Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spring Thaw and Easter

So I would like to report that Russia, on April 23rd 2011, has finally decided to recognize that it is no longer winter and that it is in fact time for spring!

Yesterday me and all of the exchange students in Uglich decided to go out for a walk and take in a movie at the movie theater in our town and when I walked out side I almost fell down in shock that I saw and felt two things that I had not seen or felt in a very long time. They were… dun dun dun… the sun and HEAT!! Yes I walked outside in my fall/spring jacket, a skirt and a light sweater and scarf and I was actually hot. By the time that I got to Jenia’s house I was hot and ready to take off my coat!! This was a completely foreign feeling for me because I haven’t gone outside without a coat since August!

By the time we were walking home we had all taken off our coats and were walking in just our sweaters which let me tell you was sooo nice because after months and months of being bundled up its nice to finally just be able to let go and walk outside without wearing 10 million layers of clothing!

Another thing that I have noticed is that now that the sun is out and that it’s starting to get warmer everyone’s moral and mood is way up! While yes its only 2 days into the warmth but you notice people on the street seem happier and I know that I’m happier now that the sun is out and that in general its warm again! Its no longer a burden to go outside any more and you don’t have to start getting ready like 20 minutes in advance just to step outside. I never realized how much the weather could change peoples attitude but I really do think that by not having sun and it just in general being a lot colder then it ever needs to be in life it made people a lot more reserved and sad then they normally are. So I’m really looking forward to spring, which as finally started to arrive! Now all I have to do is to hope that Russia doesn’t decide that it wants more winter! Lets hope that SPRING IS HERE TO STAY!!

SO another big milestone that I’ve reached is well, today is Easter!! Yes its Easter already! Honestly I cant believe that its already April 24th but hey its here! So Russia’s celebration of Easter, from what I’ve seen so far isn’t too in depth, mostly just a day to hang out with family and chill but here is what we have done so far.

So when I woke up we all had breakfast as a family, which is something that we never do so it was nice to all, sit down together. And my family wore their Wisconsin shirts so that was really sweet of them cause they all wore them for me because it was a holiday (pictures coming soon). We had this special Easter bread along with our eggs. Yes in Easter they color eggs too but it’s more of a thing the parents do rather then an activity for the kids. But they don’t hide them here what they do instead is they each take a hard boiled egg in their hands and they hit them together with another person and the person whose egg doesn’t crack is the winner! I’m not sure about the tradition or the meaning behind this but it was a lot of fun. My little host brother, who is 3, insisted that we keep playing until he won against every single person in our family!

So far that Is all that we have done for Easter, after that we’ve just been hanging, doing homework, and just chilling watching movies but it has been really nice to just chill with the family.

I am really feeling very comfortable with my family. They truly do feel like my family, which is something that I’m very grateful for because having a good host family really does make or break an exchange and I'm really grateful for them that they have decided to host me and that they have truly made me apart of their family. I am really going to miss them when I leave in just 2 months.

That brings me to my next little bit of news. Afs has officially sent us our tickets (or rather the plan) for our return. We have found out that we will be leaving Russia on June 27th 2011. Honestly this makes the whole end of my trip seem a lot more real because when I think about it in just 3 short days I will only have 2 more months here. Its really really hard to believe that I’ve been here for 8 months already!! In fact I can’t believe it! It doesn’t feel like it should already be over but in fact on May first I will start my last full month in Russia!

I have very mixed feelings about leaving. On one hand I’m very ready to see my real family and friends again and to start my life as a high school graduate! It only took me 5 years and 3 countries! But there is the part of me that is starting to get attached to Russia and my family. I am starting to enjoy my time here more and more and I know that I’m going to be very sad to leave this place and these people. But it is a consolation that I know that I’ll be back here eventually because as of right now the plan is for me to study Russian in college so I should be able to come back! I’m very excited to see my family but I also realize that I’m really going to miss everyone here and all of the friends that I’ve made here.

I don’t know if I’ve told everyone on here (but I'm sure my mom has done a pretty good job at getting the news out) but I am an official student in the Beloit College class of 2015! I know that my original plan was to go to Italy for university but since I’ve been here I’ve realized how important my family is to me and I realized that the dream and the idea of going to university in another country is a lot harder then the reality of it. When it came down to making the decision I realized that I didn’t want to have a Skype relationship with my family for the next 4 years and only see them on Christmas and in the summer. I didn’t want to miss all the birthdays and the graduations that I would have missed if I left. OS while yes Italy will always have a huge part in my heart its just not the right time for me to leave my family almost permanently for the next 4 to 5 years. I know that I will still study abroad whilst I'm at Beloit college but that’s just 1 years as apposed to 4 full years. This was a really hard decision for me to come to but once I made it I have been very happy with it ever since. So Beloit here I come!

