Time really has flown by. I can’t believe that 10 months ago I was setting off on my gargantuan adventure to the other side of the Iron Curtain; all I really remember is mother in floods of tears and then suddenly feeling slightly nervous at the thought of surviving a Siberian winter…
But survived I did, and I would like to say, in some style too. However, to really judge whether my Year in Russia was a remarkable success or flying flop, I have to base it on my 3 initial goals:
1. Become fluent at Russian
2. Grow a manly-amount of chest hair
3. Get a Russian girlfriend
Language: My Russian is undoubtedly very good, and I recently took (and passed) a test stating that my Russian is practically a C1 on the European level. Whatever the hell that means. Either way, I’m going to give myself a pat on the back for that goal. However, my accent is still fairly average and as a result I doubt I’ll ever be mistaken for a Russian. Especially with my devilishly-handsome amalgamation of Anglo-Saxon and Nordic looks.
Chest Hair- I like to think of it as work in progress; after all, art cannot be rushed.
Russian Girlfriend? Not only did I not get a girlfriend, I was so so far from getting one that I’m going to give myself a -1. Despite my finest attempts to lure one into my trap, my various guises (English Gent abroad, English lout abroad, mysterious Russian in a bar and… me) failed to entice the local populations. I feel that I can edit a famous Churchill quote about Russia to suit my situation/mindset about Russian girls:
“Russian [girls] are a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
I can also confirm that Russian girls conform to their stereotype: they are very attractive. However, I do have a burning question that if anyone knows the answer, please do inform me. Why/what on earth happens to Russian girls at the age of 35? They turn from angels into ogres (slight exaggeration admittedly) and apart from the fact that older women were brought up in Soviet times, I genuinely have no idea. For a few weeks I considered writing one of my Year Abroad essays (which by the way have really hindered rather than helped the latter part of my Year Abroad) on the subject. I then also thought that the vast majority of Professors of Russian in Bristol are female so maybe it wouldn’t be such a good idea…
I still haven’t worked out whether I love or hate Russia. The country, undoubtedly, has potential to be great. However, the level of bureaucracy, widespread corruption and the increasingly anti-Western and repressive rhetoric of the Government have the ability to derail any chance of Russia being considered a leading economy in the future. For example, the amount of corruption in the Sochi Winter Olympic Games mean that it is already the most expensive Olympics ever (Summer and Winter). And the vast majority of buildings are yet to be built. Nevertheless, whilst discussing the political situation in Russia with a friend in Novosibirsk, he posed the question- if not Putin, then who else? The videos below are about Vladimir Zhirinovskiy- the Vice-Chairman of the State Duma (Parliament). This guy is an absolute nutcase:
This is him in a televised debate with the representative of the Democratic Party of Russia (skip till about 2mins and then watch till the end…)
And then his viewpoint on International relations:
Seems like a really nice guy…
Despite this, I have to say that without a doubt the Russian people are genuinely the most generous and welcoming people I have ever met. In 9 months I never once felt particularly threatened or in danger (and I lived in some dodgy areas), especially when compared to any major city in the UK.
The blog has been surprisingly successful, on day of posting it has had over 6000 views and from over 77 countries. It has not only been a very easy way of documenting my Year Abroad but also a great way to remember what actually happened. The feedback from everyone apart from the Azerbaijan Youth Organisation (LOL) has been very positive. Unbeknownst to most, WordPress shows me how people accessed my blog (i.e. via Facebook/Twitter or via googling) and so, to those people who clicked on my blog after googling ‘Chechnya girl nude’, ‘Banya penises’ or ‘Speedo bondage’, you’re all very odd. However, to the person who googled this:
You’re hilarious. When my parents sleep feel like ninja…
And so to conclude, my Year Abroad certainly wasn’t the ‘best year of my life’ as some claimed that it would be. At least I hope not, it is a very depressing thought if so. Especially now as I prepare for my summer, the vast majority of which will be spent in a suit and in an office, life after university is looming ever larger. Nevertheless, I will continue to plough through it as I did my Year Abroad: vaguely directionless and with a stupendous sense of humour. And modesty.
To anyone who has read any of posts I hope they were at least semi-amusing and semi-informative. To the Russian people, thank you so much. I will be back.