Авария

I can gladly report that the levels of nudity between us guys has decreased immensely. Instead, fate had very different ideas for us this week…

Last Saturday we were invited to a concert at the Philharmonic hall celebrating ‘The Day of National Unity’. After sitting down in the auditorium, it became immediately apparent that this concert was a bad idea. Apart from us 3 English 21-year-old’s, the rest of the crowd comprised of about 2000 OAPs. The concert started with some traditional dancing, all fine, before moving onto the speeches from the local big shots. 30 minutes later I honestly thought I had been transported back into 1950’s Soviet Russia- ‘Comrades, Dear Friends, together we can make the country great! You are firstly citizens of Russia, then secondly citizens of the world! Etc etc…’ We sat squirming for a good hour whilst these ridiculously last century speeches indoctrinated everyone but us. Once the speeches had finished, unbelievably, it actually got worse. The concert was a 2 hour long mime-fest with some very questionable dancing.

That night we had been invited round to a friend’s house after we had offered to cook them some classic English food. Out of all the friends we have made in Tyumen, these are the ones that typify the ‘New Russians’- well-educated, friendly and well-travelled. We decided to cook them Shepherd’s Pie, fairly easy and tasty. However, upon arriving at the apartment, we discovered that there were only two pans. Miraculously, after about 2 hours of working away, everything went to plan and they all loved it.

Around Monday of last week we all had a sudden lull in enthusiasm for everything Russian and all became quite homesick. Luckily, before I took to drinking in true Russian fashion (vodka before midday), I received a receipt for a parcel. 7 weeks ago after hearing that I had lost some weight my worried parents send me a package of food, testing the postal system here. The Royal Mail optimistically estimated that it would take 4-5 days. LOL. Buoyed by the promise of some English produce I practically skipped to the Post Office. I pushed open the door and was greeted by the sight (and smell) of about 50 bored Babushkas; apparently it would have taken over two hours to collect my parcel. Plunged into a foul mood and muttering some of my finest Russian swear words I stormed back to the shithole that I call home and vowed to return at 8am the next day.

At 08:15 I sat down and enjoyed the sweet taste of victory. A jar of peanut butter and 2 chocolate bars that had traveled 2000 miles and taken an absurd amount of time had never tasted so good.

Things were on the up- my Russian was getting vaguely comprehensible and I was enjoying myself once again. On Thursday evening we had arranged to meet up with a friend. Yet, before this Iona and I went to a cafe. After sitting down she announced to me that ‘I’m not feeling too good.’ Boy oh boy was she right. I ordered myself a large sandwich, sat down and enjoyed myself whislt Iona had to keep running to the loo to throw-up. Food poisoning had finally struck one of us down.

Speaking of striking down… At approximately the same time, innocent, angelic Charlie McCloy was ambling back down the main street to meet us. Unbeknownst to him, a man from [Insert Country] had taken a disliking to him. Whilst standing on the traffic island in between lanes, said [Countryman] marched up to him, shouted something incomprehensible, then promptly twatted him square in the face.The man then ran off. Adding insult to injury, the stunned, shocked and utterly confused Charlie had to wait for a green light before even being able to nurse his injuries.

I am glad to report that, apart from his pride and an impressive black eye, he is absolutely fine once again.

On Thursday, Izzy Linacre, a friend from University, posted this link on my Facebook page with the comment ‘Weird, weird country you have decided to live in’:

Fate really is tempted easily… Last night we went out with a couple of friends for some beers, one of them was the designated driver so he didn’t touch a drop all night. The bar we went to closed at 12 and so we decided to get some more beers from a supermarket nearby. The seal had been fully broken, so en route we stopped off by a roundabout and all piled out to relieve ourselves. We walked about 20 metres from the car, and began our business. Mid-flow, there was an almighty bang from our car and a large cloud of smoke from nearby it. We ran back to discover that another car had spun off the roundabout and ploughed into the front, driver side of our car. The other car was halfway up a large bank of snow and in equally back condition.

