Quote #1: "In mainland Russia, we have more than a dozen bordering countries. Of course we would like to have only two neighbors like the United States, but we do not. Better yet, none. Then we could finally be alone."
From this post on, I will be relaying the various clever and amusing quotes from my professors this semester at St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University. Whether in Russia or in English, their mannerisms and expressions reflect so much of the "mysterious Russian soul," a completely different way of approaching the world and the daily struggles of life.
Quote #2: "We will open the window [even though it is freezing cold outside] because life is a struggle. Before lunch, life is a struggle due to hunger. After lunch, life is a struggle due to sleepiness."
Walking over the threshold from outside a metro station to inside, you are immediately transferred from an ice box to an inferno. Yet, somehow people maintain their composure and do not automatically start sweating or taking off the various winter accessories: gloves, hats, scarves, etc. Also, it is an informal tradition to stare at the people going up the escalator when you are going down, and vice versa. Of course, no one smiles during this eye-dance.
The cafeteria serves a mix of mystery meat, delicious bread puffs, and bony fish. For instance, when eating the "chicken cutlet" (kurnaya kotleta), I meticulously inspect for white little balls that taste like what I imagine cartilage to taste like. Understandably, most Russians eat quickly and eat a small amount. Maybe it is to scarf down the cartilage-balls before tasting them under your teeth and on your tongue. In contrast, the bread roll baked with a slice of Russian cheese inside is delicious. My roommates and I have vowed to only buy these bread creations and soup from now on, lest we want to pick out bones, cartilage, or worse--unknowns.
Quote #3: "When you search the Internet for St. Petersburg, you will find one in Florida and one in Russia. I always tell people, if you hate the sun, come to St. Petersburg, Russia. In St. Petersburg, Florida, they get sun 362 days per year. Here, people crawl from anywhere to see the sun because they are so deprived."
As my fellow students (comrades?) and I have already discussed, being in Russia is really much easier than we expected. Of course, we are living in a much safer and more luxurious complex than many people in Russia, and we are going to the second best university in St. Petersburg. Nevertheless, we all ache for some peanut butter.
Quote #4: "Global warming will have dire effects on Russia, especially in the northern Arctic region where the permafrost will melt and force the nomads and animals to evacuate. Even the bears will either drown or have to turn into some sort of seals to survive."
He also mentioned that these bears are extremely clever and beautiful.
Quote #5: "Have you all been reading the news while you are here, or are you just going to be isolated for four months until you can emerge from Russia with all sorts of surprises?"
Following this remark, I went back to my room and immediately began reading the news. Truly, we have felt out of the loop of what is going on in the rest of the world, let alone in our hometowns and universities!
Quote #6: "Rasputin was a red neck from Siberia. He was supposedly a priest, but priests were supposed to be literate, and Rasputin was semi-illiterate. He was a stain on the Russian aristocracy and on the Orthodox Church."
Tomorrow we are going to the infamous Museum of Erotica, a legitimate museum of history and psychology that boasts hundreds of specimens preserved in clear jars...including this red neck's allegedly preserved member. Maybe we should bring some little white bags, the ones like they provide on airlines for vomiting. I will be sure to report back afterwards!