After a spate of rain and other unpleasant weather, on Sunday the sun came out and ever since it’s been zolotaya ocen’ – golden autumn. That’s when the air is crisp but the sun is warm, and the leaves are reaching their peak of color.

The equinox has come and gone, which means it’s going to get dark fast. Because of St. Petersburg’s location in the extreme western end of its time zone, sunrise is already after 7 a.m., but the twilight still stretches well into the evening, for now.

Yesterday I taught just one lesson, a new student, an adorable little girl whose family is from France but lived in the U.S. for 5 years. French is her native language but English is a close second. She’s really bright and a joy to teach.

Kostia had a student at the house so I took my time getting home. At the metro stop where I got off there was a Belarusian Clearance Market, selling tacky Belarusian goods at not particularly low prices. Even if I had found something worth buying, I wouldn’t have. I’m not going to support Lukashenka’s economy. It’s bad enough our apartment has a Belarusian stove and fridge (which are crap, by the way. The oven doesn’t have a temperature setting. It’s like a large toaster oven. It’s proving a challenge to my gastronomy project).

I took the bus homeward, but went two stops beyond to the end of the line. There there’s a newly-landscaped park with an awesome pirate ship jungle gym, a little beach on the bank of a tributary to the Gulf of Finland, a tangle of paths designed by a landscape architect on hallucinogenics, and most impressive of all, a little trash hut with separate windows for glass, plastic, paper and metal. God knows if the stuff actually gets recycled, but we’re going to pretend that it does – though we’re still going to take beer bottles and paper to the more reliable return stations.

Here are some pictures of this park that we took in August. I’ll have to go back and take a picture of the crazy paths and the pirate ship.

The recycling hut.

A list of newspapers, radio and television stations – the park’s sponsors? The park is on the “Alley of Journalists” and I wonder what it says about the current political situation that the Alley of Journalists is a new and empty street on the absolute edge of the city and not in the center.

Anyway, as I was strolling through the park yesterday, I saw someone familiar on the beach – a co-worker and friend from the British Kindergarten, who I had last seen more than a year and a half ago when he left for his native South Africa on short notice. It turns out that he, his wife (a St. Petersburg native), and their three sons live in my neighborhood. Actually, I live in theirs, since they’ve owned their apartment for several years. And here I thought I was the only non-CIS foreigner in this remote area of the city.