Uhm, I don’t know what else I have to update on here but mostly I’d like to say that I miss and love you all and I hope everyone had a great Easter and ill see you in just 2 short months!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lubim and the Ballet

So two weeks ago all of the students in the Yaroslavl region had a mandatory afs camp that we had to go to in a smaaaaaall town in the northern part of the Yaroslavl region: Любим (Lubim). Unfortunately we had all had leave from Yaroslavl at 11 am which means that in order to get there on time everyone from Uglich had to leave Uglich at 7 am which meant waking up at 5 which didn’t make me too happy.

The bus we took from Yaroslavl to Lubim may have possibly been the worse bus ride that I have ever been on in my entire life. It was so bumpy that me and Jenia were asleep and when they would go over a particularly big bump we would both go “oww” it would wake us up out of our sleep it was that bumpy and just over all bad. Thank the lord that it was only 2 hours long or I think I might have gotten carsick! Needless to say we didn’t get to sleep much so we were pretty tired by the time we got to Lubim but we had a full schedule for the day so there was no sleeping in sight.

It seems to me that every small town in Russia feels the need to have a museum about the history of their town (even if its not all that interesting to be honest, they all seem to have the same stuff) and Lubim is no exception to this rule. So we went to see the museum, which turned out to be kind of strange. It went from the history of the town, to random wild animals, the room filled with Lenin, to a room that had all sorts of old cameras and record players. Me and jenia spent most of our time there taking pictures with all of the things, not just your regular picture but fun ones (evidence in my picture website).

After the Museum we had to go to a bread factory that was in that town. Honestly I think that I’ve decided that factory tours just are not a good thing to do because once you see how something is made you don’t really want to eat it any more. I don’t know the rules for how things are to be made in the USA but the one we went to here didn’t seem very clean to me. They didn’t even wear GLOVES!! I don’t know, I'm sure that it was fine but still I think that I’m going to refrain on going on any more factory tours in my lifetime I do strongly believe that there are times when ignorance really is bliss. Then the topper on the cake (get it, it’s a sweets factory haha! Wow my joke making abilities are dyeing in Russia!) Is that after we had the tour they invited us to a party up stairs where we got to sample all of their products!

Then after that we finally got to meet our new families, yes we got MORE families to live with for the weekend. It turned out that I had a girl that was around my age and her parents, after I met her we started to walk to her home which took us about 20 minutes which wouldn’t have been bad except it was pretty coooold! Then once I got to her house her mom told me something that I never actually thought that I would hear. She told me that they did not have running water in the house.

It was one of those moments where I had to consciously check my face because I knew that if I didn’t I would make that face where your jaw drops open slowly and your eyes get really know the one. Well pretty much the only response I could come up with was “oh, okay that’s normal” I didn’t know how I was supposed to respond to that and honestly what was running through my head was “okay, so how am I going to do this for 2 days without water. I know people do this every day but I never have”

It wasn’t as traumatizing as you might think (and to a girl who thinks camping is a crappy motel …thanks mommy…) I thought that living without running water would be VERY traumatizing! Because I was there for only a few days it didn’t really effect me but let me tell you that flushing the toilet and brushing my teeth became infinitely more complicated without running water.

The next day we had to all meet up at the school so that we could go to an even smaller village to go to a school there. Most of the stuff that we did at the school was the typical stuff afs does to show off its students but we did do one interesting thing.

This day was a holiday in Russia what they called “masleeneetsa” which is really their way of celebrating lent but they say that it’s the celebration of spring because during the USSR they were not allowed to celebrate Lent. Well in order to celebrate springs arrival (mind you it was snowing REALLY hard while we were celebrating) all of us afs students and all of the students at the school we were at stood around what seemed to be a scarecrow type thing that was in the form of a woman. Then the next thing I heard was about every AFS student screaming and jumping back because they LIT IT ON FIRE!!!! Yes that’s right we were in a group of about fifty holding hands singing in a circle around a burning woman type thing.

If you could have seen the looks on all of our faces it probably would have been a priceless picture! Well this celebration didn’t last for too long because it was freezing and snowing pretty hard so we had to go back inside because we were all getting soaked. We all later found out that this is a completely normal tradition in Russia and something that is very important to them in welcoming spring (or celebrating lent, how ever you want to see it).

