While most of you are off enjoying your snow days back home, I”m very busy here in St. Petersburg. Sorry I haven’t been posting more to my blog, but things have been so busy! Let’s start with the flight over to St. Petersburg! On Thursday evening I boarded an Air France flight headed to Paris, France for a brief stopover. I slept about 2 hours total and arrived Friday morning in Paris. I treated myself to a chocolate croissant (pain au chocolate- in French) and immediately boarded my next flight for St. Petersburg, Russia. I arrived here to Russia on Friday afternoon in the freezing cold, with a little bit of snow coming down.
We were picked up and taken right to our hotel for a shower (remember it had been 2 days since I showered- too much info, sorry) so I enjoyed a long shower and then went to a welcome dinner. I should explain that when I travel on these staff recruiting trips, there are other camps from all across the USA travelling with me. CCUSA (Camp Counselors USA) organizes a big staff hiring fair in each city that we go to and we setup a table for a few hours and talk to possible staff. Here in Eastern Europe, I am recruiting for our support staff, which are our kitchen, laundry, and maintenance staff. Basically, all of the behind the scenes staff who work incredibly hard all summer to ensure camp runs smoothly!
So back to the welcome dinner- here in St. Petersburg there are 9 camps travelling with me, but we will increase in size as we travel to more cities. The food here is fairly diverse. We are always welcomed with tons of appetizers on the table. They range from smoked/cured deli meats to fresh fruit and vegetables to smoked fish (such as lox and sable) to bread, etc. I of course am not as adventurous as most when it comes to food and eat plainly with the bread and vegetables/fruit mainly. For entrée, we were served steak kabobs that were grilled right in front of us in an open pit. They were actually quite good!
After a long (3 hour) dinner, I went to bed to get some sleep because Saturday morning was our staff hiring fair! I had to be awake. Luckily, I did sleep roughly 7 hours which was good and then was greeted in the morning by Marina Skorokhodova (who worked in our kitchen last year and will be returning again) to help me recruit staff.
We hired a few staff members who will be arriving in mid-May to assist with precamp and summer camp, so that was good. After the fair, we were taken for a walk along the main street in St. Petersburg. We saw many churches and palaces as well as walked through some shops (mainly to warm up!) After our walk, we had a late lunch at McDonald’s (which is always a sure bet) and then headed to the ballet. Now as in the past, I am not a huge fan of the ballet. OK, I am not a fan at all. However, being in Russia this is something special and should not be missed. We went to the Mariinsky Theatre (which is a very famous theatre here) and were seated in a box right on the front side, like royalty! Truly was special. I tried to videotape a tiny portion of the ballet for you, so click here for it!
Sunday morning, a tour was organized of the Yusupov Palace, which is one of 2,000 palaces in St. Petersburg. This palace was not destroyed during any of the wars here, as so many of the other palaces were, so everything was original and it was truly spectacular. The inlay wood floors, the silk wallpaper, beautiful ornate furniture, and the marble columns were absolutely breathtaking. We were guided through this huge palace for a 2 hour tour and it was fascinating. We saw the living quarters of the females, with a secret passage doorway that led to a private staircase directly to the mens room, and no I didn’t make that up! There was a private theatre that sat 200 within this palace as well as art gallery rooms, etc. The palace is absolutely stunning and was really enjoyable to see.
After the palace tour, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant called “Idiot”. It is national pancake week (I don’t really know why) and so we ordered pancakes! Their pancakes are more like crepes and I chose mine with shredded apples and caramel- YUM!!!! Sorry I didn’t take any pictures for you to see, but you wouldn’t be able to enjoy it fully anyway.
Tonight, we attended a special dinner in our honor with the Russian Camp Director’s Association. Basically, we sat with about 12 Russian camp directors. The challenging part was none of them spoke English, not even a word! Luckily, we had 3 staff from the CCUSA agency who translated all of the toasts and side conversations and it was really nice to meet other people who are in our professions. Camps in Russia are typically 3-week overnight camps, and most of the camps specialize in one activity. So, you go to 3 weeks for arts, or sports, or education, etc. unlike attending Canadensis, where you are exposed to a lot of different activities all summer long. We talked about the many challenges that we all face in the camping industry and ironically enough many of the challenges American camps face are similar to the Russian camps. This was definitely a highlight of the trip as it allowed me an opportunity to speak to other people doing the exact same thing as I do all year round!
Now it is about 11 PM. I forgot to mention that last night, I slept a total of 2.5 hours, mainly due to jetlag and partially due to hanging out with the other camp directors here for fun. So, I am absolutely exhausted and will hopefully go to bed early-ish tonight. Tomorrow I fly out to my next destination, which the clue is posted for. Continue the guesses and please stay tuned to my blog for more updates!
P.S. If anyone has any questions for me, feel free to email them to firstname.lastname@example.org so that I can answer them for you while I am overseas!