. ( i.e. I shower every other day instead of everyday and take supper quick showers) We almost ran out last week because we had guests come stay with us, but we ended up being ok, thank God!

Most people here shower every other day or less. My neighbor showers once every 4 days- but she lives in a family of 5. I only live in a household of 3, so showering is much easier! I don’t think I could go that long without a shower. yuck. On average a person here will consume about the same amount of water in 2 months that an American would consume in a year. It’s all so strange. If your water runs out- you can pay to have your tank filled again, but it so expensive that most people would never be able to afford it. Most houses also have a pump in the ground to try to get water, but I really don’t know how affective it all is.

Also, the water isn’t always hot. Most people heat their water through central heating and electricity, but they usually keep it turned off and will turn the hot water on about 30 min. before they shower. This is because electricity is expensive for people, but it honestly makes life so inconvenient. I usually will have to plan my showers an hr ahead of time to make sure the water gets ready and people here will often wash dishes with cold water. Some people heat their water by solar panels above their house. A mirror is places on the roof to reflect light/heat and warm the tank. At least that’s how I understand it to work. This is not used very often in the winter because their is less sun, but can be very helpful in the summer, as it saves people from having to pay a higher monthly electricity bill. However, not everyone has solar heating because installing the mirror on the roof can be very expensive, but I think most of the wealthier homes have this. I’m honestly not very knowledgeable about how it all works, I just know it makes life hard!

The other interesting thing I wanted to talk about is my day trip to the lowest point on earth- the dead sea! It was amazing and beautiful to say the least. We went to a fancy spa/resort for the day and ate lunch there and just relaxed on the beach. I covered my self in the dead sea mud, let it dried, then went in the water. The mud is a natural exfoliate for your skin and you can find it at many spas. You can also buy a can of the mud for about $25, but it is so much better to just take a mud bath there. :) The water is amazing and so strange. Your body just floats to the top and you can’t control or stop it. The are mounds of rock salt all over as well. They kinda hurt your feet to walk on if you are near them. Some of the other people in our group cut their feet on the salt rocks. I got the water in my eyes and my eyes started burning from the salt. :/ It’s seems so strange that Jordan has this huge body of water and is still so water poor. They can’t actually use the dead sea to shower/drink/clean, but it’s a huge touristy attraction and serves for a great time :)

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JEN: Schedule in Russia

02 Mar

Hi guys!

Can you believe it’s almost the end of my fifth week in St. Petersburg? I definitely can’t- time is flying by so quickly this semester. Right now I’m in the library at school on a break between classes, so I figured I’d do a post about what I’m studying here and how my schedule works.

Every day, Monday through Friday I wake up at about 7:30, have breakfast with my host mom, get ready for the day and then commute about 45 minutes to Smolny Cathedral where I attend classes. Smolny Cathedral is home to the Saint Petersburg State University Center for Russian Language and Culture as well as the Faculty of Political Sciences. Smolny is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful buildings in St. Petersburg.

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