***NOTE WE ARE HOPING TO GET PICTURES POSTED IN PERTH, WE HAVE RUN INTO A SPACE ISSUE ON THE IPAD COMBINED WITH SLOW INTERNET CONNECTIONS***
… How many times have I written this Russian blog only for it to disapear??? THREE!!!!!
I would just like to first point out that there is something slightly disconcerting when you fly a new airline for the first time and when it lands the entire plane erupts in applause and cheering. It gives you a sense that you were in far more danger than you realized and everyone around you was waiting for the wings to fall off while you were busy eating your inflight meal.
Welcome to Russia my friend. We soon learned from Ashley that this was customary practice in Russia for both take off and landing.
Tuesday October 30th, we arrived in St. Petersburg literally shell shocked. Italy had been a blast, but was jam packed and we were tired to say the least. After three days of battling with insect terrorists (which is what bed bugs are) we were emotionally and physically drained. We got out of the airport and found Ashley, Kailey’s best friend of 20 years, awaiting our arrival. We then proceeded to make our way by bus and metro to their home in St. Petersburg (details of this you will have to ask Ashley as we don’t really remember much). We arrived after some indeterminate amount of time and promptly placed our bags out on the balcony in the Russian cold to try and kill whatever insect terrorists may have still been hiding in our luggage. We then got a chance to visit with Ashley and ‘Jamin, show all of the cool gifts we had been hauling around for them in our bags, and the promptly fall into a wonderful relaxed sleep. SNOW!!!!
On Wednesday (HALLOWEEN!!!) we woke up after the kids had all gone off to school, and said hello to 2 year old Elsie. Elsie was very adamant that both Sam and Kailey got the opportunity to “see baby sleeping” and to “see baby sleeping….again!”. We had a relaxed breakfast before we headed out for some quick sightseeing before Joyelle(7) and Silas(5) needed to be picked up from school. We went into downtown St. Pete and walked around the main road. We headed over to a very famous cathedral that was very impressive. After that we continued walking on and turned a corner and before us stood The Church on the Spilled Blood which was really amazing to see (if you haven’t yet google image search it). It was what most people associate with Russian buildings and Czars. We then headed back and on the way back we grabbed some delicious Blinis, our new favorite Russian food. Since today was also Halloween, we went trick or treating in costumes with the kids to a fellow American neighbor’s house, the McFaddens. Russians do know about halloween, but it is not yet widely celebrated. I was a black cat. Sam wore his mask from Venice and all black to be some sort of ninja. Joyelle was a princess of sorts, Silas was batman, Elsie was Masha and Ashley was her Bear (A Russian kids cartoon). Unfortunately ‘Jamin had to work, but he was filled in on the details later.
Thursday was free day at the Hermitage (The world famous Russian Art Museum). Ashley, Sam and I packed Elsie up and hauled her off to the museum with us while the older kids were at school and ‘Jamin was at work. We did not spend all that long at the hermitage, but if you can think of the artist, they probably have his or her work. Also since it was free day we were alright with not spending loads of time there. After the museum we then went to a cafe that sells sweet and savory pastry pies for lunch. As for ordering, your options are a quarter, half or full pie with each being about 8in in diameter. We got pieces of many of them and enjoyed them a lot. The Salmon one in particular was really good. We spent the rest of thursday hanging out and enjoying the company of one another. We also decided that our bags had probably been out in the cold on the balcony long enough and brought them in. Fast forward to 3am where Sam is jumping out of bed exclaiming that he is being bitten. AHHHHH, oh no!! I see his bites and they resemble his previous bed bug bites which can only mean one thing…there is a terrorist stowaway!! We begin tearing the bed apart in search of the little creature of terror. There it was, on the sheet and we squashed the little bugger. We were in a panic though and were hoping that there was only one of the terrorist, but we could not be sure. So at 3am we decided to go nuclear sending all of our belongings back out to the cold. We sent the evil Rome hostel an e-mail asking for a full refund on our stay as initially they had only refunded us for one night, claiming that they were loosing money. We also decided that everything would be rewashed before it was bought inside using Ashley’s 95 degree C boiling cycle on her washing machine. FORTUNATELY, Ashley and ‘Jamin didn’t freak out too much and were on board with our plan. We also decided that our bags would be thrown away and we would be buying new luggage in Russia.
On Friday we were with Elsie and Silas as Silas had no school. So we had a fun morning outing day with the kids and went to Ikea and the local Russian mall where the kids could run around in two big play areas to burn some energy. Russian kids play quite different and more violently than American kids. This day also marked the beginning of our Laundry “fun”. Ashely doesn’t have a dryer so we would be once again living amongst our clothes as it all dried. That evening Sam and I sent ‘Jamin and Ashley out on a date while we became the parents of three for the evening. Ashley and ‘Jamin had not been out on their own in over 6 months so it was about time that they had some adult time. Sam and I did just fine as parents and had a good time with them all. We taught the older kids how to play tic tac toe, hangman and connect four, while Elsie was just glad tot be part of the mix.
Saturday, was a good day as we went to the Russian Zoological museum in the later morning and then luggage shopping in the afternoon followed by everyone going out to dinner down town that evening. After hearing the word museum, the older kids decided to stay home so Ashley. Sam and I were off for a kid free adventure while ‘Jamin watched them all, thanks ‘Jamin! Kailey had heard about the museum from one of her professors back home as they are only one of the museums in the world to have a full Steller Sea Cow skeleton on display (think, extinct giant manatee/dugong = marine mammal = super cool for Kailey). The museum overall was pretty awesome and the first room you entered was the marine mammal room where on display they have several full skeletons including those of a blue whale, northern bottlenose whale, and a sperm whale head. They also have stuffed Lake Bakal Seals and a whole pinniped section. The highlight was definitely the Steller Sea Cow skeleton and we were grateful to have Ashley with us translating signs. We found luggage at the local mall after striking out at several other stores. Dinner out with everyone was good and full of Russian foods from a little cafe. We are again grateful to have Ashley and ‘Jamin with us to help translate and explain things to us..
Sunday was another day of laundry! Yippie!! We also send the day just hanging out after the Latvala’s got back from church and we had an awesome dinner of Ashley’s “best in the world” lasagna” as per Kailey’s request. Kailey swears it is soooo good and Sam does agree it is good too! Hopefully Ashley will share the recipe when we return to the states, but my guess is that it is so good due to the lactose Finish cheese they can get in Russia.
Our last full day in Russia was Monday and we spent the morning with all 3 kids (it was 3 on 3 as ‘Jamin was working) at the souvenir market in St. Pete. Ashley, is an excellent barterer and we were able to get what we were looking for including a patch, matryoshka dolls and matryoshka doll christmas ornaments. On our way home we also went to the grocery store and were able to pick up Kailey’s favorite Russian treat, sunflower halva. It’s good!! We shall see if any of the two blocks make it home to the states. That night we had a homemade pizza dinner with everyone and just relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company.
On Tuesday afternoon we left via Taxi after giving everyone big hugs and holding back tears.
Overall our trip to Russia was great and exactly what we needed minus the terrorist bug incident. We got to spend some good quality time with the Latvalas although we wish it was more. The kids are great, well behaved and mannered. Elsie and “Seaam” became fast good friends bonding over “see baby sleeping” and Silas also enjoyed Sam guy time where “they would just look at things in his backpack” Kailey and Joyelle hit it off with lots of crafty time and game playing. Although our time was short and our goodbye was bittersweet, we know that we are fortunate to see the Latvala’s again in January when they are in our neck of the woods. We can’t wait!!!
~ K. and Sam