St. Petersburg: I asked these two for a pen while sitting beside them in Starbucks in St. Petersburg. At first, I thought Katya (left) may have been a waitress as she was wearing something I thought to resemble an apron. Katya said she simply dresses like that. Fashion, it seems, has played an important role in her life already - Katya said she met her current boyfriend while they rummaged through old clothing in Paris. Katya said she lives in Kiev and traveled with her younger sister Elena to St Petes to celebrate Elena's 17th birthday. Elena is hoping to study this September either in Finland or Holland.
St. Petersburg: Andrei, 57, introduced himself as Dr. I-Bolit and said he has been playing reggae music for 35 years. He said reggae was popular in St Petes in the 1990s, but interest has fallen. Andrei said he has children and grandchildren and described himself as a 'happy grandfather.' I asked how his family reacts to his clothing. He said his children are a bit embarrassed when walking with him on the streets. People think he is their older brother and not their father. Andrei said his youngest daughter died in a car accident in the early 1990s and that really impacted him. After a depression, he channeled his emotions back into music. He dreams of visiting Jamaica and Ethiopia, saying ''Ethiopia is in my heart.'' His favorite reggae song is 'No Woman, No Cry.'
St. Petersburg: Lada, 16, was waiting for a friend near a popular shopping center in the center of St. Petersburg. A drummer in an orchestra, Lada wants to study Japanese at university and visited the country two years ago. I asked what her parents think of her style. "My father dresses the same way I do," Lada said. Her father is also a drummer.
St. Petersburg: When the 10-minute rainstorm was followed by a burst of sunlight, I ventured back onto Nevsky Prospect. There I saw Serafima trying to manuever between the crowds and cars on her bright, yellow old-fashion bike. Her outfit was as colorful as her bike - a green dress, pinkish sweater & blue New Balance to match her blue eyes.
St. Petersburg: Vasily, 24, was dressed in a bow tie and sporting a curly mustache as he walked through the center of St Petersburg on his way to meet friends. A native of Bryansk, a town 400km southwest of Moscow, Vasily teaches history in a St. Petersburg grammar school. Vasily said 20th century history is his favorite as it gave rise to jazz, blues, Hemingway and Bulgakov. He plans to pursue a doctorate in history.
St. Petersburg: Maria, 28, was working as a manager at an authorized Apple reseller in St Petersburg when she hired Max, 26. Now the two plan to get married this autumn in Las Vegas. Maria grew up in Arkhangelsk to the north of St. Petersburg, but moved to Russia's cultural capital some 10 years ago. Max grew up in Kostroma in central Russia and moved to St. Petersburg to study law.
St. Petersburg: Polina was walking down a ripped-up street in central St Petesburg dressed in all black including wingtip platforms. She said she was on her way to the city's annual high school celebration called Scarlet Sails. Polina said she would like to become and art critic and would like to do a study abroad program in Europe.
BATUMI, GEORGIA: Irakly & Raul, 54, were heading out to Irakly's small wood-working shop where they produce such things as doors. Raul, who lived 10 years in St Petersburg making parquet floors, said he doesn't have steady work in Batumi. He thought of emigrating, but feels he is too old. The wood craftsmen differed slightly on the current economic situation in Batumi. Raul said 80 percent of people were facing a tough life, while Irakly felt it was significantly lower. "There were fewer problems during the Soviet period. We didn't think about eating. Yes, we now have democracy, but there is no work," Raul said. Irakly, though, has done well. He saved money & opened his own shop. He sends his 2 children to an English school. "I do my all so that my children study," Irakly said to me.
ULAN-UDE, EAST SIBERIA: Maria was working the coffee machine in a small kiosk on Arbat Street in Ulan-Ude on a weekday afternoon. Maria, in her mid-20s, said she studied and worked in St. Petersburg as a lawyer. However, after two years, she said she got tired of working in an office and quit, moving back home to Ulan-Ude. ''I am doing what I love,'' she said from inside the kiosk. ''I go to work like I am going to a holiday celebration. I want to lift people's spirits.'' Maria says she works about a month, saves up her money and then goes snowboarding for a few days. She is now saving to go to China in the fall. ''It is an old dream of mine to go to China,'' she said.