Live Blog: St Paul’s students and staff are in Russia!

st-petersburgSenior students from St Paul’s High School, including Head Boy, Peter Hughes, Head Girl, Aoife Malone, Deputy Head Boy, Cillian Campbell, and Deputy Head Girl, Aislynn Bagnall, accompanied by Vice-principal Mrs Úna McNulty, and Head of Spanish, Mrs Noella Murray, are visiting Murmansk in Northern Russia, as part of a delegation led by Mayor of Newry & Mourne District Council, Councillor Michael Ruane.

The students are keeping a live blog of their visit to Russia.  Please feel free to leave comments below.

Day 7: Tuesday 25 March 2014: 1000 Russian time

We are all getting ready to head home.

We are going to School Number 7 this morning and then off  to Apatity airport

We bring with us wonderful memories and look forward to returning.

See you all soon

Day 6: Monday 24 March 2014: 2200 Russian time

Queen Aoife lives in hope that her words will be heard today in full!!!!!

Off we go!

Despite being warned to be on time given it was our last full day Cillian and Peter answered the door yet again this morning bleary  eyed with two minutes to go to the bus.

For the first time Mrs Murray raised her voice  and their charm was no match for her fury!

We made our way in a thick blanket of snow to the local botanic gardens, the only one in the north of Russia. The building was in an idyllic setting, akin to a scene from Narnia.

Inside we observed many unusual plants and our mayor showed great interest in the wide of cacti ( sorry we can’t provide the photo lol )

After that we headed off to school number 7 where we fed again before we headed off to class.

Again the students amazed us with  their enthusiasm to learn English and there ability to interact with each of us. We have made life long friends and look forward to seeing them all again.

After lunch (more food ) we attended the round table ceremony during which time we give a presentation  on our experiences in Kirovsk. TV cameras arrived as well as local press to witness the signing of the agreement between our two schools. Our project ” Challenge for Change” was warmly welcomed by the officials who attended the ceremony and we each look forward to the  many diverse projects.

The principal spoke eloquently about our school and thanked each of us.We received  gifts and a book was presented to our school as well as special mugs in memory of this special occasion.

One of the students, whose art work we had admired on Saturday presented us with a unique piece of work as a gift to the school.

The day ended with a very special civic reception hosted by the mayor and his officials ( yet more food). We exchanged gifts and had a wonderful evening.

We were very touched by the kind words and best wishes from our Russian friends and hope it won’t be long until we meet again. Peter is already getting the mayor to organise his visa for his return to his adoring fans !!!

See you soon

Queen Aoife

Day 5: Sunday 23 March 2014: 2310 Russian time

An early start to travel to the slopes once again  for our second day of instruction. Task one was putting on the boots and skis and this we mastered, we’ll most of us anyway!

The restaurant brigade have become experts in Russian desserts and chai, never mind their professional opinions on our skiing skills.

Aoife and Daniella started the day by hitting the high slopes, followed by Mrs Murray and her personal instructor. However before she got there one poor family in a car had a near death experience — Mrs Murray was observed flying down the piste at high speed (we think she thought she was on Keady mountain) whilst the unfortunate occupants of a parked car looked on with shock and horror as they saw this rapidly approaching skier with an irate instructor behind roaring in Russian “brakes, brakes, brakes”

Thankfully she fell as he had showed her to just at their bumper! This made Mrs McNulty feel a lot better!

Valerija glided down the slopes along side AIslynn but poor Mrs Mc Nulty could only laugh but we did see her manage the nursery slope– she is going to stick to the teaching

At this point Cillian who was accompanied by Eddie skied like a true professional on the black slopes but how his ears didn’t fall off as he didn’t wear a hat is beyond us.

Late afternoon we headed off with our Russian friends to visit their homes and share a meal with their families. The welcome we received was heartwarming and we all had many laughs communicating as best we could. It was interesting to see  how they lived and we look forward to bringing them to our homes to reciprocate their hospitality.

Aoife and Aislynn have fab photos of the special cakes that the family made for them — recipe in the suitcase. They all received special gifts from each of their families which they will treasure.

Mrs McNulty and Mrs Murray were treated to a typical Russian delicacy in the company of the staff from both schools, the Administrator of Kirvosk, the Education Minister and of course our local Mayor and council officials.

Once again the food provided was delicious and the atmosphere jovial. A great evening had by all

We can’t believe our time in Russia is almost coming to an end but will chat tomorrow

Day 4: Saturday 22 March 2014: 2310 Russian time

Off we went to school this morning, on a Saturday, would you believe it?!

