There is this moment as your plane is landing, when you look out the window and one of two things happen: You see the destination sprawled out below you, and are overcome with excitement for the opportunities that await you. Or you look at the destination below you, and you are suddenly aware of how naive you have been in your idealization of this location. Russia was the latter.
I began my TEFL class the following day. Turns out that I had also overestimated my understanding of the English Language, as I failed my TEFL class not once, not twice, but three times. Much of my failure probably had to do with the fact that Vodka was dirt cheap, and I spent most of my evenings drinking rather than studying...
Russia was cold and dark. The people were always in a hurry. Getting onto a subway car involved getting a running start, so that you could cram your body into the packed car. The sun was out for just a few hours each day, and often times, I was so hung over that I missed the sun entirely.
I had visions of getting my eye poked out by someones umbrella, while walking down the busy streets. I developed a fear of being killed by a ten foot icicle that would fall from a building and impail me. Or that I would be one of the last ones onto the subway car and my arm would get stuck in the door and be dragged through a tunnel. Or that I would drink too much Vodka at the bar, try to make my way home, and pass out in a snow bank and die. Illogical fears? No- these things all actually happen regularly in St. Petersburg.
By any definition, my experience in Russia was a complete and total failure. By the end of the three months I had spent there I had shot about twelve rolls of film. I had not successfully completed my TEFL course. And I am certain that I damaged my liver, as the night that I finally left, my roommate and I drank a pint of Vodka and I was still stone cold sober.