The Police arrived miraculously quickly, especially considering that we are in Russia. The man who’s car had spun off slowly got out of his car and started giving it some lip. He was absolutely battered. There is an absolute no drink-driving law in Russia, so it was pretty obvious that this guy was in trouble. He at first seemed to be resigned to the fact that he had been caught and was in the shit.

However, as is always the case here, it didn’t end there.

Our friend who had been our driver decided to get a picture of the culprit. Of course, the culprit didn’t take it so well and so he started swinging for him. The Police rushed in to intervene and so instead of stopping, the drunk pillock started having a go at the Police as well. Bad idea. The Police officers, already renowned for brutality in Russia, got out there cattle prod-type taser and proceeded to electrocute, kick and rough-up the felon.

All the while Charlie, Rob and I stood part-gawping, part-reveling in the utter absurdity of the situation. Just another day in Tyumen…

Our car:

On the plus side, as you can see, we are loving the snow:

Деревня

I thought that the blatant homosexuality of last week’s Speedo’s incident couldn’t be topped. I was wrong.

Last weekend we were kindly invited to a Dacha, a country house for you non-Russophiles, by a girl we met from University. Sadly Iona wasn’t able to come as she had to teach, thus it was just us three guys, and Alexandra of course.  We were meant to meet at midday, fresh and ready to board the train, however we naturally went out the night before… We decided to have a couple of pints and relax, as is always the case, the easy night out rapidly spiralled out of control. We found an Irish bar (in Siberia?!) and the rest is history. Rob and I arrived over an hour late, yet Charlie, in a feat greater than climbing Mount Elbrus, woke up 4 hours earlier than necessary to meet with an acquaintance.

We all managed to board the train and the journey to Piorniskii passed without incident, apart from Charlie dying mid-journey (see picture below).

After the two-and-a-half hour journey to the town, we then took a taxi to Pionirskii, a village 110 kilometres from Tyumen. Before this trip I genuinely thought that Tyumen was the middle of nowhere, a dot on the map of civilisation, however after seeing this place I can safely say that Tyumen is a beacon of the Western world in terms of modernisation. The village was also pretty damn scary. We arrived on the night when everyone was celebrating Halloween in Tyumen (not in the village of course- far too American) and it was a full moon. Likening the village to a cross between something out of The Chernobyl Diaries and The Hills Have Eyes is quite fair.

Saturday evening we went to the communal village Banya. A Banya is probably best described as a Sauna and a communal washing area combined; it is a big tradition here. The following guest passage is Rob’s account of out trip to the Banya:

Баня

‘We left the dacha and set out for an evening bathe down at the local bathhouse, or for all you Russophiles, the banya.  It was a full moon, and thanks to the absence of street lights, the stars were out in force. We walked through the village and a few mud roads later and there it was: the sacred banya. Not much to look at if I’m honest; a simple wooden hut, much in line with the rest of the village. As usual in Russia, there was no sign, or indication that this building was indeed a banya. There was only a poster, stuck to the side of the hut, reading “Beer Festival 2008”. Perhaps it was some cryptic message? Beer festival; beer; banya? 2008? Who knows? “See you in two and a half hours!”, our friend Sasha said, as she pushed us through the doorway. Two and a half hours? Just what did this wash entail exactly?

We found ourselves in a relatively empty room, painted a nice shade of lifeless green. On the right side of the room sat a babushka, behind a desk. She was busy sifting through some spreadsheets and didn’t notice us come in. Apparently business at the banya was doing well enough to warrant spreadsheets. On the left of the room there were two doors, one for men, the other for women. We turned our attention to the babushka, who was still yet to acknowledge us, when suddenly a loud guffaw erupted from the behind the male door, followed by shouting and general loud conversation. The room filled with sounds, all coming from behind the male door. We stood, staring blankly at the male door: the roar of Russian voices punching their way through its thick metal construction. A double tap of her pen, and we all turned around to be greeted by the stern stare of the babushka. Her spreadsheets all in order, she was now ready to receive us. 

