Ashby Gaines/Researching The Aurora Movie Theater (July 20)

My research project here in St. Petersburg is centered around the Aurora Movie Theater. The Aurora Theater opened in 1913 and is located on Nevskii Prospekt. The Aurora is an incredible theater for many reasons- it was the first movie theater to ever open in St. Pete, the third in the country, and has been a functioning theater for close to a century!

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Megan Donesky/My Research Project: Nevsky Prospekt (July 19)

Nevsky is to St. Petersburg what Times Square is to New York. It’s the main street where everything is happening. Every other vehicle is a tour bus packed with retirees with their cameras at the ready. And while the buildings on the street are old and historic (like everything else in this city) the Nevsky we see today has a very different life than it did 20 years ago.

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The William and Mary Day in St. Petersburg (July 18)

Today we got a little bit homesick and decided to hold a William and Mary day.  Those of us who had their William and Mary t-shirts ready put them on and we took a picture on the bank of St. Petersburg’s main water way, the Neva river, in front of the city’s gorgeous St. Isaac’s Cathedral.  As you see on this picture, the city decided to follow the yellow and green color scheme of William and Mary too. 🙂

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My First Day as a Teacher

On one fateful adventure to the laundrymat, or “prachechnaya,” an advertisement caught my eye. It was all in English, and it was advertising for native english speakers to be conversation leaders at english classes. I jumped at the opportunity. I could go meet young Russians who speak english and probably like Americans, what could be better!?

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The Palace of Reflections (July 16)

Many writers and filmmakers noted that St. Petersburg is a city of dreams and reflections.  The architects who designed the city’s palaces favored mirrors and elaborate facades behind which the royal family and their friends and enemies were hiding their numerous secrets. Today we visited one of such palaces: the palace of Catherine the Great in the town of Pushkin in the suburbs of St. Petersburg.  The most famous hall of the palace is the famous Amber Room, which Nazis stole from the palace during WW2 and which was restored by Russian and German artists for the city’s tercentenary.

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Running in a Metropolis

As we slave away on our research projects and struggle to master the Russian language, occasionally we are granted a few minutes to reflect and think about our time here in this strange land. Sometimes it feels like time is standing still; our lives back in America being kept on hold as we experience something new and entirely different. But time is not standing still, and that calendar is already ticking down, day by day, towards the NCAA cross country championships in late November (Nov 22nd, to be exact) which gives me roughly 129 days to turn into someone heroic. To some of you reading this blog, that might seem like a considerable amount of time. I’ll admit once I added the days together, it seems longer than I originally thought. But I will assure you that that is not a lot of time, and while I would like to spend my free evenings here in Russia drinking “Baltica 7” by the river, there is work to be done.

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Share Taxi in St. Petersburg (July 15)

To get to the university you can take a bus, a trolley or a share taxi called marshrutka. The share taxi takes passengers on a fixed route and cost only 25 rubles per ride (about 1 US dollar).  The marshrutkas are very convenient because of the share taxi’s relatively high speed and presence in every corner of St. Petersburg.  The share taxi drivers often drive minibuses called Gazel’.  They are feisty little vans running all over the city.

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The Imaginary-Professional Adventures of Monika at KinoForum

Sporting a laminated and lanyard-ed visitors pass around my neck, I caught the elevator up to the fifth floor of the Hotel Europa, here in St. Petersburg. The ballroom from which I am writing is the headquarters for the 2011 St. Petersburg International KinoForum, and I have never felt so much like a professional journalist. It’s amazing how a laminated visitors’ pass can make you feel that way. I may never get this opportunity again, so I’m just going to pretend, for the time being, between starting and finishing this blog post, that I’m the professional movie-critic that I feel I am.

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KINOFORUM: WM Students Attend the New International Film Festival (July 10 – 15)

In 2010 a group of Petersburg filmmakers and critics announced the birth of a new international film festival in St. Petersburg.  It is called KINOFORUM.  The festival has two competition programs: BEST OF THE BEST (the competition of award-winning films of the major international film festivals) and THE NEW TERROTORIES (competition that opens new topics, names, styles, and tendencies).

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Interviewing Every Day (June 29 – July 22)

This summer each W&M student is doing two projects: a research paper and a documentary film about the chosen site of memory.  The projects range from the historical Nevsky Prospekt (Megan Donesky) to the futuristic Gazprom Tower (Alex McGrath).

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