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Me moaning about teaching English in Russia



Freddy gets hassled by traffic cops

Not surprising really, but just try driving to work through St. Petersburg on a football Saturday with DPS (road police) on every corner.

Stopped twice, though fortunately neither time did they look closely enough to see that I had no MOT. Luckily I have enough documents, all in English, to totally confuse them.

Hint for dealing with DPS: be disarmingly pleasant. Smile, make a joke of the fact that you're always being stopped and don't get nasty when they take the mickey out of your rustbucket.

Engage them in friendly conversation, ask some advice (even just directions to where you're going, whether you know the road or not) and hope that they forget about any documents that may be missing.

It's a funny thing, but I've found DPS guys in the city to be mostly fairly personable. They're probably used to being hated and despised, so being nice to them seems to really catch them off guard. Don't be too nice, of course - they might think you're up to something. Asking advice appeals to their ego and makes them feel important.

Of course, being stopped regularly can make it a bit of a pain crossing the city on your way to work. Other ways to avoid being stopped when the DPS are on the prowl is to stay in a line of vehicles, preferably in the outside lane. Aim to keep a car beside you. Don't make eye contact, but if you do see that they flag you down, stop and pull over as carefully as you can.

You don't have to get out of your car, but it's more polite to do so. If it's bad weather, invite the DPS officer to sit in your car. Be polite and innocent, but don't overdo it. I

f he points out a problem, don't argue - again, ask him what to do about it. At worst, he'll write out a 'protocol' if you've committed an offence, or he'll ask for some money to put in his back pocket.

In any case, stay calm- if he sees that you're not particularly flustered, he may decide that it's not worth trying to extract a bribe from you, and may advise you how to rectify the situation (if it's a document problem).

Writing out tickets for foreigners can be more complicated than for locals, as in some cases they are not processed in Russia but in the driver's home country.

Don't see this as a licence to break the rules- they're there for your safety. Russian roads are horrific, the accident statistics speak for themselves. Drive safely, folks.




There was a Scotsman, an Englishman, two Finnish Americans, two Americans and two Russians, all sitting in a submarine drinking beer...

No, not the beginning of a politically-incorrect joke, but rather the start of a manic weekend of late nights and hilarity.

Mad Tim came over to St. Pete's for another visit, this time accompanied by a band of crazy friends. Fun and laughter and shouts of 'per-rkele' were heard in bars across the city.

More to come when I get the pictures..!


The worst car ever to make it to Russia?

My best trip ever-

Crossing six countries in three days in a rusty Fiesta XR2 with knackered wheel and clutch release bearings is something worth remembering. 3300km, including detours round the Latvian forest...




Kaznit' nel'zia pomilovat'

(Damned if you do, damned if you don't)

The sentence above really sums up Russia in a nutshell. It's an illogical, unfathomable conundrum of a place, full of ill logic and, well, unfathomable conundrums. Take the language just for starters.

In Russian, it's kind of a command, which translates word-for-word as "to execute is not allowed to forgive." Now, that makes NO SENSE in English, and no sense in Russian either unless you put a comma in it. If you put it in the wrong place you COMPLETELY reverse the meaning of the sentence- here goes:

put it after the first word and you get something like "execute, show no mercy."

after the second word, you get "do not execute, show mercy."

This is Russia. A land of extremes. There is no middle ground- as an evangelist Russian minister from Volzhskiy whom I met on a train to SPb told me- 'Russians are like cars with broken gearboxes- they only have first and top gear, and nothing in between.'

Russians love or hate. There is no word for 'like' as an active verb in Russian, only the words 'love' or 'adore'. Otherwise you can say that something 'endears itself' to you (mne nravitsya) but this doesn't serve the same function as 'I like'- it's kind of the shy man's way of saying he likes something.

Why is this? Answers at the bottom of the page please...




Luche vodki khuzhe net...

Anyone who can decipher that... send it to the usual address... again, bobs changes his mind about leaving... why..? as usual, because there's no pressing need...

The title means something like 'there is nothing worse than better than vodka' - it's a nonsense sentence that almost sounds sensible. It plays on the Russian case system which replaces the particles you find in English.




Rozhat' yozhika protiv shersti

Which translates as: 'to give birth to a hedgehog with the spines facing the wrong direction...'

Yep, that's an ordinary day at work here ;)




Avoid the unavoidable

The Russian language has no word meaning 'avoidable'. There is a word for 'unavoidable' which is used all the time, but the only way to make an antonym is to say 'that which can be avoided'- there is no adjective.

Says a lot about the psyche of the nation- many people feel that their 'fate' is outwith their control, so they see very little as being 'avoidable'.


Jim and Bob's mad trip

I was supposed to be working in Finland, but the company cancelled at the last minute. Not before my best friend had bought a ticket to Helsinki to come and see me, so there was no choice but to go on a mad trip round the Baltic states. Click here to see the gory details!

By the way, we're pulling faces... honest...

  • Intro Updated Feb 25, 2006
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Comments (30)

  • sennaya's Profile Photo
    Nov 10, 2009 at 11:45 AM

    Are you having a pre-Birthday already? :) Wish you to have great time on you Birthday! Maria&David

  • Feb 27, 2009 at 9:06 AM

    Hey Robert! Thx for the lovely comment. I'm glad you liked Poland-come to visit us again:-)You must know that I am sooo jelous because you can live in such beautiful city!I would like to visit SP one day!Take care-sending you a warm greetings from PL!

  • evaanna's Profile Photo
    Dec 21, 2008 at 6:30 AM

    It can't be her then. She is half-Scottish and older than that, but just as crazy. :)

  • Basaic's Profile Photo
    Nov 14, 2007 at 4:19 PM

    Happy Birthday. May you have a long life full of great travels.

  • traveloturc's Profile Photo
    Nov 14, 2007 at 10:41 AM

    Happy birthday to you from Istanbul/Turkiye..I wish that you realize all your dreams...good luck ...

  • MarieGutscher's Profile Photo
    Nov 14, 2007 at 6:42 AM

    Happy Birthday Bob! Loved reading about your life in St. Petes. I'm heading there for two months language study in 08...so I appreciate all you have written. HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

  • GracesTrips's Profile Photo
    Nov 13, 2007 at 7:49 PM

    Happy Birthday, Robert! ENJOY your day!

  • MikeStarr5's Profile Photo
    Nov 13, 2007 at 6:11 PM

    Happy Birthday from Mike and Shelley in sunny "Barking Town" - Woof, Woof !

  • Vea's Profile Photo
    Jan 24, 2007 at 5:46 AM

    I'd say from Moscow to Nigeria then to Kazakhstan, now Newark in March to Abu Dhabi heh enjoying life in St. Petersburg? Cheers, V

  • LucyInTheSky's Profile Photo
    Jan 17, 2007 at 5:52 AM

    Bob, miss you ! Luci

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