We were able to observe school lessons in English, Russian and Maths. Peter had to steal the limelight (just for a few moments of course!) as he decided it would be a good idea to take the Maths class! Cillian was awestruck by Peter’s teaching skills, and we can’t for the life of us think why… Aislynn had her fifteen minutes of fame as the four of us sang ‘Whiskey in The Jar” in what became a Russian-Irish sing-off which included Cillian and Peter duetting ‘Wild Rover’, much to our amusement.

Next came more food before we headed off to the ski slopes, where Peter, Paddy and Elena made their way to the cafe (don’t panic Paul and Sharon!). The group was then split up into threes and it was the female section of the group which reigned supreme as Noel Pepper and our own Mayor Michael Ruane both dropped out with exhaustion after all of five minutes on the slopes (Aoife of course maintained her grace and didn’t break a sweat!). Mrs McNulty of course was no match for the students as the instructor was lost for words for her poor technique and giddiness!

Valerija and Daniela were very graceful and had to navigate their way up and down the slopes to translate for the instructors who now formed a ‘circle of curiosity’ around Mrs McNulty! Off we went back to the resort and we had all of thirty minutes to beautify ourselves before we went to the Palace of Culture. It was the boys who made everyone wait fixing their hair and practicing their winning smiles.

School Number 7 and the associated culture and dance group entertained us for the evening. There were two very talented singers and brilliant dancers and spectacular acrobatic performers, they really did warm up the crowd. Having not received attention for almost twenty minutes Aoife decided to kick off her high heels and show what the Queen can do. It was an un-‘reel’performance! Everyone was so ecstatic from the performance that they all hit the dance floor. Cillian proved a match for her in the Russian dance off with his excellent interpretation of the Russian drop dancing. We then finished with a tour of the magnificent Palace of Culture which was built by Stalin in the 1920’s. Tomorrow we are off to ski again so and it’s time we got our beauty sleep. More news tomorrow!

Day 3: Friday 21 March 2014: 2200 Russian time

Snowing all day which was lovely. We started the day with a visit to infant school where we were treated to a display of dance and music and celebration of St Patrick. The Russian hospitality continued as they fed us again and again with lots of local dishes — the infant pupils were very talented and they recited numerous poems in flawless English which they composed themselves and left us all overwhelmed

Then we visited the local council offices where our host was the Mayor and the Minister. The students had an opportunity for a question and answer session and more importantly the mayor had a selfie with Daniela and Valerija! It made his day. Yet again more chai and food!

In a blizzard of snow we made our way to the high school and after de-robing the students headed off with their counterparts to learn about school life while we had a tour of the school.

The highlight was seeing the twelve-year old gifted and talented artist’s work. We have super photos to share with Mrs O’Hare and we hope he draws one for us before we go home.

Then guess what more food – Mrs McNulty isnot coping with this at all!

The school is filled with mementos of life in Newry and each student is keen to learn the English language and about our culture. We even came across a shrine in tribute to our very own Mrs Kimbley!

We sprinted over to stone museum (well all except Paddy Duffy) where our very informative guide explained about the history of the region and about the mining industry for which it is famed.

We had to pry Mrs McNulty away from all the chemical formulas and Mrs Murray any from the precious stones.

Next off we went to pray in a Russian Orthodox Church. The women present were very welcoming and we now all experts at bowing lol

Next they took us to their new shopping centre — simple to say there will be no extra bags on the plane home! But Aislynn , Aoife, Daniela and Valerija still managed to have a cocktail photos are evidence of this (don’t panic non-alcoholic)

After that was more food! And it was a great opportunity for the students to mingle with their new Russian friends exchanging on Facebook. Again the school staff, Ministers of Health and Education arrived to share the meal with us followed by a game of Bowls. Ok, Cillian was brilliant but the highlight of the evening was when our Head Girl lost her hat and her head.

Thestory continues … In a blizzard of snow when all the rest of us were tucked up on the bus and the driver with cigarette in hand Aoife screams “Where’s my hat?” and then dashes off the bus across the road hailing a state of emergency throughout the region — the tiara was lost! After much searching with translator after translator we had all but given up. We were beginning to devise Plan D on the bus when Aoife emerges from the building in her damsel in distress routine as which point the bus driver was speaking in agitated Russian. So we give up only to discover the squawk of joy as Queen Aoife discovers the hat up her sleeve.

You can only just imagine the reaction of our Head Boy and Deputy Head Boy, never mind the bus driver, who suddenly understood English.

