Glamour, vodka, ice hockey, chak-chak…this week really brought together many images associated with Russia. “But, what is Chak Chak???”, I hear you cry. All will be revealed…
28th November: Treat Yo’ Self
After admiring my friend Emilia’s beautiful manicure, she swiftly put me in contact with her beauty therapist and on Monday I found myself lurking around a housing complex trying to find her home studio. I have had my nails done a few times in Russia already, because it is so cheap in comparison to Britain, but this was my first time getting it done somewhere else other than the main shopping centre. The beauty therapist, Elina, was SUCH a cutie. We ended up chatting about so many things, including her ex-husband, her new boyfriend in Moscow and her ~ relaxed ~ attitude towards taxes (I don’t think I should say anything more about this…!). It was really nice to simply just sit and chat away with her; it was a rewarding reminder than I can speak Russian, even if I sometimes don’t believe I have actually improved. The experience was topped off with a cuddle from her cute cat, who I had to take a picture of.
29th November: Tatarstan Treats
We were very excited about Tuesday, because our favourite teacher had organised an excursion with us to the Chak Chak Museum. Chak chak is the name of a Tatar sweet dessert, made out of oil, flour, sugar, eggs and honey. In the past it was only eaten at very special occasions, such as weddings, because it was hard to find sources of natural honey in the woods (with people being in competition with one another, and also with bears!). Nowadays it is much easier to make, and you can find it in any supermarket. We have been perplexed by this dish since we arrived; we tried it in our first week, and after the first bite we were not fans. It tasted like stale doughnuts. But, somehow…we found that in about half an hour we had devoured the whole packet. We were truly under the spell of chak chak, and had hoped that this museum visit would enlighten us. Our guide, who was dressed in traditional Tatar dress, told us all about the history of Kazan and how chak chak had been a part of Tatar life for centuries. We then, of course, got to try some chak chak as well as some other Tatar sweet treats. Sitting in a traditionally decorated room, drinking tea, trying on traditional hats…it was much more fun than sitting in a classroom! I’m still not entirely sure whether I actually like chak-chak, but at least I now understand it’s role in Tatar culture.
In the evening we set off to the ice-hockey for the final time. We bought some Ak Bars merchandise and eagerly took our seats. Luckily, they didn’t let us down, and defeated Nizhnii Novgorod 5-0! Furthermore, my favourite player, Justin Azevedo (the only Canadian player on an all Russian team; also, it’s funny to hear ‘Justin’ being pronounced with a Russian accent over the speakers) scored two goals! It was a brilliant way to round off my ice-hockey experiences in Kazan. I hope that when I am in Petersburg, the Ak Bars might play an away game there; at least, then I can get some more use out of my Ak Bars scarf!
1st December: Jazzy Evening
I have only broken the 10pm curfew of our student accommodation once, and Issy and I have sometimes felt that we are missing out on the nightlife of Kazan. We decided that we would try and come back a little later than usual with another Russian girl who lived in the complex with us. We hoped that she might be able to talk our way out of it, better than we could! And so, we all met up in a bar on Thursday evening and had a lovely time together. At 10:30pm we ordered the bill and gathered our stuff to go. However, two Russian guys came over to our table and were outraged that we were not staying for the Jazz Evening. They insisted that we stay, and before we could make a decision, they had brought some vodka and orange juice over to our table. They were soon followed by a group of four 30-something Finnish people on holiday, who also wanted to get to know us. More drinks were bought. The Jazz started. Our plan did not work, but we had such a fun night! When we did eventually get back home, we managed to slip past the main guard, and the guard at our building let us in, saying that next time she might have to write our names down…but she said it with a smile. We danced all the way back up to our room; we had finally managed to successfully sneak out!