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!

Thoughts on Life in Vladimir

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.

I’m here!

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.

I HATE AIRPORTS

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!

 

Until later,

Katya

Culture Shock?

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.