The Gallery: A younger me

I’m sharing the limelight with an awful lot of people in this photo. The more observant among you will remember I also used it as a SatCap a few months back. I have so many photos from my younger days, it could have been hard to choose what to share, but there is just so much to laugh at love about this one.

It was taken in Sochi in Russia – where the winter Olympics will be held very soon – and I was on a Russian exchange with my school. A Russian exchange! This was 1990, so it was pretty ground-breaking. I was 16 and had just finished my GCSEs. Oh, and I’m the one in the black and gold skirt wearing lipstick and looking hot. That’s a SKIRT and LIPSTICK – two things I would run a mile from these days. Oh, and I’m not hot in THAT way. I’m hot in the overheated kind of way.

The girls around me are assorted girls from my school and Russian girls. I’d like to say you can should be able to tell the difference, but I would probably be seeing the past through rose-tinted glasses because now all our clothes look equally naff. The old bloke in the middle is my Russian teacher and the girl in turquoise is my Russian exchange partner. The girl with the stonewashed high-waisted jeans is her sister who came to our house a couple of years later as my brother’s Russian exchange partner!


So what do I remember of that holiday? Not that much, memories are pretty hazy. But I do remember:

  • Long waits at the airport and being very tired
  • Sleeping on arrival in the morning and waking at 11am to a bottle of warm Pepsi by the bed
  • Drinking Pepsi with every meal
  • Having three full cooked meals a day – including meat, vegetables and potatoes
  • Being bought endless presents by the family
  • Staying in a high-rise flat
  • Being constantly told to be careful when crossing the road and being asked if I needed the toilet when I was out
  • The heat – it was very, very hot
  • The loudest thunderstorm I’d ever heard
And that’s about it! I wish I could remember more. But I do know I’m looking forward to seeing Sochi on the telly for the winter Olympics next year.

Linking up with The Gallery at Sticky Fingers. Pop over to see how others have interpreted ‘a younger me’.

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. Seriously, how could you forget the Sochi Soil Museum?!

    I suppose I should be glad that I’m not immortalized in your photo, but I still have many fond memories of that trip, including:

    *sitting next to you for a very scary flight into Sheremetyevo Airport
    *sleeping on the floor in said airport
    *Moscow underground, Red Square and trip to GUM
    *borrowing your copy of A Clockwork Orange
    *boy in the year above crying with pain in his ears on the descent into Sochi
    *eating “cooperative icecream”, the first fruits of free enterprise in Gorbachev’s Russia (tasted like gravel sorbet)
    *steak and liqueur chocolates for breakfast
    *realizing our Russian teacher had a cockney accent even in Russian
    *our Russian teacher wearing a hanky on his head in the sun
    *trip to a dacha, crazy hot sauna and thinking my heart was going to stop when I jumped into the frigid plunge pool
    *class trip to the world’s most northerly tea plantation
    *day trip to Bzib in Georgia, apparently the name of the town meant :cut by rabbits”
    *being taken to the “foreign currency” shop and being embarrassed that there was nothing I even wanted to buy, when for my Russian family it was like a forbidden treasure trove – I did eventually buy my brother a stone dragon statue, which I think he still has
    *leaving my walkman and UK cash hidden in the sofa of my exchange family when we left.

    It was an amazing trip. I’ve been back to St Petersburg since but I bet Sochi is completely unrecognizable now.

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  2. Wow, I have to say that you look the best dressed there Sarah! Look at those awful balloon skirts and the white shoes – oh the shame! Memories of things we would probably never let our children do now. Great post 🙂

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  3. I think you look fab and it’s a look that’s still popular. I did snigger at your memories though – wonder what the fascination with checking whether you needed the toilet was?

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  4. What a wonderful opportunity. I would like to go to Sochi next year.
    Love the flashback to 1990 🙂

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  5. I love that skirt! What a fun experience to have had. And when I think of Russia, I definitely don’t think hot.

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  6. Wow – you do look hot in ‘that way’ too! Love seeing these pictures today – lots of happy memories are bouncing around the blogosphere x

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  7. Love this! We went to Brussels for our exchange trip, probably the same year actually, supposedly to improve our French… I ended up working in a Dutch magazine office 🙂 Maandag, Dinsdag, Woensdag… Did wonders for my Dutch (altho I imagine my spelling isn’t too good!). Anyway, I digress! I love looking back at these times, they were so much fun – and great experiences. Love your enduring memories of the trip 🙂

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  8. What a great opportunity at that time though. My brother learnt Russian at school which seemed rather surreal at the time.

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  9. What a great photo, I bet it was an eye opener.

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  10. Thanks very much, everyone.
    Shona – your memories are amazing! I would never have remembered the soil museum, but I do now! I remember an obsession with samovars and them insisting on buying them for us at great expense when we didn’t want them anyway and I was worried it would make my luggage to heavy! I remember the hanky on head, the dacha with the freezing cold pool and the quite ridiculous cooked breakfasts.
    Thank you to all of those who say I looked the best dressed there! I’ve always dressed a bit like a hippy, so not a lot has changed in that sense!
    Nobody ever thinks of Russia as hot, Laura, but it was the hottest place I’d ever been!
    I’d love to go back to Sochi, Lesley. I bet it would be unrecognisable.
    No idea what the obsession with the toilet was, 3years and home! I think they were just trying to look after us properly.
    I didn’t know of any other schools that did Russian at that time, Mary!

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  11. Gorgeous skirt. I never went on an exchange trip but it looks amazing. I would love to visit Russia.

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  12. Wow, that is really interesting. I HAD TO learn Russian at school as I lived in the communist Czechoslovakia, but never went on an exchange trip. Did you learn Russian?

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  13. Yes, we learned Russian, Mirka! It was pretty unusual for a school to teach Russian at that time.

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