I left Nigeria on October 1 2018.
In my heart, I was both excited and anxious. I was excited because I was finally leaving Nigeria and I would have a chance to do things differently from the norms obtained in Nigeria. My anxiety, on the other hand, was hinged on the desire to see how Russia – the largest country in the world – looked like. I have loved Russia all my life and I have great respect for the style of governance and the person of President Putin, so I was super anxious to feel and experience the way the Russian economy worked, to live the Russian life of strict discipline.
I had studied in the University that Russians loved to read a lot. Having grown up in the Nigerian society where the reading culture couldn’t in any way be compared with that of the Russians who at one point in their history had about 98% literacy, I was really anxious to understand how the Russians grew to love reading books. I had heard of the extreme weather and the racism tales too and those two things raised my anxiety.
Life in Ivanovo, Russia
As a student, I have access to 24/7 internet connectivity. I have an abundance of data given me by the two telecommunication companies I subscribed too: YOTA and BEELINE. In my school, my devices automatically connect to the school’s internet as soon as I reach the school premises so I don’t have to use my personal internet while in school. On a monthly basis, I don’t use up to 1GB of data, out of the 30GB free data BEELINE gives me every month. What this implies is that I am able to make thorough research work without having to think of the amount I will spend on buying data.
Racism in Russia is declining very fast; don’t be deceived by the negative comments of people about Russians being extremely racist. Russia’s growing relationship with the rest of Europe is opening up Russia and Russians are becoming more friendly. My favourite teacher in school, Rinat, usually takes me out on exhibitions, musical concerts, competitions and so on.
One day, he called to tell me that the Department of English Language of the Ivanova State University was hosting a speaking competition. The Head of Department of English Language department had been present at a couple of events where I spoke. The HOD had liked my performance and had extended an invitation to me through my teacher.
The speaking competition was an impromptu one where I and other competitors had 3 minutes to prepare for the competition. The audience at that event was made up of 90% Russians and 10% Africans/other nationalities. As usual of the Russians, I picked a billet and the topic I was to speak on was: “Every time you stop a school, we will have to build a jail.” The other students I was up against were Russian. When the competition was over, the judges picked a Russian girl and me as the best two speakers, and the winner was to be decided by a vote. When the votes were counted, I beat the Russian girl hands down to clinch the first position.
There’s a popular mall in Russia called Lenta (Лента). On my second visit to Lenta I bought a reduction card of 200 rubles (which equivalent in naira is 1100). Whatever you buy, once you use your Lenta Card, you get a huge reduction. With your Lenta Card, you could get a reduction of about N1500 out of about N10,000 worth of things you buy. This has made life very easy for me. I found it surprising because supermarkets and shopping malls in Nigeria will rather seek to rip you off through exorbitant prices but at Lenta prices are beaten down.
I have found out that Russians are actually very honest people. This is exemplified in their daily lives. If you go to a mall to buy anything, a Russian cashier, will count your balance one after the other, just so you can be sure you are not cheated. I have gotten so used to this that I don’t bother to check if the balance I am given is accurate.
Big Russian Experience.
I had the rare opportunity of meeting Vladimir Druzhkov, Soloist and Winner of the All-Russian International competition at the Final Gala Concert of the Inter-regional Youth Festival of Folk Music “Consonance of strings, times and generations” which was dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the birth of the People’s Artist of Russia. I will forever remember his handshake and the conversation I had with Vladimir in Russian where I acknowledge his skill and expertise which he displayed on the Russian Traditional Accordion.
My candid advice to anyone visiting Russia is NEVER BREAK THE LAW. The Russian Police are well trained, fast and swift. Break the law and the Russian Police will catch up with you. Also, mind your business and don’t ever get into a physical fight with a Russian.
Prepare for the cold. Oh, I should say, prepare for the snow. Russia has an extremely irrational weather. For many months in a year, rivers freeze up completely. You can walk on these rivers without the fear of sinking. Always have your winter jacket, gloves, mufflers and head warmer with you.
And, never do drugs in Russia. The penalty is severe.