My first couple of days in Perm have been really good. Perm airport is the smallest that I’ve ever seen, but this meant that there was no passport conrol upon arrival, which was nice considering that the queue for it in Moscow took about an hour. Lyudmila, a contact at Perm’s university met me off the plane and asked if I wanted to speak in Russian or English. Boldly, I opted for Russian. Lyudmila and her husband – Igor – drove me through the outskirts of the city to my homestay. Perm is quite an industrial town, with many blocks of flats, shopping centres and several factories. I became greatly excited upon seeing a wooden building which read “banya” (the Russian word for bathhouse), but upon naively asking my hosts if I could go there, I was informed that it was in fact a gimicky motel… It’s safe to say that I am probably happy not to visit it after all. When we arrived at my homestay, I met my hostess’ daughter, Alla, who I’ve been in touch with via email, Instagram and the Russian Facebook – VKontakte – and her husband, Anton. The two have recently had a baby boy. The flat upstairs has four rooms and is very uniquely decorated because my hostess Irina likes to do interior design in her spare time (her spare time from working in the opera and ballet theatre here – yeah, she’s pretty cool). In typical Russian fashion, there was a huge spread laid on for me with stew and creamy mash, plus many cakes and tea. Irina needed to leave for work so I only saw her briefly and then ate with Alla and Anton. Irina has a small dog called Maika, who was initially too frightened to come near me but then seemed to warm to me, leading to a great linguistic faux-pas in which I managed to say that I thought the dog was attracted to me, when I meant getting used to me. Anton helped me set up the internet and put a Russian SIM in my phone, both of which have worked very well so far. I don’t know if it was the jet lag or the new experiences or what but I was incredibly sleepy the whole time all this was going on, but agreed to go for a walk round the area with Alla and Anton because I wanted to get my bearings. It’s quite cold outside compared to England, and on our walk it rained A LOT, which made me realise what it will be like when it snows here, so I think I need to stock up on a longer coat and some looser trousers than skinny jeans so I can fit my thermals underneath! Perm has its own footbal team with a stadium, called Amkar, and this has a gym which I hope to use. It also has a police station which is known locally as “The Tower of Death”… I have been assured that this has nothing to do with the fact that it’s a police station, but I think I’ll stay out of trouble nonetheless… It was Election Day in Russia on Sunday and there are posters of candidates everywhere. I have generally avoided the subject of politics as I think it could be a tad touchy. Perm also has its very own Gorky Park, although this one is potentially even better than Moscow’s because it has attractions and fairground rides, supposedly for kids but I’m sure I’ll manage to wrangle myself onto them somehow. When we returned home, I was able to unpack ,which I always enjoy in a new place because I can make it feel like home. Alla had bought me fresh roses, some chocolates and some handcream for the cold weather. My room is very cosy but also airy with a large window, plus I tested the bed earlier for its comfort during my regular naps and it passed with flying colours, given the real struggle that was waking up when the alarm went off..!
We drank more tea and I gave Alla some gifts I’d brought from England, which she was very happy with. When Irina came home, she was quite excited by the English tea I’d brought. All in all, it was nice to be where I was meant to be after the hazy rush of Moscow, and the people I’ve met have been so kind and charming that I have found it easy to settle in thus far. The time difference here means that I’m pretty tired and want to get some rest, so I’ll have to leave today to tomorrow and continue to be a day behind myself. Do zavtra!