Struggling, growing and praying

Hi friends.

I haven’t used this blog in a while, mainly because it was meant to be for my time in study abroad. Today I feel compelled to use it again.

This post is very different from the rest on my site, for many reasons, the main one being, I’m no longer abroad. Here it is.

Last year was one of the most challenging years of my life. I was living in a new state, had a new job, and had random roommates. I knew no one, but was very excited to start and was extremely optimistic about what the future held. That optimism faded fast. I found myself floundering in a job that required more of me than I knew how to give. I was living in an apartment where I didn’t feel welcome. I had relationships that were falling apart. I was completely broken, wondering how in the world I had gotten to this point in my life. Everything had been going great, what did I do wrong?

It would be a mistake to blame everything on my move and the transition period I found myself in. I found myself on a path that I didn’t know I was taking. I felt very lost and was looking at where I was and where I wanted to be. Nothing seemed right. I thought I had it all together. It was a wakeup call to say the least. I knew nothing about interacting with people in a loving and kind way. I complained constantly, judged everyone and hated myself. I was very critical of everyone. This wasn’t an instant change that resulted in my move. This had been a gradual transition based on my past actions. I thought I was helping people, but I couldn’t help myself. The scripture of wanting to take the spec out of someone’s eye while ignoring the log in my own comes to mind now.

Last year was a lot of struggling while trying to grow. I realized that my relationship with God was miles away and my other relationships and how I interacted with people were suffering because of it. I prayed, read scripture, dove in to my relationship with Christ in order to try to fix things and feel less helpless. There were many ups and downs. I wanted to say that I was doing fine, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I was still struggling to change my ways and habits and begin to become the person I wanted to be.

After all of the struggle, I can say one thing, I’m still not where I want to be. Every time I think I have made progress, I fall 3 steps behind. I am continually trying to do things on my own. At church today it hit me. The pastor said that the longer we have been in church the harder it is to remember the grace that we have been given. We forget that everyone is offered that same grace and that my sins aren’t smaller or less significant than anyone else’s. My struggles over the past year resulted from my forgetfulness. I thought I had it all together and that I was fine. I had everything I wanted, but I wasn’t doing well. Quickly, as I tried to find happiness, I found my world crumbling into pieces. Everything I had built up became known for what it was. I was a broken person trying to help others. I wasn’t helping anyone, because I thought I was better than them. I wasn’t getting help from my Savior, because I didn’t think I needed help. I had forgotten the gift he had given to me. I was trying to fix people to fit in my own world. When I say that now, I am deeply saddened, knowing that I have hurt people given my own ignorance and broken life.

Today the pastor asked who our impossible is. Who is the person that we would be uncomfortable being around, having a conversation and loving them. I kept searching for that person in my head and came up with nothing. I feel like my impossible is myself. I am trying to grow in all aspects of my life, but I generally come up short because I am trying to do what I think is best. I continually fail to meet my own expectations and I continually fail the people around me. I am human, broken, but given the most beautiful gift of grace. I need to remind myself of this gift every day. Without this reminder, I know I will continue to slip up and treat others as problems rather than the beautiful people that they are, human and broken just like me.

I am struggling. Day by day I come up short. I am unable to be the person I want to be in the way I want. Sometimes I forget that this may be the way I am supposed to do life. That I can’t plan everything and do everything my way. If I did, I would miss out on the opportunities God has for my life and I will miss his calling for my life. I’m not sure that I will stop struggling, but it gives me peace to know that in the struggle I am reminded of the grace given to me.

One Week? Already?

Tomorrow will mark my first week back in the states. It’s kind of weird how quickly I have adapted back to life here. Although staying busy helps that quite a bit. I was ‘home’ Friday, Saturday and Sunday last week and then I went to Indianapolis with my little sister for this week. I have a habit of going on spur of the moment trips…so….I’m in Indy! And I’ll be here until Friday. I feel like I’m getting an overdose of family time. This weekend we’re going on a family vacation. Although it is the first year since I started college that I’ll actually be able to go on almost all of the family vacations.

I guess that’s the strange part about coming back. More family time. I appreciate my family a little more since I didn’t see them much over the last semester. The last semester also taught me that I can live anywhere. I know that knowledge doesn’t make any of my family members very happy. But it is true. I can live anywhere, as long as I can visit family. 🙂

I also have more experience with people and dealing with problems that arise in relationships. It’s easier for me to deal with other people’s problems still, of course, but I have more perspective now. Cultural differences help that one.

I never ever thought this would happen but thank you Russia for giving me racial fear. I wish I was kidding. I’m literally freaking out by the different colors of people. Sometimes with irrational fear but sometimes I’m just plain excited to see people of different races. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to be around all different kinds of people at school and home until I went abroad. I just it would have left me with a better sense of security. Thank you Russia for giving me stupid fears.