That was pretty much how we ended our trip to Lubim which definitely proved to be a very interesting experience but it made me realllllllly miss my host family and my host city of Uglich!

For more current news: I went and saw a Russian Ballet! We saw Swan Lake.

Me and Jenia had long ago decided that we wanted to see a ballet before we left Russia and last Saturday we got to do just that. SO Saturday morning we ventured to Yaroslavl and after a few false starts we made it to our friend Bettina’s house on the bus, ALL by our selves! Which is a big thing because we had never taken that bus before and we had never gone to her house alone before! But we did make it to her house and there we waited for the other girl that was going to go with us: Palin from Thailand. While we waited for her we got dressed up in our nice cloths.

We must have looked pretty silly on the streets in our dresses and skirts then, rain boots. Yes we all wore rain boots because now that its starting to warm up here the mountains of snow and lack of drainage system is proving to equal GIANT lakes forming around cities! So we now live in rain boots!

We finally got to the theater right on time, at 700 for a 700 pm showing. This is very Russian seeing as they ballet hadn’t even begun yet and most people were just arriving. At about 730 it actually started and let me tell you, it was BEAUTIFUL!

I never really took myself to be someone who would enjoy watching a ballet but seriously guys it was sooooo beautiful! I’m very glad that it was a story that I’ve heard before because it was a little confusing because ballets don’t have any words and the programs were in Russian so it was hard to read. But we did manage to figure out what was going on and understand about 90% of the program! YAY!

In theory we were not allowed to take pictures or video but being the foreigners that we were we “didn’t understand” when they told us that and we took them anyways (so did a WHOLE bunch of Russians, we weren’t alone!) so if you mosey on over to my picture site there should be a bunch of pictures of the ballet and even a video or two (but you have to scroll down for those!)

Over all I’m very very glad that we went to the ballet because it was just sooo beautiful and I personally think that it’s really cool that I saw my first ballet in Russia. It was a great experience that I’m glad that I have! And if I get a chance to go to another one here I will definitely be taking it!

So just for a quick update on general things… THE SUN HAS FOUND RUSSIA AGAIN!!!! After 3 months of basically living without sun it seems to have found its way back and is slowly melting the mountains of snow that we have! Its starting to get warm again, granted, by warm I mean that its about 35 degrees! But 35 degrees means that I no longer have to wear tights underneath my pants, I only have to wear one pair of socks, and a hat and gloves aren’t 100% necessary! So for me I’m happy with 35 right now even though 80 would be nice!

So that’s my life as of the last couple of weeks, if you have any questions that you would like to answer or things you want me to talk about comments are ALWAYS welcomed (yes, this is a hint!)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Мои Товарищи

So I guess its time for an update! Yay! So I figured that this time I would give you a few updates on the strange happenings at my school and everything that has been going on there past the boring updates of “school is boring”. So there have been 3 main strange things that have happened at my school in the last month or so. I guess ill go in order in which they happened.

So about a month and a half ago everyone started talking about the flu. Which to me didn’t seem like such a big thing. I mean it’s the flu it happens everywhere and I mean we are IN RUSSIA!!! It’s a cold place of course people are going to get sick in the winter its been -20C for the last 3 weeks! (Although as I write this it is back up to -5C!!!). But there are a few differences between Americans and Russians when they get sick. In Russia when you get sick you stay home from school (and work) when you are sick but then you also must stay home for 4/5 days after you are better to make sure you are fully recovered. While yes this is very continent for someone like me who doesn’t have to make up any thing in school its pretty bad for the school because it means when someone gets sick they are out of school for more then a week, usually around 2 weeks just for one little bout of the flu.

Because of this pretty much all of February there were a tun of kids that were out of school and class. One day Jenia and me came to school and all the teachers were wearing those medical mask type things that you sometimes wear in the doctor’s offices because they were afraid that the teachers would spread the germs I guess? I’m not sure but all of the teachers were required to wear them at all times because of the “break out of the flu” now mind you, this is just the regular old flu. That very same day this lady with a clipboard came to our class and asked how many kids were missing from our class. This confused me and Jenia so we asked our Russian teacher about it and she told us that the school was deciding which classes they were going to quarantine… YES QUARANTINE!!

This SHOCKED us. I mean they are acting like the plague broke out when in reality it was just the FLU! So when the deemed that too many kids from one class were gone sick from school they closed that class down for a whole week. One week of no school for everyone in that class because there were too many kids sick… WOW! They also made us stop changing classrooms because of the flu. So we stayed in the same classroom all day because they were afraid of people “mingling in the hallways”. But this did lead me and Jenia to discover that our school has a whole classroom dedicated to CHESS! Yes CHESS!