Looking up from her desk, the babushka eyed each one of us up in turn. I ventured a smile, her face didn’t even twitch. She met my eyes with a cold stare, and grumbled out the price. We paid the woman; she handed us each a bouquet of tightly wrapped reeds. A complimentary selection of herbs, perhaps?

Bouquet in hand, we shuffled over to the bellowing male door. I caught sight of Tom, his face was pale, his eyes shone with bewilderment. Were we really going to go in here? Was this really happening? I grasped the handle, the door shook with the noise from inside. I pushed and the door creaked open. Silence. Pairs of eyes lay firmly fixed on us. A moment of hesitation, and we stepped further into the room and proceeded to undress. 

Meandering around the banya were around eight or nine old men: washing themselves, talking with each other and occasionally looking our way – all of them completely naked. Me, Charlie and Tom undressed down to our boxers. We exchanged glances, it was time. No words were spoken, but we knew what had to be done. We knew. We slid them off and there we stood. Naked. Our peripherals were full of other men’s penises, our minds were cloudy from the heat of the room, and yet one unceasing thought lay at the forefront of each of our minds, one perpetual anguish, a constant worry which flickered in each of our eyes. Do not get a hard-on.

Into the washroom we went. Now naked we seemed to have formed some sort of special pact with the Russian men, who now came across as friendly and helpful. One old man took an extra special liking to Charlie, and took him into the steam room directly. After some slight hesitation, me and Tom followed suit.

The sight that met our eyes was truly something to behold. Poor Charlie stood bent over before an old man, being whipped mercilessly with a bouquet of reeds. The old man’s enthusiasm was surprising. I mean he was really going for it. Gobsmacked, I took a front row seat next to Tom to watch the action. A look of concentration was spread over the old man’s face, drool spilling out of his mouth, he fervently whipped Charlie’s back. Charlie stood dead still, paralysed by the sheer abnormality of the situation. Well at least he was finally getting some action. Another old man, parked himself next to me and began whipping himself. Me still sitting down, he towered above me. His body was covered in black hair, and his penis was firmly at my eye level, only inches away. He began thrashing himself with reeds, groaning as he did so, his shrivelled genitals swaying menacingly. 

A few thrashings later and the two hours were already up. We got dressed and retired back to the dacha for a debriefing and pancakes (блинки). I myself felt strangely satisfied: a feeling I can only liken to the one experienced just after having sex. Sitting there on the sofa, listening to “Тёмная сторона луны” (Dark Side of the Moon) on vinyl (who’d of thought it?!), an aura of accomplishment hung over us. It had been an evening of bonding (read: bondage), both with each other, and with ourselves. As the last crackling sounds of the record faded out, we softly fell into a deep sleep. At ease with the world, and safe in the knowledge that the emotional scarring we had endured that evening would be with us for the rest of our lives.’

Robert Phillips (Intern at TyumenandbackagainCorp.)

The weekend in all was great fun; we tried lots of Russian food, experienced the beautiful countryside and felt recuperated for the week ahead.

This last week has been a combination of meeting up with Russians in various bars, lessons and James Bond. Oh yes, I have so far watched Skyfall (or Skiifauuill as it is pronounced here) twice, in Russian of course. I would definitely like to see it in English when I return just to be sure that I did actually understand it…Whatever the case may be, I know that Daniel Craig can rock the hell out of a suit. Check out the Russian trailer here:

Turning to the romantic side of things, or not so romantic as is so often the case. I have still not yet fully comprehended the carpet cleaning incident of last week; maybe it was a genuine mistake? Maybe she really did forget what time it was whilst she cleaned that damn carpet? Everyone knows how easy it is to do so… Not.

