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September 29, 2020

ISA Training Day 1: Greeted by the Chill of Saint Petersburg's Autumn Breeze

The shaking I felt when the airplane is landing woke me up from my sleep. My body felt really bad after my longest flight I've ever been to. A few minutes later, the pilot greeted us from the speaker that we now arrive at Pulkovo Airport. Flight attendants reminded us to not move from where we were before everything is safe.

A view from the airplane (captured by Dolo)

The airplane door has opened. I brought my belongings in my back, preparing for getting off the plane. Right a few centimeters from the plane, I felt a cool breeze against my skin. It was the end of September and it was a late Autumn in Saint Petersburg. I knew that it will be cold, but never thought it will be that cold. I believed it was still above 10 Celcius degree. But, it's me, a guy from the country that the coldest temperature is around 23 Celcius degrees we're talking about. So, I didn't blame myself when my body's first response was shivering even though I wore 3 layers of clothing.

I chit-chatted with Amina when we're walking from the airplane to the arrival terminal. She's one of my fellow ISA trainees from Kenya. We met on the bus that brought us from the departure terminal to the airplane at Hamad International Airport, Doha. I still remember our first encounter during that time. I was trying to contact her on WhatsApp during my transit using the airport wifi. I guessed his plane hasn't landed yet. My message was read by her when I didn't get the wifi signal anymore. I spent the last ten minutes queuing to enter the bus that will move me to the airplane with my head turned left and right to find her. No result. It was a crowded bus. I saw a girl standing beside me. I accidentally looked at her cellphone. I saw my name at the top of the Whatsapp app on her phone. Suddenly I realize that she's Amina. That's the first time I met her. 

During immigration checking, I lost her. Or maybe she lost me, depending on the point of view. After picking up my luggage, I decided to walk towards the arrival terminal exit direction and will wait for her there. Outside the airport, my eyes are looking for a person that will pick us up. And it was Artyom and Natalia with a signboard on their hands listing my names. I don't remember who arrived first, but then I met Jose and Dolores. After I gave Artyom Amina's number, he suggested us to go to the hotel first. So I, Dolo, and Natalia walked towards the parking lot. Artyom and Jose will wait for Amina. Dolo asked me to sit on the front seat. Guess what I did? I walked to the left front side door, which is not the driver seat in Indonesia. In Russia, the driver sits on the left side. I still laugh to myself every time I remember that.

Natalia brought us through the city center, not the highway one, so we can see with our own eyes how beautiful Saint Petersburg is. The first thing I noticed from this city is how many bridges connecting two sides of channel banks. People called this city "Venice of the North" because of this. I don't remember clearly but it was right after work hours, so the streets full of cars and I can see people with tired faces walked on the sidewalk. Of course, what impressed me the most was how amazing the architecture of the buildings there. 

We arrived at Neva River banks and stunning views amazed my eyes. Natalia showed us the main building of The Saint Petersburg State University across the river. A couple minutes later our car is on Blagoveshchenskiy bridge, just above the Neva River. The scenery from up here is breathtaking. Below is the aerial view of the bridge I get from here.

Aerial view of Blagoveshchenskiy bridge (source: here)

Minutes later, we arrived at the hotel. Turns out Amina, Jose, and Artyom have already arrived first there. It's because they used the highway, not the city center. The hotel is nice. The staffs are quite friendly.

The front area of the Gostinitsa Hotel

Then we met Tatyana, we call it "mother" or "mom" because she's the one who responsible for all trainees during training. We also meet Beatriz "Bia", a trainee from Brazil. I was really sorry when I heard that his luggage was lost somewhere. She was busy with help from Tatyana to call the airport staff to track the luggage. Everyone has travel insurance, so this case will be covered by it. After everything was set, we have a little walk down Bolshoy Prospekt and 7-Ya Liniya to accompany Bia to buy some sets of clothing. It's because, you know, the only clothes that she had were the ones she wore. Then we got dinner at the hotel. We talked a lot during dinner. Then that's it. That was it, the first day for me at Saint Petersburg. 

Ah, sorry. Forget to mention, we still expect two more trainees that will come on the following days, Isuri from Sri Lanka and Rubel from Bangladesh.

For you that maybe didn't know. I was chosen by the International Seabed Authority (ISA) and JSC Yuzhmorgelogiya to participate in the deepsea mineral exploration training. The training is divided into two parts: the theoretical part was held at Saint Petersburg State University, Saint Petersburg, Russia, and the practical part was held on the research vessel at the Pacific Ocean. It was 110 days in total and this story covers only the first day, so please expect more posts about this. In the meantime, you can watch the Youtube video I made after the training finished below.

Many thanks for everyone supporting me for this training. Special mention to Augy Syahailatua, the director of the Center for Deep Sea Research, Indonesian Institute of Sciences, for recommending me this training.

Read the other stories from this post series on this link: http://www.abialghifari.com/2020/10/isa-training-story-complete-list.html

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