So basically the whole month of February my school was freaking out over what they called the “flu epidemic”. We thought it was a bit ridiculous but its how they work. It’s Russia.

So on to the next strange thing than happened in February in my school. We went to school one day only to discover that there was NO ELECTRICITY! None at all. We had to take off all our coats and boots in the dark, the classrooms were dark, the bathrooms had no light, and the kitchens didn’t either. So of course we asked our Russian teacher right away because we wanted to know why there were no lights. Well it turns out that 3 schools in my town didn’t have electricity because they didn’t pay the bill so the city shut off their electricity! TO A SCHOOL! We were really surprised. So for that day we had short lessons and there were only 3 lessons because the kitchens couldn’t work and no one could go to the bathroom because they were really dark!

This went on for about 3 days and then they got the electricity back to the school! So I can now officially say that I’ve been to a school that didn’t have any electricity!

So for the last interesting thing that happened in my school was that they had a Marching contest. Yes you heard me correctly. A marching contest. For a bout a week we saw that all the classes seemed to be practicing marching and when we asked them why we were told that there would be a competition between the classes. Me and Jenia thought that was a little strange because I mean, its marching, isn’t that a military thing? Not something you do in school! But nope they were all preparing for a marching contest!

It was really weird to walk down the hall and turn a corner and suddenly see a group of kids (a class) practicing their marching in the hallway!

So on the day of the contest of course me and Jenia went to watch it because I mean come on, a school wide marching contest? How Russian is that! So it started with all of the kids (dressed completely in black and white!) marching in class-by-class and standing all around the gym. Then there seemed to be some kind of flag ceremony and then the Russian national anthem was sung (if I do say so myself this song is a little intimidating!) and then all the kids went out into the hall way and the classes started to come in one at a time to do their marches.

Our class went first (they…didn’t exactly invite me and Jenia to join in, so we just watched) and they all came in from tallest to shortest and did this salute thing to the army man that had come to the school to watch this event and then they counted off and did some “front, back, right turn, left turn” militaryish type stuff and they ended their presentation by walking around the gym all singing a song.

Each class proceeded to do this one by one, it got a little boring by the end but in one of the younger grades this adorable little short boy who was at the end of the line ended up turning the wrong way so that he was facing the audience instead of the opposite way like the rest of his class but he didn’t know he was wrong so it was THE most adorable thing EVER!

So pretty much when all the classes had gone they announced the winner (10th grade) and then pretty much everyone left.

So this is my experience of a Russian marching contest! Only in Russia.

So I hope you enjoyed some happenings of my school that all happened this February! Ill do a general life update in the next few days after I get back from my afs camp!

OOOOOO! The title of this post means “my comrades” yes I’m VERY proud to say that I can say “Comrades” in Russian. To me this is a VERY Russian word! And want to know a secret? They actually use this word in every day life! I love it!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

CONTACT CONGRESS!!! 21% exchange budget cut proposed

Hey guys,

I know that I just updated and that this isn’t specifically about me but I would like all of you to take 10 minutes out of your day to email your representatives’ and senators’ because the US government is currently proposing a 21% budget cut for all Government run exchange programs (NSLI included). With out this program I would not have been able to come to Russia or do anything that I have currently done this year. Please everyone if there is any way that we can prevent this I ask of you to all email your reps because I am seeing first hand how important these programs are and with out them there a lot of kids who will not realize their dreams. As you can see from my blog I’m not only fulfilling my dream I’m learning A LOT about Russia that will be not only helpful to my self but helpful for the USA!

So please take 10 minutes out of your day and follow this link:


And help out a future exchange student or two.

Thank you and have a nice day all!

Monday, February 7, 2011

1/2 way already!

So I guess that its about time for that typical “I’m half way through and this is what I’ve learned” post considering that my half way point passed my by about 5 days ago. I know I know, I’m not very good at keeping this blog up on time but this time I’m only about 5 days behind so I reckon that I’m getting better.

So today while I was on Facebook (I know, not a great way to spend an exchange but hey, I’m 19, its how I will spend some of my time no matter where I find myself) I was talking to one of my friends Kylie, who for those of you don’t know her she was in Italy the same year as me and is currently in Korea on the NSLI-Y scholarship, and we were talking about our experience together. We do this a lot because she is one of the only other exchangers that I know that can completely 100% relate to the way I’m feeling about my exchange because she too is a Yo-Yo (someone who does 2 exchange’s before college) and we both went to Italy the first time and a considerably harder country (Russia and Korea) the second time around.