Nevertheless, over the last week I continued to chat via text and everything seemed to be back on track. I invited her out to the club on Friday- her answer? No can do I’m afraid, I have bought a kitten. We went out anyway without her, and tried to meet some new girls. The best response from a girl was to Rob; instead of even speaking to Rob, she simply held up her arms in a cross. I haven’t seen such a brutal put down for a long time.

The start of November we all agreed that this month was going to be a good one- back on track with the fluency drive, and back on track with the Russian girlfriend. I wasn’t going to let a carpet-cleaning, kitten-buying girl get in my way. This week we were invited to come and chat with some students of a different University- the University of Culture and Music, aka dancers (winky face). We went there with high expectations, and intending to come away with a plethora of girl’s numbers. The quality was distinctly average yet both Charlie and I spotted two girls who we liked. Charlie sidled up to his girl and started chatting about the accordion (she was an accordion player), all went well except he claimed he also played the accordion and then simply didn’t ask for her number.

I went for a more a direct approach, ‘Hi, Can I have your number?’. And her quick-as-a-flash retort? ‘Nyet.’

Short, sweet and crushing, my favourite type of rejection.

Восхитительно

Since the last post there have been, as usual, a considerable amount of fun moments and the odd awkward moment. On Saturday 13th we celebrated Rob’s 21st Birthday at ‘Coyote Club’- a club loosely based on the film Coyote Ugly. The only actual similarity to the film is that girls danced on the bar whilst the men stared gormlessly at them. Standard Tyumen.

The night started well: we invited a couple of girls we had met to join in the celebrations and began by pre-lashing in classic Russian fashion on vodka (when in Rome). The club was, of course, great fun after the vodka and proved to be a good place to finally get somewhere with a girl. As is usually the case, the Dutch courage needed to muster a move proved to be both mine and Charlie’s downfall. Again.

Iona took Rob back at half 3 after he celebrated a little too much in the loos. I set about about trying to charm Anastasia whilst Charlie flirted with every other girl in the club. Charlie can’t remember exactly what time he left and I can’t remember leaving…

The next day we didn’t feel so fresh, however, a successful night all round and the buds of romance finally starting to blossom for Maccers and T-dog…?

On Monday we had a toned-down celebration for Rob’s actual 21st. After hearing of a  place in Tyumen that did Indian food, we set off for ‘Buddha Bar’. To say that it did Indian food was the overstatement of the century: in the menu there were pages of sushi dishes, and one ‘Indian sushi roll’- aka a deep-fried sushi roll. That Rogan Josh is going to have to wait… Even calling it a Bar was outrageous, we were the only people in the place (I think they actually forgot we were there at one point- turning off the music halfway through our meal). Adding insult to injury, after asking for a second beer each the waitress informed us that were only two bottles left in the entire Bar. Wow.

Despite the lack of everything we set out for, the sushi was decent and we had a good time. The rest of the week flew past in a blur of meetings, dates and lessons.

On Saturday 20th we were invited to the local football match, FC Tyumen versus Dynamo Kirov. The level of football on show was hilarious. It really was sinfully bad. Despite having not played football in three years, I genuinely back myself to start next match at centre forward. I’ll update you on how that one goes…

The level of football was not the only unusual thing: The stadium is a massive, brand-new structure and yet only a quarter of it was occupied; There were also as many police officers as supporters- from walking into the stadium to sitting down we were bodily searched on three separate occasions. All very strange.

There were a lot more people in the crowd I promise:

On Sunday we left the lights, glamour and razzmatazz of Tyumen City Centre to go to the ‘Hot Springs’ in the countryside. However, none of us had swim trunks, and none of the shops in Tyumen sell respectable, non-paedophile swim shorts. Thus, we Speedo-ed up, and did so in style. In my opinion (and I’m sure the opinion of anyone who saw us), the 3 identical, mid-blue banana hammocks made us look like a world-class water polo team on tour from the Caribbean. Needless to say I’m joking, however, we all agreed that Speedos are both liberating and aerodynamic- they may very well return to England with us. (winky face ladies LOL). The Springs were actually very relaxing, despite turning us all an Essex level of orange from the iron in the water.

