Tuesday, July 18, 2017

[MINSK] Why Oh Why, White Russia

To be honest, I’ve only ever heard of Belarus twice in this lifetime. First was in that South Park episode where Jesus was being interviewed on TV and there were people being shot and run over by a tank behind him. He was supposedly in Belarus, which he kept pronouncing as BeLArus. That was hilarious, but obviously inaccurate and made for laughs like Borat in Kazakhstan. The second one was when a Filipina won some minor beauty pageant held in Minsk. Aside from that, I was totally clueless about this country.

So why the heck am I here? The time has come to learn Russian and getting a Russian student visa is a pain in the ass. I had to look for other locations offering intensive language courses, preferably cheaper ones. Kyrgyzstan and Belarus were the two front runners. And so I thought, hmmkay. June in Bishkek then. July in Minsk. And that’s my story for the summer. Bishkek was kind of what I already expected it to be. I thought Minsk would be just a slightly different version, but when I arrived here I was pleasantly surprised.

The first surprise of the month? I was the only one who enrolled for the July summer course. I was expecting classmates, to be honest. Those intensive one-on-one classes in Bishkek FIVE HOURS A DAY were pure mental torture, you know. In any case this is still a good thing because I’m getting a one-on-one course for the price of group study. Not a bad deal. Anyway, I decided to take it slow and just focus on reinforcing the Russian I already learned in Kyrgyzstan here in Belarus. So far, so good!

There is a shortage of tourists here in Minsk. The country has just been experimenting on lax visa policies for some of their European neighbors this year. It’s not “touristy” per se but living here has been easy so far. The city feels more European. Like, doh, it IS in Europe. I guess what I’m driving at is that I was expecting a Soviet Union fossil and all that. To be honest, if I woke up at the middle of Prospekt Niezalieznaci tomorrow with a hangover, I might think I were in some random Western European city.

Yeah, the city feels westernized like that BUT a more affordable version. My Uber rides here don’t go beyond BYN 4 (~PHP 100). A meal is around BYN 10 (~PHP 250). If you prefer a fancy resto, you’ll be paying around BYN 20 (~PHP 500) to BYN 25 (~PHP 625). I think I can even say that this is cheaper than living in Manila, if you are based in Makati or BGC, that is. I guess the only problem is that they seem so detached from the rest of Europe, but that won’t really be an issue if and when they open their skies to LCCs soon.

I haven’t really seen much of the city yet because I am depressed AF and concentrating on improving my Russian. Around the area of the main train station, though, you will find several parks and squares. Lenin Square is my default stop for the Metro going to and coming from school. This area is surrounded by two or three universities, which explains the abundance of young people. Millennials. Eew. Haha. Under Lenin Square is a simple mall that houses KFC and Sbarro. Now you know why I always frequent this square.

Guilty! NYAHAHAHA. I love the overall design of the square, though. It’s such an eye candy with all the glass domes that serve as the roof of the shopping complex down below. And then they also have that red church, of course. Prospekt Niezalieznaci is the main thoroughfare for most of the city’s public transpo due to its proximity to the main train station. There’s always someone here at daytime, but not that crowded for it to be a turnoff. I love hanging out here when the sun is out and I have nothing else to do.

I’ve been chilling, y’all. Another thing that sparked my curiosity was when I asked my German friend how to say Belarus in German and she said “Weissrussland” which translates to “White Russia”. Now that I am learning Russian, I realized that "Belo" indeed means "White". I asked some polyglots about the etymology of the term and the resulting discussion was quite fascinating. You might want to Google it yourself. Avoid the term, though. This isn’t Russia of any other color. This is Belarus. ;)

[MINSK] Why Oh Why, White Russia

2 creature(s) gave a damn:

Henzy said...

I had to read this since I also wanted to visit Weissrussland! Also had to check who it was you referred to when you wrote about a Filipina who won a beauty pageant in Minsk, haha!


ihcahieh said...

Ahahaha, excited ka magbasa wala pang pictures ine-edit ko pa lang!!! LOL. At talagang ni-research mo, huh. NYAHAHA. Padalhan kita ng link ng Photobucket para makita mo kung trip mo siya or hinde.

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