There really is no end to the things that you can find in Piter (St. Petersburg). The other day, my host mom, Nina, took me to visit this thing that she kept calling (something) – island. I, foolish American that I am, thought that this meant an actual island. Oh no, my dear friends. This was basically like a part of Disney land in the middle of Russia. They had crazy rollercoasters and amusement rides everywhere. You know the kind – the ones that would probably not pass the safety test in America. They also had lots of little photo-op stations: characters from Beauty and the Beast, Baba Yaga and even an American Indian/Wild West station.
I’m really outrageously lucky in my host mom for a number of reasons:
- 1) My previous host mom cancelled at the last second. How on earth ACTR found a person at the last second is a mystery to me. I guess it really says something about the relationship they have with the host families.
- 2) She is an AMAZING cook. Simply amazing. I haven’t had the same thing to eat twice in a row yet. It’s like she’ trying to use everything in her repertoire.
- 3) She’s very talkative and outgoing. I can be outgoing, but, especially in Russian, it’s a lot easier for me to respond to other people’s attitude and questions than to spontaneously start conversation.
- 4) She’s extremely cultured. We have similar tastes in music (except her odd obsession with Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston*. And the fact that her ringtone is Usher). She’s already insisted that we go to the opera, ballet, etc. At night we read together (right now Evegeni Onegin) or watch movies together.
- 5) She’s extremely open to other cultures and doesn’t judge based on ethnicity or nationality. She’s actually said that she really likes Americans, American language (English with an American accent) and American culture. It’s such a welcome reprieve from the constant America-bashing one can receive in Europe.
Nina is hilarious and extremely “open”. When I first arrived, she told me about her previous two American students. The first had been here only for the semester, but they’d immediately formed a strong friendship. They went to the theatre together, studied together – basically became inseparable. I can’t tell you how many times she’s reminded me that they both cried when she left to go home or how many funny stories she’s told me about their escapades together.
The second girl basically stayed in her room and barely spoke to Nina at all. She’d go eat at restaurants and basically ignored Nina. It was made extremely apparent which of the two I was meant to imitate. But really, how anyone could manage to close themselves off around such a force of nature like Nina is beyond me. And why on earth would you want to?
*Seriously. She received a bonus not too long ago and spent almost all of it on a Whitney Houston concert. Apparently the movie “The Bodyguard,” starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, is (or was) extremely popular in Russia. She had her fully grown, adult son download the file and bring it to her apartment so that we could watch it on the computer.