Each denomination of Russian paper money features a city. New goal: visit all the ruble-cities. I’ve already been to St Petersburg (50r), Moscow (100r), and Yaroslavl (1000r)–only the 500 and 5000 to go. Watch those ones be Arkhangelsk and Petropavlosk-Kamchatsky (far away, difficult-to-travel-to, cold, dangerous places).
*NOTE WRITTEN LATER THAN THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE* In fact, it is Arkhangelsk on the 500 note. Haven’t seen a 5000 one yet. Also, Petersburg is fantastic. *END NOTE*

Speaking of traveling: For all the jabs people make at it, third-class train travel in Russia isn’t at all bad. The girl across from me seemed to think that her ringtone was only audible to her, so there were occasional interruptions throughout the night as she dealt with texts that apparently required her immediate attention.  And anyway, who are you texting with at 3 AM? I’m allowed to text at weird hours because everyone I know lives in a different day than I do, much of the time. You are a Russian, talking to Russians. So STFU (readers older than 40: STFU stands for “See To your Facehole, Understand?)

Anyway, other than her, the train ride was pleasant. It’s astonishing how much of nothing there is in Russia–you could go an hour without seeing a single light (apart from the occasional ones that illuminate the train tracks so we don’t die). You can also get  tea in a cute Russian tea glass to wake you up. It’s all very charming. Come visit–you’ll see.
Anna’s husband picked me up at the station and insisted on holding my bag, the doors, and my hand on the metro (because ‘Murcans don’t know how to stand up on moving objects–we’re like penguins or something*), as well as explaining the concept of Nevsky Prospect, the foundation of the Kazan’ Cathedral, and how to work a crosswalk (You walk across it). Russians seem to get no greater joy than helping people. Sometimes it’s nice, even if you don’t actually need the help, to just let them do their thing. You know they’re looking out for you, they get a chance to take care of someone, and everybody’s happy.
The “hotel” (actually an old dormitory) where I’m staying is right next to this. It’s kind of great.
My (ok, Nathan’s) students taught me a new phrase last night: podstavitel’ pingvinov, loosely translated as “penguin pusher.”  It means a person whose job is totally useless. The reasoning I was given was that “If a penguin looks up and sees an airplane flying towards him overhead, he’ll keep leaning back to look at it until he falls over. Then he can’t get up. A podstavitel’ pingvinov is the person who sits around waiting for penguins to fall over, then goes and picks them up again.” Classic.
Fun fact: You know how they say you can polish furniture with a walnut? In case you were curious–it is not possible to polish a shoe with a pumpkin seed. Traveling teaches lessons you never dreamed of learning.
This week I had to explain to an exasperated student why, if “ain’t” isn’t a real word and double negatives are a cardinal sin of grammar, “I ain’t done nothing wrong” is a more common sentence than “I ain’t done anything wrong.”