Before arriving to Russia, Artemi our professor had given everyone the locations of their home-stays as well as their home-stay families. I was to be residing with an older woman named Marina who lived just off of Vosstaniya Square on Goncharnaya Street. It’s about a 35 minute drive without traffic from the airport to Goncharnaya square without traffic. My taxi driver, he made it in under 25 minutes. To say we were speeding was an understatement, we were flying down roads weaving between cars and people at such an alarming rate you’d think we were participating in a formula 1 race. On top of it Nevsky Prospect was having a running tournament down the avenue, but nothing was closed. So, you have drivers and runners bobbing and weaving down the same road all in a hurry. My taxi driver at that point was half out of his drivers side window, one hand on the steering wheel the other shaking in a fist yelling expletives at the runners while also reassuring me by calmly stating “Don’t worry, this is Russia” all while still speeding. It. Was. Madness.
When we finally screeched to an abrupt stop in front of the alley the home-stay, an elderly woman with a little Yorkie in her arms was there patiently waiting. Marina has a sweet full face with bouncy curls. Her Yorkie, Boris, has a tiny pink bow holding up if own curly mane and looking very much like the man of the household. Both, spoke very little English. Thankfully, I am not the only student staying with Marina and Boris so between the two of us we are able to communicate with Marina. In the first few minutes of interacting with the two Russians I can already tell we will be getting along well. Marina treats us like her own children, feeding and fussing over us as we settle in. Boris, sniffs everything entering into his domain eventually settling in his pink and green plaid dogie bed and looking at us with mild indifference. With our bags unpacked and full bellies Courtney and I share in our excited jitters of finally arriving and what to expect for our coming semester at Smolny Institute.