Saturday, June 18, 2016

Arrival in Petrozavodsk

When I first arrived at Petrozavodsk I didn’t know what to expect. My colleagues and I had been on a train for the past eight hours. I was tried, hot and sweaty, and most of all nervous. I was nervous because I had no idea what my host family was going to be like. I had just gotten in contact with them five days before. As the train rolled in I looked out the window and took my first look at the place I would be staying for the next three weeks. I could only see the train station, but more importantly I could see a crowd of people waving at us through the window. I wondered which family was mine. A million different thoughts were running through my head. What if my host family doesn’t like me? What if they think I’m strange? How will I get around to classes? Will I be able to talk with my family back home? I got off the train and took a look around. Petrozavodsk was much prettier than I had imagined. I had pictured a city with tall buildings surrounded by concrete like St. Petersburgh. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The morning air smelled clean and fresh there were lots of trees around almost like the city and the forest and merged together. It reminded me of a city that I would find in northern Minnesota. Just as I had finished looking around, a young brown-haired woman about my age walked up to me and asked “You are Alex?” I answered “Yes” and she told me that she was my host sister and quietly stood next to me. I remember being worried and thinking to myself “Ok Alex this is going to be really hard I don’t think she speaks much English and my Russian isn’t that great either.” We soon walked up to her father who shook my hand, then we walked to the car to go to my new home. I was trying to keep as much distance as I could because I was afraid that I smelled bad after our long overnight train ride and that they would have a bad first impression of me. When we arrived at my new home I was greeted with smiling faces of my new younger brother and host mother. I greeted them, and we had a small but good conversation. I was pleased to find out that my new sister could speak English very well, and that my Russian was not as bad as I first thought. After I took a shower my new sister took me on a walk around the city.
Duluth Sister City Sculpture, Petrozavodsk Embankment
Petrozavodsk was not what I had expected at all. I had been taught by films and by stories from other people that what I should expect to see would be a city that was not as developed as some of the western world, and that most of the people would be adults who did not like Americans. I was again proven completely wrong.
The city was beautiful, it stood on a huge lake, there were malls, lots of buses and cars. There were teens laughing with their friends, mothers with children, owners with pets none of whom were hostile to me at all. I came to realize that everything that I had expected or feared about Russia before I came to Petrozavodsk was completely wrong. To my surprise and relief I felt more at home in Petrozavodsk than I had since I had arrived in Russia almost a week earlier.
by Alex Tryon-Tasson

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