A year in Russia
It was marvellous.
I’ve met some absolutely lovely Russian girls so I had someone to hold my hand as I wobbled about and before going, I visited their halls of residence for some homemade borsch.
Общежитие/ Halls of Residence
In Voronezh, most students live in halls, just like we do at home, but they live in them for most years at uni. They pay £60 for the years rent (!!), but there are some sacrifices; it’s quite old fashioned, definitely not all the modcons like at Bath, they usually share one room between three and three showers between the entire hall (150+ girls). Yet just visiting, you can feel how friendly the atmosphere is and that is something that can’t be bought.
After being fed and shown around, we headed to the ice rink. Given how expensive ice skating is at home, I was a bit apprehensive about whether the 500 rubles in my pocket would be enough, but silly me. Ice skating is basically a national sport here so it was a mere 210 rubles (£4.20) for an hour on the ice including skate hire.
Collecting my skates
To acquire one’s skates, you need to hand over a form of ID as a deposit which meant entrusting the ladies behind the counter with my passport. Cue intrigue about why a British girl is visiting, is she a journalist?? No, no, just a mere стажёр (exchange student). They were so funny though; when I returned my skates I hadn’t tied them together (rudimentary mistake). After being told the rules and with some help from my friend to understand them, one of the ladies was concerned that I would think Russia is annoying and really strict after my visit. Not at all, if anything I now want to stay longer to take advantage of the cheap ice skating. I will be the next Torvill.
As we headed through to the ice, I was petrified. Naturally, a lot of people here have their own skates and have been skating a long time whereas I went once when I was 10 or something like that. All I could see in my immediate future was a painfully bruised bum and I started to wonder who came up with this idea as a sport? What kind of crazy person am I to get in the way of these skaters, some of whom were extremely graceful and most were confident and fast. In fact there was a boy who looked about 8 years old whizzing by as though he’d learnt to walk on ice (which, this being Russia, is plausible).
Nastya held my hand for most of the hour and encouraged me away from the wall that I would have otherwise clung to. Although, I’m sure her hand hurt from my clinging to her instead. By the end of the hour, I could just about do a rather nerve-wracking circuit by myself not holding onto anything. A few wobbles here and there, but believe it or not, I didn’t fall over once!
One thing that I did learn is that skating requires fairly strong ankles to maintain balance similar to the muscles needed to stay upright in heels. These are muscles that I do not have.
I have been left determined to get better; I want to glide on the ice not just stumble over it. I’ll be heading back there on a weekly basis!