“I am writing a list of tragic character flaws on my dollar bills with a felt pen. I am thinking of the people in my universe and distilling for each of these people the one flaw in their character that will be their downfall — the flaw that will be their undoing. What I write are not sins; I write tragedies.” Douglas Coupland, Shampoo Planet
“I chime in with a: ‘Haven’t you people ever heard of closing a goddamn door?!’ No, it’s much better to face these kinds of things with a sense of poise and rationality.” Panic! At the Disco, I Write Sins Not Tragedies
Oh what a beautiful weekend. What a beautiful weekend said a daughter to her parents and yes but what a shame, what a shame…Ok, I’ll stop we’ll get to that later. Thought I could make this next blog work in that format but its rather difficult to replicate something so simple and yet so complex. Anyway, this past weekend as most of you know I was able to visit St. Petersburg with my program. Overall, the trip was pretty great. To me at least, St. Petersburg is a pretty interesting mix of Paris and Amsterdam, two cities which I thoroughly enjoyed. The city was absolutely beautiful and distinctly more welcoming than Moscow. What made the trip a lot better was the fact that we were able to have a tour guide throughout the weekend who I’ve also decided was sort of our “handler” by the end. Friday morning we arrived in St. Petersburg bright and early after taking an overnight train. No major mishaps there, except someone from our group missed the train (this is a lesson in why being early is imperative, on time just doesn’t cut it). Once we arrived we were able to grab some coffee and then headed out for a walking tour after dropping off our bags. After the walking tour we did a tour of St. Isaac’s and the Colonnade. It was really beautiful and going up to the Colonnade meant getting to see a great view of the city. We had walked a lot by this point, but wait! There was more! The last thing we did was a tour of Peter and Paul Fortress along with some much needed lunch. It felt like such a long day with all the walking and little sleep, but it was amazing being around all that history. Due to the fact that St. Petersburg is considered a heritage city, they have to maintain the historical integrity of most of the city which means not changing anything. You would think that would cause the city to look dated but it really doesn’t. St. Petersburg has a beauty and finesse that Moscow really lacks. That night we were all able to bond which was kind of fun except for the fact that we had to be up early the next morning.
Saturday was a big day because we did a tour of the Hermitage. I can’t even explain in words how much history and art we were able to see. I can only imagine how much more we would have been able to see just hanging out there every day for a week. Not only did I get to see some priceless art (Da Vinci, Rembrandt, etc.) but the buildings themselves were a work of art. Unfortunately, as with many parts of the city, you can see the marks left by various wars and battles. From there, we had a really nice lunch at the Federation Café. Art museums can be particularly exhausting so it was nice to sit in a place that wasn’t quite so crowded. The weather turned a little south on us after that which was kind of a problem since we were doing a boat tour. As some of you might have seen on facebook, yes I did fall asleep. St. Petersburg was exhausting and riding along the river was really relaxing. Before that happened though, I got to see the city through the network of canals. St. Petersburg is also known as the “Venice of the East.” I’ve never been to Venice, but it did remind me quite a bit of Amsterdam. Based on the pictures I think I’ll let you guys be the judge. After the boat tour we had the afternoon free. Everyone was pretty exhausted, but we managed to get some rest and then have a pretty nice dinner at a Georgian restaurant. Can I just say, I love Georgian food! Being gluten free, there’s a lot of good meat to eat, even though I can have the signature dish that’s basically a quesadilla on steroids but I’m going to try and make a gf version when I get home. My favorite dish is called dolma which is pork, beef, and rice wrapped in grape leaves. All of us had planned on staying out late that night, but some of us splinter off so we could get a decent amount of sleep.
On our last day, we had to make sure we were all packed up and ready to check out of the hostel so we could take the bus to Peterhoff. It was very important that we get there before 11 am in order to be able to see the fountain ceremony (you can see a video of this on my facebook). Peterhoff reminded me a lot of Versailles, especially because of the gardens. We didn’t get time to go inside the house, but the exterior was enough. Touring Peterhoff was probably the most relaxing tour I’ve ever taken because of how “playful” the whole place was. In the construction of the fountains, Peter the Great had many “trick” fountains created so that he could have a little fun with his guests. I luckily, did not get caught in any of the traps but it was funny to watch it happen to others.
As nice as St. Petersburg was, it was nice to get back to Moscow. Its always slightly stressful traveling to a completely new place, even more so with a large group of people. In here lies much of my frustration. As you all know, I come from a decent size family. As kids, we traveled quite a bit and learned early on how best to behave in that type of situation. Being in a big group is difficult, even only for the fact that there are so many individual needs that need to be tended to. A lot of the time, this means that someone has to sacrifice or compromise in order that someone else can be happy. This is a concept I readily accept, especially being the oldest of four. In makes sense and I have no problem doing it (most of the time). Being with this particular group of students, it was clear to me early on that not everyone shares my sentiments on this particular concept so when it came to traveling to a different city instead of just a simple outing you can imagine how complicated that got.
The same thing was true during this last trip. This past Friday and Saturday we were able to spend some time in the towns of Suzdal and Vladimir. It was really nice to see a different side to Russia and be able to get some insight into the current state of affairs from locals. But unfortunately, someone always has to be inconsiderate. In past blogs, I know I’ve a least alluded to this particular ongoing problem. Honestly, my biggest frustration with the whole thing is the lack of maturity from the least likely of sources. The reason being, is that I am one of the youngest people in the group. Logic would dictate that I be able to look to some of the older individuals as an example of good behavior or at least trust them to act with a sense of poise and rationality. It’s partly my parents fault really, they set the bar way to high. Knowing what they’ve had to deal with as kids and in adulthood and seeing how resilient and strong astounds me every time I sit down and lot at the whole picture. For this reason, I have very very little tolerance for people who whine and want to throw a pity party for themselves in which everyone around them is invited. I’m not saying that one has to bury how they feel, but its important to have prospective about certain things.
I started writing this blog a few days ago and its been difficult. There’s so much I want to say from when I was really upset about the whole thing, but I kind of don’t want to go to that line of thought again. Suffice it to say, I think one of the biggest tragedies in life is going through something terrible and not have people around that are sensitive enough to care, but rather be completely insensitive. I’m so thankful every day for those closest to me that have always been there and been sympathetic if not empathic. I’m not going to say what the biggest sin is because there are so many. On the one hand, the sin comes from those that cause harm to other people first and on the other is those that lack sensitive.
It shouldn’t matter if you know what others have suffered. As we all learned in Bambi, “if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all.” Additionally, some things are simply not funny. If you’re now thinking “but free speech”, believe me, I know. I am kind of a legalistic, but still. For the sake of all that is good and holy, just watch what you say. I’m not claiming to have all the answers, but I do think that I pay attention more than some people. Ignorance is the worst kind of flaw and just an easy way to meet your downfall. Pay attention and be considerate, even if no one else is.