Kylie and I went through this entire process together, from finding out about NSLIY to the frantic Facebook messages of “OMG I GOT THE SCHOLARSHIP” to the many times that we have said “What. Were. We. Thinking.” But there is something that we have both started to realize as we come closer to (and passing of) the halfway point of our second exchanges: This second exchange was very much a slap in the face with reality.

Now I definitely have to explain myself. I want to start this blog post with saying that I truly am beginning to fall in love with this country and its culture but it really has been, as I said, a huge slap in the face. It wasn’t the bad kind of slap that means “you messed up big and you’re in trouble” more like the “its time to wake up and realize that life simply isn’t perfect” kind of slap.

When I started this journey last year I thought that I was in for another experience like I had in Italy but this time I figured that it would actually be easier because I had already done this once, I’ve been through it, I’m a veteran of high school exchange. This thought right here, was very very wrong.

As most of you know these last 5 months have not been the easiest of my life, in fact they have most certainly been the 5 most difficult months that I have faced thus far. Which took me by an even bigger surprise then it would have if this had just been a regular exchange. It shocked me because I assumed that because everything went okay in Italy everything would go okay in Russia. Well I very very quickly realized that Russia is not Italy. That doesn’t necessarily mean its better or worse, but that it’s simply a different country and a different experience.

This realization hit me pretty hard when I realized that this year might not be as easy and as painless as my first exchange in Italy. I had a lot of host family problems this year (see previous posts) and I am currently residing with my third host family, this is something I never thought would happen when I left the USA and came to Russia. But it has, and honestly I LOVE the family that I’m in now. I also began to realize that Russian is A LOT A LOT A LOT A LOT harder then Italian. Now, honestly I DID know this before I left for Russia but I don’t think I realized quite how much harder it actually is. I’d say that this month or so my Russian is equal to how my Italian was in October/November. In Italy I picked up the language fairly quickly and I never really had much of that time where I literally did not understand anything. But in Russia, that time period has lasted for a solid 3 months. I’m definitely getting better but its MUCH slower going then my Italian was.

I’m realizing now that, Italy was somewhat of a dream, most of the year went fairly easily but that’s not normal. Normal life has speed bumps, detours, traffic jams and crashes. This is one realization that I have to thank Russia for. While its not Russia’s fault that I’m having these realizations here I do believe that anywhere that I would have been (be it another country or college) I would have had these realizations and I really am thankful for what Russia has given me these last 5 months.

Russia has made me realize, that well, life isn’t perfect and during specific times, it may never become perfect but with a little work and help from others you can learn to adapt and accept what’s happening, change certain things and you can get to the “happy” stage, even if its not “perfect”. Yes I said it. My life in Russia isn’t perfect but you know what, I really am starting to love it here, does it infuriate me sometimes? YES!!!!!! Do I ask my self “why did I do this again?” on a weekly basis? YES!!!! Do I sometimes ask my self “how do people live like this on a daily basis????” Yes I do. But even with all of that, this place is really growing on me and I’m starting to love it.

So now that I’ve explained myself a little bit ill go through the typical updates:

My Russian I am glad to say is starting to get a little better. I can definitely write more grammatically correct then I can speak because for those of you who don’t know Russian grammar is one of the most complicated things that I have tried to understand (pre calculus included!!!). When I can write it out and take time to think about all of the endings I tend to use them better then when I'm speaking but my speaking is starting to come alone. And the level at which I understand is much higher now then it was back before Christmas so for that I’m thankful! But I do have one complaint. THEY LIED TO US!!!! Everyone says that “you read it like you write it and say it” in Russian! That is a HUGE HUGE HUGE LIE!!! All of the most common words in Russian are not pronounced like they are spelled, letters change their sound depending on where the stress is in a word. And the stress is NEVER marked. Russians are lazy and never write the two dots above the ё. Those two dots make it a “yo” sound instead of a “ye” sound. But in everything except dictionaries they conviently leave these 2 dots out!!! Oh and the stress in Russian is NEVER marked and there are no rules as to where the stress should be… every word is different and if you mix up the stress in a word it can be a completely different word and people probably wont understand what you’re saying! This is probably one of the most annoying things about Russia.

Me and Jenia are convinced that Russians aren’t used to hearing their language spoken by foreigners so they aren’t used to “guessing” and “filling in” missing words. If we forget a word or mix up a case a little bit they get all confused and don’t understand. Which makes no sense to us because as English speakers we are used to hearing our language butchered (and I say this as lovingly as possible! I love my foreign friends!) by non-native speakers but yet, GASP, we still understand!!! Its something that makes talking to strangers a little hard but its getting better with every passing day as my Russian gets better.