One of the gayest pictures of all time, greatly helped by how limp Mccloy’s salute is…

After the Hot Springs, I had arranged to meet up with Anastasia again (the girl who was posted on my Facebook wall so kindly by Charlie and Iona…). At 9pm we were going to go for a walk and go to a cafe.

At 9 I waited by the agreed spot. And waited. And waited.

I could’t believe it. Had I, Thomas James Reynolds, International Playboy and Man of Mystery, been stood up?! How was it possible?! I returned to the Hostel a shell of a man, mystified, (perhaps a tad more modest) and waiting for a valid explanation.

The valid explanation never arrived… Her reasoning for not turning up..? She had been cleaning her carpet and lost track of time. CLEANING HER CARPET?! Unless she lived in the Palace of Versailles I can’t think of a carpet that would take longer than 10 minutes to clean. It was, without doubt, the worst excuse I have ever heard of. Back to square one then…

Пьяный

It has been quite a surreal week and half- full of ups and downs and a real spectrum of emotions. In this post I shall talk about the two most memorable parts of the week and a half (not sure as of yet if they’re highlights or lowlights though), ‘Nefteparty’ and ‘Iskra’.

‘Нефтипарты’ (Neftiparty) is a twice yearly student night organised by the University. Despite being told by numerous people that it wouldn’t be a good night, we decided to go.

We hadn’t been out properly in two weeks, the Hostel was rapidly becoming a prison and cabin fever was definitely starting to set in. Utterly bored of the same, tedious meals (think poor quality sausage, eggs and pasta in a variety of terrible combinations) and the same scenery, we all got far too excited and decided to buy a large bottle of vodka. We may have drank a little too much…

I woke up the next day and had absolutely no memory of the night.

Comparing the night to The Hangover is probably quite fair: Numerous people have since added me on V Kontakte (Russian Facebook), rang me and, far more embarrassingly, stopped me in the street and had a chat. Normal behaviour I agree, however, I have absolutely no idea who these people are. One guy asked me when we will go bungee jumping together. Another asked me when am I going to invite him to Manchester.

2pm the day after the party Rob woke me up, ‘What happened?!’, he had no idea either, nor did Charlie or Iona. I woke up to discover a number of strange things. Firstly, for some reason we had decided to cook a pan of tomatoes, yet we didn’t eat it. My coat had a large mud patch on the back, as did my jeans (still no idea how or why). At least I had my coat though… Charlie woke up without his coat and, of course, his memory of when he lost had it. In utter bits the next day he managed to call a taxi (ridiculously hard to do here) and go back to the club. Sadly there was no sign of a jacket and so the ‘mystery of Charlie’s jacket’ continues…

The picture which, for me, sums up the night is one of Charlie. Dishevelled, vodka stains on his T-shirt and yet utterly triumphant, for some reason he has forbidden me from putting this photo on here…

The second ‘highlight’ since the last post was ‘Iskra’, a youth club. What went on in the hour whilst we were there still hasn’t sunk in. To set the scene: It’s 7pm Friday night; tired, hungry and grumpy (I get very grumpy when I don’t eat), we arrived at a concrete monolith of Soviet Architecture. About 20 of us sat in a large circle, then a man started playing the guitar – desperately trying not to burst out laughing, I started to become worried that we had joined a Soviet youth movement. I wasn’t too far off the truth.

After introducing ourselves and after I, once again, had to play the bloody guitar, we had to talk about how we ‘share energy’. After understanding next to nothing, we had to play charades in groups (see video for Charlie being a hoover LOL). It was an utterly absurd, surreal experience, and I can safely say that I will never go back.

In other news I think that Charlie is soon going to be enlisted into the Chechen army after deep talks with a soldier from Chechnya. Iona has been ridiculously cultural – she saw two ballets in two days and Rob celebrated his 21st birthday last night – details of which to come in next week’s blog.

