Despite coming from a family of die-hard ITFC supporters (I have often been warned that one of the worst things I could do is to bring home a partner who supports Norwich), I have never really warmed to standing in the freezing cold watching Ipswich snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Nonetheless, I was excited to go and see Rubin Kazan play Ural Ekaterinburg at the beginning of the week. We were told by one of our teachers that the team are named after rubies since it is a ‘beautiful, manly stone’.
I had heard stories about how rowdy Russian football matches can get, and was a bit apprehensive about what we would see alongside the football. However, after being searched twice and passing through a metal detector, we safely reached our seats. Thanks to Emma’s expert knowledge of football, gained through a love of Sunderland FC , I was able to follow the match and shout along with the crowd at more or less the correct moments. After every goal there was also a rousing routine of shouting out the name of the scorer’s surname three times in a row, which made the 3-1 win even better.
This week also saw my first ‘bribe’; I use the word carefully since it was not strictly a bribe in the traditional sense. The woman who guards the keys to the building where our room is (another example of some of the pointless rules and systems of Russian student life) pointedly mentioned to me that she collects foreign coins and so I gifted her a few pounds and pennies. Although I didn’t intend it to act as a bribe, she is definitely more smiley and friendly whenever I come into the building…
The rest of the week has been a rather repetitive routine of lessons, stoloviyas and still trying (and failing) to get internet working in our room. But the weekend has brought some light relief, visiting Park Gorkii (not to be mistaken for the famous Gorkii Park in Moscow). It was a really beautiful place, and I could practise my russian with my new Tatar pal whilst enjoying the national pastime of wandering aimlessly about and sitting on benches.
The park was also hosting an event called Peace Day, so we got to hear some interesting amateur Kazan bands playing on the stage there. More interestingly, this was one of the first times I had seen a place in Kazan which was actually busy; most of the streets and public squares in Kazan are pretty big, so wherever we go we are never really crowded. It proved to me that the best way to get to know a place is making friends with the locals!