School, I know that I say this every time but well…its still high school and by extension just a little boring. Plus it doesn’t help that I still cant fully understand what goes on in my lessons and I’ve come to find that Russian lessons (especially algebra and chemistry) are really easy to zone out in because I don’t really need these classes here! But me and jenia have picked and started the 2 lessons that we are going to do presentations/tests in at the end of the year. We have chose….dun dun duuuuuun… Liturature and Geography. We’ve only had these lessons for about 2 weeks but they seem okay so far and it is nice to be doing something productive for once outside of our Russian classes.

Family: Everything in my family is AMAZING! Seriously I LOVE this family! They are so nice to me and I really do feel like I am apart of their family! Its really nice to feel like apart of a family again, its something that I’ve missed these last few months in Russia! I’m coming up on my 2nd month with them and it already feels like I’ve been here forever so I’m really happy on this front!

So.. that’s how my life has been for the last few months. If anyone has any specific questions that you want answered or something you specifically want to hear about ☺ let me know and I’ll try to blog about it

Oh and another thing! I REALLY wish I had been in Wisconsin this Sunday! GO PACKERS!!!

Love and miss you all =)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

С Рождеством и С Новым Годом!!

С Рождеством и С Новым Годом!!! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (a bit a little late)

So naturally I’m about a week late with this (okay okay the last post was only 2 months late, forgive me) but I figured that you would all like to know how my holidays were spent here in Russia.

So we shall start by saying that Christmas doesn’t exist in Russia (well it does, in fact its January 7th, so tomorrow or today depending on when I post this) because they are Orthodox not Catholic so to them December 25th is just another day on the calendar where they have to go to school, work, and continue to prepare for New Years. Knowing that Christmas is a big holiday in most other countries AFS decided to try to have a “Christmas celebration” for us AFS students. The mere fact that it was on December 22 – December 24 it failed slightly in getting us in the “Christmas spirit” but it was still nice of them to try to celebrate for us.

So on December 22 we left for Yaroslavl where the event was being held and when we got there we were told that we were going to be staying in host families, which was nice, but honestly after all the problems that I had with families I was and am tired of getting to know new families. My family that I stayed with there was very nice but we didn’t really do much because I was only going to be there for 2 nights.

Russia has yet to figure out that the country that they live in is well… COLD… they still seem to think that it is a good idea to plan out door activities when it is about 0 degrees outside. When we say that its cold they always respond with “well it's Russia” in my head all I think is “well thank you for informing me where I am but its still COLD, if you’re cold and you’re Russian then obviously WE are cold! Give us a break and don’t plan 7 hour outdoor activities in December” but outwardly I just smiling and say “yes I know, but its COLD” All in all the outing was fun, we went sledding then played some games outside on teams, our team came in second but I must admit it was done mostly without me, me and Jenia hid inside for some of the games (we found coffee).

The next day was mostly for the AFSers to hang out which we did, we also had to watch a performance that the school put on for us. Oddly enough their choice for a Christmas play was “the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hallow” … we didn’t understand either. We then had a small feast with cake and fruit before we all went to the center to walk around before we went home.

When I got home (on Christmas Eve) my host family had a whole feast prepared for me! It was so nice of them! They had baked me chicken, real salad, and a cake. They kept asking if they had done it right! It was soo sweet of them, I mean I had only been living with them for about 5 days at that point and so it was just really really nice of them. They gave me a small Christmas gift and then I went to bed, still not quite believing that the next day was Christmas.

So my actual Christmas was very uneventful. I went to an art museum with Katia’s (my host sister) class in the morning. While I would like to be able to say that “I learned a lot and I really enjoyed the museum” I unfortunately cant say that. I’m learning that I’m really just not one for art museums and all I could think was “its Christmas, why am I here?” After that we went home and I met my host dad for the first time since I had been in the house. He works one week on and one week off (as far as I understood when they told me) but I still don’t know what he does exactly. Then Katia & I went ice-skating. Russians really enjoy holding hands while they ice-skate which to me, holding hands with someone who hasn’t ice skated in over 2 years and wasn’t that great to begin with (me), is not a very good idea but alas they really love to hold hands! They also don’t really understand that you can't go from “bad” to “90 mph” in less then one hour! But I’m proud of myself I only fell once and it created a bruise the size of Rhode Island on the side of my right knee but it was still worth it! After that I skyped with my whole family back in the States which was pretty sad, I missed them A LOT, Christmas is a hard time to be away from family. That drew an end to the strangest Christmas of my life!