The most disgusting looking meal ever?:

And it snowed here too, winter is coming… It’s not normally as grim as this picture I promise.

Кутить

Firstly, apologies for not posting sooner, the last two weeks have sped by. Far too much has happened to tell everything so I’ll write about the highlights.

For the past two weekends we have explored the varied nightlife of Tyumen. Our first club was ‘Gorky’, and we happened to go on their ‘dirty dancing’ night, oh boy. I didn’t actually realise that this event was taking place until a bunch of strippers started getting their kit off on stage (see club pictures for proof: http://anrelax.com/files/gallery/2383gorky1509_2012photo/060.jpg ) and yep, they were all pretty bloody disgusting. The actual club was good fun and as we are the only foriengers for 500km we were given free VIP passes and a bottle of disgusting Russian Champagne, lucky us! The highlight of my clubbing experience in Tyumen so far, however, has been watching how Russian men dance (no homo). Comparing them to Gorillas on heat is probably a better description. It seems, unlike in England, the quicker and more vigorously one moves, the better. For example, in one club we went to the Russian man who was jumping the highest and waving his hands the most had the most girls around him. Watch out ladies, I’ll be bringing this type of dancing back to Bristol…

The Monday after we went to Gorky Club, still slightly hungover, we were taken to see the University ‘Prorektor’- the equivalent of a Deputy Vice-chancellor in UK Universities. The people who were looking after us failed to mention this until 5 minutes beforehand so, looking slightly dishevelled and in some badass tracksuit bottoms, I set off to see one of the most serious men in the world. Not only did we meet half of the University’s management, but a photographer and press officer were there. For half an hour we chatted about the differences in the Universities (eg. in one people study a variety of topics, in the other the only degree is Oil and Gas…) and had our photos taken. 2 days later, we were big news in the University: http://www.tsogu.ru/news/university/obmen-jazykoznaniem/

Life in the Hostel is progressing: I still don’t have proper internet after a month (still using Hussein’s), Iona has a mouse in her room and Charlie is still afraid to ask his Chechen roommate about politics. Our lessons are comprised of grammar, comprehension and pronunciation. According to our teachers our Russian accent is so bad that almost every word is incomprehensible. Hence, during the lessons we spend much of our time shouting one word ten times over with differing stresses, none of which is apparently correct. 

The following weekend we went to an event situated 30 miles from Tyumen, where it turned out we were to perform in front of 200 people. We were part of ‘Interklub’, a University society comprised of foreigners that we were forced to join (the vast majority of which are from Tajikistan…), and as English we were the main attraction. We were all supposed to catch the bus at 9am on the Sunday morning, a time we felt was optimistic to say the least and, surprise surprise, Charlie and I both missed it. Horrifically hungover we managed to arrive at the place 3 hours late.

Nevertheless, we took part in the show and came Second. Charlie told a terrible joke that got far too many laughs and I played Wonderwall on the guitar whilst Iona sang. After the show had finished the three of us were mobbed by throngs of girls asking to have their picture taken with us. As Andy Warhol famously said, ‘everyone will have 15 minutes of fame’ – this was ours, and it was bloody awkward.

 Continuing the update on how Charlie and I are progressing on our quest for a Russian girlfriend: We have met a lot of girls. Girls here are much more forward and yet much more traditional than girls in England and it has taken us a bit by surprise, however the tricky part is narrowing down. Both Charlie and I currently have a favourite so we shall see. It is a far cry from Bristol… 

Боже мой.

Moscow proved to be everything we expected. It is a city that never sleeps, never stops drinking and never, ever lets pedestrians cross the road. It is bloody mental. Whilst we were there (2 days, 2 nights) we saw four car crashes and a drunkard get run over. Nearly every road has over six lanes, and cars (mainly the Oligarchi) drive at insanely high speeds. Our two nights spent there were very different: the first was a crazy night out at ‘Propaganda’, a deep-house underground club that only served double shots, we got to bed at 10am. No surprises, the next day was spent part nursing the hangover in Gorky Park and part dreading the internal Russian flight to Tyumen…

Much to our amazement (disappointment?) the flight was better than most short-haul European flights.