I will also never ever ever like the phrase, ” tell me something in Russian!” ” uh…like what?” “Anything!”. For the record, I may just answer with the word anything from now on. Not that giving me something specific to say is helpful either. Nothing seems to work well. In addition to that, “How was it?” Is the absolute hardest question to answer. There are so many aspects of my life abroad to cover. So if you would like to know, start with school, or friends, or the other Americans, or travel, or my host family. And give me some time, I did have four months there. It will take me a while to remember everything. And it was great, by the way! I loved being the and I love being back. And yes, I do hope to go back someday. Or go somewhere else 🙂

Still Learning

Studying abroad has been the most insightful experience for me. I have learned so much about myself and about other people in such a short amount of time. For one, I now fully understand that I am a generally curious person, but taking action in order to get answers is one of my least favorite things. When uncomfortable, I take initiative only when it is absolutely necessary. As awful as it sounds, it happens with everything I want to do. At the beginning of the semester I was planning on taking pictures of the outsides of all the churches in Vladimir. There are 20-some churches all slightly different, and although this was a goal of mine, I did not follow through, because I did not want to do it by myself and rarely wanted to go out and take pictures. My justification was even worse: “No one is going to want to look at the outside of these churches anyways because the pictures are not going to have people in them…” But what about for me? Why didn’t I take those pictures for myself? Lack of initiative.

Another thing I learned, I listen more than I speak.  I already knew this to be true before studying abroad, but now I fully understand why it is. Honestly, I have the hardest time hearing people, especially when they are speaking a foreign language. Listening is the more important than giving a quick answer. My time in Russia has been well spent, in that I have increase my ability to understand what is being said to me. My reaction time in answering, however, has a long way to go. That takes time, and four months is definitely not enough. Additionally, I rarely answer quickly in English, because if I do I have a tendency to end up with my foot in my mouth.  Another reason I listen more is because sometimes the situation calls for listening rather than talking. People need someone in their life to listen and I am totally fine with being that person. And finally, I don’t talk because I’ll probably complain. Seriously, if given the chance I complain more than I talk about useful information. I still haven’t figure out why that is… Oh yeah, I also can’t keep conversations going for the life of me. I always feel really bad, but I am slow under pressure and rely heavily on the other person to keep the conversation going. I have great ideas, they’re just hiding and don’t usually find their way to my mouth until the conversation is over and two days have passed.

Being in Russia has solidified how dumb I act in public. I can and will dance when I feel like it, even if there isn’t any music playing (because there’s always music in my head). Hand, arm, head, and any other body motions that can be made to express emotions, I’ll use them. In Russia I get stared at anyways, and I realized that the same thing happens back in the states. So I’m different, and I’m ready to fully embrace it. Be ready! 🙂

Topic change…and go!

When I first heard the song “High School” by Superchick I was in middle school and had yet to experience the ups and downs of it.  Who knew that I would be able to experience those ups and downs all over again while studying abroad…

Oh how wise Superchick is, high school really does continue forever and ever. There will always be that one competitive person, someone one step ahead of you, someone always talking about someone else, someone always out of control, etc. Forgetting their wisdom as I travelled abroad, I reverted right back into a high school state of living. The pettiest of things have made me mad and I have complained about everything, including people. Why? Because I could and it was easy. I took my college environment for granted. I hang around with like-minded individuals all of the time and avoid those I will argue with, just like everyone else in this world.  The only problem I realized on our train ride back from Sochi, is college is the only time that it is possible to actually avoid those you don’t like. Think about it. I don’t have the same classes or practice every day. I choose to see who I want every day of the week. After graduation the workforce is going to become high school all over again. Every day I will work with the same people, many of whom will not share the same ideas or insights into life. And what am I going to do? How will I survive? Complaining will not get me through it, and neither will isolating myself. I’ve done both and neither work out in the end. I need someone to confide in and to give me strength. And I know who that person is. Have I given them the time of day lately? Definitely not. It’s been a really long time and I know that it’s wearing on me. So where do I go from here? No idea, one day at a time.

