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.

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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!

 

Alla Mikhailovna

I know I’ve mentioned her a little bit, but I feel I need to properly introduce her. Alla Mikhailovna is my host mom. She’s in her sixties and awesome. She loves history and enjoys talking to me about Vladimir’s history. She used to work at a museum here. She has a son and a granddaughter, whom she has told me many things about, but who I have not met yet.

The first day I was here, we talked about family and things that interested us. I told her I was in a dance group and she asked to see a video. After I showed her a video, she showed me her favorite video of a group of breakers on Ukraine’s Got Talent. The four guys break while stripping. It’s really funny. She also shared some of her favorite songs with me. Megan, you should be extremely happy that Alla loves Fillip Kirkorov too and that I have listened to him a few times already. We also watch the news and movies everyday. Anyone who knows me will find this hilarious, because I never watch the news and very rarely to I watch movies. Now I do both!
Alla and I laugh a lot which is fantastic, because I love laughing and joking. We have very similar senses of humor too. She can be very serious too and that’s when her motherly side comes out. I love both. She started teaching me how to make food and has made me a variety of food since I got here. Everything is delicious. I’ll have to take pictures to give you a visual for the foods I have eaten. I love food.

More Fun Things From Week 1

So I have some funny bus stories. On Wednesday I was riding the bus, on my way home, minding my own, using my best девушка face and some guy who seemed very confused about the bus and which stop was his, tried giving me his bus fare. However, he didn’t realize that I wasn’t the lady who collected fares. One thing I’ve been told many times is that in Russia, Americans are identified because they smile at strangers to be polite. That does not happen here. You smile only at people you know. So having a девушка face translates to not smiling and looking like you have something important to do. The lady next to me laughed and commented at the guy trying to give me his fare, saying something about him being confused and me being pretty. It was hilarious and I laughed along. Oh life.  Friday, I was riding the bus with Sveta (another student) and I ended up sitting next to a lady who started talking to me about how one bus is faster than another. It was funny to me because I’m pretty sure that I completely look and act like a foreigner and most people only talk to each other on the bus if they are riding together and know each other. I guess I acted enough like a Russian for someone to start a conversation with me. Or maybe she knew I was a foreigner and just wanted to talk to me. Not entirely sure. Oh well!

On Friday we had our first excursion! Ура! We went to Stari Vladimir, Old Vladimir, which is a museum about old Vladimir, clearly. It was really interesting to hear about the people and businesses. I took pictures and they will be up soon. The museum has a wonderful lookout on its top floor. It was even prettier because it was snowing while we were up there. The old pictures in the museum are Alla’s favorite and my favorite things were the keys and the clothing. We go on excursions every Friday instead of having class. So nice! The only downside is that we have to write about them as homework…ну ладно (oh well).
The goal for the next week is to explore even more and to visit one church and take pictures. Oh! And to get together with Nastya and do something fun/learn more about Vladimir.
Side note: stray dogs wait at the crosswalk and walk with people crossing the street as if they were a person!

 

Hurricane of a Week

Well I’ve officially been living in Vladimir for a week. Yay! It has been a busy, busy week. School has been a little rough. Everyday is long and tiring. We start at 9am and end at 2:30pm, with a break for lunch. It is intense. We have 5 50- minute classes a day with 10- minute breaks in between classes. We don’t switch classrooms so we relax in the room during the breaks.  I think I’ll need to walk around the school during the breaks eventually, for a change of scenery, but for now, everything’s fine. Or as we would say here всё хорошо. After school my brain hurts from all of the Russian, however, listening and speaking in Russian doesn’t go away after classes end. My fellow classmates and I sometimes take breaks from Russian, but we end up going right back without really trying.

The good news is that I can understand a lot of Russian based on context. I usually know most of the vocab and so understanding what is going on isn’t a problem unless I am tired. When I’m tired nothing makes sense (in both English and Russian). The bad news is that I can never formulate what I want to say either, in a timely manner or at all. Conversation is not my strong suit, but I have lots of time to practice! Ура! Masha has been making a list of things she can do and I like that idea. So far, I can find my way around the city, I can buy things at the store, I can almost order food at McDonalds, I am learning how to cook different dishes, and I know some things about the city! It’s an odd list but a good one. Necessary for daily survival. The one thing I have not done is really ‘found my voice’. They say when you learn another language you have a separate character. So in the U.S., I am loud, laugh a lot and usually do dumb things. In Russia, I am extremely quiet, laugh a little and am not a hooligan. Not that I’m a hooligan in the states haha. My host mom, Alla, called me a hooligan the other night when she as teaching me how to make breakfast because I took a picture of her cooking. She’s hilarious. I love her. About laughter, my laugh has gotten louder every day, which is hilarious.  It makes me happy that I’m still obnoxiously loud no matter how hard I try not to be haha.
Fun things that I have done while being here…well besides going to school, I have gone to the mall and other stores looking for a сумка (bag) for Mash. We still haven’t found one.  I have gone to Глобус, which is equivalent to Walmart, but only if Walmart had a huge cafeteria. In going to Глобус and going thrifting with Mash (yes, I have already gone thrifting in Russia <3), I have gone to her side of town, Доброе (Dobraia). Vladimir has three different regions or circles (most cities in Russia were developed in these circles. I would draw you a diagram if I could. I’m sure Wikipedia has it somewhere.). So Masha lives on one side of the city and I live on another. That may seem awful but it’s not because of public transportation. I only have to pay 15 rubles to get to Masha’s bus stop. The beauty of public transportation is that it’s one fee and you ride it as long as you need to. Switching buses without repaying isn’t a thing though, but that’s not a huge deal. I have a cellphone here to keep in contact with everyone in the group, Alla and my tutor, Nastya. I wanna keep the phone because I can text in Russian! It’s funny because my fellow classmates all have smart phones, except Carson, and so they were commenting on the fact that the phones were old. I’d totally be fine if I had my Russian phone in the states. It’d be the same as always! Haha Thursday night all of us went out together with a few of the tutors. Going out here means going to a bar, which involves drinking and smoking, go figure haha. Being able to hang out in a chill setting is awesome though! It’s also good for practicing Russian.
Yay first week!