We had arranged to meet ‘Dmitri’, the head of international students for the University , at arrivals in Tyumen. We arrived, we waited. And waited. After 45mins we managed to find his number and rang him- it turns out that he had ‘forgotten we were arriving’. Not only were we arriving but we didn’t have a clue where we were or where we were going. A great start…

My first impression of Tyumen was pretty much what I had expected: the majority of buildings are deeply average, some are very modern for the 1990’s and some are literally wooden shacks with corrugated iron roofs (just think Borat.) The shops here are all very similar- on every street, without fail, is a supermarket, a chemist and a shoe shop. All very strange.

Our accomodation is the best available and yet, in our initial room, the taps either didn’t work or wouldn’t turn off, the bed mattresses would have been considered moderately comfortable when Stalin died, and the shower (calling it that is quite the compliment- a tin box on legs is more appropriate) is a surprisingly difficult balancing act at 8 in the morning. After 6 nights in the ‘luxury rooms’ we moved into nicer rooms with fluent Russian speakers: Iona is with ‘Ninja’ from Mongolia, Charlie is with Mohammed from Chechnya (LOL) and I am with H.

Our Russian, however, is progressing nicely, helped by some very enthusiatic conversations with bonkers Ruski’s on the street/ in shops/ in the accomodation. On the plane to Tyumen I read the latest Russian FHM and learnt a number of incrdibly useful words (naked, worthless, trench coat, loo seat and ROFL- sadly yet to use any of them in conversation).

Charlie and I have set each other the challenge of getting a Russian girlfriend (Elena, our lecturer in Bristol, said that it is the best way to learn), I will be updating this challenge on the blog as it progresses. So far?…Not so good. The girls here are very hot indeed, however until we start our lectures getting to meet them is proving difficult. Tonight may help though- it’s our first night out in Tyumen. All very excited to see what the Big T has to offer but after a few people have asked ‘Are you not scared?’ we’re a bit more apprehensive than we would normally for a night out…

I still don’t have internet here properly (Russian bureaucracy) but it will hopefully be sorted soon so I can Skype everyone (Hi mum) and start putting pictures up.

And so it begins…

The waiting is finally over. By 3.50pm on Wednesday, I will be arriving in Moscow Domodedovo Airport alongside 3 other Bristol University students (Charlie, Iona and Rob), ready, excited and no doubt a tad apprehensive to begin my Year Abroad. We will begin by spending 2 nights in Moscow; taking in the sights as well as the famous night-life…

Packing for the first chapter of my Year Abroad (4 months of Siberia) has proved a challenge- how on earth do I keep warm and toasty in temperatures that reach -40 with only 20kgs of luggage?

My solution has been:

a) To buy anything and everything that was available in the North Face shop. Bag, coat, shoes, trousers- I am a walking advertisement. I am currently considering applying for sponsorship from them/buying some shares. And b) In order to keep under the 20kgs baggage allowance I will be wearing this Arctic expedition clothing through Heathrow, Moscow and onwards, despite it currently being a very mild and English 15C in Tyumen.

So what will Tyumen actually be like? A question I have heard many times from many friends and relatives, yet I genuinely have no idea. The name itself causes people enough problems- my Uncle still believes it is called Thai Man. FYI it is pronounced ‘Chumeen’. All I know of Tyumen is that it has a large river, is the oldest settlement in Siberia and, reputedly, has the prettiest girls in all of the Motherland. Proof of the latter statement? Miss World 2008 is studying at the University I am at (I recommend googling her).

Despite the aviation record of internal flights in Russia and Charlie’s recently acquired fear of flying, once we arrive I’ll try to update the blog weekly.

До свидания!