Sochi

What an expedition Sochi was. But really, Sochi was less of a vacation and more of an expedition. A fantastic expedition that included hiking up mountains, swimming in waterfalls, gondola rides up Krasnaya Polyana (where they’re holding the winter Olympics in Sochi), fish hatchery, tea plantation, honey farm, and exploring the city of Sochi. In Sochi, I was a bundle of emotions. Everyone can tell you that. Unfortunately, I had reached the threshold of my patience. Seeing people every day for four months will take a toll on anyone. Sochi was a great place to relax, but I brought those emotions with me. Looking back on it, I wish I could have just let everything go and relaxed. Another emotional trigger was the destruction of nature on Krasnaya Polyana. Sadly, due to the Winter Olympics, the area has become a major construction site. It is absolutely disgusting how a completely new tourist area has been built (and is not finished), while the streets around Krasnaya Polyana have recently been torn up leaving residents infuriated at slow rate of construction. On the drive to Krasnaya Polyana, a new highway and railway is being built, IN THE RIVER (obviously both of those structures are above water thanks to support beams which are planted in the riverbed), meaning the river has been slightly rerouted due to construction.  All of this is due to the Olympics, and it makes me both angry and sad. I understand that Sochi has to undergo this construction in order to host the games, but I do not understand why another place was not chosen. Why would a place that can barely hold the number of tourists be chosen for the games? I’m not sure anyone can answer that for me.  I can say that I am grateful for some of the construction, due to the fact that the gondola ride enabled me to see the extremely gorgeous mountains from an unbelievable view. The view was absolutely breathtaking. I may actually say that Krasnaya Polyana is more beautiful than the Rocky Mountains.

I wish I would have appreciated the excursions more and in addition, would have understood more. I realized, yet again, that my vocabulary is very, very small. I also wish that this trip would have come sooner in the semester, because the time I spent with my tutor Nastya was great! I want more time to get to know her better, which I obviously should have done already. I told you I was a bundle of emotion. Nastya and I are similar in the sense that we are both very curious about life and other people. We want very different things and the same things in life. Our favorite color is the same, but unlike me, she does not want a tattoo.   She keeps telling me that I’m young and therefore I can keep experimenting with my hair color and length, but she’s not old and could do the same.  Actually here’s the silly part, by Russian standards, Nastya is old enough to already be married and have at least 2 children.  However, Nastya has decided that she does not want to rush into marriage, which is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. In Russia, waiting for marriage is taboo.  I still cannot imagine being married and already having a child. I would not have been able to study abroad! I really hope that Nastya gets the chance to visit different countries like she hopes to.  Exploring different cultures leads to a fuller life, at least that’s what I’ve experienced.

All in all, Sochi was great! Now it’s time to enjoy my last few days in Vladimir.

One Month Left?!

So I have a little more than a month left in Russia and it’s strange. For one, I can’t believe I’ve been here for three months. It’s actually been about 2 and a half months now. I feel like I’m lagging in just about everything. My language acquisition was going well, until I decided to slack. Now I feel like I don’t know anything…again. I also started missing a lot of things back home… Which is weird because I very rarely miss home. I guess I need a change of pace…but that would mean spending money. More time to work on projects! Woo

Our “spring break” is at the end of the month. It feels like forever from now. But at last it will actually be spring by then haha. After our trip, my life will be testing and presentations. Definitely not excited about that but it happens.

I am both ready to leave and never want to leave. If only I could have my life here and my life back home at the same time. Who wants to live in Russia with me? We can vacation to Europe whenever we want! * I like it here, but I don’t think I could live here long term. I also feel like I should be doing more with my time here (not sure what I’m supposed to fill my time with though).

In other news I’m making burritos for my host mom sometime this week! Yeah!

*probs not but it’s a great thought!

Moscow!

I’m in Moscow! Yay! Moscow is a fantastic city. I would totally live here. I attempted to not go the super touristy route this time, because in St. Petersburg it was exhausting. After three hours in the Hermitage you need three days to recover.

On Friday, Jack was our tour guide, showing us around the city. We went to Arbat and walked the street. We found the memorial wall for the lead singer of Kino (pictures to come). We also went to Red Square and walked through ГУМ. We went back later and went through St. Basil’s Cathedral. Walking around the city is great, because there are so many things to see, especially because there are statues on almost every block. We went to a hockey game on Friday ( first hockey game in Russia )! After the game, we had dinner at a Ukrainian restaurant and then headed back to the hostel. I decided that it was movie night for me once we got back, but that unfortunately did not happen, because technology and I do not mix.
Saturday we met up with a few of the St. Petersburgers and went to the Kremlin. As much as I love churches and their artwork, after the first two I was ready to do something else. After chilling in the Kremlin, I met up with Jimmy, who graduated from ND last year and is working in Moscow now, and we walked around the city for most of the afternoon. We went Gorky’s house, because not only is it free, but it is also beautiful. I was not expecting the stained glass windows and the marble staircase inside. We also went to a cafe, where I learned how to do henna. It was difficult, but fun. The instructions I got were in Russian and English which was entertaining. I, of course, spoke basically no Russian, because I know I’m awful and it’s easier and not scary to speak English. Yeah those are horrible excuses, but that’s what happened. Dinner was great because Jack took us to Moe’s, since we keep saying we miss Mexican food haha. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though it still tasted a lil Russian. We walked around and stopped in a park to look at the sculptures. After walking around outside for most of the day, my body started to shut down at midnight. It was rather unfortunate, because I want to go out with everyone. Instead I was in bed by 1 am.
Before we left on Sunday, we explored a few of the metro stations because they are gorgeous. Unfortunately you can’t take pictures inside ( might be good, because otherwise I’d have wayyyyy too many ). We also stopped at a cafe to chill, bought souvenirs ( I got tape…too obsessed with unusual tape…), and went to a bookstore ( I got an anatomy book in Russian!).
All in all it was a fantastic trip and have decided I like Moscow more than Petersburg. However, I enjoyed my time in Petersburg as well, but it was very different and a little overwhelming. I’m ready to go back to Moscow. 🙂

