Having just had to cancel my debit card and order a new one, I'm hoping that my run of bad luck is finally over – and if it's not too much to ask, I wouldn't mind some good luck as well now.
Two weeks into term, I sat down to write the first and only important document I needed to compose since moving to Russia, and my computer suffered some sort of internal technological implosion. I'm not a technologically competent person at the best of times, but even I knew that the message “Windows Explorer has stopped working” followed by an immediate shutdown is not a good sign. Various computer-wizards (friends, former boyfriends, brothers-in-law) weighed in on the discussion and also concluded that I needed professional help. The answer, seemingly, is to find a Компьютерный Мир – literally Computer World. The lovely man I saw, presumably pitying my poor knowledge of anything technical (including Russian vocab), agreed to try to fix my laptop overnight for the grand total of 300ru – about £6. Before I left England it cost about £30 just to clean my laptop, so I think that's a pretty good deal. As it was, whatever had killed my laptop has killed it so conclusively that my Russian computer hero couldn't fix it – but he didn't charge me for his time, so it was worth trying. I was eventually able to get a friend's boyfriend to bring a new one out for me a couple of weeks later; however, looking at laptops over here there's a completely “normal” range of brands for completely normal (and occasionally slightly cheaper) prices. I state this as though it's surprising, as if Russian people don't use laptops – but sometimes there is a tendency to panic and jump to the conclusion that outside England nothing works, when really there's actually no need.
Which is just as well, because the same day that I was told my computer was, to all intents and purposes, dead, I also discovered that my camera was gone from my bag. The question of whether it was lost or stolen is a difficult one and as the insurance claim is ongoing I won't go into it – but as it wasn't in the last location I had it, someone had 'found' it. And not handed it in. Bitter feelings about this aside, you have to react to things like this pretty quickly if you want to put in an insurance claim. I needed to get a police crime number to be able to make a claim, and in order to do this in Russia a crime needs to be reported within eight hours of it being committed. Luckily the language school has some very helpful Russian reps who could accompany me to the station. Do NOT go to the police in this country on your own unless you know exactly what you're doing and you have a fluent level of Russian. They were pretty suspicious of me even with a Russian speaker who dealt with the whole discussion for me, and even then the officer wasn't convinced he should help us out. In the end it was mainly the fact that I needed the statement for the claim rather than a desire to get the whole police force searching St Petersburg for my camera that led him to give us the relevant forms. At that point I then had to give three signed copies of the same statement, information about my purpose in Russia and details of my addresses and phone numbers in Russia and England, as well as providing my original passport and registration card. Here you really have to be prepared with every bit of information you might be asked for. I might add that the same is reasonably true of the insurance company, who needed scans and emails of all proof of ownership for the camera. So I strongly advise anyone who doesn't want a rainforest-worth of paperwork to keep a close eye on their possessions at all times.
So there we go, over one fortnight my laptop, camera and debit card all abandoned me. Ironically when trying to explain this to my parents, I also discovered that my English phone can no longer take calls unless on loudspeaker, and sometimes not even then. Now might be an appropriate time to say, “In Russia, technology breaks you...” but I found that actually, there's no point worrying about it – like anywhere else, these problems are all solvable, and in St Petersburg there's no point caving in to stress about these things when there's so much else to enjoy. Luckily I can now document it all with my new camera (see right and below)...Just don't expect me to phone you about it anytime soon.