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.
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!
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.
It’s only day two, but today was the day that we looked around the city. My host mom, Alla Mikhailovna showed me how to get to school this afternoon after explaining the bus system last night. I only have 2 bus numbers to remember. Ура! Then she took me to the mall to warm up and get something to drink. Once we were warm, she took me to the bank so I could get money. Hilariously last night, being the worrywart that I am, I attempted to talk to her about not having money. I knew that in order to get around and use things I was going to need more than the 90 rubles that I already had. She thought it was funny that I felt I needed money when I was planning on going to bed. She told me, “You don’t need money, if you’re going to bed!” I could only agree with her.
We met up with Jack and the other students at 2. Jack then showed us around Vladimir again showing where the school was as well as taking us to the grocery store in the mall. We met up with our tutors later. My tutor, Nastya, is really nice. She realized that I am having a lot of trouble adjusting to only speaking in Russian. I am trying but it is difficult. It would be easier if I could remember vocabulary. But she understands and is very patient with me. I am very happy that she is my tutor. Jack definitely knew who to pair us up with.
Alla really enjoys trying to feed me more than she eats. This of course is part of the culture. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, you never knew when your next meal would be. Therefore, babushki think that you must be fed enough to last the entire day. I eat about the same as Alla Michaelovna, and I think she is starting to realize that. Luckily I remembered the word for full today at dinner! I’m up late again because of the time difference. It’s five a.m. here, which means it’s 8p.m. at home. Being up just means I get to write blog posts! Ура! I’m not excited about school tomorrow…placement exams. So stressful.
Welp I finally made it to Vladimir after 36 hours of traveling. Plane delays can do that to you. Too much traveling. I am very glad that the next time I have to worry about flying is in May. So far life has been exhausting. It’s been an overload of information. I’m so tired. The good news is that I got to sleep all day Saturday, which was great until I tried to sleep that night. Listening is already a challenge for me (in English), so processing information in Russian is difficult. I have looked dumb a lot so people will repeat themselves. It’s a bad habit. I have also seemed to have lost all of my manners, because I keep forgetting to say please. My vocabulary is so small; da ili nyet = yes or no. Obviously I have to know more than that to even be in the program, but I have forgotten a lot of Russian. I usually think of the word I want to use in Spanish first and then I don’t remember the Russian word at all. Or I want to use a fake cognate, equally as bad. Slowly I am remembering words with the help of my dictionary. I also have the bad habit if repeating after people without changing the verb to fit first person singular. I know I’ve only been here for two days but they already seem like habit to me.
But seriously…if I didn’t have to fly ever again in my life…
Legitimately, I spent 7 hours in an airport. And it made me hate airports even more, but I do fully appreciate the people you can talk to, or listen to, in an airport. Yeah, I can’t speak English anymore…but that’s okay…I’m going to Russia soon! In the beginning, my plane was on time today, but then there was problems with the landing gear. So they got us a new plane from another terminal and that was with a two hour delay. Unfortunately, the plane had brake problems, so an hour after they told us about said problems, they cancelled the flight. I, of course, was totally okay the entire time…not. Finally, I got to leave Chicago at 4:40pm, 3 hours after I was supposed to leave. And I was late to a meeting, but I made it! Woo! Officially in DC for orientation.
Moral of the story: Drive.
Loving the fellow Russian students. Yay bonding time!
So if you’ve talked to me recently you’ve heard that I’m not super excited to go abroad like most students in my position. I know how blessed I am to have the opportunity to go abroad, and yet, I’m still not excited. In fact, I’ve been stressing over how difficult it is going to be. I’m going to be in Russia!!! Ah!
Initially I was super excited to go, but as this past semester progressed I became disillusioned. I was ready to leave school, but not necessarily ready (language ability, mentally and emotionally) to study abroad in Russia. In a sense, I began to experience culture shock without being abroad. At first I was ecstatic; planning what museums I would visit, thinking about how cool it was going to be, and trying to find places to dance or make art. City placement hindered my plans, because I am not studying in St. Petersburg like I was hoping. I am happy to be going abroad at all and so, I have been trying to find cool things to do.
I am beginning to get excited as I attempt to pack my life into a suitcase. The one thing left to stress about now is, “Will I be able to speak?” Obviously I will be able to speak, but I know my vocabulary is not where it should be for Russian. Over break I was supposed to study and read Russian only and listen to Russian, in order for the language barrier to not be so difficult. I never seem to be able to accomplish goals like that, because they are easy to push aside without any deadlines. The good news is that I do have some Russian vocabulary, and I am willing to work hard over the semester as well as have fun. It’ll be different from some of the study abroad experiences my friends have had, or are having, but that’s the beauty of it, it’s different, and exciting, and terrifying.