Final words tonight; увидимся позже!

Day 2: Thursday 20 March 2014: 2200 Russian time

Left St Petersburg at 0900 yesterday and arrived in Murmansk around 12-00 and then a rare three-hour journey in a mini bus with fourteen people and cases! It was so cold the inside of the windows were frozen but the craic was great.

When we arrived in Kirvosk we had a very warm reception from the staff and students from School Number 7. Many of the children recognised us from their visit to our school.

Off we went in -21 degrees to visit the snow village and what an amazing experience this was. Everything was made out of snow and ice and each igloo had a different theme e.g. medieval, Roman times, flintstones were even there!!!!

There was a wedding chapel which was just magnificent.

We then had the opportunity to have fun in the snow with skudos and the banana rides and then doughnuts rides — great laughs and giggles all round.

The evening ended with a welcome meal with the Mayor and other dignitaries and the reception the students received was very warming.

Snowing away here.

Day 1: Wednesday 19 March 2014: 0900 GMT

We’ve just left St Paul’s en route to Russia with our first update expected from St Petersburg in a few hours time.


The “Russian experience” is obviously a brilliant success. I’m delighted that St Paul’s has had the opportunity to forge this exciting new link. Well done to Mrs McNulty and Mrs Murray and the 6 pathfinder students. I’m looking forward to the next daily blog and to hearing all about the trip on their return. Well done also to Newry and Mourne Council for all their help.
Congratulations and “hats off”also to Aoife Malone who must be St Paul’s most travelled student in 2013/14 as well as a terrific head girl.

by Oliver Mooney on 22/03/2014 at 11:16 pm #

Great to hear from you all sounds brilliant. Aoife glad to hear you were doing a few steps
blog is great . Keep safe Love Mum,Dad Aine and Shane xx

by Joanne Malone on 22/03/2014 at 11:47 pm #

Delighted to know everything is going so well, proud to hear through Newry and Mourne that St. Paul’s students are a credit!

by John Campbell on 23/03/2014 at 9:56 pm #

Well everybody hope yous are enjoying Russia.Mr Mooney Peter cant be far behind Aoife when it comes to travelling!!! Enjoy

by sharon hughes on 23/03/2014 at 11:04 pm #

Sounds like you are all having a ball and far too much food lol! Mrs McNulty will be on seeds for the rest of the year now!! Glad to see that you are dancing and singing your way around.enjoy the last few days and safe journey home.

by Bridget McConville on 24/03/2014 at 8:28 am #

Fantastic blog and we are hearing great reports back here about the impression you are all making. Hope you are all really enjoying yoruselves. Hope Aoife has another few tricks up her sleeve!

by Jarlath Burns on 24/03/2014 at 8:43 am #

Good morning all. Sorry I have no internet at home so this is my first update of your adventures. Delighted to hear you are having such a wonderful experience. Keep up the good work and God bless all.

by Kathleen Moore on 24/03/2014 at 8:49 am #

The trip sounds amazing! I am sure that Cillian is well fit for those tough black Russian pistes! Did Mrs McNulty or Mrs Murray purchase any ski boots? They are the ultimate fashion accessory. I wish you all a safe return.

by Gerard McMahon on 24/03/2014 at 12:42 pm #

Looks like a great experience, so happy to be part of this experience even if i am on the Camlough Road!!! Enjoy your time there, it wont last forever! God bless

by Aimee Morgan on 24/03/2014 at 1:05 pm #

Hi to the surrogate Russians. It sounds like you are all enjoying yourselves and being the usual great ambassadors for St Paul’s. Aoife, we are missing you in HSC – but you will catch up no bother. We are still talking about Sabrina!!!!! The weather is gradually getting more Spring like here, so you will all get warmed up quickly upon your return. Safe journey home.

by Christine Fearon on 25/03/2014 at 9:10 am #

Dia daoibh,

It was lovely to read about all your amazing experiences. It sounds like it was a very interesting and extremely worthwhile trip. Looking forward to hearing all when you are home. Slán abhaile


by Ciara McCoy on 26/03/2014 at 9:36 am #

I’m glad everyone got home safely from what was surely another trip of a lifetime. “The challenge for change” should lead to many more wonderful contacts between our schools and the respective council areas. What a deputation from St Paul’s ! Talk about a high powered group! I look forward to the next instalment in the “Russian experience”.Oliver Mooney

by Oliver Mooney on 02/04/2014 at 8:50 pm #

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