Wednesday, March 10, 2010


My cousin Lena says that there aren't "good" or "bad" schools in St. Petersburg, there are "prestigious" and "not prestigious."

Schools are a problem: to make sure their kids get into a "good" (i.e. the most prestigious) school, the most motivated parents spend the night of April 1st (the day when the paperwork is due) in line to the principal's office. At least, this is how the urban legend goes.

One 6 year old we know is incredibly busy: after kindergarten (administratively, kindergarten is more like daycare, practically it's more like school -- they do math, reading, music, gym, spelling, etc) she goes to dance classes twice a week, music school three times a week, handwriting classes twice a week, and classes that prepare her to pass her school entrance exams three times a week. She couldn't fit us into her schedule, so we met her 3-month old sister instead.

My 12-year old cousin Mark does only one thing after school: swim practice (he plays water polo). This takes him about 5 hours 5 or 6 days a week. Swim practice itself is only 3 hours: they swim a few laps and then practice playing. It takes him an hour to get to the pool -- he takes public transport to get there from school, and more than an hour to get back (usually one of his parents or grandparents comes to pick him up.) He gets home at 9:30 pm and then has to do homework for school (school usually starts at 9:15 am). Mark says that other kids on his water polo team also manage to fit music and chess lessons into their schedule.

Every newborn baby in Russia gets prescribed massage. They say it helps to improve "muscle tone" in babies. Massage makes babies stronger and more relaxed at the same time.

Russian words are very long! So my cousin Misha at the age of two years and three months has developed his own strategy: he pronounces the ends of words. "Danya" for "do svidanya" (good bye), "eba" for "khleba" (give me some bread), "ina" for "mashina" (car). His grandfather Tolya he calls "deda Olya" (grandpa Olya), so when his mother introduced me as "tetya Olya" (aunt Olya), little Misha was extremely confused.


  1. we were geniuses!

  2. Hah! That's right. All of my friends note that in Russia there's a huge emphasis on early education that kind of drops off toward the end of high school :))