Growing Our Russian Souls

This week we have been propelled into the 21st century with the arrival of wi-fi in our room! Thankfully it hasn’t reduced our enthusiasm for exploring the city and meeting new people (#millenials) .

On Wednesday I met up with my Tatar pal to go see a Russian film called Жених (Fiancés). I was expecting the Russian equivalent of a Will Ferrel film and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Not only did it feature the Trololo Song, but it also carried a strongly patriotic sentiment. A German man is going to Russia to propose to his Russian girlfriend, and by chance he travels on Russian Victory Day (9th May), only to find his girlfriend’s crazy Russian family and her ex-husband…after the German man surrenders and is kidnapped by some crazy neighbours he eventually departs again for Germany with his girlfriend…but as his taxi pulls away she dramatically runs back down the lane into the arms of her Russian ex-husband. ~ Fin ~

On Thursday we had a speaking session with some friends, covering all the key topics such as Brexit, Tatarstan and what types of tea we like! Equally on Friday we spent some more time with Russian friends enjoying the ever-popular hobby of karaoke, with Issy wowing the crowds with Atomic Kitten’s ‘Eternal Flame’.

The weekend, however, was when we truly uncovered our Russian souls. On Saturday after lessons we explored an Orthodox Church and then felt inspired…to spend some money on religious wares. I bought my first icon which is now proudly positioned on the shelf above my bed; I still haven’t uncovered the exact meaning of it, but it features a heavenly women floating on a cloud above some loafs of bread. Heavenly bread woman spoke a lot more to me than the copious icons of judgemental bearded white men.

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Our beloved Indonesian auntie had invited us to a picnic on the Sunday, with a few of her friends from church. We were very much excited about this, not only because visiting a forest felt very Russian, but because we had been promised mushroom picking too (a task I would not pursue without someone much more experienced than myself!). We walked to a forest about 10 minutes away from our university accommodation and met up with Zhenya, Olga, Marina, little Vladimir, littler Masha and baby Katyusha!

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We gathered mushrooms, we sang songs as Joyce played the guitar, we started a campfire, we drank tea, we ate copious amounts of blinis… it was a wonderful day!

But it soon got chilly in the forest, and so we bundled up the kids and hurried back. However, I was off out again to go and see a film with some friends; it was a dubbed version of The Boat That Rocked, and it’s British sound-track, Bill Nighy and the sights of London made me pine a little for home. The strangest part was that it was a special screening room in the middle of a more or less deserted building; but after venturing up many dingy staircases we eventually found it! It was designed so that the screen projected the film on the ceiling and so we could kick back on the blankets and pillows provided.

I’ve now been in Kazan for a month, which feels like quite a milestone. I certainly feel at home here. Life, however, has not settled down; every day there is some new revelation, discovery or friend to be made (as disgustingly cheesy as it sounds). Choosing a city other than St. Petersburg or Moscow for at least some of my Year Abroad is proving a really rewarding experience, and Tatar culture is proving one of my favourite parts of living here. I can only hope that the next month is just as exciting, terrifying and bizarre as the first!

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