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My friend Sergey told me last week that there was a new shopping complex in St. Petersburg “that looks like the malls in American movies!” So today Aunt Kelly and I went, and to my surprise, he was right. It really did look just like an American mall, right down to the shiny new SUV being raffled off in the middle of it. Ignore the fact that the signs are in Cyrillic, and we could have been in Michigan or Minnesota or Maryland. Admittedly, there were a few differences: while the bowling alley and supermarket resembled their American counterparts, they aren’t usually part of a mall in the US.

And then of course there were the fur shops, which we explored thoroughly, trying on hats. Aunt Kelly said “If we were in the US, you’d freak out at the thought of going in a fur shop in a mall.” I said, “If we were in the US, I’d freak out at the thought of going to the mall, period, but somehow here I find its familiarity soothing.” I had a soothing sub from Subway, in a food court which also contained a McDonalds and a KFC. Mmm Subway… though the “Ovoshami” didn’t taste much like my usual Veggie Delight. Could be because of the substitution of cabbage for lettuce.

It’s good to know that in those times when being a foreigner gets tiresome (and it does, from time to time), there’s a place to go to feel sort of normal… and, ultimately, remind myself why it’s more interesting to be here than in suburban America.

The party was a success. The friendliness of Russians in social situations restored my faith in humanity, which has taken a bit of a beating from riding the metro every morning during rush hour. (There’s no need to PUSH like that, people!)

In fact, I had more fun at that party than any I’ve thrown in a long time, and I’ve thrown a lot of parties in the past year. Based on a non-scientific sample of one party, here are some things to note about entertaining in St. Petersburg:

1. Folks arrive early and leave early. The fact that the metro closes at midnight may have something to do with it.

2. Russians bring lots of sweets, so no need to have too many on hand. Fortunately, we didn’t. We received two whole cakes, several boxes of chocolates, and a wafer cake. (Wafer cakes are like those chocolate-covered sugar wafers you can get in little packages in North America, but here you can get a whole 6’x12″ tray of it. Damn I like that stuff.)

3. Russians bring lots of flowers. Good thing Aunt Kelly has lots of vases.

4. Russians bring lots of fruit, and they eat it too! Also, they polished off the crudites completely. Imagine eating healthfully at a party! To my surprise, the olives were not so popular, but that may have been due to their placement.

5. Wine was the beverage of choice, though we did break out the vodka toward the end of the night (apparently the choice of Ghelka brand, suggested by Miron, was a good one, according to Sergey). Beer was not so popular, so I took it upon myself to drink it. My enthusiastic endorsement of Baltica 6, the only Russian dark beer I’ve found, did result in a few people trying and enjoying it. Nonetheless, we have leftover beer to last us a long time. (Anand, it will be beer paradise when you get here, and you can drink it on the street and in the Metro, if you really want to, that is.) For non-alcoholic beverages, juice is preferred over soft drinks.

6. According to my friend Andrei, the sort of party where people stand around and mingle rather than sit down at a long table is unusual. But he liked it. “You don’t have to talk to people if you don’t want to!”

7. Language barriers are easier to surmount when drunk (but then, I knew this well before the party). Several people complimented my Russian, which I have felt kind of embarrassed about lately. I have a “diryavaya pamyat” (holey memory), which means I find it terribly difficult to memorize new vocabulary, and have forgotten a lot since summer 2002.

Oh, and the Chinese girls did come. They were very sweet. They brought candy and a 2-disc set of Chinese folk songs (with fabulous titles like “Red Bean Red” and “Liu County Girls Love Combing Their Hair”).

About This Blog

I'm an American who started blogging when I moved to Russia in 2004. Eventually I moved to Sweden, where life is pleasant but uneventful, and stopped blogging for lack of interesting things to say. And then I joined Facebook, which further destroyed any motivation for blogging. Maybe someday I'll start blogging again, but for now, this blog is dormant, an archive of The Russia Years: 2004-2008.

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