Having been here for just over three weeks, it seems like a pretty poor effort to only just be posting my first impressions about my time here (and it is), however I hope you’ll forgive the lateness. The excuses are in some cases valid (a lack of internet followed by a mild brain trauma), and in some cases completely invalid (those of you who know me know that on the whole I’m pretty lazy, and I’ve also developed a surprising addiction to chess – watch this space!). Anyway, here are a few words on my journey and first impressions of Yaroslavl:
After a relatively straight forward flight (by my standards) from Gatwick to Moscow, I was left standing outside Domodedevo airport in Moscow looking for a car with a number plate ending in ‘76’ – apparently meaning that the car was from Yaroslavl and the right one to take me to my final destination. For the first half an hour, there was nothing – and then a landrover appeared with the desired number plate. Grateful that my taxi had finally arrived, I dragged my two cases over towards the car, only to see a man hurriedly get out, grab a suitcase and run into the airport before the car drove off. Turns out that there are more than 2 cars with a Yaroslavl number plate…
After another hour or so the right minibus arrived and we set off on the 4 hour journey to Yaroslavl. After the first hour I asked the lady sitting next to me how long she thought it would be before we arrived in Yaroslavl, and after receiving a lecture about the awful Moscow traffic, she assured me that it would be no longer than 3 or 4 hours. Content with her answer, I somehow managed to fall asleep, and finally awoke 4 hours later. Having looked at the time, I naively thought that we might be close, and asked her if we’d be there in a few minutes. She told me not to be so stupid, repeated her lecture about the traffic, and told me once again that we would be there in 4 hours.
Pulling up to a seemingly deserted, slightly derelict, apartment block and subsequently being kicked out of the taxi at half 11 with only the instructions ‘find flat 25’ from the driver, was quite perturbing. The taxi then left, and I was faced with five doors to choose from, all with limited lighting and very little indication about what was inside. Just as I was starting to play ‘eeny meeny miny moe’ I heard a voice call my name from the darkness, and my new host Ludmilla appeared to take me up to my home for the next four and a half months. In the light of day the next morning I not only worked out that adjacent to my room is a sort of balcony, and subsequently that I know live next door to, not one, but two beautiful orthodox churches, a nice change from St Petersburg.
Speaking of St Petersburg, there is a really different feel to life here in Yaroslavl. Having been told by many people that Yaroslavl is a ‘genuine’ Russian town, it’s been really interesting to notice not only the change in pace of life here, but also that on the whole people seem a lot nicer and more willing to help. I think that one of the reasons for the latter, is that foreigners are quite a rarity here. When out and about in St Petersburg, you could occasionally hear English, however here it is almost completely non existent. The language school that I go to in Yaroslavl is located in a normal Russian primary and middle school (the age range is roughly 5-15), and when we pass through the hallways everyone seems to scream ‘hello’ in a very thick Russian accent and try to shake your hand. Whilst mildly flattering at first, being a celebrity has quickly worn off, I now feel well placed to sympathise with all those constantly hounded by the paparazzi.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have found a wonderful group of Russian friends, and have also enjoyed a 5 star stay at one of Yaroslavl’s finest medical institutions – blog posts will be forthcoming on both over the next couple of days. Other than that I was thinking it would be quite nice to give you guys (all four of you that read the blog) a chance to ask me questions, either about Yaroslavl or Russia in general. I can’t promise that they will be answered, but I feel as though it would be a good way of prompting me to talk about things that I’ve overlooked! You can either pop them in the comments section or email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll hopefully get around to doing a post about them in the next couple of weeks.