October 07, 2004 GMT
Singing for my Supper

Girls: The girls in Vladivostok are all around a size 6, at least 5'10" tall, with legs well beyond their armpits. And pretty. If any of you chaps ever consider coming here you'll have to have a slave tagging along with a mop and bucket to swab the ground behind you.

The only thing is this: if the fashion scale goes from Sloane Square at 1 to Newcastle at 10, with Essex somehwhere in the region of 7, Vladivostok is around 25. As Nicola (NZ woman around my age who arrived yesterday) said, they all look as though they were out clubbing last night and haven't been home yet. And the shoes - precipitous heels and unreasonably long pointed toes; some of them can barely totter, especially up the hills (see below).

Fitness: This town is like a baby Genoa, built on hills and cliffs around a huge bay and enormous natural harbour (the Amursky Gulf and Golden Horn Bay). In fact the 10-storey hotel across the road and down the hill has both its bottom and top floors at ground level. So I've been getting very fit, because there isn't a yard of flatness anywhere, not even along the promenade.

Visa extensions: Every bit as excruciating as I'd been led to believe. Three days, lots of queuing at different windows and in different offices, photocopying, translations, two visits to the bank, all the usual stuff (plus lots of climbing up and down hills). The Russians do queuing, and there are obviously rules but I've absolutely no idea what they are. And why does an immigration office dispensing visas for foreign nationals have all its notices and information in Russian only?
But I finally have the magic piece of paper allowing me to stay in the country until the ship sails on Saturday.

Beer: Good, and I especially like Baltika 3.

Vodka: What do you think?

Weather: Beautiful.

Oh, and I sang for my supper at School No.13 yesterday morning: talks (both more or less the same) to two classes of 16-year-olds. Their English mistress Tatiana was very complimentary and said I was easy to understand because I speak with received pronunciation (her phrase) and that they find Americans and Australians very difficult. The kids spoke excellent English and asked very interesting questions. I rather enjoyed myself. It makes me more puzzled as to why it's so difficult to find a Russian who'll admit to speaking English. Perhaps it's shyness, but it's a bleeding nuisance at times.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at October 07, 2004 04:52 PM GMT

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