Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Commutin' like a Pro (and pics!!)

We had an interesting lecture in our cultural class the other day that spoke to me. We talked about how some russians, sometime back in the 19th or 18th century I believe, purposefully misspelled words to seem modern or cool.... thats what I do!!! It was funny because the teacher asked the class if american youth does that and several people were like, "of course not, thats stupid!" and i was like "uh... I do, and so do my friends lol". One of the examples I remember, for all those russian speakers out there, is how they would write привет -> привед, the second one not being a word at all, but according to phonetic rules, being pronounced the same as the first one aloud. That is pretty much the exact same thing I do when I write "gewd" instead of "good" or "hai" instead of "hi". It was random but kind of cool to think people did it that long ago.

In terms of other things that are going on... there is not too much. School is going and going. Although it is starting to get a little bit colder. This week the average temperature is supposed to fluctuate between 3 and 7 degrees Celsius - so like mid thirties to maybe mid fourties (thats off the top of my head though) and it looks like there is going to be a good amount of rain.

My commute can be pretty tough sometimes, just the amount of time it takes, but I think it is kind of fun sometimes, experiencing a different side of the typical saint petersburg resident - the commute. To break it down - first I walk from my apartment building to the bus stop, wait for the bus, then take the bus to the metro station - the bus ride can range from 15 minutes (the fastest, no traffic) to about an hour (mega traffic, during rush hour) and I can be the only person on the bus (late at night) or I can be 1 of 200 people on the bus, which sucks because it gets super crowded and uncomfortable. On a day to day basis though, it is pretty chill, meaning like there arent TOO many people on it and it moves through traffic pretty quickly, on the way to class at least. On the way back from school, as long as I dont come back between 5 and 7, its manageable too. I actually made a friend on the bus the other day, this migrant worker who asked the lady on the bus - oh yeah I guess I should explain how in Russian there are people who work on the bus, a "conductor," who collects fares from all the passengers. They are not always there but most of the time they are. Basically they walk up and down the bus either taking money and issuing little tickets or scanning your metro card for fare payment. They also can provide directions and sometimes announce what stop is coming up. Anyway, so this darker-skinned fellow didnt know where he was going so he asked the conductor and she told him to get off in two stops; two stops later, the bus stopped and the guy didnt move. I leaned over and told him "this is your stop pal" and he smiled at me and got off. The next few days I saw him again and again and the third time, he gave the "whats up" nod, which was cool. Yeah so thats what i meant by "made a friend" :P

Next, I get off the bus and enter the metro station, now... the metro is saint petersburg is something special: for starters, it has the deepest average depth of any metro in the word. the deepest station is about 344 feet underground (to give a reference, the deepest station in new york is about 180 feet). rides cost under a dollar (regardless of distance, unlike in san francisco or in washington dc) and it is generally pretty convenient. What is not convenient is the volume of people that ride the metro during the morning and afternoon commute. It is PACKED and I mean packed. The most obvious examples are when buying a metro token (which I dont do particularly often because I use this monthly card) and when trying to get on the escalator. Oh yeah, so because the stations are so deep, the escalators are CRAZZZZY long and can take upwards of 5 minutes to go up/down, which is super long. Thank being said, you can usually entertain yourself by watching any of the 250 teenage couples making out at any given time. Also, I vowed to my friends that I would become the fastest escalator scaler in all of saint petersburg, and i have to say... I have gotten quite fast - keep in mind, that is only going down, not going up! The other day I actually got yelled at by the escalator attendant (not the most appealing looking job - literally sit in a person-sized booth at the foot of the escalators for 8 hour shifts) "NO RUNNING ON THE ESCALATORS!" which is also when, conveniently, my friend made the new rule that time only counts as a record if i do not get yelled at :(

ok so anyway, yeah if you go to buy a token when the stations are busy, it is pretty hectic. not only because there are so many people trying to by metro tokens all at once but also because russia has very specific and cryptic rules regarding how you stand in line for things. You have to know exactly where to stand in line (usually not right behind the person in front of you - which seems pretty logical to me - but to their side) and if you dont stand in the right place, you will actually get cut. I was actually in a cellphone store the other day, waiting in line for an attendant, and i guess i wasnt standing in the exact right place, so someone came in the store after me and cut me - at which point i said, "excuse me, i was in line" and they said "no you werent, you were just standing there" and the person in front of me, who had just finished being helped chimed in "you werent in line (to me) you were just standing there..." ... yeah that kinda sucked. I think I am getting better at it though, standing in the right place i mean. either that or i just for someone else to come and then go behind them as if i were them behind the person in front of them, if that makes sense. buying the token is pretty routine, go down the escalator, and get on a car, as long as its not rush hour...

if it is rush hour on the metro, depending on what line you take, it can be pretty difficult to (dont even think about getting a seat): a) get on the car b) get your entire body inside the car before the doors close c) push and shove people to barely make enough room for your body inside the car. Often times, it is so packed that shorter peoples' heads are literally pressed up against taller peoples' chests or backs, like pressed flat, full contact into the other person. For me it is usually ok because I am young and able bodied and a man but for some younger girls or older folks, they can just get swept away by the wave of human bodies, whether they want to or not and whether the wave is going where they want to go or not. the meanest, i have found, are middle aged, larger (meaning kinda fat) women.... they can be ruthless! they are the nastiest shovers down there, pushing, elbowing, throwing punches; these women will do whatever it takes to get on or off the car they want, and lemme tell you, if you are off balance or standing, already tired, with your feet close together on a vehicle moving 25 mph and a 250 pound woman barrels into you - you are going to get out of her way whether you like it or not! once on a car the metro moves pretty efficiently and pretty smoothly from stop to stop.

thats my basic commute each day though, and i am getting pretty used to it, even growing to like it.

alright thats about it for the day, sorry for the long pause in between posts, i will try and make something cool happen that then i just have to come home and blog about in the next few days :)

**oh yeah, i gotta talk about my internship, that is whats to come! stay tuned :D

Here are some pics while I have been walking around and what not :)