ST. PETERSBURG – I took a boat tour on my last full day in St. Petersburg. Before boarding, I bought a huge bottle of beer for the ride. I’ve seen so many people do that and I wanted to follow local tradition.
“Beer!” said one man snacking with his family. Then he held up a bag “Fish!”
He insisted I join their boat picnic with dried fish and my beer. It was good and it kept me warm on the choppy waters. Later, we tossed bread at the ducks and seagulls circling our vessel.
“Box! Box!” he told me, indicating he liked watching the birds duke it out for handouts.
This city has been good to me. I’m grateful to the students, faculty and staff members who have made my trip unforgettable. In about 4 hours, I’ll board a plane and fly home. Soon, St. Petesburg will feel like a dream. As I walked around the beautiful cathedrals, art and canals, it felt like I stepped into a fairytale.
However, the history and people are real. I’m happy to be apart of the reality that is St. Petersburg.
ST. PETERSBURG – I need coffee in the morning. This has been true since my figure skating days and now on my early morning shifts in the newsroom.
The kitchenette and hot water pot in my hotel room have been a blessing on my two-week stay. I can start off my morning with a hot cup of coffee and a small breakfast of bread, sausage and cheese. I’m not a huge fan of breakfast, but my morning ritual helped me survive my lectures.
I like grocery shopping in other countries. It’s always a treat to see what other folks eat outside of the tourist zone. In St. Petersburg, I have learned to skip the extra fee for a plastic bag and use my backpack for shopping.
After class, I treat myself to a culinary adventure.
I enjoyed the savory sauce over the noodles, beef and white mushrooms at Terrassa.
ST. PETERSBURG — As a news producer, I’ve always ended up working on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. It starts like an ordinary day. Then I spend hours examining videos of memorials, flags, flowers and weeping families. I end up using “Taps” as some natural sound for headlines or for teases in my news shows.
By the end of the day, I am emotionally wiped out. That day changed everybody’s lives including me. The United States was vulnerable and my country sent my brother to Iraq.
He came back. Other military members didn’t.
This year in St. Petersburg, I had a lecture scheduled for the 9th anniversary of the attacks. I didn’t know what to expect from the students, the city and my temporary home away from home.
I didn’t expect to have a renewed sense of hope in the next generation of Russian journalists.
ST. PETERSBURG – After another day of hiking up and down the stairs of the Faculty of Journalism, I asked Pavel, my university host, about students in wheelchairs.
He said he’s been at the Faculty for six years and he has never seen a student in a wheelchair. He also said as far as he knew, there was no accommodation for disabled students.
“Is that the right word?” Pavel asked.
I nodded. “It must be strange for you, coming from the U.S.”
Then he added: “It’s Russia.”
ST. PETERSBURG – I am not competing with the fashionistas on Metro and in my classroom.
Seriously, I’ve been dazzled by the clothes and footware of Russian ladies and teenagers. Over the last few days, I’ve seen them wear beautiful shoes. Stylish ladies of all ages meander along around Bolshoy pr. and Nevsky pr. wearing stilettos, pumps and heels in a rainbow of colors.
I know I can’t walk far in high heels. At Susan’s wedding, traded my cute green shoes with the wooden heels in favor of flip flops. Stylish flip flops with beads.
I’ve left those flip flops in my closet because they just don’t cut it in St. Petersburg. Comfy but a little too casual for these sophisticated streets.
ST. PETERSBURG – It felt like my first lecture in Russia was appropriate for Labor Day since I highlighted the achievements of working American journalists at St. Petersburg State University.
“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” – from Labor Department.
ST. PETERSBURG – Thank God for Bailey’s. I nearly fell asleep at dinner last night. This sweet after-dinner liquor perked me up and gave me enough energy to explore the Historic Heart and the Neva riverbank with my hosts from St. Petersburg State University.
I could have spent my first day in Russia catching up sleep. Instead, I ignored my jet lag and walked around my new home away from home. Before sunset, I savored the beautiful, classic buildings and the colorful history of Peter’s “Window to Europe.”
Today – I’m trying to figure out how to say ‘Hello’, ‘Thank You’ and ‘Good-bye’ in Russian.
Next month – I will step up to the lecture podium and teach a journalism class in St. Petersburg.
One of my co-workers said she didn’t understand why I would need a passport and visa to teach in that city. Then she realized I was talking about St. Petersburg, Russia.
If it’s not obvious on this blog and on my Twitter feed – I love to travel. I’m also thrilled to have the chance to follow in the footsteps of Tchaikovsky and sample Russian food and drinks in what some people call the ‘Venice of the North.’