Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

04 Jul 2001, 1:35 a.m.

Row, row, row...down the Neva

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2001 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Recently, I've attempted to row a boat, sung patriotic songs, attended (in body but not in spirit) some Russian theater, and seen some Russian art. I guess I'm in St. Petersburg, eh?

Happy US Independence Day, y'all.

It's Wednesday, Weekly Excursion Day for our happy band. So we started out at the Russian Museum (it's the state art museum), which was better than I'd expected. After the Hermitage and Tsarskeyo Selo, I'd thought that I might be tour'd-out. But the guide was suprisingly understandable and funny, even. And I liked the art. Maybe I was in a more arty mood.

It's the Fourth of July here. So a bunch of us set off on a picnic on a nearby island. We walked a lot through some very picturesque areas, where we were the only foreigners in sight. I felt as though I had just stepped into some of the paintings that I had seen a few hours back. We had one Russian with us (a guest of one of my American classmates) who did not speak English. I was the only one to sing patriotic songs in honor of the Fourth of July. And translation...well, it just wasn't possible for some things. She seemed quizzically confused whatever we did and said, so perhaps it wasn't our fault.

Then we went over and rented rowboats. I have more geek cred than anyone in the group, I think, because I can't row. I have absolutely inadequate hand-eye coordination, and/or upper-body strength, and/or whatever else one needs to row a boat effectively. John did much better than I, and he, too, had never rowed before.

(In the interests of accuracy: we were not actually on the Neva, but on some lesser body of water that somehow connected to the Gulf of Finland.)

After all of this, I didn't have nearly enough time to go to the Russian Political History Museum, as originally planned. I just went home and changed clothes (from "Hi, I'm a tourist" t-shirt and shorts to "Hi, I'm a well-dressed tourist" garb) and scarfed some food and went to the theater.

The Maly Drama Theater is near some important Dostoyevsky landmarks. For example, one name of the metro station nearby is "Dostoyevskaya."

Katya and I went in and I really shouldn't have insisted on the better seat that I had paid for (and that someone else was sitting in), because I fell asleep almost immediately, and didn't wake up till ten mintues before the end of the 75-minute performance. Well, I only understood about a word per sentence! At least I don't think I snored. Too much. I also slept quite a bit during the performance last week of "Son Smeshnova Cheloveka" (a Dostoyevsky short story).

At least I only wasted 45 rubles.

Oh, and the woman next to me, after the performance, seemed to be saying that I had made a mistake involving my seating fuss. I meant to say, Prostitye (sorry). I instead said, Cprositye (ask me a question!). Oops. It's not as bad in my application essay, where I used "children" instead of "people." "I must learn from the Russian people...The culture of the Russian people...." sigh.

First published by Sumana Harihareswara at