21 July, 2003

July 20, on the plane...

Early this morning, I was accosted in my hallway by some man who followed me when I was coming back from the opera. He grabbed me and pushed me into the elevator, and I thought for sure I was going to get raped on my last night in Russia. He kept saying he wanted an American woman, and he would NOT let go of me. I finally used the back of the lift for leverage, used his body to block the closing doors, and ran up nine flights of stairs to get away. He decided that was far too much work and didn't follow, thank god. I've never been so scared in my life, and I think I'm ready to go home now. We got stuck at passport control for almost two hours this morning, but they held the plane to Frankfurt for an hour so we wouldn't miss it. We walked on the loaded plane while all the other passengers glared at us, but we didn't care because we were going HOME!!!

I just decided to open my window - lo and behold, there is Greenland in all of its glacial, wild glory! It's incredibly, beautifully desolate; snow and ice blanketing craggy peaks shrouded in misty clouds. The sun is shining on unabashed - it's so bright, it hurts my eyes and I wonder why the ice doesn't melt. Four more hours to Chicago.

This has been the longest day in the world; we are chasing the sun back across the time zones.

Things I don't want to forget about Petersburg:
1. Hadley being attacked by the intentionally wayward elbow of some guy carrying stacks of carpet. All right in front of the police station.
2. My smoking spot in the stairwell and the tree stumps behind Smolnii.
3. "Я слон" graffiti in the second floor girls bathroom, written above a distended coat hook in the stall. It seriously looks just like an elephant.
4. The stray kitty who followed me around and made me feel better after freaky psycho Russian man scared the living beejesus out of me.

18 July, 2003

July 18, 2003

Larisa has forgiven me, but I still feel like a jerk about the party fiasco.

I'm on my way to my last day of classes at Smolnii. After class, we get our certificates and the celebration commences. The Salamander is gone! (The Salamander is the name of a store near the stop where I waited for the trolleybus each morning. Now all the lettering is gone, for some reason. The Salamander has left the building!) This is a sign that my sojourn here is coming to an end.

Our teachers have officially stopped caring about us. On Wednesday, our kino (film) teacher disappeared, leaving us with a movie and the room key. Yesterday, our grammatika (grammar) teacher left us with our exams, said she'd be back in half an hour, and then never returned. I could actually be in class on time today, but what have I decided to do instead? I'm sitting in front of the cathedral writing in my poor neglected journal.

Did I mention Hadley's host mom drugged her and tried to marry her off to the Georgian mafia? It was all very bizarre. Hadley is the youngest in our group, and her host family lives on the Petrograd side in a surprisingly lavish apartment. Vaulted ceilings, chandeliers, wood floors, fancy appliances, you name it. The typical Russian family doesn't have many appliances (5% of the population has a dishwasher), so we knew immediately that Hadley was living with a mafia family.

I spent the evening with her and her host mother (also named Larisa) one night. We drank vodka, toasted sporadically, and had a boisterously fun evening. Larisa kept telling me that my name sounded Japanese (Lindsey???) and I kept arguing "Я не знаю каратэ!" ("But I don't know karate!")

Anyway, apparently Larisa decided to play matchmaker, thinking: Hadley likes Russia! Larisa's mafioso boyfriend's 40 year old friend likes America! It must be love!

I've never seen someone as out of it as Hadley that day. We parted at about 3pm, planning to meet again about 5pm at some obscure metro station in the south of the city (Russian kids were throwing a party that night, and we were invited). I waited for her outside the subway station for 45 minutes before she finally stumbled to me from ACROSS THE STREET (not from the station) screaming "I'm married! I'm married!" At some point in the last 2 hours, her host mother and boyfriend had drugged her and tried to get her to sign some document of marital intent so he could get a visa. She ran away and managed to find her way to us.

If you've never seen a group of foreign exchange students shit themselves before, pull that trick and you'll see it happen.

All ended well, relatively speaking. Hadley hadn't actually signed anything and the school moved her to another host family for the duration of the trip (the new family are "real" Russians - dark apartment, no money). It was scary, but definitely makes for a good story.

10 July, 2003

July 10, 2003

I am currently avoiding going home because I don't want to see Larisa. She's going to know I had people over last night; I didn't intend to but it just kind of happened. Even though I kicked everyone out this morning and cleaned the apartment, I'm sure she'll still find out. Rob got sick in the stairway, and I ended up hanging out with two Russian guys, Vlad and George (George is Rob's roommate). This morning, Vlad and George came back demanding to know which one of them I liked better, and to see if I wanted to go rollerskating with them (???????). I was in the midst of my hard-core clean-up, and I just wanted the stupid Russians to go. Oh, and Rob tried to kiss me last night. AFTER he'd been sick in the hallway. It freaked me out, so I ran away, and then he locked himself in Larisa's room and passed out IN HER BED.

This is why people hate Americans. She's been nothing but nice to me and I'm evil. I cannot believe I let this happen.

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