Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

19 Jun 2001, 10:18 a.m.

I Take My Tea with Murder and Cream, Thanks

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2001 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

So here are some more observations, some less random than others, about my most recent experiences in St. Petersburg.

  • Maybe to understand Pushkin and Lenin is to understand St. Petersburg. They certainly have a lot of monuments scattered about. The metro system (subway) was once "The Lenin Metro In the Order of Lenin In the Name of Lenin" or something.
  • I hear American music and it just seems very odd. In the metro, the big TV playing ad loops has various American songs (e.g., IIRC, "Celebrity Skin" by Hole) as the background music to several ads. There's a "Liverpool Bar," off Nyevskii Prospekt, with pics of the Beatles over the door. I saw graffiti referring -- in English, in Latin characters! -- to Limp Bizkit and the X-Files. (Another member of my group saw "Porno Punk," with "Porno" in Cyrillic and "Punk" in Latin. (To signs such as that, including ads in which the big slogan has one word in English and one in Russian, John says, "Pick a character set and stick to it!))

    Also overheard: 80s pop in the bus from the airport to the dorm; "Georgia on my Mind" and "A Kiss is [Still/Just] a Kiss" on the radio recently; and, this morning as I ate cheese and blinchiki and some mixed veggies, Eagle-Eye Cherry's "Save Tonight," which was pretty poignant. Probably the person of whom it raises the most memories isn't reading this.

  • Also seen: a kid riding across a canal, on Nyevskii Prospekt, on a Razor-style scooter.
  • During the boat ride Saturday night, I saw the first power station in St. Petersburg, as well as the building that the Dekabrists used as their headquarters.

    The bit about the Dekabristsw reminded me: Some Russians got really patriotic with names for babies. I heard about a guy named Vilenin (V.I. Lenin, get it?) in a book called Russian Journal that I read almost a year ago. Today I found out about Russian children named Constitutsi, Perestroika, and --here's the connection -- Oktobrika, and such.

    Perestroika is a feminine name, ending with a vowel like that. I could imagine a proud parent naming a male and female set of twins Glasnost and Perestroika, respectively. Oi.

  • I've been thinking about things I really need. Water, food, love, internet access.
  • There is so much in common between any sort of Russian national temperament and any sort of Indian national character. The hospitality, the food emphasis, the loyalty. I think there's more I can't articulate right now.
  • Except for the frequency of the trains (very high here! Something like every 3 minutes!), I generally prefer BART and the D.C. Metro to the Metro here in St. Petersburg. Ill-signed, a huge escalator ride up and down, crowded, unwieldy to get around, and all of St. Petersburg on the other escalator -- when you're going down and they're coming up on a Monday morning -- seems to be saying, "I'm like this even when I've had a cup of coffee. Screw you!"

    Should "screw" and other sexual intercourse verbs take the dative or the accusative? Is "you" the direct object? Probably. "Yeb vas." Yep, accusative.

  • The poplar trees here give off little bits of cottony stuff. It blows all over at this time of year. It becomes a fire hazard, and sometimes people actually set balls of it on fire for "fun" (head-shaking), but it's very pretty. "Snyeg Lyetom." Summer Snow.
  • I really should try to arrange it so that I have large blocks of Russian-speaking/thinking time and a small block of English speaking/thinking time, so I don't have to make the mind-switch often.
  • I have to write about my harrowing search for a certain restaurant. This thing happened a few nights ago, and it's exactly the type of thing you will probably find amusing, so I'll write about it soon.
  • I might actually be acquiring some self-discipline, I wrote (at most) two days ago. Don't count on it, I say today.

First published by Sumana Harihareswara at