In the world of AFS September 24th is known as “International Language Day” and it is celebrated by people sharing their cultures and languages. No wonder AFS is the only group that celebrates this holiday seeing as its mission statement is about sharing cultures and languages. Seeing as I’m in Russia this year with AFS I was one of those few that celebrated this particular holiday this year. The morning of September 24th Jenia and I were told that we would be going to a “party” instead of English class for our 6th period. We were a little confused because we had not been told about this before hand but like always we nodded, smiled and said, “okay, we understand.” (This happens to be the mantra of most AFS students seeing as for the first 3 months we walk around in a hazy state of confusion.)
By the time that 6th period arrived me and Jenia were very very ready to just go home. 6 hours of lessons in Russian make us very tired and quite honestly quite bored because we don’t understand anything that’s going on in any class except Geography. But alas we had to go to this party that we knew anything about. So we were herded into this big room and our class was there, Jenia’s sister and her friends, Laura (the German exchange student) and Laura’s sister and her sister’s friends were all there. It started off with two of our classmates giving a short speech in English about how grateful they were to have us in their school and in their town.
Then Jenia’s sister and friends got up and started to teach us some Russian games. I’ll describe these, very strange, Russian games to you. We played this one that started a lot like ring-around-the-Rosie with everyone holding hands and one person in the middle. Then the ones in the circle spin around in a circle around the one person in the middle, and they then make a bigger circle then kind of “charge” at the person in the middle. Then the person in the middle changes. I was very confused and I still don’t understand why or when they play this game but hey when in Russia right? Then we played this game called “the river” people stood in two lines holding their hands up creating a kind of tunnel for the one person at the head of the tunnel to run through. That person running had to grab the hand of another person and the person left without a partner was the next “runner”. I’m still confused about this game too but still When in Russia!
Then a girl got up and sang a pretty old folk song in Russia and quietly I commented to Jenia “it was pretty, but I’m glad they aren’t making us sing it too”, little did I know that was coming later. Then a girl in a, what I assume is a traditional costume, got up and did a dance. Then came the embarrassing part. We were told that WE were going to learn this dance, in front of EVERYONE in the room. It wasn’t THAT bad but still I would have preferred not to dance a folk dance in front of everyone. Then came the singing, out loud, in front of a group, IN Russian. For those of you that know me and have heard me sing, I’m not great, or even good but I did it. We, Jenia, Laura and I, sang a folk song in Russian alone until some very kind people felt sorry enough for us and started singing along with us.
Then the VERY Russian part of the event, we ate. Before I left I never really thought of Russians as eaters (like the Italians) but oh man they ARE!!! My English teacher told me exactly how it was “ In Russia, people feed you in order to show their love, just eat it, you don’t have a choice in the matter” So we ate “blee-nee” and drank tea. This is very typical for Russians. Blee-nee are like little pancakes that they cover with butter then sugar and sometimes dip and jam. Tea, well tea is something Russians LOVE. I think I’ve drank more tea these last few weeks that I have it coming out of my eyes and ears. I’ve come to like tea and I actually am developing a great tea addiction! I look forward to drinking tea each day. I’m becoming Russian!
After this marathon of eating, dancing and singing Jenia and I did something that we had never done before. We stood out side of the school and talked with Russians. In mostly Russian (granted this is because the kids that were there did not really speak English but still props for us!) about the USA, our lives, us, everything under sun. We were with 2 girls that we just met, Jenia’s sister’s friends, and a couple kids from our class. It was amazing! We managed to speak in Russian that maybe a 2 year old would speak. We would either just skip words that we didn’t know or attempt to talk around the words that we didn’t know. Then we always decided to go home so we split into two groups (because our houses were all in one direction or the other) and started to walk home. I live quite far away from my school (about 25 minutes walking) so by the end I was just walking with just one girl. She didn’t really speak English so I had to speak Russian. It was hard but by the time I got home I was very proud of myself that I managed to speak very little English all day (except with Jenia, but even we are starting to speak a little Russian together).
This was just one day in my life here in Russia. By far not a typical day in my life but one that was quite fun and exciting! In my regular life everything is going okay. Next weekend I have my first AFS orientation and it will be held in Yaroslav, which is the capital of my “state” here in Russia. I have not yet been there so I’m very excited to go there and see the exchange students and city! In Italy AFS orientations were some of the best times of my year! So we will see how it turns out here in Russia! Everything with my family is going amazingly as well. I got really lucky again.
I miss you all and hope that you are all having a good time in the USA (or wherever you are) seeing all of the Halloween decorations appear in the stores! I’ll miss that.
Рока (good bye) :)