On to New Years! Which to Russians seems to be Thanksgiving, Christmas, and something REALLY amazing all rolled in to one. Everyone started talking about New Years about 2 weeks in to December. Although now that I think about it, in the States, we start thinking about Christmas in November so maybe it’s not that weird after all. And everyone kept telling me how amazing New Year's was going to be. So the day before New Year's myhost sister & I helped my host mom and grandma get food ready for New Year's, they seemed to be preparing a FEAST (which they were!).

So on December 31st we all woke up late (as usual) and pretty much just lounged until about 5ish pm and that’s when we all started getting ready. Well to be more accurate with that I noticed that they were all getting ready, doing makeup, putting on nice cloths, so I figured that that’s what I should be doing too. No one had told me but I didn’t want to be the only one in pajamas! I mean they even put my little host brother in a SUIT! So we all got dressed up and around 8 some guests came over, friends of my host family and their little daughter who is the same age as my host brother. We all hung out until about 10 pm which is when we started to eat. Yes we STARTED to eat at about 10 pm. My family got very distressed when they realized that I wouldn’t eat most of the food on the table because 90% of it contained mayo, which is one food that I cannot stand! I still managed to fill my stomach much more then I should have yet my бабушка (grandma) was still worried that I’m not eating enough (which is a daily worry of hers)

At almost midnight we turned on the TV and we watched Russia bring in the New Year in Moscow. The president of Russia, Mendeleev, spoke for about 5 minutes and then they counted in the New Year. Then I saw one of the funniest things. I watched the president, and former president (Putin) dance! Together! On! Live! TV! I thought it was amusing. Well Russians have the same champagne and kissing tradition as the USA. We all had champagne and kissed each other’s cheeks at midnight and shouted “С НОВЫМ ГОДОМ!!!!” and that’s when the fireworks started! All over the city you could hear fire works going off and the distant lights in the sky. (and for future reference, its January 6 and people are still setting off fireworks and saying Happy New Years on the street)

Me and my family sat around, talked, danced, sang and hung out with our guests until about 3 am which is when the party started to die down and everyone went home and we went to bed.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The last crazy month! Part 2

So no time like the present to fill everyone in as to why exactly I am in yet another new family. I’ll also start off again by apologizing because this post is going to be a bit scattered and a little confusing because I have a lot of information to get across in (hopefully) a relatively short blog post but I want to fill everyone in.

So with my first host family that I had the actual relationship that we had was good and was not the reason that I had to switch to a new family. About 3 weeks after arriving in Russia I started having some sort of mild allergic reaction to something. It manifested in small red bumps that itched really badly and kind of looked like mosquito bites but stayed red all the time. At first I had no clue what it was and I ended up going to the Russian doctors more then once about it (it was not quite as positive of an experience as the dentist) but the only thing that they could tell me was that it was an allergic reaction but because EVERYTHING in my environment was new there was no real way that they could pinpoint what I was allergic to exactly.

Well after a few more weeks I figured out that the only time I got the spots was after I slept in my bed so I talked to my host family about that and we decided that me and my host sister would sleep in my moms bed and my host mom would sleep in our room to see if that cured the problem. For the most part that helped but I still couldn’t sit on my old bed because when I did I got spots. I had thought that this was going to be a temporary fix but this was really the only way that I could sleep in the house and not get spots but I was not fully comfortable with sleeping in the same bed as my host sister for the next 8 months. When I told AFS about our sleeping arrangement they agreed that it had been long enough with this allergy never really going away that they thought it was time that I changed.

All of this talk of changed happened to come up right before I left for Sochi (see last post) and so they decided that they would start searching for a family and would tell my host family about the switch whilst I was away in Sochi and that I should call on the way home and not to worry while I was there. So I tried to do as they told me (but for those of you who know me…I worried) and I called AFS on the train from Moscow to Yaroslavl. That was a BIG mistake. They ended up telling me that they still hadn’t found a host family (because they forgot to start looking) and I totally broke down in the train. Thankfully it was a train full of exchange students who understood what was going on so they were nice about it. After a lot of phone calls and many many many more tears we finally got it worked out that I would be going to staying with Jenia until they found me a permanent host family.