Problems

So the only downers so far about being in Russia is not having dance or art. I have not gotten art supplies to do things on my own nor have I found any classes. I have been told that Suzdal has a master class for ceramics. I need to learn more about it to see if it is a possibility.

I recently found a dance studio in Moscow and am trying to find classes that I can go to. Of course I just found out that there is one in two days…poor timing. I don’t really know where it is, and I haven’t been to Moscow yet. Finding the studio would be a struggle. And on top of that since this is last minute I’m not sure I’d be able to pull it off. The dancing part wouldn’t be too bad, but maybe. I am going to keep my eye out for more classes. I need somewhere to dance!

Transferring lifestyles abroad is really hard to do. No fun.

February

February is always an interesting month. In South Bend, February is usually brutally cold because the wind eats you away. I thought the same would be true of Russia. However, in Vladimir, it has been warming up and getting lighter earlier in the morning. It used to get lighter at like 9:30am, almost ten, but today it was getting lighter (there is no sun yet. The perma-cloud exists here too.) at 8:30am. Soo strangeee. I don’t like it! Actually I do like it, because Spring is coming!!! Wooooo. The snow hasn’t really melted yet, but the ice has been cleared from side walks and icicles are falling off of buildings. So some danger has been taken away but I could still die if I don’t pay attention.

Also totally fell for the first time. So not fun. My hands hurt because of course I fell forward. And then I almost fell four more times. The sidewalks by my house are awful. Next time I won’t multitask, or maybe I’ll take the bus.
Update : We have sun! Woooo! But that also means more melting ice, which means I’m gonna break my face….

Danger! Danger!

When you first decide you’re going to take a trip to Russia, you never think of the danger, only the fun tourist things come to mind. Then, once you’ve announced you plans to other people, do the risks of traveling abroad make an appearance. I heard all of the horror stories before going abroad about pick pocketing, taking gypsy cabs, dirty cops, taking free drinks from strangers, etc. They are scary stories and I was thinking that I was gonna have no fun while in Russia, that the only thing I’d be able to do was sit at home and chat it up with my host mom. So far the only real threat to my life has been snow and icicles. That’s the beauty of a smaller city, no worries about being bothered by people. The weather just might kill me though. Icicles are a problem here when it starts warming up. They even give out fines for not removing them. It’s because a ridiculous amount of people don’t pay attention to them and die at the hand of the falling arrows of death.

 
So if you’re planning a trip to Russia, consider the weather in you travel plans.
 
Another everyday danger is crossing the street. You play chicken with the driver. Stare at the windshield, and look like you’re going to take a step; they should slow down and you can start walking across. There are times when they won’t slow down, so you gotta pay close attention.

Old Habits Gone?

I was at home all day Saturday, and it got me thinking about what I would normally be doing on a Saturday. Back in the U.S., I would be working with the kids in the Jungle Room as well as going to Pfresh practice. Very rarely do I start homework on a Saturday. In Vladimir, this first Saturday was spent doing homework and sleeping. I slept for the majority of the day and even took a nap later. So crazy different than normal. I’m glad I started my homework, because there’s a lot to do. Not all of it is due Monday, but it will take me at least a little while to get it done because my brain is not used to only doing Russian homework. I was planning on possibly going to a new cafe and using their wifi to upload pictures and posts, but I’m too lazy for that.

And that’s when I realized how much of my time is used being on the computer doing really random stuff. I waste so much time on the Internet doing nothing, but on the plus side I usually talk to people when I’m online. I’ve been really awful about keeping in contact with people since leaving. It has been really hard because there’s not a super- reliable place with free wifi. I’m so used to the “free” wifi at school. I may have to get a plan so I can check my email more often. Although that may be a bad idea and keep me at home too much. We shall see!