So when Jenia's host family picked her up from the bus station they also picked me up. And so started the 2 weeks that I lived with Jenia. Because Jenia’s house doesn’t have an extra bed I slept on a mattress on the floor of Jenia’s room, which was fine by me. But that meant that in one room it was me, Jenia, and her host sister Natasha. It was cramped but it was a lot of fun. So while I was at Jenia’s I had a big event happen. It was my 19th birthday!!!!! Well in Russia birthdays aren’t huge deals like they are in the states. Jenia’s family was really nice and they tried to make my birthday as memorable as possible. They bought me balloons and gave me a small gift and Jenia bought me a birthday cake so that was really nice. It was a great birthday under the circumstances but I really do wish I had been with a family of my own for my birthday. So just 4 short days after my birthday it was Thanksgiving! I know I know, thanks giving in Russia? Maybe not but me and Jenia were determined to do something for it. Well an actual thanks giving meal was out of the question because we didn’t have any of the ingredients that we needed so we had one of the worlds most unconventional thanks giving meals in the world: Tocos! Jenia and me made tacos for her family for diner. She had already made them for them once so it wasn’t new but still it was exciting because even in Russia we managed to make them taste like “home” we had to substitute things with the Russian version but they still ended up tasting pretty darn…. well I was going to say American but well Mexican!

So a few days after Thanks giving just about 2 weeks after I moved in to their house AFS told me that they had found me a new host family and that in my new family there would be a mom, a dad, a brother my age (but lived in Yaroslavl for university) and a sister that’s 16. I was really excited. So I packed up all of my stuff from Jenia’s (its surprising how much unpacking you can do in just a 2 week time period) and Jenia and Natasha went with me in the taxi to my new family. They lived in a house about 10 minutes’ drive outside of Uglich in a small village. I could still Uglich but I didn’t technically live in Uglich any more.

So while I was there I unpacked all of my stuff as well. They were a nice family, very quiet but they seemed very nice. After I had been there for about a week AFS told me if it was okay if they switched me and Laura (a German girl in Uglich) because Laura needed a new family and they had no other families besides they one that they just gave me. I told them that on my end it was okay because honestly I had only been with this new family for 1 week so it was okay with me. I knew that it had a lot more people to go through to get approved but still I was excited about the possibility.. I had met Laura’s family and they were really nice and lived close to the school.

Over the next week I was slowly informed of each persons approval as it came. First was AFS Russia’s : this one surprised me because I didn’t figure they would allow 2 students to just switch host families. But they said that under the circumstances this was the best solution. The next one I also figured would be difficult: Laura’s family. Again I was pleasantly surprised and they agreed that they would host me and Laura could go to the other family that they still wanted to host and thought that I would be a good fit with their family. So with two of the three groups agreement the last was my family.

At first when AFS called them they said no because they didn’t want to start over again. I can’t say that I wasn’t a little disappointed because I also wanted this switch to happen. But then after afs talked to them again (they really needed a new family for Laura because things for her were getting worse) my family agreed that the switch could happen. So when my school contact called me I started to re-pack my stuff again. And that’s when I VOWED that this would be the LAST time that I packed until June!

So on the next Sunday (just one day after the switch was agreed upon) I finished packing up all of my stuff and got everything together from this family and we went in the car and they drove me to my new host families house. When I got there my new host sister Katia (13) and her friend were outside waiting for me. So once I got all of my stuff out of the car they showed me where the entrance of the house was then told me….we lived on the fifth (yes I said it FIFTH) floor and the building had no elevator.. so I guess I'm going to get very used to stairs! I carried up all my stuff and she helped me unpack it.

I knew instantly that this family would be an AMAZING match for me! In my family I have a Мама (mom) and a Папа (dad) (but for those of you who know my family at home, you’ll find it funny that my mom and dad here are the same age as my oldest siblings) a host Бабушка (grandmother, who is the same age as my parents), Сестра (sister) Katia who is 13 and finally a Брат (brother) named Lonya (pronounced like lone-ya) who is 2.

When I got there the host dad wasn’t home because he worked in another town and does one week at the house and one week not and this happened to be the week he worked. But I got along great with all of the other members of the family! And they talk A LOT, like more then me! And that is a very hard thing to do loll!

So I’ve been here for about 2 and half weeks now and everything has been great. My little host brother is super adorable, he calls me “kenda” because he cant say my real name and me and the rest of my host family get along great. They are very nice to me and I’m enjoying living here A LOT!

So that has been how my last crazy month and a half went!! Now that I’m all caught up in the next day or two I’ll get a post about Christmas and new years up and PICTURES I promise! Ill put up pictures..this week! I’m on break from school for the next 10 days so I WILL GET IT DONE! I promise.

Я вас люблю и скучаю!! (I miss and love you all!)